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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) 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.


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. 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. 1
    Chris Hope says:

    A range of views is vital to get a balanced assessment of the risks of climate change. The best policy models can cope with a range of inputs. Good luck to this project.

  2. 2
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    I think this is a really good idea, with one exception, which is that public comments should be disabled. Already there are several comments that are just standard blogsphere bluster and repetition of misunderstandings of basic issues that have been done to death elsewhere. This just reduces the quality of the discussion unnecessarily as there are plenty of venues on the blogsphere for the less productive types of discussion that tend to happen in unmoderated public discussion on this topic. It would be better if the discussion were restricted to genuine experts, e.g. those with relevant peer-reviewed publications. I would much rather read what the experts (on both “sides”) have to say, without wading through the nonsense. The inability to participate myself would be a small price to pay.

  3. 3

    @Chris Hope: thanks for your support!
    You are completely right and that is exactly why we have made a clear distinction between the discussions between the experts (i.e. Judith Curry, Walt Meier and Ron Lindsay with respect to the first topic: Arctic Sea Ice decline)and the public comments. First you see the expert discussion (incl. comments form the moderator, which is Marcel Crok for this topc, but Rob van Dorland and me will do the next two topics)and below that the public comments start. The latter are strictly moderated and any off-topic comments are placed in a seperate folder called ‘off-topic’. We are working on some bugs and therefore it is not working perfect yet, but I promise it will in the next few days.

  4. 4
    Gerald Wilhite says:

    Dikran Marsupial has a interesting point. Would it be practical to have a two-tiered discussion — amateurs in one, and experts in the other? It is very important to cultivate the principles of good science in the general public. My suggestion is to require that “user names” be verifiable real names for the amateur discussions. The amateur discussion should be moderated, perhaps something like WUWT does it.

    For the expert discussion, I suggest allowing “user names” to be anything as long as you keep a secure record of verifiable real names. This would encourage the input of views from experts who may not be in a position to freely speak their minds. Experts from seemingly unrelated fields should be allowed in my opinion.

  5. 5
    Alexandre says:

    I don’t like it.

    It’s probably a well-intended approach that falls into the “balance as bias” category. The multiple theory natural selection already happens where it can be truly constructive: the peer-reviewed literature.

    The format unduly inflates the relevance and magnitude of climate dissent, and just misinforms the public conveying the wrong idea that AGW is just one of many equally supported opinions. The broader audience does not follow the physics in depth enough to know what’s good, plausible science, and what’s just grasping at straws.

  6. 6

    In my opinion its a wrong format, first and foremost facts must be agreed upon by the dialogists then a dialogue has a chance to ensue, already Judith made a joke of most facts, and I don’t think a dialogue can be achieved if basic data is twisted to fit a parallel universe reality:

    “So . . . what is the bottom line on the attribution of the recent sea ice melt? My assessment is that it is likely (>66% likelihood) that there is 50-50 split between natural variability and anthropogenic forcing, with +/-20% range. Why such a ‘wishy washy’ statement with large error bars? Well, observations are ambiguous, models are inadequate, and our understanding of the complex interactions of the climate system is incomplete.” Judith Curry

    Natural variability may have the same impact as CO2… That is bunk. Natural variability is part of any process but sea ice thinning gradually , year by year, is not quite variable.

    “Older ice
    Here’s the basic story as I see it. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the circulation patterns favoured the motion of older, thicker sea ice out of the Arctic. This set the stage for the general decline in Arctic sea ice extent starting in the 1990′s. In 2001/2002, a hemispheric shift in the teleconnection indices occurred, which accelerated the downward trend. A local regime shift occurred in the Arctic during 2007, triggered by summertime weather patterns conspired to warm and melt the sea ice. The loss of multi-year ice during 2007 has resulted in all the minima since then being well below normal, with a high amplitude seasonal cycle. After 2007, there was another step loss in ice volume in 2010. In 2012, the basic pattern of this new regime was given a ‘kick’ by a large cyclonic storm in early August.” Judith Curry

    Right! A single cyclone “done in” the sea ice for 2012, WUWT speak, while everything started in 2007 by the not mentioned Arctic dipole. Never mind that the decline was slow and gradual for decades reaching a critical point where any cyclone would appear to be having an impact (depending on the animation watched). Flushing through Fram Strait occurs almost constantly, no matter how thick the ice is, or what Oscillation dominates, its a natural phenomena of great consistency. The thinning of the ice, decreasing in over all sea ice volume yearly declines appears to be unnatural . The replenishment process involved in creating thicker multi-year ice has been dwarfed by the extra heat present in the Arctic. Of which flushing has very little to do with it.

    So I give this dialogue 0 chance of achieving anything but the same “He says, She says” teeter-totter see saw of a ton weighing consensus scientists on one side matched by a few feather weight dissenters swinging the narrow board up and down regardless of physics. There is no discussion as long as reality is allowed to be changed according to anyones opinion.

  7. 7
    wili says:

    Once again, this sets up for the public (and in this case for the Dutch Parliament) a false sense of the true range of the debate. The actual scientific discussion is not between the ’07 IPCC positions and the denialists. The actual debate is between good science that has become mostly more dire since the IPCC report, and other good science that has become even more dire.

    So the whole exercise is, unfortunately, do your country and the world a huge disservice, particularly when, as DM points out, every denialist crank and roboblogger on the planet is likely to pile on to the comment section leading to an apparent further skewing of the debate toward the dangerously absurd.

  8. 8
    Jamie says:

    Who could object to scientists airing their views? But I must say this sounds an awful lot like “teach the controversy”.

  9. 9
    Roddy Campbell says:

    Excellent plan. I shall be interested to see how many commenters here don’t like it because Judith Curry is on the first panel.

  10. 10
    kemcab2012 says:

    Good luck!

    I think it’s wonderful that this is taking place and that varying viewpoints within the field (not baseless, tired, skeptical viewpoints but variations of science backed viewpoints) will be expressed and discussed.

  11. 11
    Gerald Wilhite says:

    Oops! My apologies for the suggestions in my earlier post that repeat features already in your design. Sorry about that.

  12. 12
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    @Bart, many thanks for the response. While the discussion is two-tiered, the problem is that experts that are not “on the panel” have to make their contribution in the public section, which even with moderation is already so contaminated with blogsphere bluster that I am put of reading through it to find the gems. Perhaps the solution would be to invite other recognised experts to join in the expert discussion, and then the public discussion can safely be ignored.

    I suspect (predict) that *any* moderation of the public debate will inevitably lead to complaints from the “skeptic camp” that the dialog is being deliberately biased in favour of the “CAGW” by disproprtionate or unfair moderation of “skeptic” comments. I suspect the best answer to this is not to have a public discussion.

  13. 13
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    @Roddy, the only complaint about Judith being on the panel (on ClimateDialog) appears to be from a “skeptic” complaining that someone who accepts AGW is representing the “Skeptics”!

    I have no problem with Prof. Curry being on the panel. I fundamentally disagree with her views on the treatment of uncertainty (e.g. Itallian flag), but where better for those arguments to be put to the test?

  14. 14
    Mark Schaffer says:

    Would that be this Judith Curry?

    “The conference was remarkably well run. For the most part, participants were well behaved and adhered to Petr Chylek’s strict rules—avoiding inflammatory terms, and steering away from personal attacks and interruptions. The one exception was Judith Curry, who apparently did not get the memo. She gave a banquet presentation entitled, “The Uncertainty Monster at the Climate Science-Policy Interface”. My impression was that her presentation was intended to be more of a vehicle to criticize her adversaries than to talk about uncertainty.

    Her most personal attack was against Michael Mann, who she used to illustrate “uncertainty hiding” by showing a caricature of him standing next to the “uncertainty monster” holding a hockey stick and hidden by a sheet, with the cartoon-Mann saying “what uncertainty?” Next to the cartoon was and image of the cover of the book “The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science” illustrated with the multiproxy time series that Mann and his coauthors made famous. Ironically, Mann’s carefully plotted uncertainty bands were not visible on the presentation graphic, just as they were not reproduced in Fred Singer’s NIPCC report. “What uncertainty?” indeed!

    Curry described her transition from a scientist who felt that it was the responsible thing to do to support the IPCC conclusions to someone who is “about 50% a denier”. She attributed this change to “climategate” and the reaction she received due to her initial comments about it. She was the only speaker who ignored the policy against the word “denier.” She used the banned “d-word” repeatedly for effect when setting up a straw-man argument against what she called “IPCC/UNFCCC ideology” — a term she coined to label notions such as “anthropogenic climate change is real” and “deniers are attacking climate science and scientists”. She assured the audience that she didn’t think there were any “IPCC ideologues” at the conference but she had heard rumors that some were invited and had declined. She called out Kevin Trenberth as a supposed example of such an ideologue (again rejecting the policy against personal attack).

    Among her straw-man arguments was her dismissal of standard risk-reduction methodology for low-probability high-consequence events as a mere “precautionary principle” (the same principle that nuclear weapons engineers are taught when they told to always ask “what can go horribly wrong?”). One colleague later remarked that her approach to uncertainty quantification reminded him of an English major who had just finished reading Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.””

  15. 15
    Roddy Campbell says:

    Dikran #13 – I did see that! Extremely funny I agree. And hear hear re putting views to the test.

    I’m amused by comment #7 from wili, I guess that’s the other side of the probable objections, that there is only a debate to be had between very dire and extremely dire, so this format MUST be a disservice to the world. Oh well.

    Bart(s), Marcel et al – good luck with this. Is there a Twitter handle I can follow to see the next debate when it appears?

  16. 16
    Mark B says:

    This is an excellent idea. Debate is required in a subject that has a world wide impact. The cost of dealing with this problem is huge. People who oppose the idea of debate may be fearing that their position will be weakened. This is a completely wrong attitude: Debate should be educational, not just for the observers, but also for the participants. It is a good thing if both the participants (and observers) learn new things.
    People who read internet debates/blogs are often quite capable of understanding science. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand science. Denying people the right to be informed (or access to information) is wrong.
    The peer review process has the drawback that if it is relied on, to the exclusion of everything else, self interest will eventually become the overriding driving force, replacing the truth.
    A problem with Judith Curry’s climate blog was that a few individuals kept monopolizing the arguments, with endless irrelevant comments. Separating the scientists’ comments from the general public’s is also a good idea.

  17. 17

    (Disclaimer: I’m involved in ClimateDialogue as a member of the advisory board).

    Some commenters make the valid point that the format of the blog is conducive to promoting “false balance”. But on the other side of the coin there are also positives. For me, they weigh heavier.

    As I wrote in a postscript on my blog ( ):

    I think ClimateDialogue is a unique project in both its organization (people with wildly different views are involved) and in its aim:
    Facilitating a public discussion between scientists with strongly differing opinions.

    Discussion topics are chosen to be relevant and interesting to the general public as well as receiving scientific attention. Discussants are chosen to reflect different stances in the spectrum of scientific opinion, explicitly including ‘sceptical’ voices. Naturally, the ensuing discussion is not necessarily representative of the full spectrum of scientific discussion (painting it as such would likely lead to a ‘false balance’).

    The idea is that the discussion can alleviate the polarization between ‘sceptics’ and ‘mainstreamers’ and provide some clarity in background of the (dis)agreements. Moreover, having scientists discuss their scientific disagreements in a public setting can go a long way to increase the public trust in science, which has suffered from the (imho incorrect) impression of being closed-minded. All in all, I think that ClimateDialogue provides a valuable service to both the public and the scientific debate. That doesn’t mean that it’s free of risks, but these are more in the framing and the perception than in the discussions itself. Naturally, the participation of good scientists is a necessary condition to make this experiment a success. Don’t hesitate to contact the editors (or me) if you fit the bill and are not afraid of a public debate!

  18. 18
    Donna says:

    I think that the problem will be in getting an alternate view presented in a decent fashion. I don’t have an issue with using Judith Curry (though I wonder if she has enough technical knowledge on the specific items under discussion to actually bring anything to the table) but, from what I have seen in her comments here – she brings little for a real discussion. She fails to bring specifics, she fails to provide evidence of her claims, she makes braod sweeping statements often denigrating the work of others but refuses to provide evidence, examples etc.
    I don’t really see how that sort of behavior will help educate anybody on the issue.
    I suspect that on specific issues (like when might the Artic be ice free) that there are a variety of science supported thoughts in the community that studies it.
    I would recommend finding people who can actually present the science and who will discuss facts/evidence/provide examples and reasoning. I have seen little evidence in any comments that Judith Curry has posted here, that she is able to do that.
    So its going to turn into an area where any true discussion based on the science of the specific aspect – ice free Artic, sea level rise (when, where and how much) – will be missing and any chance of actual education will be gone if the standard “opponents” get used in the discussions and they stick to their standard behaviors when discussing anything to do with climate change.

  19. 19

    Okay, uncertainty.

    I think much of the problem here is that for the datasets and systems in question, the standard bag of concepts and ideas regarding variability may not be powerful enough. From what I have seen, people trip over three things: (1) Variability in deterministic models as a function of initial and boundary conditions, and the measurement errors associated with those; (2) variability due to residuals of non-explanation due to limits of mesh grading and imperfections in the physical modeling of materials and physical processes; and (3) variability due to having imperfect descriptions of variability itself, notably linearizations of residuals as if they were i.i.d. which may continue to exhibit dependent behavior.

    One thing which suffers because these is our ability to properly connect observations about models with predictions about futures using probabilistic statements. We can calculate posterior distributions, but what really *are* the pathways that lead to high extremes where all the risk exists?

    I don’t think it’s proper to hang predictive projections of serious climate risk on the noose of failing to have a complete top-to-bottom model of the climate system at work. Arctic ice is melting. We see bigger storms, and we see droughts, even if our mechanistic explanations have shortfalls. What do people really think additional forcing from GHG emissions are going to do over the next five, ten, twenty, and fifty years, whatever the mechanisms?

    This is why I personally don’t feel objections to IPCC projections based upon uncertainty in modeling and mechanisms are helpful. The experiment is underway in the lab, like it or not. If reducing anthropogenic forcing can help mitigate the effects of a “natural trend”, why not? If anthropogenic forcing is hypothetically *not* responsible for what we see, that means we collectively have less control over it, and that’s not good. Seems to me, no matter your point of view, it’s essential to mitigate and reduce SOON. We’ll find out in 50 years now much we should have reduced in 1990. It’s the cost-to-mitigate versus delay curve that bothers me, no matter what it’s time derivative looks like.

  20. 20


    Yes, there is a twitter handle: @ClimDialogue

    (and then I’ll use the opportunity to plug my own one as well: @BVerheggen)

  21. 21
    dhogaza says:

    Why was Judith Curry invited as an expert on arctic sea ice? She’s not. Her comment reflects that. Your two actual expert cite the literature. Curry presents a WAG and expects it to be treated seriously, which your two experts dutifully do, presumably because they’ve been asked to be polite and the forum is set up with the premise that there actually exists two equally objective “sides” to the “debate”.

    This is typical Curry, though. She objects to the consensus view on a variety of subtopics of climate science, but clearly is unfamiliar with the literature. As pointed out above, her understanding of Michael Mann’s work appears to be limited to having read Bishop Hill’s “The Hockey Stick Illusion”. It is clear she doesn’t understand climate modeling. She misrepresents what the IPCC has actually written, and refuses to correct herself or apologize when caught out.

    In other words, she stopped arguing scientifically ages ago and at this point is just another denialist blogger. Better educated than most, rejects the absolute fringe of nutty ideas, but a denialist nonetheless.

    Yes, yes, I know you’ve been tasked with finding competent people on “the other side” of the “debate”. If Judith’s the best you can do, I guess that in itself is tellng …

  22. 22
    flxible says:

    Could this “initiative” be at all related to this news? Looks along the lines of documenting a justification for inaction.

  23. 23
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    I found this part of Judith’s contribution rather interesting

    “So . . . what is the bottom line on the attribution of the recent sea ice melt? My assessment is that it is likely (>66% likelihood) that there is 50-50 split between natural variability and anthropogenic forcing, with +/-20% range. Why such a ‘wishy washy’ statement with large error bars? Well, observations are ambiguous, models are inadequate, and our understanding of the complex interactions of the climate system is incomplete.”

    Unless I am missing something, this seems to be exactly the same sort of probabilistic statement that Judith was critical of the IPCC for using for characterising their uncertainty. It seems to me to be a statement that there is a bound on a probability that something lies outside an interval, in this case the probability of the anthropogenic component being outside the range 30% to 80% is less than 34%. Seemed a bit ironic to me (I have no problem with statements of this sort, they seem to be a pretty good way of summarising uncertainty for a public audience who will be less happy with the idea of a PDF).

    [Response: Actually this statement is meaningless. The number you are trying to estimate is uncertain and so has to be characterised by some kind of distribution (which is to be estimated). A statement of likelihood is a quantification of the area under that curve between some limits (see this post for some graphical examples). This means that the the likelihood of any single value (i.e. 50% or whatever) is actually zero. Rather, statements need to be couched as follows: the probability of the number being greater than 50% is XXX, or of lying between this range is YYY etc. Curry’s statement even if generously interpreted makes very little sense (does she mean P(30 66% ?), but more to the point is simple her opinion. It is not a quantification based on anything. You are completely correct in pointing out that this is what she accused Hegerl et al of in IPCC – despite that not being true in that case. Oh the irony. – gavin]

  24. 24
    Magnus W says:

    No I think it is a waist of time. Money should be spent to get to the general public instead. No one on WUWT would change their mind this has already been tried in small scale. Also been tried on more educated ppl lice Curry… this will just confuse.

  25. 25
    Ron Taylor says:

    As a technically trained non-expert who has followed these discussions for years, it is my instinct that this is a bad idea. I fear that it will provide a new source of false balance by allowing denialists to cherry pick from the comments and serve them up as products of an official program of the Dutch government. They would feed off this for years. It would be used to lift, in naive eyes, the WUWT nonsense to the level of government endorsement. The peer review process is where these issues should be resolved.

    I quite agree with comments 5, 6 and 7.

  26. 26
    Magnus W says:

    I also think you over estimate the “public” it is likely that very few ppl would go deep in to this and just see… oh some one thinks that and some one thinks that… and most ppl just turn around as soon as they see… lots of numbers and math.

  27. 27

    @Wayne Davidson
    I would like to put the scientific part of your comment on ClimateDialogue Is that OK to you?
    More in general, I would like to invite everyone to participate in the discussions on ClimateDialogue. We as moderators will try to use these comments to feed the expert discussion. With respect to Judith Curry: I will ask her to give references to better underpin her claims (for example on the claim that albedo increase on land due to more snow is compensating for the albedo decrease above the arctic sea).
    We will do our best to make this initiative a success (although I am fully aware of the risks) and I will use your input here to make that happen.

  28. 28
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    Gavin, I took the +/- 20% to mean that 50:50 was the most likely attribution, but that it could plausibly be anywhere between 30:70 and 70:30, in which case she could meaningfully attach a (subjectivist Bayesian) probability of being inside that range of 66%. But, as you say “oh the irony” ;o)

    I am not a fan of her uncertainty ewok either, probability and statistics provide the mechanics for dealing with what we know we know and what we know we don’t know. The existence of things we don’t know we don’t know is not a good reason for not plotting a rational course of action based on what we *do* know (we don’t know).

  29. 29
    michael Sweet says:

    Two moderate scientists and a skeptic. Why was the position of scientists who think the problem is more dire not represented at all? Several Arctic scientists are on record predicting an ice free Arctic in less than ten years. Why is Curry given this soap box and scientists who think things are worse than the IPCC are left out?

    If you are claiming a debate you need to represent all sides in proportion. Having skeptics debate on equal time with mainstream science presents a biased view.

  30. 30
    SecularAnimist says:

    What an utter waste of time.

    This is exactly where ExxonMobil and Koch Industries want the world’s climate scientists to remain bogged down: engaging in pointless “dialogue” with pseudo-skeptics, rather than bringing the authority of their expertise to bear on pressuring governments and corporations to do what needs to be done.

    According to the United Nations, if the ongoing mega-droughts afflicting not only North America but most of the world’s most productive agricultural regions continue for one more year, there will be a “global hunger crisis”. (That’s a euphemism for “famine”.)

    We just saw New York City have a very close call with becoming uninhabitable thanks to a super-storm the likes of which has never been seen before, which was clearly amplified by global warming.

    And the world’s top climate scientists are doing WHAT? “Exploring the views” of pseudo-skeptics?

    God help us.

    [Response:How about giving those trying to make a positive step forward a chance before burying them? Have you even gone there and read anything?–Jim]

  31. 31
    Marcus says:

    I agree very much with alexandre at #6

    “The format unduly inflates the relevance and magnitude of climate dissent, and just misinforms the public conveying the wrong idea that AGW is just one of many equally supported opinions. ”


  32. 32
    Susan Anderson says:

    Oh please, skeptics are people who question all sides of an issue (like most qualified climate scientists), and climate contrarians are rarely that, which is why many of us call them fake skeptics. Dr. Curry appears to attack anyone who questions her and duck substantive questions, while seeking the limelight. This is apparent in RealClimate’s files as noted, and goes further back that the Santa Fe link cited above). Scientists have been patient and respectful, and normally get treated as inquisitors in her responses.

    I think this is relevant, but some might regard it as mildly off topic. The time is now and these important points from an excellent presentation by Kevin Anderson et al. point up the increasing irrelevance of the unbalanced assertion of imbalance. Thanks also for the Guardian article, which points up the issue (flxible@~22)
    (Tyndall Centre, U. of Manchester)
    “Real Clothes for the Emperor: facing the challenges of climate change”

    but scenarios are supposed to explore plausible futures rather than repeat hard-wired runs from the same assumptions …
    with few exceptions, these include:
    – Recent historical emissions sometimes ‘mistaken’ or ‘massaged’
    – Short-term emission growth seriously down played
    – Peak year choice ‘Machiavellian’ & dangerously misleading
    – Reduction rate universally dictated by economists
    – Geoengineering widespread in low carbon scenarios
    – Annex 1/non-Annex 1 emissions split neglected or hidden
    – Assumptions about ‘Big’ technology naively optimistic
    – (‘Net’ Costs meaningless with non-marginal mitigation & adaptation)

    Collectively – they have a magician’s view of time and a linear view of problems

    lots more well worth a read; conclusion:

    “… this is not a message of futility, but a wake-up call of where our rose-tinted spectacles have brought us. Real hope, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a bare assessment of the scale of the challenge we now face.”
    Anderson & Bows, Beyond dangerous climate change
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Jan 2011

    … a final message of hope ..
    “at every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different.”
    Roberto Unger

    and this little note about us – the entitled minority (I include myself, with a caregiver carbon footprint that appalls me when I think about it):

    – who’s in the 1-5%?
    – Climate scientists
    – Climate journalists & pontificators
    – OECD (& other) academics
    – Anyone who gets on a plane
    – For the UK anyone earning over £30k

  33. 33
    Dan H. says:

    They probably preferred those who were more knowledgable and represented a greater portion of scientists. Biasing in the direction that you prefer would not likely lead to a rational discussion.

  34. 34
    bibasir says:

    I too have problems with Ms Curry’s generalizations that do not use the science as the basis of her arguments. She devotes a lot of space to uncertainty, but seems to assert that the uncertainty only works to lessen outcomes.

  35. 35
    bibasir says:

    i look forward to these debates.

  36. 36

    I also think this is an extremely bad idea. The discussion shouldn’t be about the climate science, but rather about the technical solutions to an extremely severe global problem that – if it isn’t already obvious to the experts, then they shouldn’t be trusted with any of the credible solutions.

  37. 37
    Susan Anderson says:

    Real information about what’s going on is being presented by one of the best, the messenger fake skeptics are fond of killing over and over, on the “no smoke without fire” principle of successful disinformation PR:
    “Climate Reality: The Dirty Weather Report”

    Also, h/t to Wayne Davidson, who provides a bit more detail here:

  38. 38
    Sharon Hawkins-Fauster says:

    I agree with No. 29, we need to get the climate scientist who see the climate deteriorating faster than the mainstream scientists to participate in the discussions. We need to respect the precautionary principle and be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. I am not a peer-reviewed climate scientist, but have studied physics, astronomy, chemistry, and logic, as well as having read all I can from peer-reviewed scientists for the last 15 years. I come from a family of physicists and want to participate. I have many questions and some perhaps some ideas as well. Please do not exclude people like me from contributing to the discussion.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Radge Havers says:

    So what’s different here? I get that the intentions are good, and maybe that’s all that matters politically, but unless I’m missing something there’s no mechanism here for producing something that will stand out against what’s already been said — good, bad, and indifferent.

    I mean, after all the ink and spittle that’s been applied to this subject over the years, all that’s needed is:
    certain people + debate –> magic happens?

    Maybe, but color me skeptical. Consider if the topic were evolution.

  41. 41
    flxible says:

    SA@30 – Maybe one of the topics for discussin will be drought, which may be somewhat different and much more complex than the UN thinks.

  42. 42
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    Judith comments:

    “Pretending that extrapolating an observed trend or that CMIP5 simulations will produce a useful decadal prediction of sea ice is pointless (well there is a potential point but it is to mislead).”

    Seems to be a little disingenuous to me. It doesn’t seem surprising to me that GCM simulations don’t give useful decadal predictions on regional scale (or at least they are just beginning to get to the point where decadal scale predictions have useful skill IIRC). However we are not only interested in decadal scale predictions, for instance the range of estimates of the year where we may expect to see an ice free arctic is much more than a decadal scale projection.

    I am also not best pleased that Judith is being allowed by the moderator to implicitly accuse others of being deliberately misleading.

  43. 43
    dhogaza says:

    I am also not best pleased that Judith is being allowed by the moderator to implicitly accuse others of being deliberately misleading.

    If they don’t, what would she post? That, after all, is one of her basic beliefs.

  44. 44
    Lucien Locke says:

    Why are we still having this “discussion”? What debate?…When tipping points will be reached? Is there really more CO2 each year and that rising temperatures are directly related? Never mind the nuances…Temperatures are rising.

    I have a better idea for all of us..It is two questions..what are we, as the human population, going to do about it? And the second twin in importance, question…..When?

    Time to make the doughnuts …if I might borrow a television ad quote.

    frustratingly submitted,


  45. 45
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim wrote: “How about giving those trying to make a positive step forward a chance before burying them?”

    Thanks very much for your reply.

    With all due respect, I cannot see how “exploring the views” of pseudo-skeptics like Judith Curry is “a positive step forward”.

    As I understand it from the article, “ClimateDialogue” is the result of a political mandate from the Dutch parliament, in reaction to the deliberately overblown controversy about “errors in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report on climate impacts” which was used by the deniers to engage in dishonest attacks aimed at discrediting the IPCC process.

    I see nothing in the article which offers a scientific rationale, or that even suggests any real scientific value, in this politically-mandated exercise in “also involving [so-called] climate skeptics in future studies on climate change”.

    As I wrote, this is exactly where the fossil fuel interests want to keep climate scientists bottled up — in a never-ending pseudo-debate with pseudo-skeptics about pseudo-science.

    [Response:The fossil fuel interests have nothing to do with this initiative or dialog. Judith Curry is only one of the three experts. If you don’t want to read her writings, then read those of the other two, or of the various commenters, or any of the many article references given. There have already been some good questions asked requiring Judith Curry to clarify her statements. Give it a chance.–Jim]

  46. 46
    Dan H. says:

    Nice paper. Many that will finally put to rest some of the misinformation surrounding drought occurrances.

  47. 47
    Les Porter says:

    The horse is dead. You ought to quit beating it. Rose colored spectacles, niceties, or personality discussions need not enter, and are also, IMHO, both distracting and useless. Opinions, even expert opinions must be tempered by a link to the fundamentals of observations and measurements. If you need more data, more observation, more proxies, get them.

    AGW as a climate factor is forcing. Fossil C exploitation and use has overwritten and overpowered natural factors. Continued CO2 overloading is making a faster arctic deicer. That horse is dead. Quit beating it.

    [This is not an “opinion.” This is a statement. The timing might be +/- 500 My. In 1.5 billion years plus or so, Sol itself will overpower everything. And though it is pretty clear that it may take a “while” to turn earth into an analog of Venus, that is the ‘natural’ life-terminal result. Yeah, H20 then is irrevocably forcing. Solar energy splits the bond, and what H isn’t quickly grabbed by something escapes to space; The freed O quickly unites with whatever is handy, but as a gas mostly grabs the C from freed up carbonates to make CO2 the predominant molecule in the atmosphere. Our 78% N2 will also be gobbled and free N2 would be no more than 4% of earth’s air in 3 billion years or so. I did the math on these, and so can you. So I will cite nothing.]

    That stated, I confess I see little to be accomplished in the suggested “new” internet venue. Of course I wish them “luck.”

    If something like a solution to problems were discussed, say if strong physics, with tests and observations and use of multiple proxies were presented with the major point being a very precise timescale for arctic ocean commerce in an ice-free arctic, I suppose business interests would support the research. [Of course, I favor re-icing the arctic, by removing extant CO2 to roughly 300ppmv and I expect this to be accomplished in a roughly 10-50 thousand year timescale. Optimistically.]

    Obviously, the Keeling curve rise and fall describes what plants and ocean [nature by itself] can do. Mankind’s goals need to be somewhat more lofty. We humans must build “machines” that inhale and process fully 1/4 of the planets atmosphere and remove and innocuously sequester 100% of the CO2 therein. And that has to be accomplished in conjunction with CO2 emission cessation.

    If one wants to make progress toward a “climate solution” several exercises are readily apparent. Cessation of fossil fuel use and near-instant conversion to non-CO2 producing energy sources must be accomplished; The Keeling curve stair step “up” must first be “flattend” and then with our CO2-extraction machines, the annual stair steps converted to a descending
    slope. When the amount of CO2 is near 300 ppmv we can mothball most of te machines. We as a species then will control the CO2 part of our climate.

    We can vote on whether or not we want to make weather to produce an ice age, given orbital and tectonic changes. If we leave the machines on, we can have an ice age sooner than would be naturally propelled.

    Global solutions will be a necessary condition. We will also determine if we wish to allow our population to grow or stabilize. [Neo-cons would simply, and brainlessly — choose a “self-depopulation” program or thru warfare for “resources” use warfare for population control.] We must control our numbers; or nature will.

    Mature species leadership will require that a redistribution of wealth to provide equity in responsibility for the preservation of life’s diversity and potential. Our long-term species goal will continue to be fitting humanity in the proper place in a global ecology that sustains and nourishes the planet and humanity.

    Buckminster Fuller’s goal of “learning a living” will replace consumptive earning a living. Rewards will be evaluated and directly related to contributions made to the longevity of the species.

    Our species will not be able to afford the wealth class nor luxuriant excess until we do correct climate. If you are a member of the 1% on up to 0.000001% your wealth will be used to contribute to your education concerning social responsibility and excess wealth will be used to remedy and restore the environmental balance the excess exploited and damaged.

    If the new internet site simply rehashes the long-dead horse, we do not need it. If it advocates environmental justice; offers solutions and quick or certain remediation procedures it could be useful.

    If I read here “realclimate” of something new and useful “there” I might look in again on it.

  48. 48

    #27 Bart I agree. Its a free world, but for once I like to have a good dialogue with climate contrarians willing to yield to correct science (they are rare if non existent), it must start with a consensus of facts. Otherwise forget about it.

  49. 49
    Les Porter says:

    oops. I meant inhale the CO2; sequester the C, let the 02 free.

  50. 50

    This is just to let people know I’m starting an online climate time series database. Go to and click on “Annual Temperature Time Series 1850-2011”