Blog post

Understanding climate scepticism: a ‘sceptic’ responds

Jun 15, 2012 by | 82 Comments

There is a growing body of aca­demic lit­er­ature that seeks to under­stand, explain – and even over­come – cli­mate change scep­ti­cism. But is it get­ting to grips with scep­ti­cism, or missing the point? In this unusual exchange (we hope the first of many) between Adam Corner (Talking Climate) and Geoff Chambers – (a reg­ular and prom­inent com­menter at sev­eral cli­mate sceptic blogs), they dis­cuss research on the psy­cho­logy of scepticism.

Comments are very wel­come – but please be aware they will be tightly mod­er­ated to ensure all com­ments are on-topic. Is this kind of ini­ti­ative useful? Should it happen more often? We look for­ward to hearing your thoughts.

ADAM:

In the last few months, two aca­demic papers that make sim­ilar argu­ments about the nature and ori­gins of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism have been pub­lished. If there is one simple mes­sage to take from these two studies, it is that simply providing more inform­a­tion – or turning up the volume on the sci­ence – is unlikely to reduce scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change. This is because scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change is not primarily caused by a ‘mis­un­der­standing’ of the sci­ence but by motiv­ated reas­oning pro­cesses – rooted in ideo­lo­gical dif­fer­ences – that mean that the ‘same’ evid­ence is not eval­u­ated in the same way. Would you agree that scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change has more to do with polit­ical views than an assess­ment of the science?

GEOFF:

Of course not. That would be to admit that my politics was over­riding my reas­oning capa­cities! The mis­un­der­standing comes I think from con­founding the tiny number of active scep­tics, who’ve come to a reasoned con­clu­sion, with the Jeremy Clarkson fans who show up in polls. You’re just not going to catch many of us in a survey of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. The “old white con­ser­vative male” label is no doubt true for the pop­u­la­tion at large, and can be easily explained, but it tells you nothing about the nature of reasoned scepticism.

I agree with you that turning up the volume on the sci­ence is unlikely to reduce scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change, but not for the reason you give. The more people learn about the sci­ence, the more they see how dodgy is the cli­mate sci­ence respons­ible for rising energy prices. One of the res­ults of the Kahan study you refer to was that the more sci­en­tific­ally lit­erate tend to be more sceptical.

ADAM:

What Kahan found was that being sci­en­tific­ally lit­erate increased polar­isa­tion – that is, it amp­li­fied views on either side – but your instant equa­tion of ‘the sci­ence’ with ‘rising energy prices’ illus­trates an important point: cli­mate sci­ence and cli­mate policy get hor­ribly con­fused. Rising energy prices are caused by polit­ical and eco­nomic choices: they have little if any­thing to do with cli­mate science.

But things like rising energy prices, taxes, reg­u­la­tions, and restric­tions on people’s beha­viour have become syn­onymous with ‘cli­mate change’. I believe – based on the avail­able research – that this is why many people are scep­tical. The answers to the problem of cli­mate change look and feel like ‘left-wing’ solu­tions, and so the problem itself is down­played or rejected.

GEOFF

I think we agree about the inter­pret­a­tion of Kahan. Belief / scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change is strongly cor­rel­ated with polit­ical views, but scep­ti­cism is also cor­rel­ated with sci­entific lit­eracy, though less strongly. This is what you’d expect. Conservatives are nat­ur­ally sus­pi­cious of schemes which raise taxes, while envir­on­ment­alism, sym­pathy for the third world, and Al Gore have got con­cern about cli­mate change firmly iden­ti­fied as a left-wing cause.

I agree that “the answers to the problem of cli­mate change look and feel like ‘left-wing’ solu­tions” – that is to say they look extremely expensive, and are there­fore opposed most fer­vently by those who pay most taxes.
You say: “Rising energy prices are caused by polit­ical and eco­nomic choices: they have little if any­thing to do with cli­mate sci­ence”. Renewables like wind and solar are more expensive than fossil fuels. If they ever account for a sig­ni­ficant pro­por­tion of energy supply, they will cause prices to rise. The only reason for renew­ables is fear of the sup­posed danger of CO2, which is the central tenet of the cli­mate sci­ence consensus.

ADAM:

I share your con­cerns about things like rising energy prices – although I don’t agree that renew­ables are to blame. However, your line of reas­oning seems to con­form what studies of scep­ti­cism are showing: your con­cerns about cer­tain eco­nomic and polit­ical choices are driving you to ques­tion the ‘sup­posed danger’ of CO2. That sug­gests to me that if there were other policy options on the table – that didn’t involve rising energy prices – your doubts about the legit­imacy of the under­lying sci­ence would not be as strong. Would you agree?

There is some evid­ence that when people who are more scep­tical about cli­mate change are presented with other policy options – for example ‘geoen­gin­eering’ – their per­cep­tion of the risks that cli­mate change poses increases. Do you think that many scep­tics would be less likely to doubt the reality or ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change if tack­ling it had no impact on their lives, or could be shown to be ‘cost-free’?

GEOFF:

No I don’t think that many scep­tics would be less likely to doubt the reality or ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change if tack­ling it had no impact on their lives, or could be shown to be ‘cost-free’

I dis­agree most strongly that my con­cerns about cer­tain eco­nomic and polit­ical choices are driving my cli­mate scep­ti­cism. My scep­ti­cism is based on the same sci­entific grounds as that of other com­menters on sceptic blogs, many of whom hold polit­ical opin­ions rad­ic­ally dif­ferent from mine. We don’t deny that global tem­per­at­ures have been rising irreg­u­larly for cen­turies, and that anthro­po­genic CO2 may be respons­ible for some of the recent rise.
Where we dis­agree with the con­sensus is on the higher estim­ates of cli­mate sens­it­ivity endorsed by the IPCC and the cata­strophic effects which are sup­posed inev­it­ably to follow.

However, I would agree that our polit­ical and cul­tural back­grounds strongly affect the way we express our scep­ti­cism. There are Tea Party types who think global warming is a commie plot to install global gov­ern­ment; nimbys who don’t like wind­farms; engin­eers scornful of the math­em­at­ical models used to gen­erate tem­per­ature pro­jec­tions; sci­ent­ists and aca­demics fearful for the repu­ta­tion of their pro­fes­sions; and Tories who don’t like hippy tree­hug­gers. It takes all sorts.

Here are a couple of examples of cul­tur­ally determ­ined inputs to my own scepticism:

1) I was very impressed by reports by the insti­tute of Forecasting sug­gesting that ordinary mem­bers of the public are often better at long-term fore­casting that experts, since, in their ignor­ance, they tend to assume that things will go on much as before, whereas experts get car­ried away with every leap and bound on their graphs into pre­dicting extreme out­comes. This appeals to my left-wing egal­it­arian instincts – an Orwell-type faith in the common sense of the common man, if you like.

2) My earliest research into the ques­tion of cli­mate change was con­ducted in the pages of the Guardian, and I was shocked to see this once lib­eral broad-minded paper adopting a Pravda-like policy of news fil­tering and cen­sor­ship, with George Monbiot, a journ­alist I’d admired, con­ducting petty vin­dictive cam­paigns against fellow-journalists and, after being the first journ­alist to acknow­ledge the ser­i­ous­ness of Climategate, making a Maoist-style con­fes­sion of his error. I’m not per­son­ally the least inter­ested in the sci­ence of cli­mate change. I’m very inter­ested in the exist­ence of a rational left-of-centre press.

Unlike most scep­tics, I think your pro­ject of exploring the socio-cultural roots of scep­ti­cism is a valid and inter­esting one. But I don’t think you’ll do it by get­ting mem­bers of the public to tick boxes on your bat­teries of yes/no questions.

ADAM:

So the biggest reasons for your scep­ti­cism are that you are dis­il­lu­sioned with the media and have, in your own words, an ‘instinct’ that the common man is often more trust­worthy and reli­able than the so-called ‘experts’? I share these con­cerns, although I don’t neces­sarily see how they detract from the ser­i­ous­ness of the under­lying problem of cli­mate change and what – on even con­ser­vative estim­ates – the neg­ative effects are likely to be. But your explan­a­tion of your scep­ti­cism sug­gests that if pro­ponents of cli­mate change sci­ence – or policy – want to be taken ser­i­ously by scep­tics, it will be by addressing social con­cerns like these, not by shouting the sci­ence louder.
So how would you say social sci­ent­ists might get more enlight­ening answers about the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism? Do you think there is an argu­ment for more direct engage­ment between scep­tics and researchers?

GEOFF:

We’re arguing at cross-purposes here. My obser­va­tions about the common man and fore­casting and the Guardian are NOT the reasons I don’t believe in cata­strophic anthro­po­genic global warming. I’ve offered them as pos­sible con­trib­utory factors to my coming to these con­clu­sions – a bit of auto-sociological ana­lysis, if you like – as an anti­dote to the more common obser­va­tions about con­ser­vative white males not wanting to pay taxes.
If pro­ponents of cli­mate change sci­ence – or policy – want to be taken ser­i­ously by informed scep­tics, it will not be by addressing any par­tic­ular socio-political con­cerns, but by per­suading us that their sci­ence is right. In this I’m sure I speak for all scep­tical blog­gers, but, as I pointed out, we’re a tiny minority among the sceptic pop­u­la­tion at large, and pos­sibly atypical.

You ask how social sci­ent­ists might get more enlight­ening answers about the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism. Ask the scep­tics is the short answer. We reveal an awful lot about ourselves in com­ments on blogs. Bishop Hill had a self-completion survey once of our demo­graphics (age, sex, edu­ca­tional qual­i­fic­a­tions and geo­graph­ical spread). However, I feel such a survey would only be enlight­ening if it covered act­iv­ists or engaged par­ti­cipants on both sides of the divide.

Finally, do I think there is an argu­ment for more direct engage­ment between scep­tics and researchers? Certainly. Clearing up the mis­un­der­stand­ings as to the meaning of cli­mate scep­ti­cism and the motiv­a­tion of scep­tics is the first neces­sary step in any dialogue.

82 Comments + Add Comment

  • Hi Adam

    i might agree and dis­agree with some of Geof’s thoughts.

    As I am actu­ally a guest author at Watts Up With That, have my own blog. Perhaps you would like a chat.

    One reason scep­tics are scep­tical is they mainly see the media version,of cli­mate sci­ence or a highly emotive green­peace ver­sion. Which can be quite a long way from the actual sci­ence. And per­haps unfairly climste sci­entist get cri­ti­cism, because of it.

    When I see green­peace or 10:10 for example claiming there are 300,000 cli­mate change deaths a year, and using this to lobby hard for action now.I become very scep­tical, because I know that the report this comes from, is very dodgy,having read it for myself. Moreover cli­mate sci­entist also knowhow shaky that report was, myself and pro­fessor R Betts per­suading another prom­inent sci­entist, Dr Katie Hayhoe to drop this claim in her cli­mate change slides. Richard is the Met office head of cli­mate impacts and an IPCC lead author for AR4 and AR5.

    Yet. When I ques­tion this. I am labelled as a cli­mate denier or worse by thise act­iv­ists. An anti­science flatearther who hates science/scientists.
    Which just leads me to fur­ther ques­tion the ration­ality of these groups. As therecin­tent is to shut me out if any debate by name calling/ smearing. As I know I am not. Two sci­encec degrees and a very good friend who edited IPCC’s TAR, i becime very con­cerned about there lob­bying activities.

    Drop me an email. Maybe we could have a chat.

  • Hi adam
    Take a look at the Denizens thread at Prof Judith Curry’s blog Climate Etc.

    Which give back­round of many readers. Including me
    this idea bor­rowed from a very scep­tical blog. Jeff id’s The Air Vent blog. See reader back­ground there.

    Of course so many act­iv­ists that are also asso­ci­ated with anti­cap­it­alism. Anti gmo or anti nuc­lear does not help credibility.

    Ie let us assume. Low carbon energy sources are a prudent idea,regardless of cli­mate sci­ence. The irra­tional respone my many groups. Forces many to ques­tion there judge­ment on sci­ence issues.
    People like Mark Lynas and George Monbiot being labelled chernobyl death den­iers. By cli­mate cam­paigners who think there were a mil­lion deaths. being an example. Giving the per­cep­tion or irrationality.

  • Pls excuse typos. Attempting this on smart­phone. With my 4 years old daughter jog­ging me. As we are watching cbeebies.

  • Thanks for the com­ments Barry — unfor­tu­nately I’m going to be away from the com­puter now for a few hours but will respond prop­erly later in the day!

  • Hello Adam

    I think that the very fact that this is sup­posed to be a dis­cus­sion about the psy­cho­logy of scep­ti­cism says a great deal about the psy­cho­logy of believers in CAGW. There is a built in assump­tion that scep­ti­cism is caused by some kind of psy­cho­lo­gical devi­ance rather than a study of the rel­evant sci­ence.
    Scepticism in its broadest sense is healthy, dont believe everything you are told (espe­cially by gov­ern­ments), find out for your­self.
    My exper­i­ence of sceptic blogs is that the blog­gers did exactly that, they were not happy to take (for example) The Hockey Stick at face value and started to read around the subject.

  • I have a fun­da­mental problem with the whole approach. What is the point of studying “the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism”? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to study “the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change act­ivism” in gen­eral, skep­tical or otherwise?

    That’s “how social sci­ent­ists might get more enlight­ening answers about the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism” and more. Otherwise it’ll end up, as usual, in the equi­valent of a Tory party ana­lysis on Labour voters, or vice-versa…content-free, at best.

    And once that is done, it will even be pos­sible for social sci­ent­ists to listen to people inter­ested in cli­mate change, rather than obsess on how to find a socio-cultural explan­a­tion for their opinions.

  • Studying the reasons/basis for scep­ti­cism doesnt imply ‘psy­cho­lo­gical devi­ance’ — that’s def­in­itely not what the research shows, or what I’m sug­gesting. But if scep­ti­cism is con­sist­ently and reli­ably asso­ci­ated with cer­tain ideo­lo­gical beliefs or per­sonal char­ac­ter­istics (being older/white/male/conservative), this requires an explan­a­tion, and that’s what this type of research is motiv­ated by…

  • I think studying the psy­cho­logy of act­ivism (not just cli­mate change act­ivism) is a really inter­esting area, and I know that there is some more soci­olo­gical and anthro­po­lo­gical research that has done this…but I guess my interest in in under­standing why there is a clash between a cer­tain ‘group’ of people ( I dont mean a group that is all the same, or part of a net­work, but a group defined by sharing cer­tain characteristics/social views) tend to express scep­tical views about cli­mate change, when others dont. I think the research that exists — which is not a def­inite answer but the begin­ning of a pro­cess — sug­gests that people who are scep­tical about cli­mate sci­ence are responding to things that have more to do with policy and eco­nomic choices, and that’s the argu­ment I’m making here.

    If we can dis­en­tangle policy choices about how to respond to cli­mate change from the under­lying sci­ence that describes the problem/risks, then we’d make more pro­gress I think.

  • Hi Barry — I guess your points strike me as sim­ilar to Geoff’s in some ways: you have con­cerns about ‘non-scientific’ things (the social views of act­iv­ists, over-exaggeration in the claims of some NGOs etc) and work from those con­cerns to ques­tion the under­lying science…I think that is making a straw man of the sci­ence (which is not unques­tion­able — it should be ques­tioned — but it is ques­tioned as part of the normal cut and thrust of aca­demic pub­lishing). So I guess I’m saying that if we can keep the (legit­imate) con­cerns about the politics of cli­mate change dis­tinct from the sci­ence, we’d prob­ably be making some pro­gress. Scepticism about cli­mate policies — and debate about what altern­at­ives might be– seems much more important than a repeated doubting of well-established science.

  • An inter­esting discussion.

    Something that often gets over­looked or min­im­ised is that ‘sceptic’ covers an enormous range of opinion, under­standing and motiv­a­tion. If the con­sensus is a reas­on­ably coherent iden­ti­fi­able edi­fice [although with some vari­ants] ‘scep­ti­cism ’ of that edi­fice can take lit­er­ally dozens of forms.

    One of the great mis­un­der­stand­ings of — or mis­rep­res­ent­a­tions of — many scep­tics is that they are somehow ‘den­iers’ in dis­guise. Pretty much all scep­tics that I know and com­mu­nicate with are per­fectly happy with the prin­ciple of AGW. All, though, have at least one (and often more than one) doubts about the cer­tainty of -

    AGW is a ser­ious problem, poten­tially cata­strophic. It’s going to get worse. Something should be done about it URGENTLY. Reducing emis­sions is crit­ical; it is achiev­able, cost-effective and the most important thing society should be trying to do”

    There are obvi­ously other com­pon­ents to this ‘con­sensus’ idea but it seems to me that to have doubts about ANY of these is enough for someone to be (and be labelled) as scep­tical. Whereas I happen to think is an entirely reas­on­able thing to be, even though the appel­la­tion ‘climate-sceptic’ seems to carry for many people a wholly neg­ative connotation.

    To turn the ori­ginal ques­tion around — is it worth studying why more people are not scep­tical? Why do so many people swallow whole and uncrit­ic­ally an ideo­logy char­ac­ter­ised by ima­gining a doom-laden future, when the his­tory of wor­rying about the future has such a record of being mis­placed? Would greater edu­ca­tion lead to a better under­standing of nuances involved in the whole sub­ject of the cli­mate and its rela­tion­ship with life on earth? Is fear of cli­mate change actu­ally a simple mani­fest­a­tion of the fear of change itself?

    In other words, would our studies be not better devoted to under­standing, explaining — and even ‘over­coming’ — cli­mate change alarmism?

    That last ques­tion (a delib­erate parody.….) leads to my one slight con­cern about this art­icle — which I enjoyed reading. It is that it is only a couple of steps away from asserting that people who dis­agree with us are men­tally ill, that the –ism which opposes us is a kind of insanity, if not a kind of evil. And the only way to come to that con­clu­sion is to mis­take our own beliefs for truth ie to become genuine fundamentalists.

    When we see people with a dif­ferent view to our own as having some­thing wrong with them, that we can cor­rect or over­come, I think it says more about us than it does the people with a dif­ferent view.

  • Hello Adam

    Your post at 1.28 pm says it all:
    Scepticism about cli­mate policies — and debate about what altern­at­ives might be– seems much more important than a repeated doubting of well-established sci­ence.
    Well estab­lished sci­ence points clearly to CO2 having a very minor role in warming the planet (at this par­tic­ular time). I am not the slightest bit inter­ested in the psy­cho­logy of sceptic or warmist blog­gers, I am only inter­ested in the facts and I think I speak for most scep­tics in that.

  • Maurizio Morabito:
    Reiner Grundmann, a soci­olo­gist at Aston University who has written a paper on cli­mategate and sci­ence policy, makes this point very well in an inter­view with Hans von Storch at
    http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.fr/2012/05/interview-reiner-grundmann.html
    in which he insists on:

    …a prin­ciple at the heart of sci­ence studies, the meth­od­o­lo­gical rule of studying know­ledge claims sym­met­ric­ally. This means not to assume a priori that one side is right and the other wrong and that we only need to find explan­a­tions for the “wrong” pos­i­tion (because the truth will out in the end and is in no need for explan­a­tion). Instead, we should ana­lyze both sides (or more sides, if there are more) without com­mit­ting to one of them on the level of cog­nitive validity or authority.”

  • Hi Adam

    I’m sure there are some aspect of “socio-cultural roots” in cAGW scep­ti­cism and accept­ance — you only have to look at some of the blogs where both sides will defend their pos­i­tion des­pite refusing to look at the opposing view. This is espe­cially true of BBC and Guardian blogs and I am not just pointing the finger at believers.

    I did a naughty exper­i­ment on the BBC’s blog once and made a state­ment with a link to an art­icle which was in sup­port of cAGW. Not one person pointed out my “error” until I told them I’d delib­er­ately put in a wrong link.

    As for myself, I was born a working class lad many years ago and opposed Thatcher and the poll tax. Years later, after learning to read, I real­ised crushing the unions was prob­ably the right thing to do for the country.

    At first, I accepted cAGW, because that’s what we were told, but after hearing the stories about my university’s PhD’s, I started reading the papers for myself. I don’t accept the CO2 meme, because I’ve read enough to be uncon­vinced, not that I won’t change my mind. I was wrong about Thatcher, I could be wrong again.

    I still identify with my past and spent most of my life as a car­penter (now retired), the latter part working for a uni­ver­sity where I had access to sci­ence papers. I strongly believe we need to look after the earth and con­serve pre­cious resources. I strongly believe we need to help the mil­lions who die every year through lack of clean water and san­it­a­tion (at a frac­tion of the cost of the $$$$$ being spent on “com­bating cli­mate change”, but I don’t accept the CO2 is evil meme.

    So I’m not sure where that leaves my socio-cultural roots. A (largely) self-educated, left wing Tory / right wing socialist / dry lib­eral (?), from a working class back­ground who wants to save the rain forest and help those less for­tu­nate than me, but doesn’t accept that CO2 is the dan­gerous driver behind the warming we have on record

  • Adam — June 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    First of all you’re not studying “people who are scep­tical about cli­mate sci­ence” but (obvi­ously!) “people who are vocal about their scep­ticism about cli­mate sci­ence”. It’d be strange then not to con­nect the dots and find what makes those people similar/different from “people who are vocal about their belief in cli­mate science”.

    And that wouldn’t be enough either. I am scep­tical about cer­tain aspects of cli­mate sci­ence, Geoff about cer­tain others, Barry cer­tain others more, and so on and so forth. How do you define “people who are scep­tical about cli­mate science”?

    Some reject it whole­sale. I don’t. Some rub­bish the IPCC reports. I don’t. Etc etc.

    Come to think, what is exactly the sub­ject of your study, assuming I’m wrong in the lingering impres­sion that your task be to demon­strate older white male con­ser­vat­ives should be looked at funny?

  • folks, thanks for all the com­ments and inter­esting points. Its a shame over at Bishop Hill there are people doing the usual name-calling (punching me on the nose as ‘direct engage­ment’; calling me a bigot) when clearly this is an attempt to have a civil conversation…but anyway, I’m not going to be on here again for pretty much the rest of the day so com­ments might not go straight through

  • geoff — i’m sorry if this went up a bit sooner than the pub­lishing of the piece on your side, had thought you were ready to go on it, my apo­lo­gies, would be great to see the com­ment thread on Harmless Sky too

  • Another point Adam. You write: “If we can dis­en­tangle policy choices about how to respond to cli­mate change from the under­lying sci­ence that describes the problem/risks, then we’d make more pro­gress I think.”

    You might have a point but not sure if it’s the one you’re thinking of having.

    Of course the lesser the pain in the policy, the fewer people will spend their time in speaking up against it. For example the sci­ence behind the Ozone Hole scare isn’t exactly rock-solid, yet the policy solu­tion was so smooth and easily found, nobody made the effort to stop anything.

    Therefore all the trouble in imple­menting cli­mate change mit­ig­a­tion policies might lie in the fact that all of the policies sug­gested so far imply whole­sale changes to eco­nomies and soci­eties. This tells us a lot about the policies, and about what makes people speak up against them, but still won’t tell us any­thing about the sci­ence side of scepticism.

    So we’re back to my comment…you’re not studing scep­tics, you’re studying vocal scep­tics. You won’t (can’t) ever find the socio-cultural roots of scep­ti­cism with your work: what you will find will be the socio-cultural roots of being vocal about one’s scepticism.

  • Do you think that many scep­tics would be less likely to doubt the reality or ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change if tack­ling it had no impact on their lives, or could be shown to be ‘cost-free’?”

    If it had no impact on our lives then nobody would care. Scientists can argue as much as they like about the exist­ence of dark matter. That’s entirely up to them. Why should I care? I’m not going to take the time to check the sci­ence out for myself. I have other things to do.

    But we’re told that AGW is going to cause ser­ious prob­lems to all of us. That’s why people are checking out the sci­ence, and it’s also why the sub­ject is inher­ently political.

    When we check out the sci­ence we are appalled at how bad it is. Is the sci­ence in other areas this poor? I don’t know, and if it doesn’t affect me then I don’t much care. It’s not my busi­ness. If people want to do shoddy work, and it doesn’t affect me, then that’s just up to them.

    But AWG is my busi­ness, because the imme­diate ques­tion raised is “what should we do?” Which makes it polit­ical by defin­i­tion, I would have thought.

  • adam —

    I agree with you about the Bishop Hill comments.

    I accept too your point about the fact that it’s an inter­esting fact that there are some obvious cor­rel­a­tions between ideo­logy and cli­mate scep­ti­cism [and here I mean non-acceptance of reas­on­ably basic sci­ence] I think it is per­haps inev­it­able that looking — how­ever dis­pas­sion­ately — at the reasons behind those cor­rel­a­tions is going to pro­voke some hasty and vehe­ment ire from many others who also self-label as ‘sceptic’.

    As you say, there are also some inter­esting con­nec­tions between ideo­logy and act­ivism and [I would sug­gest] between belief in the cer­tainty of ser­ious AGW with the propensity to ima­gine all change as a negative.

    If I can focus on just one aspect of your post that I dis­agree with, it is the implic­a­tion that we KNOW that AGW is a ser­ious problem. For me this raises the fact/value demarc­a­tion in that a char­ac­ter­isa­tion of some­thing as a ser­ious problem is a sub­jective, non-scientific, value-laden view. It seems to me that when you talk about “How to respond to cli­mate change” the option of not doing any­thing is logic­ally avail­able, but rhet­or­ic­ally dis­missed. As if the acknow­ledge­ment of warming is an acknow­ledge­ment of danger and somehow a course of action is logic­ally implied. I don’t think it is.

    I would side with Richard Betts of the met office who doesn’t agree with the “2 degrees is dan­gerous” meme. His reas­oning, like mine, is that the char­ac­ter­isa­tion of ‘dan­gerous’ is entirely sub­jective, and some­thing about which sci­ence has (and can have) nothing to say.

    I sup­pose I’m just trying to place a tiny wedge between the acknow­ledge­ment of a cer­tain amount of a warming and a sub­jective view of it as having some neces­sarily neg­ative implication.

    The upshot of this is that state­ments such as “2 degrees of warming will be dan­gerous” are cat­egor­ic­ally not true. The sub­jectivity of ‘danger’ pre­cludes the state­ment from having any truth-value.

    There, if you like, lies one of my own reasons to be scep­tical of the edi­fice. My sub­jective view of how humanity will fare if global tem­per­at­ures rise 2C or so over a cen­tury are ‘just fine’.

  • Adam, I am one of the great unwashed: a layman who has simply become inter­ested in CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming). Until 2–3 years ago, I never gave the topic a second thought, simply assuming that the experts must know what they’re doing. Then, for some reason, I started to read up on the evid­ence and eval­uate it for myself. I was shocked. The experts do not agree, and there is hardly any aspect of the sub­ject which is as I had been led to believe. I could write pages for you on what I dis­covered and why I became a sceptic but, in view of the topic of your blog, may I state that my scep­ti­cism is nothing to do with psy­cho­logy or politics and everything to do with the sci­entific weak­nesses of the con­sensus case.

    Would I feel dif­fer­ently if there were approaches which did not involve eco­nomic sac­ri­fice? Well, if this were nothing more than a spat between sci­ent­ists I might not be inter­ested — I’m sure they happen all the time in dif­ferent branches of sci­ence. But this isn’t just an aca­demic argu­ment. Policies to reduce CO2 emis­sions are wasting the wealth of nations, driving up energy prices and pushing people into energy poverty, jeop­ard­ising the con­tinuity of energy supply, causing an increase in deaths due to star­va­tion in the 3rd world because of the switch of arable land from food pro­duc­tion to bio­fuels, and inhib­iting efforts in devel­oping coun­tries to break out of poverty — some­thing which can only be achieved if there is the pro­vi­sion of cheap and abundant elec­tri­city. For these reasons, I regard the cur­rent cli­mate con­sensus as modern day Lysenkoism and it must be opposed.

    Does psy­cho­logy extend to the study of logical thought pro­cesses and crit­ical thinking? If so, you might like to invest­igate why pro-CAGW people believe the output of com­puter models even when it is con­tra­dicted by real world obser­va­tions, why they are unable to recog­nise cir­cular logic e.g. in the attri­bu­tion of recent warming to human-produced CO2, and why they con­flate cli­mate change with man-made cata­strophic cli­mate change so that evid­ence for the former is taken as evid­ence for the latter.

  • Hi Adam,

    You may also find it useful to think about the con­text and con­tent of the fol­lowing state­ment made by one pro­fes­sional cli­mate sci­entist to another:-

    http://allmodelsarewrong.com/limitless-possibilities/#comment-1238

    The tone of both sci­ent­ists involved is broadly scep­tical. The com­ment is crit­ical of the IPCC’s attri­bu­tion argu­ments and, since the writer has expressed sim­ilar cri­ti­cism on numerous occa­sions, it rep­res­ents a “repeated doubting of well-established science”.

    You started your post by stating that, “There is a growing body of aca­demic lit­er­ature that seeks to under­stand, explain – and even over­come – cli­mate change scepticism”.

    Do you think that this state­ment also applies to the scep­ti­cism expressed in the com­ment? And if not, why?

  • Maurizio
    If you look at the dis­cus­sion at
    http://www.climate-resistance.org/2012/03/shrinking-the-sceptics.html
    and the ori­ginal Guardian art­icle which is linked to from there, you’ll see that Corner is not really invest­ig­ating scep­ti­cism as we under­stand it. He’s studying the psy­cho­logy of belief, using scep­ti­cism as an example of an area of belief, and seeing how it’s influ­enced by inform­a­tion. He divides his highly unrep­res­ent­ative sample of young Welsh female psy­cho­logy stu­dents into two equal-sized groups according to a bat­tery of ques­tions, and goes from there. It’s valid enough within the limits of the kind of study he’s doing, but is of little interest out­side, in my opinion. He’s never really got to grips with scep­ti­cism, which is why I offered myself as an “only spe­cimen in cap­tivity”, and why the dis­cus­sion doesn’t advance very far.
    For me, the real problem comes not from his research, but from the use he wants to make of it in his sub­sequent Guardian article

  • Adam:
    I sus­pect that the polar­iz­a­tion of view­points doc­u­mented by Kahan has roots in whatever got indi­viduals ini­tially inter­ested in the topic to begin with. For some, it may be purely ideo­lo­gical; for others, the per­cep­tion that pro­ponents pro­posed solu­tions mys­ter­i­ously align with their pre­ferred ideo­lo­gical pos­i­tions (e.g., the Paul Ehrich gang from Berkeley); for others, it may be an intu­itive sense of effect sizes and the gen­eral his­tor­ical sta­bility of the cli­mate system; or it may be the per­ceived degree of align­ment with the prin­ciples of the sci­entific method — open­ness, dis­cuss­ib­ility and rep­lic­a­tion (e.g., the hyper-reaction to Bjorn Lomborg is a good example not to men­tion the tone of many of the Climategate emails and the appalling beha­vior of mod­er­ators and prin­cipals at Real Climate towards among others Roger Pielke, Sr., Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick). Of course, it very likely could be all of the above. Whatever the ini­tial trigger mech­an­isms, the next step is heightened aware­ness and crit­ical thinking about pro­posed proof points and the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of sub­stantive prob­lems. I sus­pect that most informed skep­tics have their own stories about how they per­son­ally found sig­ni­ficant flaws in what appears to be the cata­strophic agw canon ran­ging from obvious hype about polar bears to the meas­ure­ment of sea level rise and to the reason for increase fre­quency of gla­cier quakes in Greenland. This set off a rein­force­ment pro­cess largely because the research does have flaws and fairly broad bands of uncer­tainty — allowing con­firm­a­tion bias to amp­lify whatever dis­crep­an­cies and uncer­tain­ties exist.
    The same pro­cess oper­ates for those who are advoc­ates of CAGW.

  • adam -

    I’ve spent some time reading around your blog and the thing that stands out the most is that you use the word ‘sceptic’ in a dif­ferent way to almost all the scep­tics I know. It almost seems as if you would use the word ‘denier’ if it weren’t so polit­ic­ally charged.

    I’ll admit that there are some indi­viduals at the extreme who simply don’t believe that adding Co2 to the atmo­sphere will increase tem­per­at­ures. However, they are tiny in number and cer­tainly aren’t apparent among the vocal scep­tics in Britain and on cli­mate blogs. They are not even prom­inent at the GWPF.

    All the world-renowned cli­mate scep­tics [Professors Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, Pielke, Curry etc etc] accept that GHG’s warm the cli­mate. So do I and so do all the scep­tics I know.

    Somehow, though, it is either polit­ic­ally or psy­cho­lo­gic­ally expedient to believe that ‘scep­tics’ are people who simply don’t accept the ‘truth’ and are there­fore just wrong. Rather than well-informed people who dis­agree with you.

    One of your ‘guides’ starts off -

    Why are some people still scep­tical about the reality and ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change when the sci­entific evid­ence is so overwhelming?”

    This is the demarc­a­tion problem in an abso­lute nut­shell. There is no sci­entific evid­ence for the “ser­i­ous­ness” of cli­mate change nor will there ever be. The ser­i­ous­ness (or oth­er­wise) of some­thing is a sub­jective value-judgement.

    I think you’ll find that most of us who self-identify as cli­mate scep­tics are fun­da­ment­ally scep­tical about cata­strophe. Inconvenient as it may be, there isn’t any sci­entific evid­ence one way or another for this which means a deficit model is irrel­evant. It also means that if you would like a civil dis­cus­sion it must start with the recog­ni­tion of the validity of the views of those who DON’T believe in the ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change.

    Otherwise I’m reminded the owners of my University book­shop who behind their SSPCK were hap­pily propagating some­thing they believed to be Christian Knowledge. Calling their beliefs ‘know­ledge’ seems sim­ilar to those who would call their beliefs about cli­mate change ‘sci­en­tific­ally proven’ even though sci­ence has nothing to say about those beliefs.

    If you believe cli­mate change is ser­ious, I’m happy to allow you your values, and if you allow me mine a dis­cus­sion can ensue!

  • What’s inter­esting is the tend­ency of ‘scep­tics’ — clearly illus­trated in many com­ments here — to want to rep­resent accept­ance of the census view of cli­mate change as sup­port for ‘CAGW’. The fact is that neither I nor any­body I know of is a ‘believer’ or an ‘advocate’ of ‘Catastrophic AGW’.

    The sci­entific con­sensus is that cli­mate change/global warming presents a range of pos­sible out­comes; from the man­age­able through to the cata­strophic. How it works out is down to many para­meters — many of which cannot be pre­dicted (like how much action humans will actu­ally imple­ment to reduce emis­sions and mit­igate the worst effects). What is it about scep­tics that they need to cast everyone who is not a cli­mate sceptic as wishing for the worst out­come of AGW (the truth being exactly the opposite)? I wonder, do they need to hold this view to jus­tify their extreme con­trarian positions?

  • I think Geoff batted that well until he said this : “Where we dis­agree with the con­sensus is on the higher estim­ates of cli­mate sens­it­ivity endorsed by the IPCC and the cata­strophic effects which are sup­posed inev­it­ably to follow.” Geoff is sug­gesting that the sceptic view is nar­rowly aimed at a nuanced pos­i­tion in the sci­ence . And his use of the first person plural implies that is a common thread amongst all scep­tics. This might be the image some want to pro­ject of cli­mate scep­ti­cism, the reasoned exam­in­a­tion (and maybe even pro­mo­tion) of a counter-hypothesis. Ive glanced at one or two cli­mate skeptic blogs and there is no common counter-hypothesis.

    If the more soph­ist­ic­ated scep­tics, like Geoff, dis­tanced them­selves from the con­tra­dictory pos­i­tions embraced by the ‘planet is cooling’ creed or the ‘AGW is a scam’ bri­gade they’d be more cred­ible. But cli­mate skep­ti­cism doesn’t work like that. I sug­gest that is because such argu­ments assist the cause of cli­mate scep­ti­cism, rather than a reasoned search for truth.

  • My scep­ti­cism of alarmism is based entirely on my reading of the sci­ence. Like others, if there were not such heavy eco­nomic con­sequences being, and to to be, suffered from the politics (over)reacting to the CAGW con­sensus, I’m sure I wouldn’t be so concerned.

    How did I become inter­ested in the sci­ence? About eight years ago my brother, Phil, started a charity, Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC). He is still there — check the web­site — but has now been taken over by the great and the good. At the time I accepted the gen­eral warmest view without having any par­tic­ular interest. Having seen a few con­trary art­icles in the press, when I saw him, I looked to him for the evid­ence to counter these con­trary views. I had hardly men­tioned this idea, when I was hit with a stream of invective, nothing pos­itive at all. As it was a family gath­ering, I backed off — rap­idly! However, it sowed a seed and, over time, I took more notice of cli­mate related art­icles. So much so that I even­tu­ally decided to invest­igate the sci­ence. Having started by reading on the web, I moved on to do a short web based course on the basics of cli­mate sci­ence run by Cambridge University. While learning a lot, the two pro­fessors were unable to show sci­entific evid­ence to sup­port the CO2 CAGW theory. Since then I have fol­lowed the sci­entific debate closely. As a result I remain scep­tical of alarmism.

    So, Adam (1.18), this has nothing to do with belief mech­an­isms — just a logical appre­ci­ation of the science.

  • Maurizio Morabito: “I have a fun­da­mental problem with the whole approach. What is the point of studying “the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change scep­ti­cism”? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to study “the socio-cultural roots of cli­mate change act­ivism” in gen­eral, skep­tical or otherwise?”

    Maurizio, the cli­mate “alarmist” view is not irra­tional. It is the meth­od­o­logy taught to most sci­ent­ists (which is not the same as the sci­entific method). The method is to take a situ­ation and decon­struct into it con­stituent parts, and then those into their, until there are a set of parts that can be under­stood using simple models (i.e. the cli­mate model) and then the whole is assumed to be the sum of the parts.

    This works well when a situ­ation is simple. When e.g. you are working out the pro­jectile of a bullet. But when you get to real life situ­ations, any engineer learns that real life often doesn’t work the way the sci­ence says it ought. In other words, we learn to dis­trust the simplistic “find the simple sci­entific model for the situation”.

    Engineers, doc­tors, politi­cians, and a whole load of other people learn a set of “rules of thumbs” by which they judge not only the direct symptom, but the reac­tion and truth­ful­ness of others. E.g. having worked in a factory, I’ve seen the way tem­per­ature read­ings get fab­ric­ated by workers on the night shift, so I have no illu­sion about the accuracy and need to check the global tem­per­ature record. I can also know of instances where Met Readings have been made up.

    So, I’ve got the exper­i­ence to know I can’t always trust the inform­a­tion I’m get­ting and I have to look at the motiv­a­tion of those involved, I have to look not only at what the sci­ence says should happen but whether there is evid­ence that some­thing is actu­ally hap­pening in the real world.

    But the real problem is very few people have actu­ally looked at the data them­selves. indeed, given that the data spreads across eco­nomics and dis­ease and crops, it is highly unlikely there is anyone spe­cial­ising in everything that con­sti­tutes the problem known as “global warming”.

    So, everyone to some extent or other relies on other people as sources of inform­a­tion. We all nat­ur­ally tend to favour sources of inform­a­tion that match our own out­look. Some e.g. put a high value on “caring” … so they value those authority fig­ures that appear to “care” like doc­tors, priests. Others value evid­ence, so value those authority fig­ures that argue from the “evid­ence”. We also tend to favour cer­tain types of politics, cer­tain types of argu­ments. I’ve even seen people who reject work just because they don’t like the grammar or spelling.

    Some people see the world in graphs, others see it in prose. Some care almost nothing for “con­sensus” others are totally lost unless they are part of the “in-crowd”. … or to put that another way, some have no fashion sense whilst the others are .

    Now soci­olo­gists have an inherent belief that people or society mat­ters. They there­fore think that the kind of social net­work of per­son­ality type dic­tates how you view the facts. In part they are right, but like all pro­fes­sionals .… when you hold a spanner every problem looks like a nut.

  • The polit­ical cor­rel­a­tion is clearly real, but it may be that it isn’t beliefs coming from ideo­logy *instead of* sci­ence, but that ideo­logy determ­ines which aspects of the sci­ence people pay atten­tion to.

    Confirmation bias is the human tend­ency to examine new inform­a­tion more closely when they con­tra­dict existing beliefs. Most people know rel­at­ively little about sci­ence, and con­ven­tional met­rics of ‘sci­entific lit­eracy’ does not measure their adher­ence to sci­entific prin­ciples, but simply their know­ledge of what sci­ent­ists say. For most people, for most of the sci­ence they know, they believe it because that is what ‘the experts’ told them, or that they have heard indir­ectly that that is what experts say. This approach is actu­ally con­trary to sci­entific prin­ciple — oppos­i­tion to the argu­mentum ad verecun­diam is at the very root of sci­entific philo­sophy — but prac­tic­ally it is unavoid­able. *Nobody* checks everything, and most people take other people’s word for it.

    Unless of course it con­tra­dicts our prior beliefs, in which case we are motiv­ated to seek out more inform­a­tion. How do the experts know? What is the evid­ence? What was the evid­ence for my prior belief? Are there altern­ative explan­a­tions? Is the evid­ence of suf­fi­cient quality, or might there be some­thing wrong with it? Does this new inform­a­tion require me to change my mind?

    Whereas if it affirms our prior beliefs, we seek to defend it, and be sim­il­arly crit­ical of con­tra­dictory inform­a­tion provided by scep­tics of the claims. Science recog­nises this as a uni­versal human tend­ency, and says that we there­fore *require* motiv­ated scep­ti­cism to test claims, and that it is only by sur­viving motiv­ated cri­ti­cism, in cir­cum­stances where we have reason to believe any flaws would be detected, that belief in sci­entific hypo­theses can come to be jus­ti­fied. Even if the scep­tics turn out to be wrong, they’re still necessary.

    Thus it can be that ideo­lo­gical motiv­a­tion can lead to valid sci­entific scep­ti­cism. People were told things that did not accord well with their prior beliefs, examined mat­ters in more detail, and found many genuine reasons for doubt. Sceptics can there­fore have entirely *sci­entific* reasons for doubting the ortho­doxy, because they were ideo­lo­gic­ally motiv­ated to look into the sci­ence in more detail, and not simply accept the authority of experts.

    The Kahan result is inter­esting, but there is another sim­ilar result: on belief in the dangers of nuc­lear power. The sci­en­tific­ally orthodox pos­i­tion being that it is safe. On this one there is again a polit­ical divide, but this time the polar­isa­tion *reduces* and the left become *more* accepting of nuc­lear power the more sci­en­tific­ally know­ledge­able they are (as did those on the right). I sus­pect they were like­wise motiv­ated to examine the evid­ence more closely, but in this case found the evid­ence was good. There are other plaus­ible hypo­theses, though. Still, the example does show that it isn’t a simple matter of ideo­logy driving belief, and sci­entific know­ledge driving polarisation.

  • I love nature, I am an out­door sports freak, and I am forward-thinking. People who don’t know me very well assume I will be a cli­mate “believer”.

    For sev­eral years I was a “believer”. What broke my faith was that the solu­tions seemed so pathetic: everything turning to cus­tard in a few years and the answer was to change our light bulbs and recycle our bus tickets.

    This caused me to check the sci­ence and I was shocked at just how shoddy it all was. I am on the rebound now like an ex-smoker.

    A lot of people have fol­lowed a sim­ilar tra­jectory. But don’t try to lump us al together — we don’t all believe the same thing and we have no respons­ib­ility to forge a dif­ferent belief. We are like people who are *not* Jehovah’s Witnesses — we do not have our own church or creed.

  • Geoff — what do you think has happened to Corner? It’s always been a given with non-skeptic types to avoid giving any plat­form to skep­tics. the com­ments above clearly breach that tra­di­tion. Even accepting to inter­view you is kind of extraordinary.

    John — why don’t you try to post those non-CAGW thoughts of yours at the usual warmist places. Use a pseud­onym, see how many will label you as a denier. In my exper­i­ence, it’ll really be many.

    Hengist — what are you talking about? I’ve had my spats with people like O’Sullivan if that makes you feel better. And I’ve expressed my dis­gust at the HI bill­board. And I don’t know how many times I’ve said I’m totally against the idea that AGW is a scam or a hoax. But we’re not talking here about an adult debate sur­rounded by fringe sites. If CiF or RC or the Bad Astronomer or SkS lit­er­ally delete or des­troy my con­tri­bu­tion when I add my com­ment to them, of course I end up with the “fringe skep­tics”. Whatever their opinion, they still allow me to speak. And that makes all the difference.

    I sus­pect it’s the same for Geoff and others.

  • Adam, the chief obstacle to your attempt to under­stand cli­mate scep­ti­cism is your inab­ility to believe in the remotest pos­sib­ility that it may be sci­en­tific­ally cor­rect. Until you can accom­plish that modest feat of the ima­gin­a­tion, you will always be talking in ravens, while they listen in writing desks.

    To pick but one of your many remarks that shed far more light on the psy­cho­logy of believers than of sceptics:

    That sug¬gests to me that if there were other policy options on the table – that didn’t involve rising energy prices – your doubts about the legit¬imacy of the under¬lying sci¬ence would not be as strong.”

    Only to a True Believer, it does. Try looking through the other end of the tele­scope, Adam. If there truly were no cost asso­ci­ated with mit­ig­a­tion policies (do you have any examples, by the way, or is your point entirely hypo­thet­ical?), there would be no point in anyone, sceptic or believer, picking argu­ments – the point about the sci­ence would be moot. We could go about our lives untroubled by need­less acrimony.

    As a 60 year-old sceptic, I have become used to seeing a per­centage of each gen­er­a­tion grow to what passes for maturity gripped by the belief that it would be the last to walk the face of the earth unless every­body listened up and did as it told them. They do a lot of damage (Eugenics, DDT demon­iz­a­tion come to mind) and waste a lot of money, but they seem to provide psychic diver­sion for a rather larger group of my fellow cit­izens, and their fads have gen­er­ally been for­gotten after a few years. A lot of wasteful, growth-inhibiting legis­la­tion remained fes­tering on the statute books – but overall I have come to see this as a sort of tithe – an irk­some but lim­ited impost on the right to live a quiet life. People do not like being told that they are gull­ible, and the social cost of voicing scep­ti­cism over their pet scares out­weighed the bene­fits. Quiescence, through gritted teeth, pre­vailed. This may have been a mis­take, as Voltaire observed: “ Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

    When CAGW came along, I assumed that, coming almost com­ic­ally soon after, and on the lips of the same ‘sci­ent­ists’, as global cooling, it would enjoy a brief period of earnest hand-wringing, soak up a few $m in grants, and move on. My high school Physics master had pre­dicted, c1969, that cli­mate, a non­linear, chaotic system, could never be skil­fully pre­dicted by com­puter modelling.

    But AGW struck it lucky in the real world, which warmed for 25 years. And I had under­es­tim­ated the appetite among sup­posedly edu­cated west­erners for cata­strophe nar­rat­ives.
    It is pre­cisely because I saw CAGW gen­erate suf­fi­cient trac­tion to occa­sion real and enduring wealth-destruction, par­tic­u­larly to the undeveloped world, that I decided to endure the pitying scorn or out­right con­dem­na­tion that, in 2009, came with expressing climate-scepticism any­where that mattered.

    From your end of the tele­scope, I ‘became’ a sceptic. From my end, I was always one, but a mostly silent one.

    As I sug­gested to Geoff in another forum, a better ques­tion to ask, and one it would be fas­cin­ating to see you tackle, is “why has a large seg­ment of the least threatened pop­u­la­tion in the his­tory of humanity AGREED to con­coct a mis­an­thropic nar­rative about its own kind?”

  • Philip Richens,

    Re: the exchange between Judith Curry and myself at http://allmodelsarewrong.com.

    I’d just like to point out that I do not con­sider myself a “Sceptical” sci­entist in the sense I think you meant it. Of course I am scep­tical with a small s, because I am a sci­entist :) But my views are pretty main­stream in the cli­mate sci­ence community.

    The two points I would use to dis­tin­guish myself from others, and that may have led you to describe me as scep­tical, are that (a) char­ac­ter­ising uncer­tainty in these models is at the centre of my research and (b) I try quite hard to see other people’s point of view. Once I dropped the defens­ive­ness and started listening, I found that the extremely diverse scep­tical com­munity had extremely diverse things to say, ran­ging from not so useful to per­fectly valid cri­ti­cisms. Sometimes the cri­ti­cisms have alreay been addressed by cli­mate sci­ent­ists, but the inform­a­tion about this is not readily avail­able or not clearly explained.

  • 1. Bad ideas are like vir­uses. They can spread quickly, and do harm to those that “catch” them.

    2. Nature provides us with the same solu­tion to both prob­lems — diversity. Genetic diversity ensure that those vul­ner­able to vir­uses are taken out of the gene pool, with the remainder safe. Similarly, people appraise ideas using a diversity of methods, so that a lim­ited number of people get “duped” by any single bad idea.

    So, we have diversity of methods of thought, and it is a good thing we do.

    Applying this to the issue at hand, we can see that the cli­mate change argu­ment appeals to a narrow band of thought methods, but it is highly effective for these methods.

    The AGW move­ment prob­ably has the sup­port of everyone who is inclined to accept truth on the basis of “the majority of expert opinion”.

    People who find more nom­o­lo­gical methods appealing were likely to be turned off by the “cli­mategate” affair.

    The cor­rel­a­tion with right wing lean­ings may well be due to the gen­eral pref­er­ence for nom­o­lo­gical methods amongst the right wing.

  • Should have included in my comment:

    I accept man has a role in cli­mate change through defor­estra­tion, land change use etc

  • Hi Adam

    Really glad to see you are actu­ally enga­ging in debate with cli­mate skep­tics. Sorry Bishop Hill com­ments have been rude. Scrolling down here shows me, how­ever, that the length of com­ments indic­ates ser­ious engage­ment, not rudeness.

    I was a warmist myself, and an act­ivist too — until I started looking more closely at the sci­ence, the whole sci­ence, and nothing but the science.

    I was on sick leave at the time, so was able to devote all my time to studying the facts, as rep­res­ented by both sides. Even so it too six weeks, during which time I rico­cheted back and forth, not knowing who to “believe”. I ended up with a lot of dis­like for any­thing to do with “believing”, and a lot of respect and enjoy­ment from dig­ging deeper and deeper for “the truth”, the evid­ence. I believe, insofar as I now believe any­thing, that there is some­thing in many of us that wants truth wherever it leads, for its own sake. This is in line with the Royal Society motto “Nullius In Verba” — “on the word of nobody” and also with the words of Jesus. From dif­ferent corners of human reality, the same experience.

    I ended by writing up not just the sci­ence but also my own journey of trans­form­a­tion. This is excel­lent material for your study IMHO. Click my name. From my account, you can see that even if you change “sides” in your own journey, you can still have an inter­esting story, a valu­able psy­cho­lo­gical / social study, and a focus for your own future interests, at the end of the day.

    Good luck.

  • Hi Tamsim,

    I do under­stand that yours is scep­ti­cism with a small s, and the reasons for it. My com­ment, “The tone of both sci­ent­ists involved is broadly scep­tical. The com­ment is crit­ical of the IPCC’s attri­bu­tion argu­ments”, I’d hoped makes it clear that it is the com­ment I linked that is crit­ical, rather than your post.

    The point I was trying hard to make to Adam is that all good sci­ent­ists, including your­self, are scep­tical, and that sci­en­tific­ally based cri­ti­cisms of the IPCC’s pos­i­tion should be wel­comed. I think Adam misses this point.

    I remain inter­ested to know how Adam char­ac­ter­ises scep­ti­cism of aspects of global warming sci­ence amongst sci­ent­ists, including cli­mate sci­ent­ists such as your­self and Curry, as well as sci­ent­ists from related disciplines.

  • Tamsin,

    PS: If you have read the Lovejoy and Schertzer paper ref­er­enced in Curry’s com­ment, I would be very inter­ested to hear your reac­tions to the points it makes, which were echoed in Curry’s com­ment to you.

  • What’s inter­esting is the tend­ency of ‘scep­tics’ … to want to rep­resent accept­ance of the census (sic) view of cli­mate change as sup­port for ‘CAGW’.”

    If AGW is not going to be cata­strophic, why do we need to spend a tril­lion dol­lars fixing it?

    Maybe the psy­cho­logy you should be invest­ig­ating is the cog­nitive dis­son­ance on the part of the believers?

  • I am sure that there is a cor­rel­a­tion between views about cli­mate change and polit­ical views. But it is far from per­fect. I am a 67 year old life long guardian reading white male. I have never voted con­ser­vative in my l
    life, though I once was foolish enough to vote for the Lib Dems. I would class myself as a cli­mate sceptic in the sense that, while there is good evid­ence that adding CO2 to the atmo­sphere will, other things being equal, raise global tem­per­ature, there is little con­vin­cing evid­ence that that rise will be sub­stan­tial or that the rise we have seen is unpre­ced­ented. Perhaps my views are influ­enced by the fact that I am an eco­nomist (I used to lec­ture in the eco­nomics depart­ment at Cardiff!). But i have no problem with a carbon tax if there is good evid­ence that emis­sions are a problem. The crude Malthusianism of much envir­on­mental thinking annoys me and the asso­ci­ated anti-humanitarian views seem any­thing but left-wing (wit­ness the Goldsmith family). But what made me par­tic­u­larly scep­tical about the claims of cli­mate sci­ence was the whole hockey-stick con­tro­versy. It was the failure of what was appar­ently the cli­mate sci­ence main­stream to call out what was clearly poor sci­ence or to address the entirely legit­imate ques­tions raised hon­estly and openly in the journal lit­er­ature that really made me scep­tical. The stat­ist­ical issues were in areas I knew a reas­on­able amount about and the cli­mate sci­ent­ists seemed to have got it wrong. Being told that my reasoned con­clu­sions were because of my polit­ical views then just annoys me,

  • OK, Can we look at the other side of this,
    So there are some reas­on­able sci­entific types who believe that the world is warming.. But what about all the nut­cases who think it? I’ve never hears the cli­mate sci­ent­ists say to them — yes you believe the same as us but for the wrong reasons!

  • Tamsin, per your dis­cus­sion with Judith Curry, I pre­sume you are refer­ring to:
    http://allmodelsarewrong.com/limitless-possibilities/#comment-1238
    (No hits for “Judith Curry”).

  • Adam

    You have a gold­mine of responses here. Please cherish them. Please, also, give us a chance to say whether you’ve rep­res­ented us fairly, if you are going to use material here as evid­ence for your own work.

    I of course hope that you, like many of us, will at some point allow the con­trary and unfa­miliar evid­ence to speak for itself… and that you too may do a U-turn and “change sides”… but be warned. I was warned by a fellow Transition-Towner (yes I was high up that net­work) that I would lose all my friends… I lost many friends and con­tacts that way, but I kept my soul and my integ­rity. I would pay that price again any time.

    For pro­fes­sional cli­mate sci­ent­ists, this situ­ation is harder. Most have their whole live­li­hood to lose, if they speak out when they dis­cover the cor­rup­tion that has happened in Climate Science. Many of us skep­tics are retired and don’t have that problem. Many cli­mate skep­tics who are active pro­fes­sional sci­ent­ists post in the blogs under pseudonyms.

    S**t Happens. It would not be the first time in his­tory that “bad sci­ence” has over­taken the whole of society. Examine Tulipmania. South Sea Bubble. The Crusades. And of course Godwins Law — what lies behind that one.

    Whatever hap­pens, keep your integ­rity. Loss of a job can be remedied; but loss of integ­rity… passes on prob­lems to the next generation.

  • Hi Adam,

    In your first con­tri­bu­tion here, you say: “…scep­ti­cism about cli­mate change is not primarily caused by a ‘mis­un­der­standing’ of the sci­ence but by motiv­ated reas­oning pro­cesses – rooted in ideo­lo­gical dif­fer­ences – that mean that the ‘same’ evid­ence is not eval­u­ated in the same way.”

    Narrowing one’s focus too closely, or too quickly, onto ‘cli­mate change’ in an exchange about psy­cho­logy and scep­ti­cism may result in a failure to find usable answers. When step­ping back to take a broader psy­cho­lo­gical view of the prob­lems you identify, a ‘rooted ideo­logy’ may be seen as an expres­sion of (and a self-justification for) a ‘clung-to beha­vi­oural pattern’.

    I’m sure your expertise in psy­cho­logy will include a know­ledge of such pat­terns of beha­viour — how they com­monly reveal them­selves and how, once ‘rooted’, an indi­vidual can carry them through life. You must also know it’s a psy­cho­lo­gical given that such pat­terns can become an obstacle to an individual’s ability to form ful­filling rela­tion­ships in society (a pro­cess which involves accepting ideo­lo­gical, sexual, cul­tural dif­fer­ences etc).

    From a psy­cho­lo­gical per­spective, a form­ative example of such beha­viour might be that of an exchange with a parent in which a wilful child seeks to exclude any con­sid­er­a­tions beyond how much ice cream he can have imme­diate access to. The parent, on the other hand, might insist that such a lim­ited exchange is irrel­evant because she has already determ­ined the child will have none. Any parent will recog­nise that chil­dren often attempt over­turn a ‘no’ by claiming that the quality of his/her life somehow depended upon gaining access to the desired object. The less able a child is to take ‘no’ for an answer, the greater effort (and drama) he is likely to invest in ‘proving’ life depended upon get­ting his own way. It is also a psy­cho­lo­gical given that, in such scen­arios, when the parent repeatedly sub­mits to such demands (in order to avoid the child’s tan­trum, or to be seen as ‘loving’), she is in fact val­id­ating and cementing a pat­tern of beha­viour which he will find it very dif­fi­cult to eman­cipate him­self from later in life (although, by then, its expres­sion will have become a lot more soph­ist­ic­ated and elusive).

    Being so rooted, we may wonder if and how this beha­vi­oural pat­tern might emerge and express itself in the ‘cli­mate change’ debate? Such an enquiry would be useful (espe­cially for psy­cho­lo­gists) as it could con­tribute to pla­cing the claims made in the debate into a con­text which could help us better under­stand them. For example, if an adult is demanding access to a desired object (or to a desired polit­ical rearrange­ment of his sur­round­ings), how might he (re)introduce a more soph­ist­ic­ated claim that life depended upon his get­ting his own way? And, being adult, how might he exploit the net­work of like-minded adults he has estab­lished to col­lab­orate in ‘authen­tic­ating’ and val­id­ating his demand (along with providing elu­sive evid­ence to sup­port it)? What replaces par­ental authority in adult life — if not demo­cratic authority?.. and how might an adult rooted in a psy­cho­lo­gic­ally iden­ti­fi­able beha­vi­oural pat­tern transfer a rejec­tion of (or an ambi­val­ence towards) one to the other?

    Rather than searching for the ‘roots of scep­ti­cism’, any psy­cho­lo­gist worth his salt might search instead for the roots of a rejec­tion of scep­ti­cism. In other words, what pat­terns emerge when an adult, or child, is faced with an authority uncon­vinced by the extremism of its demands?

  • Adam,

    If you’d be inter­ested in another sceptic story, here’s mine. I had no interest in the global warming nar­rative and accepted what I read in the news­pa­pers until I saw the word ‘den­iers’ being used. Immediately a red flag was raised in my brain — how could anyone be a ‘denier’ of a sci­entific hypo­thesis? Using such an emo­tion­ally freighted word was the biggest mis­take of the Global Warming lobby in this debate, I believe. It was obvious that the debate was being framed as a con­flict between the ‘powers of light’ and the ‘powers of dark­ness’, and the implicit aim of this seemed to be to shut down legit­imate ques­tioning. Subsequently, I did a great deal of reading around the sub­ject, attended debates, ques­tioned cli­mate act­iv­ists that I knew, and became increas­ingly con­vinced of what a shaky edi­fice the whole cli­mate change nar­rative was. As others have observed, most scep­tics will accept that the earth is warming and that man has some respons­ib­ility for this, but cannot accept the assump­tions of cata­strophe and the pro­posed solu­tions that come as part of the whole package. Climate has never been unchan­ging nor sea level/ ice cover etc etc been con­stant — why do we seem to assume con­stancy as a baseline now? And why do we assume that by bank­rupting ourselves, throwing pen­sioners into fuel povery, increasing star­va­tion in third world coun­tries, we can mit­igate the situ­ation, espe­cially when devel­oping coun­tries are expo­nen­tially increasing their fossil fuel use at the same time? The expected con­sequences and pro­posed solu­tions are fraught with uncer­tainty, and the cure seems worse than the disease.

    The cor­rel­a­tion between cli­mate scep­ti­cism and right-wing thinking is inter­esting. Of course, cor­rel­a­tion is not caus­a­tion — and there was an apposite study given some pub­li­city in the media a year or two back. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who was respons­ible for the research, pos­sibly a London uni­ver­sity — but they had scanned the brains of people who self-identified as Left or Right, and found some inter­esting vari­ations. If I recall cor­rectly, Left-wing brains were more empath­etic and con­cerned with fair­ness, while Right-wing brains were more likely to be autonomous in their thinking and less likely to follow the herd. Could this provide some illu­min­a­tion on the question?

  • Perhaps the owners of this site respond on a strict Mon-Fri schedule.

  • […] a recent con­ver­sa­tion (HERE) between Adam Corner, a psy­cho­lo­gist, and  Geoff Chambers a noted AGW-skeptic about […]

  • I wonder if Adam pauses to think about the his­tor­ical com­pany he’s keeping in trying to patho­lo­gise dis­sent? And can AGW really be con­sidered so well-supported by data that “skep­ti­cism” can be safely regarded as some form of aberration?

    I’ve added some thoughts about this on my blog

  • Adam,

    Interesting dis­cus­sion. I agree with the com­ments made by Maurizio. I per­son­ally find it off-putting when attempts are made to ration­alise skep­ti­cism from a socio-cultural per­spective. I under­stand why debates are framed this way — in the mind of the enquirer the sci­ence is already settled and unar­gu­able and there­fore this becomes an exer­cise in exploring skep­ti­cism as a social deviation.

    I cannot speak for anyone else but I do know the ori­gins of my own skep­ti­cism and I must tell you that it is genuine skep­ti­cism. I am a real believer in facts, logic and sci­ence — evid­ence based argu­ments will always sway my opinion. However since my skep­ti­cism began in 2002 the sci­entific evid­ence for cata­strophic anthro­po­genic cli­mate change has weakened and my skep­ti­cism has strengthened. The word cata­strophic is important because there are many dangers facing society and we really do need to ensure that todays lim­ited resources are dir­ected at the most urgent issues.

    As I recall my first con­cerns prob­ably arose because of the type of person I am. I have an enquiring mind, I do not often accept things because I have been told to accept them. I want to know, as far as my intel­lect will allow, why I am being told things. In this sense there might be a social sci­ences angle, I am not a person who takes the word of higher authority blindly, I am not reli­gious in any way.

    I was told about the green­house gas effect — I under­stood that – it made sense. I was shown the chart which seemed to con­firm a tem­per­ature rela­tion­ship between CO2 and global tem­per­ature. I was told by the IPCC that prac­tic­ally all sci­ent­ists were 90% cer­tain that man was accel­er­ating global warming, that this was dan­gerous and that we all had to change the way we lived. We were facing global cata­strophe of bib­lical pro­por­tions with 90% cer­tainty. These last two sen­tences are important to my skep­ti­cism because they are essen­tially polit­ical. Science is one thing but politics is another, when sci­ence has become polit­ical it requires deeper understanding.

    My first thoughts were – how can sci­ent­ists be so cer­tain? Climate on earth has been chan­ging for bil­lions of years and the tem­per­ature record goes back 100+ years. Is such a small period of time viable to make such a bold state­ment? Surely the first thing to do is put recent warming in con­text with nat­ural tem­per­ature vari­ables? I found very little in the main­stream media that chal­lenged the warming ortho­doxy or examined the nat­ural baseline, I had to find out for myself. What I found made me deeply con­cerned, not about a warming planet but about how so few could alter the lives of so many. I am not sure that this is a grand con­spiracy either, more like a cabal of sci­ent­ists with deeply held beliefs stum­bling into the cre­ation of a new global sci­entific reli­gion where they became the equi­valent of high priests. They were the ini­ti­ators of an unstop­pable move­ment that, like most reli­gions, has to even­tu­ally sup­press dis­sent as a neces­sity of self-preservation.

    I think I under­stand why the sci­ence was quickly politi­cised and widely accepted. This small band of earnest sci­ent­ists knew that the cer­tainty was over­stated but given the com­plexity of the sci­ence they couldn’t afford time for debate — they believed they were run­ning out of time for action. They really believed that they were right, that there would be a dis­aster and they staked their repu­ta­tions on it. They had to fast-track the sci­ence by dubi­ously claiming con­sensus and by feeding alarm to the media. The media, who love cata­strophe, were unques­tioning, hungry for the images of dis­aster being painted by the high priests of cli­mate hell. The politi­cians and the public had no chance. The cor­por­a­tions saw it first as a threat then as an oppor­tunity as the sub­sidies to incentivise change were rolled out.

    At the heart of the cli­mate reli­gion is reli­ance on com­plex cli­mate mod­el­ling. I have some exper­i­ence of using com­plex models. Simple models are great – because you cannot hide behind a simple model, anyone can see your assump­tions and either agree or easily pull them a part. A mod­eller of com­plex models has great power, very few people can chal­lenge the output of your mag­ni­fi­cent machine – espe­cially if you are keen not to share your data. Modellers pro­tected by authority have the ability to make a model per­form in any desired way. Transparency is the biggest clue when judging whether a model or a mod­eller is trust­worthy. My scep­tical enquiries found that cli­mate mod­el­ling was far from trans­parent and that the cer­tainty of the model output was con­trolled by a clique who were reluctant to allow access to data and source code. I also found that the green­house effect is largely undis­puted in models which con­trib­utes around 0.8c of warming (a good cross check agains reality). The real sci­entific con­cern is not the physics of the green­house effect but the mod­el­ling of the warming feed­back assumed in models. There is great uncer­tainty in this area and yet it is this feed­back which determ­ines whether cli­mate is cata­strophic or not and whether resources and action are required or not. The cer­tainty of cata­strophic warming seems to have been oversold.

    The reason I am a skeptic is because I have con­sidered what I have been told on CAGW and found that there are a mul­ti­tude of altern­ative, plaus­ible sci­entific chal­lenges which are being pre­vented from being prop­erly debated. There is now too much at stake, too many careers, too much money and time invested in a theory which cannot be allowed to fail. The some­times frantic desire to sup­press sci­entific dis­sent through the manip­u­la­tion of the peer-review pro­cess or through place­ment of lead authors in the IPCC is frankly astonishing.

    Before we spend a penny more on mit­ig­a­tion we really need to tackle the uncer­tainty ques­tion and look care­fully at :

    . The bias of the models and respect their lim­it­a­tions
    . The bias in the sci­entific com­munity – IPCC pro­cesses, lead­er­ship, peer review etc
    . The bias in the tem­per­ature record – the lim­it­a­tions, the inac­curacy
    . The nat­ural cycle and altern­ative the­ories for recent warming

    The meas­ures that have already been taken to mit­igate cli­mate tem­per­at­ures are enormous and even if CAGW is real I think the chal­lenge to change is beyond the agree­ment of all of humanity. We are poten­tially wasting our pre­cious resources and pro­gress on world health and devel­op­ment on a bet that we are unlikely to win.

    The world is in fin­an­cial crisis. It is time to pause, draw a breath and re-assess the path we are on. There are many other pressing envir­on­ment issues we can spend our valu­able time and tril­lions of pounds/euros on.

    With deepest concern.

    @ChairmanAl (Climate Chimp)

  • Everyone — thanks for your com­ments. I am away and only have inter­mit­tent internet access — please dont be offended if you dont get a reply or your com­ments sit in mod­er­a­tion for ages. ALSO (and I should have been more clear about this at the outset) this post is about research on the psy­cho­logy of scep­ti­cism, what it can and cannot show etc, and so ANY POST GOING INTO A DISCUSSION OF THE SCIENCE WILL NOT GET THROUGH (or going off topic in other ways).

    Thanks for your understanding.

  • So — you feel you can dis­cuss “the psy­cho­logy” of skep­ti­cism” without dis­cussing whether skep­ti­cism is rational or not first?

    This isn’t some bril­liant satire is it?

  • It says there are 51 com­ments but I can only see the last one (using Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on a Mac OS X 10.6.8).

    Is there a bug in the blog­ging software?

  • oops…by posting a com­ment, all other com­ments popped up.

  • can only see 3 com­ments, need to to adjust a set­ting some­where (50 related)?

  • when public see sci­ent­ists in the media (usu­ally the same few faces) that apear to them or per­cieved to them as more act­ivist than sci­entist, I do think this is valid reason that is dir­ectly rel­evant on the phsy­co­logy of scepticism.

    A per­fect example, is of course James Hansen.

    I asked Prof Arnell at the Walker institue about this, he has a slide about over the top hypeing of sci­ence, etc, and he agrred with me thgat cer­tain actions like Hansens were an example of alamist rhet­oric and not helping the com­mu­nic­a­tion of cli­mate sci­ence. When the public, or ‘scep­tics’ see sci­ent­ists in the media, I do think they feel this reflects on cli­mate sci­ence as a whole, and then it is the vast majority of cli­mate sci­ent­ists that then get crit­isicm (unfairly because of it)

    Most cli­mate sci­ent­ists I know dis­tance them­selves from env­ri­on­mental groups, merely because of the just the pos­sible per­cep­tion of being seen as actvist and not neutral on the subject.

    Thus, I sug­gest this is a factor that needs to be looked at in the ‘phsy­co­logy of scepticism’.

    I would love to chat Adam ( I don’t bite — Mark Lynas and Leo Hickman can testify to that — I even ‘know here Mark Lives’ !! — no wor­ries — I gave him a lift to lunch at Brasenose col­lege with Jonathan Jones and I’m really ever so nice.

    you have my number.

  • You ask “Should this happen more often”. No.
    Are you naive? Have you suc­cumbed to a sudden journ­al­istic whim to rustle up more readers with spurious con­tro­versy? Is it some starry-eyed faith in “the internet” as a source of reasoned debate? (I stopped reading after the words “Jeremy Clarkson” as, tbh, this prob­ably sig­nals a rapid down­hill trundle).

  • Mr. Chambers, please con­sider pur­suing your skep­ti­cism in venues that sci­ent­ists value. As I am sure you are aware, blogs, media sources, etc. are mean­ing­less in the world of pub­lishing sci­ent­ists. Have you con­sidered attending a major sci­entific con­fer­ence, like the American Geophysical Union, where you can voice your con­cerns dir­ectly and per­son­ally with pub­lishing cli­mate sci­ent­ists? Do you study the research pub­lished in peer-reviewed journals? Have you sub­mitted a manu­script to such journals, one that out­lines your skep­ti­cism in sci­entific terms?

    I am a pub­lishing sci­entist myself (though not in cli­mate sci­ence), and I find very solid sup­port for the fun­da­mentals of anthro­po­genic cli­mate change in these venues. Not that there are no sci­entific uncertainties–there are, and they form the basis of cur­rent research. However, I can find no mean­ingful debate in the peer-reviewed lit­er­ature on the notion that the cli­mate is chan­ging and that human activity is the primary cause. If you doubt these points and rep­resent your­self pub­licly as a skeptic, then please chal­lenge the sci­ence in primary venues of sci­entific information.

  • Martin P — if you’ve stopped after seeing “Jeremy Clarkson” you’re devoid of humor or unable to read.

    Paul — is that the same AGU where a member of the board has a B.A. in English? Oh please grow out of logical fal­la­cies and read instead Alexander Kohn’s ”FALSE PROPHETSISBN-10: 0760704074 ISBN-13: 978–0760704073.

  • Paul Vincelli June 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Mr. Chambers, please con­sider pur­suing your skep­ti­cism in venues that sci­ent­ists value. … Do you study the research pub­lished in peer-reviewed journals? …
    I am a pub­lishing sci­entist myself (though not in cli­mate sci­ence), and I find very solid sup­port for the fun­da­mentals of anthro­po­genic cli­mate change in these venues”

    Are you the Paul Vincelli of Kentucky University who presents a pro­gram called “Climate Change Extension: Presenting the Science Is Necessary but Insufficient”

    http://c12.cgpublisher.com/proposals/259/index_html

    Are you also a co-author of “Climate Change: A Brief Summary for Kentucky Extension Agents.”

    http://www.ca.uky.edu/agcollege/plantpathology/people/vincelli.htm

    Are you there­fore telling the truth above — or are you really another of the “sci­entact­ivist” com­munity posing as a neutral commentator?

  • Sorry I haven’t par­ti­cip­ated more in this debate. I was busy fielding a lot of “no balls” (no, really) at Bishop Hill, and even on the ori­ginal art­icle at Climate Resistance. A new art­icle at Bishop Hill on the Bain Nature Letter is going over much of the same ground, and this art­icle is now up at Harmless Sky, where those who feel they’ve been unfairly cen­sored here can express them­selves.
    Adam warned me that mod­er­a­tion would be erratic, and that he would be away for a period. Not being sure of being able to reply in real time, I pre­ferred to reply at the above men­tioned threads.
    As I’ve said else­where, I think it was a big mis­take not to announce the cri­teria for mod­er­a­tion at the begin­ning. This would have avoided a lot of frus­tra­tion and anger. As it is, biasses have been con­firmed (Well, that’s what Adam’s research said would happen, isn’t it? :-) Sceptics appear as ranters, and warm­ists as cen­soring opposing views. In addi­tion, any boring off-topic stuff which was cen­sored here ended up at BishopHill, so rein­for­cing the impres­sion of reasoned dis­course on the warmist side, and angry emoting on the other.
    One com­menter at Bishop Hill (Ecclesiastical Uncle) picked up what I con­sider the most telling cri­ti­cism of our exchange when he said that we were like “ships that pass in the night”. That was inev­it­able in a first exchange, I think. I hope in later exchanges we’ll manage to engage on ser­ious topics, (It won’t be on the sci­ence of cli­mate change, of course, but only on the social sci­ence sur­rounding it).
    Looking at recent com­ments, I see many that are crit­ical, so accus­a­tions of cen­sor­ship (including accus­a­tions which I’ve made on other blogs) are unfair. It looks like inex­per­i­enced mod­er­a­tion to me, of the kind which occurs at the Guardian on CommentisFree.

    TomFP (June 16, 2012 at 3:39 am)
    makes some inter­esting socio-historical ober­va­tions which deserve answers from social sci­ent­ists, and asks: “why has a large seg­ment of the least threatened pop­u­la­tion in the his­tory of humanity AGREED to con­coct a mis­an­thropic nar­rative about its own kind?”
    There’s a lot of work done by com­puter sci­ent­ists and others mod­el­ling opinion form­a­tion. A paper by Szymanski dis­cussed recently at WUWT sug­gested that 10% of the pop­u­la­tion with an unshake­able belief were enough to sway public opinion.
    And look at this from the abstract of a paper by Serge Galam: ”Public debates driven by incom­plete sci­entific data: the cases of evol­u­tion theory, global warming and H1N1 pan­demic influ­enza”:
    “To adopt a cau­tious bal­anced atti­tude based on clear but incon­clusive data appears to be a lose-out strategy. In con­trast over­stating argu­ments with wrong claims which cannot be sci­en­tific­ally refuted appear to be neces­sary but not suf­fi­cient to even­tu­ally win a public debate”.
    I’d be very inter­ested to hear the opin­ions of those like Tamsin Edwards who under­stand math­em­at­ical models on the cred­ib­ility of this kind of research.

  • Adam — hi

    We talked on Twitter remember. I sug­gested a recip­rocal dis­cus­sion in which you and a prom­inent pro­ponent of AGW dis­cuss the Psychology of Belief.

    You said you might be inter­ested but were wor­ried about it becoming too “personal”.

    I’m sorry if my use of the word “smug” con­trib­uted to your sense of alarm. i cer­tainly didn’t intend it in any deeply per­sonal way. At least no more per­son­ally than your assump­tion of the right to dia­gnose shades of opinion as more or less symp­to­matic of illness.But I think anyone you debated with would be happy to remain as imper­sonal as would be com­men­surate with “under­standing” your deeper reasons for feeling the need to bellieve.

    With that in mind, have you had any more thoughts on the sug­ges­tion I made?

    Let me explain more about why I’m here asking you that.

    See, from my POV, I feel as if the most important thing we have as human beings is not faith or Belief and all the pre­tence we use to defend those things, but the pre­pared­ness — always — to accept we may be wrong and the will­ing­ness to embrace the massive import­ance of Uncertainty. I think we all agree if we could all do that then there’d be no more insane ideo­logues, drunk on cer­ti­tude, per­se­cuting the Different. No more hub­ristic claims of Absolute Truth. Ad indeed no more insi­dious attempts to reclas­sify unpop­ular opin­ions as a basis for psychoanalysis.

    I don’t think you intended what you’re doing to be an open invit­a­tion to bigotry — but that really makes no dif­fer­ence. And even if you’re not aware of the uses that such casual den­ig­ra­tion can be put to, you can rest assured there are others who are.

    So, that’s why I think it’s important you acknow­ledge the full rami­fic­a­tions of the pos­i­tion you’re taking and that you deal respons­ibly with the urgent need to reas­sert Uncertainty. To remind your­self and everyone else that being abso­lutely damn sure you’re right is not a guar­antee of any­thing but a degree of estrange­ment from reality.

    The best way to do that reas­serting would — IMO — be that recip­rocal ana­lysis of the psy­cho­logy of belief we talked about.

    So — how about it?

    Perhaps you and Geoff could meet up again with roles reversed?

    If you did that it would show that even though you have equated dis­sent with sick­ness and even though you’ve effect­ively cen­sored defence of skep­ti­cism from your web­site — you can still see the need for balance.

    Hope you don’t censor this — because that *would* be ironic wouldn’t it

  • Thanks for all your com­ments. I cant respond to every remark, com­ment and insult thrown my way on the various blogs that the ori­ginal post has been dis­cussed on. I’ve almost enjoyed some of the more pointed take-downs – so I hope everyone doesn’t find my ‘youthful naivety’ too grating and I can manage to hold my own against all these ‘big game hunters’ (?!)…

    But I will make one more plea for a civil tone. Calling me smug, pat­ron­ising, a bigot, posting up photos of me to try and ques­tion my cred­ib­ility etc really doesn’t make me want to speak to anyone (why make it per­sonal? I’m not com­menting on any indi­vidual in par­tic­ular, I’m talking about research findings).

    However, the majority of com­ments I let through on Talking Climate have not been like this, and so I feel like there is still some value in trying to pursue this exchange and so that its not a ‘warmist driveby’ (to quote another com­ment on bishop hill).

    1. ‘Censoring’ com­ments. I should have put up mod­er­a­tion cri­teria at the outset. I’m not used to such an ava­lanche of responses. I mod­er­ated imper­fectly I’m sure, but not in a biased way – almost every com­ment is crit­ical of me, my research, or the enter­prise of trying to under­stand scep­ti­cism. I did not let com­ments that were pre­dom­in­antly about spe­cific cri­ti­cisms of ‘the sci­ence’ in, although I tried to still let through those that made gen­eral points about why they were scep­tical. Some were a mix, some got through some didn’t, I’ve not had end­less time to spend on it. In gen­eral, com­ments that the sci­ence is all made up/the hockey stick is rigged/climategte proved its all a fraud etc didn’t get through – I’m afraid you’ll have to debate that some­where else, I can only talk about social sci­ence research.

    2. Am I just dis­playing my own biased/motivated reas­oning? A great ques­tion. Everyone – including me – reasons according to their prior beliefs. If I think someone is a racist, and they make an ambiguous remark, I’m more likely to con­strue this as racist than someone I didn’t have that prior belief about. So in our everyday lives, we are all as poten­tially sus­cept­ible to motiv­ated reas­oning as each other. But that leaves two questions:

    A) Is the reason that ‘warm­ists’ believe in cli­mate change just because they want to, and does that mean CC is just made up?
    B) Are my views/beliefs biasing my own inter­pret­a­tion of the social sci­ence evidence?

    Here’s my thoughts on A: Broadly – and there is a longer ver­sion of this answer – you can draw a pretty clean dis­tinc­tion between ‘everyday reas­oning’ and ‘the sci­entific method’. If you think all sci­ent­ists are corrupt/lying etc, then I don’t expect you to think that the sci­entific method IS dif­ferent. But for the vast majority of people who don’t think like this, the sci­entific method – through which we can measure tem­per­ature, observe the effect of CO2, con­duct model runs etc – is pretty much insu­lated from motiv­ated reas­oning. Without wishing to be too reduc­tionist, ‘the data are the data’.

    So no, the reality of cli­mate change is not some by-product of lefty wishes for a world gov­ern­ment – although you can’t be sur­prised that if someone wants (for example) a world gov­ern­ment, that they wouldn’t use every bit of evid­ence avail­able to sup­port this. So cli­mate sci­ence can be used in sup­port of polit­ical ends, of course – but that doesn’t mean it is not real. If the argu­ment is that cer­tain organisations/campaigners/whoever have over-egged the risks, then that is also undoubtedly true – but again, this doesn’t mean the actual, non-exaggerated, under­lying sci­ence isn’t real (and plenty are under-egging it).

    So my main point is there are real sci­entific ‘facts’ (which have been com­piled using pretty much bias-free sci­entific reas­oning), but that these facts get fed into everyone’s everyday reas­oning filter as soon as we move from a sys­tem­atic assess­ment of the sci­ence base, and start asking ‘so what does it mean, and what should we do about it’.

    Here’s my thoughts on B: This one is much easier to answer I think. Am I ignoring any counter-evidence? No. Am I influ­en­cing the out­come of research or select­ively reporting cer­tain things? No.

    Here’s some find­ings from the lit­er­ature: Climate scep­ti­cism is stat­ist­ic­ally asso­ci­ated with a cer­tain set of social views. Belief in cli­mate change fell between 2008–2010. Concern about cli­mate change also fell during this time. Older, white men tend to be more scep­tical, on average. People are about as con­cerned about energy security as they are about cli­mate change. The more people know about ‘solar radi­ation man­age­ment’ geoen­gin­eering, the less they like it.

    I per­son­ally agree with some of those state­ments, dis­agree with others. But what I think has no bearing on whether they are true of not. Just like the various sci­entific find­ings that com­prise ‘cli­mate change’, these various find­ings com­prise ‘public per­cep­tions of cli­mate change’.

    These are other people’s opinons, not mine, I’m just reporting them – although of course (and I believe this is the SMOKING GUN often alluded to in com­ments) I do have an interest beyond that, in that I hold the mildly, unre­mark­ably norm­ative view that there should more public engage­ment with cli­mate change.

    3. So this leads on to the big ques­tion – what do I mean by that? Again, a reas­on­able ques­tion, and one which needs a proper answer. You don’t have to agree with it, but it’s the way I see things, and its not an espe­cially con­ten­tious pos­i­tion I don’t think.

    Look at the his­tory of how social sci­ence inter­acts with the world around it. It has rarely been some purely obser­va­tional endeavour – there is an entire mega-field of psy­cho­logy that goes under the heading of ‘per­sua­sion’, which stretched back to the 50s at least, and which has vari­ously spawned off shoots such as THE ENTIRE MARKETING INDUSTRY, all health cam­paigns (smoking/obesity etc), and for at least the last 15 years or so, has included research that has sought to measure – and at time provide tools for influ­en­cing – atti­tudes and beha­viours around the envir­on­ment and cli­mate change. It is cer­tainly not just me and my mates in a room – there are dozens of journals that have pub­lished this stuff for years, search through the data­base on Talking Climate and you’ll find hun­dreds of papers. This is an estab­lished field of aca­demic study.

    So is this an appro­priate thing for (often pub­lic­ally funded) researchers to be studying? I obvi­ously think it is, and so do the fun­ders of the research, and the uni­ver­sities where the researchers work – but only because the under­lying know­ledge base on cli­mate change and the need to move (somehow – I’m not advoc­ating a par­tic­ular policy) to a more sus­tain­able society is con­sidered to be so un-contentious (in terms of the basic ques­tions – I am well aware that there is a great deal that is unknown etc etc, and there always will be – but the basic issues — is it warming, does this pose us threats — are not controversial).

    Psychologists ask ques­tions like ‘how can we increase the chance that people will recycle/drive less/eat more healthily/smoke less/be hap­pier’ all the time. It is praised and respected as ‘applied’ research, it is routinely funded, and it is pub­lished in a wide variety of aca­demic journals. You may think that this viol­ates a line between ‘objective’ research and ‘act­ivism’, but few people seem to con­sider this to be the case, and neither do I.

    The rule of thumb here I sup­pose is: if the under­lying issue (smoking/obesity/climate change) is not con­ten­tious, then there is no issue in asking how we can address that issue through social sci­entific research.

    If you do find the under­lying issue con­ten­tious, then I see why you wouldn’t agree with me. But I’m explaining my position.

    One more thing – I prob­ably wont be able to mod­erate com­ments for about 24 hours, I am on the move, and wont have access to internet, so please be patient if you want to reply

  • Older, white men tend to be more scep­tical, on average.

    You keep trot­ting this one out in your Guardian pieces as well Adam.

    As an old, white man, I find it irrit­ating — and a bit, you know, “personal”.

    It’s prob­ably true though — but do bear in mind that, whether you like the fact or not, in the UK between 70 and 80% of MP’s, Company Directors, University Professors and The Judiciary are “older, white men”.

    Perhaps a more accurate way of put­ting it might be — “Women and young people are con­vinced by cli­mate change but most of society’s leaders remain sceptical”.

  • You refer to “cli­mate sci­ence” as if it were a single entity with a single POV and as if it were a syn­onym for “sci­ence that sup­ports the theory of AGW”?

    Does this mean you don’t know of and haven’t read any of the sci­ence that con­tra­dicts the theory, or that you don’t con­sider any­thing that con­tra­dicts the theory to be science?

    And the sug­ges­tion of a recip­rocal ana­lysis of AGW-believer psy­cho­logy? You said you were sup­portive of the idea, why not so now?

    I am having a bet with myself about how likely it is you will answer these direct ques­tions with direct answers. What do you think the odds are?

  • Hi Adam

    May I ask a few of ques­tions, to cla­rify your thoughts, please (ie us proponents/opponents of an issue need to talk to under­stand each other)

    1) I earlier men­tioned a phsy­co­lo­gical reason for scep­ti­cism, when the public (including con­ser­vat­ives ;-) ) might per­cieve a sci­entist to be act­ivist with respect to a cause (I don’t mean signing a direct debit for RSBP, Greenpeace, etc) ie very pub­lic­ally with a media pro­file and this raises a concern.

    The most well know example I gave was James Hansen, being arrested, etc,etc coal trains death trains, etc.. (and of course the other example I gave, many others are also available)

    Would you agree that for the public (or a subset con­ser­vative) this might be a reason to doubt? ie per­cep­tions per­haps of objectivity lost for the ’cause’ amongst con­ser­vat­ives or the wider public

    2) this is my opinion, but PIRC, COIN would by many I think be per­cieved as act­ivist and/or lob­bying organ­isa­tions for ‘cli­mate change’ (nothing wrong with that in itself) do you under­stand why the gen­eral public may per­cieve this and have a doubt or 2?

    3) I do not mean to be per­sonal, but I think the wider gen­eral public would see it as rel­evant. sim­ilar to ques­tion 1) do you per­cive your­self as an act­ivist or cam­paigner (I under­stand this maybe com­part­ment­al­ised into per­sonal) and you belive you can seperate this from your work, which is of course possible)

    a) But the ques­tion is with respect to phsy­co­logy, I’m asking about the pub­lics per­cep­tion how do you think the public (or con­ser­vative subset ) would per­cieve this? ie like with James Hansen who does actu­ally not dis­garee that he is an activist?

    b) again how we per­cive ourselves and others per­cieve us can be very dif­ferent and lead to confuson/doubt. If a sci­entist (or pro­fes­sional) is also an act­ivist or cam­paigner, when it dir­ectly related to sub­ject of their pro­fes­sional field.

    Do you think the ‘sceptic’, public or con­ser­vative subest pote­tial reason for scep­ti­cism?
    LIke with Hansesn do you agree that the public might per­cieve your­self as a campaigner?

    An ana­logy being an eco­nomic aca­demic researcher,who also writes/has a column for say the BBC? ;-) ! /Daily Mail /Times that writes pub­lic­ally, about the EU, etc. Who is also say a UKIP can­didate, and a policy advisor to a think tank that is eurosceptic.

    4) I would be very inter­ested in your thoughts from a phsy­co­lo­gical per­spective, as I do believe both examples (economic/climate) would be at least amongst the gen­eral public be a reason (small per­haps) for a degree of scep­ti­cismm would you agree that this might be a likley public response? (amongst which groups)

    I would very much like to hear/discuss your answers to those ques­tions. As I intend to write a blog art­icle myself, and I thought, (with some advice — not from my ‘side’) that it would only be fair to give you an opor­tunity to respond.

    Thanks

    Barry

    ps please note, I’m NOT saying pro­fes­sional objectivity IS lost for a cause (though it is a recog­nised risk) but amongst those groups that you describe, it is merely the ‘per­cep­tions’ of objectivity lost for a cause, that cause a degree of scepticism.

    Hence a non ideo­lo­gical reason (ie with my example, a labour or of the left grouping of people, AND wider gen­eral public, I would think would ALL be scep­tical to various degrees of the eco­nomic analogy)

  • I am in prin­ciple up for what you suggest…and of course I dont think there is some mono­lithic thing called cli­mate sci­ence that stands and fals as one, but I am using short­hand (because oth­er­wise everything you ever write turns into a very unweildy clause-within-clause explan­a­tion) for the basic issues and the fact that they pose risks that need to be addressed…let´s see how this second round of dis­cus­sion goes down, if it doesnt feel like i am per­son­ally being pounced on too much, i am prob­ably up for taking part in your idea, so long as we are very clear at the outset what the terms and con­di­tions are (I was with Geoff and we quickly got to a co-operative situ­ation, which was great)

  • I guess you could flip that ques­tion around and ask why more people who work in cli­mate change don´‘t do more to spread aware­ness about cli­mate change (I don’t mean through direct action like Hansen, but just in gen­eral), and I sup­pose that is what I see myself doing. I see no con­tro­versy in the basic issues of cli­mate change — that it poses a range of risks to human and nat­ural sys­tems, and that addi­tion­ally these risks will be dis­trib­uted unequally — and I see my area of aca­demic study as having some­thing to con­tribute to addressing this, by com­mu­nic­ating cli­mate change more effectively…in my per­sonal time, when I rep­resent no-one but myself, I have all sorts of views about all sorts of things, and I have been to — and plan to con­tinue to go to — events that involve cam­paigning of some kind, some­times on cli­mate change, but on a range of other issues too (I dont feel like I need to go into detail here), and I see no con­tra­dic­tion or con­flict because as I said in my long post earlier, I dont think the basic, under­lying issue is con­ten­tious, so my pos­i­tion is not extreme or unusual. But I under­stand that if you dont accept that cli­mate change poses risks to society, enga­ging in any kind of cam­paigning to address these risks would seem strange. But then if you didnt think that smoking increased the risk of lung cancer, doing research and designing cam­paigns on how to deal with this problem would seem strange too.

    right, i really am going to be gone most of the day now with no access to internet, sorry!

  • Adam — I’m con­fused. You wrote: “ANY POST GOING INTO A DISCUSSION OF THE SCIENCE WILL NOT GET THROUGH” and then went your­self into dis­cussing the sci­ence. Please clarify.

    Also you haven’t had time as yet to respond to one of my ori­ginal con­ten­tions, namely that it’s not “older white men” who are more skep­tical, rather that they are more vocal about their skep­ti­cism, that is, they find it worth­while to speak up their minds. Could it be that you’re simply studying why “older white men” spend time on the internet??

    Another thing I have noticed is that you’re stuck in abso­lutes. You believe the only altern­at­ives are, total belief in upcoming cata­strophes, or total belief in a world­wide con­spiracy of evil sci­ent­ists pushing AGW. This indic­ates you have got very little from Geoff, whose views are much more nuanced than that (like­wise regarding me, Barry, Foxgoose and many others).

    Along the same lines you refer to “if you dont accept that cli­mate change poses risks to society”: again, it’s not an either-or situ­ation, it is pos­sible to accept that cli­mate change poses risk WITHOUT accepting that cli­mate change poses risks that are big and cer­tain enough to war­rant the whole­sale destruc­tion of modern society.

    You might not know it, but the debate has matured into “is there a cata­strophe going to befall upon us or not”. Answering “no” or “not likely” is the mark of 2012 cli­mate change skepticism.

    I would have a lot to say about those state­ments of yours. But for now…please stick to your field of expertise, or allow your com­menters to enter the topics you are intro­du­cing yourself.

    Hopefully you’ll agree that I, like many others, have not been insulting in any way at all.

    thanks in anticipation

  • really short on time — i have not once said I think CC is ques­tion of abso­lutes, I have stated clearly that I think its about the risks it poses, where am I advoc­ating ‘cata­strophic’ cli­mate change? On the issue of trying to keep the dis­tinc­tion between ‘dis­cussing the sci­ence’ — I am strug­gling to keep an abso­lute line in com­ments (including my own), please dont get too caught up on mod­er­a­tion policy (which I am just trying to do in a reas­on­able way)…

    Your point about whether scep­ti­cism is ‘old white men’ I’ll come back to prop­erly, but its going to take me another few days to sit down and write another long response. no you havent been insulting at all — your points are really valu­able I think

  • And before anyone else asks (BarryW„ Foxgoose com­ments not get­ting through) no I dont think the case for cli­mate change is built on Doran & Zimmerman, its built on hun­dreds of sci­entific papers (see IPCC etc etc)

  • Hi,

    Philip Richens June 16, 2012 at 8:42 am — sorry, I’m quite behind on my reading list! I’m trying to work my way through com­ments at AMAW while my code runs :) Please look out there for my replies to Judith — thanks.

    David L. Hagen June 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm — yes, that’s the conversation.

    geoffcham­bers June 19, 2012 at 9:45 am — thanks for asking for my opinion…sorry to be a pain but do you have a link to the paper you’d like me to com­ment on please?

    I haven’t read this whole thread but I’d like to say that mod­er­a­tion is dif­fi­cult! I choose to let everything through, but with the occa­sional snip or (added within the com­ment) a request to stay on topic and polite. However, I appre­ciate that I’ve been lucky with my com­menters largely toeing the line, and that not everyone agrees that my open policy works.

  • Adam

    I think you assumed what I was asking, and answered your own ques­tion, not mine.
    (I was quite, spe­cific, why not pub­lish my actual question?)

    For avoid­ance of doubt. I am NOT saying the case for cli­mate change is built on Doran/Zimmermann!! . it was just an opinion survey. not atmo­spheric physics!

    Though a lot of politi­cians mis­quote it

    I have some con­cerns about it. please a simple ques­tion, have you read Zimmermann for your­self Yes/No

    As it goes to my point, I became very scep­tical at hearing this 97% stated in ways when the survey did not jus­tify state­ments linked to it. ie things like 97% of sci­ent­ists say, future impact will be dan­gerous, that sort of thing (and the person making this state­ment citing/referencing when asked Doran and/or Anderegg, ie these surversy make no claims on the thoughts of the sci­entist with respect to dan­gerous future cli­mate change)

    I’m NOT ques­tioning the whole of cli­mate sci­ence because of it, just saying that to the public this survey gets mis­used, in a way that sound like a soundbite.

    And so the public,it just sounds like yet another soundbite/political rhet­oric not just cli­mate realted) which they hear all the time and have started to tune out, which goes to the heart of what you are looking into, ie public more scep­tical des­piute the sci­ent­ists views (the Carbon Brief touched on this recently) that over hyping of the sci­ence find­ings (going beyond the sci­ence) is not helping and cause cli­mate fatigue amongst the public.

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2012/05/overstating-climate-findings-its-just-not-helpful

    I am just curious to know if you have read Zimmermann yet, no more no less (the fate of cli­mate) sci­ence does not rest on this answer)

    please just Yes/No

  • yes i have read zimmerman!!!

  • Adam said:
    “I am in prin­ciple up for what you suggest……let´s see how this second round of dis­cus­sion goes down, if it doesnt feel like i am per­son­ally being pounced on too much, i am prob­ably up for taking part in your idea, so long as we are very clear at the outset what the terms and con­di­tions are (I was with Geoff and we quickly got to a co-operative situ­ation, which was great)”

    Excellent. I think you’re com­pletely right that we need to agree on terms and con­di­tions. What rules did you and Geoff follow? If they were reas­on­able (and I’m sure they were) why not just adopt those for the follow-up?

  • […] http://talkingclimate.org/understanding-climate-scepticism-a-sceptic-responds/ I am in prin­ciple up for what you suggest……let´s see how this second round of dis­cus­sion goes down, if it doesnt feel like I am per­son­ally being pounced on too much, i am prob­ably up for taking part in your idea […]

  • OK — last com­ment before I close them as we seem to have reached the point where no more dis­cus­sion is occuring, but I will try and reply to some of the major points that I havent yet resonded to soon, pos­sibly in a follow-up blog…but first i need to read through them all prop­erly, there is a huge amount of info and points here!

    Barry I have read Doran & Zimmerman not the entire mas­ters thesis you link to

  • I do hope you have a numbe of other such discussions.

    one poten­tial problem is the blog owner (‘either side’), also being party to the discussion.

    I have asked neither , but why not ask someone like Dr Tamsin Edwards to host the the next dis­cus­sion.. http://www.allmodelsarewrong.com

    As this would resolve the poten­tial problem of one of the parties of the dis­cus­sion being per­cieved as con­trolling the discussion/moderation.

    I would be com­pletely happy for Tamsin for example to mod­erate (and also some agreed frame­work, before it starts), or as extra rein­sur­rance for some, per­haps Tamsin and Andrew Montford could co-moderate (not taking part them­selves in the debate) and dis­cussing any really con­ten­tious com­ments amongst them­selves and making a joint decision.

    For my part, I would more than happy to just let Tamsin moderate.

    Or another person, could be Mark Lynas, who is obvi­oulsy on the con­sensus agw side of the debate. I’d be happy com­menting there.

    Need to ask them first though!

    I don’t tknow if you are aware of this, but Tamsin had a little problem with Dr Peter Gleick with just the name of the blog, because he thought ‘scep­tics’ might use it.

    http://allmodelsarewrong.com/all-blog-names-are-wrong/

    Tamsin ending up writing to Peter, giving him a ticking off, about how to com­mu­nicate sci­ence. As a phsy­co­lo­gist I’m sure you will find Peter Gleick ‘s actions/behaviour interesting.

    http://www.realclimategate.org/2012/02/clarifications-and-how-better-to-communicate-science/

    Dr Tamsin Edwards adressing Peter Gleick:

    I would per­son­ally be infuri­ated if I was dis­missed on account of the beha­viour of a group of people I talk with. Every single person I talk with has a dif­ferent view­point, and I learn a lot about how better to com­mu­nicate cli­mate sci­ence by listening to them.

    If we dis­miss swathes of people by asso­ci­ation then our attempts at com­mu­nic­a­tion become futile: we end up only ‘preaching to the con­verted from an ‘ivory tower’, as it were”.

    Of course, if com­mu­nic­a­tion of cli­mate sci­ence is not your aim, then it is your choice if you prefer to com­mu­nicate with nobody! – Tamsin Edwards

    (this did NOT go down well)

    Tamsin and I were both quite con­cerned about this event (see email exchanges in the second url (PeterGleick, myself, Tamsin, Katie Hayhoe) because less than 24 hours later, Peter sent his first phising email to the Heartland Institute.

    If you read both url’s bruised ego may have been a factor. ie a junior ‘rel­at­ively’ sci­entist telling a senior sci­entist what to think. The fact that other UK senior sci­entist sup­ported Tamsin (see her link) I think really annoyed him.

  • yes the dust has settled.

    May I just ask you to cla­rify one of your com­ments above and twitter comments

    I do not believe I have ever been per­son­ally crit­ical of you, or tried to make you lose cred­ib­ility! Perhaps I’m over sens­itive to being accused of uncivil beha­viour, etc
    (you need to read the real­cli­mategate link to under­stand why (Peter Gleick pub­lic­ally calling me ‘incred­ibly offensive’), it took three cli­mate sci­ent­ists to get him to pub­lic­ally apologise.

    http://www.realclimategate.org/2012/02/clarifications-and-how-better-to-communicate-science/

    The photo that was linked is pub­lic­ally avail­able, (in a polit­ical party pub­lic­ally news­letter) and is another example of why people are scep­tical, a photo that would give the per­cep­tion of an ‘act­ivist’ sci­entist. I could have also posted an example of James Hansen in Handcuffs!! to make the point.

    In fact this is almost exactly sim­ilar to when Dr Tamsin Edwards first made a com­ment at Bishop Hill, Andrew Montford had been chat­ting, tweeting else­where for quite a while allready, the reg­ular com­mentors were interested(and did not know her), then someone found a pub­lic­ally avail­able art­icle where she was talking cas­u­ally about cli­mate ‘denier’s

    http://highheelsinthelab.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/real-deal-tamsin-edwards-climate_17.html

    and shall we say the tone changed towards her a bit..

    Tamsin, tweeted to Andrew and myself to come to her rescue in the comments!!

    (Tamsin went and cla­ri­fied that com­ment in the URL above)

    Andrew and I came to her defence in the com­ments of Andrews OWN blog here,
    Andrew whilst trying to allow all voices was having to inter­vene rather more than usual:
    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/9/11/whats-all-this-then.html?currentPage=3#comments

    So I have asked a few people if that was fair to pub­lish a photo here (they said yes), that was allready pub­lished photo on twitter, which was then added at B Hill and had been dis­cussed widely at Bishop Hill and the reac­tions of people did harden to you because of it — ie per­ceived ‘sins of ommission’

    I’m sure you will under­stand in a public audi­ence — per­cep­tions can be crit­ical in a debate.

    It is very important to, Do you accept my intent was not to per­son­ally cri­ti­cise you!

    I have no doubt you recieved some abrubt, frank, crit­ical, even rude, etc com­ments from indi­viuals (just because anyone in the world can read a blog, does not make an blog owner respons­ible for the com­menst, this equally appliies to this blog) .

    please don’t lump all those people together into one amorphous group. Judith Curry described dif­ferent blogs as having various dif­ferent signal to noise ratios in the com­ments and to con­cen­trate on the above the line stuff.

    ie please don’t ignore Bishop hill because of a few people, focus on the signal. I would include people like Paul Matthews, Jonathan Jones, Don Keiller, Ricahrd Betts who all com­ment there. ALL UK pro­fessors (only one on the ‘con­sensus’ side)

    As a com­par­ison, As an example of rude­ness, I have all sorts of comments,made about me, rude crit­ical, and t told to stfu a number of times or to hang out with my envir­on­ment­alist friends, in the com­ments at both WUWT and Bishop Hill. (there are of course rather rude emails to me from Peter Gleick)

    And I’m a Guest Author at BOTH!

    so please don’t get hung up on indi­viduals. (even the lady that said bigot, I think meant in a phy­sco­lo­gical sense, much like denial used in a strict defin­i­tion.. but wise to avoid phrases like thes because of other implic­a­tions, inter­pret­a­tions of intent.

    As I men­tioned, seen a cam­bridge pro­fessor in a Deniars dis­in­form­a­tion dat­abse, would make many people quite con­c­erend about it..

    ———————–
    So please allow this com­ment up to this point.

    And cut the fol­lowing if you wish — I hope you don’t (you can delete this bit as well if you want, but keep the next bit.
    ————————–

    I genu­inely wanted to chat with you, as I have with Mark Lynas, Roger Harrabin, I chat far to much with Leo. this doesn’t mean that we are not crit­ical of each other ideas (but not the person) I have inter­viewed BOTH JAmes Delinpole AND Leo Hickman for art­icles at WUWT, I dis­agree with both of them on a number of issues, but I’m sure you will realise it takes trust and good­will and respect for this to have happened, and that only comes by get­ting to know each other personally.

    As this whole art­icle came about because of the panel debate with Peter Lilley, Tim Yeo, Damian Carrington, etc, which was ana­lysed by Ben PIle at Climate Resistance, where he says you nearly get it.

    Days ago, I could also have quite fairly bought some other public inform­a­tion into these com­ments (and at Bishop Hill) . ie like someone who had looked up Tamsin on google..

    The dust has settled how would it have gone.

    If I tweeted a pic­ture of you from the Friends of theEarth web­site, and your write up of a cli­mate march at the House of com­mons, with links to act­ivist marching, and their ban­ners, this would have had an impact.

    I also could have ‘select­ively’ quoted any­thing form your public blog (which you state in the Guardain,is where you blog at!) thus VERY pub­lic­ally allowable.

    And Finally, I could have pointed out on twitter and at Bishop Hill, in that debate, you were intro­duced just as Dr Adam Corner, Cardiff Uni. (ie audence per­cep­tion — scientist)

    And you state, to the public and Peter Lilley (on the opposing side of the debate), with Lord Lawson, Benny Peiser GWPF in the audi­ence and it sounded like one or 2 scep­tics as well

    you started with:(my caps)

    I’m a researcher, I’m NOT a Campaigner, I study public atti­tudes of cli­mate change”

    Now I very nearly went to that debate, and I would just have just looked every­body up on google on my tablet, and then asked the panel a ques­tionin the Q/A session

    For Peter Lilley, Dr adam Corner says that he is not a campaigner… … ”

    and intro­duced all of the above.

    It would have annoyed me then. Fortuanately, Ben wrote those art­ciles, Geof tried to enage with you, and this art­icle came about. I’m still prob­ably going to write an art­icle, but it will be in a very dif­ferent tone, than If I had been there, and just googled at the time.

    Adam Corner” climate

    and found all the pub­lic­ally avail­able inform­a­tion above..

  • Not sure why the impres­sion is that no more dis­cus­sion is occur­ring. In the mean­while, here’s an art­icle from the Boston Globe about the problem of old, white men appearing more vocal than every­body else on a cer­tain kind of issues:

    http://articles.boston.com/2012–06-04/opinion/31988309_1_powerful-women-opinion-columns-women-writers

    For every 100 opinion columns pub­lished about security issues, only 15 were written by women”

  • I just thought I had to close com­ments at some point Maurizio…and take stock of all the points that have been made, which is a huge amount of material! but I havent quite closed them yet, so if there are still points to be made, go ahead…

  • take stock of all the points that have been made”

    Including the ones that have been removed, I hope. I didn’t think I’d said any­thing that rude or controversial!

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