Way back at the end of 2006, we did a review of the year’s climate science discussion. It’s that time of year again and so we’ve decided to give it another go. Feel free to suggest your own categories and winners…
Most clueless US politician talking about climate change (with the exception of Senator Inhofe who’d always win):
Well, we’re the only Arctic state, of course, Alaska. So we feel the impacts more than any other state, up there with the changes in climates. And certainly, it is apparent. We have erosion issues. And we have melting sea ice, of course. [….] You know there are – there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with now, these impacts. I’m not going to solely blame all of man’s activities on changes in climate.
Most puzzling finding from 2006 that has yet to be convincingly replicated:
Methane from plants
Most reckless extrapolation of short term trends:
Michael “All global warming has been erased” Asher (Daily Tech)
This year’s most (unsurprisingly) abused study:
Keenlyside et al. initialised climate forecasts (and no, they didn’t take our bet).
Climate scientist with biggest disconnect between his peer-reviewed papers and his online discussions:
Most worn out contrarian cliche:
The “Gore Effect”. This combines the irrelevant confusion of climate with weather and the slightly manic obsession with Al Gore over the actual science. Do please grow up.
Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
Global warming is caused by undersea volcanoes (and pirates!).
The S. Fred Singer award for the most dizzying turn-around of a climate pseudo-skeptic:
Dennis Avery: “Global warming is likely to continue” (2006) , to global warming is “unstoppable” (2006), to “Say Good-Bye To Global Warming And Hello To Global Cooling!” (2008).
Pottiest peer on the contrarian comedy circuit:
Viscount Monckton of Brenchley
Least unexpected observations:
(Joint winners) 2008 near-record minima in Arctic sea ice extent, last decade of record warmth, long term increases in ocean heat content, record increases in CO2 emissions.
Most consistently wrong media outlet:
The Australian (runner-up the UK Daily Telegraph). Both comfortably beating out the perennial favorite, the Wall Street Journal – maybe things have really changed there?
Best actual good news:
The grown-ups being back in charge starting January 20 (compare with this).
Most inaccurate attempted insinuation about RealClimate:
‘The Soros-funded Realclimate.org’ Chris Horner
Most revealing insight into some US coal companies and year’s best self parody:
Frosty the Coalman (video available here)
Most disturbing trend for science journalism:
The axing of dedicated science units at CNN, the Weather Channel and elsewhere. Can Climate Central and blogging journalists take up the slack?
Happy New Year to all of our readers!
297 Responses to "2008 Year in review"
MAsher on Daily Tech is the sole reason I stopped using that site. It’s depressing how many of the readers there hold that him  in high esteem. The IT world seems to be a bastion of denialists these days. Just check The Register for more clueless anti-science.
I came to your site via Climatedebatedaily.com, which named you as the most authoritative pro AGW site. I have learned quite a lot and am gradually managing to get to grips with the central issues. I have a PhD in Mathematics and my professional interests are in probability and statistics and I can understand much of the material. What I found surprising and disturbing is how the subject of global warming resembles a religious war. I am used to listening to spoilt young girls with artfully matted dreadlocks giving me physics lessons on the BBC news, but I wasn’t prepared for the, what only can be described as, childish behaviour of educated scientists (perhaps you are all just programmers!). Use of words such as “denialist”, “contrarian”, “denialosphere” does your cause no good. Neither does adopting a smart-alec superior attitude. Trying to discredit your opponents by bringing their religious beliefs and attitudes towards smoking sets alarm bells ringing in the minds of the curious layman. The majority of those who visit your site probably do so in a genuine quest for information, and resent being treated as if they had inadvertently wandered into a mosque carrying a bottle of beer. If your confidence in the science behind your version of events is so strong, why not stop at a calm, clear explanation?
[Response: Hmm… One reason is that much of the confusion that exists is engendered on purpose. While many of our posts do just explain issues that have come up, we are constantly asked to respond to pieces of deliberate disinformation. It does no-one any favours to pretend that these are just innocent mis-interpretations. There is some sense in which newcomers might feel they have dropped into a long-running soap opera, which is why we have the ‘Start here‘ button with plenty of links to the necessary background. However, we do think about the balance between explanation and reaction, and we will be thinking about that constantly in the new year. – gavin]
Elery Fudge says
I second comment #2 by Jon. Regarding the post, what is the history of the RealClimate web site?
[Response: All posts are still online. See here, or these interviews. – gavin]
Mark A. York says
Well Jon for some it is a religous war, but not on the part of the learned gents here. They’re simply shooting back at the Kookaburras cackling from the trees.
Jim Bouldin says
What words do you want people to use for those who deny the evidence of human effects on climate? If “denialist” or “contrarian” are too strong for you, you should see the names thrown at Hansen, IPCC authors, Gore, etc. There is an element of the public that is genuinely curious but ignorant, and an altogether different element that has a definite agenda against the scientific results coming forth. The former will do their best to listen and learn, the latter will just discount what is said and look for other breaches in the wall where they can launch another attach. They’re not interested in learning anything. You have to know the difference. How would you treat people who don’t show any interest in learning anything?
Jim Bouldin says
“Most disappointing presentation of climate science by someone you expect to be knowledgeable on the topic based on their credentials”
Roy Spencer, for his recent book.
Elery Fudge says
RE #4 Gavin
I appreciate the links. Thank you.
Congrats for another stellar year providing insight into the issue of climate change and global warming. I have appreciated having RC here to help me understand the ins and outs of the climate wars, sorting through the mistakes, misinformation and the outright BS to find the facts.
Happy New Year and looking forward to another informative year from all of you.
Alan Neale says
Re #2, Real climate is targeted and trolled to some degree I am sure by people who are attempting to use some quote made here by the team and even take it out of context. Realclimate are not superior but when you know the most on a subject and get a lot of posts asking unsuitable questions or making strong statements which you know are unlikely to be right and true you have a right to reply. Now email and posting have little emotion and hence your assumptions are a little unfair.
We hear this so many times, Jon, that it’s clearly an “argument” people are picking up from one (or many) of the denialist sites. Would you care to tell us where *you* got this “talking point” from?
Thanks for the link to the story on Johnson at the EPA, I enjoyed the story. Well, if you call experiencing terror at the information contained in the story enjoying it.
John Mashey says
Re: The Australian and the WSJ, and is WSJ changing
The Australian definitely wins, but they differ fundamentally: the WSJ is only competing via the OpEd section, whereas The Australian uses the various news sections as well. I’ve often seen good, straightforward climate-related reporting in the WSJ alongside awful OpEd.
One WSJ reporter told me the OpEd gang were evil, neocon dinosaurs… and that was the printable part.
At least in recent years, I can’t recall seeing an actual story in the WSJ to rival the badness of stories in The Australian, although on OpEds they are competitive.
re: 2 jon
IMHO, those who run RC are patient beyond my comprehension…
but maybe there should be a stronger warning label that a newcomer *really* should read Start Here first, before reading a single article.
Hank Roberts says
Jon, there’s a short list — Contributors — in the right sidebar. _Those_ are RC’s climate scientists. Get to know them.
The rest — names and pseudonyms — are readers. Some may be scientists. Google Scholar helps when someone claims specific expertise. Occasionally guest scientists will do longer posts or add comments that are much appreciated. I wish that happened more. Keeping the level of dreck down is the best hope of encouraging those sorts of comments.
Many of us aren’t scientists — we’re readers here to learn how to learn. Sometimes we worry at a question and figure something out (always hoping someone with actual expertise comments eventually).
We regular readers do often retype the answers to the basic repeated questions, or, better, point to where they are, or help people figure out how to search for themselves to get good information.
“Start Here” button. First link under Science in right sidebar.
When someone hasn’t noticed those, many of us point to them.
People make a real effort to stay relevant. It’s fuzzy; this is deeply involved with how we live, like public health Hot-button topics exist; for example when I see someone declaiming about sound science, or smoking, I’ll suggest the papers here as relevant
David B. Benson says
Jon (2) — You could well want to follow
linked on the side bar under Other Opinions as “Open Mind”.
Also, I agree that the RealClimate contributors are very patient gentlemen; anyone who seriously disagrees with the science certainly deserves a label of “denialist”.
[reCAPTCHA agrees, entoning “Services correct”.]
Keep up the good work — I look forward to following your posts in 2009.
If Jon (#2) is sincere and rational, he’ll understand the occasional usage of snark by RC and others in response to the fervent mis-/dis-information agents. It’s understandable to be turned off by this at first (I was) … but a few days of reading posts should do the trick. Or, he’s not sincere and concern trolling.
my wish, for the 2009 Realclimate, is to get more technical posts (I know, it eats your time) and less “political”, like this one.
Jeremy C says
“Most consistently wrong media outlet:
The Australian”….What is it about my country that it seems to harbour deniers all out of proportion to the size of its population. I suppose we can be grateful that Australia’s population is not the size of the US otherwise we might find ourselves with deniers coming out of our ears….
Hank Roberts says
> concern trolling
Yup. There are always remarks it’d be wiser to just completely ignore, but those crafted by experts are always soooooo tempting….
“Level 10 Net Troll: He has no special powers, and he’s really mad about it.”
Rod B says
dhogaza (11), you have, inadvertently to be sure, provided corroborating evidence for Jon’s point (2).
To be smart-alec right back: We hear consensus so many times, dhogaza, that it’s clearly an “argument” people are picking up from one (or many) of the AGW agenda sites. Would you care to tell us where *you* got this “talking point” from?
Hank Roberts says
Clever move, Rod, “AGW agenda sites” –> “let’s you and him fight”
thank you all very much for this wonderful source of information and occasional laughs. i refer many people to your site, and use a lot of your analyses in the inevitable arguments i get into online.
i feel for our Australian friend above, and am similarly embarrassed to belong to same country as ‘the telegraph’. in our defense we do also have the guardian and the independent (combined readership probably about the same as the telergaph) which both produce some sterling cutting edge climate reporting.
roll on 2009, and some proper grown up politicians making world saving (u.k. joke!) policy.
Happy New year everyone!
James Staples says
(Note: WARNING, ‘Adult’ Content to follow)
I just checked out the “Frosty The Coalman” Video, and I can’t think of a more apropriate way to ‘review’ it than by pointing out that the ‘next’ YouTube Video that that Site had queued up for our viewing pleasure was entitled “Jizz In My Pants”!!!
It must be the latest effort from R. Kelley – or something!
Oh, by the way; Bang Up Good Job All Around, Real Climate People!
Don’t let em get you down – or send Global temperatures Up any higher than their own blockheaded foolishness (See, Jon, it’ NOT just these Guys who think like that!) necessitates.
And, Happy New Year To All!
Thanks Gavin et al. for keeping one of the best climate resources on the internet. Tonight I will toast you and all the climate scientists and bloggers fighting against the incredible amount of disinformation out there.
Happy New Year!
Sure, Rob, Naomi Oreske’s paper, among other places. We actually have evidence on our side. What do you have? The Intelligent Designer?
Jim #6: “What words do you want people to use for those who deny the evidence of human effects on climate?”
Simply don’t use word to characterize people (you don’t know anyway)! It’s about facts. Everybody is entitled to his/her own opinion (unless there is rock-hard evidence), but not to his/her facts.
[Response: And then you have people who repeatedly ignore said facts in favour of imagined ‘factoids’. While quoting Moynihan is apropos, finding a useful collective noun for persistent offenders is a necessary shorthand. Happy to hear any suggestions. – gavin]
dhogaza: “We actually have evidence on our side.” Who is we? Science, mankind, a grouping of people? How do I know if I belong to the “we” group or not, do I have to sign a paper?
Al Breingan says
This comment demeans Kookaburras, those fine Australian birds who are merely having a quiet chuckle about our continual stupidity.
Wishes to all for a cool new year (shame about the forecasts) and thanks to the RealClimate team for their efforts
Ray Ladbury says
Rod B., You know better than that. Scientific consensus is the set of facts, theories and techniques that the vast majority agree are essential in order to understand a field of science. The “voting” occurs by publications and citations. Those who reject the consensus are unproductive. Those who embrace “crazy ideas” have a higher probability of being wrong. The sweet spot where you actually increase understanding is the consensus.
It is hardly unique to climate science. Particle Physics has its standard model. Geophysics (last I studied it) had its Preliminary Reference Earth Model (PREM) for understanding seismic propagation. And so on. Don’t be thick. Consensus is an essential part of science–ALL SCIENCE.
Philip Machanick says
#18 Jeremy C
You did know that Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter?
Coincidence … ?
WSJ is now also in the Murdoch stable. Rupert Murdoch himself has come around to the position that climate change is a real problem. For once, it would be a good thing if the all-powerful newspaper proprietor called in his editors and told them to stop writing BS. As far as I can tell, The Australian fires reporters and columnists for fact checking. They stopped publishing my letters (from a high hit rate to zero) when I started pointing out factual errors. I stopped buying the paper, and now read it online.
On the “name calling” thing, I recently told a very reputable scientist (in biology) that I was running for the Greens next Queensland state election, and got fed this line about what a pity it was that everyone was so rude to that nice Bob Carter, calling him “religious” etc. etc. I suspect he hasn’t read what Bob Carter says about climate scientists. Every accusation thrown at climate scientists by the inactivist side is true of them, only more so. For example: climate scientists are accused (falsely) of trying to model the entire climate as the CO2 greenhouse effect, yet it’s somehow OK if their side claims that the entire climate is controlled by the sun (except when they claim it’s all cosmic rays).
Rather than get stuck on who is calling whom what, I suggest putting your head in a bucket of cold water, then reading the science. The mainstream is attempting to come up with predictive models, which, while imperfect, are accurate enough to use as a basis for policy. The other side is coming up with curve fits to historical data, which is a poor approach to explaining anything. Even if you cannot start from a physical model and have to use a purely statistical approach, you need to train your model on one data set and validate it against another. I’m still looking for the plausible hypothesis that overturns the mainstream, supported by a reasonable standard of modelling.
This kind of faux debate is not new. We had it around health risks of smoking and the HIV doesn’t cause AIDS movement. The media loves a debate even if there is no substance to it; the angrier the participants, the better — and what better way to stoke up a debate than to give space to a position that has virtually no support?
I had a lengthy argument on my blog with one of the regulars on The Australian‘s letters comment blog. I eventually realised that he was not open to logic despite being pretty well informed (correcting some of my errors, which I always appreciate) because he rejected the notion that a theory had to have predictive power to be useful.
Philip Machanick says
#29 Ray Ladbury: this attack on the notion of consensus also came from the tobacco never killed anyone and HIV doesn’t cause AIDS bunch. We actually know there’s a causal connection between tobacco and climate inactivism, as ably researched by George Monbiot. I tracked down some of his original sources. Interesting reading. A name that pops up a lot is Steven Milloy. Try doing a google search on ‘Steven Milloy HIV AIDS’. You’ll see he is onto that one too. A professional science denier. His motivation is clearly political: as a (US-type) libertarian, anything that requires government intervention has to be wrong. Pro-industry apparently is good but not essential.
To me that looks like a religion. But don’t take my word for it. The evidence is out in the open.
Nick C says
Ray, I know what you are driving at but you must consider the role of ‘crazies’(Not you Rod B but me)!!! They are at least interesting if not productive!
“In any community of scientists, Kuhn states, there are some individuals who are bolder than most. These scientists, judging that a crisis exists, embark on what Thomas Kuhn calls revolutionary science, exploring alternatives to long-held, obvious-seeming assumptions. Occasionally this generates a rival to the established framework of thought. The new candidate paradigm will appear to be accompanied by numerous anomalies, partly because it is still so new and incomplete. The majority of the scientific community will oppose any conceptual change, and, Kuhn emphasizes, so they should. In order to fulfill its potential, a scientific community needs to contain both individuals who are bold and individuals who are conservative. There are many examples in the history of science in which confidence in the established frame of thought was eventually vindicated. Whether the anomalies of a candidate for a new paradigm will be resolvable is almost impossible to predict. Those scientists who possess an exceptional ability to recognize a theory’s potential will be the first whose preference is likely to shift in favour of the challenging paradigm. There typically follows a period in which there are adherents of both paradigms. In time, if the challenging paradigm is solidified and unified, it will replace the old paradigm, and a paradigm shift will have occurred.”
I appreciate Kuhn has his critics, but this general thrust is still thought to hold, it is more an observation anyway. Read carefully it provides support for no side in the AGW debate but just make an actor in that drama aware that there are often two sides and this is how science sometimes behaves. Rejecting consensus is unproductive? Imagine the breakthroughs and discoveries made by those rejecting it in history, without which we would still believe in wind gods to explain weather!
Having said that, I agree that consensus is an essential part of science, but it is more useful within a paradigm of science than at it’s boundaries, and at its boundaries is where science also occurs. Are we at the boundaries of a paradigm? I don’t know, but worth considering.
Ray Ladbury says
It always kind of amazes me when people object to the label “denialist” for people who are so deeply in denial. I’ve always thought it was better than some of the alternatives–nutjob? ignorant foodtube?
This site is not about debate, but about education and outreach. The site confines itself to the science and scientific debate takes place between the pages of peer-reviewed journals and in the hallways of scientific conferences. I mean, I hate to break it to the denialist crowd, but you aren’t doing science here. You are just providing entertainment.
Anna Keenan says
I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to write to you all to ring in the new year. I’ve come up with what follows:
2009 is the year.
We are going to win the climate change battle.
I have no doubt in my mind, nor any doubt in my heart. We are going to win. In fact, we already have won.
The trick is to keep doing exactly what you are doing. We are on the right track. You are part of the road to success.
If you disagree, please give me a call and I’ll convince you that you’re wrong.
If you passionately agree, tell everyone you know.
Call me if you want to.
Lots of love,
Youth Climate Advocate
The Australian Youth Climate Coalition unites over 20 diverse youth organisations to build a generation-wide movement to solve climate change. Our alliance combines our forces, leveraging our collective power to create change for a clean, efficient, just and renewable energy future. We inspire, educate, empower and mobilise young Australians to take action on climate change. We coordinate, communicate and network with each other, and run shared projects and campaigns. http://www.aycc.org.au
Greg Simpson says
Ray Ladbury: It always kind of amazes me when people object to the label “denialist”…
Spoken like a true credulist.
Edward Greisch says
RealClimate: Thanks for a couple of laughs. I liked the Sarah Palin one most.
2 Jon: What is amazing about RealClimate is that the denialists have failed to get the RealClimate people angry. There are so many of them whose only occupation is to find buttons to push and chains to pull. I mean psychological buttons and chains. They act like people with negative IQs. It is impossible to explain anything to that kind of person, no matter how hard you try. They have certainly given RealClimate far more than sufficient reason for any level of anger. It is really tough to do, but you just have to ignore the button pushers and chain pullers.
On religion: [edit – OT]
Another problem is that the fossil fuel industry intentionally corrupts the information on Google, and Google takes money from them for the privilege of corrupting the information found by googling.:
Reference: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007 The original is in French.
When you do a Google search, you get “sponsored” links on the right side and “non-sponsored” links on the left. The “NON-SPONSORED” links on Google ARE LISTED IN THE ORDER OF THE HIGHEST BIDDER to lowest bidder. Companies pay dollars to Google to get web sites other than their own that lie in favor of the paying company to be at the top of the “non-sponsored” list. Google search results in your getting nothing but corporate propaganda. Since the coal industry has a $100 Billion per year income at stake, they can and must share a lot of money with Google.
Page 32: 62% of internet users questioned make no distinction whatever between advertising and other information, and only 18% proved capable of telling which data were paid for by companies for their promotion and which were not.”
“92% of users of search engines have full confidence in the results of their search, and 71% (users for less than five years) consider that information from this source [Google] is never biased in any way.”
Suggestion: Use only Google Advanced or Google Scholar. On Google Advanced, specify either the .gov domain or the .edu domain. Otherwise, use only web sites that http://www.RealClimate.org uses or the IPCC.
George W. Bush messed up as many government web sites as he could get away with, but your chances are still clearly better than going to the richest propagandist .com or .org.
Better yet: Get a degree in science so that you can figure it out for yourself.
There should be a law requiring Google to disclose the above and the donors and the dollars for each “non-sponsored” link. Environmentalists should work on Google legislation first.
I’ve read the posts on this site (and many others) for a least a couple years now. My impression in the past was that you folks were pretty dispassionate (in a good way) about your scientific work and the information you posted on this site. But that seems to have changed and this post is a good example of that change. These days, I read here more and more attempts to pursuade (or vent frustration?) by ad hominem attacks and ridicule. It seems to me that the authors on this site have adopted the means they bitterly accuse the “denialists” of using.
Too bad. I think comment #2 (from Jon) got it exactly right. For what it’s worth, I think the authors represented by this site would gain credibility by lowering the level of vitriol that has been gradually on the increase.
douglas clark says
37 posts later, and ‘Jon’ has disappeared, his work done.
Here’s a brief resumé of how to write a climate denialist post:
“I have a PhD in (pick vaguely related subject). The way you act just pulls you down to the level of the opposition.”
Sit back and waste lots of time for other folk.
It is a typical tactic, not that Jon ever learned it….
ike solem says
Well, the basic issue is the gap between public knowledge and scientific knowledge, which is promoted by the denialist effort. Much of that effort has been financed by vested interests, who may very well believe that their products are harmless. This is where the word “denialism” stems from – as in, “We have a problem and we are in denial about it.”
So, why the irritation on the part of some scientists? Lessee… for example, we have this article archived at the Fraser Institue from 1999 on the exaggerated predictions of climate models in Arctic regions, by Baliunas & Soon:
So, you would expect such claims to be retracted or reconsidered in the light of current events… but no. Instead, we get Sarah Palin in Alaska using scientific studies written by the same people…
Here is the excerpt:
Failing to take basic facts into account while claiming to be a scientific expert and providing information to government policymakers and leading media outlets, – you can see how that can be a bit annoying, can’t you? Annoying, indeed.
RodB, #20. So what should be used for the names that turn up here, ask questions like “Someone said that X is true and I can’t find any reason it isn’t. Can you help me?” and then, after the original message is forgotten, start attacking those who are explaining why X is either irrelevant or wrong.
What about those like you who say “Well, it could be something else we don’t know about”. So, it could be exactly what we know. You never consider it though, do you.
What SHOULD be the response?
When someone’s argument is all about denying the knowledge (“It could be something else, I dunno what, just something”) what other word than “denialist” should be used? Skeptic certainly isn’t, since they’d be all skeptical about what this “other unknown” is right off the bat.
How about those who use poor statistics and draw a single line between two dates and call it proof of global warming is over when I could pick another two dates and call it proof of global warming? When “skeptics” called the early work to task for not being long enough to make a trend, why did they not turn even more skeptical (and in cases even brought it up themselves) when a shorter and less pronounced (cherry picked) trend is shown to show warming is over? That’s not skepticism. That’s the refutation of warming. Denial of it.
cogito, you don’t live up to your handle.
In what way did your post #27 answer dagohza’s question? “We are the world. We are the people” didn’t have a requirement to sign up to be “we” in the lyrics.
Your attempt to disregard an uncomfortable truth by false epistemology is shallow and transparent.
Greg 35. You seemed to have leaped into a conclusion with both feet firmly in your gob.
A credulist would be believing the denialists AND the AGW group and unable to pass on a new idea themselves.
Rather like one of the blokes Paul Whitehouse plays in a sketch where he agrees with everyone when they make a statement.
Ray is sometimes wrong (*In MY opinion*, reality may have a different view) but credulous is not one of his evinced properties.
Now, do you have ANYTHING to say ?
Barton Paul Levenson says
The URL is
And can also be accessed through my climatology page:
DVG #37. The reason for your perception is that you see it as an attack on you. You WANT the denialists to be right. Think on that and I’ll go off on something a little more generally available to others.
One reason why there is this greater dressing down of the mouth-breathers is because the mouth-breathers are losing and the only way they know to counter it is not to find facts or cogent arguments but to repeat the same mantra over and over again hoping, like Goebbels, The Big Lie will be believed and they will be praised.
But what else can you do when the sixth time some barnpot has said “It’s the SUN!!!!” and you’ve explained where they are wrong five times, what else will you expect other than some paraphrasing of either
polite: stop it
impolite: shut up you idiot
But you may not see the five attempts to explain just the end point. And that can only be because you’re selection bias is kicking in. Ask why you ignored five messages and picked out one that shows less understanding? Either you don’t want to think of the respondents as being nice people or you want the food-tube to be right.
Ray Ladbury says
Greg Simpson–Actually, I don’t consider it an insult to be accused of believing the overwhelming evidence. If you guys ever produced any credible evidence, I’d consider that, too. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Greg, personally, I think it is rather sad that people like you are so deluded that you actually think you are taking part in scientific debate.
Jack Roesler says
I agree with Gavin’s response to Jon (#2). I’ve been posting comments and replies on USAToday.com’s articles on global warming for nearly two years now. What I’ve found is almost certainly a campaign on the part of many posters to deny the science, for whatever reason, and to confuse anyone who wanders there. It’s for that reason, plus my own desire to show off my knowledge of the science, that I continue to counter their trumped up arguments with the facts. It doesn’t work. They just keep coming back with the same old false arguments, many times under different user names. Very frustrating.
Hank Roberts says
But Jon was confusing the commenters with the scientists.
You’re suggesting the commenters here are too mean and nasty to the …
well, look up who’s who, and also look up concern trolling.
Patrick Hadley says
Your award of runner-up in the Most Consistently Wrong Media Outlet to the UK Daily Telegraph is an understandable error. The Daily Telegraph is a strong supporter of the consensus on climate change. It is the Sunday Telegraph (owned by the same people, but editorially independent) which pursues a sceptic line. The confusion comes from the fact they share a website – but those who write the sceptic articles are not employed by the Daily Telegraph. Most sceptics would agree that the Daily Telegraph is consistently wrong, for example it recently printed an article claiming that a 0.21C increase is equal to an increase of 32.8F.
#1 wrote: “The IT world seems to be a bastion of denialists these days. Just check The Register for more clueless anti-science.”
That’s because most of them haven’t been trained in the physical sciences like chemistry or biology. They have no concept that the real world is based on equilibriums and probabilities, CS types only understand binary on/off.
I.E. For them it either works, or it doesn’t work.
That root of our problem is that our higher education system is producing legions of these science illiterates. CS types often think they’re superior because of their minor personal successes programming a computer. Overconfidence, arrogance, and complete ignorance all in the same package.
Ray Ladbury says
Nick C., I agree that Kuhn’s analysis is important, but how common are scientific revolutions in the physical sciences? There was the displacement of classical dynamics with relativity and quantum mechanics. However, even here, the correspondence principle was central in developing the new schemes. Moreover, the revolution was made necessary by vast improvements in measurement that made it possible to investigate utterly new fields (e.g. electrodynamics and atom/particle dynamics). Maybe, you could include contintental drift, but again, it was the new understanding of the fluid properties of the mantle that provided a mechanism for Wegener’s phenomenological ideas. There is the Big Bang in cosmology, but that’s a science that’s really still quite young.
Having a theory that posits a mechanism is a crucial step in science. It really is the difference between a science like modern biology, informed as it is by evolution and our understanding of DNA, and medicine, which is mainly epidemiological and so more easily overturned. One can argue that the need for a dynamical theory was behind the move from clasical to relativistic/quantum paradigms.
In climate science, we have a well tested theory based on well understood and validated physical mechanisms. Our understanding is not 100% of course, but new developments would be extremely unlikely to overturn what we do know well–e.g. the greenhouse forcing of CO2. (For one thing, as a long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gas, CO2 produces a signature that would be hard to mimic.) So, I would contend that development of climate science is likely to be more incremental and orderly. If revolutionary, new ideas come along, they will be greeted with skepticism, but this is entirely appropriate until they prove their worth by extending our explanatory power. To paraphrase Franklin–if it have explanatory power, none dare call it foolish.