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Goodbye to all that

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2007

This post announces my (William Connolley’s) departure from RealClimate, and indeed from the professional climate field in general, in favour of the wide world of Cambridge software engineering. I’ve enjoyed my time with (Real)Climate, but now its time to move on.

Normally the career change of one minor scientist would be of little interest to the outside world, and perhaps this one will be too, but the climate arena does get rather highly charged. So perhaps a few words of explanation are in order.

This doesn’t represent any disenchantment on my part with the state of the science, or with IPCC, or with RealClimate – all of which continue to have my respect. I’m sure that RealClimate will continue to deserve its high reputation as a source of accessible explanation and comment on important climate issues. It’s more a reverse of that – in some senses, much of the main areas of climate science have now become much clearer than when I began to be interested; the obstacles to progress are now very obviously political not scientific.

I expect to continue my (now amateur) interest in climate; my pet blog will remain at least for a while – feel free to join me there.

130 Responses to “Goodbye to all that”

  1. 1
    Figen Mekik says:


    That’s really bad news for climate science, but I am sure you are doing what is best for you. I wish you all the best of luck in your new endeavors and thanks again for all your kind help with my post on realclimate.

  2. 2
    uBeR says:

    Best of luck.

  3. 3
    gavin says:

    William, on behalf of everyone at RC I, and I expect many of the readers, would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your contributions to RC – both in your postings and in our internal discussions. Your cyber-shoes will be hard to fill.

    We wish you all the best in your new career.


    [I’d like to second that (enthusiastically). -mike]

    [Me too –eric]

  4. 4
    John Fleck says:

    William –

    Thanks so much for your many contributions in many areas to “the commons” – that body of knowledge here, on Wikipedia, and in the many other places you have contributed that exists alongside the science itself and serves so well to explain it people like myself.

  5. 5
    David B. Benson says:

    William, thank you for your volunteer efforts to improve the general understanding of climatology! And also what Gavin said…

  6. 6

    Best of luck and success in your endeavors and thank you for your energy and contributions on RC and in your work.

    Wishing you well,

  7. 7
    Gareth says:


    I suppose Stoats have short legs.

    Best of luck.

  8. 8

    William, I just wish I had gotten to know you a little better. From what I can tell, you have helped to keep us a little more level-headed than we might be otherwise.

    Best wishes in the software industry. From over here it doesn’t look quite as exciting as climatology, but perhaps you will enjoy the change. In the meantime I will undoubtedly take time out for looking up some of your technical papers — and then reading them, to the best of my ability.

  9. 9
    Hank Roberts says: ?
    Nope. ?

    Please keep your blog up for reference and, from time to time, continue to ‘take science by the throat’ — it looks unlikely you’ll be replaced anytime soon. ?
    Nope, not quite.

  10. 10
    Raymond Johnson says:

    Thank you for all of your calm replies and comments in the area of climate science. I really appreciated your technical expertise and clarifying discussions.
    I wish you the best.

  11. 11
    John Monro says:

    William, I don’t know you, but I have been a regular reader and occasional contributor to this site for a while now. I appreciate the efforts that you, and all your now former colleagues have put into this site to make it an invaluable tool for those who need the very best information to guide them, and to help them guide others. I have always felt that when I quote the opinions of realclimate, of which you have been a part, I will never have any need to doubt what I am repeating is accurate and relevant. So thank you, all the very best for your future.

  12. 12
    David Graves says:

    The Robert Graves (no relation) memoir of the same title as your post was published when he was 34–and he lived to be 90. So, long life, best of luck, and thanks for your contributions to the dialog, here and at Stoat.

  13. 13

    I had this same realization and made this same move in 1995. RealClimate’s made me a little wistful that maybe I could have stuck it out and made a difference by using the internet to patiently and factually counter all the lies bouncing around.
    But, personally I’m a lot less frustrated. And much better remunerated! It’s good to have money. Welcome to software engineering!

  14. 14
    Dean Morrison says:

    Thanks William – I’ve enjoyed, and been informed by your posts here, and at Stoat for quite a while now.
    As you say things may have moved more solidly into the political arena, but then that’s due in no small part to scientists like you who have made efforts to effectively communicate your knowledge to a wider audience..


  15. 15

    Well, congratulations on your extensive contribution to a real issue of social policy and science communication. All the best for the future.

  16. 16
    Ric Merritt says:

    The very best of luck to you. While notable uncertainties remain in climate science, I agree that, with respect to public policy, we have more than enough scientific knowledge to proceed, but we’ve barely started. So, I hope you will keep the conversation going in helpful ways such as your blog and your Wikipedia contributions.

    Meanwhile, RealClimate will remain essential for getting new science out and shining sunlight on pseudoscience.

  17. 17

    Dr. Connolley,

    It is unfortunate to see your departure as you are one of my favorite bloggers. I hope you do well and are happy in your new career. I hope to see Stoat remain active.

    -You will be missed,


  18. 18
    Mark A. York says:

    Sad news indeed William. Keep up the vigil at Wikipedia. The cyberworld needs qualified experts to monitor the kids! Good luck.

  19. 19
    DemocracyRules says:

    WELL GOODBYE THEN, and may you someday find the truth.

  20. 20
    Frank R says:

    “the obstacles to progress are now very obviously political not scientific.”

    I guess it depends on what kind of progress one is looking for in the first place ;)

  21. 21
    Lance Armstrong says:


    Thanks so much for your work here, at wikipedia, and on the models themselves. Best of luck to you in your new endeavor.

  22. 22
    Nigel Williams says:

    William, good on yer mate.

    Now since you’re into software I’m sure you will continue to be the bane of your family’s night-life as you sit up late “..just tweaking this little bit of code..” until the wee small hours! The ancient alchemaeic art of the Distillation of Vapourware is a sometimes-fraught but very rewarding process, and no doubt fragments of work on ever-more disaggregated climate models will occupy key spots on your hard drives for many years to come.

    All the best.


  23. 23
    Edward Greisch says:

    William Connolley, I hope your next project is getting search engines to sort fact from propaganda. I think “political” is the wrong word to describe the problem we are having with the ignorant masses and the greedy psychopathic rich. I would describe the problem as one of religion or education or the klugey “design” of the human brain or the requirement for further evolution. I wonder if Google’s foray into the green energy field will result in coal company shill web sites being displaced by truthful information in Google searches? Freedom of speech is a two edged sword. It gives the ignorant, the insane, the propagandist and the scientist equal ability to publish. Most people can’t sort it out. The propagandist is by far the better financed and the ignorant and the insane are far more numerous, so the truth is buried in millions of pages of nonsense.
    William Connolley working on artificial intelligence could be the best thing that ever happened to Real Climate.

  24. 24
    Matthew L says:

    Thank you so much for the work you and your RC colleagues have been doing over the last few years. It is really really appreciated.

  25. 25
    henning says:

    Good luck, William.
    Nevertheless, I do believe, that the main obstacles for climate science remain scientific rather than political. Not to figure out, that there is AGW but to develop mid-term prediction systems for disastrous weather events. In my book, climate science is not over but just beginning to become really necessary. Lets face it. Even IF politicians accept AGW and start doing something about it, it won’t be enough and it won’t be in time to prevent all but the worst.

  26. 26
    Fernando Magyar says:

    To William Connolley, thank you and best wishes.
    Re 23 comment by Edward Greisch,
    Maybe William could devise an artificial intelligence that would be able to pass a kind of Turing test able to distinguish denialism from true and legitimate skepticism and save us from having to wade through millions of words of illogic.

  27. 27
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: 26. Perhaps a test for cyclicity of argumentation:
    Step 1. The warming isn’t occurring
    Step 2. It’s all natural and we’re not responsible.
    Step 3. OK, we’re responsible, but it will actually be a good thing (yeah, that’s the ticket.
    Step 4. Go back to Step 1 and repeat.

    It would be interesting to see whether there is actual periodicity to the denialist arguments or merely quasi-periodicity.

    Best of luck, William. We will miss you, but we hope you will not return occasionally so as no to allow yourself to be missed too much.

  28. 28
    CobblyWorlds says:

    Best of Luck and thanks for Stoat, your work in the climate related pages of Wikipedia, and your page on the 1970s Ice Age.



  29. 29
    Jim Prall says:

    Good luck William. Thanks a million or at least some quantity ~=O(10^6) for all your input. I may have to get back to watching Wikipedia more closely. Whenever all this crazy world of high-speed misinformation gets me down, I just think of all the folks like you and the gang here at RC, and Andrew Dessler, and Joe Romm. None of us has to struggle alone.

    Anyway you’ve done yeoman’s work on this for so long you’ve more than earned a break. I wish you the best and I hope the change brings you greater well-being all around.

  30. 30
    crotalus says:

    Thanks for all your contributions, and especially thanks for taking the time to respond to my emails. Good luck.

  31. 31
    James says:

    Good luck in your new field. Just out of curiousity, and to refute those denialists who claim climate scientists are just in it for the money, could you perhaps give us an estimate of the percentage increase in your expected income?

  32. 32
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    You have always been a voice of reason in a debate often characterized by extremes. Your work here at RC, at Stoat, at Wikipedia, and at globalchange has been an excellent resource for all of us lay folks trying to obtain a working understanding of an oft-complex field. Here’s to hoping that your change of vocation won’t put an end to your participation in the online dialogue; after all Deltoid, Tamino, and others are not strictly climate scientists but certainly have contributed a lot.

    Ray: I’d suggest relabeling step 4 to “Ok, we are responsible, and climate change will probably be a bad thing, but its too late to do anything about it”.

  33. 33
    Stephen Berg says:

    William, it is sad to see you leave RC. I enjoyed your contributions and wish you well. I hope you have enough time to continue Stoat and your work on Wikipedia, because they are meaningful contributions.

    Take care and all the best!

  34. 34
    jre says:

    William –
    Yours has always been one of the most perceptive, richly informed and good-humored viewpoints on the subject of climate. You have generated a lot more light than heat, and you will be sorely missed. Here’s wishing you a long, happy and rewarding career. And give our best to all the little mustelids.
    – Jim

  35. 35
    sidd says:

    my best wishes
    may you have fair winds and following seas

  36. 36
    Nick Barnes says:

    Get in touch and I’ll buy you a beer in the Carlton the next time I’m in town (every 3/4 weeks).

  37. 37
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Thanks, William, for all your climate science contributions.

    Now I’m thinking if people step down from being climate scientists, they can if they wish take on the role of environmental advocate in their communities and on the internet. Which means they don’t need to reach .05 p significance (or 95% confidence) to make claims anymore. They don’t have to follow scientific caution or worry about avoiding false positives, but only worry about the fate of the world.

    It could be a liberating experience, and we do need more environmentalists advocating for life on earth, inspiring people to enact solutions.

    Still I feel a bit sad that you are leaving RC and climate science.

  38. 38
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #13, Roinn, that was the year — 1995 — that I stopped most my primary source reading on climate science (not that I understood a lot). That was the year I came to realize we had enough proof re global warming and it didn’t have to be debated any more — only the details had to be filled in and ironed out in my estimation.

    However 1990 was the year I felt we had enough evidence to vigorously pursue mitigation and solutions. And the only reason I was a bit late (I could have come to that conclusion sooner, say in 1980 or 1985), was that I didn’t know much about global warming.

    Thank goodness we have scientists to inform us about this problem. I hope it’s not the case that 100 years from now scientists will be documenting our abysmal failure to mitigate global warming adequately to avoid the worst. I’ve always told the denialists and contrarians that their best strategy would be to reduce GHGs so low that there’s no more evidence for the scientist to work with. That would be one way to show the world how lacking in certainty this global warming thing is :) .

    We humans were smart enough to have created the technology that led to global warming; let’s just hope we’re wise enough to mitigate it.

  39. 39
    TCO says:

    I don’t like your politics or your admining/moderating. But I wish you the best as one human to another with your new plans.

  40. 40
    pete best says:

    Is that Cambridge MA or Cambridge UK I wonder ?

  41. 41
    Bruce says:

    Sorry to see you go William.

    Perhaps slightly off-topic, but emphasising your point that progress in climate change now needs to be in the realm of politics rather than science, Australia today signed the Kyoto protocol. It was our new Prime Minister’s first action after he was sworn in.

    Climate change was one of the 3 big issues that determined the election outcome – the biggest was industrial relations. I probably don’t need to mention that this leaves the US as the only hold-out in the developed world with respect to signing up for Kyoto.

  42. 42
    Crusty says:

    Goodbye and Goodluck. Now something different for a change. Communicating with friends I’ve refered to climate change as a fast moving monster and decided it needs a name. Please forgive me but I’ve named it ” GODZILLA “

  43. 43
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #39, I don’t really know what you and others mean by politics, except I think you mean beliefs/values & ideology.

    To me politics has to do with power and influence — whether on the national level, such as that exerted by a dictator, or in the family, like the wife bossing the husband around.

    We’ve heard the adage “knowledge is power” and the term “technocracy” (experts being the powerful controllers of the society), but Micchel Foucault made the amazing claim that “power is knowledge.” He should have lived to see just how true that was, how the powerful can actually obfuscate science or reality-based knowledge into their fantasyland what-they-want “reality,” and then hoodwink a lot of others. I think what the postmodernist Foucault actually meant was that the powerful (mainly government) grantors of universities and science institutes can skew the science, or teach the students to be compliant to their system. And, of course, that’s also true. But it’s very shocking that the frank knowledge produced by scientists striving for objectivity can be then altered by unlearned bureacrats with red pencils.

    Just attended the American Society of Criminology conference. A critical “green criminologist” presented a paper on this very topic: “Global Warming: A State Crime Against Humanity.” Of course, it’s also against other forms of biota, as well, and we discussed that.

  44. 44
    veritas36 says:

    I have admired your contributions to Wikipedia on the various global warming web pages. I thank you for your diligent defense of science and your clear prose.
    I hope you can continue your internet activities, at least occasionally. Good luck and success in your new field

  45. 45

    Cambridge’s gain is RC’s loss. That includes those of us who log on to learn, share gems of wisdom :), or just to vent our spleen.
    Job opportunities have come from an unexpected quarter, recently. Would you believe the clothing industry? This from yesterday’s front page in the “NY Times”:

    Best of luck to you and your family.

  46. 46
    Nick Gotts says:

    William, thanks for your work, best wishes for the future.

  47. 47
    catman306 says:

    Thanks, William, for helping to make RC a place to direct climate change skeptics and denialists for real climate information.

    Off topic but possibly important:

    Tropics expanding faster than predicted:

  48. 48
    Carter O'Brien says:

    Another thank you from an appreciative lurker, William. I’d imagine there are a lot of folks like me who owe you a debt.

  49. 49
    Ktc says:

    Good luck William. Thank you for all of your hard work and insightful posts. I have enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, readuing and learning from them.

  50. 50
    mark s says:

    good luck William, i’ve been an interested reader of your blog and will continue to do so, but i must join in the thanks for your contribution to RC.

    RC has been by far the best source of info on AGW for me, on this often spun subject. It has kept me from despair or panic, on various occasions, whilst helping me resist the twin sirens of lazy denialism or alarmism.

    I think the warmth of the response in this thread demonstrates how influential you have been. A loss to us all on RC.

    Respect, Mark S