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Free speech and academic freedom

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 February 2012

Update: Some related concerns from deepclimate.org, if these claims can be verified.

In a recent interview for a Norwegian magazine (Teknisk Ukeblad, 0412), the IPCC chair Rajendra Kumar Pachauri told the journalist that he had received death threats in connection with his role as a head for the IPCC. There have also been recent reports of threats and harassment of climate scientists for their stance on climate change (Kerry Emanuel. Katharine Hayhoe, Australian climate scientists, Phil Jones, Barton campaign, and Inhofe’s black list).

These incidents appear as an unpleasant deja vu from my past, smacking of attempts to suppress the freedom of speech. They remind me of the days when I did my national service as a border patrol at the Soviet-Norwegian border in 1988-1989 (Norway and Russia – then Soviet – share a 196 km long common border in the high north), where we stood up for our freedom and democracy. Freedom of speech was tacitly implied as one of the ingredients of an open democracy, which in our minds was the West. There was an understanding that the other side of the iron curtain represented an oppressive regime.

If the people who threat and harass climate scientists were to have their way, I fear we would be heading for a world resembling the other side of the iron curtain of 1989. The absence of oppression and harassment is a prerequisite for sound and functioning science. Oppressive regimes are not known for producing good science, and blind ideology have often been unsustainable. Therefore, threats and such dishonorable campaigns represent a concern.

Me at the Soviet-Norwegian border in the spring of 1989, where I served as a border patrol. The border was halfway between the yellow Norwegian and green/red Soviet borderposts seen in the photo, and the iron curtain involved a militarised zone on the Soviet side guarded by the KGB.

Another unpleasant aspect of the direction taken by the public discource is the character of the rhetoric, which too exhibit similarities to that of the cold war. I still remember some of the propaganda that could be heard on the radio – translated to Norwegian. Too often these days, the debate is far from being informative but has turned into something like a beauty contest and he-said-she-said affair.

So it is important to keep in mind: Don’t shoot the messenger who is only doing her/his job. It would really be a disservice to the society. Any open and free democracy has to be based on true information and knowledge. When big and powerful media corporations start to look like past state-run propaganda machines, where slogans have replaced common sense and expert knowledge, then we’re heading in the wrong direction.

In Norway, the there were calls for enhanced openness and respect (by our prime minister) after the terrible July 22 (2011) terrorist attacks (the terrorist also disrespected climate science). In this sense, the openness also means exposing all levels and all aspects of matters being disputed. As in sciences, it is important to elucidate the situation, and see if the arguments stand up to being critically scrutinized. This also means that all relevant information must be included – not just those which support one stand.

Flower response, more democracy, and more openness in Oslo after July 22, 2011.

I think that the science community needs a louder voice in the society, and there is a need for bringing some of the science-related debates closer to true science. We need to explain the virtues of the scientific method, such as transparency, replication of past results, testing and evaluating the methods and conclusions. These virtues lead to the most credible answers.

For example, we need to focus on question like the following: Is the strategy adopted objective? Does it give robust results? Or do the result depend on the context in which the analysis was carried out? In other words, we need to question whether the conclusions are generally valid.

Focusing on the real questions and doing science means being free, critical and sceptical – and not a climate of fear.


739 Responses to “Free speech and academic freedom”

  1. 651
    Phil Mattheis says:

    dbostrum:
    “Carleton ought to volunteer a refund for students who were victimized in this way.”

    There may be a pattern: Harris replaced Professor Tim Patterson, described as: “a trained scientist with an extensive publication record and numerous large research grants.” But, Prof Patterson shares other linkage with Mr Harris; he is also a Heartland “expert”, and both are members of several other contrarian organizations, which are described in some detail.
    (The thing maybe has deeper roots, with many more HI experts scattered about, sharing lesson plans and corrupting the innocent…another vast conspiracy – is it just me, or did yesterday seem like _April_ first, and again today? Maybe an earlier spring brings earlier foolishness? Is it CAGW?!?)

    The CASS authors were careful to note that they did not have access to material related to the Patterson version of the course, and would not speculate.

    University response will be interesting to watch – academic freedom in action, aiming for responsible consequences, without treading into censorship or worse. Maybe a campus-wide forum with real ‘balance’ and real science? This could be a compelling case study for a course in professional ethics.

  2. 652
    Richard Simons says:

    Michael W @607

    As for the rest of your comments you may have good points, but they are rife with pessimism. With that mindset, you wouldn’t have been able to predict great strides forward like the Green Revolution (for instance).

    I was a student before the main part of the ‘Green Revolution’ hit. Proctor barley had already demonstrated that increasing the harvest index could have a dramatic effect on yields compared to its predecessors, Cappelle Desprez, for example. It was fairly obvious that shorter wheat varieties could have a similar impact on wheat yields (long straw was no longer an advantage, with better weed control and little call for thatching straw). They were exciting times. I see nothing comparable now.

    From your link to a greener planet:

    The strongest increasing trend [in leaf area index, LAI] is around 0.0032 per year in the middle and northern high latitudes

    Do you know what is a reasonable value for LAI? It varies greatly, but is usually between about 2 and 6. So the authors are talking about a 0.1-0.2% change per year in the fastest changing areas. Hardly enough to assume it presages a second Green Revolution.

  3. 653
    dbostrom says:

    This could be a compelling case study for a course in professional ethics.

    No, professional ethics are only expected of a selected few, depending on who manages to set the tone of chatter. Openly steal money from university students while maliciously stirring their brains, no problem. Gull the staff of a firm that vends dangerous lies as their business model, expect the worse, experience the withering fire of gossip-mongers.

  4. 654
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ever notice that in the eyes of Dan H. and his ilk “activist” is a dirty word. It seems that science is fine as long as nobody ever acts or even advocates acting on it. We should all be good and watch civilization crumble.

    [Response:The Roger Pielke Jr. approach to scientific behavioral norms in other words.--Jim]

  5. 655
    Phil Mattheis says:

    Dan H:
    “Michigan is taking a more objective stance. Recently, a text book was removed from classrooms because it promoted an activist’s agenda, rather than the science.”

    Since you have followed your consistent pattern, and refused to provide citation, (which I recall do not always, in fact exist, or say what you claim), I tried to find this recent ‘textbook removal in Michigan’.

    Not much luck in figuring out what you might be referencing:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/01/18/books-a-banned-michigan-school-district-considers-waterland-beloved/
    … relates to two books, Beloved by Toni Morrisson, and Waterland by Graham Swift, which are not banned (yet), but under review in Wayne County, MI. The issue here was not science, but sexuality; since one dealt with slavery along the way, the complaining parent recommended a nonfiction book about slavery as alternative for the English literature class. Community parents “overwhelmingly opposed the ban” according to that reference.
    The rest of the google search covered old news, texting while driving… can you help us out here, Dan?

    [There was this:http://mittenlit.com/2010/09/somewhere-banned-a-book-somewhere/
    but is a Michigan book-likers site describing "book banning as an author's dream" because of all the attention - probably not it either, huh...?]

  6. 656
    Hank Roberts says:

    Daylight at Last for Study of Diesel Lung Cancer Risks
    by Sam Kean on 2 March 2012

    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/03/daylight-at-last-for-study-of.html

    “After 20 years of research and almost as many years fighting industry groups in court for control of their data, government scientists can finally publish two papers showing that underground miners exposed to diesel fumes have a threefold increased risk for contracting lung cancer. The study could have a significant impact on an upcoming review of federal and international safety regulations for exposure to diesel fumes.”

    Odd word to use — “fumes” — small particles, black carbon, aerosols?

  7. 657
    Hank Roberts says:

    P.S. to the last item:

    ScienceInsider – breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy
    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/02/journals-warned-to-keep-a-tight.html

    Journals Warned to Keep a Tight Lid on Diesel Exposure Data
    by Sam Kean on 17 February 2012

    “A protracted legal battle over an $11.5-million health study into whether diesel exhaust damages the lungs of miners has suddenly widened to take on scientific peer review. Editors with at least four research publications say they have received a letter advising them against “publication or other distribution” of data and draft documents. The warning, including a vague statement about “consequences” that could ensue if the advice is ignored, is signed by Henry Chajet, an attorney at the Patton Boggs firm in Washington, D.C., and a lobbyist for the Mining Awareness Resource Group, which works on behalf of the mining industry.”

  8. 658
    dbostrom says:

    Hank: Editors with at least four research publications say they have received a letter advising them against “publication or other distribution” of data and draft documents. The warning, including a vague statement about “consequences” …

    Where are the squeals of outrage from The Auditors about chilling effects, intimidation?

    Oh, right, Patton Boggs is defending combustion. Burning=Good.

  9. 659
    Hank Roberts says:

    I’d guess Dan H. is referencing one of the “agricultural libel” stories:

    Pending “Veggie-Libel” Laws: Legislative Update
    Two food-disparagement bills are currently pending in the Agriculture Committee of the Michigan Legislature. One proposed measure, HB 4660, is a comprehensive food-disparagement bill with, among other things, a “scientific evidence” standard.
    http://cspinet.org/foodspeak/laws/pending.htm

    Or else he’s using his old tactic of asserting something he wishes for, figuring that others will find some citation for him.

    Dang, hooked again.

  10. 660
  11. 661
    Craig Nazor says:

    Dan H,

    To be perfectly clear: there is a strong scientific consensus that anthropogenic global climate change is real and is happening now. The direct and indirect effects of the accellerating human release of CO2 into the atmosphere is driving the current observed warming of the earth. If this warming continues, on the whole it will not be beneficial to human civilization or vital planetary ecosystems. This is what science tells us. This is what should be taught in science classes at the appropriate age level (certainly by high school). Do you agree with all of that? You have very recently stated that you don’t. I believe that you and I have a significant divergence of opinion.

    There can be no such thing as “academic freedom” if teachers are prohibited from teaching a consensus opinion as what it is: a consensus opinion, or if unaccepted or discredited science is forced to be taught as legitimate proof of a significant controversy.

    What we are dealing with here in Texas is a governor who doesn’t even believe in evolution. (He has supported a state school board attempt to get “Intelligent Design” (aka Creationism) put in biology textbooks.) He also denies AGCC, and has censored, through various means, scientists employed by the state from including any mention of AGCC in their reports. Do you support that?

    With Governor Perry, whose background as a Texas A&M graduate (BS in animal science) would imply a certain basic understanding of science, it would be reasonable to assume that his currently stated political position on AGCC is a willfully ignorant point of view.

  12. 662
    MARodger says:

    Hank Roberts @659
    Should we be referring here to Dan H in the present tense?
    http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=11066#comment-229368

  13. 663
    Bernie says:

    dbostrom (#658):
    You are, of course, comparing apples and oranges. However, I for one would argue for the release of all the data, all the code and all the papers. Where is the problem?

  14. 664

    “Book removed from classrooms”–the story doesn’t quite match Dan’s description, though it’s somewhat close. (This presumes–which I don’t necessarily concede–that we can trust the story in the first place; when I followed that link, I was treated to a pop-up ad inviting me to sign up for “Glenn Beck-related items” or some such. Well, I will say that the “no thanks” button worked, at least.)

    Anyway, while the book may have been literally ‘in classrooms,’ it was not (according to the story) a textbook, nor part of the regular curriculum; it was a part of a supplemental kit sent out by a ‘science center’ in Battle Creek. And it wasn’t ‘Michigan’ taking action; it was said science center, responding to complaints of inaccuracies.

    None of which is particularly earth-shaking, but I have this old-fashioned conviction that the details matter, and are worth taking a little trouble over, even in a blog site comment.

  15. 665
    Dan H. says:

    Craig,
    We do have a difference in opinion. I do not believe that the opinions of a small group should be taught as the opinions of the whole. They may certainly be mentioned, and expressed as such, just as any other, but should not be made out to express the opinion of the whole. I get the impression that you feel that your opinion is the only one you wish to be taught. Are you not doing exactly what you claim that teachers should not do? Science is about teaching students to examine the world around us, and seek out answers. You seem to be trying to deny them this procedure, by forcing them to believe what you believe. While your beliefs may be correct, they may not. This process will allow the students to think logically, and understand the scientific method; hypothesis, experiment, results, and most importantly, revise and repeat when necessary.

  16. 666
    Phil Mattheis says:

    Dan H. (whether still here, or not)
    =====
    “The text book was titled “A Hot Planet needs Cool Kids.”

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/global-warming-book-for-seventh-graders-recalled-by-michigan-math-and-science-center/

    Comment by Dan H. — 2 Mar 2012 @ 10:24 PM
    ================

    See? that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    If Dan H. goes away, but you follow that simple rule here under some other name, we may not recognize you.

  17. 667
    Phil Mattheis says:

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/global-warming-book-for-seventh-graders-recalled-by-michigan-math-and-science-center/
    to recap: The Michigan Farm Bureau complains about a book that had been offered for use in schools, because it included: “erroneous information based on opinion rather than science” . The resource clearinghouse that had distributed the book, after review, agrees to a recall, because it includes “pieces in there that are not based on fact”.

    Can we, all of us, hold ourselves to that combination of standards (accurate information, based on science, not opinion)?
    (wherever we sit, whatever name we post)

  18. 668
    dhogaza says:

    Should we be referring here to Dan H in the present tense?
    http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=11066#comment-229368

    We shouldn’t, but unfortunately our bleeding-heart liberal moderators (just joking) appear to be a bit weak on enforcing that which they proclaim :)

  19. 669
    Susan Anderson says:

    “I do not believe that the opinions of a small group should be taught as the opinions of the whole.”

    It appears from this unfortunately typical comment that you believe expertise should be left to the population, not to the experts, and it is subject to “vote” in the American Idol sense. If our history was run this way, you would not have electricity, hot and cold running water, a car, a computer, or a variety of other mod cons. The planet isn’t subject to vote, and scientists study it as it is for clues to understanding.

    It might be worth mentioning that intelligence matters and it is not easy to do all the learning and work to master a field of knowledge; even with will and dedication, it still takes intelligence. For example, I’d love to understand weather, which I find both fascinating and beautiful, but am still struggling to get the ideas of meteorology, even at the most basic level, in my knowledge box the same way I know 2 + 2 = 4 or that the square root of minus one cannot be found. (Setting aside the areas where understanding will always be asymtotic, always approaching but never arriving at an exact answer, a favorite indefinition for fake skeptics to exploit.) These guys have done their homework. It appears your idea of homework is to find something that leads people away from facing reality.

    You and your colleagues are fond of grabbing snippets of information and inflating them into something that sounds good,

    “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

    My apologies to all: I have no doubt exhibited just now exactly why Dan grabs what I say and inflates it to support his arguments. A gift to trolls, that’s me!

  20. 670

    #666 (appropriately?)–”I do not believe that the opinions of a small group should be taught as the opinions of the whole.”

    Well, so much for ‘teaching the controversy.’ I guess it’s straight mainstream science on climate change from now on, huh?

  21. 671
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yeah, it was an opinionated book by a poet and a liberal, written for kids.
    But it wasn’t questioned on climate change.

    It was questioned as agricultural libel by the cattle industry PR folks.

    (responding in chunks as the spam filter’s unhappy with this subject)

  22. 672
    Hank Roberts says:

    ————–
    http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/Curriculum-developers-agree-to-pull-book-that-defames-agriculture-132332788.html
    ….
    … MFB first voiced concerns about the self-published book’s content in July, drawing attention to what the organization believed to be biased opinions and grossly inaccurate, non-scientific information about modern agricultural practices.

    “We’ve said from the beginning that the science curriculum which included the book was sound,” said Deb Schmucker, manager of the MFB Promotion and Education Department. “We never attempted to challenge or debate the theoretical soundness or lack of soundness of human-caused global warming. But we have consistently criticized political statements in the book that were disguised as science.”

    “When a book quotes — and teaches children as fact — opinions from anti-farming, extremist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Worldwatch Institute, the credibility of the information must be questioned. I look at that as the duty of every parent.”
    ———————

    There ya go. Those Human Society extremists have been defeated again by the beef industry.

    Dan H. managed to obscure the content of the complaint made, spin it as though it was a climate science complaint, and even when he came back with a cite, misrepresented the contents.

    Dan H. is truly doing a professional job here. Never responds personally, never gives an inch on anything that might contradict his talking point.

    Why I get dizzy just trying to follow his spin.

  23. 673
    Hank Roberts says:

    ————lose the spaces, the spamfilter won’t allow the link——–
    ht tp:// www. mlive. com/ news/ kal ama zoo/ind ex.ss f/2011/10/fa rm_bur eau.ht ml

    …. “industrial farms” and livestock production as major culprits in climate change and describes them as “out of balance” with nature.

  24. 674
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sorry that got chunked up. Look at any of the stories about this and you’ll see how Dan spun it to make it sound like there was a climate change question raised. There wasn’t. It’s a cattle farmers’ complaint — an ag libel issue.
    (That’s an ongoing story in that and other states).

  25. 675
    flxible says:

    Dan H:

    “I do not believe that the opinions of a small group should be taught as the opinions of the whole. They may certainly be mentioned, and expressed as such, just as any other, but should not be made out to express the opinion of the whole”

    So you’re insinuating that the the “consensus” view of climate is an opinion? Or that this “small group” is the contrarians, who present no actual science, and their opinion that the climate is of no concern should be put forward in a science classroom? Or that the climate scientists who support the “consensus” are a small group? That science is about opinions?? That teaching about opinions has a prominent role in science education?

    I think I’d agree that educators should teach the science, and mention -in passing- that there is a small group who have an opinion contrary to the actual science supporting the consensus view, while themselves presenting little or no actual science.

  26. 676
    dbostrom says:

    Bernie says:
    3 Mar 2012 at 7:48 AM

    Where is the problem?

    The problem is that practicing scientists have no issue with Mann’s methods or conclusions that they have not dealt with in the accepted, functional manner developed and refined over the past few centuries. Mann’s publications are quite sufficient for the purpose of advancing understanding of his topic.

    The problem is people like AG Cuccinelli, who are (assuming they’re of normal intelligence and reasonably educated, both generally true) concocting fictions unrelated to science in order to further causes, variously those of political ambitions, commercial interests or promotion of ideological dogma. Mann represents for these people an opportunity or a obstacle, to be treated as such.

    What folks tend to forget is that somebody (whether it be Mann or another) would have bumped into his findings regardless of whether they were fraught with policy implications or absolutely mundane. The physical facts of the matter are aloof from ambition, greed or mania. Unfortunately the people who encounter these facts are not.

  27. 677
    Dan H. says:

    Phil,
    Agreed.

  28. 678
    Michael Kelly says:

    I find this post simply amazing, and falling foul of the errors normally
    attributed to ‘the other side’. As one of the 16 who signed the WSJ, I can
    confirm that we all know and agree that the world is warming -it has been
    since 1700. (We question the idea that the last 30 years are out of the
    ordinary). How can I take a piece any further with question 1 as the
    starter? As so many people have commented, we must share the facts, but our
    interpretations may vary. We have used the factual details of the analysis
    of Professor Nordhaus and come to a very different conclusion to him. I am
    even more worried by the mis-investment of millions of dollars on the
    deployment (as opposed to the development) of wind farms, solar panels,
    electric cars, … They get a bad reputation, as solar thermal panels did
    in Japan in the 1970s, where they have not forgotten yet, forty years on.
    Nearly everything we would to for an orderly reduction is carbon emissions
    is being sabotaged by climate alarmism.
    Premature technology deployment is thoroughly bad engineering.
    Michael Kelly

  29. 679
    Bernie says:

    dbostrom (#677)
    I thought the issue was transparancy and publication of data on a study of the effects of diesel fumes on miners. I say make the papers and data available. Again, what is the problem?

  30. 680
    MARodger says:

    I would expect nothing less from the “Prince Philip Professor of Technology, Dept of Engineering, Cambridge Uni.” It’s all very well discussing freedom of speech, but should this one be allowed out on his own?

    Michael Kelly @679
    Are you in the right post? This is so Prince Phil of you!! You should be posting you comments where they are actually discussing your silly WSJ letter(s) which is here – http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/02/bickmore-on-the-wsj-response/

  31. 681
    dbostrom says:

    How remarkable that the WSJ would allow its voice to be dominated by people who sound like nothing so much as the garden variety chumps heard from so often on the comments threads at RC.

    Solar thermal panels failed? Remove all of them, from around the globe, then substitute with conventional generation. Good luck finding the financing for that fantasy.

    Join the 21st century.

  32. 682
    dhogaza says:

    Michael Kelly:

    As one of the 16 who signed the WSJ, I can
    confirm that we all know and agree that the world is warming -it has been
    since 1700.

    delusion reigneth

    Premature technology deployment is thoroughly bad engineering.

    So much for the modern airplane and internet, then, both of which have their roots in what today would look like “premature technology”. *All* emergent technology is “premature”, and if people like you were in charge we’d still be riding horses and buggies.

  33. 683
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Michael Kelly, posting “As one of the 16 who signed the WSJ,” I’m guessing you meant to post in the topic about that? It’s
    Bickmore on the WSJ response

  34. 684
    Steve Metzler says:

    @Michael Kelly #679:

    I have just spent the guts of two days patiently reading through this entire thread, and was about to praise dbostrom’s post at #580 for summing up the Heartland/Gleick affair most nicely.

    However, since your post happens to be the last one I found here, and since you are one of the illustrious signatories of the WSJ article… you would apparently be of the opinion that mankind’s current collective annual spewing of 30 billion metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere has no apparent effect on Earth’s radiative balance, though physics dictates otherwise. Please explain how this can be. If you can, I’d like my free lunch to go with it.

  35. 685
    Susan Anderson says:

    Michael Kelly, I looked you up because your comment was odd. An engineer at Cambridge University with a small respectable list of publications, especially nanotechnology, interesting. It appears you know your own subject, but what you don’t acknowledge is what you don’t know all subjects. That’s the problem, the world is full of inexpert “experts” who will support any line of talk.

    Here’s an interesting sidelight on the subject in question (not your specialty, but worth a listen if you want to learn something):
    http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=10309

    Seems your colleagues are pretty worried, even if you aren’t.

  36. 686
    Lotharsson says:

    …falling foul of the errors normally attributed to ‘the other side’.

    Perhaps you could explain what specific errors you believe it makes, given that your comment was exceedingly short on details pertinent to that claim.

    In my experience your co-signer Burt Rutan tends to operate along the same lines – he has no difficulty claiming that other people’s claims are wrong and that his are correct, but frequently fails to even attempt to substantiate his position, and when he does make the attempt it (almost?) always turns out to be deeply flawed. (You state that “we must share the facts” – but in many cases it appears that Burt does not even do that.) Do you think you can support your case any better?

    How can I take a piece any further with question 1 as the starter?

    You might wish to elaborate – I don’t understand what you are trying to say here, and I suspect I won’t be the only one.

  37. 687
    Craig Nazor says:

    Michael Kelly,

    The most common modern first-world energy distribution model is to create energy at a single source, and then transmit this energy to the users. One of the biggest energy losses in this system is through the transmission grid, which is also very expensive to build and maintain. Some of the technologies you have mentioned – particularly wind and solar power generation, coupled with battery technology – can be used as small units and can largely negate the need for a power grid. Not only does this reduce the potentially massive loss of energy through the grid; it is a huge economic savings for millions of people who lack power around the world. Using these renewable energy sources, even though they may not be as well developed as you would like, helps these people to have energy now in a much more efficient way than with a large single source generator coupled to an extensive, expensive, and relatively inefficient grid. This approach helps to reduce the carbon footprint of emerging economies without denying them access to the abundant energy that you have enjoyed for most of your life. I would argue that much of the current use of these new technologies is not a “mis-investment” at all.

    Might the charge that the use of these clean technologies is “premature” itself be premature?

  38. 688
    David Miller says:

    Michael Kelly says:

    (We question the idea that the last 30 years are out of t
    ordinary). </I

    So, please, show us other 30 year periods out of the last thousand that match the warming we've seen.

    You can 'question' all you want, but without evidence it's just your opinion. I, for one, would love to know that .5*C swings in a few decades is perfectly normal. Go ahead, please, I'll wait. Between your opinion and the work of the majority who study it for a living I think I'll go with the latter – until you provide some convincing evidence.

    I am
    even more worried by the mis-investment of millions of dollars on the
    deployment (as opposed to the development) of wind farms, solar panels,
    electric cars, … They get a bad reputation, as solar thermal panels did
    in Japan in the 1970s, where they have not forgotten yet, forty years on.
    Nearly everything we would to for an orderly reduction is carbon emissions
    is being sabotaged by climate alarmism.
    Premature technology deployment is thoroughly bad engineering.

    Pure Lomborg. Gee, the ‘technology isn’t ready’, guess we’ll have to keep burning fossil fuels until it is.

    How do you propose we develop it if not to develop a market and implement it? Just keep it confined to a research lab until it’s ‘ready’ ?

    Didn’t the renewables market grow like 40% last year? Hmm, what’ll it be like when it’s ‘ready’ ?

    reCaptcha: entstyn I am

  39. 689
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael Kelly: “We question the idea that the last 30 years are out of the ordinary”

    Fine. Where is your evidence. I certainly see nothing remotely resembling the current period of warming in the instrumental period. I see nothing like it in the paleoclimate reconstructions, nor in speleothermal studies, nor borehole studies nor anything else.

    And even if you could find something like the current warming in the record, that doesn’t change the fact that on a planet currently bristling with instrumentation, the energy has to be coming from somewhere. It ain’t the sun. It ain’t the sea. It ain’t the ground. I’m guessing that leaves the air, right?

    Now as to your worries about “mis-investment”, do you deny that we are rapidly depleting fossil fuel reserves and need a new energy infrastructure independent of the exigencies of climate change? And are you not at least aware that argument from consequences is a logical fallacy? The truth is the truth, regardless of its consequences.

  40. 690
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dan H.: “I do not believe that the opinions of a small group should be taught as the opinions of the whole.”

    And what small group would that be, Dan? Certainly not the 97% of climate scientists that agree with the consensus position that Craig articulated? Or the majority of scientists in relevant, related disciplines who, through their member societies, endorse this consensus? Or the National Academies, which have consistently and explicitly endorsed the consensus.

    Are you seriously contending that what is taught is science class should be decided by public referendum? Are you next planning to proclaim that the majority is the minority and vice versa as the “Bolsheviks” did?

  41. 691
    dbostrom says:

    To be more kind to Michael Kelly w/regard to the “let’s look at it a bit longer” fallacy, he is from “R&D” as in “Research and Development” with its chronic problem of the perfect being the enemy of the good enough. Batteries for automobiles are indeed not yet fully cooked enough, but other things he mentions are quite adequate and are widely deployed.

    Choosing solar water panels was a particularly unfortunate mistake as they’ve been in use for decades, with other choices being distinctly weird as substitutes in many locales. Israel for instance has over 80% penetration of domestic solar hot water. There are no fundamental barriers to it working in Britain, either.

    It’s to easy to lose track of “R&D” as in “Ready and Deployed.”

    Unfortunately when he dips his toes in the climate stuff he’s straight off into boring old la-la land; we’ve seen it all before. Always best to get educated a little bit before shooting one’s mouth off. Kelly would do well to bone up on his Spencer Weart before touching on the climate topic again. No use needlessly playing the fool and only a few hours are needed to avoid so doing.

  42. 692

    #691–Well-asked. Denialism is a through-the-looking-glass affair: an inquiry into CO2 becomes evidence of social engineering on the largest scale; a CV item which ought to be a crown jewel becomes pretext for a witch hunt; teaching falsehoods to undergrad arts majors becomes a noble challenge to complacency.

    Down is up, and black is white.

  43. 693
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    I really and truly laughed at Kelly’s “solar thermal” faux pas. When I was young I had a friend who lived in Altadena Glen in the LA area. He lived in a house which was about a century old and had a century old solar hot water system. When I was up there visiting I would take showers with solar heated hot water unless it was cold and rainy. In Southern California many, many people successfully heat their pools, if nothing else, with solar thermal panels.

    And while solar PV may have not reached it’s ultimate efficiency it is certainly good enough to deploy.

  44. 694
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Michael Kelly
    > Japan … solar thermal … bad reputation …

    What? Citation needed.
    What’s the basis for your claim, please?

    Not this? http://www.nef.or.jp/what/whats02.html
    http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/energytrends/currentusage/renewable/solar/japan/solarthermal/solar%20thermal%20pic.gif

  45. 695
    David B. Benson says:

    dbostrom @580 — Well done.

  46. 696
    dhogaza says:

    How do you propose we develop it if not to develop a market and implement it? Just keep it confined to a research lab until it’s ‘ready’ ?

    Thus my comment about aviation and the internet.

    Aviation, in particular, developed in a “premature technology” environment, with safety records far, far below what would be acceptable today.

    Kelley seems to think this was a mistake.

    I’m flying to San Francisco on Monday. The hell with Kelley …

    It also appears that he’s a drive-by, no surprise.

  47. 697
    JimLarsen says:

    679 Michael Kelly said, “Premature technology deployment is thoroughly bad engineering.”

    I agree. Some people are concentrating on getting as much deployed as soon as possible, but that risks ending up with obsolete and overpriced systems, just at the time when we really know how to do the job. Amory Lovins has long advocated the negawatt. A case can be made for reducing emissions through efficiency while increasing our renewables R&D investment. Such a plan could resonate with both AGW believers and skeptics.

    Your WSJ article was obviously written with a lot of emotion. Words like “embarrassment” and “Lysenko” pepper the piece. I can understand that from a single author, but I’m amazed that 16 people felt so strongly as to write such a piece so publicly in a professional setting. It takes a lot to get 16 people to agree on the wording of such a document, and it especially takes them time and reflection. You guys believe what you say and you’ve obviously spent time educating yourselves about the subject, though I’m suspicious of the sources you use for your education. Since you commented here, I’ll assume you read RealClimate, so I’d like to hear your comments on:

    The Foster and Rahmstorf analysis which shows a glaringly obvious CO2-forced(?) trend once natural forcings were removed. Is the trend real, what is causing it, and will it continue?

    RealClimate says of the WMO, “They find…that La Niña conditions have made 2011 a relatively cool year – relatively, because they predict it will still rank amongst the 10 hottest years on record. They further predict it will be the warmest La Niña year on record”

    Thanks in advance.

  48. 698
    Craig Nazor says:

    Dan H, commenting at, of all possible numbers, 666:

    I was talking about a scientific consensus, which you deny. But rather than own up to that, you have just substituted “consensus “ with “opinion,” and illogically plowed right ahead. I did not say that I wanted my “opinion” taught in science classes. I want the scientific consensus (which you deny) taught in science classes. By substituting the word “opinion” for “consensus,” you completely misrepresent what I said, and that’s being charitable. So your “impression” of what I want to be taught in science classes is totally false. I am not doing what “I claim that teachers should not do.” I am not denying or forcing anything. Understanding the scientific method INCLUDES an understanding of how a scientific consensus is reached. And that includes understanding that an opinion is different from a consensus, a concept you appear not to have mastered.

    Saying that we disagree is perfectly fine. But substituting words I have said with words that I have not said is just a cheap rhetorical trick, which no one here is buying. It leads one to wonder whom you are trying to impress.

  49. 699
    Michael Kelly says:

    I repeat my amazement – people putting words on my mouth that I have not uttered and don’t hold to be true. I do not like the CO2 going into the atmosphere unnecessarily, but a panic reaction does no one any favours. All the ad-hominem attacks instead of issue debating.

    Non-technologists pronouncing on technology having castigated me for studying the climate science steadily for five years before opening my mouth.

    My climate science friends, and I do have some, recommended this blog for dispassionate debate on the issues. Where is the dispassionate debate of the issues these days, or is than an impossible dream?
    Michael Kelly

    [Response: This blog is mostly focused on the science issues that underlie the policy responses you appear to be concerned about, but although policy issues obviously arise in the comments, they are not usually part of our main posts. I am a little confused as to why you think that anyone here (principals or commenters) is advocating panic as a policy response though. Perhaps if you could be a little more specific about what you consider to be problematic, a more constructive discussion could ensue. I might point out that attribution of climate change over the last 30 or so years is not dependent on the unusual nature of the trends, and that policy choices are driven by potential future changes not from what has already happened. - gavin]

  50. 700
    Susan Anderson says:

    It might be time to lighten up on Dr. Kelly and/or move on. I think you’ve made your points, all of them valid. Though one would have to ask why he chose to drop in and make such a poorly written comment. The English is so bad one might even ask if he actually wrote it himself. It looks like a paste job.


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