Support Judith Curry As Head Of (Reformed) IPCC

A veritable goldmine of quotes, and surely the best hope for the progress of science this side of Murray Gell-Mann. Let’s celebrate this essay by Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry: “On the Credibility of Climate Research, Part II: Towards Rebuilding Trust“.

I have a strong feeling that anybody else selected to carry forward the (reformed) IPCC will look far lesser capable than Prof Curry.

(Pachauri who?)

Some extracts:

Losing the Public’s Trust

  • In responding to climategate, the climate research establishment has appealed to its own authority and failed to understand that climategate is primarily a crisis of trust.
  • expertise itself is not a sufficient basis for public trust.
  • host of concerns about the IPCC […]: involvement of IPCC scientists in explicit climate policy advocacy; tribalism that excluded skeptics; hubris of scientists with regards to a noble (Nobel) cause; alarmism; and inadequate attention to the statistics of uncertainty and the complexity of alternative interpretations.
  • The jury is still out on the specific fallout from climategate in terms of the historical and paleo temperature records.
  • concerns […] with Working Group II:  has a combination of groupthink, political advocacy and a noble cause syndrome stifled scientific debate, slowed down scientific progress and corrupted the assessment process?
  • when your science receives this kind of attention, it means that the science is really important to the public.  Therefore scientists need to do everything possible to make sure that they effectively communicate uncertainty, risk, probability and complexity, and provide a context that includes alternative and competing scientific viewpoints.

The Changing Nature of Skepticism about Global Warming

  • I have come to understand that global warming skepticism is very different now than it was five years ago.
  • [After the IPCC 4th Assessment Report] big oil funding for contrary views mostly dried up and the mainstream media supported the IPCC consensus. But there was a new movement in the blogosphere, which I refer to as the “climate auditors”, started by Steve McIntyre.  The climate change establishment failed to understand this changing dynamic, and continued to blame skepticism on the denial machine funded by big oil.

Climate Auditors and the Blogosphere

  • So who are the climate auditors?  They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia.  Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence.  They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports.
  • So how did this group of bloggers succeed in bringing the climate establishment to its knees (whether or not the climate establishment realizes yet that this has happened)?  Again, trust plays a big role […] the climate auditors have no apparent political agenda, are doing this work for free, and have been playing a watchdog role, which has engendered the trust of a large segment of the population.

Towards Rebuilding Trust

  • People have heard the alarm, but they remain unconvinced because of a perceived political agenda and lack of trust of the message and the messengers. At the same time, there is a large group of educated and evidence driven people (e.g. the libertarians, people that read the technical skeptic blogs, not to mention policy makers) who want to understand the risk and uncertainties associated with climate change, without being told what kinds of policies they should be supporting.
  • building trust through public communication on this topic requires that uncertainty be acknowledged.
  • discussing the uncertainties increases the public trust in what scientists are trying to convey and doesn’t detract from the receptivity to understanding climate change risks
  • Trust can also be rebuilt by discussing broad choices rather than focusing on specific policies.
  • And finally, the blogosphere can be a very powerful tool for increasing the credibility of climate research.  “Dueling blogs”  (e.g. climateprogress.org versus wattsupwiththat.com and realclimate.org versus climateaudit.org) can actually enhance public trust in the science as they see both sides of the arguments being discussed.  Debating science with skeptics should be the spice of academic life
  • I have certainly learned a lot by participating in the blogospheric debate including how to sharpen my thinking and improve the rhetoric of my arguments.
  • we need to acknowledge the emerging auditing and open source movements in the in the internet-enabled world, and put them to productive use.  The openness and democratization of knowledge enabled by the internet can be a tremendous tool for building public understanding of climate science and also trust in climate research.
  • No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.”  Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda.  There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.

'Let Us Breathe': French Book Against Censorship By The Self-Righteous

Jacques Rougeot, Professor of French Language at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne, has just published a book (in French) denouncing how environmentalism has been hijacked by people mainly bent on “stifling freedom of thought and expression“. And that’s something that would go a long way explaining why so many have been convinced to use idiotic words such as “denialism”…

Ah ! Laissez-nous respirer ! Contre la censure des bien-pensants.

Ah! Let us breathe! Against censorship by the self-righteous
by Jacques Rougeot

If you eat steak and get around by car, you must know that reading this little book is not without risk. You will risk seeing your moral sense affected. You will learn that in fact, by your irresponsible behavior, you are endangering the planet. You will know that, as a consumer of steak (or beef stew), you are encouraging the breeding of cattle, which in turn, by virtue of their burps and farts, emit an abundance of methane, a gas even more harmful than CO2 . You are guilty of crimes against ecology.

In this way, pleasant and just a caricature, and through many other more serious examples, Jacques Rougeot questions the tight network of taboos spun by a new caste of self-righteous people who claim the right to censor [the rest of humanity]. Thanks to their influence on the media, they have managed to ostracize many words and opinions traditionally regarded as innocent.

This business of stifling freedom of thought and expression […] pivots mainly around fear and bad conscience. The need is for the French to constantly feel guilty and threatened, so that the people, weakened and neutralized, no longer have the moral strength to defend what the essence of a country’s identity, its civilization.

Plait, Plait, Tu Quoque Plait…

(in reply to the Bad Astronomer’s “You can’t resolve away climate change“)

Phil’s and all the warmists’ stance would be greatly helped if you people would stop calling “deniers” everybody and anybody that questions even the slightest AGW claim, instead of trying to push together creationists alongside those simply asking for evidence that catastrophes be upon us.

In fact, to anybody not ready to denounce all the attempts to hide data, avoid compliance to FOI legislation, and try to shut perfectly legitimate scientific papers off peer-reviewed publication, I just ask: what makes you any better than the chiropractors that have tried to ruin Simon Singh??

There’s so much we could all do if we would work together but no, the mere mention of the slightest doubt is nowadays sufficient to be labeled a rabid right-wing creationist conspiracy-monger on the pay of Exxon. And that can’t be a serious way to deal with climate risks.

Dear Scientific American… (An Open Letter)

Dear Scientific American

(editors@sciam.com, subscriptions@sciam.com)

Subject: Subscription renewal: please stay away from this climate contrarian (or worse)

Thank you for asking me to fork another $43.75 to get 12 more issues starting from July or August 2010.

I am afraid I am not the kind of subscriber you may want to consort with.

You see, I am one of those despicable people “standing up and exposing the science, the costs and the hysteria behind global warming alarmism“. In your definition, I am one of the “contrarians, naysayers and denialists.

And it gets worse. Some time ago I published a paid article on an online magazine that received (I think, or maybe suspect) some money from Exxon. The shock, the horror, etc etc doo bee doo bee doo.

Please spare yourself from having your articles read by these deceitful, amateurish, intellectually dishonest eyes of mine and just leave me alone.

many thanks
regards
maurizio morabito

Partial Transcript Of Richard North vs Roger Harrabin BBC Radio 5 live Exchange

On Wednesday Feb 11 BBC Radio 5 live’s “News from around the UK with Gabby Logan” programme hosted Richard North,  of “EU Referendum” fame and the BBC’s own Roger Harrabin together with renown Mike Hulme and Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology. The recording is available here for a few days still (I don’t think there is a podcast).

The result has been a series of memorable quotes that I am trying to report here, together with a summary of everything that has been said. I shall return to some of this material in the next few days, for additional comments and to ease punctuation and capitalization…

(quick commentary: Richard North is the winner by far, and finds Harrabin move to his side too. Stephen Curry sounds like out of step with what is happening)

NOTE: direct quotes are in italic. Please do feel free to correct any mistake in the transcription:

GL: Gabby Logan (host)
MH: Mike Hume
RH: Roger Harrabin
RN: Richard North (introduced by GL as “political analyst and climate change skeptic“)
SC: Stephen Curry

ADDENDUM: the whole programme is now available via Vimeo (thanks to Climategate2009 for the link)

GL: [The inquiry will be about] how messages from the university of east anglia found their way to the internet. “Mike – are you pleased…What are you hoping it will achieve?

MH: independent investigation is appropriate about UEA but also the rest of the complex world of climate politics.

RN: “I agree with Mike there“. UEA investigation is only small bit of global issue. What worries RN is the tendency to treat this as an isolated episode but it isn’t, it is part of a continuum. climate politics complex but affects everybody.

GL: Mike – how much damage has this done to the debate about climate change?

MH: questions raised, understandably so. how enduring the damage will be, it depends on the outcome of inquiry. IPCC needs to take errors very seriously, work hard to rebuild trust in scientific evidence. not an easy thing to do, to restore trust that has been damaged.

RN: (chuckles) reminds of MH interview in 2007 saying IPCC is a political process (MH: “Absolutely, it is“). The science is not the issue, “it is the politics of science and the science of politics in a sense“. Needs to be a political inquiry.

GL: Do you think that will take scientists to an area they are totally uncomfortable with?

RN: “Anybody who’s been in academia knows that science is intensely political especially as the main push within scientific departments is funding and getting money and satisfying your paymasters. to try and pretend that somehow somehow science and politics are separate is a pastiche, it simply exists only in storybooks“.

MH: “I would agree with you Richard there“. We’ve got to find good ways to brind scientific evidence to public policy debate. Can’t simply accept science will do its business in its own sphere of influence. We need a process to bring high-quality scientific evidence with all uncertainties attached to it, to a public debate. Think IPCC is probably past its sell-by date. “Science never dictates policy but we have to have high-quality scientific evidence“.

(traffic news, BBC own ads)

GL Talking of Climategate. Can I bring Roger Harrabin. What impact do you think has this row on how climate change is being reported?

RH “Huge impact […] science is on the front pages and many scientists are uncomfortable with that. It is extremely difficult to conduct a very nuanced debate about science, policy and climate change through soundbites of 10 seconds. I say extremely difficult, frankly it is impossible. And that what tends to happen“. The tabloid way is unsatisfactory, not debating it at all is also unsatisfactory. Suggests to start from inquiry. GL agrees. RH: “We know about the climategate affairs, with the stolen e-mails showing scientists blocking access to their data, and that is quite clear, they no longer deny that, they don’t deny that, and they also appear to show they tried to unfairly influence the debate and the way their colleagues were perceived […] their rivals were perceived, and they do deny that. This inquiry…is said to be completely independent by the man who chairs it…will look at what exactly [the scientists] did…an enquiry about best practice in science”. Not just what is best practice now, but also what it was 20 years ago, “when a lot of the the climategate e-mails began“.

GL: RN – how did these e-mails end up in the public domain

RN: “There are some facts in the system that Roger seems to ignore. And I wish he’d stop prejudicing the debate by talking about stolen e-mails. The latest response from the local police is that they are now looking at the misuse of data. All the forensic evidence, and this has been poured (?) over by expert computer people, points to all the file being aggregated on a single server, UEA actually admitted that and there is equally a possibility, in fact a very very strong possibility that this was an inside job and a leak by somebody that was actually disaffected with what was going on. [Talking about intelligence agencies etc] this is actually prejuidicing the enquiry against the reality that it is probably an internal job. Talking about e-mails, hackers and the rest [is] distorting the debate and not helping the listener and the general public to understand [what is going on]“.

RHL Asks what better term to use rather than “stolen”. “This is another one of these things where you probably need a sentence rather than a word” (RN: “Sorry…“) RH: “This is not a helpful debate” (RN: “But you refer to them as being stolen“). RH: “This is how it gets bogged down into arguments. Please. Please. It would be a change [to have a debate where] we could get insights

RN: The point is that “you are prejudicing the debate. you are making an assumption in your terminology

GL: RH – impact clearly this is going to have on the reporting of science more broadly and how people know who to trust and where to get their information – it must be very difficult to report on science in an objective way (RN: “It is“) because both sides of the debate are so entrenched (RN: “Yes“)

RH: It is “particularly difficult“. Enquiry is looking very narrow into abuse of data. It is more interesting to “look beyond climategate and the whole of climate science because what climategate and glaciergate, that horrible mistake from the IPCC about the glaciers reveals is that I think a lot of people are ready now to examine climate change at its fundamentals and that will be very helpful. What’s been difficult for people reporting mainstream debate in the past has been that what we would call our trusted sources of science, people like the Royal Society and the various other corollary bodies in different countries, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set up to be the touchstone of probity on this issue, they have been the providers of news and the people who have been doubting these news have generally speaking not been academics, I am on the trawl for academics at the moment in British universities there are hardly any and there have been doubters from other quarters and it’s been very difficult for us to tell what are the credentials when all these establishment voices are lined up on one side, how can we put them against a blogger on the other side that might happen to be a blogger who has for the past 15 years spent 100 hundred hours on the Internet reading climate science and has a good knowledge but we don’t know how to test this

GL: introduces Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology who’s been writing in the Guardian about the potential dangers when science hits the front pages. GL – “Is it important that people got faith in the country’s scientists, they can trust the evidence they are presenting?

SC: “Fundamentally important“. “Science is the best way to understand the natural world“. Scientist are trained to be skeptical, formulate hypothesis and then experiment to test them. Free to criticize each other’s work. Important to get information across to the public in a way that is digestible.

GL: Do politicians have a “proper understanding of the issues“?

SC: Many “simply don’t have the background to properly understand the scientific progress and it’s a challenge for them

GL: “Roger has alluded to the fact that the public wants to consume the news in bite-sized pieces and we want things explained very quickly to us. Are some issues like climate change just too complex for the public to understand?

SC – “They are certainly very complex but I think it’s vitally important that the public can understand and I think probably scientists can do a better job at being open and presenting all the evidence they have accumulated in support of man-made global warming. I don’t think there is any serious doubt in the community about that. There are uncertainties about what is the going to happen in the future but it is a matter then of presenting that complexity to the public. We often have to rely on journalists and other media outlets to present that case. of course they are very adept at putting stories together and of course they are pushed for space or air-time, which tends to drive a simplification. […] those are very difficult issues and it is really a challenging thing to try to put that across. […] scientists and journalists could work together in this a bit more for one another for their needs

RN: “You talk about trust in science but actually the default mode of the public, of the politicians aand above all of the scientists should be skepticism. We should not trust scientists, we should look at what they say and if they can’t explain themselves properly then automatically we should…(interrupted by GL)”

GL: “you are assuming a lot of knowledge there Richard for people to cross-examine” (RN: “No, no, no, not at all“) GL: “I am talking about the general public reading a newspaper are not necessarily going to cross-examine a scientist who has spent years and years of training, and years and years of research

RN: “This is precisely what’s happening and in fact ordinary people I mean this whole thing has been led by the grass-root, by bloggers and other commentators just read the comments on, say look at the newspapers online and look at the comments on them. There is far more intelligence and knowledge out there in the British public than in fact sometimes you see within the scientific community and there are internal inconsistencies in the evidence that we have been given, that ordinary people can say “look, you said this, you said that, the two don’t match, explain yourself” and instead of responding to that what you’re getting is this defensive wall saying “no, the debate is settled, the science is settled, there is no debate”. And it’s the scientific community and the political community. Don’t forget, Gordon Brown was calling us flat-earthers, which was a really healthy contribution to the debate. The fact that they have not been willing to entertain discussion and questions and perfectly genuine questions has actually poisoned the atmosphere. They’ve got to learn humility and turn around to genuine inquiries and say…. And ordinary bloggers. Look I’ve got a PhD so I am a scientist and I have pulled down three of the “Gates” but I have been looking through the IPCC report pulling out complete errors. Now, Roger Harrabin called them mistakes. That’s poisoning the debate because the lead author of Glaciergate said this was not a mistake, he’s on record saying that“.

GL – Asks Harrabin to go back to that point.

RH – Moves to language. “I think that phrases like climate deniers and flat earthers have absolutely no place in the debate whatsoever“. Says politicians and “leaders of science” have been heard stating that the debate is over, but if you talk to climate scientists themselves they will say”the balance of evidence is that human activities are changing the climate but there are still many uncertainties“: about the past climate record, the current climate record, how far the climate will change in the future. Government ministers have a much more simplistic view. “Is settled” might mean “Is settled enough for us to think about action“. “To give you an example about the difficulty of understanding all this, I was at a meeting of the Royal Society last year with eminent Professors from around the world, the sort of people that we regard as experts in climate change because they write papers in Nature and Science and I have to say there are very few skeptic papers in those journals. One of the professors asked a question the answer to which I knew, and I am a policy specialist, not a science specialist. I was a little alarmed that I knew this question which was outside his realm of his science and I just happened to pick up on. So I have asked the members of the panel at the Royal Society, would it be a good idea if there were some specialists, some professors of general scientific knowledge in terms of climate change instead of people specialising in some microcosm, tiny, tiny fragmented interest and I was savaged by the panel, they said it was a ridiculous idea and you had to be a top-top person in a very narrow field to get credibility from other scientists. On the other hand Richard has talked about, and here I fully support his view, there are some people on the blogosphere that have made themselves experts in general climate science. And we have to find some way, the IPCC or whatever replaces it has to find some way of giving credibility to their expertise, as well as to the expertise of people who have gone through the Royal Societies of various kinds. I think this whole thing has opened up a huge challenge to the way science is conducted, not just climate science but across the board.

GL- “Could this actually be a seminal moment”?

RH – Yes. And it is “part of the way we learn to cope to the internet“. Establishment behaves “in a normal way” as if the Internet “is not going to shout back at them“, and without thinking they need to deal with a broad public that was “inconceivable to them when they started their career“. “This is going to make me behave differently

Lacis, The IPCC, Simple Physics And Post-normal "Science"

There’s troubles with commenting at the NYT so I will re-post some of my notes to Revkin’s “Does an Old Climate Critique Still Hold up?” here:

(a) Given all the discussion taking place now, and the glaring mistakes obvious to all, it is apparent that nobody has ever read the IPCC report at a meaningful level of detail. A professional editor and a pre-established maximum number of pages should be there for AR5.

(b) I am not sure how to reconcile Dr Hegerl’s statement “We felt Andrew Lacis’ comment reflected that he couldn’t clearly see where statements came from, which is why we strengthened the pointers from the technical sections to the executive summary” with the note to Dr Lacis’ expert comment “Rejected“. Usually, rejected comments are not acted upon.

(c) I’d suggest people drop the “Greenhouse effect is simple physics” argument. Simple physics shows that warm air moves upwards, and a room’s floor is generally colder than its ceiling. However, mountaintops are generally colder than sea-level locations. Why? Because the free atmosphere is a complex system where you can’t just apply simple physics (for a different example: think of anti-oxydants’ wonders in Petri dishes and the failure to translate that into effective anti-aging treatments in the real world)

(d) Call me old-fashioned, but I find “post-normal science” a misnomer (almost, a case of reification). “Post-normal science” is not “science” and should be defined with a more appropriate moniker.

Superbowl Green Police Ad Plays All Ecofascism Notes

(this is the “Audi 2010 Green Car Super Bowl Commercial” – via Climate Crunch, from TreeHugger)

Green has never felt so right“, according to Audi. I think they meant “so anti-freedom“. TreeHugger wonders “tongue-in-cheek eco-message — is it a winner?” and “Is this all a fun way to get the message across or a cynical poke at environmentalists?

I am afraid that kind of ads is poisonous for environmentalism in general. The only message that will get across is that if we let the green fundamentalists have their way, driving a “clean diesel” Audi will be the least of our problems.

Ordered Notes About The Pielke Jr vs Ward vs Muir Wood London Debate

This is the ordered list (oldest item first) of yesterday’s evening live microblogs on my mmorabito67 Twitter account, about the Royal Institution (London) debate on Global Warming and Disasters with Roger Pielke Jr, Bob Ward and Robert Muir-Wood moderated by the Guardian’s James Randerson:

  1. 12 years in London , 1st time at Royal Institution http://tweetphoto.com/10490288
  2. Ward first to show up – seats comfortable for shorter people than me
  3. It’s all set- Pielke Jr looks even more satisfied than on his blog
  4. Bespectacled aloof guy must be Rhys-Jones – Pielke and Ward have briefly looked friendly
  5. Starts as soon as Piers Corbyn joins spectators
  6. BBC Shukman nowhere to be seen -Guardian environment editor introduces topic mentioning also recent IPCC disasters
  7. Spectators asked about debate’s question – semantics discussion ensues – this is going to be fun
  8. Is the moderator talking about AGW ? Most people do not answer as question appear ill-posed
  9. Moderator is James Randerson – bespectacled guy is Muir-Wood talking now
  10. Muir-Wood “Hype around disasters costs has actually decreased over the past decade”
  11. Muir-Wood 2003 heatwave saved people in 2004 – paradox easily explained (by considering people cared more about the elderly in 2004 given the experience of 2003)
  12. Muir-Wood mentions Hohenkammer Report – flood defences helped decrease risk in Japan
  13. Muir-Wood no trend 1950 2005 but reduction largest losses – trend from 1970s
  14. Muir-Wood recent trend heavily depends on 2004 2005 hurricanes – conclusion in 2008: “insufficient evidence”
  15. Ward ‘s turn – says he is no climate researcher – explainer to policymakers – starts with IPCC WG1
  16. Ward: climate change as trends but extreme events expected to increase – somebody laughs
  17. Ward repeats IPCC verbatim – importance of frequency but also of people exposure and vulnerability
  18. Ward shows not-normalised graphs – why? – then normalization studies – 2 with and 2 without trends
  19. Ward: WG2 and Stern used 2% trend – increasing! That is how Stern computed 1% GDP !!!
  20. Ward ends nevertheless saying evidence is not conclusive of climate impact on future losses
  21. Pielke presents as a non skeptic worried about exaggeration says IPCC has done it wrong
  22. Pielke talks of Hohenkammer workshop – not possible to determine attribution to climate change
  23. Pielke: over climatic timescales societal changes are extremely important
  24. Pielke: even Schmidt et al 2009 mentioned by Ward conclude finding no evidence
  25. Pielke: no evidence of changes to worldwide hurricanes – list of peer reviewed studies all agreeing
  26. Pielke shows misleading IPCC graph contested by 2 reviewers – reply by IPCC author was completely wrong
  27. Pielke: IPCC failed comprehensively on this issue
  28. Cheeky Pielke shows reasonable Ward statement in Guardian Jan 26 2010
  29. Very unclear what they disagree on?
  30. Ward says IPCC should be improved not scrapped
  31. Questions why decarbonize? what is disagreement? (that’s me) glacier dates important?
  32. Pielke: even if there were large signal disasters, it’d all be better dealt with adaptation- need to decarbonize to provide energy to all
  33. Muir-Wood without IPCC it would be a normal scientific debate-high profile and contentious – costs are very important
  34. Ward says IPCC was accurate – Pielke and Muir-Wood agree with each other but not with IPCC – all we need now is a kiss
  35. I wish people went straight to question
  36. Corbyn ‘s turn- will panel agree to scrap IPCC and prepare for actual disasters – recommends own site
  37. Muir-Wood says why he believes there is something going on – mentions IPCC deadlines as an issue (in the times of Wikipedia)
  38. Pielke says debate on physical questions not appropriate tonight – mentions institutional problems in IPCC
  39. Ward debates Corbyn
  40. Q: how to recoup IPCC authority- money wasted on maybe’s, could’s, etc
  41. Ward: most IPCC work is for free – whole thing matters in comparison to unknown consequences
  42. Ward makes moot point against complete unbelievers
  43. Pielke says there is a problem with work done on the cheap
  44. Ward revelations have not changed basics – but question was how to convince people?
  45. Ward decisions need to be taken now
  46. Questions: institutional issues – changes in human agency – scientists as activists
  47. Pielke: problem of advocacy among scientists – look at politicized intelligence – IPCC policy neutral but leaders are not
  48. Wards defends Pachauri – resignation will not solve problems – need changes to review process
  49. Wards: IPCC is to provide advice to policymakers
  50. Pielke also not interested in resignation – says IPCC needs deep reforms
  51. Muir-Wood speaks – also general public is audience of IPCC
  52. Vote again: many more on not side end of debate

(slightly edited for ease of reading)

Complete Microblogging Of Tonight's Pielke Jr vs Ward vs Muir Wood London Debate

I have left less than one hour ago the Royal Institution in London where a debate has taken place with Roger Pielke Jr, Bob Ward and Robert Muir Wood moderated by the Guardian’s James Randerson. I will blog with more details in the next few days or maybe even tonight: for now, you can read the whole thing as microblogged live by me on Twitter starting from here.

There has been a remarkable consensus and at one point it even looked like they were going to kiss each other.  For example everybody agreed the IPCC procedures must be considerably changed before next report is out…

ps please note that my main (English) account on Twitter remains “omnologos”.

ADDENDUM 1: my Ordered Notes About The Pielke Jr vs Ward vs Muir Wood London Debate

ADDENDUM 2: thanks to Steven McIntyre for pointing to the MP3 of the debate (there’s even me asking a question between 55:08 and 55:29) (I have been trying to post these links at Pielke Jr’s blog but no luck so far)

ADDENDUM 3: Josh has a cartoonist’s report of the debate at Bishop Hill. Also, more live tweets of the events are available from Christine Ottery and Tony Plant.

ADDENDUM 4: More blogs on the topic: Chris Cooper at Samizdata.net, Amelia Gregory at Amelia’s Magazine

Preternatural Climate News And Other Tweets

(If Revkin can do it… 😎  – my Twitter account in English is ‘omnologos’)

1@bbcworld there is something preternatural in seeing every good climate news invariably more than compensated by some badclimate news refers to “Temperature and CO2 feedback loop ‘weaker than thought‘” by Roger Harrabin, which includes:

The authors warn, though, that their research will not reduce projections of future temperature rises.

2Total rout for AGW : UK Science chief John Beddington calls for honesty on climate change refers to “Science chief John Beddington calls for honesty on climate change

3another case of gross misrepresentation of the literature, thereafter conveniently disregarded? refers to my comment “Himalayagate 2

4Building a broad climate coalition of scientific/professional organizations reminds of “100 Scientists against Einstein” refers to “Climate change activists work to regain momentum” by Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle

5 Science : “Brown Clouds over South Asia: Biomass or Fossil Fuel Combustion? (answer: mostly biomass) refers to
Science 23 January 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5913, pp. 495 – 498 “Brown Clouds over South Asia: Biomass or Fossil Fuel Combustion?” by Örjan Gustafsson et al

6ClimateDepot “warmists” have been scoring own goals for quite some time – and still they do – refers to “The Disastrous Setback for Climate Advocacy of Late 2009” by Chris Mooney in “The Intersection” where I comment

I fully agree with redlink18…disparaging any comment that falls outside of the party line and concentrating on blaming a handful of well-paid individuals when there has been a clear and massive change in public opinion in the USA like in the UK, all of that will lead Mooney’s “camp” nowhere.

On the other hand, given that the “warmists” have been scoring spectacular own goals for quite some time now, no wonder they show no chance of getting anything right at the moment.

7“try and change the Received date! Don’t give those skeptics something to amuse themselves with” refers to “East Anglia Confirmed Emails from the Climate Research Unit – 1189722851.txt

8Using religious language to fight global warming refers to “Using religious language to fight global warming” by Helen Grady, Analysis, BBC Radio 4

9@Revkin: Watts is at third of Gandhi’s four stages: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win” refers to “Poorly sited U.S. temperature instruments not responsible for artificial warming” on Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog

Glaciergate "Faulty Communication" Explanation Makes Things Even Worse For The IPCC

Andy Revkin has just published on dotEarth a James Kanter article titled “Explanation Offered for Error in U.N. Climate Report“. Apparently,

Faulty communication allowed an unsubstantiated estimate of the melting rate of Himalayan glaciers to make it into the landmark 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a senior scientist and panel official said Monday. […] The official, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice chairman of the climate change panel, said that a glaciologist, Georg Kaser at the University of Innsbruck, in Austria, had sought to correct the information about the glaciers before it was published by the panel but that the correction came too late and never reached the people who could fix the statement.

This “explanation” obviously explains very little and simply opens up a series of new questions:

  • Why didn’t Dr Kaser think it worthwhile to voice his concerns in any form (public, or private) after the publication of the IPCC report in 2007?
  • What made Dr Kaser place more importance on his colleagues potentially ill feelings about being criticized, than on scientific truth?
  • And if a relatively well-known published scientist such as Dr Kaser finds himself forced into some kind of self-censorship and reluctance to speak out, how poisonous, impermeable to criticism and ultimately anti-scientific has the world of the IPCC become?

Words of wisdom to the big cheeses at the IPCC: please stop digging!

Stress Vs. Credibility: Modern Science At A Crossroads

Steven Wiley talks about Biology, but his words explain the one long-lasting damage Climategate has done to mainstream (AGW) climatology, whatever the outcome of the ongoing investigations: an increasing number of skeptics because emotional outbursts destroy confidence in the very data:

it is essential that we maintain respect for each other in our public discourse. Respecting each other is essential for real scientific dialog. If you dismiss someone’s opinion based on your feelings, you lose your objectivity. But being dismissive and emotional during public discussions also makes you look bad to other people and erodes your credibility.

Ideally, a scientist should be a dispassionate observer of the world who weighs the evidence and provides a thoughtful, well-reasoned judgment. This is clearly an idealistic vision of our profession to which we frequently fall short, mostly because scientists find it difficult to be dispassionate about anything. Yet, we should strive for this ideal if we expect that scientific opinions should be given special consideration in society.

This is important because we want people to believe in the data gathered and evaluated using the scientific method. If people aren’t confident in the people who are gathering the data, they won’t believe in its veracity.

[…] Most people can tell the difference between reasonable assertions and unsupported conjecture. The problem is that when emotional outbursts are injected into a situation, any pretense of objectivity becomes lost.

In these times where science offers the best hope for progress in an increasing complex and fractious world, it would be a real tragedy if the bad behavior of some scientists compromised our reputation as neutral seekers of truth. Whether we like it or not, the behavior of each of us colors the popular perception of scientists as a whole.

There’s going to be a need for a huge amount of “the science is settled” declarations before AGW climatology will start to look again as anything remotely objective, in the eyes of the general public. In the meanwhile, it will remain caged within politics and silly holier-than-thou discussions bordering on fundamentalism. And that’s no place for a scientific discipline.

—-

Here two examples of pretty damaging “emotional outbursts”:

(1) Professor Andrew Watson making the cheap shot of calling Marc Morano an “asshole” at the very end of their BBC Newsnight exchange, i.e. when Morano had no way to respond

(2) The LSE’s Bob Ward going hysterical and literally off on a tangent on Spectator’s Editor Fraser Nelson, during a Sky News debate

Suspence About James Randi

The Amazing James Randi has stepped into the AGW debate with a reasonable blog, stating truisms several times:

scientists are just as human as the rest of us, in that they are strongly influenced by the need to be accepted, to kowtow to peer opinion, and to “belong” in the scientific community

a growing number of prominent scientists disagree (on the IPCC consensus)

science does not depend on consensus

History supplies us with many examples where scientists were just plain wrong about certain matters, but ultimately discovered the truth through continued research

as far as humans are concerned, ten times more people die each year from the effects of cold than die from the heat

In my amateur opinion, more attention to disease control, better hygienic conditions for food production and clean water supplies, as well as controlling the filth that we breathe from fossil fuel use, are problems that should distract us from fretting about baking in Global Warming.

A Skeptic that is skeptical about making Global Warming THE defining issue of our times?  Obviously, that’s not something that could be left unpunished. And in fact…there are some slightly ominous remarks by Phil “Jekill” Plait (not the usual reasonable Plait one can find talking about every topic but global warming):

I just talked with Randi about it (and sent him some info on AGW), and he’s posting a followup tonight

Let’s see how things develop.

Skeptical Band Aid, or "Do They Know It's Climategatetime"

The tradition of updating classical songs to the new climate-obsessed world continues with an adaptation of Band Aid’s 1984 Christmas hit:

Do They Know It’s Climategatetime

It’s Climategatetime
There’s no need to be afraid
At Climategatetime, we let in light and we banish data hiding
And from our world of skeptics we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around mainstream media at Climategatetime

But say a prayer

Pray for the poor hacks
At Climategatetime it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only hope flowing is the bitter sting of catastrophe
And the Climategate bells that ring there are the clanging
chimes of doom
Well tonight of course it’s them instead of you

And there won’t be doubt in mainstream media this Climategatetime
The greatest gift they’ll get is a functioning neuron or two
(Oooh) Where no free thought ever grows
No idea nor investigation flow
Do they know it’s Climategatetime at all?

(Here’s to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here’s to them) underneath their censorship
Do they know it’s Climategatetime at all?

Feed mainstream media
With some news

Feed mainstream media

Let them know it’s Climategatetime, it is

Feed mainstream media
Let them know it’s Climategatetime, it is

The CRU Hacking Song (With Apologies To George And Ira Gershwin)

(And no…I am not going to leave my day job)

 

 

 

It ain’t necessarily so

It ain’t necessarily so
It ain’t necessarily so
The t’ings dat yo’ li’ble
To read in de IPCC,
It ain’t necessarily so.

Li’l CO2 was small, but oh my !
Li’l CO2 was small, but oh my !
He fought Big Solar Influence
Who lay down an’ dieth !
Li’l CO2 was small, but oh my !

Wadoo, zim bam boddle-oo,
Hoodle ah da wa da,
Scatty wah !
Oh yeah !…

Oh Phil Jones, he lived in de CRU,
Oh Phil Jones, he lived in de CRU,
Fo’ he made his home in
Dat institute’s warming.
Oh Phil Jones, he lived in de CRU.

Li’l Mann was fond of a trend.
Li’l Mann was fond of a trend.
He floated on bristlecones
Till Ol’ Briffa and colleagues,
They saved him, they said, and dat trend.

Wadoo …

Well, it ain’t necessarily so
Well, it ain’t necessarily so
Dey tells all you chillun
De skepticism’s a villun,
But it ain’t necessarily so !

To get with the Science
Don’ bet your emissions!
Live clean ! Don’ have no pollution !
Oh, I takes dat IPCC gospel
Whenever it’s pos’ble,
But wid a grain of salt.

Gavin Schmidt wrote nine hundred blogs,
Gavin Schmidt wrote nine hundred blogs,
But who calls dat writin’
When no reality will give in
To no man with nine hundred blogs ?

I’m preachin’ dis sermon to show,
It ain’t nece-ain’t nece
Ain’t nece-ain’t nece
Ain’t necessarily … so !

Raise Your Hands If You're Ready To Handle (Dishonest) Data Tampering

(comment posted at Greenfyre’s)

Greenfyre: if there is a subsequent release and it contains actual credible evidence of data tampering, I will say so

And that’s good enough for me.

After “ClimateGate” the consensus is still there, the AGW science is still there, COP15 will still take place, etc etc. What is dead is the notion that climatological alarmism is a nicely consensual necessary conclusion of an unbiased reading of the data, rather than a reasonable worldview based on observations but that might just as well be supplanted by a different one.

I just hope that in the eyes of all, “catastrophical AGW” is now a little less like “General Relativity” and a little more like “String theory”.

And even if the work of hundreds hasn’t been invalidated, still there is enough ongoing “power politics” activity at CRU (and elsewhere) to warrant a different approach to AGW skepticism. The problem is in fact not much in scientists that have an “ideology of science”, rather with scientists whose ideology involves stifling debate and censoring those who do not follow orthodoxy.

How many of those quoted would be prepared to “say so” if any “credible evidence of (dishonest) data tampering” were to surface?

R.I.P.

The CRU…CRU…CRU…el Destiny Of Climatology

Twenty-four hours later, we can be pretty sure that of “smoking guns” in the leaked CRU documents there are none. Everyone can read that information any way they please, as evidence of a global conspiracy or demonstration that climate science is solid and honest.

Whatever…now there’s a little bit more people aware that Science is done by humans, with their preferences and dislikes, their personal beliefs, and capable to use all the tricks of “power politics” to isolate opponents and to support friends. At the end of the day, the problem is not much in scientists that have an “ideology of science”. There’s plenty of it in history, from the controversy about the wave-particle nature of light to the patriotic debates about who invented calculus.

The problem is with scientists whose ideology involves stifling debate and censoring those who do not follow orthodoxy.

Let’s just hope there will be less of that…especially because the alternative is the piling up of yet more revelations, transforming it all in some kind of “climate tabloid journalism”.

The BBC 'Catastrophical AGW' All-Out Assault Has Started!

COP15 is three weeks away, and as expected things are getting hotter by the minute in AGW media outlets such as the BBC.

Just a quick look at Nov 17: in the Science & Environment home page, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten stories with a single focus.

Then incredibly in the “Scotland” pages an article and a video, part of a “three part special” filmed…in Thailand! Including what is likely to be the silliest ever report ending: “Fiona Walker, reporting Scotland, in the Gulf of Thailand

(alas, they could kid themselves only up to a point: the “three part special” is classified under “Scotland politics” and Ms Walker clearly introduced as “BBC Scotland’s social affairs reporter“).

It is going to get worse before it gets better.

Christofides and Mamassis (Koutsoyannis) Against AGW

Two of Koutsoyannis’ co-authors (here and here) have contacted me today providing a link to their HK Climate website, designed the old-fashioned way with a Start page and an Epilogue (and About).

The two Koutsoyannis et al.’s are of course the papers arguing that climate models “won’t reproduce the local climate” and any “statement that the predictions would work at [a] longer distance scales is unsupported” (in the words of Luboš).

HK Climate has definitely been written for non-specialists. A couple of quotes:

  • (from the Start page) “we maintain that there is no reason whatsoever to worry about man-made climate change, because there is no evidence whatsoever that such a thing is happening
  • (from the Epilogue page) “Climate is equally uncertain at all zoom levels. In fact, mathematical analysis of the climate indicates that its behaviour is such that the uncertainty is the maximum possible at all zoom levels. This maximisation of uncertainty at all scales is called the Hurst-Kolmogorov behaviour of climatic processes. Nature loves uncertainty, and it fools us in two ways: on the one hand we wouldn’t be able to predict the future of climate, even if we fully knew the natural laws that govern it, because of chaos; and on the other hand, we can’t be very certain of the statistically expected behaviour of climate which is based on our observations of the past, because of the Hurst-Kolmogorov behaviour.”

Consolidated Links About Piers Corbyn's Solar Weather Technique Conference

UK Government Shows Its True 'Scientific' Colors

The UK Government has been at the forefront of AGW for a long time now. All in good intent and fully based on scientific evidence, of course.

Anybody needing any further “proof” of that, look no further than the sacking today of Professor David Nutt, the UK’s chief drugs adviser and utterer yesterday of confidence-losing advice (basically, expert opinion the Government didn’t want to hear).

Prof. Nutt was head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, “an independent(*) expert body that advises government on drug related issues in the UK.

(*) best joke of 2009

A Quick Note About Corbyn's Solar Weather Technique Conference

Not many words out yet about WeatherAction’s “Climate Change, The Solar Weather Technique & The Future of Forecasting”, the conference organized by Piers Corbyn and hosted by the Imperial College in London on Oct 28. Amazingly, BBC’s Roger Harrabin just spoke about it during the midnight BBC Radio4 news, in rather neutral and very appropriate tones as far as I can remember (nothing has surfaced in the BBC News site as yet).

Myself, I have been able to get to the conference and back, just in time and only to hear Corbyn’s opening remarks, when he lamented the immorality of the mainstream obsession with CO2 and compared his work to longitude measurer Harrison, rejected by the scientific and political establishment for a long time despite being right and only winning acceptance by winning the acceptance and trust of users (the Royal Navy, according to Corbyn)

The AGW Debate-Challenged Game – 1- Word List

a basic lack of scientific understanding
a weak knowledge of science
amateur
arrogance
ASS afflicted pseudo-intellectual
attention-seeking
bogus claims
bogus questions
Bull
bullshit
can’t understand
cherry-picking
circular arguments
complete moron
completely wrong
compulsive behaviour
deceitful
deceitful and anti-science nonsense
deceitful personality
deep ignorance of climate science
deeply ignorant
deliberate, clearly joyfully assembled lies and frauds
denialospeak
denier
denier nonsense
denier rubbish
devious
devoid of rational discussion or actual content
discredited individual
dishonest
dishonest weasel
disinformation
disingenuous
distort
distorting information
diversionary-transference tactics
dreck
drivel
egregious epistemological error
evident self-importance
extremely pompous and patriarchal ass
extremists
facile
faux civility
flawed reasoning
fraudulent
fraudulent abuse of the real data
grandstanding
half-wit
half-witted liar
hopeless
how worthless you are
idiocy
ignorance
ignorant
incapable to learn
incompetence
incompetent
inflated ego
intellectual bankruptcy
intellectual dishonesty
intellectual masturbator
intentional stupidity
introductory course in logic
irrelevant, nonsensical computation
justify his own political beliefs
juvenile
liar
libertarian
lies
lying denying idiots
moron
nutters
obfuscate
on the payroll of ExxonMobil
opportunistic
pompous
pompous waffle
poor understanding of the science
profoundly self-absorbed and deceitful personality
profoundly self-absorbed personality
pseudo argumentation
pseudoscience crap
rabidly fanatic
scientifically illiterate
scientifically illiterate comments
selfish
selfish and immoral behaviour
self-referential
slandering scientists
sophomoric rhetorical tricks
spammed=posted a deliberately fraudulent interpretation of research conclusions repeatedly on various sites
spamming
stupid
stupidity
telling lies
troll
unwilling to learn
utter b.s.
weak intellect
weak intellect
weaselling denial
weasely
write a lot, say very little
your brand of ignorance
your fellow Deniers
your junk science political site

NOW On BBC World Service (Radio): The Importance Of AGW Skepticism

Just started (00:30GMT, Oct 25) on BBC World Radio: “Letter from…Clive James reflects on the importance of scepticism in every walk of life

Listen live

BBC iPlayer link

UPDATE: The programme lasted around 8 minutes.

UPDATE #2: Thanks to Alex for pointing to the programme transcript.

Very quick summary of the relevant points:

  • It is notable that on the issue of man made climate change the language used is hard to distinguish from the language used centuries ago against heresy
  • Whoever shows skepticism is called a “denialist” – a nasty word that suggests equivalence to denying the holocaust
  • In Australia somebody suggested that climate change skeptics are worse than Holocaust denialists, as this time it’s the whole human race that is at risk
  • But the Holocaust has actually happened, the destruction of the Earth by man made climate change hasn’t
  • The number of skeptical scientists in on the  increase. But Mr James claims he knows next to nothing about the subjects
  • The one thing he knows is that many of the commentators don’t know much either, since they keep saying that the science is settled. And it is not.
  • Now fewer are repeating that assertion. and their voices are raising harder, as if protecting their faith
  • Skeptics are accused not to care about the future human race. That is the opposite of the truth. Modern medicine for example raised from skepticism
  • At the end of the day, no matter what effort is put in protecting a conjecture, a theory must suit  the facts

Don't Miss Out On The Superfreakonomic AGW Storm

The people behind best-seller Freakonomics have done their AGW outing…part of their new book “SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance” has been published on the Sunday Times under the headline “Why Everything You Think You Know About Global Warming Is Wrong” (the shock! the horror!).

Time will tell if there is anything substantial behind such a bold claim…for now, enjoy Romm’s throwing all he could against Levitt and Dubner. And on past experience, if Romm’s upset about something, then there is something substantial behind it all indeed….

UPDATE: Long commentary about Superfreakonomics by Dominic Lawson on The Independent (???)

The IPCC Is Never Wrong -1- Why Kevin Trenberth Is Right

Thus spoke Dr Kevin E Trenberth, Head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the (very welcome!) Gray/Trenberth written debate hosted by the Tea Party of Northern Colorado:

I have found that the only scientists who disagree with the IPCC report are those who have not read it and are poorly informed

Contrarily to what the most argument-challenged readers of this blog might think, I fully agree with Dr Trenberth’s statement. Only, I arrive at his same conclusion starting from a very different point of view (wonder if Morano will ever try to sing a different tune?).

==========================

I have read several chapters of the IPCC AR4 (2007) (sadly, I have not read the whole thing in full from start to end and seriously wonder if anybody ever has). Fact is, they are all written in a scientifically very valid way. As the science of climate is still full of uncertainties, then whatever the future, may it be hot, may it be cold, it will be impossible to ever find in the IPCC reports any item that may be actually considered as fundamentally wrong or misleading.

Everything is in there and its opposite, by wise [UPDATE: “wise” means “wise” in a POSITIVE way…do not mix it up with “weasel” or anything else with a bad connotation] use of words like “could”, “might” and “likely”. Even if we meet again in 2050 and global cooling is in full swing, still the IPCC reports will be, in a sense, correct. Take for example AR4-SYR-SPM (Synthesis Report, Summary for Policymakers)

page 5: Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations

page 7: Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would [note how they had so many would‘s to distribute, they added one too many here] cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century

The meaning of “very likely” is explained in the box Treatment of uncertainty” in the Introduction of the Synthesis Report (page 27):

Where uncertainty in specific outcomes is assessed using expert judgment and statistical analysis of a body of evidence (e.g. observations or model results), then the following likelihood ranges are used to express the assessed probability of occurrence: virtually certain >99%; extremely likely >95%; very likely >90%; likely >66%; more likely than not > 50%; about as likely as not 33% to 66%; unlikely <33%; very unlikely <10%; extremely unlikely <5%; exceptionally unlikely <1%.

Since “very likely” stops at 90%, it means that the IPCC experts agree that there is a 10% probability that most of observed temperature increases might not be due to “increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations“. And that there is a 10% probability that the 21st century will not see anything larger than the 20th century has seen.

So if anything like that actually happens, well, the IPCC AR4 has already included that possibility, has it not?

Interestingly, if the IPCC work were to be presented as a scientific article, and the p-value associated to the null hypothesis (that observed temperature increases have nothing to do with increased GHG concentrations) were 0.1 or 10%, most if not all journals would deny publication.

(continues)

Opinator Cura Te Ipsum

“Opinion-leader heal thyself!”
(doesn’t seem to have found its way onto the pages of the International Herald Tribune)

Dear Editors

It’s very good for Paul Krugman (“The Politics of Spite“, Oct 5) and Tom Friedman (“Where Did ‘We’ Go?“, Sep 29) to lament the decay of contemporary US political debate into mutual accusations and “puerile spite“. Could anybody therefore please explain if those are the same Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman that regularly describe in unyieldingly negative tones anybody not sharing their opinions on global warming/climate change?

Michael Shermer's Five Questions on AGW Skepticism

Chill Out” blog on AGW skepticism by nonskeptical Skeptic Michael Shermer (Sep 29).

Shermer’s point is so incredibly obvious, I am sure very few people will be able to “get it”:

In my opinion we need to chill out on all extremist plans that entail expenses best described as Brobdingnagian, require our intervention into developing countries best portrayed as imperialistic, or involve state controls best portrayed as fascistic. Give green technologies and free markets a chance

Will the above earn him (again?) the label of Denialist? Who knows? For well-known reasons, his mention of Bjorn Lomborg seems to have caused a stir (even if they both are firmly in the AGW camp…I presume that’s what happens when one agrees with people all too ready to label as “denialist” anybody that doesn’t fully agree with them).

Shermer suggests also five questions to help establish if  one is “a global warming skeptic, or […] skeptical of the global warming skeptics“:

  1. Is the earth getting warmer?
  2. Is the cause of global warming human activity?
  3. How much warmer is it going to get?
  4. What are the consequences of a warmer climate?
  5. How much should we invest in altering the climate?

Shermer’s answers: (1) yes, (2) “primarily“, (3) “moderate warming with moderate changes” (following the IPCC, no less), (4) “consequences must be weighed in the balance” (that is, positive consequences should be considered too), (5) much less than the “Brobdingnagian proposals being talked about, and not even as much as recommended by the IPCC (with references to Lomborg and Nordhaus).

Interestingly, Shermer shows his skepticism increasing from nil (questions 1 and 2) to almost 100% (question 5)

———————

How do you score on Shermer’s questions? I can answer also on the basis of my About page: (1) yes, (2) slightly, (3) between almost nothing and half of what Shermer expects, (4) overall, consequences will be positive and (5) zero.

No Science Without Skepticism, Just Intolerance and Despotism

(a slightly different Italian version of the below has been published by Climate Monitor)

Skeptically-challenged AGWers are hardly the best examples of tolerance. Arguably, some among them don’t seem to be bothered with supporting dictatorships. If one talks to others, a barrage of insults will be fired back.

What if the underlying problem is exactly their rejection of the value of skeptical/ unorthodox / anti-dogmatic thinking?

And what if by that very rejection, they are actually revealing nasty undertones that risk placing AGW centuries against Science and against centuries of philosophical advances too, starting from the Enlightenment if not from the times of Ancient Greece?

That is one’s feeling having read an extraordinary page in Italy’s biggest business daily “Il Sole24Ore”, in particular in its separate Sunday section dedicated to cultural and scientific matters. In the Sunday, August 2 2009 edition, page 35 is an almost solid praise of skepticism, described as

  • a more reasonable approach to Knowledge (including “Scientific Knowledge” )
  • a defense shield against dogmatism and intolerance
  • an essential component to help one improve oneself from an ethical point of view.

That’s the skepticism that has reached us through the Enlightenment. Those that refuse skepticism in the realm of science then, and denigrate it, and recklessly rely on an “Unquestionable Authority“, they are ultimately placing themselves outside of Science itself, and outside of nearly four hundred years of philosophy if not more.

What is obvious is that the “skeptical attitude” of ancient and modern philosophers is antithetical to current fashionable AGW, where an incredibly dogmatic rigidity leads to cries of lese-majeste for example when anybody dares to doubt prophecis of upcoming catastrophes, or some of the conclusions of the latest IPCC report, or even the very dangers of anthropogenic climate change.

(All articles appear here in my own translation. Unfortunately they do not seem to be available on the internet)

Let’s start from Remo Bodei’s  “An Enlightenment to turn back on“. UCLA’s History of Philosophy Professor Bodei invites readers to rediscover some oft-forgotten aspects of the Enlightenment, such as being aware of the “limits of Reason“, and of the importance of a skeptical approach to Knowledge.

The Enlightenment has its firmest roots in modern skepticism represented by Bayle along the traditional lines of Pyrrhonism, Montaigne’s relativism, the achievements of Hobbes’s “New Science” and French libertinism. However, the Enlightenment emphasizes the “corrosive”and”destructive” nature of Reason, ready to doubt even of itself.

Bayle is Pierre Bayle, a famous-no-longer XIX-century French philosopher. Bayle considered knowledge as an endless process whose only “true source” is reality rather than formal logic. “General theories” are therefore impossible, and Bayle dedicates large swaths of his 1697 “Dictionnaire historique et critique” to sarcastically compare wisdom and stupidity in order to debunk seemingly unassailable “truths”. Because what is “true” today is almost certain to become “false” sometimes in the future.

As reported by Bodei, Pierre Bayle is also mentioned in the following diary entry by Italian maître-à-penser Giacomo Leopardi (“Zibaldone”, September 1, 1826):

Bayle’s argument that reason is an instrument of destruction rather than construction, applies very well. Indeed, it reminds me of what I have observed in other areas: that from the Renaissance onwards, and especially recently, the advances of the human spirit have consisted, and mostly consist, not in the discovery of positive truths, but of negative ones. In other words, progress has been achieved in knowing the falsehood of concepts in the recent or faraway past considered as solid truth, or in appreciating our ignorance of other concepts that we had presumed to know already […] And therefore the Ancients, in fields such as metaphysics, morality, and even in politics […] could be considered as more advanced than us, merely because they lived before certain “positive truth” claims and discoveries had been made, claims that we now try to shrug off slowly and with great effort […].

According to Leopardi, “to know” means “to discover which truth has now become false”, that is, “to learn more about our own ignorance”. And so as time progresses, we will know more and more, that is less and lesss, because each new “positive truth” will eventually join this paradoxical increase in the “knowledge of ignorance“.

It is customary at this stage to stop and wonder if all the above be an invitation to let go of Knowledge, since we will never be able to reach any “Truth“. But the answer can only be a resounding “No”. In fact, Bodei mentions “pyrrhonism“, the ideas of ancient Greek philosopher Pyrrho, unwilling to choose between the existence (dogmatism) and the denial of existence (stoicism) of an Absolute Truth.

We can have opinions, but certainty and knowledge are impossible“, Pyrrho said. This would make it absurd to be offended by people having different opinions than ours. If anything, the skeptical invitation is to avoid all dogmatisms, even and perhaps especially those related to scientific discoveries, and to allow us instead the luxury of the possibility to change our mind.

It t all gets explained in Professor of Philosophy of Knowledge Nicla Vassallo’s “Who’s afraid of skepticism?

In ancient times skepticism was a practical, as well as theoretical attitude: doubt preserves us from the “dogmatic certainties” with which we conduct our lives, and provides us with greater happiness: the certainties crash as shipwrecks against rocks, whilst doubt allows us to suspend judgement, hence to lead a life sheltered from anxieties, and to reach a higher level of ethics through greater tolerance to different opinions.

Contemporary skepticism seems instead intent on something almost opposite, a purely theoretical concern against which only life can provide soothing… But is that really true? Even the theoretical application of modern / contemporary skepticism has relevant practical consequences: indeed, in order to be reasonable, we have take as legitimate only the “knowledge” that can pass the “skeptical challenge”. In other words, we can only defend what we say if we have the ability to reject the explanations of our beliefs that are compatible with their falsehoods.

For example, if we are not able to tell a rabbit from a hare, how can we claim to have seen a rabbit?

There is no sense, no legitimacy in claims that do not pass the obstacle represented by the virtuous “skeptical challenge”. So for example we can not take as incontrovertible dogma, or even as scientific knowledge, AGW claims that are compatible with everything and its opposite, able to explain the warming and then the cooling too, and any future heating and/or cooling.

That’s because if we are not able to tell a natural warming from an anthropogenic one, how can we then claim to have seen AGW?

Rigidity, dogmatism, the claim of possessing an absolute truth that no one may dare challenge, they all do not belong to the wise, the philosopher, the sensible person.

Neither can they be legitimate tools for the scientist.