My post over at the Nottingham University ‘Making Science Public’ blog has ruffled some feathers. This was caused in no small part by Mike Hulme’s intervention:

Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister should cite it. It offers a similar depiction of the world into categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to that adopted in Anderegg et al.’s 2010 equally poor study in PNAS: dividing publishing climate scientists into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?

We see now why many environmentalists are so hostile to debate. Permitting debate — even giving the possibility of debate a moment’s thought — shatters the binary opposing categories that have been established in lieu of an actual debate of substance on climate change and what to do about it. The division of the debate into scientists versus deniers is a strategy, but one which has worn thin, as Davey’s performance on The Sunday Politics show revealed, and which Hulme alludes to.

It gets worse for the polarisers. Judith Curry echoes Hulme’s remark:

Ben Pile’s characterization of ‘consensus without an object’ is spot on IMO; this has degenerated into the use of ‘consensus’ by certain individuals as a power play for influence in the policy and political debate surrounding climate and energy policy.

It’s long past time to get rid of the concept of ‘consensus’ on climate change. An excerpt from the Conclusions to my paper No Consensus on Consensus:

Judith Curry’s longer discussion about the consensus is here.

It has been somewhat gratifying that almost all of the criticism of my post I have seen so far is from angry trolls, mostly on twitter, but one or two popped up to comment on the post. From what I can tell their argument is circular: it is irresponsible to give air/blog time to sceptics because there’s a strong scientific consensus that says they’re wrong.

Martin Lack made a more reasonable (and more dignified) attempt to defend the paper. Nuccitelli himself turned up, after some demanding that he be given a right to reply… As though the comment boxes weren’t sufficient to make his case.

This entire blog post made my head spin. After reading nearly every sentence I thought to myself “I already addressed this misconception in the articles that Ben Pile claims to be responding to.” For example, quoting Roy Spencer claiming to be in the 97% after I already pointed out that Spencer is actually in the < 3%. That’s not speculation, that’s where he fell in the abstract ratings. Did Pile even read my articles? I don’t know if he only read a few sentences, or if he’s just ignoring the inconvenient bits (like 75% of what I wrote), or what, but this post is rather appalling.

I had read Nuccitellis articles, and his paper. And I explained to him why, even using his own categories, Spencer still doesn’t belong in the 3%.

This seems to be a theme. The authors of the Consensus Project and their supporters don’t seem to understand the paper itself.

Angered by Hulme, an anonymous and distinctly troll-like blogger going by the moniker ‘Wotts Up With That Blog’ has penned some kind of response, aimed mainly at Hulme…

I don’t want to say much about the actual post, but it does seem to be written be someone who thinks it’s more important to philsophize about science, than actually do science – or maybe, more correctly, someone who thinks they can judge science by philosophizing about science.

The author must have missed my point.

The consequence of excluding non-expert opinion (other than expert opinion’s cheerleaders) from the climate debate is, paradoxically, the undermining of the value of expertise. Rather than engagements on matters of substance, a hollow debate emerges about whose evidence weighs the most, whose arguments are supported by the most experts, and which experts are the most qualified. The question ‘who should be allowed to speak’ dominates the discussion at the expense of hearing what they actually have to say.

[…]

And those who shout most loudly about science turn out to be advancing an idea of science which, rather than emphasising the scientific method, puts much more store — let’s call it ‘faith’ — in scientific institutions. Hence, the emphasis on the weight, number and height of scientific evidence articles, and expertise, rather than on the process of testing competing theories.

The author then scratches his head, trying to understand Hulme, and comes up with this interesting account of the Consensus Project:

Cook et al. is {sic} not trying to claim that the science is settled because there is a consensus. It’s trying to point out that a “consensus” exists so as to address those claiming that it doesn’t.

If Anon. had read the post he would realise that the problem is not a question about the existence of the consensus, but the object of the consensus:

The consensus referred to by Davey and Nuccitelli, then, is what I call a consensus without an object: the consensus can mean whatever the likes of Davey and Nuccitelli want it to mean. Davey can wave away any criticism of government’s policy simply by invoking the magical proportion, 97%, even though those critics’ arguments would be included in that number. Consensus is invoked in the debate at the expense of nuance. A polarised debate suits political ends, not ‘evidence-based policy’.

It’s not a complicated point. If we all agree on a point, X, and then someone says ‘Y’, the consensus on ‘X’ still exists, it’s just been misrepresented. But it’s a point that Anon. seems unable to fathom. He continues…

I realise that many are using the Cook et al. paper to argue that science isn’t done by consensus and hence that the paper illustrates a fundamental problem with climate science, but I still think that such a paper has value. Eventually, the message will have to get out there and it will become clear that there is strong agreement about the science.

So, here Anon. unwittingly reveals that the consensus paper is a strategy. Still scratching his head, he asks his readers for help.

Tom Curtis (who is, as far as I can tell, a partner in the Skeptical Science blog enterprise) obliges, with archetypal green invective.

There is a large measure of idiocy in Ben Pile’s post, and in Mike Hulme’s endorsement of it.

The architects of the new consensus — Cook et al and their pals — really ought to understand the dynamics of a consensus. If you begin your defence of a consensus by calling those who might belong to it ‘idiots’, the only possible outcome is that the consensus will diminish. He moves on… Sort of. A long discussion about other people’s arguments about the Consensus Project’s methods follows – none of which relates much to my criticism. Then Cook says,

The fact is that claims of a low consensus bar are refuted by the classification system in the paper. Based on the paper, if you “explicitly minimize [or] reject AGW as less than 50%”, you reject the consensus. So, we now know, apparently that all those AGW critics believe that AGW is responsible for 50%+ of warming over at least the last 50 years (and possibly over the twentieth century). There is no other coherent way to read the paper.

This is a stunning revision of the paper. And it proves my point that the argument about the substance of climate science is obscured by second hand arguments about the consensus.

In fact, this is how the paper categorises abstracts:

(Click for larger version)

Curtis is wrong. The paper gives three categories of ‘endorsement’, and three of rejection. Of these six, only one makes a test as Curtis has described — and that is for ‘explicit rejection': “Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming”.

This leads to the possibility of paradoxes. You could argue in a paper that only 49.9999999999999999999999999999999% of global warming was caused by mankind, but as long as you said in the abstract something to the effect of Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change, your paper would be counted as an ‘endorsement’ (i.e. part of the consensus). But swap the two claims around — put the 49.9(etc) figure in the abstract, and the endorsement in the body of the paper — and suddenly you’re a denier.

So it would seem that Curtis doesn’t even understand this survey he is defending, and from this misunderstand he calls me — and worse, Mike Hulme — an idiot.

Curtis’s rant gets worse…

I know for a fact that many of those critics endorse very low climate sensitivities that imply that anthropogenic factors cannot be the cause of most of global warming, even since 1980. They routinely say as much, indicating that while anthropogenic factors may have contributed some part of the warming, the warming is overwhelmingly natural in origin. Therefore, I can only assume that their claim to belong to the “consensus position” of Cook et al it tactical. At best it is dreadfully misinformed.

Ben Pile should have known this. He certainly should have suspected it, given the known position of his informants. He absolutely should not have only taken the opinions of known critics of AGW and Cook in forming his view of how the consensus was defined in Cook et al. Doing so shows him either to be entirely partisan in his outlook, or idiotic.

I certainly do know for a fact that some people’s estimates of climate sensitivity are so low as to at least imply, contrary to the IPCC statement, natural variability might account for more than 50% of the warming in the second half of the C20th. My argument, however, was that the Consensus Project is too clumsy to capture such a position.

For instance, I point out in my reply to Martin Lack that Roy Spencer’s paper has been misclassified. The abstract read as follows:

“We explore the daily evolution of tropical intraseasonal oscillations in satellite-observed tropospheric temperature, precipitation, radiative fluxes, and cloud properties. The warm/rainy phase of a composited average of fifteen oscillations is accompanied by a net reduction in radiative input into the ocean-atmosphere system, with longwave heating anomalies transitioning to longwave cooling during the rainy phase. The increase in longwave cooling is traced to decreasing coverage by ice clouds, potentially supporting Lindzen’s “infrared iris” hypothesis of climate stabilization. These observations should be considered in the testing of cloud parameterizations in climate models, which remain sources of substantial uncertainty in global warming prediction.”

Notice that the abstract makes absolutely no statements about the relative contributions to C20th warming of natural variation and anthropogenic CO2. Yet the paper was categorised as being an ‘implicit rejection’, the definition of which is:

(5) Implicit rejection – Implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly E.g., proposing a natural mechanism is the main cause of global warming. Example: “‘. . . anywhere from a major portion to all of the warming of the 20th century could plausibly result from natural causes according to these results.”

Of course we know that Spencer is a critic of the IPCC. But one must abandon such prior knowledge if one is to execute such a test of abstracts as the Consensus Project’s intended.

The point here is not just about this prior knowledge influencing a subjective reading and classification of the paper — i.e. the method and its execution. The point is that there is something wrong with the categories themselves — the research design. These categories aren’t useful to the debate. Even if we were to find some better categories, they would still obscure the substance of the debate.

Curtis concludes much as he started, just in case anyone had forgotten he was calling Mike Hulme an idiot for agreeing with me.

And in endorsing Ben Pile’s comment, Mike Hulme (who is certainly not partisan) shows his intervention to be idiotic and ill informed. He has merely accepted the propaganda of climate science deniers and treated it as straightforward fact. He has done so without any attempt to check with the original authors as to whether or not the opinion was fair. Frankly, from a scientist, such ill informed and inflammatory comments are a disgrace.

It’s all about endorsing with these guys, isn’t it… Endorsement and rejection. Hulme should have rejected Pile and endorsed Cook et al, because Pile rejects the consensus, whereas Cook et al endorse it, as do most climate scientists. They want agreements and disagreements to be black and white, yes and no, true and false, science and denier.

Curtis continues his attack on Hulme further on in the comments…

Unfortunately his insistence that the policy debate is not determined by the science (which is true) clouds him to the fact that you can’t have the real policy debate while one side of politics is determinedly ignoring the science.

Again, we see here the circular argument, which is itself preoccupied with cartoonish antagonisms: ‘sides’. One side of politics is ignoring the science. The evidence for half of this statement is, of course, the study.

But as I explain in the post, in the case of Davey, the science is being ignored by a politician, it having been displaced from the debate by the 97% figure. Moreover, as we have seen in Davey, his predecessors, and his superiors, you can say anything you like about climate change, as long as it doesn’t contradict this view of sides. You could say, for instance, that there will be 10 metres of sea level rise by 2100 and that therefore climate policies are necessary. This claim would exist far away from ‘The Science’. But it would seem to be correct according to the tests applied to it by the Consensus Project. This is disappointing, because Curtis is nearly on to something…

Further, he appears to have picked up that strange censorial attitude noteworthy also in von Storch which presumes that because they do not believe that AGW will lead to catastrophe (which is a respectable position inside the consensus), that therefore scientists who do believe that it will (also a respectable position inside the consensus) must not state that belief in public.

Surely this is a frank admission that there is no consensus on catastrophic climate change? If so, then Curtis is now in a real bind, because this deprives the ‘warmist’ crowd of their moral imperatives. Moreover, most complaints from sceptics are that the catastrophism we are all too familiar with is undue — not that there is no such thing as climate change. And what Curtis seems entirely oblivious to is the extent to which catastrophic stories have political utility. Curtis then descends to simple transference:

Perhaps it is a weird reflection of the pernicious practice of reporting (or claiming) that “science says” this or that, as if science was an independent person. Science says nothing, but scientists say much, and much that disagrees with each other. It appears that Hulme and von Storch want to maintain that monolithic voice, while insisting it be as cautious in its claims as they are.

Curtis should have read my post more carefully:

Some might still sense no problem with such an expertisation of politics, and may even prefer it to what appears to be the arbitrary landscape of politics and ideology. But what the squabble over the Sunday Politics interview reveals is that political debates descend to science; they are often not improved by science and evidence as much as they degraded by undue expectations of them. Being an advocate of science seems to mean nothing more than shouting as loudly as possible ‘what science says…’, second hand.

And those who shout most loudly about science turn out to be advancing an idea of science which, rather than emphasising the scientific method, puts much more store — let’s call it ‘faith’ — in scientific institutions. Hence, the emphasis on the weight, number and height of scientific evidence articles, and expertise, rather than on the process of testing competing theories.

Finally, in a third attack on Hulme, Curtis makes some extraordinary claims:

As to what is said, for somebody who prattles on about the importance of different ways of knowing, and the need to include humanities within the ambit of the IPCC, Mike Hulme is pretty clueless. Had he a slight clue he would know about such important matters in the humanities as conversational implicature, and context.

The first is a simple point dressed up in so much verbiage:

So the first thing that is evident is that Hulme, in his comparison of supposedly distinct statements, is simply ignoring conversational implicature. In consequence he is treating two phrases which convey the same information to anyone who has not set out ab initio to score rhetorical points as being entirely distinct.

In essence, Curtis is excusing the Consensus Project’s word play by saying that Hulme is playing with words. But, as has been shown, the wording of the specification of categories in the paper was problematic. It was ambiguous, and it was a transparent attempt to project its authors prejudices into the debate. They are meaningless categories, and the defence that an attempt to point out that they are meaningless categories is semantic play is dishonest, since it ultimately depends on nothing more than Curtis’s claim that the authors are honest. Sadly for Curtis, we are allowed to believe that they are not honest, and to demand a higher level of argument.

But this is even more incredible, given Curtis’s own misconception of the study’s categories: (emphasis added)

Second, and this is an inexcusable lapse as interpretation in context is a cardinal rule in all academic disciplines, he ignores context. In this case the essential context is the actual definitions of the ratings categories, and the need to interpret them (if at all possible) as mutually consistent and non-overlapping. Given those constraints, any abstract indicating that that “Humans cause global warming”, and therefore “Humans cause global warming” is seen to be short hand for “Humans have caused most of recent global warming.”

As was shown above, by reference to the paper itself Curtis is wrong to say that the categories divide the abstracts according to the 50% measure. Moreover, as was shown above, the categories are not mutually consistent, and do overlap. There are many arguments that could belong to one or more of the categories, on both putative sides of the division. For example, one could very easily construct an argument that met the definition of an “Explicit endorsement without quantification” (category 2) and an “Explicit rejection with quantification” (category 7). The test of this would be a contradiction in the following statement:

‘Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change’ BUT ‘The human contribution to the CO2 content in the atmosphere and the increase in temperature is negligible in comparison with other sources of carbon dioxide emission’

Does this hypothetical statement belong in category 2 or 7? It meets the criteria of both, but doesn’t contradict itself. It is only seen as a contraction when an attempt is made to force it into the papers’ schema: bogus categories. The authors impose their own prejudices and misconceptions of the debate on to the debate. QED.

Worse, even than that projection is this statement…

In fact, there exists a concerted disinformation campaign one of whose key strategies is to underplay the level of scientific agreement about global warming. Given that, it is perfectly appropriate for somebody to what to actually assess the level of that agreement; and perfectly reasonable to want to counter the false arguments that the level of scientific agreement is small. And whether or not the level of agreement in the literature to the claim that humans have caused greater than 50% of recent warming is near 97% or closer to 50% is very relevant to that issue (and the correctness of my ascriptions of which side is indulging in disinformation.)

Curtis cannot demonstrate a “concerted disinformation campaign” exists, nor that it intends “to underplay the level of scientific agreement about global warming”.

But what we can see now is that there vividly exists a campaign — and it looks like a “concerted disinformation campaign” to me — to OVERSTATE the “level of scientific agreement about global warming”. Some climate scientists seem to agree. Curtis’s response is to call them idiots.

Then there is the special pleading. “it is perfectly appropriate for somebody to what to actually assess the level of that agreement”, says Curtis. But wait, hasn’t he been calling anyone who has tried to establish what the level of agreement is, and more importantly what the agreement consists of, an idiot? Curtis doesn’t want anyone to know what the substance of the agreement is. He just wants them to know that the agreement is substantial. That way, as I pointed out in the post, it can mean whatever he wants it to mean.

Finally, then, who is Tom Curtis?

According to the about page on his own blog,

I have noticed at least one person refer to me as a scientist, which I am not. […] But if not a scientist, what am I? By training, I am a philosopher, with a particular interest in ethics, logic and epistemology (in that order).

So, not a climate scientist. And a bit of a failure at logic and epistemology, too.

If this survey had not influenced the arguments of Obama and Davey, and thus perhaps influenced UK policy, I might actually feel sorry for the paper’s authors and their fans. Instead, seeing for myself just how shallow their thinking is, and how transparent their politicking is, I am more terrified that it is so easy for such a collection of mediocre minds to achieve such prominence, merely by flattering politicians with such rank pseudo science.


UPDATE.

Tom Curtis has a response to the above over at the site in question. His defence is rather interesting…

tlitb1, I have read that appalling piece of crap. It may convince those who want to be convinced, but not any discerning critic.

At one point Pile argues against my contention that his interpretation of “endorses global warming” is incorrect because it makes the classification system unnecessarily inconsistent by simply asserting the classification system is inconsistent. Apparently he has never heard of the principle of charity in criticisms, ie, that in interpreting the works of others you construe them as consistent if it is possible to do so. In this case it is certainly possible to do so so choosing the inconsistent interpretation so that you can criticize the paper for inconsistency merely indicates that you are determined to criticize the paper regardless of its actual merits.

I’m glad to discover that Tom Curtis is in favour of a charitable reading of other people’s arguments. But if being ‘charitable’ means calling Hulme (and me) ‘idiots’, I would hate to see what being uncharitable looks like.

116 Responses to Tom Curtis Doesn’t Understand the 97% Paper

  • Excellent piece it needed saying .

    Good lord I totally missed the fact that Curtis showed he clearly doesn’t understand the paper’s scope! I had commented on that page but after Tom Curtis’s initially strangely bitter snipe at me I gave up reading his next missive after quickly getting bored seeing he had moved off me and onto his usual ponderous expounding style.

    Having seen Curtis expound many times before I would say your picture of the convoluted and flawed thinking that amount his usual problems is spot on, but I feel sure that he will not be able to see most of the criticisms. I do predict that he will be stung by the fact you have him bang to rights on the fact that he has no idea about what constitutes the 97%.

    Curtis seems smart enough but strikes me as having a strange wilfully manipulated cognitive scotoma that sometimes has me so astonished at the ridiculous stances he can leave himself in, so much so that I find myself scratching my head wondering why he gets himself tied in knots. Curtis does seem to have moments of self-awareness and then you can see him roll back positions when he edged himself out on a limb. I suspect he will be mortified that you have pointed this huge misreading of the project that over the last year he was actually part of the discussion.

    He philosophises about epistemology, knowledge and consensus? Shit, he doesn’t even know what the paper says! :)

    BTW There is a typo where Curtis/Cook morphed in this line “Then Cook says,”

  • Thanks for the plug, I guess. Apologies if the beginning of my post seemed unduly insulting about yours. It was just a comment and it does seem that much of the debate about this topic revolves around “philosophical arguments” or discussions that appear rather pedantic about some terminology, rather than actually discussing the science (not that philosophy and terminology aren’t relevant, just that you don’t prove that some science is wrong by simply quoting Popper – not that you did this though). That was really all I was getting at.

    I don’t think that my post indicated that I was angered by Hulme. I was interested in why someone who was clearly someone who’s views could not simply be dismissed should have taken the position they did. I think I even discussed how he may have had a point.

    Troll-like. Maybe, although I think that’s meant to be someone who starts arguments or upsets people by posting inflammatory material – certainly not my intent, but maybe that’s how it’s taken.

    Let me make one specific comment though. You seem to be suggesting that Spencer’s abstract should not have been rated as implicit reject. However, it says “The increase in longwave cooling is traced to decreasing coverage by ice clouds, potentially supporting Lindzen’s “infrared iris” hypothesis of climate stabilization.” I am not expert, but as soon as I read that sentence my first sense was that this was implying that it could be something other than anthropogenic. So, implicit reject seems correct.

  • Er…. if I may.

    In the geological past, > in Atmospheric CO2 has been noted to proceed, originate as a consequence of warming, recent rises in atmospheric CO2 have been as a result of the natural background warming – as the world came out of the LIA.
    Thus, involving oneself in the Jesuitic nuance of word play and semantics with blokes who do not know of what the speak – is an utter waste of time.

    Ed Davey is a clown, a puppet – indisputably he does what he is told and his every word is edited and approved by the alarmist apparatchiks in warming central – the DECC, who are in turn primed by numerous organizations including the Met Office and PIK in Potsdam and directed by Davey’s true masters who reside in Brussels.

    Ultimately, this whole palaver – is all about politics and nothing whatsoever to do with pure science, the futility of arguing the toss with post normal modernists is an circumambagious wander into a pointless and endless disputation.

    CAGW, was, is a myth but promulgated by politicians, the charlatans who claim consensus, simply put – are liars.

  • - When someone brings it up we should say “I am not going to let you get away with hijacking the debate by using the 97% Nonsensus technique. I know it’s BS, you know it’s BS, so lets stick to specific science points we are talking about now”

  • Wotts – It was just a comment and it does seem that much of the debate about this topic revolves around “philosophical arguments” or discussions that appear rather pedantic about some terminology, rather than actually discussing the science (not that philosophy and terminology aren’t relevant, just that you don’t prove that some science is wrong by simply quoting Popper – not that you did this though).

    You’re just saying what the post — i.e. MY argument — you object to says.

    As I point out to Curtis, my post said:

    Some might still sense no problem with such an expertisation of politics, and may even prefer it to what appears to be the arbitrary landscape of politics and ideology. But what the squabble over the Sunday Politics interview reveals is that political debates descend to science; they are often not improved by science and evidence as much as they degraded by undue expectations of them. Being an advocate of science seems to mean nothing more than shouting as loudly as possible ‘what science says…’, second hand.

    And those who shout most loudly about science turn out to be advancing an idea of science which, rather than emphasising the scientific method, puts much more store — let’s call it ‘faith’ — in scientific institutions. Hence, the emphasis on the weight, number and height of scientific evidence articles, and expertise, rather than on the process of testing competing theories.

    That’s the point of demonstrating a ‘consensus without an object’. The consensus that Cook et al attempt to define is empty, and precludes the possibility of the science informing the debate. The debate becomes a battle of received wisdoms. The Cook et al paper does not elevate the debate.

    If you don’t understand the point, you really should be asking questions about it to clarify, rather than making statements about it. In any case, if you really object to ‘philosophical’ approaches to the debate, you should take your complaint up with Tom Curtis, who seems to have even less of a grasp of it than you, but who philosophises (very badly indeed) nonetheless, to your approval. You set different standards for people, depending on what what side of this poorly-defined consensus you imagine them to stand.

    Wotts – I was interested in why someone who was clearly someone who’s views could not simply be dismissed should have taken the position they did.

    But you didn’t understand the criticism of the paper that Hulme was agreeing with. And you dismiss as a priori wrong the substance of what he agreed with. You try to understand what Hulme has said without understanding what I had said. This is not unlike the problem of the ‘consensus without an object’. Your mistake is amplified as you take it forward.

    You seem to be suggesting that Spencer’s abstract should not have been rated as implicit reject. However, it says “The increase in longwave cooling is traced to decreasing coverage by ice clouds, potentially supporting Lindzen’s “infrared iris” hypothesis of climate stabilization.” I am not expert, but as soon as I read that sentence my first sense was that this was implying that it could be something other than anthropogenic. So, implicit reject seems correct.

    Exactly… What you need to understand is how your first sense prevents a face-value reading of the abstract. It might equally be argued that seemingly supporting Lindzen implies a contradiction of the consensus. But it doesn’t. The abstract doesn’t indicate any attempt to measure or quantify anthropogenic vs natural contributions to temperature rise. It just says that this effect should be considered by climate models. To say that is a rejection of the ‘consensus’ is to say that any paper on negative feedbacks ‘implicitly rejects’ the consensus.

  • what makes Dana’s and Cook survey more problematic than Doran, Anderegg Harris, Oreskes, etc is that they know their consensus is shallow encompassing the broad ranges of IPCC science on the issue (thus including the majority of sceptics)

    In a topic titled, “Defining the scientific consensus,” John Cook explains:

    ” so we’ve ruled out a definition of AGW being “any amount of human influence” or “more than 50% human influence”. We’re basically going with Ari’s p0rno approach (I probably should stop calling it that :-) which is AGW = “humans are causing global warming”. Eg – no specific quantification which is the only way we can do it considering the breadth of papers we’re surveying.” – John Cook

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2013/climate-science-p0rn/

    AGW with ‘No Specific Quantification’ says John Cook, will encompass all views, including Lindzen, Carter, Spencer, etc and Montford Watts, Nova, (Pile) Laframboise.

    Yet we find Cook and his co-authors planning a media blitz to promote the results of the survey, before they had undertaken it. Just another soundbite to wave around, at anybody that asks any politician any questions about policy.

    Dana N and John Cook found their 97% but seemed to learn nothing new about the science.

    M Zimmermann, the co author of the earlier Doran ’97% of climate scientists say’ survey that was previously waved around , seemed to have learned something new about her survey (Doran paper cited the survey produced for her Masters thesis:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/what-else-did-the-97-of-scientists-say/

    “This entire process has been an exercise in re-educating myself about the climate debate and, in the process, I can honestly say that I have heard very convincing arguments from all the different sides, and I think I’m actually more neutral on the issue now than I was before I started this project. There is so much gray area when you begin to mix science and politics, environmental issues and social issues, calculated rational thinking with emotions, etc.” from – The Consensus of the Consensus, M Zimmermann (Doran)

    this comment is in the thesis of the 97% Doran cited survey itself

    So Cook et al have inadvertently managed to get people finally discussing what is the actual definition of the consensus that scientists agree on (and it includes virtually everyone). Thus, we find it has just been used as a soundbite for politicians to wave away inconvenient question on policy

  • Has anyone ever written about the 3%?

  • Table 2’s sloppiness boggles the mind. There’s no symmetry or rigour. As it stands, belief in some unstated but non-zero level of anthropogenic input is being opposed by belief in minimal anthropogenic input. As Ben has said: big overlaps there. Level 5, for example, is a subset of Level 3.

    Then there’s Level 6, which is a complete dog’s dinner. Someone who ‘explicitly rejects that humans are causing global warming’ displays a level of endorsement below that of Level 7, whose denizens merely ‘reject that’* humans are causing at least half of it. Consequently, Level 6’s rejecters should be in a Level 8.

    That would leave Level 6 populated by those who either ‘explicitly minimize that humans are causing global warming’ or (if you assume a couple of lost commas) ‘explicitly minimize global warming’. Which is it? The latter would fit the accompanying example but, like the example itself, would say nothing at all about human attribution; and while you can torture some sense into the former – ‘explicitly state that humans have had little impact on global warming’ or perhaps ‘explicitly pooh-pooh the claimed scale of human inputs to global warming’ – you’d leave the example out in the cold.

    What to do? When faced by an ambiguous definition and an unambiguous example, you would usually allow the example to reveal the intended definition. (Exemplary implicature?) In this case, though, that would be to allow Level 6 to ignore the table’s main preoccupation (the extent of human influence) and set off into territory that the rest of the table leaves untouched (the extent of global warming). An insoluble problem. If the example is bad, the authors have misclassified at least one paper (Belling); if it’s good, Level 6 (or what remains of it after kicking the rejecters downstairs) is an irrelevance; and either way the authors have shown themselves to be very careless or confused.

    ===
    *That peculiar ‘rejects that’ must surely have started life as ‘denies that’, no?

  • Paraphrasing Richard Feynman: Regardless of how many experts believe it or how many organizations concur, if it doesn’t agree with observation, it’s wrong.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), some politicians and many others mislead the gullible public by stubbornly continuing to proclaim that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is the primary cause of global warming.

    Measurements demonstrate that they are wrong.

    CO2 increase from 1800 to 2001 was 89.5 ppmv (parts per million by volume). The atmospheric carbon dioxide level has now increased since 2001 by 25.16 ppmv (an amount equal to 28.1% of the increase that took place from 1800 to 2001) (1800, 281.6 ppmv; 2001, 371.13 ppmv; June, 2013, 396.29 ppmv).

    The average global temperature trend since 2001 is flat.

    That is the observation. No amount of spin can rationalize that the temperature increase to 2001 was caused by a CO2 increase of 89.5 ppmv but that 25.16 ppmv additional CO2 increase had no effect on the average global temperature trend after 2001.

    What the IPCC, the consensus, the Met office and Hansen & Co. are saying no longer passes the smell test. http://consensusmistakes.blogspot.com/

    GW ended before 2001. http://endofgw.blogspot.com/

    AGW never was. http://climatechange90.blogspot.com/2013/05/natural-climate-change-has-been.html

  • I don’t comment much, nowadays, partly because I see the ‘debate’ as somewhat superficial, the ‘political’ part of which people seem to be doing pretty well without my clumsy help, and, partly because of an innate historical pessimism, that things are changing and will change, despite all ‘debate’. Anyway (sorry for the boring preamble), I think your, Ben, and Geoff Chambers discussion re Mike Hulmes post and his ideas, on Bishop Hill, was quite fascinating: Specifically whether ‘myths’ are, or can be, rational? It is the excepted norm that the the propensity to mythologise stems, allegedly, from that part of ourselves that is ‘non-thinking’, irrational and therefore to be dismissed? And, assuming there is a fight of ‘mythologies’ in the so called ‘climate debate’, should we dismiss all ‘myths’ as ‘irrational’, or weigh them, one against the other, as one being more ‘rational’ than the other? Certainly the 5c Athenians, who were dominated by myth, would not dismiss their Myths as they argued the Being of Nature – they were not in conflict – in fact, science was a myth making process, and rationality a kind of Daemon. However, myths are not stories, not a way of telling yourself ‘what happened’, they are perspectives. They are not ideologies either. They are, perhaps, the luminousness of our thought. Mike Hulme seems to understand this, that there is not, necessarily, a contradiction between myth and rationality. I like him for it, even if I disagree with his particular myth. At least he’s thought about it.

  • Never comment before you’ve had your first drink (or after your second bottle). Me earlier:

    The latter would fit the accompanying example but, like the example itself, would say nothing at all about human attribution

    Wrong. I can’t find the context of the text fragment used as an example of the ‘minimizes’ subset of Level 6 in Table 2 but the most likely reading of the fragment by itself is that it assumes that humans are causing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to increase and that this is causing or contributing to global warming, so the fragment does say (or at least imply) something about human attribution.

    Also, the fragment is from Balling, not Belling.

    Other criticisms stand. (Just because I was careless or confused doesn’t excuse Cook & Co. of all of their carelessness and confusion.)

  • Well, Ben – to be honest – I don’t quite understand the point you’re making so would be happy if you would clarify a little more. You seem to be either making a semantic argument against the term consensus, or suggesting that it was so poorly defined that Cook et al. could have achieved any result they liked. Is one of those essentially your argument? There, you go a question.

    The point I was making about the Spencer is that there is a reasonable argument that one could make to suggest that it should be rated as implicit reject. I wasn’t stating that this was the correct rating, simply that an argument could be made that this was a reasonable rating. You clearly disagree but there’s no question that the Cook et al. strategy included that a judgement would need to be made by those who did the ratings. This may imply a weakness in their strategy but clearly indicates that some mistakes might be made and that some might disagree with their ratings.

    You suggest that I should ask questions if I don’t understand. I tend to agree with that general view, but if you’d read my post, you would noticed that it was written in quite a questioning style (at least with regards to why Hulme choose to take the stand he did). You could have posted a comment clarify the subtleties that I’d missed. Instead you decide to write a post of your own in which you choose to refer to me as “distinctly troll-like”. I don’t think I did anything quite like that in my post about your initial article.

  • So, here Anon. unwittingly reveals that the consensus paper is a strategy.

    How could anyone doubt that?

    String theorists don’t have psychologists writing papers demonising their opponents on the basis of disagreements about quantum physics. If one did they would, I suggest, be told to mind their own business.

    Believers in the biogenic creation of oil don’t call all those who disagree, “deniers”, and then set up wiki sites to list them, with any attendant smears about funding. They write polite lines that the majority view is “X”, but that some disagree.

    There are lots of heavily disputed areas of science. Climate science I suspect is the only one where outsiders are permitted by insiders to engage in discussions of who is right, based on the number of who agree on some criteria decided by the non-scientists. It’s frankly farcical that the scientists don’t tell the psychologists where they can stick their papers.

  • Ben.

    The consensus is actually defined by a series of green lines that you cannot cross.

    Thou shalt not invite steve mcintyre to speak at university: judith crossed this line
    Thou shalt not talk about Climategate ( hehe I crosssed that one )
    Thou shalt not criticize Mann or Jones: Muller crossed that one

    In short the consensus has nothing to do with science. Sure there is big tent of common scientific beliefs, but the real definition is discovered when you cross certain boundaries.

  • Wotts – You seem to be either making a semantic argument against the term consensus, or suggesting that it was so poorly defined that Cook et al. could have achieved any result they liked. Is one of those essentially your argument?

    I make a number of arguments. As I explain in the post at Nottingham, and above, my argument about the consensus is that the consensus has no object. NB, this is not to say there is no consensus — I’m talking about the consensus as it is invoked by the likes of Davey, which the Cook et al paper tries to establish. A consensus must be about something — an ‘object’. Typically, the consensus has been held to mean ‘climate change is happening’. However, if you look at most sceptics’ arguments, they are about a range of things, and not very often do they claim that ‘climate change is not happening’. This blog, for instance, has never made the claims that ‘climate change is not happening’, or that climate change will not be a problem. Yet those are the two claims that are most commonly attributed to it.

    That needs explaining. How can it be that arguments I have never made are attributed to me? The answer is, I argue, the consensus without an object. The idea of the consensus precedes the debate. It divides it, before any argument is made into those who dissent from and assent to ‘the science’.

    Much of this prejudice is strategic and political. In other cases, people have internalised the abstract debate — the environmental narrative. This blog is concerned mainly with viewing environmentalism as a political phenomenon, thus it is most interested in the first, though occasionally discusses the second.

    We can see the notion of consensus operating as a strategy in Davey’s argument. He can just dismiss an argument by appealing to the consensus. He doesn’t need to know what the science says, or even how it might be contradicted by new science. He only needs to say ‘the majority of scientists’… The consensus without an object lets Davey win the argument. It’s a joker, not an ace.

    But everybody could see how thin this is looking. Davey overplayed the consensus card. Hence they said that Neil was pushing an agenda of ‘denial’, or they said that only experts should go on TV.

    That’s fine, if you want to talk about science. But what concerns most people is policy, or the effects of policy. We want to know how the government has taken ‘the science’. And we want to know how changes in the science will be reflected in the policy. Davey says instead ‘the consensus’ is with the existing policy.

    The policy area is even more interesting. You can be a critic of policies, yet still attract the label ‘denier’. You can say that the UK has no chance of meeting its emissions-reduction and renewable energy targets, and you’re held to be a ‘denier’ of ‘the science’. Isn’t that odd? Shouldn’t that cause just a little more reflection on what the ‘consensus’ really is? It clearly doesn’t always relate to ‘the science’.

    The point I was making about the Spencer is that there is a reasonable argument that one could make to suggest that it should be rated as implicit reject. I wasn’t stating that this was the correct rating, simply that an argument could be made that this was a reasonable rating.

    Fine, then you’re agreeing with me that the categories are subjective, and the method prone to error and prejudice.

    You suggest that I should ask questions if I don’t understand. I tend to agree with that general view, but if you’d read my post, you would noticed that it was written in quite a questioning style…

    This is where I get to call BS…

    You: “Ben Pile, a writer for Spiked Online who has his own blog called climate-resistance, has a guest post on a University of Nottingham Making Science public blog. His post discusses Andrew Neil’s interview with Ed Davey, Dana’s response, and also discusses the Cook et al. consensus paper. I don’t want to say much about the actual post, but it does seem to be written be someone who thinks it’s more important to philsophize about science, than actually do science – or maybe, more correctly, someone who thinks they can judge science by philosophizing about science.”

    You: “You may have a point about this post :-) , but why not try reading some of my others. Plus, even if I have it doesn’t make Ben Pile’s post any more credible!”

    You didn’t appear to be interested in my post, which you wrote off somewhat glibly. It didn’t seem to occur to you that reading my post might shed some light on what Hulme had agreed with. Then Curtis helps you out, but ironically, with his own form of ‘philosophising’, but which was awful.

    You could have posted a comment clarify the subtleties that I’d missed. Instead you decide to write a post of your own in which you choose to refer to me as “distinctly troll-like”. I don’t think I did anything quite like that in my post about your initial article.

    Actually, I was much more interested in what Tom Curtis had to say, since he is closely involved in the SKS project. It was your exchanges over twitter with Richard Tol that had made me think you were a troll. I’d also put you in something of a ‘watching the deniers’ category. If it was unfair, I apologise. However, ‘troll-like’ is hardly the substance of my criticism of you. Your moniker also doesn’t ask for you to be taken seriously.

  • Ben Pile, thanks for writing these posts. I raised many of the same issues earlier, and for a while, it seemed nobody outside a couple blogs would talk about them. It’s good to see that’s changing.

    Though to be honest, I figured once Obama started promoting Cook et al’s work, a lot more people would be interested in examining it. Especially since he misrepresented it!

  • I’m glad to discover that Tom Curtis is in favour of a charitable reading of other people’s arguments.

    Yes that’s rich isn’t it? As I said to someone on Judith Curry’s post, it’s the Blanche DuBois defence, apparently he has always depended on the kindness of strangers :)

    The trouble remains is that Curtis didn’t rolled back one whit on his implication that any “denier” claiming to be in the 97% must have to take the most extreme position. Does he still think that?

    This isn’t petty nit picking on someone’s words, he strongly used that argument in a clear attempt to keep the deniers outside the pale. To stop them contaminating the purity of the 97%. I think we will see more of this; the floodgates have been open and the peasants are crying out “I’m Spartacus!” let me in.

    I think this is frightening to the alarmists.

    As Brandon Shollenberger says the fact that the likes of Obama uses this actually opens up scrutiny.

    The level of perception by these giants of public cognition is pitiful. I note that Dan Kahan was the first person I saw who queried the possibility that Hulme actually made his comment. I rather acidly tweeted that he was showing cognitive dissonance. He didn’t seem to be aware enough of the background of Hulme to realise that what Hulme said was rather mundane and totally within the bounds of routine reason.

    Kahan, however, apparently found himself shocked and queried his own perception. This isn’t a strength being shown by him – as he seems to think – when he should know the ground beneath his feet. Kahan does this for a living he should know the ground. He doesn’t.

    It seems we “deniers” have an easier job to talk about cognitive pathology when we have only a few Kahan’s, Cook’s, Lewandowsky’s to see. We have all their output, no proxy surveys and weightings are needed. They, on the other hand, regularly overreach themselves an try to describe the pathology of the unthinking masses with little or nothing but their own prejudices written up and reified as circular truth in their eyes because it appears in the peer reviewed literature.

    Tom Curtis is just an extreme example of someone nurtured in a cognitive bubble that flatters itself it is academically self-consistent and hardened, but then flounders when tested in the real world.

  • You didn’t appear to be interested in my post, which you wrote off somewhat glibly. It didn’t seem to occur to you that reading my post might shed some light on what Hulme had agreed with.

    Well, sure you kind of have a point. I did somewhat write off your post as what had interested me was why Mike Hulme had taken the position he had. Maybe I could have read your post in much more detail to establish what the issue was, but instead I wrote my own. I apologise if you’re upset that I didn’t pay more attention to your post. It wasn’t intended to be some kind of personal insult. You seem to have done the same yourself as what seems to have interested you is Tom Curtis’s comments, rather than my post. That’s fine by me. Free to comment on whatever you like as far as I’m concerned.

    As far as my moniker is concerned, it may not have been the most carefully chosen moniker but was decided on rather short notice after it had become clear that – unless I happened to enjoy online abuse – I wasn’t really going to be able to comment on WUWT posts and that if I did want to address what was said on WUWT I would need to write my own blog (which people could choose to read or ignore), rather than comment on theirs. It was somewhat of a spur of the moment decision, and may indeed end up not being one of my best. Time will tell.

    I do agree with some of what you say. I don’t really want to go through it all but this clearly is a complex issue and there are aspects that aren’t ideal. As I tried to say in my post, the Cook et al. paper is not something that one would typically publish. Most fields would not need such a paper. It clearly is intended to address claims, made by some, that no such agreement (consensus) exists in the community. In some since, it was always going to be a PR exercise. There wasn’t really much point in publishing it otherwise. It’s not aimed at the scientists are really at anyone involved in the debate. It;s presumably aimed at those who are outside the debate and don’t quite know how much agreement there is or isn’t within the scientific community.

    You’re right that it really shouldn’t be used by people to close down discussion. That a consensus exists does not tell you that the science is settled. What it does tell you though, is that claims that no such consensus exists are wrong. My view of the Cook et al. paper is that it is simply illustrating that there is agreement within the literature and hence we should at least accept this basic result even if we disagree about whether or not the current agreement reflects anything about whether or not the science is robust. That there is agreement amongst most scientists is different to the scientists being “correct”.

  • hi wottsupwiththatblog

    People might be confusing you with this guy. (I did on twitter, initially)
    http://wottsupwiththat.com/

    who is running a personal vitriolic campaign against Anthony Watts and hates sceptics.

    Your comments and content is far more rational/reasonable than that other guy.
    I changed the name of my blog, and twitter identity because it was alienating some of the people I wished to engage with, reasons why here: (my run in with Peter Gleick)

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

    ( I was previous @realclimategate) something for you to think about, as the other blog has a very similar name to yours.

    now blogging as http://www.unsettledclimate.com and as an occasional guest author at the real http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com (so perhaps you might see, why your blog name is an instant turn off for some, especially because of the other guy)

    I changed my parody blog name, in the spirit of goodwill.

  • Barry, thanks for the positive comment. Yes, I have begun to realise that this might be an issue, but haven’t quite – yet – decided what to do about it. I may change my moniker, but I’m still giving it some thought. Whatever happens, my intent is to try and remain as civil as I possibly can. Can’t claim that I’ll always succeed, but I aim to at least try :-)

  • Everybody is going to think you are the other guy, (who has been around for quite a while) who by the way deletes comments he doesn’t like and is basically a nasty piece of work.

    ie: Wotts up with that – A resposne to the climate change disinformation at Watts Up with That”
    http://wottsupwiththat.com/

    ‘disinformation’ is a very loaded word, and he also calls people denialists, climate deniers, spreading misinformation, disinformers, etc.

    you WILL be perceived as him, or just like him. a dilemma, especially if you’ve tried to post a comment at WUWT!!

    I’m pretty certain, given the long history of te other guy, your name is just going to be a massive nindrance to what you would like to achieve (simlar to mine)

    to put that in context I’m blocked by both Michael Mann AND James Delingpole on twitter. ;-)

    If you read my post about Peter Gleick, you can see why I’m not exactly best pals. BUT, I was the person writing to Morano and the Heartland institute, in the fallout of Gleick phishing Heartland, because I was concerned that his professional tragedy might turn into a personal tragedy (he went very quite for a week, lost his ethics role at AGU, and Revkin was saying potentially fatally damaged his career)

    my original blog name, felt good at the time Realclimategate, I parodied Realclimate, as you have WUWT, but I changed it (not the content) was alienating a lot of climate scientists (a number who had given me the benefit of the doubt) as somebody else is already using wotts and is well known, this is even more problematic for you.

    Anthony Watts and most at WUWT are very unlikely to get past the name of your blog.

  • Barry, you probably make some perfectly valid points. I do have an issue though. My blog has focused on addressing what is said on WUWT, so there is a link. With all due respect to Anthony and those who post and comment on WUWT, there is quite large amount of content that is scientifically incorrect (or, at least, in my scientific opinion is incorrect). Also, when I started my blog I was probably as annoyed with WUWT and those who post there as the other blogger with the similar name. I had tried to comment there (under a different name) and found the response my comments received remarkably unpleasant. You can think that makes me weak and that I should just put up with the rough and tumble of the discussion, but there’s a limit to what I’m willing to put up with. I have, however, tried to respond by writing posts that largely address the science and try hard not to say anything insulting about any individual. I don’t always succeed, but I do try. I also try hard not to say anything that I wouldn’t say were I not anonymous. I’ve also, as yet, not moderated a single comment on my blog and have tried to respond (politely) to most. I should add that I have never commented on WUWT under this name, and my intention is never to do so.

    Having said that, I haven’t completely dismissed the idea of changing my moniker. The focus of my blog may change. Maybe I’ll simply stop if and when I run out of time or run out of things to say. Anthony could, however, just remind himself that imitation is sometimes regarded as the sincerest form of flattery :-)

  • Gavin Schmidt himself finally expressed disdain for the term “denier,” publicly requesting that people stop name calling since it shuts down conversation and represents a “red flag,” at the AGU conference:

    http://tinypic.com/player.php?v=2lsehp2&s=5

    -=NikFromNYC=-

    P.S. An old book on my shelves by a mathematician who had a deep spiritual awakening wrote an influential book called “The Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object.”

  • @NikFromNYC
    Thanks for that clip I remember watching that live and was struck by the strained expression in Schmidt’s face and voice as he clearly realised how ludicrous his fellow travellers sounded. It’s a shame the clip stops there because I remember an even more remarkable thing just after was a voice from the audience who took issue with Schmidt – and I reference my concurrent tweet

    https://twitter.com/TLITB1/status/344116301763063808

    #climatechapman Then a guy remonstrated with G. Schmidt claiming that they don’t do holocaust allusions and its skeptic crocodile tears ! :)

    Literally a person couldn’t see and hear what had just happened in front of them.

  • Wotts – I apologise if you’re upset that I didn’t pay more attention to your post. It wasn’t intended to be some kind of personal insult. You seem to have done the same yourself as what seems to have interested you is Tom Curtis’s comments, rather than my post.

    I did pay attention to what you wrote. And I point out in the post above that a reading of what I had actually written would have helped your understanding of what Hulme had said. My feelings of personal insult have nothing to do with it — and I wasn’t. I’ve been at this too long to take offence, even by the likes of Tom Curtis and his liberal useage of the word ‘idiocy’, after all, that and his obvious cant says much more about he than me.

    Moving on… (And I encourage the same, and as you will see, the case of mistaken identity has been reflected in an edit in the blog post above).

    As I tried to say in my post, the Cook et al. paper is not something that one would typically publish. Most fields would not need such a paper. It clearly is intended to address claims, made by some, that no such agreement (consensus) exists in the community. In some since, it was always going to be a PR exercise. There wasn’t really much point in publishing it otherwise.

    This is something I didn’t sense from your post, except for this, which seems to be a much more muted version than the above suggests:

    Cook et al. is not trying to claim that the science is settled because there is a consensus. It’s trying to point out that a “consensus” exists so as to address those claiming that it doesn’t. The science might not be settled, but there is much more agreement within the scientific community than many would have you believe.

    I am glad that you agree (I think) that the Cook paper is strategic, and perhaps political, and not ‘science’.

    But I’m wondering who makes the ‘claims … that no such agreement (consensus) exists in the community’. As I point out, the debate is one presented as between those attached to the proposition ‘climate change is happening’ and those who deny it. However, the obscures any scientific content. It’s essentially a meaningless, empty statement. Even some of those who say that climate sensitivity (or its variants) may have been overestimated, and that the ‘pause’ is a problem for climate science’s prior claims still think that climate change is an important issue requiring some policy intervention. And some of the people noting the same say that climate alarmism has been unfounded. These positions might seem counterposed, but only if we draw an arbitrary line to define ‘the debate’. On the other hand, we could decide instead to put the line at the ‘something must be done now’ point -putting ‘delayers’ on a par with ‘deniers’. It’s the (strategic) need for polar opposites and simple moral categories, I argue, that creates the tendency to see the phenomenon of ‘denial’, per your perception of people claiming that no consensus exists.

    Here’s the paradox. In a slightly more perfect world of my choosing, I would prefer to be debating Pielke, Lomborg and Hulme. (Not to lump myself in with them as an equal, you understand). Yet these three are people who I think shed most of the light on the debate. Debates and their categories shift. Sometimes they shift because the categories and lines dividing them have no real meaning. Sometimes knowledge progresses. But sometimes there is heavy investment in the maintenance of such structures — and we can see why.

    The time and energy devoted to sustaining the idea that the debate divides between assent to and dissent from the proposition that ‘climate change is happening’ is phenomenal. Yet it absorbs so much time — even yours, for example. And mine. When I encounter people who have just learned what I do, it can take hours or longer to explain that I am not, and never have ‘denied climate change’, or said that ‘climate change is not happening’, leaving almost no time or energy to explain my *actual* position. These bogus categories that dominate the debate are also its fetters.

    I think you would understand the arguments better if you saw them less as an attempt to ‘deny’ the consensus, and more as a response to a post-hoc attempt to define the consensus. It says a lot that Dana and co are having to defend the idea that people who they want to exclude from the consensus say they are part of the 97%. It says a lot, also that the extant consensus isn’t sufficiently tangible to stand for itself: it seems to need the Cook study. Essentially, Cook et al are trying to say the consensus says X, where manifestly, it says something else. Hence, the IPCC report includes a range of possibilities for climate sensitivity, the implication of which is that assent to or dissent from the statement about the greatest part of late 20th century warming is the signature of ‘endorsement’ or ‘rejection’ is outright nonsense.

    My view of the Cook et al. paper is that it is simply illustrating that there is agreement within the literature and hence we should at least accept this basic result even if we disagree about whether or not the current agreement reflects anything about whether or not the science is robust.

    The IPCC AR[X]s are the review of the literature. That literature includes a range of possibilities, in many cases giving a ‘central estimate’. Departure from the central estimate is not equivalent to ‘rejection’ of the IPCC, nor of the ‘consensus’.

  • Ben, well I guess I should acknowledge that I hadn’t appreciated the confusion my moniker was generating. Thank you, I guess, for editing the post.

    I’ll make a couple of comments and then move on. I suspect that there is more agreement than maybe our posts and comments indicate, but that we’re partly seeing things from a different perspective. I do find it interesting that you mention Pielke, Hulme and Lomborg. These are clearly people who are involved in the whole climate change discussion, but none – as far as I’m aware – are climate scientists. It has certainly become my view that the discussion has become so polarised that the scientists are seen as being on one side of the debate and are, hence, not seen as an objective source. This may well be almost unique to climate science. In all other science areas that I’ve been associated with, scientists are seen as a generally reliable source of information. If my interpretation is correct, I think that this is one of the major problems we face. I don’t think that the views of Pielke, Hulme and Lomborg should not be taken seriously, but they aren’t scientists and that some perceive the scientists’s views as suspicious, does us no favours.

    So, maybe I should elaborate on my point about some claiming that no such consensus exists. It certainly seems as though some are claiming that there is no such consensus (or that it is ill-defined). It is clear – to me at least – that the goal of the Cook et al. paper was to address this issue. The goal was to illustrate that there is strong agreement within the scientific community. You seem to be suggesting that this whole process is – in some sense – muddying the waters and that it is complicating the discussion. There is some merit in this view but my solution might differ slightly from yours. If those involved in the debate could simply acknowledge that there is a very high level of agreement within the scientific community, we could move on to actually discussing the merits of the science and what issues may still exist – a high level of agreement doesn’t mean that the science is correct.

    It’s my view that Cook et al. was an attempt to clarify this situation so that we could move on. You seem to think that it may have made things worse. This may end up being true, but wasn’t – I would argue – the intention.

  • @wottsupwiththatblog

    These are clearly people who are involved in the whole climate change discussion, but none – as far as I’m aware – are climate scientists.

    Didn’t you read the Hulme CV I posted on your site a couple of hours ago? I thought you responded to the comment not long after?

    https://wottsupwiththatblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/mike-hulme-and-the-97-consensus/comment-page-1/#comment-2781

    Maybe the timing is wrong, or you didn’t read it fully, but check it again; you’ll see Hulme has plenty of applied climate qualifications.

    I get the feeling that cognitive dissonance prevents people seeing this. It seems there is always a need for the panic room to hide in that says no critic can be a *real* climate scientist ;)

  • Wotts — “It has certainly become my view that the discussion has become so polarised that the scientists are seen as being on one side of the debate and are, hence, not seen as an objective source.”

    Well, if that is true, perhaps the people most responsible for that are those who polarised the debate, and made statements about the science which could not be sustained. As this blog has noted many times, the political colonisation of science undermines the value of science to society. You should thank Cook and Nuccitelli for that.

    These are clearly people who are involved in the whole climate change discussion, but none – as far as I’m aware – are climate scientists.

    Hulme is a climate scientist. His bio:

    rom 1988-2000 I worked in the Climatic Research Unit at UEA and from 1984-1988 I lectured in geography at the University of Salford. Earlier in my career I worked on climate change and desertification in Africa, the development of global and national observational climate data sets and the evaluation of climate models. I led work on climate scenarios for the UK Government (including the UKCIP98 and UKCIP02 scenarios), the European Commission, UNEP, UNDP, WWF-International and the IPCC. I was co-ordinating Lead Author for the chapter on ‘Climate scenario development’ for the 2001 Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, as well as a contributing author for several other chapters. I have published over 130 peer-reviewed journal papers and over 40 books or book chapters on climate change topics, together with over 250 reports and popular articles. I have advised numerous government bodies, private companies and non-governmental organisations about climate change and its implications. I was jointly awarded the Hugh Robert Mill Medal in 1995 by the Royal Meteorological Society for work on global precipitation and I delivered the prestigious Queen’s Lecture in Berlin in 2005. From 1988-2000 I wrote a monthly climate column for The Guardian newspaper.

    Lomborg is an economist/statistician, and is well placed to talk about the de/merits of various approaches to tackling climate change. Pielke, similarly has a background in mathematics and political science and so is in a good position to speak on policy. Hulme has expanded the basis of his research to encompass a more ‘social’ understanding of the climate debate. However, I don’t see why, even if he didn’t have any expertise in climate science as such, he should be ruled out — it’s about the quality of the analysis, not the qualifications of the author. This is a mistake I’ve noted in the Nottingham post: the difference between science as a process and science as an institution.

    It certainly seems as though some are claiming that there is no such consensus (or that it is ill-defined). It is clear – to me at least – that the goal of the Cook et al. paper was to address this issue.

    Perhaps you’re missing the point? I have explained it a number of times. The Cook paper attempts to locate the ‘consensus’ in a *particular* place for *strategic* ends. Moreover it is *nebulous* such that it can mean what Cook et al (and Davey) want it to mean, for *strategic* ends. By all means take issue with the argument. But repetition seems mindless.

    If those involved in the debate could simply acknowledge that there is a very high level of agreement within the scientific community,

    The IPCC ARs list levels of agreement in the literature on a constellation of issues. The IPCC does *NOT* issue a single statement that constitutes ‘the consensus’, per Cook et al’s attempt.

    As you note ‘a high level of agreement doesn’t mean that the science is correct’… Those of us who have taken issue with SOME of the claims in the IPCC report — and we have been vindicated, in fact — have been dismissed as ‘deniers’ of ‘the consensus’. I hope you can see the problem.

    Moreover, and in reference to your comment about Hulme, Pielke and Lomborg, the IPCC does not consist exclusively of climate scientists. On the contrary, the authors and reviewers are drawn from very many disciplines.

    You seem to think that it may have made things worse. This may end up being true, but wasn’t – I would argue – the intention.

    I say in the Nottingham post :

    Just as Donald and Painter’s evidence to the STC reflected either naivety or a strategy, Nuccitelli’s survey results are either the result of a comprehensive failure to understand the climate debate, or an attempt to divide it in such a way as to frame the result for political ends.

    Either way, what we can hold Cook et al responsible for is their intransigence, and their inability to reflect on their work. They manifestly haven’t produced an objective study, and are evidently driven by a desire to influence the political debate, whether or not they are aware of it. That makes their work a failure, necessarily.

  • Initially I wrote scientists and then changed it to climate scientist to try and be more specific, but maybe that still wasn’t quite specific enough. I was really trying to distinguish between those who are actively involved in climate science research, rather than those who are involved in climate policy, public engagement, etc. I’m not trying to diminish the role that these people play, simply trying to make the point that it appears that many seem to distrust the views of active climate scientists and that this creates it’s one problem. So, yes, I agree that Hulme has plenty of actual climate science experience and I’m not trying to imply that he isn’t someone who’s views should be taken seriously – just that the views that many hold of active climate scientists (and views that many seem to be happy promoting) does us no favours when it comes to resolving disagreements that exist within the climate science debate.

  • Ben, my previous comment overlapped with yours and was meant as a response to that of tlitb1. I certainly wasn’t intending to imply that any of those 3 people were people who’s views should not be taken seriously. I certainly wasn’t suggesting that only the views of active climate scientists should be taken seriously and that should have been obvious from what I said. Hence, I’m not quite sure why you felt the need to point out that the IPPC does not exclusively consistent of climate scientists. I wasn’t suggesting that it did nor that it should.

    You say

    Perhaps you’re missing the point? I have explained it a number of times. The Cook paper attempts to locate the ‘consensus’ in a *particular* place for *strategic* ends. Moreover it is *nebulous* such that it can mean what Cook et al (and Davey) want it to mean, for *strategic* ends.

    I agree that the Cook et al. paper was strategic and not science. I can see no other reason for publishing such a paper and see nothing wrong this. It was, however, your explanation above that motivated my initially glib analysis of your first post. Your assessment of Cook et al. appears to be based on a discussion of what they meant by consensus. This just came across as somewhat semantic (or pedantic). I think it is well defined and I think this has been explained clearly – in numerous comments – by Tom Curtis (despite what you think of Tom Curtis, I think he has a much better handle on the subtleties of this field than you give him credit for). You say that they can make it mean whatever they like, but the descriptions of the levels of consensus – as described in their paper – seems pretty clear to me.

    As I’ve said before, there is some merit in what you say and I realise that this is a complex and difficult topic. I think it is unfortunate that you seem to have such a rigid view of the merits (or lack thereof) of the Cook et al. work. It’s your right, of course, to hold this view but – as is probably clear – I disagree (as is my right). As you say, you should probably avoid going over the same ground again and again. We don’t have to agree for this discussion to have been useful.

  • You might recall prof richard betts. Head of climate impacts, Met Office and an IPCC lead author, working group 1, rejecting obama’s misrepresentation of Cook’s paper.

  • Wotts: “You say that they can make it mean whatever they like, but the descriptions of the levels of consensus – as described in their paper – seems pretty clear to me.”

    What level of consensus are they talking about ,when they claim 97% endorsement?

  • Don, well my reading of the paper is as follows. They rated abstracts according to 7 different rating categories ranging from 7, explicit rejection with quantification, to 1, explicit endorsement with quantification. Categories 1, 2, and 3 were all abstracts rated as endorsing AGW. Categories 7,6 and 5 were all abstracts that rejected AGW. Of all the abstracts rated as either 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 97% were rated as 1, 2 or 3 (endorse AGW). My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.

    Maybe I can ask you a similar question. If we avoid semantics or pedantic interpretations of what words mean, do you actually dispute the basic result of Cook et al. In other words, do you dispute that most of the recent scientific literature that takes a position with regards to AGW, endorses AGW.

  • Wotts - My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.

    Your understanding is incorrect, as is discussed above. There are combinations of ‘endorse’ and ‘reject’ categories that are not mutually exclusive.

  • Wotts:” My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.”

    Can you quote the words in the conclusion that indicate that? Are you aware of the internal discussions within the Cook team that concluded the paper would not make a conclusion that included quantification of human responsibility for warming? Google “Ari’s p0rno approach”

  • Ben, I think you are wrong. I believe there may be an example of a paper in which the author’s view of the rating of the paper differed from the Cook et al. rating of the abstract. That doesn’t mean that the abstract was rated incorrectly. Simply that the information in the abstract lead to one rating while the author’s view of the paper as whole was different. It may indicate an issue with the rating system, but doesn’t imply (given the system used by Cook et al.) that they rated the abstract incorrectly. Having said that, even they acknowledge that some abstracts may have been incorrectly rated. That in itself does not imply a major problem as anything like this that involves a level of judgement would be expected to get it “wrong” sometimes.

    On the other hand, maybe I’ve misunderstood what you’re claiming. However, given the description of the categories, however, I don’t see how an abstract could be both rated as endorse or reject unless it was extremely poorly written.

  • Don, Section 2 – Methodology

    Explicit endorsements were divided into non-quantified (e.g., humans are contributing to global warming without quantifying the contribution) and quantified (e.g., humans are contributing more than 50% of global warming, consistent with the 2007 IPCC statement that most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations).

  • Wotts: You need to read the paper.

  • Don, I have. Just because I disagree, doesn’t mean I haven’t read the paper. And, you haven’t answered my question.

  • Wotts, you make the same argument as Curtis. And this is why it was suggested you hadn’t read the paper, either.

    Some extracts from the post above, in reply to Curtis, which you should read again:

    ————–
    Curtis is wrong. The paper gives three categories of ‘endorsement’, and three of rejection. Of these six, only one makes a test as Curtis has described — and that is for ‘explicit rejection’: “Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming”.

    This leads to the possibility of paradoxes. You could argue in a paper that only 49.9999999999999999999999999999999% of global warming was caused by mankind, but as long as you said in the abstract something to the effect of Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change, your paper would be counted as an ‘endorsement’ (i.e. part of the consensus). But swap the two claims around — put the 49.9(etc) figure in the abstract, and the endorsement in the body of the paper — and suddenly you’re a denier.

    So it would seem that Curtis doesn’t even understand this survey he is defending, and from this misunderstand he calls me — and worse, Mike Hulme — an idiot.

    As was shown above, by reference to the paper itself Curtis is wrong to say that the categories divide the abstracts according to the 50% measure. Moreover, as was shown above, the categories are not mutually consistent, and do overlap. There are many arguments that could belong to one or more of the categories, on both putative sides of the division. For example, one could very easily construct an argument that met the definition of an “Explicit endorsement without quantification” (category 2) and an “Explicit rejection with quantification” (category 7). The test of this would be a contradiction in the following statement:

    ‘Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change’ BUT ‘The human contribution to the CO2 content in the atmosphere and the increase in temperature is negligible in comparison with other sources of carbon dioxide emission’

    Does this hypothetical statement belong in category 2 or 7? It meets the criteria of both, but doesn’t contradict itself. It is only seen as a contraction when an attempt is made to force it into the papers’ schema: bogus categories. The authors impose their own prejudices and misconceptions of the debate on to the debate. QED.

    ——-

    It’s not good enough to say simply ‘I disagree’ and then explain some other, seemingly unrelated defence of the paper. We’re not talking about a painting, film or dish we like.

  • Wotts: I was suggesting that you read the paper, until you actually understand it. You are missing the fact that they did not report data for individual categories. They combined the categories that include quantification, with those that did not indicate quantification-Ari’s p0rno approach. Google it! There was no conclusion that 97% endorsed the assertion “that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.” Read the conclusion. It ain’t there. That is just how Cook et al want you to interpret it. They tricked you, deliberately.

    Wotts:”Maybe I can ask you a similar question. If we avoid semantics or pedantic interpretations of what words mean, do you actually dispute the basic result of Cook et al. In other words, do you dispute that most of the recent scientific literature that takes a position with regards to AGW, endorses AGW.”

    I do not dispute that humans are causing some global warming. Big deal. That is meaningless bullcrappy. What is so hard to understand here?

    And what about the thousands of papers that do not take a position? That do not endorse AGW. Throw them out? The paper is silly and you should be able to see it as such.

  • @wottsupwiththatblog

    Here’s a question for you. Imagine you are a rater and you saw a strangely brief abstract that has only these words:

    “The global temperature record provides little support for the catastrophic view of the greenhouse effect.”

    Under the Cook paper rating system is that a Reject or Endorse of humans are contributing more than 50% of global warming?

  • tlitb1 says:
    July 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    You need to specify if he is an unbiased rater, or one of the Cook et al team of raters. Who by the way, were the authors of the Cook et al paper.

  • Re43. Sorry forced a binary decision, also you could say. Reject, Endorse, or no position on cause

  • Ben, I have read the paper and this seems to be a difference between how we’ve interpreted the ratings (I’ll even accept that strictly speaking you have a point). Category 7 does indeed say Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming. Your illustration would then, strictly speaking, appear reasonable. However, the example associated with that rating then uses the word negligible so this doesn’t appear to be referring to abstracts that might say “just less than half” it appears to be referring to abstracts that would reject AGW at a high level. Maybe they’ve explained their rating poorly, but I don’t think that what you describe could actually have happened. Categories 5 and 6 also use words like “minimal impact” or “minimizes”. So, again I would interpret this as abstracts that are rejecting AGW rather than simply not quantifying it.

    Just to be clear (and you can read comments I’ve made about this elsewhere) I’ve always been quite careful about what I say about this paper. I realise that those doing the ratings are making a judgement about each abstract. It’s not a perfect science and the algorithm isn’t formulaic. It’s clear that they could have made some basic mistakes and its clear that they could have rated an abstract quite differently to the way in which the authors would have rated the whole paper. The main point though is that their algorithm produced a result in which 97% of the abstracts that they assessed to have stated a position with respect to AGW, endorsed AGW. It seems that even Richard Tol does not dispute that this is probably a fair representation of the level of agreement, about the basics of AGW, in the literature. Do you dispute this (i.e., do you really think that there is a large disagreement within the literature about the basics of AGW) or are you simply critical of the way in which Cook et al. carried out their study. In case you’re wondering why I’m using the word basic it’s simply to differentiate between differences in the details and differences in the fundamentals.

  • it is my understanding that only 65 papers were in the 50% and above category..

    john Cook talking about – look up Ari’s p0rno approach.. to definition of cosensus

    ie agw = ‘no specific quantification’ (this would include every sceptic I knows position on AGW, Watts, nova, Laframboise, Montford, Pile, etc,etc

  • tlitb1 Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that. As I’ve said in many places, the raters would have to use their judgement and such an abstract would be difficult to rate. The real question, though, would be how significant would this be? My view, is not very. Your view might be different.

  • “it is my understanding that only 65 papers were in the 50% and above category..”

    Those are papers rated by the Cook team. There were 228 papers rated as such by the authors who responded to the survey. Any way you cut it, it doesn’t add up to a 87% consensus as Wott sees it: ” My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.”

  • Barry, I know that there were only 9 abstracts rated as 7 (I’ve counted them in the list of all the ratings). I did try counting all of those rated as 1 (quantified endorsement) and I think I got to about 70 before giving up and was about halfway down the list. If my memory is right, I would have estimated just over 100 rated as 1, but that may be wrong.

  • that made no sense. look up John Cook talking about Ari’s p0rno approach.
    Will comment later when children are not distracting me.

  • Wotts, what is your justification for:”My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.”

  • Don, my justification was the statement in the paper that I quoted above. Have I misunderstood your question?

  • Don Monfort

    You need to specify if he is an unbiased rater, or one of the Cook et al team of raters. Who by the way, were the authors of the Cook et al paper.

    yeah, Well I was curious there which side of that divide wotts would demonstrate himself falling into ;)

    I would say to me that was an obvious example where there was no possible position to take if one claimed a parsimonious scientific state of mind.

    The implicit value system of “catastrophe”, a powerful side topic worthy of whole bodies of work surely can’t be lightly entered into under the terms of their paper; yet no, they use that example as a guidance trigger phrase for qualifying as:

    “Explicit rejection without quantification”

    It is yet another example of the muddiedness of this “Elegantly designed” – Dan Kahan, paper ;)

    The dread pirate Monckton wrote I thought a good critique, mentioned in Jo Nova recently, that highlighted these obfuscations

  • Don, maybe I do understand you question then. I was referring only to the explicitly quantified category. Let’s clarify something very simple though. Ignoring whether or not the ratings were done properly or not, do you dispute that of the abstracts rated as 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 – 97% were rated as 1, 2, 3?

  • Wotts. Please read the hypothetical again:

    ‘Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change’ BUT ‘The human contribution to the CO2 content in the atmosphere and the increase in temperature is negligible in comparison with other sources of carbon dioxide emission’

    As I pointed out, this is a joining of two example statements given in the definition of the categories in the Cook paper. The statement doesn’t contradict itself. But it could belong to either category 2 or 7.

    This would not be possible if, as you claim, abstracts that ‘reject’ the consensus claimed that less than 50% of warming was caused by man, and papers that ‘endorse’ it claimed that more than 50% of warming was caused by man.

    The statement makes no mention of proportions. You seem to say that the ‘negligible’ implies some quantity. I don’t think so, but it is still consistent with category 2, nonetheless. Nothing about the ‘negligibility’ contradicts the definition of category 2.

    And in any case the specification of the categories — given in the picture in the post above — does not indicate that the 50% figure divides ‘endorsements’ from ‘rejections’.

    Do you dispute this (i.e., do you really think that there is a large disagreement within the literature about the basics of AGW) or are you simply critical of the way in which Cook et al. carried out their study.

    I don’t think it means anything. It’s not useful. The categories are ambiguous. The study is partial and subjective. As I say elsewhere, I don’t care if it’s 97, 98, 99, 100 or 500%. It makes no difference. It doesn’t define the consensus, and it doesn’t define a point of disagreement between the consensus and its critics.

  • @wottsupwiththatblog

    I second Don Montfort’s question, your

    My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.

    Was just a little sentence island that bubbled up without being properly connected to any prior reasoning.

  • Don and tlitb1, if you’re asking if I was involved in any way with the Cook et al. paper – the answer is no. I really was completely uninvolved in anything to do with climate science (apart from the odd online comment) until I started writing my blog in April. I have never met John Cook, Dana Nuccitelli, Tom Curtis, …. The only interaction I have had with any of them has been through comments on my blog that has only been active since, as I already said, April.

  • titlb1 – I’m really getting confused now. The paper very clearly makes the statement that I included in a comment above. I’ve just acknowledged that this referred only to those rated as explicit endorsement with quantification. What else are you wanting me to say here. This doesn’t seem like a particular controversial issue.

  • Ben, I tried very hard to answer your question with actual reasoning. You may disagree with my reasoning, but I really can’t do more than I’ve already done. We don’t need to end this discussion by agreeing. The discussion itself has been quite interesting. If you keep on trying to push the same reasoning over and over again, it’s very soon going to become tiresome.

  • @wottsupwiththatblog
    I wasn’t asking if you were a rater, apologies for implying that by the way I answered Don. I didn’t see he was implying it either. I just indirectly wondered what you though of that guidance phrase from the paper.

  • @wottsupwiththatblog
    Well “these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences” is an impossibility for start. I can’t see how Ratings say anything about physical systems.

    You say you are confused, I get confused when people make such constructions, I want to sort them out before my head hurts! ;)

  • tlitb1 – I’m confused about why my initial answer wasn’t sufficient to explain where I got my statement from. I wasn’t implying that I was confused in general :-)

  • Wotts: I don’t disagree with the simple arithmetic in Cook et al. 97%, whatever. But it don’t mean shit. Ben definitively nails it for you. Believe it or not:

    “I don’t think it means anything. It’s not useful. The categories are ambiguous. The study is partial and subjective. As I say elsewhere, I don’t care if it’s 97, 98, 99, 100 or 500%. It makes no difference. It doesn’t define the consensus, and it doesn’t define a point of disagreement between the consensus and its critics.”

    And nobody has asked you if you were involved in Cook et al. Why don’t you just answer the questions that were actually asked, before bringing up imaginary questions.

  • Wotts: “What else are you wanting me to say here. This doesn’t seem like a particular controversial issue.”

    Can you explain the conclusion of the Cook et al paper? What are they claiming?

  • Don, I don’t think Ben nails it but – as I’ve said a number of times – there is no requirement that we end up agreeing. What Ben seems to want to do is imply that it doesn’t matter. I think it does and is an important issue to resolve. The science associated with AGW is much more settled than many seem to be willing to accept and making this clear so that we can move on to assessing the relevance of the science is important. To be clear, I’m not saying it is settled, simply that there is a much higher level of agreement than many seem willing to acknowledge. Also, to be clear that there is a consensus (or not) within a science area does – in no way – add any extra credibilty to the science. It is simply information about the level of agreement, not information about whether or not the science is actually right – that’s determined by the science itself.

    Also, I think I have answered all of the questions that you’ve asked. That’s what’s confusing me. What question have I not answered. There’s a number of questions I’ve asked that have gone un-answered, so all this “answer this” type of dialogue is all a little frustrating to be honest.

  • Wotts – Ben, I tried very hard to answer your question with actual reasoning. You may disagree with my reasoning, but I really can’t do more than I’ve already done. We don’t need to end this discussion by agreeing

    The point people are trying to address is your misunderstanding, as follows:

    They rated abstracts according to 7 different rating categories ranging from 7, explicit rejection with quantification, to 1, explicit endorsement with quantification. Categories 1, 2, and 3 were all abstracts rated as endorsing AGW. Categories 7,6 and 5 were all abstracts that rejected AGW. Of all the abstracts rated as either 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 97% were rated as 1, 2 or 3 (endorse AGW). My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.

    We say that this is a misconception — the categories 1,2,3 and 5,6,7 do NOT divide according to the 50% test.

    We’ve yet to see from you that you agree that this is the case. It seems as though you are trying to sustain the idea that the measure is 50%.

  • Don, really? Isn’t the conclusion obvious? Ignoring whether or not they’ve got their ratings right, their conclusion is that a large fraction of the recent scientific literature endorse AGW. Alternatively, only a small fraction reject that anthropogenic forcings are the dominant driver of the recent warming.

  • Wotts – To be clear, I’m not saying it is settled, simply that there is a much higher level of agreement than many seem willing to acknowledge.

    How would we know? The Cook paper?

  • Ben, sure I clarified that a few comments ago (9.24pm). I agree that the 50% only applies to those rated as explicit endorsement with quantification. Just in case it is not clear, this is the exact statement in the paper that I was basing my understanding on

    Explicit endorsements were divided into non-quantified (e.g., humans are contributing to global warming without quantifying the contribution) and quantified (e.g., humans are contributing more than 50% of global warming, consistent with the 2007 IPCC statement that most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations).

  • Ben, no not only the Cook et al. paper. It is not the only study of this type. Let’s also be clear. I realise that one has to be careful of single (or minimal) study syndrome. So, sure someone could go and do a more detailed study and get a different answer. We can only work with what we have though. So, if you want me to be honest, maybe the Cook et al. result will turn out to be completely wrong. There is, however, very little (if any) evidence to suggest that this is likely to be true.

  • Wotts.

    Ok. So now we know 50% has nothing to do with it, what does it mean to ‘endorse’ the consensus? And what does it mean to ‘reject’ it?

    And isn’t it true that I can do both, simultaneously?

  • Wotts – So, if you want me to be honest, maybe the Cook et al. result will turn out to be completely wrong.

    My concern is that it’s not even wrong — it’s a nonsense.

  • Ben, 50% does not have nothing to do with it. Do you enjoy mis-representing what people say?

    It’s getting a little late and I must be honest that I’m getting a little frustrated. I’ll make a general comment about this discussion.

    In my view there is very little point in having a discussion if one or both parties are unwilling to consider that the other party’s views have any merit or are unwilling to consider the possibility that they may mis-understand something or that their understanding may be somewhat flawed. I’ve tried hard in this discussion to not only come here and apologise if anything I’ve said was unfounded, or appeared to be so, and to also agree with aspects of what others have said that have merit or that might be reasonable. I think if you go back and read my comments, you’ll find this to be true. I wish I could say the same of you though. You’ve shown very little desire to seem agreeable or to acknowledge that anything I’ve said has any merit. It’s possible that you’re completely right and I’m completely wrong but, I would suggest, that this is unlikely to be true.

    I find this ironic given that you are presumably on the same side of the argument as Dan Kahan who is quoted as saying

    [T]here’s good reason to believe that the self-righteous and contemptuous tone with which the “scientific consensus” point is typically advanced (“assault on reason,” “the debate is over” etc.) deepens polarization.

    Given that my frustration has clearly come to the fore, I think I will retire and call it a night.

  • I don’t think he wants to answer the question, Ben.

    Wotts: “Don, really? Isn’t the conclusion obvious? Ignoring whether or not they’ve got their ratings right, their conclusion is that a large fraction of the recent scientific literature endorse AGW. Alternatively, only a small fraction reject that anthropogenic forcings are the dominant driver of the recent warming.”

    What is AGW? You obviously want to imply, like Cook et al, that it means that humans are responsible for most global warming, cause if they ain’t nobody cares about the apocalyptic stories. Now what fraction of the literature endorses the greater than 50% assertion? You said you counted and came up with about 100 papers. Good work, Wotts. That’s 100 papers out of 12, 000 surveyed. Now regurgitate for us the hocus pocus of Cook et all that massages that 100 papers into a 97% consensus

  • Here’s another problem with testing assent to/dissent from the consensus.

    Suppose paper A said that 40% of the warming was from humans, and the consequences of it were likely to be a rise in sea level of 20 metres by 2100.

    And suppose paper B said 60% of the warming was from humans, and the consequences would be 10 cm of sea level rise by 2100.

    They can’t both be right.

    Which one is part of the consensus? Which one isn’t?

  • Wotts is being disingenuous. Now he wants to claim that 50% has nothing to do with it. As if he didn’t say the following:

    “Of all the abstracts rated as either 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 97% were rated as 1, 2 or 3 (endorse AGW). My understanding from reading the paper is that these ratings indicated that anthropogenic influences have provided most (more than 50%) of the recent warming.”

    You are clearly talking about categories 1,2,3. And you are clearly stating that the 97% consensus includes the 50% quantification. But it clearly does not, cause only category 1 includes quantification. You were fooled by Cook et al. You have no credibility in this discussion.

  • Guys, I should acknowledge that even though we may not have really resolved anything here, you have all made me consider one thing though. Currently my blog strapline is Trying to keep the discussion civil. This type of discussion makes me want to consider changing it to Trying to keep the discussion civil, and finding it harder and harder every day!

  • Don, yes when I said that I was indeed saying what you think I was saying. I then corrected myself in a later comment. What more do you want from me? Should I repeat it a number of times as a form of repentance? Any of you been willing to consider that you’ve ever made some kind of mistake in a blog comment? Judging from this discussion, I suspect not!

  • Wotts – Ben, 50% does not have nothing to do with it.

    Only one category — of rejection — tests an abstract’s adherence to the 50% measure:

    (7) Explicit rejection with quantification – Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming.

    However, it’s an absurd category, as was shown above.

  • Currently my blog strapline is Trying to keep the discussion civil.

    Not an ethic that your commenters seem so keen on.

  • Sorry, Wotts, you don’t get to have the monopoly on frustration.

  • Ben, that may be possibly true, but I’m still trying to work out a moderation policy. Blast, there I go again – agreeing with you. When will I learn that we’re never meant to do that in these discussions. Oh well, maybe one day I’ll learn from you and others how best to engage in these discussions! Maybe you could explain how I could undertake a lengthy discussion without ever agreeing with anything the other person says. I find it quite difficult, but you clearly are an expert!

  • Wotts being disingenuous, again:”Don, yes when I said that I was indeed saying what you think I was saying. I then corrected myself in a later comment. What more do you want from me? Should I repeat it a number of times as a form of repentance? Any of you been willing to consider that you’ve ever made some kind of mistake in a blog comment? Judging from this discussion, I suspect not!”

    You did not correct yourself. You were shown to be wrong. After some in-artful ducking and dodging, you finally admit it. Do you want a medal? And you have been discussing this subject all over the blogosphere, not knowing even the basics. You should just keep quiet now.

  • Good grief guys, and you wonder why the discussion is so polarised. Don’t go blaming Cook & Nuccitelli. Trying looking in the mirror. Don, how was openly correcting myself many comments ago not an admission of error. I’ll keep quiet when I’m good and ready to keep quiet and I will certainly not be taking advise from someone who can’t even conduct a basic discussion in a pleasant and decent fashion.

    Ben, I in no way claimed that I had a monopoly on frustration. I simply illustrated my frustration. You’re welcome to also be frustrated if you wish. Not sure why though. The only thing you could be frustrated about is that I didn’t agree with you enough.

    As I’ve said many times before, agreeing is not a requirement of such discussions. Learning something from such a discussion has a value in itself. Unfortunately what I’ve learned is that those – on my side of the argument – who are less willing to openly engage in these discussions, may have a perfectly good reason for not doing so. A number of people have recently advised me privately to not feed the trolls. I’ve typically found such advice frustrating as it seems unpleasant and appears to be an attempt to stifle discussions. I am, however, starting to see what they’re getting at.

  • Wotts – Maybe you could explain how I could undertake a lengthy discussion without ever agreeing with anything the other person says.

    You’ve chosen to have a discussion here on a subject of which I have done a lot of research into, have written a great deal about on this blog over the last 7 years, and which I’ve had hundreds of discussions about. The Cook paper doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before, and it’s being used in the same way that people have been trying to use the notion of consensus for a long time.

    If you don’t sense much accommodation to your argument, I’m very sorry, but you simply haven’t challenged it.

    I have amended the post to correct the case of mistaken identity, though.

  • . I’ve typically found such advice frustrating as it seems unpleasant and appears to be an attempt to stifle discussions. I am, however, starting to see what they’re getting at.

    Nobody has suggested you’re an idiot. Everyone has tried to engage with you, rather than question your integrity, motivations, or ‘interests’. Go and check out the comments at the Nottingham blog, and aimed at sceptics generally.

  • Wotts: You are not fooling anybody. You did not correct yourself. You have been yammering about Cook et al without having a basic understanding of what it’s about. But keep it up. It’s amusing.

  • Tom Curtis’ reply to me on the >50% issue at wottsblog. Reminds me of Professor Irwin Corey:

    Don Monfort says:
    July 29, 2013 at 12:25 am

    No it doesn’t, Tom. The alleged 97% consensus in Cook et al makes no statement on quantification. You know that. You know about Ari’s p0rno approach. Why do you people continue to play these games? It is really not working for you. Pay attention to Mike Hulme. He is telling you that post 2009- CLIMATEGATE-you can’t get away with this stuff any more.
    Reply

    Tom Curtis says:
    July 29, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Yet again, either the endorsement means endorsement of the claim that most warming over the last 50 years is anthropogenic in origin or it is not. Now consider an abstract that says that:
    CO2 is a greenhouse gas with a radiative forcing of 3.7 W/m^2;
    The recent CO2 increase is anthropogenic in origin;
    Feedbacks are net negative, so that the likely increase in temperature due to a doubling of CO2 is only 0.5 C; and that
    The temperature increase since 1950 is largely (80%) the result of natural variation, specifically the response to the AMO.

    According to your interpretation, this paper must be classified as both 2 and 7. That, however, is impossible because ratings are exclusive. Therefore your interpretation forces you to interpret the rating system as inconsistent.

    In contrast, by my interpretation, the paper can only be classified as 7, and the rating system is consistent. It is a standard principle of criticism that when a paper being criticized is ambiguous, if one of two possible interpretations makes the paper inconsistent while the other makes it consistent you choose the later interpretation. You may still criticize the ambiguity, but criticizing the purported inconsistency amounts to erecting a straw man, for it was open to you to treat the paper as consistent. Ergo, given these facts your interpretation is simply wrong.

    Further, it requires you to treat every time the paper says “Humans are causing global warming” as meaning “humans are causing [some of] global warming” rather than “humans are causing [the majority of] global warming”, despite the fact that the phrase is used interchangeably with terms like “AGW” (ie, you ignore context), and despite the fact that based on the principles of conversational implicature, sentences must be relevant so that “humans are causing global warming” without further qualification means that “humans are the main cause of global warming”.

    I will not respond further to you on this point. You will not get it because you have a strategic interest in not getting it. More rational people who are prepared to be guided by facts, however, will see the logic of the argument.

  • I guess I get the last word on Mr. Wotts Richard Toll bashing thread:

    Don Monfort says:
    July 29, 2013 at 1:06 am

    I know why you won’t respond further, Tom. You are talking foolishness and blowing smoke. I don’t blame you for giving up.

    This is very simple. Read the categories 1-7. Category 1. is the only category that indicates an endorsement of AGW that includes the quantification of >50% human responsibility. Period. Out of the 2,000+ papers on which Cook received authors’ self-ratings, 228 were rated in category 1. Out of 12,000 papers, the Cook team rated fewer papers than that in category 1., so we can obviously throw that crap out. 228 papers is all you have got to claim a 97% consensus with a >50% quantification. And even that is tainted by self-selection bias and other issues that smart guys like Tol have hit you with. kappa kappa

    Oh, but there were very few papers that disputed our alleged consensus. BS. That’s marketing survey baloney, not science. You don’t in good conscience claim a consensus based on a positive affirmation from only 10% of the population. Hello!

  • Natural climate change has been hiding in plain sight.

    http://climatechange90.blogspot.com/2013/05/natural-climate-change-has-been.html

  • Why did Cook not ask the basic question of interest to real scientists?

    Do you think the Greenhouse Effect exists?

    If yes.., can you show empirical tests on the physical capability of “greenhouse gases” to raise the temperaure from -18°C to 15°C?

    “We see now why many environmentalists are so hostile to debate. Permitting debate — even giving the possibility of debate a moment’s thought — shatters the binary opposing categories that have been established in lieu of an actual debate of substance on climate change and what to do about it”

    Not the problem here, you, generic, have moved the goal posts, you have taken out actual opposition on the substance of “climate change” which should be the actual physics of the Greenhouse Effect, and now promote your view as the “opposition”, and for the most part in discussions supposedly open to discussion, the view of the real “deniers” is written out…

    “It’s long past time to get rid of the concept of ‘consensus’ on climate change. An excerpt from the Conclusions to my paper No Consensus on Consensus:”

    Has hijacked the “no consensus” by writing out those who originally disagreed with the science:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/singer-criticises-deniers.html

    “Climate Deniers Are Giving Us Skeptics a Bad Name – Fred Singer
    Posted on 17 March 2012 by John Mason
    “Somebody recently drew our attention to a provocatively-titled piece by Fred Singer on the website of the Independent Institute, another of those many political think-tanks over in the USA. We had a look at the piece and it turns out that it is another strange example of someone well-known over many years for their contrarian views on climate change (among other things) attempting to claim some kind of ‘middle ground’. In short, as you will see below, he is saying, “most deniers [his term, which he uses a lot] are wrong, most climate scientists are wrong but I’m right”.

    “It’s not the first time we’ve seen someone trying to re-jig the debate, with a number of leading political anti-science activists now saying that they accept that the greenhouse effect exists and that temperatures are increased by Mankind’s industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases (but only by a teeny-weeny little bit). In doing so, they are putting ground between themselves and the rank-and-file who daily appear on comment threads to insist that the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist, is a hoax and blah blah blah. It’s as if they have realised that there is no longer any mileage in promoting that particular bunch of myths to policymakers and public alike, so that instead they are going for climate sensitivity as an alternative target. “Calling all think-tanks. Calling all think-tanks. Go to Plan B, repeat, go to Plan B.””

    It is the “Greenhouse Effect” itself which is a myth, because it does not exist, it is an illusion. Created, for example, by taking out the whole of the Water Cycle and taking out rain from the Carbon Cycle and changing the real gases oxygen and nitrogen to ideal to take out heat transfer by convection which transfers heat away from the surface and sets up convection currents which bring cold air back to the surface, winds.

    How can there be any discussion on “climate change” when basic meteorology is missing from climate
    models because they are missing from the claimed consensus “The Greenhouse Effect”?

  • Lindzen and others made some helpful comments in February 2011 on a previous 97% paper by Zimmerman et al. That was on the Climate Quotes blog, which seems to be sadly deceased. But Wayback Machine has a number of snapshots, the most recent one not giving an error being in June 2012.

    One needs to peruse that link for the context but you can probably get a flavour from Lindzen’s words:

    As you know, polling is a dicey business. With respect to your first question, my answer to (1) is probably, but the amount is surprisingly small — suggesting that global mean temperature anomaly is not a particularly good index. My answer to (2) would be yes, but dependent on what is meant by significant. As to your second question, I agree that one can answer yes without any implication of alarm. Remember, according to the IPCC, we have already reached a level of radiative forcing that is almost as large as one would expect from a doubling of CO2. Even if climate sensitivity were 0.5C (which is generally considered to be of no concern) we would still be making a significant contribution to the small observed ‘warming.’

    Two other phrases from my Lindzen data-bank have also been coming back to me reading all this: “If you agree with anything you are taken to agree with everything.” One reason the slayers of the skygragon of basic greenhouse theory are so determined not to agree with anything? The second I can’t remember precisely but was a variant of the first: “If you agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas then you accept the world is going to end next Tuesday.”

    I appreciate Ben’s many wise words on the subject but these, even misremembered, from the premier opponent of consensivising (*) this complex scientific and political debate since 1988 I hope are of more than historical importance.

    * Combine with shibboleth for greatest effect.

  • I am trying to read through all the comments but, really, one doesn’t have the time. Let us, for the sake of clarity, distinguish a number of issues.

    1) Weather there is ‘agreement’ or ‘disagreement’ over the science is immaterial as regards politics and policy;

    2) The Cook et al paper does not make a ‘consensus’ but attempts to point at one;

    3) It fails to do so because it’s definitions could mean anything and,therefore, nothing at all;

    4) It is divisive and completely unhelpful (re Kahn);

    5) There is, in fact, a wide latitude of agreements and disagreements in this field but, again, this is immaterial as regards politics and policy;

    The only thing demonstrated by the Cook et al (all none ‘climate scientists’, as if that made any difference) exercise is that this is an area were, as Ben has said many times, the politics comes before the ‘science’ and, when the ‘science’ becomes public, a spectacle, it seems to be dominated by second rate minds.

  • Using Tom Curtis’s ‘conversational implicature’ approach to the classification scheme (ignore the classification as given and, because you are a person of goodwill, assume that all mentions of acceptance or rejection of a human role in global warming really refer to acceptance or rejection of the consensus that ‘humans are causing >50% of the current global warming’) amends Table 2 as follows:

    Level 1: Explicit endorsement with quantification; states that humans are causing >50% of global warming. (Current example: Move to Level 3. With additional conversational implicature – humans are causing most of the atmos. GHG increase – it would also fit Level 1, AKA new Level 2, but there must be a better example out there somewhere.)

    Level 2: Identical to Level 1. (Example: Consistent with several levels but illustrates none.)

    Level 3: Implicit endorsement with quantification; implies that humans are causing >50% of global warming. (Example: Consistent with several levels but illustrates none.)

    Level 4a: No position; says or implies nothing about the level of human input to global warming.

    Level 4b: Uncertainty with quantification; says or implies that it’s not known whether human input to global warming is >50% or <=50%. (Example: Still fits but not very useful.)

    Level 5: Implicit rejection with quantification; implies that humans are causing <=50% of global warming. (Example: I suppose it just about fits, but it looks more like a conditional explicit than a solid implicit. As such, it also just about fits Level 7, AKA new Level 6.)

    Level 6: Identical to Level 7. (Example: Consistent with several levels but illustrates none.)

    Level 7: Explicit rejection with quantification; states that humans are causing <=50% of global warming. (Example: Still fits.)

    The duplication of Levels 1 and 7 suggests that Curtis has proposed the wrong conversational implicature. (Who would design a study with duplicated categories?) That most of the examples don't illustrate the conversationally informed categories also points in this direction – although, to be fair, some of them didn't fit the original categories either.

    Time for the Morecambe Defence, perhaps.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zHBN45fbo8

  • Wotts is now complaining that because we didn’t roll out the red carpet, offer up a cream tea and didn’t reciprocate when he admitted that his incoherent and poorly-informed argument was such, we have ‘closed down the debate’. http://wottsupwiththatblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/closing-down-the-debate/

    I can’t see the point of discussions in which both (or one of) the parties are unwilling to consider that anything the other person says has merit and are unwilling to consider that some of what they say may be wrong, or not as well-founded as first thought. Also, rather naively, I think that if I try to be pleasant, others will reciprocate. It’s not a requirement, of course, but it does make the discussion more enjoyable. So, essentially I ended up having a discussion with a group who were, by and large, unpleasant (with some exceptions) and who clearly thought that the way to engage in such a discussion was to poke holes in the other person’s argument and avoid acknowledging any issues with their own.

    There follows the obligatory special pleading.

    although the debate should be open, there are some things that are not open to debate. When it comes to policy decisions, maybe all ideas should be considered and the debate should be completely open. When it comes to the science, however, some things are just simply wrong and can be shown to be wrong.

    So Wotts gets to call the permissible areas of what can and can’t be open to debate, the thrust of which is, as far as I can tell, we’re not allowed to say that the categories of the Cook paper render the entire thing useless.

    Wotts — who is ‘trying to keep the conversation civil’, remember — is a perfect example of green cant. This is typical of the conversation at his site:

    There is a large measure of idiocy in Ben Pile’s post, and in Mike Hulme’s endorsement of it.

    This has prompted squeals of delight from Wotts, who observes that Curtis, the author, like he ‘must have touched a nerve’. Which is true, if acting like a prick is touching a nerve.

    So, for some reason, we need to be respectful of Cook et al, but we can call Professor Hulme an idiot, without even reading what it is he has agreed with.

    What Wotts doesn’t seem to understand is that the Cook paper has no merit. Zero. It has only demerits. There is very little that can be offered in defence of it. It is quite possibly the worst study to have had any impact on the climate debate. His expectation seemed to be that he could just effect a civil tone, and some magical middle ground would open up, and we would say, ‘oh, quite right old boy, we shouldn’t have put it so strongly. Here, have a beer’.

    On any other topic, perhaps.

  • Vinny – The duplication of Levels 1 and 7 suggests that Curtis has proposed the wrong conversational implicature. (Who would design a study with duplicated categories?)

    Many thanks for that. I wondered why Cook et al would emply 7 categories when they ultimately wanted to divide the debate into two. Clearly some cack-handed sleight-of-hand.

    Curtis’s demand for conversational implicature is funnier than Wotts’s passive aggression.

  • For those wishing to categorize the many-cornered climate debate/discussion in a non-tendentious way, it might be better to categories based on a combination of empirical and policy conclusions. Thus, instead of ‘catastrophists’ or ‘alarmists’ I propose “Urgent Mitigationists”. There are “Sanguine Mitigationists” who think we can wait but will eventually have to cut back on CO2 emissions. There are also Urgent and Sanguine Adaptationists and Urgent and Sanguine Geoengineers.

    Each of these groups has subgroups, of course, based on policy preferences as well as empirical beliefs. James Hansen favors rapid deployment of nuclear power in conjunction with high CO2 taxes, a position not notably popular among most other UM groups. Some Mitigationists (of all degrees of urgency) are also “no regrets” proponents of shifting away from fossil fuels for other reasons–peak-oil types, environmentalists worried about conventional air pollution, anti-automobile/anti-suburb activists, and so on. Sanguine types also differ in their beliefs about how the climate actually works and how big would be the costs and benefits of warming world.

    My own current position is “Sanguine Fatalism”–I do not believe that any politically and economically feasible policy response is able to contain the release of CO2 (although autonomous economic or technological shifts, such as the recession and the discovery of hydraulic fracturing, might slow it down), but I don’t think such failure is the end of the world. Hence, costly and futile attempts to decarbonize the economy strike me as very bad ideas.

  • CO2 change has had no significant influence on average global temperature.

    http://climatechange90.blogspot.com/2013/05/natural-climate-change-has-been.html

  • Ben, it seems I shoved the conversational implicature in the wrong place. In a long comment at Wotts, Curtis says, in effect, that the descriptions in Table 2 should be all but ignored, that only the titles of the various levels really matter and that these titles clearly say (to people of goodwill armed with the correct conversational implicature) that what is being judged is how strongly the various abstracts make the *same* endorsement (human influence > 50%), not *which* endorsement they make (human influence > 50%; some human influence; etc.). He justifies this interpretation by saying that in Cook et al the ‘A’ in ‘AGW’ always implies that human influence is greater than 50% – and indeed a parenthesis in Cook et al (p2 c1) could be taken as defining ‘AGW’ as ‘GW with A’s influence >50%’.

    Interpreted this way, and with the descriptions blanked out, the table does make a bit more sense and I suspect that it’s what some of the people behind Cook et al intended at least some of the time.

    The trouble is, it’s not what the Cook et al paper says (apart from the parenthesis) and it’s not what the ‘rating guidelines’ at the Skeptical Science website currently say.

    But perhaps they once did. How, then, would the rating system have worked in practice? Anyone can judge whether an abstract says that humans are causing some global warming or are causing >50% of it or aren’t causing any at all, but it’s a whole lot trickier to judge whether an abstract that doesn’t quantify human influence is implying that it’s >50%. Indeed, I can’t see how it can be done, no matter how much conversational implicature you have on tap. Elucidation welcome.

    (I’ll post SS’s ‘rating guidelines’ as a comment if you like. They’re not very long. One thing that immediately leaps out is that they give explicit guidance on what should be done with texts like the example given for Level 1 in Table 2: they belong in Level 3.)

  • The trouble is, it’s not what the Cook et al paper says (apart from the parenthesis) and it’s not what the ‘rating guidelines’ at the Skeptical Science website currently say.

    The trouble with the SkS crowd finally getting their much loved project off the ground and into reality like this is that it was only ever an exercise in finessing.

    Their only USP on this project was scale, the sheer number of papers they could plough through to get the expected 97%, but there is no extra substance there.

    It’s becoming ever clear to me (I’m quite surprised how clear actually) that this study has revealed a real tangible collective cognitive impairment exists within the SkS group and their fanboys; and it is being exposed for all to see. I’m sure they don’t realise that as they attempt to keep finessing the words and meaning that they are not becoming stronger, they can only go in once direction and become ever more scrutinised and crumble.

    A Finesse works better when it scores a quick point and everyone moves on.

    I think some of the grown-ups among their supporters may be beginning to see this too.

  • Vinny, please do post the guidelines.

    Tom ‘conversational-implicature-for-thee-but-not-for me’ Curtis is a master of self deception. It should be obvious that so much post-hoc accounting for the Cook paper’s inadequacies should hint at the need for a substantial redrafting. Or it should at least come with the caveat, ‘erm, we haven’t really explained ourselves very well here, so don’t be unkind…’ He’s clearly investing a great deal in it — so much so that I think I might feel sorry for him. Or at least I would, were he not so incapable of adhering to the standards he sets for others.

    His attempt to explain the categories look to me not unlike saying that an object really is bigger if you close one eye, stand closer to it, and ignore anything else in the back or fore ground.

    Wotts, ditto, seems to think that reflect on his mistakes means others must mirror the gesture, and apologise for theirs, too. Even though no mistake has been identified. It’s a peculiar form of trying to maintain a ‘civil conversation’. All that self-conscious ‘being nice’ belying a ricthus grin and gritted teeth — only ensures that he really wants to stop being polite.

    All this bad faith… which TLITB alludes to, too — I wonder if it’s just the consequence of never really having been challenged. There just has never been an ethic of debate in green circles; it’s always been about strategy and orthodoxy. It’s never had to win a democratic contest. Given climate alarmism is getting on for 30 years old, it’s not hard to see how such a culture might have developed, and while that may have been cohesive, it now serves as a fetter, as interesting piece in the Guardian blogs discusses:

    I could go on, but I think my point is made. However, I will have to say something about the inevitable resentment these comments will elicit from some readers. Am I not playing into the hands of the climate change sceptics by saying environmentalists are not consistent on science? No, I am not. Environmentalists who say we should accept the scientific consensus on climate change while telling us to ignore it on other issues are the people who are playing into the hands of those who oppose action on climate change. Because if we are to win the fight against climate change we will need to replace ideology, wishful thinking and spin with sober analysis. As the great physicist Richard Feynman said, reality must take precedence over public relations.

    It’s an interesting turn… Environmentalists turning against their co-ideolgists. But environmentalists have long claimed to have eschewed ideology and embraced science. I think they miss the point. The task of purging ideology from discourse is a fools errand; the point is to be able to reflect on it, and to not be squeamish about it. That means admitting that views on the ‘environment’ are inherently political, not facts from science that can be read at face value. I wonder if the new environmentalists will be better or worse at reflecting on themselves than their ex-ideologists.

  • The rating guidelines currently shown at Skeptical Science:

    ===
    Rate Abstracts

    Each climate abstract was rated in two ways – the level of endorsement of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and the category of research. The level of endorsement of AGW ranged from explicit endorsement with quantification (e.g., saying humans have caused most of recent global warming) to explicit rejection with quantification (e.g., stating humans have caused less than half of recent warming. The 4 main research categories were Methods, Paleoclimate, Mitigation (research into reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and Impacts. We also eliminated some abstracts from our analysis by categorising them as “Not Related to Climate”. The guidelines we followed are listed below:
    Level of Endorsement

    1. Explicit Endorsement of AGW with quantification

    1.1 Mention that human activity is a dominant influence or has caused most of recent climate change (>50%).

    1.2 Endorsing the IPCC without explicitly quantifying doesnt count as explicit endorsement – that would be implicit.

    2. Explicit Endorsement of AGW without quantification

    2.1 Mention of anthropogenic global warming or anthropogenic climate change as a given fact.

    2.2 Mention of increased CO2 leading to higher temperatures without including anthropogenic or reference to human influence/activity relegates to implicit endorsement.

    3. Implicit Endorsement of AGW

    3.1 Mitigation papers that examine GHG emission reduction or carbon sequestration, linking it to climate change

    3.2 Climate modelling papers that talks about emission scenarios and subsequent warming or other climate impacts from increased CO2 in the abstract implicitly endorse that GHGs cause warming

    3.3 Paleoclimate papers that link CO2 to climate change

    3.4 Papers about climate policy (specifically mitigation of GHG emissions) unless they restrict their focus to non-GHG issues like CFC emissions in which case neutral

    3.5 Modelling of increased CO2 effect on regional temperature – not explicitly saying global warming but implying warming from CO2

    3.6 Endorsement of IPCC findings is usually an implicit endorsement. (updated this so it is more than just reference to IPCC but actual endorsement of IPCC)

    4. Neutral

    4.1 If a paper merely mentions global climate change or global warming, this is not sufficient to imply anthropogenic global warming

    4.2 Mitigation papers talking about non-GHG pollutants are not about AGW

    4.3 Research into the direct effect of CO2 on plant growth without including the warming effect of CO2

    4.4 Anthropogenic impact studies about direct human influence like urban heat island and land use changes (eg – not about GHG emissions)

    4.5 Research into metrics of climate change (surface temperature, sea level rise) without mention of causation (eg – GHGs)

    5. Implicit Rejection of AGW

    5.1 Discusses other natural causes as being dominant influences of recent climate change without explicitly mentioning AGW

    6. Explicit Rejection of AGW without quantification

    6.1 Explicitly rejects or minimises anthropogenic warming without putting a figure on it.

    7. Explicit Rejection of AGW with quantification

    7.1 Explicitly rejects or minimises anthropogenic warming with a specific figure

    Categories

    C1 Methods:

    C1.1 Examines technical aspects of measurement/modelling.

    C1.2 If a paper describes methods but no actual results, assign it to methods. If it goes on to results, then assign it to whatever the results are relevant to (eg – impacts/mitigation/paleoclimate)

    C2 Mitigation

    C2.1 Explores ways to reduce CO2 emissions or sequester CO2 from the atmosphere

    C2.2 Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) research

    C3 Paleoclimate

    C3.1 Examines climate in periods predating the instrumental period (eg – around 1750)

    C4 Impacts

    C4.1 Papers on the effect of climate change or rising CO2 on the environment, ecosystems or humanity

    C5 Not Related To Climate

    C5.1 Non-mitigation/impacts paper that contain no actual climate science.

    C5.2 Eg – social science papers on education/communication/historical analysis.
    ===

  • Interesting that the guidelines above are not shown in the paper. Call me a naive layman but if they are going to talk about subjectivity of the raters, as they do, then this is the sort of boring thing that should have been included.

    Also, I am not one for childish crowing, but here is some childish crowing. I have to say that the ignorance of the fan boys is even more astonishing than I thought since Willard has shown himself to be prey to a pretty astonishing misapprehension:

    http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2013/07/29/an-accurately-informed-public-is-necessary-for-climate-policy/#comment-185981

    Spot the misapprehension ;)

    worthless the 3% is […]

    How much is 9 / 11 944 again, tlitb1?

  • Thanks Vinny Burgoo for that bit of Theology from SkepticalScience.
    How long can you expect to dance on the head of a pin without getting called a prick?

  • I love the latest from Wotts:-

    “The real problem seems to be that they feel that their views (in general) should have the same credibility as those of professional climate scientists or, even worse, think they’re somehow better and more credible than professional climate scientists.” -Wotts,

    He forgets something.

    “There is a large measure of idiocy in Ben Pile’s post, and in Mike Hulme’s endorsement of it.” – Tom Curtis.

    Again, a large measure of spacial pleading, wilful ignorance of the arguments in currency, and of course a total lack of self-awareness combined with total self-absorption.

  • It seems Wotts doesn’t understand why I would put his and Tom Curtis’ statements next to each other. I don’t think I’ve made any statements about climate scientists, as either individuals or in general. And I don’t think I’ve even discussed climate science. But Wott’s complaint seems to be that I’ve somehow not shown due reverence to climate science or scientists.

    The only comment I could think of which addressed a climate scientist was Tom Curtis’s remark about Mike Hulme. Curtis — not a scientist — clearly seemed to think himself ‘better and more credible’ than that climate scientist. But it did not draw criticism from Wotts. On the contrary, Wotts seemed to agree. This, of course, in a debate triggered in part by Nuccitelli’s knowing better than climate scientist Roy Spencer.

    The mistake Wotts and co make is in thinking that what they think is ‘the science’, such that anyone who criticises their argument is taking issue with science itself. The problem is one similar to religious zealots who can’t, on their view, be doing bad while doing God’s work. To take issue with the Cook et al paper is to seem to take issue with the science it purports to review — not unlike trying to take issue with someone convinced of the interpretation of the bible.

    The problem is most easily pointed out by showing that even people who are 100% part of the 97% think that Cook et al is a crap paper, and is at best a misguided attempt to intervene in a political debate.

    This all, of course, makes my argument for me. The idea of a consensus, rather than allowing expertise to inform discussion, precludes it.

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