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  1. Thank You Gavin. Of course scientists must advocate because the system that is required was never created. The basic organization of civilization was never meant to handle GW. The basic organization of the human mind has never evolved to handle GW. There is no provision in the US constitution for scientists to take over the government in case of future climate emergency. There is no funding for science advertising.

    The constitution isn’t set up to make possible the punishment of genocide that most people can’t see as already happening.
    “Climate change stokes violent reaction”
    “UN warns of food riots in developing world as drought pushes up prices”

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Dec 2013 @ 9:49 AM

  2. Gavin, I want to express my appreciation for your venture into a challenging topic. I continue to deliberate about where advocacy is an appropriate fit for me, as a public scientist. As I know you are aware, this topic is relevant to all scientists, including folks like me who engage on the scientific aspects of other controversial topics, like GMOs and pesticide use. You’ve helped advance discussion of an important topic. As I have said in other venues, I look forward to someday buying you and others a glass of a fine Kentucky bourbon to share ideas on this.

    Paul Vincelli
    University of Kentucky

    Comment by Paul Vincelli — 23 Dec 2013 @ 9:52 AM

  3. Gavin,

    I very much appreciate your video/lecture on the topic of advocacy and values, and I would like to reinforce Schneider’s point that being aware and open about one’s sub-conscious values is a difficult matter and that one needs actively re-examine these sub-conscious values that one (including scientists) merely assumes as a given. Certainly, one must start with a “prior” but one must update that “prior” with each new learning opportunity. Currently, many learning opportunities are being lost because our preconceived sub-conscious assumptions do not allow us to value these new learning opportunities. If we want sustainability in a non-stationary/changing world, then each one of us must that responsibility for up-dating our “priors” regularly. Furthermore, I believe that this process of up-dating our “priors” would be facilitated if forums for climate change advocacy better acknowledged “deep uncertainty” rather than by focusing on matters that we feel that we know a comfortable amount about.

    Comment by AbruptSLR — 23 Dec 2013 @ 11:10 AM

  4. Very clearly thought out (and interesting how Stephen Schneider had figured most of this out)

    I saw a hostile comment elsewhere saying that you didn’t come clean on what you were advocating, which I think says more about their assumptions than anything else. My impression is you want as many people as possible to have a clear (and nuanced) understanding of the science and the policy implications, rather than advocating any particular policy as such, but please correct me if i’m wrong !

    [Response: My main advocacy is for people to have a higher level of conversation on these topics than we generally see in the public discussion. That means trying to focus attention on substantive issues rather than trivialities, adding context to points that get media attention and calling out the strawmen arguments, cherry picks and red herrings that generally pollute the discourse. The main value I have that relates to that is that I think people have the potential to make better decisions when they have better information and that democratic values require us to strive for an informed population. Then if people want to choose a course of action they can at least do so knowing (as best we can tell) what the consequences are. I’m not a big fan of sleepwalking through choices and hoping everything works out!

    On this issue, I’m advocating for a higher level of awareness when people advocate – it has very little to do with what they actually choose to advocate (or not advocate) for. – gavin]

    Comment by PeteB — 23 Dec 2013 @ 11:33 AM

  5. Greisch:

    Are you seriously calling for the take over of government by scientists or the punishment of people who don’t recognize GW?

    Your post is the embodiment of how badly things can go askew when issues pass from the scientific sphere to the public one.

    Comment by rabbit — 23 Dec 2013 @ 11:55 AM

  6. It’s been my observation that the abstention from advocacy on the part of many scientists, with respect to AGW, confuses many in the public. “If the risks were truly this large, why aren’t those who understand them best marching in the streets?!?”

    Imagine the confusion of the passengers if the lookout who sees the iceberg took no position on changing course — a lookout, by the way, whose family is quartered in steerage while a few blowhards in first class advocate for no course correction, as it may spill the champaigne at the party in the ballroom…

    Comment by Robert — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:43 PM

  7. “What!” he said, “A ferocious beast has sucked the blood of my family; I tell you to get rid of that beast, and you ask me, what shall we put in its place!” — Voltaire

    quoted here

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Dec 2013 @ 1:23 PM

  8. It is no more reasonable to expect all scientists to take an advocacy position about their expertise than it is to expect all accountants to have a well thought out position on changes to Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP). Most scientists should be doing scientists. Those who feel passionate and have the ability to argue persuasively, should feel free to engage public officials–their status as scientists doesn’t stop them from being citizens.

    What is really needed is for our political leaders to grow a pair of reproductive gland they favor and tell themselves and their constituents the truth.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2013 @ 1:55 PM

  9. Gavin, it’s of interest to compare your presentation with that of Jim Hansen, in which he presents his new paper just published on PLOS one. Hansen’s presentation gives a detailed description of the effects of humanity’s impact on the Earth (as do others at the AGU FM) and concludes that something must be done to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. He then repeats his preferred solution, (as given in his book), which is a tax on carbon that is to begin small and grow rapidly, the result being a large increase in cost of carbon emissions in the world economy. He also goes further, claiming that we must also implement the next generation of nuclear power plants. Whether these solutions are the proper course of action (or not) isn’t part of the science of climate change, but, given that the scientific projections may be correct, both the problems and the possible solutions must be widely discussed in the political world in ways which the public can understand.

    Some scientist think objectivity must prevail over advocacy in order to maintain the credibility of the scientist, however, it may be better to use the medical model of science, where solutions to identified medical problems, such as new diseases, are sought before they become epidemic as a basic function of the community. That’s actually more of an engineering approach than the purely scientific investigation of the natural world, but one which is necessary for humanity, if the next plague is to be averted. In the context of treating diseases, action by the scientific community is required. If the worst impacts of climate change are credible, the scientific community must respond as a doctor would when confronted by a sick patient, even though there is uncertainty as to the exact cause of the ailment. The alternative is to sit back and simply continue collecting data objectively while the passengers on the ship are slowly cooked.

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 23 Dec 2013 @ 2:47 PM

  10. In the Q&A session the maxim “It’s important for people who know things not to give up the public sphere to people who don’t know things” perhaps suggests a scientific intervention in non-scientific arenas can be simply correcting error in contrast to a value-laden advocacy. It’s just stating truth, isn’t it?
    I would say that any intervention is not really about truth. It’s about important truth. A minor mistake by a journalist wouldn’t result in a Letter to the Editor. Even a real howler in scientific terms may not result in a Letter to the Editor unless it is important enough. And what is ‘minor’ or ‘important’ is a value judgement.
    Thus the Thomas Stocker quote (or the recipe for apple pie @ Curry’s) could be perhaps called valued truth. And the likes of Curry also sees the value side of it, suggesting the Stocker quote is tantamount to saying “that CO2 is the dominant control knob on climate change on timescales of decades to centuries,” an idea which some (maybe those including herself) do not believe to be true.
    So I don’t think such scientific intervention can escape the value judgements or be entirely aware of all the connotations of the value ‘system’ being entered. But it can (and should) be clear on the solidity (or otherwise) of the science.

    Comment by MARodger — 23 Dec 2013 @ 3:06 PM

  11. The tension between Scientists and Advocacy is when the makers of the science are also the advocates for social or political action based on their own science. The more one convinces oneself about the correctness of his own work and then invests his persona in advocating based on it, sets the scientist up for the need to defend his advocacy and thus his science. Advocacy for a “solution” to a science finding becomes the necessity for producing more science that supports the solution.

    [Response: You should distinguish people who advocate strongly based on *only* their work, and people who advocate based on their understanding of the field in general. The latter are far less invested in the self-esteem problem you describe. Good example of the former (in a different domain) is David Perlmutter. – gavin]

    Medical doctors do not diagnose or suggest treatment for their own families for a very similar reason ==> their closeness to the patient and the treatments , their investment in the desired outcome, their investment in believing their own diagnosis, their potential inability to be disinterested and objective. All these conflicting emotional and intellectual forces, and the long string of bad outcomes, have convinced the medical world that a medical scientist (a doctor) should not be involved in the treatment of someone close to them.

    Likewise, scientists who work on climate questions, whose science must not be biased by their policy preferences, should not involve themselves in advocating social or political responses to the science they produce. Doing so runs the risk, possibly not inevitable but only very likely, of the advocacy beginning to produce the science.

    [Response: Your medical analogy does not extend very far. For instance, if you consider that we all have a vested interest in the existence of the planet, would you conclude that no-one (however well-informed) could ever advocate for an asteroid-impact defense system should a threat be detected? I think you (and I) would rather that the people who know most about the issue should be assigned to the problem right away. There are of course potential conflicts of interest in almost any real situation – is the doctor skewing the trial because he has shares in the pharma company? Is the rocket engineer recommending a design to benefit his sister’s widget-making company? etc. But these are issues where openness about potential conflicts and values are the solution, rather than the blanket injunction for people who know things to cede the discourse to those who don’t. – gavin]

    Comment by Kip Hansen — 23 Dec 2013 @ 3:28 PM

  12. Ray Ladbury wrote: “What is really needed is for our political leaders to grow a pair …”

    The only thing that will cause that to happen is public demand for action that is sufficient to overpower the massive financial influence of the fossil fuel interests on the political, legislative and regulatory process.

    In short, everyone who has a clue about the severity and the urgency of the problem should be practicing “advocacy” — which is to say, demanding action, NOW.

    Why climate scientists would NOT be doing that is beyond my comprehension.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2013 @ 3:33 PM

  13. Eric Swanson wrote: “Hansen’s presentation gives a detailed description of the effects of humanity’s impact on the Earth … and concludes that something must be done to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. He then repeats his preferred solution …”

    James Hansen is obviously highly qualified to provide a “detailed description” of the severity and urgency of the problem, which makes his conclusion that “something must be done” compelling, and makes him a powerful advocate for rapidly reducing GHG emissions. As such he exemplifies the role that more climate scientists could, and I think should, be playing in the public discourse.

    However, Hansen lacks any expertise in the technology or economics of non-fossil fuel energy sources, and his opinion about “preferred solutions” is no better informed and carries no more authority than that of any other citizen. He has, of course, the same right as any other citizen to offer his opinions on such subjects — but to suggest that his expertise in climate gives weight to his views on energy technologies is a mistake. Indeed, I would argue that his views are, in fact, ill-informed, misguided and even counter-productive.

    Fortunately, it is not necessary for climate scientists to become experts on energy technologies and economics and offer specific solutions for reducing specific types of GHG emissions from specific industrial sectors. It is MORE than sufficient that they are clear and uncompromising in asserting the severity and urgency of the problem, and in demanding action.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2013 @ 3:48 PM

  14. Re: Ray Ladbury (8)…I

    I don’t know that anyone has said, a priori, every scientist needs to be an advocate. You’ve said those who want to, should. But I think you sidestep the issue: the notion that a scientist abdicates objectivity when he/she moves into advocacy. As the culture stands, any scientist moving to advocacy is regarded with suspicion not only by the public, but by their fellow scientists. I have witnessed this first hand. As it is, there is a cost to advocacy, one that is not entirely reasonable.

    Second, let’s be clear: we’re not talking about taking a position on less saturated fat in our diets. All issues are not created equal. Some issues, in fact, do not lend themselves to neutrality. There is no neutrality on slavery; no neutrality on genocide. Regarding AGW, for those most knowledgeable, the refusal to advocate against massive risk to the human civilization and the well-being of our descendants is, to my mind, no longer defensible. When the issue is of the scale of AGW, and the risks so great, there’s no fence-sitting: once side or the other. We’re not talking about regulating seatbelts or marijuana — we’re talking about a massive body of science that strongly indicates enormous risk, absent meaningful action. Those who understand this best are precisely those who need to speak up…

    Comment by robert — 23 Dec 2013 @ 4:23 PM

  15. Somewhere I recently read an brief article about a poll. According to it, the majority of adult Americans do not trust scientists and science reporters even less.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Dec 2013 @ 4:30 PM

  16. @9
    “Some scientist think objectivity must prevail over advocacy in order to maintain the credibility of the scientist.”

    Whether or not you advocate, objectivity should prevail. And you want to be careful how you open that door. Today it may mean speaking up for environmental responsibility. Tomorrow it may mean the free flow of fossil fuel money.

    “Most scientists should be doing scientists.”

    OK then. Sounds like a plan!

    Comment by Radge Havers — 23 Dec 2013 @ 4:33 PM

  17. This is also a good guidance for climate communicators. Factual statements like mentioned from Thomas Stoker could be extended with recommendations, how to achieve required targets. And in a public discussion you can draw from the IPCC reports or other comprehensive studies. Though it might be good to not force advocacy discussions, but when the time is right.
    I think the public discussion has advanced now from the consensus finding to the discussion about the right solutions.

    Talking about solutions, Hansen’s advocacy of nuclear power comes to mind, but i instantly wonder how this would work out in a world with a more active Geosphere and renewables appear to work just fine. What i want to say is that in rare cases, such as in the face of dangerous climate change, advocacy becomes a legitimate to some extent and sadly this burden at least in part should come from scientist’s. And it those cases it would help to have every detailed addressed and easily accessible, to improve communication.

    On another note, i think general information sharing (think YouTube videos, facebook or twitter stream) might be confused with advocacy sometimes. Only because someone posts or mentions something doesn’t necessarily means he advocates the context.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 23 Dec 2013 @ 4:43 PM

  18. Dr. Schmidt ==> We all recognize the ramblings of a “scientific one-man show” — and Perlmutter is a fine example — but are often led astray by the assertions of a team effort or something new and upcoming that seems promising and gathers a scientific following.

    The medical world was rocked this month by three studies and an accompanying editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine (the journal of the American College of Physicians). For twenty years vast amounts of research money have been spent on nutritional supplements, vitamins, anti-oxidants, Vit E — the National Institutes of Health was forced to create a whole new bureau to study the benefits of these substances. Basic research was “encouraging”, doctors lined up to advocate for anti-oxidants as a cure-all and preventative of old age itself. There developed a whole industry ($28 billion dollars strong) to sell these miracles to the US public, to save their very lives. The bottom line, after whole careers have been spent researching and advocating, from the College of Physicians, when all the science was finally in, and the hard hard long term studies had actually been done, not by advocates, but by disinterested medical scientists —> “Despite sobering evidence of no benefit or possible harm, use of multivitamin supplements increased among US adults ….The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”

    Vitamin E it turned out, taken in the dosages recommended by advocates, was not only not beneficial, it was harmful. Multi-vitamins useless in the general population. The public health policies pushed by advocates, though well-meaning, would have been harmful in many cases, or at best ineffective, not justified, and to be avoided. These doctors weren’t crooks or frauds, they believed — oh, how they believed. But they were wrong.

    [Response: You are exaggerating the degree of consensus on these issues. Where was the AMA statement declaring they were 95% sure that multi-vitamin supplements were essential? (Nowhere). That there are fashions in science is undeniable (and not just medicine), but the best bet for avoiding the vast majority of these is to pay attention to the assessments (from the AMA, or the NRC or the IPCC) and not to individual scientists (including us). – gavin]

    I am sure that you are sure that your viewpoint about Climate Change, your own field, is absolutely correct.

    [Response: What a dumb statement. Where have I ever claimed to be omniscient? My views are as correct as I can make them (I don’t deliberately say things that are wrong), but I make no claim of inerrancy, and I am always learning more, so your claim is patent nonsense. – gavin]

    You seem to think you are one of those who has the potential to save the planet. You may be right. But there are equally fine minds, equally highly trained, equally involved in the exact same field, who do not agree with you, either on the factual details of causes and effects or on the policy recommendations you put forward. These you seem to dismiss with a snarky assignment to the category of “those who don’t” know — but you seem to mean “those who don’t agree with me and my close associates”.

    [Response: I have no idea who you think you are trying to address. Perhaps you’d like to find any quotes of mine that support your characterisation? If you want to engage with me, try and at least argue with actual claims I have made or points I have brought up. Your kind of shadow boxing with imaginary simulacrums of climate scientists might be fun for you, but is pretty pointless for everyone else. – gavin]

    It is difficult to accept your premise that you are the one to define “those who know” and your self-appointed right to dismiss those who should be your colleagues as “those who don’t”. In this, you begin to sound like Perlmutter.

    Comment by Kip Hansen — 23 Dec 2013 @ 5:43 PM

  19. I loved the imagery you paint, Robert (#6.) And yes, I’ve had that conversation with folks I know about why scientists aren’t making a public scene.

    Most people see things through the eyes of their primary sources of “news.” Things are presented there as “debates” between charismatic “authorities.” But that’s actually just entertainment and it’s how they sell product. The winner is about better “memorable” quips that “strike home” and perhaps cause the other side to pause uncomfortably. Sound argument isn’t judged. People understand emotion and they can tell if someone stumbled for a moment and had to struggle because of something another said. They judge “form,” not “substance.”

    This whole milieu is anathema to science thinking. Sound bites, one-off quipping, unfair jabs and attacks that strike home emotionally, making points by force of charisma, etc., are things all scientists have spent lifetimes learning to recognize, avoid, discount, and despise.

    The facts are on the side of climate scientists and all of the interwoven science that carries their work. But the public can’t and doesn’t take the time needed (a lifetime to be honest) for a long and continuing education that is necessary. They have a life and they aren’t going to set aside an hour or two a day continually for years just to develop an opinion.

    Neither the public or primary media sources are willing to supply the time and/or talent for public education. When was the last time you actually saw a modern broadcast production that attempted a broad, continuing education on any subject? When has the public embraced such a thing well enough to keep it funded?

    But the moment that scientists accept this barrier’s limitations, and instead descend into the “fray” of charismatic broadcast debate formats with quips and counter-quips ruling, they LOSE the one very powerful thing they actually have that the other sides do not have — sound reasoning from experimental result and theory. Once that is given up, because no one in the media or public will actually seriously engage at that level, they lose all their most powerful force and effect and must instead roll around in the mud that the rest of the pigs wallow in — which is just charisma and landing a few good punches. Entertainment isn’t education. But it is what people expect and are given.

    So scientists will fail if they try and argue at a factual level or to educate and stay on a plane they respect and value. And scientists will still fail if they slum around and do what everyone else is doing — push propaganda, try and land some punchy quips on the other side, etc. The public is pretty good at recognizing when they are being propagandized. And they expect it, too. Almost embrace it. But they also realize that it just boils down to picking sides, and so they do. But on this poor level, nothing permanent is built, foundations crumble, and everything is ephemeral and fadish.

    But for the public, they expect that if there is “a side” then that “side” will enter the arena and sling mud. If they don’t engage the free-for-all, then the public assumes they give up by default. “Obviously, they don’t care enough. So why should I care?” They do NOT viscerally (in their bones) understand scientific distance and dispassion and probably never will. The simple fact that they don’t /see/ climate scientists coming out of their ivory towers for a round of fisticuffs strongly suggests to them that it’s not yet that important to worry about.

    For scientists, it’s “heads I win, tails you lose” rules, with the other side setting up the rules. There’s no way to win this. Everything slides downhill to the lowest level of debate and it takes immense work to struggle any higher.

    Comment by Jon Kirwan — 23 Dec 2013 @ 6:14 PM

  20. 5 rabbit: I am saying:
    1. [edit – beyond what is permissible]
    2. The government is not going to do anything about GW until 2050. There needs to be something new in the Constitution to deal with this kind of situation. There can’t be under English common law. So are we to wait until we are dead to do something?

    3. “how badly things can go askew”: Nothing can go more askew than to wait for a global famine to start. If you read up on what has happened to former civilizations when agriculture collapsed, you will find that you would rather die. Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. No semblance of civilization remains within hours of the moment the food runs out. It isn’t a question of retaining democracy at that point. ANY central authority would be better than none, but if there is no food, nobody will go to work. They just wander off looking for food and killing anybody/everybody to get food. Cannibalism happens. All edible species will be hunted to extinction. Typically, one person in 10,000 survives if the famine is local.

    13 SecularAnimist: James Hansen is qualified to choose the correct non-fossil fuel energy source because of his PhD in physics, his obvious ability and experience that are well beyond most PhDs, and because climate science does have a lot to say about renewable energy. [edit – please try and converse civilly]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Dec 2013 @ 6:34 PM

  21. 17 prokaryotes: Take your sales pitch to BraveNewClimate. You have been told many times why you are wrong about energy and that RC is not the right place to discuss them. But you never bother to read the URLs I give you and you do not do the required calculations. [edit – please refrain from accusations]

    I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the nuclear power industry. My only interest is in stopping Global Warming. My only income is from the US civil service retirement system.

    I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the electric utility industry, except that I buy electricity from the local utility.

    I do have a B.S. in physics from Carnegie-Mellon University and a lot of grad courses in physics and engineering. I am retired from US government service as a scientist and engineer.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Dec 2013 @ 6:45 PM

  22. I loved the speech. So vital. Favorite quotes (among others):

    “Without honesty, to ourselves, to our audience, to our science, there is no possibility of being effective in a sustainable and responsible way.”

    and Gavin’s final slide from Nobelist Sherwood Rowland:

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 23 Dec 2013 @ 6:51 PM

  23. From last year AGU, 5 Tips on Communicating Climate Science

    Comment by prokaryotes — 23 Dec 2013 @ 7:16 PM

  24. I think Robert @ #6 has inadvertently shown the whole problem. The passengers don’t expect the lookout to tell the crew what to do. The lookout gives the information and it is up to the captain to make a decision based on that information as well as other information. If the lookout thought the solution was to turn to port and there was a reef there, or another vessel, then that would be the wrong thing. The correct solution may have been to turn to starboard, or all engines astern. Science is never binary, and public policy less so.
    Our job, as lookouts, is to provide the most accurate information

    Comment by Keith Woollard — 23 Dec 2013 @ 7:24 PM

  25. [stop name-calling and stay substantive]

    Comment by rabbit — 23 Dec 2013 @ 7:41 PM

  26. Well I got moderated. Fair enough, Greisch got moderated too.

    Greisch, any suggestions that undercut liberal democracy will only convince the public that those advocating for climate change action are crazed radicals whose views can safely be dismissed.

    You want to convince the public? You’ll have to do it on their ground, not yours. No excessive alarmism, no witch hunts for those that disagree with you, no suggestions of “rule by scientists”.

    Any other approach will condemn climate change advocates to irrelevancy.

    Comment by rabbit — 23 Dec 2013 @ 8:03 PM

  27. Dr. Schmidt ==> Maybe I misunderstood your apparent self-reference above “For instance, if you consider that we all have a vested interest in the existence of the planet, would you conclude that no-one (however well-informed) could ever advocate for an asteroid-impact defense system should a threat be detected? I think you (and I) would rather that the people who know most about the issue should be assigned to the problem right away.”

    [Response: I know nothing about asteroid defenses. And I would rather people were chosen to deal with it who knew what they were talking about (whoever they might be). How is that controversial? – gavin]

    It is possible, I suppose, that you are not referring to you and yours when you say “rather than the blanket injunction for people who know things to cede the discourse to those who don’t.”, though I am fairly sure you were not referring to you and yours as “those who don’t”.

    [Response: As you know, there is a lot of unmitigated nonsense talked about when climate science comes up in discussion – that Greenland used to be green, that greenhouse gases don’t warm the planet, that the anthropogenic rise in CO2 and CH4 is caused by the fairies, that the greenhouse effect violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics, that weather prediction is the same as climate prediction etc. These are all nonsense, and every time the discourse is given over to arguing about the sphericity (or not) of the Earth, it is just wasted time for all concerned – and, especially for those just tuning in, misleading. If you are happy for peddlers of nonsense and fallacies to dominate the airwaves, I suppose I can’t change your mind, but it isn’t my choice. – gavin]

    Dr. Schmidt, my “I am sure that you are sure that your viewpoint about Climate Change, your own field, is absolutely correct” is far better than those who accuse some Climate Scientists of presenting some exaggerated versions of Climate Science. “I don’t deliberately say things that are wrong”, well, of course you don’t. That’s exactly what I am saying. There are those who would not grant you that much.

    [Response: But why are the only two options assumed to be that I am a liar or omniscient? How about being someone who is just trying their best with the limited information they have, fully cognizant that they don’t know everything? Pretty much like everyone, all the time. – gavin]

    As for this “Perhaps you’d like to find any quotes of mine that support your characterization? “, in your AGU address, you specifically dismiss Richard Lindzen, for one, with the “Don’t waste your time” quip — with the implied same for a whole class of others, who should be your colleagues in unraveling this climate problem, with your blanket your dismissal of all those, in YOUR opinion, “who don’t” know. Who would this be? Freeman Dyson? Judith Curry? Muller? Christy? Pielke Sr.? Pielke Jr.? How many other professional climate scientists, physicists, meteorologists and geologists do you include on that dismissal list? And why?

    [Response: The question was whether a scientist should go out of their way to have a media ‘debate’ with Lindzen. I think this is a waste of their time because the format of such ‘debates’ are expressly designed to not be conducive to rational discussion – favoring instead the Gish Gallop and the making of spurious points that take much longer to debunk than to say. There are perhaps circumstances or set ups when it wouldn’t be, but it has nothing to do with a dismissal of a person or an idea, rather it is far more to do with how one should use limited time and resources effectively. In either case it has nothing to do with your previous claim that I don’t discuss issues with those I disagree with. – gavin]

    It’s possible that I have entirely misunderstood your points above. If so, you have my apologies.

    But you might think about how someone could misconstrue what you have written and said. (As you know, I am not the only one in the blogsphere with the same misunderstandings, if that is what they are.)

    [Response: I long ago learned that there are people who will think the worst of you under any circumstances as a function of a perceived position on some ‘hot’ topic. It no longer bothers me, and when I see people misinterpret statements over and again, even over the simplest things, I tend to just make a mental note not to bother with them any more. You can take a commenter to science, but you cannot make them think. – gavin]

    Comment by Kip Hansen — 23 Dec 2013 @ 8:41 PM

  28. Bzzzt. Kip Hansen has his example backwards. See his WUWT guest blogging for more.

    “Nutritional supplements” is a classification invented to allow sellers to avoid all the public health precautions developed this past century. Read the history.

    Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):
    The manufacturer of a dietary supplement or dietary ingredient is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe before it is marketed.
    FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.

    It’s pure ‘ibertarian: the public can’t take precautions by having this stuff checked like food or medicine, it’s legally exempt. The knowledgeable scientists and doctors saw it coming. The industry seeing profits aplenty pushed their exemption through anyhow.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Dec 2013 @ 8:43 PM

  29. Nutritional supplements — the history, much discussed recently:"nutritional+supplements"

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Dec 2013 @ 9:07 PM

  30. I would caution any comparisons between physicians and scientists because, except for the small number of physician scientists at university hospitals, they have little knowledge of the process of science and their basic science training consists of survey courses. Further they don’t often keep up with the fast moving areas of medical science, especially the many new treatments that are based on cell and molecular biology. There is a lot of concern at the highest levels of the profession about the dependence of front line physicians on brochures, free goodies, and presentations provided by drug and medical device companies.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 23 Dec 2013 @ 9:37 PM

  31. It no longer bothers me, and when I see people misinterpret statements over and again, even over the simplest things, I tend to just make a mental note not to bother with them any more.

    Not only you, do not bother to waste more time on people who are debunked already and lost credibility. And the best way is to ignore them or even ban them, since their arguments are invalid.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 23 Dec 2013 @ 11:15 PM

  32. Gavin, Eli quite enjoyed your talk. As you know the Bunny’s POV is that there are a bunch of people out there trying to convince scientists that they should not partake in public conversations, because, well, pancakes.

    If you look at those pushing that fallacy, you see that either they want to be the gatekeepers, or more sinisterly, they want to completely separate the science from the conversation because the science threatens their worldview or the science strongly implies that BAU will be damaging.

    So, scientists must use their voices in public discussions that their science impacts. If not you, who then. OTOH, and you have been very good at this, scientists must avoid Dunning Kruger claims on things where their knowledge runs thin. Be sure to isolate expertise from idle thoughts. HOWEVER, that does not mean that careful study, thought and talks with those whose specialty is in other areas precludes having opinions in those other areas, just that they should not be strongly weighted by the public or the speaker.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 23 Dec 2013 @ 11:48 PM

  33. These questions are often best answered from imagining how you would view them 30 years hence. In other words, try to imagine you thirty years from now, and what you’ll say looking back at these questions. Given that the State of the climate will almost certainly be worse thirty years from now, you’ll probably think it silly that this was even discussed. You’ll say, “of course we should have advocated for what we believed in”!

    Imagining your future self, will often lead one to wise decisions.

    Comment by doug — 24 Dec 2013 @ 12:31 AM

  34. Bringing up the “debate” over dietary supplements is a clever move to distract attention from the real subject of this thread.

    The issues around the benefits, risks, and/or lack thereof from consuming vitamins, minerals, herbs and other so-called “dietary supplements”, and around the question of whether and how they should be regulated, are entirely different from those around anthropogenic global warming, and there are really no parallels that can usefully inform this discussion about advocacy on climate policy by climate scientists.

    However, the “dietary supplement debate” is quite a hot button issue, on which many people have committed themselves to emotionally-charged, if poorly informed, positions, which they are ready to vehemently propound and defend.

    So it’s a great thing to throw into the discussion if you want to get people confused and riled up and send them chasing down an unrelated and unenlightening rabbit hole.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Dec 2013 @ 1:29 AM

  35. This is so great and timely.

    Seemingly unrelated news reports of two academic studies this week: one on quantifying the money used to fund climate change counter-movement organizations – and the other concerns a simple mathematical formula used to define and predict human struggles.

    “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations”
    “…an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States…”

    Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial think tanks

    Simple Mathematical Formula Describes Human Struggles
    “identification of a critical threshold for spreading a message or idea among perpetrators;”

    Connecting these two studies – one could surmise that the best way to suppress mass dissatisfaction for carbon fuel is to keep the number of politically involved well below a critical threshold. A billion dollars a year should do it (researcher say there could be much more in hidden money). Spent for lobbying, PR, political funding, advertising, etc.

    I link these two studies by plausibility – because anyone spending a billion dollars a year might require a well defined strategy to reach their targeted outcome. And if a political or commercial sector wanted to avoid a critical threshold of political action for climate issues – well, it seems that investing in such opinion and political manipulation would be the smartest way to do it.

    I have no idea if this is valid. But it seems more plausible because of what often appears to be organized suppression of climate science.

    Comment by richard pauli — 24 Dec 2013 @ 2:15 AM

  36. 26 rabbit: You are on ignore for intentional misinterpretation and probable provoking.

    For everybody else: Gavin’s idea that we should state our values first:

    I value democracy as the least bad form of government. I believe in the US Constitution, but other forms of democracy also have their good points. I despise the corruption of democracy by money.

    I value the continued existence of the species Homo Sapiens above any form of government. Governments, no matter how good, are unlikely to last for ever. Any threat to the continued existence of the species Homo Sapiens is too great of a threat. GW is the greatest and most immediate threat we face because of the problems GW poses for agriculture. Saving the species does not mean saving every individual, or even most, as that seems to be impossible.

    I value the continued existence of my own descendants.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 24 Dec 2013 @ 2:40 AM

  37. Gavin, thanks very much for posting this video here. The talk you gave was excellent. It has given me (and I’m obviously not alone in this) a lot of food for thought – and right in time for the annual reflection, too, with the New Year in sight :)

    As importantly, the discussion here has added a heap of value as well.

    What I see is that there are many different audiences, many different voices, many different listeners (and sometimes all in the one person). The points you touched on are equally relevant to climate scientists, climate communicators and “climate hawks” and to people in other fields.

    It’s a noisy world out there. Working out the most effective approach will be different for everyone. I take to heart your suggestion to listen and learn.

    Much to mull over and I will be replaying this video in the months ahead. I expect each time something different will resonate. Stephen Schneider couldn’t have asked for better. Thank you.

    Comment by Sou — 24 Dec 2013 @ 2:48 AM

  38. The medical field keeps popping up. Here’s an example. A previous South African president, Thabo Mbeki, somehow picked up the AIDS denial message, and insisted on taking it seriously despite scant evidence to support these claims. As a result, an effective anti-retrovirals program was delayed by years, causing at least 300-thousand unnecessary deaths.

    As a medical researcher, what would you do in that situation? Say that is in the political domain so I say nothing? What actually happened was activists took on the president and forced him to back down. Many of these activists were HIV-infected or their supporters, but the medical and research communities took an active part.

    In a situation where bogus claims are being made to stall government intervention to prevent harm and you know better, whether you are active in the field or not, don’t you have an obligation to speak out? In fact if you are an expert, don’t you have even more of an obligation to speak out?

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 24 Dec 2013 @ 3:40 AM

  39. Kip Hansen: what is your evidence that all these other people with different views should be treated as having an equally valid position?

    I would really like the mainstream to be wrong because the evidence is that an industry-funded attack on science can hold progress back by decades, and, as I understand the mainstream, we don’t have decades. I’ve tried reading the contrarian stuff and it has no substance. First, all short-term variability was down to the sun. Then it was cosmic rays. Then, it was ENSO and volcanoes. None of this stuff stands up – even to non-expert debunking.

    Science is not a matter of opinion. You may want some alternative viewpoint to be correct because or your personal ideological view (e.g., that all government economic interventions are bad) but nature doesn’t give a damn about your preferences. Either the theory stands up to testing against evidence or it doesn’t.

    The only question we should seriously be discussing is how to cut emissions. Until the “other side” comes up with substance. And it hasn’t so far – all it has done is stall the day when the fossil fuel business ceases to be profitable.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 24 Dec 2013 @ 3:52 AM

  40. Sorry to have missed the talk, that day was crazy @ AGU. I’ll watch the video.
    I repeat my usual advice to down-in-the-dumps climate scientists thinking they should do something else:

    1) You scientists have to do the science, the rest of us can’t.

    2) All need to get enough media training not to put foot in mouth.

    3) Some need to be doing some outreach (and plenty do).

    4) A very few, with the talent and experience, will spend a lot of time doing that, testifying to Congress, etc, etc … coincidentally thinking of Steve Schneider, who was truly marvelous in being able to explain to a wide variety of audiences, and even harder, to audiences that had wide ranges of expertise.
    Of course, I was told by a reliable source that Steve came out of the womb talking to anyone who would listen. :-) Anyone interested in communication/advoacy should read Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate.

    5) And it’s up to some of the rest of us, with different skillsets, to help get other people off your backs.

    Before somebody gets into advocacy much, they at least have to get to 2) first, and not everybody is suited for 3), and not many for 4). If somebody can’t do those well, I’d rather they stick to doing good science. Of course, some fine scientists have sometimes been dragged into the fray and had to step up to efforts that may not have felt very comfortable.

    Of course, if people want to use medical analogies, a close one is that of the medical researchers who established cigarette/disease links. When Surgeon General Luther Terry was putting together the panel that did the 1964 report, the tobacco companies had a veto on the panel membership and ~50% were smokers. (Well, they started as smokers. By the end, most had quit.) Think of that as the equivalent of a science assessment report, and it was an uphill battle.

    Comment by John Mashey — 24 Dec 2013 @ 4:07 AM

  41. Reading the comments presented @11, @18 & @27 and it occurred to me that it would all sound reasonably sensible if Kip Hansen were addressing Richard Lindzen. And then, as I read, hey ho, Lindzen gets a mention.

    Lindzen has featured large in the public debate in AGW for decades. How does his method of advocacy bear up? Rather badly, I would suggest. The science has been lost to him. So his advocacy as a climatologist has a distinct Lindzen-style.
    I did pay close attention to one of his presentations (last year? at Palace of Westminster) and he certainly wasn’t to bothered by the climate science or indeed the practice of of science itself. (Highlights – At one stage he was actually presenting evidence of a lack-of-trend using 4 one-year DMI graphs and he had actually shuffled them up so they weren’t in date order!! At another he is very strongly implying global surface temperature is an irrelevance to climate outside the arrival of a Snowball Earth or its opposite number Steam-Doughnut Earth!!)
    To me this suggests a caveat to the ‘no debate with Lindzen’ proposal. Do not attempt to debate with him about climate science because Dick Lindzen no longer does science. But that does not prevent a debate with Lindzen about the veracity of Lindzen’s message. The noise, when it is allegedly of a scientific nature, surely cannot be allowed to go without a direct rebuttal.

    Comment by MARodger — 24 Dec 2013 @ 6:15 AM

  42. The posts on this thread, the Failure in Communicating thread, and the Unforced Variations thread have a strong focus on how to communicate the seriousness of the situation to a broad spectrum of laypeople. Unfortunately, they overlook one key deficiency: THERE IS NO MESSAGE!

    The deniers have a consistent message that is clear and simple, and understandable by large numbers of people. It is distorted, anti-scientific, and basically incorrect, but it is clear and simple. By contrast, we the advocates do not have a unified message, but rather have many messages that tend to be complex and laden with caveats, and are many times at odds with each other. We don’t agree on the levels of temperatures to expect in mid-end century, and agree even less on what life would be like under those temperatures, or if there would even be any (human) life under those temperatures. We don’t agree on what temperature ceilings should not be exceeded in the interim transition period: should it be the 2 C on which the mainstream focuses, the 4 C that some experts say is all but inevitable now and to which we will have to adapt, the 1 C that Hansen and Anderson advocate, or the less than 1 C that McPherson believes we have already exceeded. Finally, we don’t agree on the required solutions to prevent disaster, partly because the effectiveness of these solutions depends on the temperature ceilings and timeframes required. The posters include: a Renewables contingent that believes prosperity is possible along with saving the climate if only the introduction of renewables can be accelerated; a Nuclear contingent that believes our problems can be solved with accelerated introduction of nuclear; a Demand contingent that believes only a strong reduction of demand in the near-term can save us from disaster; and other contingents as well.
    If we can’t agree among ourselves what the appropriate message should be, how in the world are we going to convince the large numbers of laypeople who need to be convinced? So, while style, format, advocacy, and all the other peripherals that are addressed in the posts on this site have some importance, they pale before the reality that we have no clear and simple message that will rally the troops that need to be rallied.

    Comment by DIOGENES — 24 Dec 2013 @ 7:01 AM

  43. Gavin,
    Your leadership on this issue has always been strong and well thought out. I read carefully what you advise and try to implement it when I speak with others. Keep up the good work.

    It is difficult to be the one who stands in the front and gets all the pot shots sent their way. (see examples from Kip above). Thank you for your strong contributions.

    Comment by Michael Sweet — 24 Dec 2013 @ 8:21 AM

  44. What Eli (@~32) said.

    Certain people who have been appointed to author in various locations have assumed to themselves the task of taking down reality, but it won’t work. Reality will prevail.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:02 AM

  45. #18 Gavin’s comment

    Check out the Wikipedia article about AMA and IPCC:

    A selected quote:

    “The AMA has one of the largest political lobbying budgets of any organization in the United States.[6] Its political positions throughout its history have often been controversial. In the 1930s, the AMA attempted to prohibit its members from working for the then-primitive health maintenance organizations that had sprung up during the Great Depression, which violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and resulted in a conviction ultimately affirmed by the US Supreme Court.[7] The AMA’s vehement campaign against Medicare in the 1950s and 1960s included the Operation Coffee Cup supported by Ronald Reagan. ”

    So are you saying we should think of the IPCC like the AMA for scientific assessments?

    [Response: Fair point – and no. Think more like the Surgeon General reports. – gavin]

    Comment by James Cross — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:29 AM

  46. One of the more cogent arguments for advocacy is the complete failure of recent congresses to attempt to ferret out true information about climate change. Perhaps we should encourage senators and congress people to contact the universities in their states to get the facts from hometowners.

    Comment by mitch — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:38 AM

  47. Thank you Kip Hansen for providing comic relief. I particularly enjoy your use of a high-speed computer and Internet technology to claim that science doesn’t work. This is enhanced by your utter misunderstanding of the scientific method. Rather than discuss details of how scientific consensus works, I will just ask you how many peer-reviewed publications in climate science your “experts” have had in, say, the past 10 years.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:42 AM

  48. “Who would this be?”

    Dyson? No training or experience in climate science what so ever.

    Curry? Threw her lot with the outright science deniers long ago.

    Muller? No, he has demonstrated that he has a positive learning curve.

    Christy? Two words: Cornwall Alliance.

    Pielke Sr.? Someone who should know better.

    Pielke Jr.? You do know that he’s a political scientist, right?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:44 AM

  49. Turning the point on its head, here is a very interesting story in this context. Turns out that the main changes in climate denial funding are 1) growth of spending (probably); and 2) growing anonymity:

    Here’s a new study looking into the matter:

    Here’s a news story summarizing it:

    Organizations that actively block efforts to address climate change are funded by a large network of conservative donors to the tune of nearly $1 billion a year, according to the first in-depth study into the dark money that fuels the denial effort.

    The study, published Friday in the journal Climatic Change, analyzed the income of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups, and industry associations, funded by 140 different foundations, that work to oppose action on climate change. The study’s author, Robert Brulle, refers to these organizations as the climate change counter-movement, and concludes that their outsized influence “has not only played a major role in confounding public understanding of climate science, but also successfully delayed meaningful government policy actions to address the issue.”

    “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this,” Brulle told the Guardian. “This is a large-scale political effort.”

    That would be ‘irresponsible advocacy’ writ large, by Gavin’s lights, and for a couple of reasons. The story concludes with an advocacy statement by Brulle:

    “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” said Brulle. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:48 AM

  50. Brief reply to Hank and Steve on the Vitamin/Supplement issue: This is just a parallel/other scientific field example in which a huge scientific following was generated based on real science findings that looked extremely promising when the field was young. The research field was overwhelmed by those so convinced that they became advocates. For twenty years, the advocates ruled the research, generating an industry 28 billion dollars strong, which used its might to protect itself by law from pesky naysayers in the FDA. Then the advocates convinced the FDA/NIH to get on board and fund definitive studies. The results are represented in the Annals of Internal Medicine this month. It is a cautionary tale, not an accusation.

    The claim that nutritional supplements did not have a consensus can only come from those who do not read the health and living section of the newspaper, visit his doctor, or look at the labels that have been forced onto every food product. Nearly every general medical now has a obligatory “nutritional consultant”.

    Comment by Kip Hansen — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:58 AM

  51. Robert@14,
    What you say might be true if the arguments about climate change were contingent on the bleeding edge of climate science, but they aren’t. Except for a tiny handful of climate scientists, the questions among actual scientists reduce to whether doubling CO2 will warm the planet by 2.5 degrees (in which case, we’re screwed) or whether it will warm the planet by 4 degrees (in which case, we are completely screwed).

    In terms of climate policy, we are stuck at present between “do nothing”, or even “make things worse” and “do something woefully inadequate”. Neither position is predicated on science, but rather on politics fueled by public complacency and fossil-fueled disinformation. As scientists, we will take positions somewhere between “do something effective” and “ferchrissake do something!”, both of which are well outside the Overton window of climate policy.

    I would contend, however, that the public complacency may be driven more by the lack of good, well thought out policy options than by any inherent distrust of scientists. Without a policy option they feel confidence in, most people simply pretend the situation is not as dire as the experts are saying so they don’t have to live in dread of the future. They adopt the same attitude towards climate catastrophe they do toward their own inevitable mortality. Most people simply are not courageous. That is why we need courageous leaders willing to decide on a workable solution. You’ll never get courage as a grassroots movement.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 24 Dec 2013 @ 10:16 AM

  52. > no clear and simple message

    Hold the lamp up a little higher.
    Look right here:

    Stop burning fossil carbon.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Dec 2013 @ 10:57 AM

  53. > Kip Hansen

    “Nutritional supplements” had the consensus claimed for the health benefits of lead paint, tobacco, and much else — unproven claims that didn’t hold up. Read the public health journals. Don’t be fooled again.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Dec 2013 @ 11:03 AM

  54. When I read comments that speak of “scientists” as though they were not, first and foremost, people, I shake my head, sadly, and smile. We all act on the best information we are able to obtain, however filtered it may be by our various kinds of blindness. In my experience, being accused of blindness has never prompted anyone to look again.

    Gavin, I appreciate you work as a scientist, and your advocacy as a human being. Thank you.

    Comment by Gordon Shephard — 24 Dec 2013 @ 11:15 AM

  55. Excellent talk.

    There is an important complementary perspective. In many policy arenas, society needs the specialized expertise that only scientists (and other experts) can provide. As Dr. Schmidt points out, this requires certain standards on the part of experts and he does a very nice job of laying some of the basic requirements. The corollary, however, is that our societies need to have appropriate mechanisms for incorporating specialty expertise into public debate and democratic decision making. Climate change is a spectacular example of the failure of our political systems and our major media, which should be playing a major role in public education, to provide such mechanisms. In his book, Science in a Democratic Society, the astute philosopher Philip Kitcher provides an outline of a credible mechanism for democratic decision making addressing complex issues. Kitcher’s proposal will look familiar to most scientists, as it has marked resemblances to many aspects of how science runs as an institution.

    Mr. Hansen@49

    As a practicing physician, I can sssure you that every “general medical” does not have an “obligatory ‘nutritional consultant’.” In the USA, at any rate, the great majority of physicians regard vitamins and supplements as nuisances. Your history of how the FDA’s power to regulate the supplement industry was limited is incorrect. Rather than being an example of an over-enthusiastic research community indulging in inappropriate advocacy, this is actually a nice example of conventional interest group lobbying. The primary sponsor of the legislation limiting the FDA’s authority was Senator Orrin Hatch (R; Utah). Utah was, and is, a major center for supplement production. As occurs frequently in the US political system, commercial lobbying involving powerful politicians was successful in carving out a regulatory exemption for regional industry.

    Comment by Roger Albin — 24 Dec 2013 @ 11:41 AM

  56. RE: #21 & #36, Edward Greisch

    Thanks for the reference to BraveNewClimate, a site which I had not seen before. After a quick look, it appears that Barry Brook’s take supports nukes as the best energy option. With a MsME, I have followed the energy problem intensely, beginning before the Arab/OPEC Oil Embargo back in ’73. I concluded that renewable energy was the best direction and that nuclear was likely to be have too many serious problems for wide spread future use. Subsequent events have shown the dangers of the first nuclear power plants, which leads one to be doubly worried about the push for more nuclear power, even given the claims of great safety improvements possible with the latest designs. Jim Hansen’s latest works advocate the use of these newest designs in addition to his call for taxes based on CO2 emissions.

    Brook posted a review of a book by Howard Hayden, “The Solar Fraud”, pointing out that renewables aren’t like fossil fuels as they tend to be diffuse and require storage. Therein lies one of the big problems with any future energy source, as mankind’s industrial society is built around energy sources which inherently include storage, be it wood, coal, oil or natural gas. Our economic system has traditionally calculated the cost of such energy as the cost of recovering the resource without including the cost of collecting and storing the energy. As a result, most renewable options can not compete with those fossil resources within our present accounting framework. Also, the systems to use that energy evolved in a way which leads us to expect near instant availability of supply, as we step into our gasoline powered cars or switch on the lights or the HVAC to control our indoor climate. It may be that it will always be impossible to fit renewable energy into the fossil fuel built mold, rather like trying to smash a square peg into a round hole. The so-called “developed” countries with their high density urban/suburban land use patterns are structured around the high density energy found in fossil fuels. If society decides to limit CO2 emissions, I expect that we are all going to need to adapt to different ways of living.

    The realization that storage must be a part of the renewable system has always been obvious to me, yet some solar advocates have claimed that an electric grid can use solar input without storage. When I designed my “mod 1” solar house 15 years ago, I built it around a 5,000 gallon water tank, with the expectation that I could collect enough solar energy to heat the water for days when there was little sunlight. My solar collectors haven’t performed as well as expected, for several reasons which I am still attempting to correct and I’ve never filled the tank with water. Here’s a story from today’s NYT, which indicates that California is waking up to the storage problem:

    Strangely enough, an all nuclear power grid would also have a difficult time meeting the varying loads which have been typical in past. Present nuclear plants are capital intensive and the utilities need to run them at full power all the time. They have large thermal inertias and thus do not “load follow” very well. Thus, effective storage systems or other backup power would be needed for these, much like that for renewables. If there is to be a major shift away from coal and other CO2 emitting fossil fuels for generation of electricity, then the added cost of storage might be similar for both renewables and for nukes, thus countering arguments for nukes vs renewables based on storage.

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 24 Dec 2013 @ 12:01 PM

  57. This may be a problem:

    Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

    Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals.

    In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to

    exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3),
    take valued goods from others (study 4),
    lie in a negotiation (study 5),
    cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and
    endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7)
    than were lower-class individuals.

    Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Dec 2013 @ 12:03 PM

  58. Apropos: Reddit/r science forum banning climate denial posts

    We discovered that the disruptive faction that bombarded climate change posts was actually substantially smaller than it had seemed. Just a small handful of people ran all of the most offensive accounts. What looked like a substantial group of objective skeptics to the outside observer was actually just a few bitter and biased posters with more opinions then evidence.

    Negating the ability of this misguided group to post to the forum quickly resulted in a change in the culture within the comments.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Dec 2013 @ 1:03 PM

  59. Professor Schneider provided an excellent description of ethical science and the “ethical double bind”, but he made a serious mistake not proposing a solution to the problem (other than individual conscience). IMO, Tamsin Edwards’ solution – self-censorship by the most knowledgeable members of society – is absurd and undemocratic. To avoid the appearance of partiality, it would be preferable for scientists writing scientific reports for policymakers be ones who have not publicly advocated for a particular policy, but this may not always be possible. If some authors have taken public positions, then scientists representing all points of view should be included on the author team.

    To put it bluntly using Schneider’s phrases, any time a scientist tells scary stories, makes simplified dramatic statements, or fails to express doubts; he or she is not speaking as an ethical scientist. Schneider makes this clear when scientists are speaking with or writing to their peers, but what if the audience is policymakers, reporters or the public? Sometimes it is impossible to go into all of the caveats. Sometimes describing normal scientific uncertainty or conflicting studies can misinform about the strength of one’s convictions. Is a scientist required to “pull his punches” – when opponents may have no ethical standards at all? Of course not – but it is equally inappropriate to allow your audience to think they are hearing from a scientist- whom they expect to tell the whole truth with all of the caveats. A scientist who exaggerates, oversimplifies or hides doubts is acting as a policy advocate, whether the subject is policy or pure science that informs policy. The audience deserves to know whether the speaker or writer is following the extraordinary, higher standards of ethical scientific discourse or the ordinary standards of policy advocacy. Scientists should be obligated to inform them. Ethical reporters interviewing scientists should ask.

    In the legal and political arena, we have an adversarial system that allows both sides of an issue equal opportunity to present their case and publicly question the case presented by opponents. No one expects a politician or lawyer to present the whole truth with all the caveats. Ethical journalists are expected to seek out and publicize information from both sides of a political or legal controversy. In science, however, we usually rely on individual scientists to present both sides of a controversy and to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their work in their papers and presentations. As Feynman said in Cargo Cult Science: “In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.” Being able to trust that their peers have told the “whole truth” “with all of the caveats” saves scientists significant amount of work. This tradition of scientific “self-auditing” partially explains the outrage at “citizen auditors” like Steve McIntyre, who usually aren’t as familiar with complex issues as the scientists who actually carry out the work. Since science seek to uncover universal truth about the world, I believe the public holds scientists to higher standards of their profession than the standards of lawyers and politicians, who inhabit an adversarial world.

    The solution to Schneider’s ethical double bind is for scientists to acknowledge when they are speaking or writing as policy advocates. For example, if one presents just the projections from the IPCC’s climate models, one is acting as a policy advocate – not an ethical scientist – even though the material is purely scientific. Model projections aren’t the “whole truth” “with all of the caveats”. The IPCCs models don’t exhibit the full range of ECS that the IPCC currently recognizes is possible: a 70% likelihood that ECS is between 1.5 and 4.5 degC. The IPCC’s models also contain numerous parameters that describe sub-grid processes and their output doesn’t reflect uncertain about the correct value for these parameters. Without a discussion of caveats, this model output is policy advocacy, not ethical science.

    Comment by Frank — 24 Dec 2013 @ 1:39 PM

  60. Regarding Reddit and climate denial, in 58 Hank Roberts quotes:

    We discovered that the disruptive faction that bombarded climate change posts was actually substantially smaller than it had seemed. Just a small handful of people ran all of the most offensive accounts.

    Sounds like each flesh-and-blood denier was responsible for a whole lot of sock puppets. As a participant of online discussions you oftentimes wonder, but apparently the people at Reddit are able to tell. It would be nice if they provided ballpark figures — just to get some sense of the leveraging that is going on.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 24 Dec 2013 @ 3:16 PM

  61. re: 45
    AMA can sometimes act more like Chamber of Commerce.

    For sure, IPCC ~ Surgeon General reports or similar *science* assessments. Both were/are done with small support staffs and a bunch of experts who don’t get paid directly for doing that.

    On the tobacco comparison, medical researchers have been doing that for decades, but some, quite properly have gotten into studying the tobacco companies, the efficacy of various policies, and advocating for policies that work…. in part because they or their colleagues get to deal with people needing lung transplants or breathing holes in their throats.
    One of the top places is UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, whose Director Stan Glantz who has an interesting backgroun, starting with engineering, getting into cardiology, and then getting into tobacco research, and sometimes advocacy. CTCRE also hosts that concucopia of misbehavior, the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. A few of his postdocs accidentally discovered the tobacco indsutry’s partnership with Koch thinktanks in fostering the Tea Party. As a result, certain people tried to knock out his NIH funding (no) and certain folks from thinktanks (that have long gotten tobacco funding) were unhappy, despite being techies with no obvious health policy expertise.

    Does any of this sound familiar?

    If anyone thinks that scientists in general must avoid *any* advocacy, they should retroactively undo 70 years of medical research and resulting advocacy for change by experts, and have let the tobacco folks control policy, which probably would mean many more of them, their kids, and grandkids would have grown up smoking, as in the old days.

    Comment by John Mashey — 24 Dec 2013 @ 3:53 PM

  62. Eric Swanson @56 — You are largely wrong, but a climatology blog is not the best place to discuss the matter, especially when going off topic on a dedicated thread. I’ll be happy to point out your oversights over on the Brave New Climate Discussion Forum. BNC commenters are willing to rationally consider all the alternatives without prejudice. But as there are a high proportion of engineers commenting there the discussion tends solidly towards the economically deployable.

    Take it there, please.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Dec 2013 @ 5:55 PM

  63. Advocating for a particular method of attempting to mitigate climate change through the use of a carbon tax/dividend is not only reasonable, in my opinion, it should be convincingly broadcast to all concerned, and decisions made to develop it to the fullest. Surely, not all that James Hansen has said will stand the test of time (analysis). I doubt than anyone always speaks truth. That we as scientists should be muzzled is equivalent to denying free speech, something we fortunately have, and, therefore, advocacy and science fit well together…just remember to “Believe nothing of the sayings of your masters and priests. Believe only that which you have tested and find reasonable”…Buddha 500 B.C.

    Comment by Donald H. Campbell — 24 Dec 2013 @ 6:55 PM

  64. Re #60 David B. Benson – Gavin’s talk and the topic of this discussion thread was science and advocacy, which I thought might refer to Jim Hansen’s recent efforts to advocate for particular solutions to address global warming. Thus discussing those solutions might be on topic, IMHO.

    While I have earned 2 engineering degrees, that was decades ago and much has changed. After many years of study, I made an effort to design and build a solar heated house and then found that my design was not as productive as I had originally thought it might be. In that sense, my design is a failure, but that’s how we learn. I had to wait about 20 years to begin building the first due to lack of funds and then did much of the work myself, slowing things even further. Sad to say, it’s unlikely that I will have another chance, (a “Mod 2” design which would incorporate improvements on the original concept), because of lack of motivation, money and time.

    BTW, have you (or anyone else for that matter) actually built and operated a Gen IV nuclear plant? Do you have an engineering background that I should want to enter debate with you on another blog?

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 24 Dec 2013 @ 8:09 PM

  65. Merry Christmas to RealClimate. Heat Wave is 99 cents

    In the not-so-distant future, an assassin kills a U.S. presidential candidate seeking to fix a world ravaged by climate change, and Sam Emory uncovers a chain of murders with a megalomaniac industrialist at its core. The newly elected president vows to solve the climate crisis. Can Emory and his friends stop the assassin from striking again?
    HEAT WAVE begins in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, but the political intrigue and murder spread to Washington, D.C., and into the labyrinth of an Aspen, Colorado energy research facility, where free-marketers manufacture chaos in the electrical grid, and where Emory confronts a terrifying a secret from his past.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 24 Dec 2013 @ 8:39 PM

  66. Eric, note that BraveNewClimate is among the sites in the right hand sidebar on the RC pages — linked under Other Opinions.

    It’s not a fanboy site, though you’ll find some of that sort of enthusiasm — commenters are commenters. It’s recommended because the hosts make a serious effort to moderate a needed discussion.

    You might also look into physicist John Baez’s Azimuth Project.

    There’s serious discussion needed. Not here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Dec 2013 @ 9:32 PM

  67. “You’ll never get courage as a grassroots movement.”

    Not so sure you’re right this time, Ray. But perhaps time will tell.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 24 Dec 2013 @ 10:14 PM

    “Dr James Hansen Discusses Solutions To Climate Change”
    Dr James Hansen is correct.

    35 richard pauli: Could you explain the math more simply please? The graph at
    shows rapidly escalating funding for GW denial. Will, and when will, the required funding exceed the fossil fuel industry’s ability to fund?

    42 DIOGENES: Some of the messages supposedly from “us” may be from the denialists in disguise. Dr James Hansen is telling you exactly the truth. Other “answers” are time-wasting loops. Some answers are advertising spam that should be “moderated” or deleted. Political correctness figures strongly into some positions. See 58 Hank Roberts

    56 Eric Swanson: 2 corrections:
    1. In the old days, we recycled spent nuclear fuel.
    2. We have tested reactors that can load-follow.
    Please read this Book: “Plentiful Energy, The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor” by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang, 2011
    62 David B. Benson is correct. Please don’t get me to answer you here again.
    64 Eric Swanson: Gen 4 reactors: See Till & Chang first.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 25 Dec 2013 @ 1:18 AM

  69. Edward Greisch #68,
    “42 DIOGENES: Some of the messages supposedly from “us” may be from the denialists in disguise. Dr James Hansen is telling you exactly the truth. Other “answers” are time-wasting loops. Some answers are advertising spam that should be “moderated” or deleted. Political correctness figures strongly into some positions. See 58 Hank Roberts”.

    The point I am making is that there is no single clear and simple message from the climate advocates. A layperson reading any of the climate advocate sites would be completely confused by the diverse often-conflicting messages, even after filtering out the obvious denialists. Unless such a message is developed, the critical mass of climate supporters among the lay population will not be achieved.

    In terms of your comment on ‘advertising’, I would use the word ‘advocacy’ instead. Without knowing where the presenter draws his paycheck(s), or where his investments are placed, we have no way of distinguishing between shilling, advertising, or purely scientific motivations. Name-calling, which is often used on this site, is a non-starter. We need to evaluate each concept on its technical merits.

    Hansen has done highly credible work for decades, and has put his neck on the line for climate protection many times. I take his extensive writings very seriously. In a recently published assessment of climate change (, he states:
    “If we assume only 50 GtC reforestation, and begin emissions reduction in 2013, the required reduction rate becomes about 9%/year.”

    His goal is to keep mean global temperature increase as near to 1 C as possible, a limit to which a number of credible scientists have subscribed. Is that the unified message we should be conveying? If so, how do we get there; we’re not that far away? As Hansen points out in his recent paper, making the cuts required to achieve that target would have been relatively painless if started decades ago; that’s not the situation we face now.

    I have seen your proposals for nuclear; I don’t find nuclear to be a credible option at this time. The time from a gleam in the eye of a proponent for constructing a plant on a given site to actual power on the grid must be well more than a decade, including planning, licensing, and overcoming local opposition. That’s not consistent with the time scale necessary for limiting CO2 buildup in the atmosphere so that the ~1 C target will not be exceeded. We would need about 400 1GWe nuclear plants to replace all the fossil plants in the USA alone. Given there were almost no nuclear plants constructed over the last three decades, and only a handful are expected to go online by the end of the decade, the ramp-up required defies credibility.

    Finally, Hansen makes the following statement about potential methane releases:

    “There is a possibility of rapid methane hydrate or permafrost emissions in response to warming, but that risk is largely unquantified [215]. The time needed to destabilize large methane hydrate deposits in deep sediments is likely millennia [215]. Smaller but still large methane hydrate amounts below shallow waters as in the Arctic Ocean are more vulnerable; the methane may oxidize to CO2 in the water, but it will still add to the long-term burden of CO2 in the carbon cycle. Terrestrial permafrost emissions of CH4 and CO2 likely can occur on a time scale of a few decades to several centuries if global warming continues [215]. These time scales are within the lifetime of anthropogenic CO2, and thus these feedbacks must be considered in estimating the dangerous level of global warming. Because human-made warming is more rapid than natural long-term warmings in the past, there is concern that methane hydrate or peat feedbacks could be more rapid than the feedbacks that exist in the paleoclimate record.”

    In an interview with Nick Breeze in Summer 2012, Natalia Shakhova, one of the world’s hands-on experts on methane release in the Arctic, discusses the potential for rapid methane release ( At about 5:30 into the interview, where she is estimating the large releases might take as short a time as decades, a voice in the background is heard to say “it could happen anytime”, and that message is repeated a few times. That voice belongs to her collaborator, Igor Semiletov, who is perhaps THE world’s hand-on expert on methane release in the Arctic. Why he was not included in the interview is not clear; perhaps people are too uncomfortable with an expert talking bluntly about what is really possible, in the same way they are uncomfortable with McPherson’s predictions.

    [Response: It is not ‘discomfort’, it is disquiet that people insist on points that they are unable to demonstrate to anyone else. Both Semiletov and McPherson are over-confident in their statements and for which they provide no convincing evidence. – gavin]

    Comment by DIOGENES — 25 Dec 2013 @ 10:49 AM

  70. Re #68 Edward Greisch – I think Dr. Hansen’s climate concerns are valid, but his carbon tax is a bad idea because it isn’t likely to work as intended. And, there was some fuel recycling for 5 years at the West Valley, NY plant, but the later planned operations at the Barnwell Nuclear Fuels Plant were closed in 1983 without ever reprocessing any fuel. If you wish to continue the discussion, we can do so at the old Google “globalchange” news group where I am still a moderator:

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 25 Dec 2013 @ 11:17 AM

  71. DIOGENES says (again) “that there is no single clear and simple message from the climate advocates.”

    Again: hold your lamp up higher, read slowly and carefully:

    Stop burning fossil carbon


    “What!” he said, “A ferocious beast has sucked the blood of my family; I tell you to get rid of that beast, and you ask me, what shall we put in its place!” — Voltaire

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Dec 2013 @ 11:56 AM

  72. Advocating ~ Framing

    Is Humanity Nature’s Customer?

    …The core of democracy is based on values, and the shift from “citizen” to “customer” or consumer has, in itself, a large impact on our values. Consumer is what might be called a frame that unconsciously evokes certain values and references, and as cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues, frames we are repeatedly confronted with become our ‘common sense’ and difficult to reason beyond. The creeping dominance of particular frames – such as notion of “customer” – can shift the ideologies of entire populations…

    …Several actors have also warned against using economic frames in communicating nature´s value. George Monbiot exposes the gross new lexicon it has already led to. Resource Media, a US non-profit PR firm, has prepared a needs assessment on ecosystem services messaging as a step toward helping practitioners more effectively convey the value of their work. They state that people: 1. don’t understand the concept ecosystem services and 2. don’t like it, as it is inadequate to convey the core values at stake…

    Ecological conversations and systems thinking

    Comment by Radge Havers — 25 Dec 2013 @ 12:36 PM

  73. All scientists who become advocates, irrespective of who they are, cannot be trusted to produce unbiased scientific output.

    The temptation to introduce, either intentionally or unintentionally biased influences, is too great. It may be that these influences take the form of simply failing to report negative results in research work, but the suspicion will always exist that their work will be tainted.

    [Response: So according to this theory, the temptation to bias results has nothing to do with what scientists actually think, but only whether they tell someone what they think? Or is it that the only scientists who are pure and objective and without any preferences can do ‘real’ science? Please do tell. (In the meantime, try actually listening to the talk to get a sense of what is being discussed). – gavin]

    Comment by John Benton — 25 Dec 2013 @ 2:01 PM

  74. On the comparison of climate scientists and medical doctors, and their respective roles in society, these words bear frequent repetition (my italics):

    One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

    Diogenes, think of a smoker who won’t quit smoking, despite increasingly stern and detailed admonitions from his doctor. Consider that although the public debate about the hazards of cigarette smoking has been pretty much over for decades, 1 in 5 Americans continues to smoke cigarettes. Take note of the economic and political forces that “protect smokers’ rights”. Now tell us, what should a conscientious doctor do in the face of smokers’ facilitated denial?

    Then tell us, what should a climate scientists do that the doctor hasn’t done?

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 25 Dec 2013 @ 3:46 PM

  75. Im all for scientist’s advocating the science, however I think scientists should avoid debates, or politics, or too much comment on how to reduce CO2, unless they have some expertise, or they open themselves up to attack. Stay with the science, climate myths and maybe their personal stories.

    Comment by nigelmj — 25 Dec 2013 @ 4:10 PM

  76. Gavin #69,

    [Response: It is not ‘discomfort’, it is disquiet that people insist on points that they are unable to demonstrate to anyone else. Both Semiletov and McPherson are over-confident in their statements and for which they provide no convincing evidence. – gavin]

    ‘Convincing’ is a very subjective term; what it takes to convince you will be different from what it takes to convince me, and what it takes to convince both of us will be very different from what it takes to convince Judith Curry. I give high weighting to the predictions of hands-on experts like Wadhams and Semiletov, who have been going to the Arctic for decades and making myriad measurements. They have gathered much valuable information over time, and they have integrated their observations and measurements to present us with a bottom line. It may be an uncomfortable bottom line to many, but, in my view, it has high merit.

    McPherson is another story. His past statements reflect emphasis on the worst cases, and his writings tend to mix speculation with ‘hard’ fact. I don’t just accept his bottom line, and I certainly don’t accept third-party interpretation of his bottom line. In his outstanding Summary and Update, he presents many references. I have read most of them, and discard what I believe is the fringe and much speculation. What remains is more than enough to make his case, and he would do well to eliminate these weak written and quoted references from his site; they only provide ammunition for those whose intent is to obfuscate and belittle his message. That doesn’t mean I accept his conclusion of the inevitability of near-term extinction. He cannot prove that and, frankly, neither I nor anyone else can disprove that. There are too many unknown events that can happen with increasing temperature to make a definitive statement either way; my Semiletov quote from Natalia’s interview is only one of many of these unknown events.

    In reality, Hansen, Anderson, McPherson et al are not saying anything all that different. Their main message is that when we start going above 1 C increase, and especially near 2 C increase, many existing phenomena can accelerate and new phenomena can kick in to drive us into a dangerous region of climate instability. McPherson and Anderson believe we are locked in already to at least 2 C; I suspect down deep Hansen believes it as well. Given the recent election of the Abbott government in Australia and their dismantling of any remaining constraints on fossil fuel exploitation, the similar actions of the Harper government in Canada, and the rapidly becoming similar actions of our own government, we are probably locked in to more than 2 C for all practical purposes. McPherson is just converting these observations to print more bluntly than the others.

    Hank Roberts #71,

    ” Again: hold your lamp up higher, read slowly and carefully: Stop burning fossil carbon”.

    Cute, but incorrect. First of all, that’s not what the advocates are saying. They are saying ‘reduce fossil fuel use’. The annual reduction amounts are different, the time frames are different, the temperature ceiling limits that govern the reductions required are different, and, most of all, the packages they add on to this statement are very different. There are myriad weighted combinations of demand reduction, renewables acceleration, energy efficiency improvements acceleration, nuclear development acceleration et al being proposed, and these are very different animals. Again, until we have a clear, simple, and unified message to present to the ‘unconvinced’, we will not make progress in assembling the ‘critical mass’ required.

    Comment by DIOGENES — 25 Dec 2013 @ 4:37 PM

  77. Mal Adapted #74,

    “On the comparison of climate scientists and medical doctors, and their respective roles in society, these words bear frequent repetition…..
    Diogenes, think of a smoker who won’t quit smoking, despite increasingly stern and detailed admonitions from his doctor. Consider that although the public debate about the hazards of cigarette smoking has been pretty much over for decades, 1 in 5 Americans continues to smoke cigarettes. Take note of the economic and political forces that “protect smokers’ rights”. Now tell us, what should a conscientious doctor do in the face of smokers’ facilitated denial?

    Then tell us, what should a climate scientists do that the doctor hasn’t done?”

    It’s not clear to me why you are raising this question with me, since I have not compared climate scientists and medical doctors. However, it is an interesting question, and I will respond.

    First of all, you are comparing apples and oranges. The medical doctor in the situation is a clinician, whereas the climate scientist is probably a researcher (at least the ones discussed on this site; climate clinicians (weathermen???) are not often discussed). Their responsibilities are different.

    If I were a medical doctor and the patient you describe had full control of his faculties, I would take it as my responsibility to provide full disclosure of his illness, his prognosis, and the various treatment options available, and do what I could to help him decide on, and execute, his options. If he refused to follow my advice, I would tell him he is free to choose his path, and here’s what he can expect. If he wants to kill himself, that’s his right, as long as he doesn’t take along others with him who want to live.

    Now, if I were a medical researcher working on this problem, I would present my results as fully and as detailed as possible. If all the links between smoking and serious illness could not be made definitively, but my years of experience convinced me that the links probably did exist, then I would take it as my responsibility to present the case for probable linkages in more public forums. I believe ethical scientists cannot ‘hide’ behind only what can be proven with high certainty. If the problem is sufficiently serious, they need to do what McPherson, Semiletov, Anderson, and others of that ilk are doing; lay out what appears probable but not yet certain or fully supported by the evidence.

    So, to answer your final question, the ethical climate scientist should do what the ethical medical researcher should do, as I describe above. With climate, those unwilling to follow the advice of experts choose their own demise, but take many innocents with them. In either the medical or climate case, the practitioners have the responsibility of doing what they can to prevent the innocent from dying.

    BTW, McPherson does actually raise this very issue. I can’t locate it right now, but he makes the statement in one (or more) of his documents that a medical doctor who did not reveal the full extent of a patient’s illness and prognosis could be sued for malpractice (I have no idea whether or not that’s true). He then goes on to state that Hansen and McKibben should also be sued for malpractice (or words to that effect) since they know the climate predicament we are in but do not tell their readership about the coming extinction. Supposedly, the video on this link contains that statement in a speech of his (

    Comment by DIOGENES — 25 Dec 2013 @ 6:05 PM

  78. John Benton: “All scientists who become advocates, irrespective of who they are, cannot be trusted to produce unbiased scientific output.”

    Because we couldn’t depend on things like, oh, I don’t know, curiosity about the subject matter to which one has devoted one’s life…or maybe the esteem of one’s peers or the progress in one’s career. Or even maybe the self-respect and honesty that are essential to the pursuit of science. Nah! None of those things could work! Any scientist that has any sort of opinion or draws a dime of salary from anyone can’t be trusted. Much better to leave the debate to utter imbeciles, right, John?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Dec 2013 @ 8:28 PM

  79. I finally listened to the entire featured talk for this thread. (Of course, earlier would have been better. But it was an hour. So it waited until now.)

    I must admit I would have loved to have seen more discussion about truly difficult quandaries, with serious wrestling and perhaps no actual results in the end. I would rather listen to the way various scientists think about these issues, than to know their conclusions (or Gavin’s.) It’s the way my betters think, not so much what they conclude, that teaches me more.

    I need to go find Schneider’s talks (those excerpted in Gavin’s lecture), because I think I perceived more wrestling about things and would very much like to find out if that’s so and if so, how so. If anyone knows the links, I’d appreciate them very much.

    At the end of the featured lecture by Gavin there was a questioner asking about the possibility of a geoengineering feature article here. At this time, I am probably more worried about what politicians and business will do, if scientists open this door to them and lend the topic any of their good reputations. The result will probably look nothing like it should. But I’d also very much like to listen to such a discussion here because I think I’d learn a great deal more and also expand the scope and range of my thinking on this topic.

    Has it been decided? Yes? Or no? Or is the question still in discussion?

    Comment by Jon Kirwan — 25 Dec 2013 @ 9:19 PM

  80. So what has been really achieved by this kind of advocacy? A lot, but not enough. As far as I know only one scientist wrote a simple letter to a president and start a Manhattan project. I suggest more writing and especially discussion like Michael E. Mann did right after Hainan:

    “Although exact measurements are hard to come by (there were no flights in the Western Pacific to provide direct measurements) satellite images along with readings of ocean heat seem to suggest that Haiyan was an unnaturally powerful storm. The science is hinting that this storm may not have been so catastrophic in a world without warming.

    The unusually deep, unusually warm pool of water that provided the initial fuel is unlikely to have existed in a world without warming. ”

    Mike is part of Real Climate group, yet not even Real Climate covered Hainan aftermath and its implications. Especially details on that pool of water, but in true scientific objective fashion, RC covered terse science subjects, nevertheless all important and interesting:

    After Hainan Titles like :

    “Simple Physics and climate” , “Global warming Since 1997 Underestimated by Half”, “Sea-level rise: What the experts expect”

    etc. but nothing about Hainan exactly when the world wants to learn about it. Similar case I believe with Hurricane Sandy, these two have a strong possibility of a connection with AGW. Yet Dr Gavin superb climate scientist and co. chose not to engage even a forum on them. Popular topics and debates amongst the community draws more interests for the public to stir their reasoning, at least start their own discussions about AGW “steroid effect” . Advocacy fails when even the grandest climate disasters are ignored in real time. Timing is everything, and so Einstein wrote to FDR before WW2, an apt time. While we wait for the larger population to be interested in the study of climate change, mission impossible given the scarcity of interest, which only peaks when something big happens. I always thought that these mega mind blowing events would trigger greater discussion amongst the best in academia , even if no peer reviewed papers can be published in a few days, at least having the best and brightest discuss implications, facts , the science basics at the right time would be efficient advocacy instead of a journal press conference 2 or 3 years later. I always thought big events would be tragic and disastrous, but at least the truer end result of our inactions, far better than false paid publicity on the virtues of carbon pollution. However, if there is no one explaining the possible link especially when there is a huge audience, an audience with all seats taken, but no one on the stage, then these disasters will be simply a terrible news event without rhyme or reason, an act of nature. Who can blame the unspecialized audience eager to learn when the professor is absent.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 26 Dec 2013 @ 2:40 AM

  81. Re #68 Edward Greisch – Till & Chang (Plentiful Energy) is available on line and I read the first chapter, which is a summary of the efforts by the Argonne National Lab to develop the IFR. I found it quite interesting until I got to the section where they blamed the demise of the US nuclear power industry on anti-nuclear protesters. Having been part of that effort, I see things rather differently.

    Before the Arab/OPEC embargo, the US electric power demand was growing at a fast pace, about 7% a year. The thinking by industry was that this rate of growth would continue, which implied a doubling in demand every 10 years. To meet the demand would require that an entire new generating system would need to be built within 10 years and that larger generating capacity would need to be added the next 10. There were claims in 1974 that the US would be a need to build some 1,000 power plants by the year 2000 and thus the utilities had placed orders for many new plants.

    After 1974, energy prices climbed steeply and the public began to conserve. Nuclear power plants were the most capital intensive plants and the long lead times to construct them meant that funding had to be obtained many years before they produced any electricity. Suddenly, as the rate of demand growth fell and as “stagflation” pushed up the cost of new generating capacity, many of those orders for power plants were canceled. The second oil supply shock after the Iranian Revolution only added to the problems. Typical of the resulting economic reality was the bankruptcy of the Washington Public Power company, which had previously provided low cost generation from hydropower but then found generating costs skyrocketing as demand slipped.

    There’s an even more glaring omission in the first chapter as the authors make no mention of the Three Mile Island meltdown. TMI resulted in 20 tons of damaged fuel in the bottom of the reactor core, a fact little known by the public given the 8 years needed to dig down to the bottom and remove the fuel rods. After TMI and then Chernobyl, the public began to understand the potential dangers of the older nuke designs and the disaster at Fukushima repeated that message loud and clear. Whether the cost advantages, improvements in safety and low emissions claimed for the IFR designs can overcome the public’s concerns remains to be seen.

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 26 Dec 2013 @ 9:53 AM

  82. For Jon Kirwan, start here

    Comment by flxible — 26 Dec 2013 @ 9:58 AM

  83. wayne davidson #80 Advocacy fails when even the grandest climate disasters are ignored in real time.

    A page summary with general findings would be helpful for media people and interested readers. Later when more data is in you can start comparing events and this could be the message together with the general findings. Since the media 99% of the times does not mention climate change when covering weather, you can point out that weather is dependent on the climate and in part all weather events can be attributed to the climate.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 26 Dec 2013 @ 10:55 AM

  84. Thirty years from now when climate changes are more apparent, very few who look back in time will think scientists should have kept quiet.

    Very few.

    Comment by doug — 26 Dec 2013 @ 10:13 PM

  85. As I follow this conversation, the conversation is strictly among academic scientists- but please correct me if I’m overstating the case. I certainly haven’t seen a statement like I’m going to make below:

    In an industrial environment I can have a number of responsibilities- from something that looks like pure research to safety, reliability, profitability etc.

    There is no question in my world that I have a responsibility to both warn of hazards, recommend actions, seize opportunities and sometimes push the “scram” button, or blow the whistle to the appropriate authorities. I have no shield or shelter of “it’s not my job” or ” I shouldn’t be an advocate”. I have a responsibility to the shareholders of the company to protect and maximize their investment and to the law to act or blow the whistle to keep my employer operating legally. I am not protected by rank or assigned responsibilities: I’ve also had two colleagues serve jail time for failing to report and act on an antitrust situation imposed on our company by our customer (not quite the way you normally think of a price fixing scheme, but what was amazing to me, knowing how the company operated was that the people in charge of the parent company, who I know damn well knew what was going on (after I left the company), never had a glove laid on them.

    But I digressed.

    No one cared about me compromising my scientific neutrality…. the moment I signed the employment contract I was a whore like everyone else (and that may be falsely demeaning to people who sell sex). But I couldn’t hide behind “I’m just a dumb test-tube jockey” either. Even without stock options I had a responsibility to the bottom line.

    I suspect inside Shell, Exxon etc., they’ve been hearing messages loud and clear all the way up about what the science says. From the people I know at those companies, they’ve made a personal moral judgement about their situation that I can’t be too critical of because I don’t see any absolutely right answers.

    So having thrown an industrial perspective on the table (I think) where does this fit in with Gavin’s talk and Steve Schneider’s perspective?

    So with that bit of rambling down- I wonder whether this is useful for others to build on or react to.

    [Response: Indeed, that is a different perspective. I guess the main difference is that academic scientists don’t have contractual obligations of these sorts, instead they have vaguer and more ill-defined responsibilities to ‘society’. Some of these are clear (don’t spend grant money on a ferrari, don’t make stuff up or indulge in other scientific misconduct, don’t abuse graduate students, turn up for class etc.) but the rest (what is your responsibility to share learning? what role should you play in decision-making at your institution or more widely? what is your expertise *for*?) are not agreed upon – and so personal judgements play a larger role. It’s worth thinking about this a little more though…. – gavin]

    Comment by Dave123 — 26 Dec 2013 @ 10:41 PM

  86. correct Prokaryotes, throwing everything pertinent in the mix. Filipinos are no strangers to typhoons, this one had unbelievable winds, probably the most ever in history, those who witnessed this, hard core typhoon survivors, seemed shocked. There is a perspective to make with past antecedents, Mike wrote out the headlines of the science story, but the details are crucial as well.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 27 Dec 2013 @ 12:38 AM

  87. To me, advocacy by scientists is fine as long as climate scientists stay within their field of expertise and don’t start advocating for things they have no background in.

    That means:

    1) Yes, give warnings, that accumulating GHGs in the atmosphere is a very bad thing.

    2) Keep drawing the links between extreme weather events and how the likelihood is likely increasing thanks to warming.

    3) Publicly criticize the deniers, going after their credibility and ignorance.

    4) Provide warnings about potential pathways to emission reductions. Specifically, you’d look at forecasts of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere under various scenarios and say what the risks are.

    5) You’d stay away from things like mechanisms to reduce GHG emissions other than what I’ve suggested in #3. That means keeping out of the nuclear, renewables, natural gas “bridge fuel”, and carbon-capture and storage debate. These are largely economic/engineering issues and already have many scientists, economists, and engineers looking at them and can provide their own issue advocacy.

    One of the most annoying things is when a respected voice makes an argument about something they’re not knowledgeable of and it creates a major misunderstanding in the general public. It can hinder good, practical solutions for years and take quite a lot of effort to dispel, often distracting those who are trying to help solve the problem.

    Comment by Miguelito — 27 Dec 2013 @ 9:21 AM

  88. Miguelito, interesting distinction. I agree that when, for example, James Hansen starts advocating for a particular kind of nuclear power plant that is certainly getting beyond his central area of expertise. But scientists are also citizens, and all citizens should have a voice in this discussion.

    Perhaps scientists can wear a ‘science hat’ when discussing things in their central area of expertise, then switch to their ‘concerned citizen’s hat’ when straying into other areas of policy?

    On ‘economists’ in your point #5, though:

    Much of economics is, as Herman Daly (former chief economist for the World Bank) put it, ‘an ideology parading as a discipline.’ Assumptions that eternal economic growth on a finite planet is possible, necessary, and wonderful are among the many that make people who have a broader perspective put much faith that many people from that ‘discipline’ will ever have much of value to contribute to the discussion.

    We really need lots of ‘outside the box’ thinking in this area, and it doesn’t mostly seem likely to be coming from folks deep inside the discipline.

    Comment by wili — 27 Dec 2013 @ 11:27 AM

  89. > industrial perspective

    I’d really like to see more on that. We know how it’s done from the tobacco disclosures:

    I recall reading at RC that the petroleum industry uses climate models to figure out where to look for likely prospects, since the continents have moved around over time and sites where oil formed moved along with them.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Dec 2013 @ 11:42 AM

  90. hank- I don’t know about climate models for oil prospecting.

    but so far as the tobacco lawyers and scientists in the tobacco companies go, that’s the other side of the coin of being a whore. Being in industry creates a bias to keep your job, to go with the flow, not to make waves. But when a tobacco scientist knew that their work was being hidden, they took an advocacy position by not acting….and IRRC some did speak up.

    I hope I wasn’t creating any impression of any moral weighting here- just trying to point out how my life differs from the academe. Industrial scientists don’t have true freedom of speech….which is one of the reasons I don’t use my name on these kinds of posts.

    Comment by Dave123 — 27 Dec 2013 @ 12:42 PM

  91. Wili:

    “Much of economics is, as Herman Daly (former chief economist for the World Bank) put it, ‘an ideology parading as a discipline.’ Assumptions that eternal economic growth on a finite planet is possible, necessary, and wonderful are among the many that make people who have a broader perspective put much faith that many people from that ‘discipline’ will ever have much of value to contribute to the discussion.”

    This kind of statement is why it’s inappropriate that people with little knowledge of a topic don’t speak about it, because it can poison the debate. Instantly, you’ve denigrated an entire field as useless.

    But economists are essential to this because they’ll help advise on the most cost-effective solutions regardless of whether the economy is growing or shrinking.

    And just because you don’t know of any deep thinking in the field doesn’t mean there isn’t any. There are many, many economists working on the problem of climate change.

    Comment by Miguelito — 27 Dec 2013 @ 3:19 PM

  92. > economics
    The sidebar link for RealClimateEconomics now redirects to a related site, Economics for Equity and Environment; that page mentions RealClimateEconomics as a “sister site” but doesn’t seem to have a working link to it. It also has a Climate tab.

    The E3 Network is awarding grants to economists to apply an analytical framework to case studies of future economy innovations – emerging models of sustainable enterprise at the level of the firm, cluster, industry, community.

    Where did the climate economists go? Pointer please.

    (Also, alas, Head in a Cloud is still a dead link.)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Dec 2013 @ 4:30 PM

  93. Miguelito, Uh, so the former chief economist for the World Bank doesn’t have an understanding of economics? If not, who does?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 27 Dec 2013 @ 5:14 PM

  94. Herman Daly was never the Chief Economist of the World Bank; he served as a Senior Economist in the Environment Department of said institution.

    Comment by OnceJolly — 27 Dec 2013 @ 6:56 PM

  95. for Miguelito — and on topic.
    A physicist’s blog on constraints to economic growth:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Dec 2013 @ 7:39 PM

  96. Miguelito- I agree in principle with not disparaging whole disciplines….after all it’s done to climate science on a routine basis. Bricks, glass houses- that sort of thing. However, I’m also skeptical about economics as a predictive or advisory discipline simply because you have Krugman here, The Austrians there, and countless other stuff that is simply more story telling than a quantitative scientific discipline.

    On the other hand I’m a huge fan of behavioral Economist/psychologist Kahneman, and the work he did with Tversky demonstrating the limits of human rationality.

    I suspect for all the number crunching going on, a workable solution may have a number of very human, irrational elements to it in order to form a consensus…

    as a technologist highly engaged in the development of new technologies across a number of disciplines, I have to say that the ‘past is prologue’ and ‘we can reliably forecast a richer, smarter society 50 years from now, so we can push our mess off onto to them’ as being foundationless feelgood stories. I see them and my reaction is “Oh, another con-job from another marketing department…and you know what’s crazy, some of them actually believe it”.

    Comment by Dave123 — 27 Dec 2013 @ 8:58 PM

  97. Thanks, Ray; you beat me to it. Really, I should have prefixed “neo-classical” to economics in the above post.

    Try not to be so touchy, Miguelito. I know there are a number of economists (Herman Daly among them) who _get it_ at some relatively deep level. But as far as I’ve seen, most economists are still in the mind set of endless growth.

    And note that I said “much of economics,” not “all.”

    To make this a more productive rather than a reactive discussion, could you steer us toward the works of some economists that you think are on the right path?

    Comment by wili — 27 Dec 2013 @ 9:13 PM

  98. Thanks OnceJolly for pointing out Herman Daly was never Chief Economist of the World Bank, but only a Senior Economist of one of its divisions.

    Plus, as we all know from climate science, one climate scientist’s view on AGW (e.g. Lindzen or Spencer) must be representative of ALL climate scientists.

    I’m not going to argue about economics, because I’m not an economist. I’m just warning that there are serious pitfalls awaiting climate policy if you ignore those who have the best understanding of what economic repercussions of various emissions-reduction pathways might be.

    Comment by Miguelito — 27 Dec 2013 @ 9:48 PM

  99. Thanks OnceJolly for the pointer to the Wikipedia article on Daly.
    His publications linked there include
    Herman E Daly – A Steady-State Economy
    Date: 23/07/2008
    Classification: Economics
    Document type: SDC Reports & Papers
    Download: Herman_Daly_thinkpiece.pdf – 135 KB
    Summary: the fifth opinion piece for the Redefining Prosperity, third seminar “Confronting Structure – achieving economic sustainability”

    and to mention of him in this book:

    So — if we assume Economics is a science, then we have the example of a science that does advocate for policy choices — routinely, prominently, and as a normal part of their work.

    If we don’t assume Economics is a science, nevertheless, they advocate.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Dec 2013 @ 9:50 PM

  100. And a brief quote from the first page of the Daly thinkpiece linked above:

    … The most important change in recent times has been the enormous growth of one subsystem of the Earth, namely the economy, relative to the total system, the ecosphere. This huge shift from an “empty” to a “full” world is truly “something new under the sun” as historian J. R. McNeil calls it in his book of that title.

    The closer the economy approaches the scale of the whole Earth the more it will have to conform to the physical behavior mode of the Earth. That behavior mode is a steady state—a system that permits qualitative development but not aggregate quantitative growth.

    Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff).

    The remaining natural world no longer is able to provide the sources and sinks for the metabolic throughput necessary to sustain the existing oversized economy—much less a growing one.

    Economists have focused too much on the economy’s circulatory system and have neglected to study its digestive tract.

    (emphasis and extra breaks added for online readability — hr)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Dec 2013 @ 9:54 PM

  101. Since Hank Roberts is posting pages of physicists who understand the implications of exponential growth in a finite environment, I thought I’d mention Albert A. Bartlett, Prof. emeritus at U. of Colorado, who we lost in September at the age of 90 years. Al was one of the first to draw attention to this failure in economic models and remained active in popularization of science well into his eighties. A good man and a good popularize of science:

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Dec 2013 @ 7:53 AM

  102. Herman Daly founded The International Society for Ecological Economics” and is totally aware of the “Limits to Growth” reality facing humanity. (Disclaimer: I was a member the first 3 years)

    The reality is that continued exponential expansion of consumption of finite resources is physically impossible. Even humanity’s present rate of consumption of the mineral and ecological resources of the Earth is unlikely to continue. Yet, many in the economics profession regularly promote the idea that the future will be like the past and unemployment will shrink, if only the economy can be returned to growth. These guys even tell us that “sustainable growth” is their goal, ignoring the very many scientific studies which point out that this future simply can’t happen. It turns out that some in the profession may have conflicts of interest when they make such claims, not surprising, given the history of problems in the economy since 1973. Here’s just the latest example of one such advocate:

    As pointed out by Guy McPherson, the future may be very different from the past if one assumes a worst case combination of trends. We can hope he’s wrong, but he does give references to support his conclusion. One can argue about his analysis, but he’s right in that, ultimately, nature bats last…

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 28 Dec 2013 @ 10:26 AM

  103. Eric Swanson #102,

    ” As pointed out by Guy McPherson, the future may be very different from the past if one assumes a worst case combination of trends. We can hope he’s wrong, but he does give references to support his conclusion. One can argue about his analysis, but he’s right in that, ultimately, nature bats last…”

    ‘Worst’, ‘best, are very subjective terms, and are context-dependent. In the present context, they depend on what is selected as the base, or default, case for fossil fuel use, and what climate phenomena are associated with this default case. My selection of the default case (given the recent actions of the Abbott government in Australia to remove whatever constraints are left on fossil fuel extraction and export, and similar actions by the Harper government in Canada and our own government, and indeed of most large fossil fuel producing countries) is Business as Usual, High End! When I read the lines of Hansen’s recent paper in Plos One, or Anderson’s and McKibben’s writings, and then read between the lines, I don’t see that much difference. Perhaps the main difference is how they interpret the here-and-now. McPherson believes we have already gone over the line, whereas the other three, and many of their associates, believe we have a little more slack left.

    As Hansen states: ” Climate impacts accompanying global warming of 2°C or more would be highly deleterious. Already there are numerous indications of substantial effects in response to warming of the past few decades. That warming has brought global temperature close to if not slightly above the prior range of the Holocene. We conclude that an appropriate target would be to keep global temperature at a level within or close to the Holocene range. Global warming of 2°C would be well outside the Holocene range and far into the dangerous range.” Because of unpredictability in the higher temperature ranges, he doesn’t specify exactly what ‘highly deleterious’ means, but his description of what has occurred already with increasing temperatures and what is possible should not leave anyone with a feeling of comfort about exceeding 1 C by any appreciable amount.

    But, if 2 C is the international consensus target, and if 4 C is becoming the target to which many/most climate scientists believe is what we can expect and to which we must adapt, then the real-world differences among McPherson, Hansen, Anderson, McKibben et al become insignificant. McPherson predicts near-term extinction (~mid-century); my interpretation of all the credible papers does not exclude extinction perhaps a generation or two later. Nothing more definitive can be stated at this time, because as Hansen infers, we really don’t know what will happen specifically when we start going much above the prior Holocene range.

    Comment by DIOGENES — 28 Dec 2013 @ 1:04 PM

  104. Re- Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Dec 2013 @ 7:53 AM

    Just to follow up on your comment about Al Bartlett, anybody who hasn’t seen his classroom lecture about sustainable growth of resource utilization and world population should do so. It is in 8 short segments:


    Comment by Steve Fish — 28 Dec 2013 @ 2:46 PM

  105. Re: DIOGENES #103 – I’ve watched 2 of McPherson’s recent YouTube videos. I saw at least 3 claims which I think are incorrect. I understand that McPherson’s background is ecology, thus, he must rely on the climate scientists for input to his scenario(s). We know that there are many climate model efforts, past and present, and that they produce different values for the rate of warming. Trouble is, there’s quite a bit of uncertainty in any modeling effort, thus there’s no way to decide which is giving the right answer, so we are left with a range of values to give to the ecologists. It would appear that McPherson has picked the most extreme of these, but I haven’t looked at his references to follow up on my perception.

    Then too, the Earth has been in a cycle of Ice Ages starting around 3 million years ago. Whatever mechanism(s) drive this cycle have not changed, as far as I know. The last interglacial, the Eemian, was warmer than today at it’s end and the sea level was higher, yet, the ice began to build and stayed for (roughly) the next 100k years. There has been research on the THC which suggests that a warmer earth would lead to a reduction in that portion of the sinking waters at high latitudes in the NH which fill the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Past research has pointed to the Greenland, Labrador and Ingmar seas as locations for this sinking. IF (a big if) sinking in the Greenland Sea were to stop or move to another area within the Arctic Mediterranean, that is, the waters poleward of the Greenland-Iceland-Scotland ridge, the result would be a different climate, even though the measurements of the AMOC via the RAPID program might not show much change. We might be experiencing such a change as the Norwegian Current can now flow into and thru the Barents Sea along the Northeast Passage, the result of the sea-ice retreat in Summer. Warming water over the Siberian continental shelf areas might tend to cause faster clathrate melting, thus faster methane emissions into the water during the warm months. But, during the winter, Europe might no longer enjoy the climate benefits of the ocean’s warmth as the water no longer flows around the gyre in the Greenland Sea and the sea-ice extent increases. Europe might expect a lot more snow and ice, perhaps so much so that it begins to build up in some locations over the years.

    So, instead of extreme warming threatening extinction of mammals on Earth, might we actually be repeating the climate changes which started the Ice Ages at the end of the Eemian? Such thinking is the domain of oceanography as much as the atmospheric sciences and I think there are still too many unknowns. Your guess is as good as mine…

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 28 Dec 2013 @ 3:33 PM

  106. One of many things that scientists (and, really, most academics in my experience) tend not to do is strongly criticize those in other fields (with a few notable exceptions). While this is understandable in many way, there comes a point, I think, when scientists do have to point out that many/most economists expectations for future economic growth is incompatible with a livable planet. Most economist I have met and interacted with have no glimmering idea that we are in the midst of a mass extinction event, of the massive rates of deforestation, of horrifying deterioration of the oceans…and of the modern industrial economies role as the primary perpetrator of these calamities.

    I will say that many of them have come to understand GW well enough to advocate high taxes on carbon, but those sane economic voices have not had much sway in congress so far.

    Comment by wili — 28 Dec 2013 @ 3:36 PM

  107. Eric Swanson @64 — Yes, all three of my degrees are in engineering. I also have the nearby support of the best in the West power engineering professors. In addition, some knowledge of Hanford affairs and ready access to more knowledge there, by a retired expert.

    Also, on Brave New Climate, we have support from practicing nuclear engineers in Europe. I don’t think anyone there wants more than a low carbon way to have a reliable, on demand power grid. That is, regarding electricity energy. It is just that all the cost drivers we understand point to nuclear being a large portion of the total generation mix.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Dec 2013 @ 8:37 PM

  108. Eric,

    One thing has changed in the drivers of ice ages. Homo sapiens now exists, with the ability to build a CFC factory. That is all it would take to counter the tiny variations that previously led to ice ages over thousands of years. This is from Hansen’s book. So long as humans retain that capability (or equivalent) then there will not be another ice age. Of course, it’s an open question as to how long humans will retain that capability.

    Comment by Tony Weddle — 29 Dec 2013 @ 4:34 AM

  109. Gavin- Thanks for responding, and one more point: Industrial scientists won’t keep silent about global warming issues when they think they can stick their oar in. We will advocate, whether the academics do or not. The silence of the academics simply leaves the field open to industrial scientists who are frequently very skilled at presenting ambiguous information to skeptical audiences. It’s ok, if they’re on board- but if not, watch out.

    Comment by Dave123 — 29 Dec 2013 @ 6:40 AM

  110. I have noticed that advocates often have idealistic premises and can become unwitting allies of those with realistic premises. For instance, the fossil fuels industry has at times poured money into clean energy advocacy because a realistic analysis indicated that this would increase the use of fossil fuels by suppressing the use of nuclear.

    So realistically what is the actual likely effect of your advocacy? Do the realistic odds indicate that you are just being an unwitting tool?

    Comment by Tom Adams — 29 Dec 2013 @ 6:51 AM

  111. A new way to advocate science:

    “Chatbot Wears Down Proponents of Anti-Science Nonsense”

    “Nigel Leck, a software developer by day, was tired of arguing with anti-science crackpots on Twitter. So, like any good programmer, he wrote a script to do it for him.

    The result is the Twitter chatbot @AI_AGW. Its operation is fairly simple: Every five minutes, it searches twitter for several hundred set phrases that tend to correspond to any of the usual tired arguments about how global warming isn’t happening or humans aren’t responsible for it.

    It then spits back at the twitterer who made that argument a canned response culled from a database of hundreds”

    Seems like a great idea to me. One of our problems is that we are outnumbered. Chatbots could level the playing field for a while.

    [Response: Actually it sounds like a recipe for wrecking any media platform it is used on. What is to stop someone doing the same for his replies and so on. You will end up with bots responding to bots ad infinitum. Why don’t people ever think these things through? – gavin]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 29 Dec 2013 @ 8:41 AM

  112. > For instance,… a realistic analysis …
    > So realistically

    Tom Adams, I’ve several times mentioned that tactic — hollowing out the policy center by funding disparate incompatible positions to hollow out the policy ‘center’ and postpone action, e.g. here

    But I have never seem the analysis you’re talking about — fossil fuel companies funding renewables as a way of taking support away from fission.

    I realize proving what we know happens is often difficult, but —

    Have you a pointer to a document anywhere showing that is factual? I’d love to be able to cite your comment with supporting reference.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 9:47 AM

  113. #111–Who’s to say that it isn’t already being done? Maybe that’s exactly why certain ‘interlocuters’ conspicuously aren’t.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Dec 2013 @ 9:58 AM

  114. Hansen’s reply to a comment at PLOS is worth reading.

    The paper is Hansen et al.
    Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature
    Published: December 03, 2013
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081648

    The comment appears at;jsessionid=5AA8D36DD89FD77C59664FF972201D82?root=76063

    Seems to me odd that the only commenter so far is from a physiology PhD, and he’s arguing that “uncertainty” is a problem — Hansen replies citing further sources of detailed information on each issue beyond those mentioned in the original review. Well done.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 10:25 AM

  115. > chatbot

    What Gavin said. The followup discussion out there is priceless.

    Clippy for the internet.

    I see you’re trying to deny global warming. Would you like to:

    1. research the available facts and science?
    2. Have an authority figure you trust tell you, you’re wrong?
    3. Meet other like-minded singles?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 10:34 AM

  116. Hank 112, see:

    “I remember these big scare ads in the papers getting people to organize rallies against Shoreham. There were many things I didn’t know at that time that I’ve learned since. For one thing that turns out, the ads replaced by the oil delivery industry, you know, the companies that deliver fuel to people in Long Island. And sure the oil companies can say, “Go, solar,” because they know it’s never going to replace oil heat.”

    Comment by Tom Adams — 29 Dec 2013 @ 11:11 AM

  117. re: ice ages
    People might recall that one of RC’s contributors, David Archer wrote the very readable “The Long Thaw” a few years ago. Give one to anyone who thinks we’re going to have another ice age any time soon.
    Indeed, CFC factories do the job if need be, although SF6 is even stronger (IPCC AR4 WG I, p.212) @ 32,000 GWP for 500-year horizon, indeed assuming the capability is retained.

    Comment by John Mashey — 29 Dec 2013 @ 12:39 PM

  118. Gavin wrote: “You will end up with bots responding to bots ad infinitum.”

    Which would be difficult to distinguish from what’s found on most blog comment pages now. Chatbots, ditto-heads, trained seals. What’s the difference?

    [Response: We can try to have the occasional meaningful exchange. Maybe. – gavin]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Dec 2013 @ 1:25 PM

  119. RealClimate excels as a site where one can learn about the science of anthropogenic global warming and climate change, from the basics, through the major issues up to the cutting edge research questions.

    However, it is not, nor is it intended to be, a particularly useful site for learning about or discussing non-fossil fuel energy sources, technologies, or economics. Historically, the site’s authors and moderators have (IMHO) wisely encouraged discussions here to remain on-topic — i.e. about climate science — and have discouraged extended, detailed, substantive and especially argumentative and belligerent discussions of energy issues here.

    I hope this will continue to be the moderation policy here. We already have Brave New Climate, which in my view is first and foremost a pro-nuclear advocacy site that purports to be a climate site, where the interest in global warming is mainly as a justification to promote nuclear power.

    As for advocacy, as I have commented previously, no one in the world is better equipped, or has better cause to be motivated, to vociferously advocate urgent action to reduce GHG emissions than do climate scientists, because no one in the world has as clear a view of what business-as-usual emissions portend for the future.

    But advocacy for action does not necessarily require advocating specific, detailed policy or technology responses. Certainly climate scientists have the same right as any other citizen to weigh in with their views on such questions. But when they get into the technological and economic “weeds” of energy issues, particularly in fast-changing fields like wind and solar where it’s difficult even for dedicated experts to keep up with the rapidity of technological advances and exponential growth, they are leaving behind the expertise that makes their speaking out about the AGW problem itself so compelling.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Dec 2013 @ 1:53 PM

  120. > Tom Adams
    Thanks, but is there anything more than that quote in a newspaper? I realize it’s tediously nitpicky to ask for more, but without better, it’s a “they said she said somebody said” story, hearsay

    The quote is:

    “[GWYNETH] CRAVENS, [AUTHOR] … learned since. For one thing that turns out, the ads replaced by the oil delivery industry, you know, the companies that deliver fuel to people in Long Island ….”

    Which isn’t coherent enough to be accurate. The transcript says “Aired November 7, 2013 – 21:00 ET THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.” —
    Maybe CNN will get a better quote.

    Do you know if Cravens has published this, or plans to?

    She’s saying the local trucking companies — people who deliver fuel — are cooperating by spending for ads that are not directly tied to their immediate businesses. That’s just odd. Their budgets can’t be that big these days.

    It’d make sense to ask where the ads came from, who paid for them, and whether the trucking companies were just conduits to hide the source, and become a much more interesting story.

    Same point you’re making — look carefully at claims made — applies.

    Watch for the trick of feeding a sincerely concerned citizen bad information that he/she wants to believe so is willing to repeat uncritically — then later being able to discredit the person who repeated them by showing they’re fake.

    Of course we often can’t find out who’s lying or advertising.
    But I repeat myself.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 2:42 PM

  121. PS, suggest followup at unless Tom Adams has a better suggestion, that’s the only one I could find for discussing that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 2:49 PM


    117–FWIW, “Long Thaw” summary, above (my tablet sometimes gets insistant that all links go first.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Dec 2013 @ 4:16 PM

  123. Thanks, Hank (#114), for the link to Hansen’s response.

    Comment by Jon Kirwan — 29 Dec 2013 @ 4:51 PM

  124. Gavin, the advocacy of climate scientists has already been very successful. You are hard pressed today to find any western politician who would dare to question that global warming is not caused by man.

    [Response: You are living in a dream world: Barton, Lawson, Rohrbacher, Alexander, Cruz, Inhofe, Howard etc. … – gavin]

    However my questions to you are different.

    Just how comfortable are you with the consequences of winning this argument? I believe it also brings responsibility because scientists can’t just claim to be messengers and then wash their hands of the consequences. How do you propose that humanity can possibly cut emissions by 60% within 20 years? Is it not also the responsibility of scientists to propose solutions rather just alert policy makers? How exactly do you propose to stop ASIA from burning cheap available coal or convince developing countries not follow suite? Should we abandon growth in living standards in the west to save the planet?

    I suspect history will judge scientists more favourably according to their net positive rather than negative stance.

    [Response: Very strange. Is a doctor prevented from diagnosing leukemia if they can’t cure it? Or a critic prevented from complaining about a movie if they can’t direct one that is better? That is an odd line an argument from you. But the basic fact is that all the decisions that relate to your questions are value based and will involve winners and losers. In a democratic society those decisions should be made collectively – not exclusively by climate modellers like myself. And why you think I have any particular insight into Chinese economic growth or their energy industry is a complete mystery. Scientists like myself generally report on their science (in this case of climate change) and for the most part I do. If you are arguing that decision makers are better off not knowing about the probable climatic consequences of their decisions, than I’m afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree. – gavin]

    Comment by Clive Best — 29 Dec 2013 @ 5:07 PM

  125. Gavin @ #111:

    We’re there already I suspect. See (Aussie tech journalist; real name) Stilgherrian’s recent UTS lecture (~last quarter is about Twitter bots and AI):

    [Response: Oh dear. – gavin]

    Comment by GlenFergus — 29 Dec 2013 @ 7:50 PM

  126. SecularAnimist at 119 said
    “I hope this will continue to be the moderation policy here. We already have Brave New Climate, which in my view is first and foremost a pro-nuclear advocacy site that purports to be a climate site, where the interest in global warming is mainly as a justification to promote nuclear power.”

    I find this type of comment very unhelpful and similar to denial site comments, opinions based on a belief that are not supported by evidence and data.

    Professor Brook who runs the climate science and energy options blog bravenewclimate is fully committed to the advocacy of climate science just the same as realclimate. The only difference is Professor Brook also advocates for energy options.

    Any detailed reading of bravenewclimate shows that all the data presented is fully supported by evidence and data just the same as realclimate.

    Information about Professor Brook can be found here.

    Comment by Tom Bond — 29 Dec 2013 @ 8:34 PM

  127. > all the data presented

    “Trust, but verify.”

    There’s always new data, but new data doesn’t often change the weight of the evidence much — that weight develops over time through subsequent citations.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2013 @ 12:47 AM

  128. Gavin: I think I read something that said that the fossil fuel industry is already doing chatbots, possibly in the comments to the original article. It seems like they are. In any case, would the loss of twitter be a great loss? Not to me.

    I think most people believe whichever message they hear most often. So we need to catch up. Redundancy is important to those who don’t have science to sort truth from nonsense.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Dec 2013 @ 2:12 AM

  129. Web sites that don’t use recaptcha seem to have comments that are 99% denialist. Could it be chatbot runaway?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Dec 2013 @ 7:11 AM

  130. Re machines

    Spend enough time debating on the Internet and you will likely, at some point, end up debating a machine.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 30 Dec 2013 @ 10:07 AM

  131. Scientist should only be advocates for the scientific process. Advocacy implies(correctly) that the advocate has a stake, financial or emotional or both, in the subject matter. Advocates are less likely to look at other viewpoints or data that conflicts with their own viewpoint.

    I’m not saying that scientist can’t have opinions about a subject. Just that opinions have no place in science. Opinions are subjective and science should have no place for subjectivity.

    [Response: Hi Brian, this is very much a purist’s view. The problem is that scientists are normal human beings, with interests, biases, egos, dreams, opinions and foibles. Pretending that they aren’t for the sake of pretending that scientists are completely objective just sets up normal scientists for a fall when it is (inevitably) shown that scientists are just as imperfect as every other human. But actually I think your point fails on a number of different points too – opinion – on what is important, what is worthwhile to discuss, what is interesting – is actually very important in science, and each scientist has a probably unique view of that. It is part of what makes individual scientists interesting, and so to pretend that we all think in lockstep does a huge disservice to the community. When it comes to advocacy though, what you deride is actually dogmatism – the inability to change one’s views in the light of new evidence. I agree that this problematic, but it has nothing to with advocacy per se. Your first point, related to the assumption of a stake in the outcome is trickier – since climate science is dealing with risks to large parts of the globe, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have an emotional stake in that. Should no-one therefore comment on global threats? – gavin]

    Comment by Brian R — 30 Dec 2013 @ 1:24 PM

  132. Edward Greisch writes in 128:

    Gavin: I think I read something that said that the fossil fuel industry is already doing chatbots, possibly in the comments to the original article.

    You may be thinking of an article reprinted by Joe Romm at Climate Progress.

    From the original piece:

    As I also mentioned yesterday, in some of the emails, HB Gary people are talking about creating “personas”, what we would call sockpuppets. This is not new. PR firms have been using fake “people” to promote products and other things for a while now, both online and even in bars and coffee houses.

    But for a defense contractor with ties to the federal government, Hunton & Williams, DOD, NSA, and the CIA – whose enemies are labor unions, progressive organizations, journalists, and progressive bloggers – a persona apparently goes far beyond creating a mere sockpuppet.

    Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd?
    Joe Romm (Climate Progress, 2011-02-21) reprinting with commentary piece by Happy Rockefeller (“UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All”, Daily Kos, 2011-02-16)

    The author quotes from an MS document by the PR firm HB Gary explaining its product software:

    Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content. It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona. For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona. This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.


    I don’t know specifically that the fossil fuel industry is doing this, but we know others are. If denialist comments are anti-correlated with ReCaptcha, this would be suggestive of the software’s use. Then again, I suspect a lot of the deniers come from the graying Tea Party crowd who may have more of a problem with ReCaptcha. Then again, the Koch brothers largely created the FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity:

    Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) was a powerful industry-funded think tank, promoting deregulation. It was founded by Koch Industries interests and continues to maintain strong links. In 2003, an internal rift between CSE and its affiliated Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation led to a split in which CSEF was renamed as a separate organization, called Americans For Prosperity.
    In July 2004, CSE announced it was merging with Empower America to create FreedomWorks.[1]

    Citizens for a Sound Economy

    … and thus the Tea Party movement, so perhaps there really isn’t that much of a difference.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 30 Dec 2013 @ 1:49 PM

  133. CORRECTION to my above comment:

    Then again, the Koch brothers largely created the FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity:

    … should be:

    Then again, the Koch brothers largely created the movement through FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity:

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 30 Dec 2013 @ 1:56 PM

  134. Final correction:

    Then again, the Koch brothers largely created the movement through FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity:

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 30 Dec 2013 @ 2:00 PM

  135. Timothy: see TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always and the peer-reviewed paper to which it links. The tobacco industry was a strong partner in setting this up, and the Tea Party idea and even the idea of costumes came via them ~1990. Among thinktanks, CSE was their favored funding recipient.

    Like the Kochs, tobacco companies have little use for science or the Federal government. The tobacco companies fear 2 things above others:
    a) Higher cigarette taxes, which selectively inhibit teenage smokers, their crucial source of new customers, since few people get really addicted to nicotine except during rapid brain development.
    b) Any motion whatsoever from fragmented healthcare systems in the direction of single-payer or anything else that tends to make the end-of-life costs more visible.

    Of course, Koch agendas mesh quite well with these.

    These guys really, really know how to do advocacy … albeit not of the good kind, especially visible to anyone who has studied them. They have some of the best marketeers and brought them to the party. They are now moving on to e-cigarettes, with thinktanks like Heartland in full support, and they can market well, here or here, somewhat reminiscent of “clean coal” commercials.

    Since scientists generally try to stick to truth, they are inherently at a disadvantage. Naomi Oreskes’ 2008 talk (partial) and powerpoint, pp.29-63 included discussion of the classic marketing expertise applied by Western Fuels Association in the early 1990s. I attended that talk, but the video there is unfortunately just part, so if anyone knows where the rest is, please post. There’s a great shot from the WFA movie that shows CO2 turning the Earth green, including the Sahara.

    Comment by John Mashey — 30 Dec 2013 @ 5:41 PM

  136. Moderators: How about we bring this back on topic, I cannot understand how you let all this drivel about spambots and the tea party on this thread
    You are all paranoid

    Comment by Keith Woollard — 30 Dec 2013 @ 7:37 PM

  137. > Woolard

    Bots or socks — same effect on conversation. Throttling a bot or a sock isn’t harm to a human being.

    About a year ago, we moderators became increasingly stringent with deniers. ….
    We discovered that the disruptive faction that bombarded climate change posts was actually substantially smaller than it had seemed. Just a small handful of people ran all of the most offensive accounts. What looked like a substantial group of objective skeptics to the outside observer was actually just a few bitter and biased posters with more opinions then evidence.

    the ban on climate deniers on the forum has actually been in effect for the last two to three years ….

    … “As moderators responsible for what millions of people see, we felt that to allow a handful of commenters to so purposefully mislead our audience was simply immoral” …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2013 @ 8:27 PM

  138. This post is about science and advocacy, and good advocacy for science requires some understanding the opposition, its tactics, its use of technology (like spambots), its funding and its clever appeals to political orientation. Once upon a time, there were far more Republicans supportive of climate science. For example, Sherwood Boehlert was always a friend to science during the Joe Barton/hockeystick/Wegman saga, a dandy example of clever and effective advocacy against science.

    It is hardly a task for climate scientists to research this turf, but rather for social scientists, investigative journalists, media experts and such, whose skillsets and experience are relevant. One of the most encouraging changes over last few years at AGU has been an increase in such folks and closer relationships with climate scientists.

    Comment by John Mashey — 30 Dec 2013 @ 8:52 PM

  139. Apropos bots and socks, recently seen on Slashdot:

    By girlintraining • 2013-Dec-22 00:12 • Score: 5, Insightful

    I’m only asking because I’m on the lookout for techniques to derail a discussion. A “misdirect” is calling attention to something irrelevant but intended to provoke an emotional response. It’s used to push more-relevant posts down the page – hopefully below the fold.

    You must be new here. The majority of the intelligent and thoughtful discourse evaporated when Slashdot was bought out by Dice. If you want to see what the future looks like, punch in Then vomit in your mouth. It’s been replaced with paid schills and hobbyists. There are a few of us left from the old guard, but we’re only here because, frankly, there’s nowhere else to go. Every promising new forum website seems to be shortly after swallowed whole by “Web 2.0” and it promptly goes to shit in an effort to look trendy and hip, at the expense of actual content and relevant discourse.

    The post you’re replying to was not accidental. It was quite deliberate. Like all things Web 2.0, very little of what is passed off as original or user-contributed content actually is. About a third of the posts here on Slashdot are now by 3rd parties who may or may not be affiliated with Dice, who in turn are just subcontractors for larger business ventures; Shell companies within shell companies.

    It’s part of a new “dark net” of small companies in quiet office complexes filled with nothing but a few cubes and employees who show up and are handed a 3 ring binder with pre-cooked posts and responses to “criticism” of whatever position they’re being paid to represent under a pseudonym.

    Welcome to the real Web 2.0.

    Remember — one person, one voice is the old idea.

    Usenet gave us killfiles so each of us, individually, could choose to ignore whatever set us off. We could choose not to get diverted into flaming digressions by killfiling that which we could not ignore.

    The www can’t afford that sort of rationality in discourse; inciting digression is an effective way to control conversation, just as sockpuppetry is an effective way to fake the weight of opinion.

    The current blog commenting system, like our current political system generally “… is not necessarily representative per capita, but it most surely is ad valorem.”
    — The Space Merchants (Pohl and Kornbluth)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2013 @ 9:37 PM

  140. The comments section of that National Geographic news item Hank cited is infested with deniers. Let’s hope the example of Reddit’s science editors catches on.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 30 Dec 2013 @ 9:57 PM

  141. Re: killfiles

    implementing killfiles for this blog comment page is not so hard. I have done it in the past, and there used to be a plugin for Firefox as well (Greasemonkey ?).

    Addendum for Usenet geeks:

    Another thing i did when i was quite bored: you can split the page into individual comments, massage the format a little, feed into your personal leafnode or other newsserver, and use nntp client of your choice so that you have regular {rn,trn,slrn,gnus,…} killfiles. Extra points for actually hacking together a something that will post replies to realclimate. I did everything but that last bit at one point, but i didnt want to write a captcha breaker …

    But I must say the pagedown key works just about as well, since the moderation here is good. Three cheers for the moderators.


    Comment by sidd — 30 Dec 2013 @ 11:36 PM

  142. Thank you Timothy Chase, John Mashey, 137 139 Hank Roberts, 140 Mal Adapted.

    The video gives a lot of alternative meanings to the word “advocacy,” but the opposition has carried it way beyond that.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 31 Dec 2013 @ 10:06 AM

  143. Thanks Gavin and commenters for the interesting discussion about science and advocacy. I have nothing to contribute about economics or nuclear power, so I will come back to the main topic of the discussion.

    Since any scientist communicating science seems to advocate for something, I neither agree with the idea that ‘all scientists who become advocates, irrespective of who they are, cannot be trusted to produce unbiased scientific output’ (John Benton, #73). Perhaps I’m very naïve or I’m still at an early stage of my career. As all of you know, Science comes from latin scientĭa (‘knowledge’). It implies that, as scientists, we have the obligation to increase the knowledge, not only among scientists but the knowledge of society in general. For that, we need to spread and communicate our science. Does it mean that we advocate for our science? I don’t think so. I think I’m just doing my job. That was the main reason that drove me to start a blog about ocean and climate sciences one year and half ago.

    Unfortunately, as Robert (# 14) indicates ‘any scientist moving to advocacy is regarded with suspicion not only by the public, but by their fellow scientists’. I find this sad, really, really sad. In the case of climate sciences, we know that some people make a lot of noise trying to confuse society about what scientists really know about AGW. So, in the present situation, more questionable behaviour is ‘To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing’ because ‘El que calla otorga’ (I guess the English translation would be ‘Silence is consent’).

    I really think that scientists should communicate more about what they do and find. That is what I advocate for.

    Happy New Year.

    R. So-mavilla Cabrillo

    Comment by Raquel So-mavilla — 31 Dec 2013 @ 10:47 AM

  144. but i didnt want to write a captcha breaker

    You don’t have to, [1] ;)

    Comment by prokaryotes — 31 Dec 2013 @ 12:30 PM

  145. “You are all paranoid”

    You don’t visit on-line climate comment sections much, do you?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 31 Dec 2013 @ 2:06 PM

  146. Cannot find it but many moons ago Eli read a report that showed how nuclear and renewables (solar/wind) fit well together. Nuclear plants run best full out as Eric says, and are ideally suited to baseload, wind and solar tend to be most economical run exactly during those times when peak load is seen. They fit together well.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 31 Dec 2013 @ 7:23 PM

  147. The only possible reply to 131 by Brian R “Just that opinions have no place in science. Opinions are subjective and science should have no place for subjectivity.”

    is you gotta be joking (there are several other less polite ones). What experts do is 99% opinion, opinion based on expertise, opinion based on observation, opinion based on learning, but opinion none the less.

    Mr. Galileo, does the earth circle the sun? Based on my observations and understanding yes. Mr. Stocker, will continued emissions of CO2 lead to global warming? Yes, based on our knowledge of the climate system, for extra special sure yes. Is this dangerous? While I will defer to WGII on the details, based on previous reports, yes.

    Brian is simply trying to force scientists out of any discussion. Not to be taken seriously

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 31 Dec 2013 @ 7:30 PM

  148. “A Warning From Carl Sagan on Scientific Ignorance”

    “Sagan nailed it.” Exactly. If the people in general don’t understand science, democracy ends. But the present situation is far worse. Anything more I say would be too easy to misinterpret, misconstrue, or lead off the track. So I will try to refrain from the examples I gave before. We have a huge amount of catching up to do because the poverty of our education over the past century has cost us a lot of our democracy already.

    Please don’t construe this example to be only about Global Warming:
    “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations”
    It can be read in a more general way as a story about the plutocratic attack on democracy in general. The cure is for all citizens to be sufficiently well educated in science and math to not fall for the propaganda.

    Training in science would help people in general overcome dogma in general. Reference “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsch. Deutsch talks about The Enlightenment and Enlightenments plural. Will we fall into a new Dark Age? Dark Ages seem to be the standard. Staying enlightened is the goal. The human brain hasn’t changed.
    We are now in the midst of conversion/growth from a static society to a dynamic society. A static society is almost all previous civilizations. Contrary to popular belief, people in static and stone age civilizations were much less happy than we are today. It is necessary to complete the conversion to a fully dynamic civilization. Failure to become fully dynamic would entail collapse back to very unhappy times.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Jan 2014 @ 1:35 AM

  149. Gavin

    Your example of Brian Cox’s attitude to advocacy takes me back to a local Computer Science conference in apartheid South Africa, where an academic boycott was brewing, and some of us who opposed the system felt we could get some support from those who were more ambivalent (or wanted to hide their support of the system for the sake of international respectability), so I put a motion to the AGM calling on members of the sponsoring organisation, in view of the academic boycott, to support and end to racial discrimination in higher education.

    Immediately, someone got onto his feet to argue that this was a “political” motion, and called for a vote that the motion should not even be put to the meeting. He won. The next motion: a call for more government funding. Was that political or not?

    Through the late apartheid era (I had my first academic job in 1981), this argument that science is value-free became a great shield for doing nothing when there was a lot you could do to oppose the system – like campaigning against discrimination in education and refusing to take on government projects that reinforced the system. Of course science as such is value-free, but as you explain with great support by the much-missed Stephen Schneider, scientists aren’t value-free.

    Keep up the advocacy. We need it. Especially from people who have a clue.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 1 Jan 2014 @ 11:00 AM

  150. Excellent: thanks Gavin, Edward G, Eli, and several others.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 1 Jan 2014 @ 12:41 PM

  151. Gavin, I think you make clear implicitly but might want to speak directly to the difference between these:

    — advocacy by a scientist speaking as an individual
    — “advocacy science” to promote a predetermined conclusion.

    The latter is, I think, an attempt to apply the lawyer-advocate privilege* to scientists as well. That “advocacy”– doing everything for the client’s point of view — means ruling out of discussion, ignoring, or actively suppressing whatever’s not to the client’s benefit.

    The problem there is, to coin the phrase, in doing advocacy, the lawyer doesn’t know that he’s lying, or care, by definition in the system we use. The lawyer presents only material helpful to the cause being paid for, and actively tries to avoid any other material being known or allowed to be considered.

    An “advocacy scientist” may be
    — acting like a lawyer, not taking the science into account wherever it leads, but rather serving as a puppet to present only the material the lawyer allows,
    — lying

    Bringing the facts into the conversation cracks that shell. Isaac Asimov talked about that in Foundation

    … Obviously he had not seen the flaws in his own argument–but now that they had been shown to him, he refused to admit that they were flaws at all.
    Afterward, Hari had said to Leyel, “I’ve done him a favor.”
    “How, by giving him someone to hate?” said Leyel.
    “No. Before, he believed his own unwarranted conclusions. He had deceived himself. Now he doesn’t believe them.”
    “But he still propounds them.”
    “So–now he’s more of a liar and less of a fool. I have improved his private integrity. His public morality I leave up to him.”


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 12:42 PM

  152. “science as such is value-free”

    Hm. It may be true that Mother Nature doesn’t care what party you belong to, but I tend to think of things like academic honesty and integrity, openness to serendipity, rigor, the desire for and acceptance of better answers over the demands of immature ego, etc. etc. as values that the scientific community needs to function. Otherwise ‘values’ is just another one of those empty words that puffed-up politicians love to flog.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 1 Jan 2014 @ 1:21 PM

  153. Re- Comment by Radge Havers — 1 Jan 2014 @ 1:21 PM

    Spot-on Radge!

    For this discussion it would be helpful to me if there were some kind of definition of political advocacy. I have read some overexcited folks who claimed that a scientist was being political when she said that if we wished to not have a warming world we all should stop generating so much fossil CO2.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 1 Jan 2014 @ 2:25 PM

  154. Brian R:
    “Advocacy implies(correctly) that the advocate has a stake, financial or emotional or both, in the subject matter”

    Just about everyone has a stake in the consequences of AGW. If a scientist observed asteroid heading for planet; or a new superbug with dangerous potential, shouldn’t the scientist be advocating for measures to ameliorate the outcomes? It would be irresponsible to for science to be merely reporting and not advocating for action.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 1 Jan 2014 @ 2:40 PM

  155. > just about everyone has a stake

    Not the bots, socks, and work-for-hire advocates, those
    who work for, echo or copypaste work for hidden masters.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 3:36 PM

  156. Gavin, thank you for mentioning Elbert Hubbard. Despite many decades of reading, somehow, I’d never known his name. He wrote much I recognize having heard all my life.

    Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes a day. Wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 3:52 PM

  157. #148–Good points, Ed. But I have to ask what the basis is for this assertion:

    “Contrary to popular belief, people in static and stone age civilizations were much less happy than we are today.”

    I can’t imagine that even the definitional issues are resolved sufficiently to make an objective judgment on such a claim–even if we had any reliable psychological data on ‘stone age civilizations.’ I’d also note that there seem to be just one choice for the deep future: at some point, zero energy growth is necessary for planetary civilization, regardless of specific issues such as climate change. If that is so, we’d better come to grips with a ‘static’ economy (at least in some respects.)

    As a final comment, it’s also true that ‘static’ is just one aspect: a wealthy society surely feels very differently about a ‘static’ economic future than a desperately poor one.

    But I’m thinking that this subthread is getting to be much more appropriate to a new Unforced Variations thread than the AGU one.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 1 Jan 2014 @ 4:05 PM

  158. Contrariwise, everything has a stake, despite our legal system, which decades ago decided that decided trees and butterflies don’t have standing to ask protection.

    Among the externalized, insane costs of fossil fuel:
    killing off much of the natural living world.

    Don’t like the word ‘killing’? Call it “increasing selection pressure” — it’s already intense.

    Human-influenced climate change is an observed phenomenon affecting physical and biological systems across the globe.

    The majority of observed impacts are related to temperature changes and are located in the northern high- and mid-latitudes. However, new evidence is emerging that demonstrates that impacts are related to precipitation changes as well as temperature, and that climate change is impacting systems and sectors beyond the Northern Hemisphere.

    In this paper, we highlight some of this new evidence—focusing on regions and sectors that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) noted as under-represented—in the context of observed climate change impacts, direct and indirect drivers of change (including carbon dioxide itself), and methods of detection.

    We also present methods and studies attributing observed impacts to anthropogenic forcing. We argue that the expansion of methods of detection (in terms of a broader array of climate variables and data sources, inclusion of the major modes of climate variability, and incorporation of other drivers of change) is key to discerning the climate sensitivities of sectors and systems in regions where the impacts of climate change currently remain elusive.

    — Scientists, butterflies. Both reporting climate change.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 4:07 PM

  159. Emphasizing the best accepted science is not advocacy. It is education. Every scientist has a stake in ensuring decisions are made on the basis of the best science.

    There is no controversy over the proposition that we are warming the planet. There is no controversy over the proposition that there will be adverse consequences as a result of our warming the planet.
    There should be no controversy over the proposition that these adverse consequences should be mitigated effectively and economically.
    Insisting that mitigation be effective is not advocacy–it is being a responsible citizen and steward of the nation’s resources.

    It is only when one begins arguing for a particular policy among other likely viable policies that one is advocating.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2014 @ 4:07 PM

  160. #151–Hank, that’s not quite correct. An attorney has an ethical obligation to be truthful in court:

    (Don’t know if that link will work; it’s supposed to point to ‘officer of the court.’)

    It’s fair game to try to exclude adverse evidence, as we all know, but lying in court could end a legal career–so an ‘advocate scientist’ who lied would be going well beyond the remit of an attorney.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 1 Jan 2014 @ 4:13 PM

  161. > Asimov … Foundation

    Oops, I mis-cited: that bit above is from an anthology, “Foundation’s Friends” — from The Originist, by Orson Scott Card

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 4:52 PM

  162. > ethical obligation to be truthful

    But no ethical obligation to find out more than necessary to argue the points at issue, from the points of view of the client.

    Yes, an attorney who realizes “my client is lying, now what?” has ethical questions arising.

    Short of that, when the client provides a technical or scientific paper, the lawyer uses it in advocacy.

    The lawyer doesn’t swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth” — the lawyer is an advocate.

    Overreaching happens:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 5:10 PM

  163. >Overreaching happens


    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 1 Jan 2014 @ 8:03 PM

  164. And if you wonder about how that works, look at
    which collects advocacy source material for reuse.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2014 @ 10:11 PM

  165. 157 Kevin McKinney: “Contrary to popular belief, people in static and stone age civilizations were much less happy than we are today” etcetera is directly from “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsch. Deutsch covers a lot of ground in this book. It is “philosophy level difficult” reading. I recommend this book highly, but don’t expect an easy read.

    As for which thread, everything Deutsch says is directly on the subject of science and advocacy. You could also put in Michelle Rhee’s book “Radical,” which is not radical. We scientists need to get radical about advocating more education, and education is most of where our advocacy can go.

    As 159 Ray Ladbury says: “Emphasizing the best accepted science is not advocacy. It is education.”

    Science is civilization-changing in many ways, and must be.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 2 Jan 2014 @ 12:46 AM

  166. #165–Thanks, Ed.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 2 Jan 2014 @ 9:24 AM

  167. 121 Hank. I don’t have a better source. I saw this in a broadcast of Pandora’s Promise on CNN but I don’t think the video provides much more, may it included an image of one of the newspaper ads IIRC. When you ask for my source I googled to locate that transcript. I agree that it’s not a slam-dunk good source.

    Comment by Tom Adams — 2 Jan 2014 @ 2:53 PM

  168. It is possible to share values with others while differing in the details of how to best live up to those values. I need to remember this.

    Paul Vincelli
    University of Kentucky

    Comment by Paul Vincelli — 3 Jan 2014 @ 6:52 AM

  169. Hank:

    Among the externalized, insane costs of fossil fuel: killing off much of the natural living world.

    True, and tragic from my PoV if not everybody’s. But as we know, that’s been going on since the discovery of agriculture. Agriculture simplifies ecosystems (otherwise, why bother?) by favoring edible species and exterminating or driving away competitors. Of course, even as foragers humans were causing extinctions by overhunting, and altering ecosystems with fire and other tools. Agriculture, though, allowed human populations to exceed local short-term carrying capacity, and positive feedbacks accelerated the ongoing anthropocene extinction event while leading to our current globally-unsustainable society.

    I’m with Jared Diamond, but while it’s arguable whether humanity has benefited from agriculture, it should be self-evident that much of what’s done “for the benefit of humanity” is to the detriment of every other species.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 3 Jan 2014 @ 12:24 PM

  170. Me, previously:

    it should be self-evident that much of what’s done “for the benefit of humanity” is to the detriment of every other species.

    Well, that’s self-evidently fatuous. Species of human gut flora, inter alia, have benefited at least as much as humanity has. How’s this:

    it should be self-evident that much of what’s done “for the benefit of humanity” is to the detriment of everysome other species.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 3 Jan 2014 @ 1:31 PM

  171. Is A Right Wing Political Action Group Impersonating the American Meteorological Society?? Seems That Way.


    A disturbing aspect of this e-mail is that it seems some effort was placed in making it appear to have been sent by AMS. It was sent from an e-mail account with AMS in the name (though not from the “” domain) and featured the AMS logo prominently (used without permission from AMS). Only in the fine print at the bottom was it clear that this apparently came from the Heartland Institute. The text of the e-mail reports results from the study far differently than I would, leaving an impression that is at odds with how I would characterize those results.

    If you got this Heartland Institute e-mail, or if you have read articles or blog posts related to this study, my suggestion is simple. Rather than take someone else’s interpretation of the survey results, read the paper yourself and draw your own conclusions. It is freely available here ( as an Early Online Release.

    It’s a shame Nature closed their blog; that belongs under their collection, the annals of climate misinformation.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2014 @ 12:56 PM

  172. from the comments at

    Here’s a link to a posting that shows the letter:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2014 @ 1:00 PM

  173. #171–Wow, Heartland hijacking the identity of a respected organization in order to misrepresent the results of a peer-reviewed study?

    Who could *ever* have seen that one coming?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 5 Jan 2014 @ 1:36 PM


    Had you elected psychopaths thinking they were mere idealogues, how would you know the difference? If not by the fact that they practiced book burning, according to the methods of the day?

    Don’t you dare be intimidated about being normative, or it will lead to worse silencings.

    It’s time to assert that the National Academy of Sciences is squarely in the tradition of the most known American president in history–and the first one associated with the GOP.

    Ditto for the wide advocacy of public libraries among the founders of this country.

    So you want to be guardedly non-normative because you want to be regarded as impartial? And why is that? Impartiality, in the first place, is a value only because it is instrumental to objectivity, trustable science, and oh, I dunno, truth.

    Non-advocacy in the service of distortion, misdirection, irrelevance, and imposture is no virtue. If the service is unwitting or indirect, no cigar.

    Comment by patrick — 10 Jan 2014 @ 11:26 PM

  175. Heartland spoofing AMS email?

    If they could put their message honestly, they would. Lying has a cost.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 12 Jan 2014 @ 10:58 AM

  176. > Heartland spoofing …

    Reminds me of Wegman’s claim that they’re the good guys (which seemed his justification for plagiarism and fakery providing talking points to the Republican climate deniers). To them the end justifies their means. And his specialty — data mining — has been much in the news lately thanks to Snowden. What else have they been doing with the information they gather, besides twisting it and lying about it?

    Til science and communications came along, with the accompanying threat of an informed populaace, this fooling and faking and pretense probably was how most human politics got done, don’t ya think?

    Remember this one?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Jan 2014 @ 11:58 AM

  177. Gavin–Fine work at your end. One comment on advocacy and scientists:
    If ever there were times for scientists to advocate mitigation of the rate of climate change, it is now. We all should do ALL we can to slow its progress. The consequences of inaction are too horrendous to contemplate.

    Comment by Donald H. Campbell — 15 Jan 2014 @ 12:32 PM

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