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ClimateDialogue: Exploring different views on climate change

Filed under: — group @ 15 November 2012

This is a guest posting from some Dutch colleagues on a new online experiment in fostering dialogue on climate change. Bart Verheggen has asked us to host this quick introduction. We are interested to hear if you think this is a good idea.

Guest Commentary by Bart Strengers (PBL)

ClimateDialogue.org offers a platform for discussions between invited climate scientists on important climate topics that have been subject to scientific and public debate. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views currently held by scientists by inviting experts with different views on the topic of discussion. We encourage the invited scientists to formulate their own personal scientific views; they are not asked to act as representatives for any particular group in the climate debate.

Obviously, there are many excellent blogs that facilitate discussions between climate experts, but as the climate debate is highly polarized and politicized, blog discussions between experts with opposing views are rare.

Background


The discovery, early 2010, of a number of errors in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report on climate impacts (Working Group II), led to a review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC by the InterAcademy Council (IAC). The IAC-report triggered a debate in the Dutch Parliament about the reliability of climate science in general. Based on the IAC recommendation that ‘the full range of views’ should be covered in the IPCC reports, Parliament asked the Dutch government ‘to also involve climate skeptics in future studies on climate change’.

In response, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment announced a number of projects that are aimed to increase this involvement. ClimateDialogue.org is one of these projects.


We are starting ClimateDialogue with a discussion on the causes of the decline of Arctic Sea Ice, and the question to what extent this decline can be explained by global warming. Also, the projected timing of the first year that the Arctic will be ice free will be discussed. With respect to the latter, in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, IPCC anticipated that (near) ice free conditions might occur by the end of this century. Since then, several studies have indicated this could be between 2030-2050, or even earlier.

We invited three experts to take part in the discussion: Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology; Walt Meier, research scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado; and Ron Lindsay, Senior Principal Physicist at the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Future topics that will be discussed include: climate sensitivity, sea level rise, urban heat island-effects, the value of comprehensive climate models, ocean heat storage, and the warming trend over the past few decades.

Our format


Each discussion will be kicked off by a short introduction written by the editorial staff, followed by a guest blog by two or more invited scientists. The scientists will start the discussion by responding to each other’s arguments. It is not the goal of ClimateDialogue to reach a consensus, but to stimulate the discussion and to make clear what the discussants agree or disagree on and why. 
To round off the discussion on a particular topic, the ClimateDialogue editor will write a summary, describing the areas of agreement and disagreement between the discussants. The participants will be asked to approve this final article, the discussion between the experts on that topic will then be closed and the editorial board will open a new discussion on a different topic.

The public (including other climate scientists) are also free to comment, but for practical reasons these comments will be shown separately.

The project organization consists of an editorial staff of three people and an advisory board of seven people, all of whom are based in the Netherlands. The editorial staff is concerned with the day-to-day operation of researching topics, finding participants for the discussion and moderating the discussions between the experts. The main task of the advisory board is to guard the neutrality of the platform and to advise the editorial staff about its activities

The project leader is Rob van Dorland of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), a senior scientist and climate advisor in the Climate Services section and is often active at the interface between science and society. The second member is Bart Strengers. He is a climate policy analyst and modeler in the IMAGE-project at the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and has been involved in the discussion with climate skeptics for many years. The third member is Marcel Crok, an investigative science writer, who published a critical book (in Dutch) about the climate debate.

We welcome comments here and are happy to answer any questions regarding this project. You can also send an email to info [at] climatedialogue [dot] org.


282 Responses to “ClimateDialogue: Exploring different views on climate change”

  1. 151
    Lotharsson says:

    An upgrade to present pretty good layout is suggested, …

    I was visualising something based on DeepClimate & Mashey’s illustrations of Wegman plagiarism. The original claims from each party can remain intact, but color coding and hyperlinking can be used to indicate which portions of those claims are disputed (and perhaps at a high level, for what reason). The links could take readers to the section where the reason for the color coding is given and disputed claims are further discussed.

    It might be quite useful to see that (say) 50% of Curry’s claims are coloured red because they have no physical basis or no basis in the literature or are strongly undermined by evidence or …

    However the concern I have is that you’ll have “skeptics” dubiously color-coding most of the non-”skeptic” statements – so perhaps this process would need moderation to vet color-coding requests as having a plausible basis before being applied. Then again, the moderation would likely become a subject of contention. So maybe this is not a good idea in the first place.

  2. 152
  3. 153
    David B. Benson says:

    Non-Scientist @150 — Briefly (as this is actually off topic for this thread), read Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/apr/23/scienceandnature.climatechange
    and then ask further questions on the latest Unforced Variations thread, several down from the top.

  4. 154
    Edward Greisch says:

    On my own comment at 61: I part company with “Why We Disagree About Climate Change” by Mike Hulme on page 77 where Hulme advocates Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” Kuhn didn’t learn the lesson that Nature rules, not scientists. What we measure in the lab is the truth. Theory must match experiment and not the other way around. Change 61 debate type 2 to read: “Social scientists are invited to explain why people choose to believe absurd things. Social scientists are invited to tell us how to educate the public. Brain researchers are invited to tell us about human foibles that are preventing action on GW.”

  5. 155
    Susan Anderson says:

    Russell @~76

    Singer, pour epater les bourgeois? Quelle horreur! (I have no German)

    va va va voom
    http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2012/11/cut-to-chase.html

  6. 156

    dbostrom, CD is doomed if they do not take statements from the best scientists in the world seriously. For me when Dr Curry says something that is meaningless, and the two other experts are too polite to ask for clarification, its not a dialogue its a free for all statement palooza, completely boring, is like commercials, the mind shuts down after 10 seconds. If its in their charter to place contrarians on an equal footing as guys like Hansen, its double doomed. On the other hand quite valuable if errors are identified and corrected, especially by contrarians who badly need to be enhanced by others so lucky to know correct science.

    Dhogaza, ironic isn’t it? Yet many people from there are my heroes, Lorenz, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and so many more. Don’t judge the country by their leaders!
    But by the live styles of its people. They invented the telescope and they shop for groceries at the mall with bicycles. In North america many drive suv’s to corner stores just to buy chips and pop. There is a difference.

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-15/carbon-fee-from-obama-seen-viable-with-backing-from-exxon.html

    “Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) is part of a growing coalition backing a carbon tax as an alternative to costly regulation, giving newfound prominence to an idea once anathema in Washington.

    Conservative economists and fossil-fuel lobbyists united in 2009 to fend off climate-change legislation that would have established a cap-and-trade mechanism. They are now locked in a backroom debate over a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions that could raise an estimated $100 billion in its first year….”

    ———
    ReCaptcha oracle predicts, um, hard to tell:
    “its usender”

  8. 158
    dbostrom says:

    … a rather strange result from just moving carbon around – those tons of fossil fuel were above ground at some point, in forms of life.

    Carbon was above ground sure enough but not as a constituent of the compound C02 mixed into the atmosphere. As well, those atoms of carbon were distributed over a vast swathe of time, not liberated into the atmosphere as part of C02 and then belched out in a handful of decades.

    Whatever we do, the laws of Nature will operate just fine.

    Absolutely. And the “law of nature” may dictate that we’ve made it impossible for all but a few hundred million or a billion or so of us to live on the planet. Those in favor of radical population control measures will be attracted by this option. Meanwhile, if by a continuing “miracle of life” you mean a population radically different and much simpler than the present miracle you’re certainly correct. Pond scum is a “miracle of life.” Do we want to emulate pond scum? I thought we were smarter than algae and endowed with more foresight but maybe not?

  9. 159

    “As as aside, I find it annoying when the argument is framed as damaging nature. Whatever we do, the laws of Nature will operate just fine.”

    Well, sure. But “Nature” usually refers in this sort of context to the biosphere primarily. And while there’s a lot we don’t specifically know in relation to your very pertinent questions, we do have very good reason to believe that warming will indeed “damage” the functioning of the biosphere. For example:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/108/30/12337.short

    “These results suggest that predictions are robust to methodological assumptions and provide strong empirical support for the assertion that anthropogenic climate change is now a major threat to global biodiversity.”

    “Mean extinction probability”–I’d like to understand the applicability of that term more precisely, by the way, though the general gist seems self-explanatory–ranged from 7% to 15% by 2100. And of course both warming and species loss would continue long past 2100 under BAU (‘business as usual’).

    Philosophically, physics is easy to view through a value-free lens: “the laws of Nature will continue to operate.” Biology, not so much, because (most, though not all, people would agree) living beings have interests in some sense, and hence value in some sense. And pragmatically, though it is not always easy to trace, ecology tells us that species have specific value for/to all other species (including humans.) That’s why UUs, for instance, consider “the interdependent web of life” to be a spiritual matter.

  10. 160
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nonscientist, One way of looking at the situation is to visualize the atmosphere as a bunch of layers–blankets if you will. The amount of heat that escapes ultimately depends on how thick that top blanket is. We’ve increased the thickness of that top blanket by 40%.

    And yes, it is true that the carbon formerly sequestered in the oil and coal fields was part of the biosphere…in the Permain. What we are doing is recreating the climate under which dinosaurs thrived. This will be unlikely to be a climate under which civilization thrives.

    And no, we are not damaging nature. Rather we are damaging the ability of the planet to support a comples global civilization of hominids.

  11. 161
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I like Horatio’s suggestion of renaming the project Climate Denialogue. Failing that, we could perhaps call it “Narcissists Need Love, Too”.

    Perhaps we need a psychologist to inform the Parliament that enabling is not a good strategy in dealing with the mentally ill.

  12. 162
    dhogaza says:

    Wayne Davison:

    Dhogaza, ironic isn’t it? Yet many people from there are my heroes, Lorenz, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and so many more. Don’t judge the country by their leaders!
    But by the live styles of its people. They invented the telescope and they shop for groceries at the mall with bicycles. In North america many drive suv’s to corner stores just to buy chips and pop. There is a difference.

    Yes, these cultural differences, unrelated to politics, are interesting. I don’t judge the country’s culture by their leaders. Likewise I don’t judge the country’s politics by its culture. I judge it by who they’re voting into office. In this case, classic economic liberals (i.e. free market worshippers). The arguments they make about climate science echo Lomborg more than Watts, but it’s denialism all the same. As has been pointed out, there’s no reason to speculate about the government’s goals with Climate Dialogue: they’re stated right there at the site, for you and I and others to read.

    I’ve spent months in the Netherlands, much of it working with and/or doing business with the Dutch. There are aspects of Dutch culture I like and admire very much. Others, well, not so much.

  13. 163
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Some will even replot the data to conform to their own theories

    When referring people other than yourself, you should cite a source.

    Saying “some will …” may lead a naive reader to think you’re speaking of someone else’s work. Hypocrisy is difficult to detect; citing sources allows readers to see the facts behind the claims.

  14. 164
    Leonard Evens says:

    It seems to me that industry sources will support right wing ideologues as long as it seems worth their while. But they can easily reverse course when it becomes a matter of choosing a method they feel they can work with.

    The element of the obamacare which met with the most resistance was the requirement that people who opted out should pay a tax. It is little understood that this was put in place by lobbyists from the health insurance industry. As long as they felt they could avoid providing universal coverage, they were happy to support the right wing ideologues. But when it became clear that they were going to be required to cover all who applied, they had to support some coercive measures to make sure everyone was in the system. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for them to calculate their costs. If Romney had won, we can assume he would have tried to abolish obamacare, but he would have found it difficult not to provide guarantees for medical insurance. Given that, the medical insurance industry would have forced him to accept something requiring everyone to be covered.

    With respect to climate change, once industry faces the problems brought about by unrestricted burning of fossil fuels, they will have to advocate the least objectionable—to them—method of restricting fossil fulel use, i.e., a Carbon Tax.

    There is a lesson to be learned from CFCs. Once the inudstry’s own chemists confrmed to their bosses that their really was a problem, industry did an about face and found they could do business with restrictions in place by selling substitutes. They weren’t embarassed about dropping their support of Singer and others who still insisted the science about CFCs and ozone depletion was wrong.

  15. 165
    Hank Roberts says:

    > CFCs. Once the inudstry’s own chemists confrmed to their bosses
    > that their really was a problem, industry did an about face

    for “problem” substitute “replacement” and you’ve got it right.
    Industry needs delays long enough to move their investment to the new profitable area as the science and the rules change.

    “Deny, Delay, Dominate and Dump”

    The problem for the ordinary citizen is figuring out which of those walnut shells the little green pea is actually underneath:
    http://www.duke-energy.com/gailwind/

  16. 166
    cRR Kampen says:

    #96 @Jim – I am familiar with ClimateDialogue and believe me, I raised points like Tamino’s and SecularAnimist’s even before it aired.

    The question ‘give it a chance to what?’ shrieks an answer, a very explicit and very precise one, because otherwise said authors are simply right. The site will be a climate revisionist’s tool and for now is this exactly.

    #98, let me suggest – especially after Curry’s resounding succes: Bob Tisdale.

  17. 167
    Superman1 says:

    Right church; wrong pew. A debate would be useful, but not the one proposed. Any credible debate between ‘deniers’ and believers’ has long ended. The proposed ‘debate’ is a manufactured ‘debate. The real debate that needs to take place is between those who believe there is a ‘window’ to dodge major catastrophe and those who believe that we have passed the point of no return.

    I am in the latter category, but am open to evidence that would convince me otherwise. I have yet to see such evidence on this blog or on Climate Progress. I see hand-waving and ‘feel-good’ arguments about how the situation can be turned around, but have yet to see a credible Roadmap placing all the various concepts proposed in the context of what is required. A debate on these issues, with ‘fire’ instead of ‘smoke’, would be most welcomed.

  18. 168
    Superman1 says:

    I spent much of my career in the research arm of the Federal government. Whenever the Administration wanted to delay or avoid action on a technically-based concept, their response was always ‘more research needed’. We would then be deluged with research funds, which impressed the scientific community to no small measure, and masked the reality of the concept being effectively tabled.

    Here, the Dutch have taken a more cost-effective approach to delay action. Rather than ‘more research’, they have implemented ‘more debate’. Such debate, especially with ‘denier’ representatives participating, is guaranteed to stretch out the process of inaction for years to come. The ethical and moral step would be for RealClimate to stand up and say they refuse to participate in such a charade.

    [Response:Personally, I'm with you on this Super. But this is a group blog, and the collective view of the group (within which there is diverse opinion) was that it was worth letting Bart at least make his case. -Mike]

  19. 169
    LH says:

    @ Bart Strengers (or anyone else from Climate Dialogue)

    Overall, I think this is a good format for furthering discussion. To make it even better, I would like to echo or add to what others have said:

    1. The FAQs state that scientists are chosen to represent different viewpoints, but I think this could be more detailed for each individual topic. For each of the authors, give us a paragraph or two on how they were chosen – what they have done in the past that made you choose them, etc

    2. Your site should not be (ab)used as an opportunity to drive traffic to a blog to increase ad revenue, cough…Judith Curry…cough. All relevant links to source material should be included in their submission to you, which was done by both Drs. Meier and Lindsay. As mentioned by Craig @ 86, it appears intentionally misleading, or at least obfuscating, to make several statements and leave it to the reader to hunt down their validity.

  20. 170
    pete best says:

    I thought that all scientists are intrinsically skeptical so if the vast majority of work submitted for peer review and presented at conferences of peers is saying the earths atmosphere and oceans are warming due to the emissions of CO2 by humankind then its not even a balance of argument argument is it but one of a scientific nature.

    Now comes the nonsensical bit, that of journalism and hence what is reports on and how it is cast due to the law of the land etc. I dont remember science being left of right wing but humans are painted this way hence the ad hominem attacks etc. Therefore Judith Curry and others will always get air time whenever politics and journalism is involved.

    Although does not report to politics it is entwined with it when it comes to what is its significance. 100 ppmv extra added without many people noticing too much and adding at a rate of 2 ppmv per year and presently increasing is a big issue for those that understand its potenital impact but for those that go to work everyday, have children and want the best for them etc might not quite know what people here know and hence any forum of rational debate and presentation is a good thing right? After all the contrarians cant win, they can only delay but action is delayed long enough but how can another another decade (20 ppmv) of delay hurt all that much so long as its not too late?

  21. 171
    Hank Roberts says:

    > once industry faces the problems brought about by
    > unrestricted burning of fossil fuels, they will have to
    > advocate the least objectionable—to them—method of
    > restricting fossil fulel use, i.e., a Carbon Tax.

    Already (news article from November 13, 2012)

  22. 172
    flxible says:

    “. . . but how can another another decade (20 ppmv) of delay hurt all that much so long as its not too late?”
    Maybe already too late.

  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Pete Best, who asked:
    > how can another another decade (20 ppmv) of delay hurt
    > all that much so long as its not too late?

    I pasted your question into Google Scholar.
    The first page of results for 2012 included, for example, this:

    Climatic Change
    Volume 114, Number 1 (2012), 79-99, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0128-3
    Time to act now? Assessing the costs of delaying climate measures and benefits of early action

    “… postponing a global agreement to 2020 raises global mitigation costs by at least about half and a delay to 2030 renders ambitious climate targets infeasible to achieve.”

    You will find more answers; those published in reputable journals are in that range.

    You know the usual litany?

    We are just passing the last bit of “you can’t prove it’s happening”
    and haven’t quite entered “it’s too late to do anything anyhow”
    in the standard response series used by the denial industry.

    Don’t blink.
    You might miss the opportunity.

  24. 174
    dhogaza says:

    [Response:Personally, I'm with you on this Super. But this is a group blog, and the collective view of the group (within which there is diverse opinion) was that it was worth letting Bart at least make his case. -Mike]

    I’m glad RC has let them post their case here. Not sure what they’ll do with the feedback but at least they’re getting feedback from mostly thoughtful people.

  25. 175
    Steven Franzen says:

    @Wayne Davidson (143), dhogaza and others: As a Dutch reader, I am not so sure about the progressiveness of our leaders. We, too, have contrarian blogs and opinion leaders, we have Shell. We have an energy tax system that benefits the biggest energy consumers most, and our governments have taken little initiative to stimulate new energy sources, compared to surrounding nations (esp. Germany); just to name a few things.

    For some background, a right-leaning newspaper reported this in 2010 when the conservative-liberal party VVD proposed the parliamentary motion that eventually led to the Climate Dialogue initiative:

    The VVD wants independent research into global warming, now that our country has been dealing with freezing cold for weeks. “We have to know what’s going on, especially with this weather”, said MP Neppérus (VVD).

    Independent of what? The thousands of publications so far, the majority of which independently pointing in very similar directions? Who knows, but it’s a nice word that sounds positive anyway. Extra points for obligatory reference to cold January weather.

    Last week, in a different newspaper, I found this article introducing Climate Dialogue, written by the paper’s chief science editor:

    [...] Though the internet is already teeming with climate blogs, these generally operate on the assumption that the world is either warming catastrophically or not warming at all. Climate Dialogue intends to bring proponents and opponents closer together. [...]

    It also contains a few “controversial topics” sound bites, among which:

    CO2 is heating the earth
    Skeptics: Yes, but only about 1 degree per doubling of CO2.
    Warmists: Yes, with a doubling of CO2 we could easily get 5 degrees of warming.

    Antarctica is melting!
    Skeptics: Only the south-western tip, and that’s because it’s in a warm sea current.
    Warmists: You should buy a rowing boat, it’s going wrong.

    Note: this was not published as an op-ed and this newspaper is known as left-leaning. Yet it manages no better than this extreme caricature. It appears as if only Marcel Crok was interviewed.

    If there is any balance anywhere, it’s only in the amount of attention gained in news items like these. Yet, that’s where most of the lay public (including politicians) reads and hears about science, and they use that, not the actual science, to bolster their ideas. In reality of course, the landscape is more diverse than these clear-cut, equally supportable “sides” as if it’s a boxing match, and the suggestion that this is so only really benefits those distracting us from the data: they can freely move around and dodge while scientists are much more confined by evidence and the scientific method.

    IMHO, it would already be an achievement for this initiative to get the participants to agree to talk the same science, keep it clearly separated from policy, and document their claims. I really hope, but am not overly optimistic, that Climate Dialogue will achieve anything in this direction.

    As noted, getting Judith Curry to do these things has been much like pinning jelly to a wall; she has been more than happy to play into the “two camps” theme, positioning herself as a bridge-builder, while unfortunately not hesitating to tar one of the intended bridgeheads with words like “cadre”, “dogma” and “high priests”.

    But we need not worry, Curry herself provides us with some valuable advice:

    Ignoring or insulting such people doesn’t make them go away. Identifying the flaws in their argument and then seeing them demonstrate untrustworthy behavior is the way to diminish any credibility they have.

    Judith, will you take it?

  26. 176
    pete best says:

    Re #173 – it might be tool late for 2C for not catastrophe:

    From Bill Mcgibbons Do the Math tour:

    Do The Math is based on a very simple premise. In order to have a serious chance (better than 3 in 4) of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius — a threshold needed to prevent catastrophic climate change — the world can only emit about 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050. We will burn through that carbon in 16 years at our current rate. Fossil fuel companies have reported their intent to burn reserves of carbon five times that amount. So preventing uncontrollable global warming means keeping roughly 80 percent of proven carbon reserves in the ground.

    So thats 2C out of the window, but catostrophe can be averted. I doubt any acknowledge climate scientist here would say ” its too late”.

  27. 177

    Hi all,

    Although I haven’t had time to respond much here, I’m reading along and so are some of the ClimateDialogue editors.

    As I mentioned before, I share much of the concerns raised here, esp about the risks for false balance (which is really what most criticism comes down to I think; correct me if I’m wrong).

    But I think there’s a baby in the bathwater as well.

    The heavily polarized nature of the climate debate is not conducive to the public’s trust in science. Fighting skeptics as if it’s some kind of (cold) war is clearly not working; it’s counterproductive in many ways.

    Everything we tried so far has failed. So to those saying this is dangerous, bad, or what not, my question would be: What do you suggest we do instead to regain the public’s trust in science and stop the cold-war type state that is clearly detrimental to science’s credibility?

    And remember: The ClimateDialogue discussions are what people make of it. If good scientists with good debating skills participate, the validity of claims will become clearer. The more mainstream scientists shy away from participating, the more the risk that the better arguments remain hidden. That way a flood of criticism could actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The platform provides a chance to make the distinction clearer between well informed argumentation and conjecture. Whether it delivers on that possibility depends very much on the discussants.

  28. 178
    dhogaza says:

    I share much of the concerns raised here, esp about the risks for false balance (which is really what most criticism comes down to I think; correct me if I’m wrong)

    False equivalence and a platform for posting blatantly misleading information under the guise of sciencey language backed by the credibility of having been given a place at the table.

    Speaking for myself.

    But I think there’s a baby in the bathwater as well.

    Nice analogy … babies in bathwater need close monitoring and supervision by adults. More than Baby Climate Dialogue is getting thus far.

    If good scientists with good debating skills participate, the validity of claims will become clearer. The more mainstream scientists shy away from participating, the more the risk that the better arguments remain hidden. That way a flood of criticism could actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Over at your blog, I posted that skeptics like Curry – who desperately seeks validation and credibility – have every reason to be much more highly motivated than mainstream scientist who, after all, have gained credibility and validation through the normal channels of scientific publications, etc.

    I see no way around this. I suggest we’re seeing this in action, as Curry’s posting something like 3-4 times as often as the other two. She’s also up to her old tricks of not really answering many of the questions put to her, as can be seen in the non-professional section by questioners complaining of this and asking again.

    The fact that DanH is praising the “balance” thus far seen pretty much sums up how tipped towards the skeptic case the dialogue seems to be tipping thus far.

  29. 179
    Steven Franzen says:

    @pete best (170):

    [...] any forum of rational debate and presentation is a good thing right?

    That’s what I’m inclined to think as well, as long as each sticks to the same set of rules. It would already be a breath of fresh air if the… wonky types of argumentation often encountered on the internet can be avoided.

    @Dan H.:
    Well, I was already quite happy to have websites such as this one, weren’t you?

    @All: To be fair about Dutch media I should add that the newspaper I quoted/translated does not always do such polarised reporting on climate change, which is why I was surprised that they did for the Climate Dialogue announcement.

    As a counterexample, the same editor wrote a much more moderate piece a couple of weeks ago about the difficulties in attributing specific events (hurricane Sandy; floods) to a warmer climate, while still being able to say something about the parameters influencing such events in general. Coincidentally, he linked to Judith Curry’s blog, writing “But the mafia is also right.” in a police vs. mafia narrative. Heh.

    As for the rest of the media, well there sure are a couple of conservative-aligned papers and blogs downplaying the science, the rest I think tends to stick closer to the science, and so do the public TV channels.

    In politics, it is true that the conservative-liberal VVD is currently the biggest party, but it has to govern in a coalition with the similar-sized PvdA (“Labour”). I don’t think any single party has ever held a majority of seats, so parties always have to trade and soften some of their agenda points when governing.

  30. 180
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bart, I have great respect for you as a scientist and a person. I know your heart is in the right place.

    It has been my experience that science does not fare well when placed on stage alongside anti-science in front of a lay audience that doesn’t understand the difference. Scientists are bound to follow rigid rules and not go beyond what the evidence allows. Anti-scientists play Calvinball, viewing evidence as a mere inconvenience limiting their powers of imagination.

    Aunt Judy has made it quite clear that she has lost all interest in actually doing science, preferring to look for Uncertainty Monsters (ooga-booga) under the bed. She cannot be bothered to consider evidence even when it is supplied by one of her collaborators. She’s like Dick Lindzen now. She’d rather have the adulation of ignorant sycophants than the respect of her former peers.

    There are better choices among the pseudoskeptics–Roy Spencer is still doing science…sort of. And I believe Pielke the Elder and reality still may exchange Christmas greetings. However, the only way I can see Judy getting the respect she deserves is if she agrees to appear in clown makeup.

  31. 181
    Susan Anderson says:

    Bart Verheggen and Bart Strengers:

    By promoting the idea of conflict, you do nothing more than promote the idea of conflict. A public display of “what’s wrong with this picture” does not advance the science, nor does it advance public opinion.

  32. 182
    sidd says:

    Advocatus Diaboli: Laughing the deniers outta town is clearly working. Even in the gluttonous USA vehicle miles travelled down, floodzone insurance up, crop insurance up, public transit ridership up, urbania populating and suburbia depopulating, coal electric run outta bizness, Jabba the Hutt warlord of New Jersey endorsing Obama…

    Advocatus Dei: Yes, but too slowly. We need miracles yesterday, and more faster today. Let us talk to the opposition to see if we can negotiate a faster approach to overturning the Keeling curve.

    Advocatus Diaboli: Miracles you will have when coal companies are prosecuted in the Hague.

    Advocatus Dei: Patience, grasshopper. First, attack the strategy. Part of their plan is to paint the climate dialogue as being polarized between an arrogant and deceiving academic elite and an honest, shrewd, hardworking populace who rightly fear draconian limitations on their lives.

    Advocatus Diaboli: Isn’t that true ? We do deceive them already. The future is not only worse than they imagine, it is worse than they can imagine.

    Advocatus Dei: Yes, but we can’t say that !

    segue to ‘Yes, Prime Minister’

    sidd

  33. 183

    Bart, CD is not enough of a dialogue to be separated from what is already available online. The format does not encourage anyone to participate because all three experts are not answering the same good pertinent questions , and the experts except for Lindsay, are shy to reproach or correct any mistakes done by the others. What is really missing in science is recognition of excellence and the opposite tedious; confronting pseudo allegations masquerading as science.

    A different format aimed at ascending correct science would serve everyone well, and would be a truer dialogue. Onto itself an invitation to all.

  34. 184
    Hank Roberts says:

    > What do you suggest we do instead to regain
    > the public’s trust in science

    What levels of trust, by what groups, constitute the assumption behind the question?

    Example:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=in-science-we-trust-poll

    “… We asked respondents to rank how much they trusted various groups of people on a scale of 1 (strongly distrust) to 5 (strongly trust). Scientists came out on top by a healthy margin. When we asked how much people trust what scientists say on a topic-by-topic basis, only three topics (including, surprisingly, evolution) garnered a stronger vote of confidence than scientists did as a whole….”

    If you’re counting comments or visits to the website, what steps do you take to filter out fakes?

  35. 185
    Craig Nazor says:

    Bart, I respect the way you have sought criticism and are dealing with the input.

    The climate debate has been (and continues to be) polarized through a very shrewd, years-long campaign instigated and funded by those with a large financial investment in carbon fuels. The question isn’t whether the “skeptics” or the “warmists” win “the debate” – the question is whether the general public can learn to understand and therefore trust science sufficiently and in enough time to make an intelligent political decision. What works most strongly against this is when a “scientist” betrays their discipline and ignores the rules of scientific debate, in part by not providing the proper documentation for statements of fact. Instead, they substitute speculation, faulty logic, negative assessments of he ability of science to answer our questions, and appeals to emotion (particularly fear), all to manipulate a less intellectually astute audience. These tactics are actually designed to sustain the polarization by providing “scientists” whom those who don’t understand science can “trust” as a valid alternate “scientific opinion.” Such an approach is not likely to further scientific understanding, because the whole object has become to win the debate. We have a name for professional debate winners: lawyers.

    If you really want to win an argument, you hire a lawyer. Lawyers become “experts” in whatever field they are required to argue, so it helps if they are smart and fast learners. Their real skill (aside from knowledge of the law) is how to effectively debate (using logical arguments or, if that fails, appeals to emotion; the object is to win the debate). Most scientists aren’t going to waste time with that – they are going to be doing research.

    So good luck with your approach; unfortunately, I do not have much faith that it will change the public’s opinion of science. I think what is going to happen (actually, is already happening) is that, as climate catastrophes build in frequency and destructive intensity, more and more people will just fill the streets and demand action. It will be the late 60’s USA, worldwide, on steroids, and without the drugs. Will this happen in time to avoid the worst effects of global warming? I don’t know, but it may be the only option left. Some of us are already on it.

    We have been cursed to live in interesting times.

  36. 186
    pete best says:

    Ah yes here we are on the entire ACC Debacle when it comes planning for a low carbon future. In the UK newspaper the Guardian today although this was available some weeks ago (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/20/coal-plants-world-resources-institute) there is a report stating that globally 1200 coal fired power plants are in the pipeline.

    The world bank then produce this report (http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/19/1212181/world-bank-climate-a-4c-world/) statng that as investments go, ACC is very real and very bad for their business and hence our global certainty.

    However in report one regarding who is backing coal globally, the world bank is mentioned as investing $5 billion along with a lot more banks investing in the billionsso its a big contradiction or is it that the written word is easy regardless of how scary it is whilst reality is unstoppable. So forget your government and Judith Curry, and all of the pontificating, its time to lobby your banks at 350.org along with Bill Mcgibbon and get them to stop investing in these projects.

    Its one surefire way to stop those 1200 coal fired power stations from being built. James Hansen is right in getting arrested whilst everyone just talks about it.

  37. 187
    pete best says:

    One more little point regarding ACC as well is this recent report of peer reviewed articles that speak of ACC and those against:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/16/1203401/the-earth-is-warming-and-human-activity-is-the-primary-cause-the-climate-science-paradigm-grows-stronger/

    When it comes down to it – do we really need for open debate with a few obviously philisophically/idealogically and not scientifically driven individuals who are given air time when its patently obviously that the debate is over surely.

  38. 188

    Ray,
    Thanks for your friendly words.
    About the value of debate I’m of two minds. Regarding an oral debate that caters to the short attention span and where rhetorical skills determine the outcome to a large extent, I agree that it’s of relatively little value (though even there, not participating may actually be more harmful than participating).
    But this is a written blog. Scientists can craft a careful argument and respond in writing. It’s very close to their comfort-zone and not unlike a review cycle of a scientific manuscript. The fact that it’s done in the open (“on a stage in front of a lay audience”) is of course a feature of the whole thing, and a good one I think: Science has to come out of the ivory tower to become better understood and better trusted.
    Ideally, the format would crystallize such that it becomes clear who backs up their opinion with evidence and solid arguments and who does not. It already is quite clear to the astute observant, and it could become even more clear if more scientists would participate, and if they would be as active in the discussion as the one merely conjecturing.
    And btw, the names you’re mentioning are indeed likely candidates for future discussions.

    Susan,
    ClimateDialogue tries above all to promote the idea of scientists having an open dialogue with each other and not being afraid to be confronted with criticism. With a large fraction of the public and of politicians believing the opposite, this is direly needed.

    Tamino (76),
    “have climate scientists discuss points of contention in a public forum” is exactly what we’re setting out to do. If a good discussion ensues, it should become clear whether someone is a “fake skeptic”, so what’s the problem? I know that’s a pretty big if and that it hasn’t fully delivered to this promise, but the problem is not with the format or the forum.

  39. 189
    jake says:

    Bart: “the risks for false balance”
    False balance is guaranteed.

    It appears to be the objective of CD. Not every view on climate change is worth exploring again.

    I appreciate if you have good intent, but it is not as if dialogue has not been happening. Viewpoints of sceptics are considered. Some of them pass peer-review and end up in IPCC reports. Others end up in the science bin (& on blogs like WUWT). One of the major problems is that there is too much dialogue occurring outside the peer-reviewed journals.

  40. 190
    Vilnius says:

    Hank @184: that survey unfortunately doesn’t say much about public trust in science. Here’s the demographic they polled, in their own words:

    “More than 21,000 people responded via the Web sites of Nature and of Scientific American and its international editions. As expected, it was a supportive and science-literate crowd—19 percent identified themselves as Ph.Ds.”

    I do not, alas, think that we can extend their findings to the public at large.

  41. 191
    Radge Havers says:

    Debate?

    The problem is poorly defined.
    The expected outcome is poorly defined (probably not even measured), therefore
    The method is poorly defined.
    Is this the level of rigor you apply when you do science?

    For examples of how to just put it out there and talk to the general public, look to Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Charlie Rose’s brain series, and so on. Adding mischievious mystics to the mix will not help de-mystify the subject.

    But hey, if you thing giving the thugs a venue in which to steal your lunch money will win you sympathy, by all means go ahead and impoverish.

  42. 192
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks Bart V. Not being a scientist, I have a nerve weighing in at all. I think Craig Nazor best expresses some of my issues here. It’s the entrenched, powerful, professional level of the “opposition” that is always underestimated and/or understated.

    a very shrewd, years-long campaign instigated and funded by those with a large financial investment in carbon fuels. The question isn’t whether the “skeptics” or the “warmists” win “the debate” – the question is whether the general public can learn to understand and therefore trust science sufficiently and in enough time to make an intelligent political decision. What works most strongly against this is when a “scientist” betrays their discipline and ignores the rules of scientific debate, in part by not providing the proper documentation for statements of fact. Instead, they substitute speculation, faulty logic, negative assessments of he ability of science to answer our questions, and appeals to emotion (particularly fear), all to manipulate a less intellectually astute audience. These tactics are actually designed to sustain the polarization by providing “scientists” whom those who don’t understand science can “trust” as a valid alternate “scientific opinion.” Such an approach is not likely to further scientific understanding, because the whole object has become to win the debate. We have a name for professional debate winners: lawyers.

    I think the distinction between science, a discipline interested in advancing understanding and learning the truth, and “debate” which has very different “winners” and “losers” who are endangering our futures by their delight in the game and in many cases their vested interests.

  43. 193
    dhogaza says:

    Bart V:

    If a good discussion ensues, it should become clear whether someone is a “fake skeptic”, so what’s the problem? I know that’s a pretty big if and that it hasn’t fully delivered to this promise, but the problem is not with the format or the forum.

    Of course it is a problem with the forum. A discussion among practioners who represent the full range of views within a scientific field would be welcome.

    The problem is when you invite someone like Curry whose views lie outside the range of accepted science and whose track record proves her perfectly willing to be dishonest and to ignore or denigrate any scientific work which derails her arguments.

    Again, her very presence elevates her credibility and status. This is not like a discussion among practicing biologists regarding (say) the evolution of intelligence. This is like a “discussion” between biologists and William Dembski.

  44. 194
    SecularAnimist says:

    The journal Nature has published an opinion piece by Jeremy Grantham, founder of the investment firm GMO and co-chair of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, who has something to say that’s relevant to this discussion (emphasis added):

    I have yet to meet a climate scientist who does not believe that global warming is a worse problem than they thought a few years ago. The seriousness of this change is not appreciated by politicians and the public. The scientific world carefully measures the speed with which we approach the cliff and will, no doubt, carefully measure our rate of fall. But it is not doing enough to stop it

    Scientists are understandably protective of the dignity of science and are horrified by publicity and overstatement. These fears, unfortunately, are not shared by their opponents, which makes for a rather painful one-sided battle. Overstatement may generally be dangerous in science (it certainly is for careers) but for climate change, uniquely, understatement is even riskier and therefore, arguably, unethical.

    It is crucial that scientists take more career risks and sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on the global-warming problem. Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.

    With all due respect, what the world needs from climate scientists is not polite and respectful “dialogue” that legitimizes those who have deliberately and knowingly engaged in a generation-long campaign of deceit, denial, obstruction and delay.

    What the world needs you to do is to denounce those people as the frauds and shills that they are.

    What the world needs you do is to scream from the rooftops with all your might at the policymakers in governments and corporations that the situation is far worse — and getting worse faster — than you ever thought possible, and that the time in which urgent action stands a chance of preventing catastrophe is rapidly running out.

    What the world needs you to do is to realize that this is not a “scientific debate” any more — you WON the scientific debate decades ago.

    What’s going on now is a desperate struggle to save human civilization — and much of the Earth’s biosphere — from destruction. And there is no more powerful weapon in that struggle than your voices — IF you will raise them.

  45. 195
    tamino says:

    I too have great respect for your efforts and your intentions. But intentions sometimes pave the road to hell.


    “have climate scientists discuss points of contention in a public forum” is exactly what we’re setting out to do. If a good discussion ensues, it should become clear whether someone is a “fake skeptic”, so what’s the problem?

    You failed to quote my following statement: that “this first effort completely fails to do so.” That is the problem. Please don’t be intent on ignoring it.

    The first CD post did not discuss a point of genuine scientific contention. Instead Judith Curry used it to dispute a point of fact. Shame on her. Shame on you for allowing that to happen.

    As for the big “if” — whether or not a “good discussion ensues” — so far you’re 0 for 1. Not good.

    As for its becoming clear if someone is a “fake skeptic,” do you really not realize that the lay public is not equipped to make this call? All that most people see is an argument, and as the old saying goes, when you argue with an idiot, most people can’t tell who is who.

    There is no hope for the CD forum unless, and until, you acknowledge that your first effort was worse than a complete failure. Not only did you fail to move the discussion forward, you actually moved it backward. When you comment here again and admit that, then we can talk again.

  46. 196
    Hank Roberts says:

    vilnius, I offered that one example of what’s available.

    My question was: what definition of “public” and “trust” is used by the Climatedialogue group?

    Climatedialogue says the public mistrusts science.

    Citation needed.

    The Dutch public? Dutch science? What, specifically?

  47. 197
    Superman1 says:

    Bart Verheggen #177,

    “Everything we tried so far has failed. So to those saying this is dangerous, bad, or what not, my question would be: What do you suggest we do instead to regain the public’s trust in science and stop the cold-war type state that is clearly detrimental to science’s credibility?”

    You have raised an important issue, and the responses so far have only addressed bits and pieces, including my recommendations to 1) change the charter of the debate to whether or not we have passed the point of no return and 2) have your group and RC refuse to participate in the charade as structured presently. The larger context is that we are operating in a democratic system, and we have a minority that is being outvoted by a majority. Both sides are presently contributing to the problem by their daily actions. The minority understands what is necessary to solve the problem, and would be willing to make the sacrifices required to solve the problem. The majority may or may not understand what is required to solve the problem, and through some combination of greed or addiction or ignorance or apathy is not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to solve the problem. What options are open to the minority, recognizing that if immediate action is not taken to solve the problem, both the minority and the majority will go under?

    One option is the legal approach. There have been instances where a minority has been able to get laws implemented, or gain protection from the law to safeguard its interests; the Civil Rights laws in the USA come to mind. I’m not sufficiently familiar with environmental law to know what suits are possible, and against whom. In addition, the Civil Rights movement involved much collective action and non-violent resistance, including the willingness of participants to shed blood and give up their lives, if necessary.

    Another option is revolution. There have been many examples in the past where a minority has exerted its will against an oppressive majority. However, these cases usually involved a motivated minority, and a majority a large fraction of which was relatively neutral. I don’t see an adequate motivated minority today willing to go the distance to eliminate fossil fuels.

    A third option is conversion of the majority through education, and then taking large-scale collective action (boycotts, disinvestment, etc). This is essentially what your effort proposes to do, on a very small scale. Unfortunately, if the inherent problem is addiction to a high energy lifestyle enabled mainly by the availability of cheap fossil energy, I fail to see where education will help. It seems to me that successful efforts against addiction have required more of a hands-on approach, like that of Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous. Maybe that’s what’s required for fossil fuel users, but it’s a long-term approach at best. We don’t have the time!

    There are undoubtedly other options possible, and equally questionable. I’m not sure that this type of problem is actually solvable under democratic government, especially with an electorate saddled with addiction, greed, and apathy. I’m starting to believe that serious action will be taken only when the climate upheaval topples democratic governments and authoritarian replacements introduce the strictest of measures.

    In summary, I have no promising alternatives to offer. Your choice at this point boils down to whether you want to be a ‘good soldier’ and go through with this meaningless ‘debate’, or whether you are willing to tell your sponsors that this is a charade, and you refuse to participate. There are times when doing nothing may be better than doing something meaningless.

  48. 198
    Jim Larsen says:

    Dr Curry’s initial post brought up a lot of discussion on snow cover. In its current format, the casual visitor to your site will be cheated of the results of that discussion. Perhaps each scientist should write both initial and final position posts.

    Captcha says, “easurybs said”

  49. 199
    Hank Roberts says:

    We are this season’s people.

    We are all the people there are, this season.

    If we blow it, it’s blown.

    — Shlomo Carlebach

  50. 200

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