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Free speech and academic freedom

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 February 2012

Update: Some related concerns from, 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. 101
    CM says:

    I think saying Norwegian terrorist Breivik “disrespected climate science” is a bit weak. He cast it as Marxist propaganda aimed at creating a UN-led world government. Loons aplenty think the same. Climate change denial was not Breivik’s big cause, Islamophobia was. But the associated conspiracy theories have some things in common, and the milieus that cultivate them overlap.

  2. 102
    Andy Stahl says:

    The Canadian discussion well illustrates the differences between even adjacent countries when it comes to “free speech” philosophy. In Canada, the government (its legislature, courts and administrative branches) are actively involved in regulating speech by private parties. For example, as #95 points out, the government Labor Relations Board has jurisdiction to hear disputes between private parties (e.g., a private employer and its private employee) regarding whether an employee’s speech constitutes grounds for dismissal. The U.S. has no comparable statutory regulation of speech (the closest the U.S. comes are restrictions on employers interfering with employee unionizing-related speech). The U.S. does have common law restrictions on speech, e.g., defamation and libel, which are actionable in court as torts and are restricted in their scope by the Constitution.

    Canadian government also regulates the content of speech by, for example, banning speech that denies the Nazi Holocaust, e.g., a noxious movie review of Schindler’s list led to litigation under the “hate speech” laws that put the magazine out of business.

    In the U.S., the Constitution restricts government’s ability to regulate speech by rule or statute. These limits on the power of government to regulate speech find no parallel in Canadian law. This reflects a fundamental difference between the U.S.’s streak of rugged independence (and distrust of government — remember the original Tea Party?) as contrasted to Canada’s more communitarian views. That’s not to say one approach is right and the other wrong. But to ignore these differences, between two nations that most observers regard as congruent in many respects, is naive.

    Free speech is also often misunderstood within the U.S. For example, many public employees believe they enjoy Constitutional protection for their on-the-job speech. Not so. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the Constitution affords zero protection for speech made as a public employee. What you say on-the-job can be regulated by your government agency employer. Only speech made as a “private citizen” is protected from government regulation by the Constitution.

  3. 103
    Russell says:

    In memoriam Steve Schneider, one has a duty to exhort Canadian’s unversed in the US First Amendment’s more robust aspects to show a little backbone if, as does happen, some fail to keep their sticks on the ice.

    It’s not, after all, as though they were reading other people’s mail, which is a matter not for civil libertarians, but the postal authorities.

  4. 104

    Dan H.

    Just for fun, and this is not a scientific point as I know of no paper to support it, but i took this recent shot of the Piz Kesch Glacier for a glacier pair:

    If ‘some’ glaciers are slowing down their shrinkage, it might just be because they don’t have that much mass left to give.

  5. 105
    Ian says:

    I am very surprised that a comment I left at around 3.40pm was moderated off. I thought Realclimate had stopped removing posts that were not fully supportive. More surprisingly in the post I suggested that moderate language on both sides of the argument would be beneficial which was essentially what Gavin said at 3.23pm. [edit – this isn’t just another place to insult people]

  6. 106
    Gyro says:

    Great article, Rasmus. You should send it to that Norwegian magazine Teknisk Ukeblad or to one of your national newspapers. Go for it!

  7. 107
    KeithWoollard says:

    OK, maybe it isn’t a death threat, but telling someone to commit suicide is pretty damn close. This is what our Prime Minister said about climate sceptics
    I’m prepared to keep an open mind and propose another stunt for climate sceptics – put your strong views to the test by exposing yourselves to high concentrations of either carbon dioxide or some other colourless, odourless gas – say, carbon monoxide.

    You wouldn’t see or smell anything. Nor would your anti-science nonsense be heard of again. How very refreshing.

    [Response: As indicated above, we could trade similar idiocies said by other people all day. If the goal is to validate your position by assuming a mantle of victimhood, fine, that works for everyone. But if the goal is to move forward in a grown up way, the endless airing of grievances is pointless. – gavin]

  8. 108
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE talk of suing the CC denialists once the damage is done.

    The problem is the great time factor involved in the unfolding CC harms over 100s & 1000s of years or more.

    You can’t sue dead people. I guess one could spit on their graves, but that might be spitting in the ocean….if it’s in a sealevel rise area.

  9. 109
    KeithWoollard says:

    Gavin’s response to my #107
    David Miller @#44 wanted one example. I gave him one

  10. 110
    Doug Cotton says:

    So I trust I can post this as my right to “free speech” ?


    [Response: Just so we are clear, you do not have an absolute right to post the same nonsense over and again on this blog. You do have a right to start your own blog, carry a sign in the street, write letters to the editor, print pamphlets with your ideas, run town halls, buy ads for political candidates that agree with you etc. etc., but this is a moderated blog with a clear comment policy, and one whose participants have no interest in your pet ‘theory’. There may be other hosts that are more indulgent, and I suggest you comment there. – gavin]

  11. 111
    Radge Havers says:

    Hard to skirt the politics on some points, but this is a big issue. Rasmus telling it like it is:

    “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.”

    And he’s not alone in that sentiment. It goes across the spectrum. “I refuse to believe that I am the only Republican who feels this way,” says conservative David Frum:

    “Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics…
    “…The conservative shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology has ominous real-world consequences for American society.”

    And Paul Krugman, touching on the climate change “hoax”: For example

    last year Mr. Santorum made a point of defending the medieval Crusades against the “American left who hates Christendom.” Historical issues aside (hey, what are a few massacres of infidels and Jews among friends?), what was this doing in a 21st-century campaign?

    Nor is this only about sex and religion: he has also declared that climate change is a hoax, part of a “beautifully concocted scheme” on the part of “the left” to provide “an excuse for more government control of your life.” You may say that such conspiracy-theorizing is hardly unique to Mr. Santorum, but that’s the point: tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, [PREEMTIVE EDIT] fashion accessory.

  12. 112
    S. Molnar says:

    Is there any value in allowing the cranks (I almost said “loonies”, but that might suggest an anti-Canadian bias, while Hungarians, unfortunately, seem to be leading the field) to continue posting on RC? Many of us have pretty much stopped reading the comments because of the low signal to noise ratio. I don’t object to the large number of posts with no scientific content: responding to the attacks is necessary. But why invite the attackers into your living room? To mock them? To show how foolish they are? Anyone who doesn’t already see that is unlikely to be enlightened.

  13. 113
    Chris Crawford says:

    I think I can offer some simple physics to clear up this confusion about the response time of the earth to changes in its thermal equilibrium. The heat capacity of the oceans is about 10^23 Joules per degree Fahrenheit. In other words, it takes 10^23 Joules to heat the oceans by 1 degree Fahrenheit. The amount of sunlight hitting the earth is about 2 x 10^17 watts. Suppose, then, that the sun simply vanished in the blink of an eye. Because the earth is in thermal equilibrium, the outgoing heat is equal to the incoming heat, so the earth would still be losing 2 x 10^17 watts of heat. At that rate (not taking into account changes in radiative heat transfer due to declining temperature), it would take about 5 months for the oceans to freeze.

    Now let’s put those numbers into a context more appropriate to our situation. Let’s suppose that the greenhouse effect were increased by additional CO2 to the degree that outgoing thermal radiation were diminished by enough to, ultimately, increase surface temperatures by 2ºF. Let’s suppose that this change in the atmosphere happened instantaneously. How long would it take for the earth to warm up in response? The strict answer is “Forever” because the earth would asymptotically approach the terminal temperature. But we can get really gross and assume a linear trend, producing a too-quick answer that still gives an idea of just how slow this process is.

    The linear calculation yields an answer of about 30 years. Remember, that’s quicker than the truth. What this means is that, if climate change were ultimately going to produce a change in temperature of only 2ºF, it would take more than 30 years for that change to manifest itself.

    The point of this is that the oceans have so much heat capacity that they tend to retard changes in temperature. They act like shock absorbers for temperature.

    Suppose that you were a creature that lived at a frenetic pace a thousand times faster than humans. For you, the passage of one second would seem like a thousand seconds. You’re driving a car down the road, and you see a nasty bump ahead. The car hits the bump, but the shock absorbers absorb some of the impact. After 10 seconds of your accelerated time (10 milliseconds of human time), you still haven’t felt much of a bump. So, are you justified in concluding that the bump really wasn’t so big after all? Of course not! It’s going to take a lot longer for the size of that bump to show up because the shock absorbers are soaking it up for the first few hundred milliseconds. After a few hundred milliseconds, you’ll feel it at full strength.

    That’s exactly what’s happening with climate change. We’re warming up the earth, but the oceans are acting like huge shock absorbers, and the nitwits are all grinning broadly and saying, “I don’t feel no bump!” By the time we actually feel how big this bump is, it will be far too late.

  14. 114
    Chris Crawford says:

    Jeffrey in @114:

    “Let us question why the editor of a journal resigns and a manuscript is taking out of print when it has been through a fair review process (even despite its clear limitations- many many published papers have strong limitations).”

    The paper was not merely possessed of limitations: it was flat plain wrong. The editors resigned because they permitted an egregiously flawed paper to slip past them. The peer review process only works properly when the editors do their jobs properly. They screwed up and did the honorable thing and resigned.

  15. 115

    Dear Rasmus,

    Thank you for writing about this somewhat delicate topic. I agree that much of the behavior of the for-hire deniers gives one pause and brings to mind the creeping fascism of the 1930s.

    The mere fact that people like James Taylor on Forbes and Patrick Michaels everywhere feel that it is perfectly fine to use patent untruths to mislead and misguide in public spaces like the major network TV channels and leading publications means that a certain line was already crossed years ago when they were permitted to do it again. And again. And again. Why were they not shamed and stopped? I am perplexed.

    Such an atmosphere leads to more unseemly conduct by radical deniers. Apparently, it is perfectly ok to threaten climate scientists. An outsider looking in at this situation would surely get that impression due to the lack of any successful response to stop such immoral behaviors.

    We can always blame the media, but scientists have to put up a fight, too, or this situation will only worsen.

  16. 116
    Balazs says:

    91 (SecularAnimist):

    Balazs wrote: “I would dispute the necessity to decarbonize our economy, but it is clear that move will be difficult … The life style choices are not whether some drives a Toyota Prius or an SUV, but if you live in heated room and take shower every day or you live in a slum without electricity.”

    Absolute rubbish.

    People post utter nonsense like that, and have the nerve to accuse climate scientists who make careful, cautious, conservative understatements about the seriousness of AGW of being “alarmists”.

    I am sorry, I meant to say, I don’t dispute the necessity to decarbonize economy.

    The rest is not rubbish but reality. 1.7 billion people has no access to electricity. One third of the human population lives under a couple of dollar income per day. The inequity between the bottom third (living under $1000/yr) and the top third in the developed word (earning 5-6 digit income) is just as large (two orders of magnitude) as the income difference between the middle class in the developed word and the wealthiest one percent (above 7-8 digit income).

    The recent accelerated carbon emission has nothing to do with big oil’s tobacco style conspiracy, but the developing world coming out from poverty. To do so, they will need cheap energy that is fossil at the moment. People at the bottom third live in conditions that is not any better than Europe was in the middle ages. Even if they double or quadruple their energy use they will still be well bellow the global average. The per capita energy use in the US is 10000W (8000W in the EU) and 200W in Bangladesh, while the global average is 2200W. I can see the possibility to live civilized life at 5000-6000W, but I have hard time to see it at 2200W level (which is Chile and Lebanon). I pointed out on the blog before that a round trip New York – Los Angeles flight to go to AGU (that takes about 300kg kerosine) is the equivalent of 400W energy use for a whole year (that is the energy use of two people in Bangladesh). I did not make the exact calculation, but the 400 gallon heating oil that my family burns in a year is probably about 2000W. That would be energy use allowance for one person in my family of four at the current global average.

  17. 117
    Oakwood says:

    If you believe in free speech in climate science, you could start by not systematically deleting uncomfortable comments on your own comments section.

    To compare AGW scepticism with death threatens and Soviet totalitarianism is pure propaganda. The same approach as labeling AGW sceptics as “deniers” with the intention of aligning them with holocaust deniers. Many many high profile and famous people routinely receive some form of death threat, especially in the age of mass and anonymous Internet communication, so using this one does not hold water.

    AGW sceptics are routinely vilified and ridiculed simply because they support genuine scientific debate. For climate science to progress and regain credibility, the approach of AGW supporters – as represented in this website – needs to grow up. Climate science is currently suffering from th ‘cry wolf’ effect of too much alarmism. You only have yourselves to blame.

    The propaganda of this posting is preaching to the converted, and holds no,credibility for anyone else.

  18. 118
    one step beyond says:

    Re your response to my post 86
    “[Response: How is the Greenpeace office in India ‘close to home’? Let’s be extremely clear here, threatening people has no place in scientific discussions. But mainstream climate science is not the world’s policeman, nor is it responsible for what any individual says. Those individuals are responsible for their own words, and in that case, the apology from Greenpeace was sincere, and the original statement ill-advised. – gavin]”
    To start it would help if you did not change my words, I said ’closer to home’, not ‘close to home’, they have different meanings. Since you asked me to explain I suggest a high ranking official in a prominent environmental group in India is closer to home than anonymous idiots who make threats to the head of the IPCC, who by chance also is based in India.
    The statement closer to home should also be read in conjunction with my earlier post 78
    It is an interesting perspective from someone who in no way can be described as sceptic, it is worth reading to give balance, I include part of it here
    “Joe Romm, the physicist-cum-government-advisor-cum-polemicist, posted a blog entry highly critical of the Arctic ice article I wrote last week.Headlined “Dreadful climate story by BBC’s Richard Black”, it takes me to task, essentially, for not mentioning human-induced climate change explicitly. At least, that is the surface complaint; what my omission hides, he hints heavily, is an agenda aimed at downplaying the impacts of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions. He then gives my email address and invites his readers to send in complaints. Many have, perhaps swayed by judgemental terms in his post such as “spin”, “inexcusable”, and “mis-reporting”, with several citing his interpretation as gospel truth.”
    I am against the attacks on people from both sides of the debate, but it really does not help to suggest it is only on one side

  19. 119
    Paul D says:

    The comment by Antonio Lorusso@3 stuck out (probably because it is in the first few). I recently read a comment at Scientific American that made the same old tired (usually American) point that climate scientists are funded by governments and that is a cause for concern. The author suggested wealthy ‘green’ people should fund the recently cancelled NOAA research.

    The point of course about this logic is that such patronage would be even more unacceptable by the ‘skeptics’ if it were to be used to effect public/national/international policy. The author I presume would still be critical of the research or would rather remain ignorant.

    Indeed, one of the most powerful political tools is to maintain ignorance and is used mainly by politicians, sales people and those with vested interests. To not research something, implies fear of what the knowledge may produce.

  20. 120
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jeffrey: “This type of message control minimizes diversity of opinion and treats alternative theories as an attack instead of a debate.”

    What other theories? There are none. The denialists have failed utterly to articulate any sort of theory that explains the overwhelming majority of Earth’s climate history and avoids anthropogenic warming when we burn fossil fuels.

    This point cannot be emphasized enough. Anthropogenic climate change IS NOT a theory. It is an inevitable consequence of the consensus theory of Earth’s climate. It is the consensus theory because it works. “Anything but CO2” does not rise to the level of theory. At best it is contrarianism and at worst delusion and denial.

  21. 121
    Dan H. says:

    I will address your points in order, without mentioning any trees.
    1. The particular length of time is irrelevant. Long term (130+ years), temperatures are rising at ~ 0.6C/century. During that timeframe, several periods of higher and lower rises have occurred. We went through a two-decade period of higher rise during the 1980s and 90s, peaking during the EL Nino year of 1998, reaching almost 0.5C above the trend line. Since then, temperatures have trended towards the long term trend line, and are currently bellow the trend.
    2. La Nina has been cited as a possible cause for the recent deceleration in SLR. As with temperatures, SLR has increased and decreased during the past century plus, but has not deviated significantly from the overall rise of the past 80 years.
    3. I do not see any disagreement here.
    4. Questionable. Much of the movement has been related to the frost/freeze zone during the past few decades. Of course, mankind has moved plants much further than would occur naturally.
    5. Your second point goes more towards my earlier statement. The recent glacier melting was a removal of the added ice accumulated from years of growth. There simply is not as much left to melt.
    6. Again, this is an issue of measurement vs. uncertainty, with uncertainty having the upper hand here. While this may be the case, we cannot accurately make that determination.
    8. All the above are valid points. The only thing acceleration currently is political spin.

  22. 122
    MMM says:

    Woollard: “This is what our Prime Minister said about climate sceptics”

    I agree that the quote should not have been said. However, a google search suggests that it was not said by your prime minister, but rather by an Aussie journalist (Jill Singer).

    (also, as a note: generic statements of death, while highly inappropriate, are less so than direct threats against specific individuals)

    (another minor note: Hayhoe’s first name is Katharine, with an a, and Inhofe doesn’t have an r in his name)

  23. 123
    caerbannog says:

    Annabelle says:
    12 Feb 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Sorry, but trying to paint climate scientists as persecuted victims won’t wash. There are crazies on all sides who make death threats….

    If skeptics/deniers were receiving the sort of threats that climate-scientists have been receiving, then Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc. etc. would have told us, and told us, and told us, and told us …. all about those threats. And then they would have told us again.

    Look at all the attention that Fox-News and Hate-Radio(tm) gave to Dr. Ben Santer’s little quip (in a private email) about being tempted to “beat the crap” out of Pat Michaels…. If skeptics were getting anywhere near the same treatment that legitimate scientists have been getting, you wouldn’t be able to turn on Fox News or Hate Radio(tm) without hearing all about it.

  24. 124
    caerbannog says:

    Regarding denialists’ conduct, here’s another data-point:

    Dan Farber
    February 13, 2012 6:17 pm
    We have had to supply police protection for speeches by climate scientists. It’s a sad reflection on the state of affairs when scientists risk harm because of their views


    BTW, Dan Farber isn’t just your run-of-the-mill “nobody” on-line commenter — he’s a professor at UC Berkeley.

  25. 125
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jason wrote (#76): “this is not a science debate, this is a values debate”

    No, actually the entire point of the denialist propaganda campaign is to AVOID a values debate.

    Once we acknowledge the facts — the reality of anthropogenic global warming and the grave danger it presents to human civilization and to the Earth’s biosphere as we know it — then, of course, our values drive the choices we make about how to respond to those facts.

    And given that different people value different things, different people will prefer different choices, as they wish to realize different values. And then it is entirely legitimate, indeed necessary and inescapable, to have a real “values debate” where everyone honestly acknowledges both the facts and their particular values, and argues for the choices that they believe will realize those values.

    The problem for the fossil fuel corporations is that their role in that honest values debate would be to say “We value the trillions of dollars in profit that we expect to rake in from a few more decades of business-as-usual consumption of our products, and we couldn’t care less whether hundreds of millions of people suffer and die, and species go extinct, and entire ecosystems collapse as a result of global warming, because by then we’ll be rich and powerful enough to ride it out. Or at least we are willing to take that chance. So we advocate not only continuing, but increasing, the combustion of fossil fuels.”

    It is exactly to avoid making that honest, values-based, LOSING argument that the generation-long campaign of deceit, obstruction and denial of the science has been so successfully waged.

  26. 126
    Hank Roberts says:

    Life without lights

    “The faces of some of the 1.4 billion people
    who live without electricity,
    illuminated with flashlights.”

  27. 127
    dbostrom says:

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Feb 2012 @ 11:15 AM

    Great insight, thank you.

  28. 128
    Hank Roberts says:
    Earth and Planetary Science Letters
    Volumes 321–322, 1 March 2012, Pages 74–80
    Continuously accelerating ice loss over Amundsen Sea catchment, West Antarctica, revealed by integrating altimetry and GRACE data

  29. 129
    Richard D says:

    Thought and interesting post, thank you,
    For what it’s worth there are some videos with Stephen Schneider in which he talks about receiving threats himself as well as members of his family (in part 4)

  30. 130
    Richard D says:

    Thoughtful and interesting post thank you.
    For what it’s worth there are some videos with Stephen Schneider talking aout receiving threats himself as well as his family
    (in part 4):

  31. 131
    Richard D says:

    Thoughtful and interesting post thank you,
    For what it’s worth there are some videos with Stephen Schneider talking about receiving threats himself as well as his family (in part 4)

  32. 132

    #121 Dan H.

    Sorry Dan, still too many trees in your way, Either that or your just not looking deep enough.

    1. Length of time is relevant. Just because ‘you’ don’t understand the attribution regarding increased RF is doesn’t change the reality that is 90+% understood in the scientific community.

    2. The understanding in natural variation is always improving but tie that to precipitation values as measured and increased RF, and other factors, and suddenly the ‘trend’ picture to short term change becomes more clear, and can be placed in context of noise vs. signal (natural/human influence)

    Are you saying there are other possible causes for the SLR drop? Please cite.


    4. Not so questionable when you consider the latitudinal and altitudinal increase trend in the Hadley cell

    All you have to do to reason this out is recognize the increase in RF and the extreme likelihood that the RF will not be decreasing soon as there is currently no mechanism to reduce it on scale.

    5. Re. glacial ice mass? As I pointed out in #104 “If ‘some’ glaciers” the point is the chart tracking overall glacial ice loss hardly give any strong indicator of a decadal slowdown en masse.

    6. You questioning by singling out uncertainty without considering other relevant facts and likely other relevant papers. Fossil fuel burn is quantified. estimates put 50% of that CO2 going into the ocean. PH balance is changing. consider the null hypothesis at current understanding. Then, can you prove that the PH balance change on trend is not due to CO2 or that it is not trending with expectations due to CO2? Have fun with that.

    As to valid points:

    No, your points are not really valid, because they are relying on not only facts out of context with the bigger picture, your points also rely on reasoning out of context with those facts you are not including. Just pulling a Curry, does not make your point valid.

    It’s not a bout a single paper or a few papers. It’s about the body of evidence weighed together.

    Understanding climate change actually requires thinking and reasoning as well as evidence and physics in the bigger picture of the body of evidence. Reliance on ‘uncertainty, when using facts out of context of their apparent confluence realities is not being reasonable, in fact quite the opposite.

  33. 133
    dhogaza says:


    This type of message control minimizes diversity of opinion and treats alternative theories as an attack instead of a debate.

    Revkin made a simple factual error because he misunderstood what had been said.

    Pointing out his error – which he agrees was an error, and which he promptly corrected – is “message control” , “minimized diversity of opinion”, and “treats alternative theories as an attack rather than debate”?

    This notion that errors shouldn’t be corrected but rather treated as “diversity of opinion” etc leaves me breathless …

  34. 134


    SA is so right. One of the enduring constants of the human condition is “cognitive dissonance”–the psychological discomfort resulting from holding incompatible constructs in mind simultaneously.

    Currently we have the potential dissonance:

    1) I’m a good person;
    2) I like my comforts.

    Not too bad, on the face of it, but when we add:

    3) My comforts depend upon the burning of fossil fuels; and
    4) Burning fossil fuels is increasingly dangerous and–since it is in effect predominantly at the expense of poorer and younger people than myself–selfish;

    then 1) & 2) start to clash.

    Proposition #3 is pretty hard to argue with, so #4 is the one that tends to give. (Of course, reality doesn’t give a damn what is convenient for us, either psychologically or practically.)

    All of which is basically to restate what SA said in other terms: denialism is about refusing to face values (and consequences) squarely. As such it’s a tempting, but morally and practically dangerous, choice.

  35. 135
    Dan H. says:

    I find it rather convenient that every short-term drop you attribute to natural variation, but every short-term rise is somehow manmade. Do you think that nature is incapable of heating this planet? Natural variation is just that, forces which will result in warming for periods, and forces that will result in cooling over others. Maybe if you understood the climate as well as the rest of us, you would understand this and not be so smug in your comments. By all measures, natural has helped to warm the planet during the two prolonged warming periods during the 20th century, and acted to cool the warming trend during those preceding and following (yes – one is occurring now, whether you coose to believe that or not is immaterial). Remember, we are talking about the big picture here, not just short-term variations. This requires looking at all the evidence, not just that with which you agree. Be careful, lest you mimic the group you call “deniers,” which only use reports which satisfy their own beliefs.

  36. 136

    1) I’m a profitable corporation or individual corporate owner.
    2) I like my wealth.

    Since corporations have no ‘souls’, an identical result follows.

  37. 137
    flxible says:

    Meanwhile, Canada’s Conservative govt appears to be shutting down climate data collection, so they don’t have to listen to the bad news resulting from their policies promoting BAU. This in addition to their whining about “foreign funded radical groups” [environmental organizations] interfering with proposed pipelines for petro exports – although they don’t seem to have objections to foreign funded petro companies trying to buy off First Nations groups. Free speech tangles with govt support of Big Petro. :(

  38. 138

    39-Lawrence Coleman says basically “Public misunderstanding on this subject” is easily manipulated when Climate Science are not explained in black and white terms.

    “I’m afraid it is very much up to you to unequivocally nail your flag on the post and state that Yes modern climate change IS manmade. Climate IS changing at an accelerating pace. Sea level rise IS locked in now for centuries to come and we all have to help to try to reduce it’s future impacts by acting now as a unified people, in a unified voice.
    No more technowaffle by scientists! The head climate scientists of the world should be allowed to directly address their respective nations on as many media outlets as possible.”

    I must concur more definitive forthright statements should be made immediately by the “world at large” if necessary a power point to the masses whatever it takes — the time to get done is NOW!


  39. 139
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dan H. wrote: “Remember, we are talking about the big picture here, not just short-term variations”

    Your use of the word “we” is as dishonest as the content of your comments.

    What YOU are “talking about here” is denialist bunk. Distortions, misrepresentations, irrelevancies, and outright falsehoods.

    Everyone knows it. And you know it.

    And these juvenile rhetorical gambits that were old when USENET was new — like repeatedly asserting that other commenters who have rebuked falsehoods in your comments are “in agreement” with you — are fooling no one.

  40. 140
    Chris Crawford says:

    Dan H @133 attempts to dismiss climate change as nothing more than natural variations in global temperature. He also claims that temperatures are currently declining. He also refers in first person to those who understand climate change.

    These three statements are incompatible. You don’t even have to understand climatology to be able to conclude from the temperature graph over the last century to know that temperatures are rising. And if you DO understand climatology, you’ll understand WHY temperatures are rising. Dan H, you fit into neither group.

  41. 141
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Yes, scientists should get two votes! /sarc”

    CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs IR, and reemits it isotropically, warming the surface – one vote.
    Increased surface temperature increases water vapor in the atmosphere; it absorbs IR, and reemits it isotropically, further warming the surface – another vote.
    Surface warming melts winter snow earlier, and glaciers[1], and decreases summer sea ice at the poles, decreasing albedo which further warms the surface – several more votes.
    Scientists don’t get votes – they only get to tabulate nature’s votes, and try to discern which votes are larger than others.

    A policy vote that “global warming is a hoax” is comparable to a vote that “pi = three”, or commanding the sea not to rise. We don’t make our own reality, despite denialist claims to the contrary.

    [1] Where is the evidence that glacial “loss has slowed in the recent decade?” The Nature article Recent contributions of glaciers and ice caps to sea level rise Jacob et al, – which used GRACE satellite data, instead of extrapolating sparse ground measurements, found that “The GIC rate for 2003–2010 is about 30 per cent smaller than the previous mass balance estimate that most closely matches our study period”. This doesn’t mean that the rates have fallen by 30%, but that different methods differ by thirty percent; the WGMS graph vertical axis should be scaled by ~ 0.7, but it still won’t show slowing loss.

  42. 142

    #133 Dan H.

    Facts out of context seem to be your modus operendi.

    First, I never said what you infer I said.

    What I’m saying is that short term natural variation (warmer /cooler) is largely driven by related ocean cycles and feedbacks. Current long-term warming is driven by the increase in radiative forcing. And no I’m not disregarding the long-term Milankovitch cycles.

    You seem simply unable to parse these issues which is why your analysis is inherently flawed. Now wonder you don’t post your full name.

    You continue to cherry pick your warming and cooling periods and overestimate your cause factors out of context. And you are not looking at the big picture you are focusing on your cherry picked little pictures.

    What you are inferring incorrectly is that short-term natural variation will override the long-term warming due to the increase in radiative forcing. Unfortunately you have no scientific case for that due to our current circumstance.

    I have never inferred, stated or otherwise claimed that short-term natural variation can push global temperatures up or down. That is a spin you seem to wish others to believe.

    As to whom is being smug, pot meet kettle.

    One question for you. Can you say right now, based on all the science in context that Earth in the year 2050 or 2100 will be cooler than current temperature and please cite your source.

  43. 143
    Holly Stick says:

    #135 flxible, Yes, Canada’s dreadful current government is anti-science, anti-statistics and anti-reality. It is sinking further into the tar sands with every step and every obnoxious remark.

    The Conservatives are alienating many people with their blustering arrogance, including most of BC, and hopefully we can turf them in the next election. Meanwhile they can cause much damage.

    Another article about the cuts to Environment Canada monitoring:

  44. 144


    “I have never inferred, stated or otherwise claimed that short-term natural variation can push global temperatures up or down. That is a spin you seem to wish others to believe.”

    should be:

    I have never inferred, stated or otherwise claimed that short-term natural variation can not push global temperatures up or down. That is a spin you seem to wish others to believe.

    In other words, of course short-term natural variation can push global temperatures up and down. That is a separate issue form the long-term temperature rise based on the increase in radiative forcing.

  45. 145
    Dan H. says:

    Where did you get the idea about climate change being just natural variability? You may also want to check a temperature graph. You seem to be missing something.

  46. 146
    Dan H. says:

    You seem to be doing exactly what you claim that I am doing, with your inferences.

    There is no cherry picking going on, unless you think that using the entire data set is somehow cherry-picking. In that case, everyone is cherry-picking, because we only have temperature data since about 1880. The long term trend since then is ~0.6C/century, and the most recent temperature data falls right on that trend line. That is the big picture. Call it cherry-picking, if you like, but if you are using other data, then perhaps, that is why we cannot see eye-to-eye.

    Funny, how you will make all sorts of erroneous inferences about what I say, but when I infer from your posts, you get all hot and bothered about facts taken out of context. First, you seem to infer that short term variations, namely ENSO, have resulted in the deceleration of SLR and temperature decreases recently. Am I correct? Secondly, if this is the case, then you must be able to attribute some warming influences during the opposite phases. The same would be true about any natural variation, unless its timeframe is sufficiently long compared to the themometer data.
    I do not know where the idea that short-term variations can predominate in the long term – I never made that claim. IS that part of your spin? However, short-term variations can predominate over the short term. Witness recent SLR and temperatures, and the period between WWII and the 1970s.

    With regards to your final question, the answer is a resounding no. While temperatures may cool for the next decade or so, natural variations will reverse, and combined with manmade influences, will push global temperatures higher, likely surpassing recent highs by 2050 (unless some major event occurs before then).

  47. 147
    Hank Roberts says:

    “Spreaders” allow multiple baited hooks or lures to be trolled from a single line. There are many inventive spreader designs ….
    — wikipedia

  48. 148
    flxible says:

    DanH: “Do you think that nature is incapable of heating this planet? Natural variation is just that, forces which will result in warming for periods, and forces that will result in cooling over others. Maybe if you understood the climate as well as the rest of us ….”

    DanH: “Chris, Where did you get the idea about climate change being just natural variability?”

    DanH: “By all measures, natural [sic] has helped to warm the planet during the two prolonged warming periods during the 20th century, and acted to cool the warming trend during those preceding and following”

    So in the last quote you’re saying ‘natural variability’ isn’t very important? Or that it is just a distracting influence? Doesn’t really change the trend? That there really is a long term warming trend? Is that “natural”?

  49. 149
    Chris Crawford says:

    Dan, I have no idea what you’re referring to. The temperature graphs I have seen plainly show a secular rise in temperature. Do you have something else?

  50. 150