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Disinterested sceptics ?

July 17th, 2005

A research challenge for my readers. The task is to nominate scientists who

(i) have undertaken serious research on climate change
(ii) doubt that human activity is contributing to global warming
(iii) are disinterested, with no financial or political axe to grind

I’m reasonably flexible on (i) and (ii). That is, I’ll count anyone who has published relevant research in a reputable journal or who has done research on the topic and holds a job in a university science department or similar institution. Similarly on (ii) it’s sufficient that the person express doubt as to whether the evidence supports the anthropogenic view: they need not claim that it has been disproved.

On the other hand, as far as (iii) goes, I’m applying a stringent criterion. I’m excluding anyone who has taken money from lobby groups with a political position on climate change policy, is a member of any such group, or has publicly expressed a political position on the Kyoto protocol.

I claim that I can nominate hundreds of scientists who satisfy (i) and (iii), as described, and whose work supports the anthropogenic hypothesis. I suggest that the number of scientists satisfying (i) and (iii), as defined above, but who doubt the anthropogenic hypothesis, is in single digits. My current estimate is one, but perhaps readers will be able to double or triple that estimate, or perhaps reduce it to zero.

Update I obviously need to clarify the point on government funding. I’m not excluding scientists who have received research funding from public research bodies, even where those bodies are funded by anti-Kyoto governments, such as those of Australia and the US. This is making the task of finding disinterested sceptics easier, not harder, a fact which several commenters have apparently failed to observe.

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  1. Homer Paxton
    July 17th, 2005 at 20:11 | #1

    I’m excluding anyone who has taken money from lobby groups with a political position on climate change policy.
    This is bunkum.

    It matters not a whit whom pays for the research what matters is the quality of the research.

    The best research I have reead on the banking industry was done recently by Kim Hawtrey. It was funded by the ABA.
    Big deal.
    It either rises or falls on the scholarship involved.
    In this instance Kim Hawtrey’s scholarship shone through.

    Applying the JQ criteria I shouldn’t have read it!

  2. July 17th, 2005 at 20:22 | #2

    Does Garth Paltridge as described qualify?

  3. jquiggin
    July 17th, 2005 at 20:33 | #3

    Homer, I responded to this claim here.

    In the current context, I’m interested to know what criteria you apply in assessing the scholarly quality of work in atmospheric physics and paleoclimatology. Are you confident that you can assess scholarship in these contexts? If so, on what basis?

    I’ll look at Hawtrey’s paper and tell you what I think about it.

  4. jquiggin
    July 17th, 2005 at 20:43 | #4

    Paltridge fails on iii.

  5. rog
    July 17th, 2005 at 22:36 | #5

    Well (i) and (ii) are fairly easy, (iii) could be open to interpretation;

    http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20050623/40748412.html

    “MOSCOW. (Yury Izrael, Director, Global Climate and Ecology Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences and IPCC Vice President, for RIA Novosti). One issue on the table at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in early July is global climate change.

    As I see it, this problem is overshadowed by many fallacies and misconceptions that often form the basis for important political decisions. G8 leaders should pay attention to them.

    There is no proven link between human activity and global warming…….”

  6. July 18th, 2005 at 01:51 | #6

    “I’m excluding anyone who has taken money from lobby groups with a political position on climate change policy1, is a member of any such group, or has publicly expressed a political position on the Kyoto protocol.”

    As opposed to those that take money from governments? Because governments have no interest one way or the other?

  7. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 03:00 | #7

    To be fair, you really need to ask (ii) in both the affirmative and the negative:

    (i) have undertaken serious research on climate change
    (ii) do _not_doubt that human activity is contributing to global warming
    (iii) are disinterested, with no financial or political axe to grind

    Financial axes are relatively easy to identify objectively. But political axes? On a loose enough interpretation of this requirement you’d have to rule out a large proportion of the government-funded research sector as many have green/anti-development/anti-capitalist leanings, and global warming is an excellent vehicle for them to try and realise their political goals:

    “Warming (and warming alone), through its primary antidote of withdrawing carbon from production and consumption, is capable of realizing the environmentalist’s dream of an egalitarian society based on rejection of economic growth in favor of a smaller population’s eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally.”

    [Aaron Wildavsky]

    For a more extreme analogy: how many Australian feminist legal studies academics advocate increased rights for fathers in the Family Court?

    (A: as far as I know, zero)

    They’re government funded, published researchers, but hardly without a political axe to grind. Their lack of advocacy of father’s rights should have as much influence on public policy as tobacco-industry-funded studies of the health-effects of cigarette smoking.

  8. burrah
    July 18th, 2005 at 03:38 | #8

    Check out this link.
    Your hypothesis fails on all three criteria.

  9. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2005 at 07:03 | #9

    To clarify the point Yobbo, I’m not excluding scientists because they’ve taken money from an anti-Kyoto government (eg Australia or the US). Feel free, if it makes you happier, to exclude scientists who’ve been funded by EU governments.

    Rog, your cited source appears to fail on (iii): I assume this guy is an offsider of Iliaranovsky (sp?).

  10. Sinclair Davidson
    July 18th, 2005 at 07:12 | #10

    “I exclude standard forms of research funding, whether the governments providing the funding support or oppose Kyoto.”

    This is called ‘get out of jail free card’.

  11. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2005 at 07:22 | #11

    Homer, I’ve read the Hawtrey piece. It’s competent work, but I have to say that it reads like exactly what it is: a piece of advocacy commissioned by an interest group. The numbers are (I assume) accurate, but they are presented in a way that puts the banks in a favorable light. Someone who read this paper without any prior knowledge of the issue, and without being aware of the fact that it was bank-funded could be seriously misled.

    I’m not opposed to advocacy, just saying that interests should be declared, as Hawtrey did.

  12. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2005 at 09:27 | #12

    TCFKAA, your claim seems to be true by definition: “how many Australian feminist legal studies academics advocate increased rights for fathers in the Family Court?”

    Presumably, you would not class someone who advocated increased rights for fathers as a feminist, so the answer to your question is zero by definition.

    A more relevant question is whether publicly-funded academics with relevant research expertise can be found on both sides of this debate, and the answer to this question is “Yes”. For example, AIFS research has presented a fairly positive view of shared parenting, while noting some of the difficulties in making it work.

    This is true for most debates where there is a serious case to be made on both sides, but not (with marginal exceptions) of debates over smoking and lung cancer, evolution or global warming.

  13. SimonJM
    July 18th, 2005 at 10:07 | #13

    the commenter formerly known as anon

    On a loose enough interpretation of this requirement you’d have to rule out a large proportion of the government-funded research sector as many have green/anti-development/anti-capitalist leanings, and global warming is an excellent vehicle for them to try and realise their political goals:

    Great throw away line with nothing to back it up, always convenient to use against any scientist that brings out reseach that hinders business profit.
    Jennifer M would be proud.

    Did you use that against the medical researchers that linked smoking with cancer?

  14. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 10:45 | #14

    jquiggin, whether someone is a feminist legal studies academic is determined by the courses they teach and their research focus, not by whether they advocate fathers rights. Note that “feminist legal studies academic” is the noun-phrase here, not [feminist] “legal studies academic”. So no, my claim is not “true by definition”.

    But you are right, there are respected academics on the other side of that debate.

    However, you required “no political axe to grind” which has to apply to both sides for it to be a fair comparison. I believe there are good reasons to suppose that many proponents of global warming have a political axe to grind (or at least a kitchen knife). But either way, my point is that since it is your criterion, the onus is on you to show otherwise when you publish your list of “hundreds of scientists”.

  15. Mork
    July 18th, 2005 at 11:57 | #15

    I don’t understand Yobbo’s point. Why would a government prefer that human-induced climate change be occurring?

  16. July 18th, 2005 at 12:10 | #16

    What about Richard Lindzen and John Christy? I think that both of them have some degree of doubt on the effect of human activity.

  17. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 12:25 | #17

    I know that Lindzen at least has done a small amount of consulting work for the petro industry.

    This is why the jq’s requirements are somewhat dubious. Lindzen has held his sceptic views for a long time, well before he received a small amount of petro consulting money. It is hardly the case that the petro industry is going to go to a rabid global warming proponent for their advice, hence the financial requirement biases against sceptics.

  18. Andrew Reynolds
    July 18th, 2005 at 13:02 | #18

    TCFKAA,
    I think that the bias would also tend to work the other way – in that institutions would probably not fund (to the same extent at least) research that they would regard as non-productive and, climate change sceptisism being unpopular, it may well also be widely regarded as non-productive.
    This sort of herd mentality is widely seen in many markets, where the safe course, whether right or wrong, is taken by most people as they tend to be risk adverse. Thus the Enron research reports.

    If I remember correctly there was a lot of research funding in the 1970′s going into the concept of global cooling resulting from human activity. That funding dried up as the global warming theory came into vogue.

    PrQ – note that I am not saying either theory is wrong, although the published evidence these days tends to favour the warming theory. That may be due to the bias mentioned above or it may be due to it being correct.
    It would be an interesting research paper, though, examining any funding bias that results from the popularity of the theory rather than its intrinsic worth. Getting funding for it may be a problem, though.

  19. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 13:19 | #19

    I don’t think it matters, as such, whether a petro company global warming research or whether the ABA funds some banking research or whether McDonalds funds nutrition research.

    What matters is that the usual standards of scientific verification should apply. The funded researchers should be prepared to make their data available to critics or reviewers and the results must be replicable. If so, then the research stands on its own merits.

    If they refuse, for whatever reason (like, the data are “commercially confidential”) then their results should be viewed with extreme scepticism.

  20. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 13:24 | #20

    I think this all comes back to how JQ plans to prove the negative for his legions of global warming proponents. That is, for each scientist, establish that they have no political axe to grind.

  21. e sciaroni
    July 18th, 2005 at 13:48 | #21

    Everyone lost interest in global cooling because it is global warming that is actually happening. There is no smoking gun here to prove human origin. And global warming has really been continuing since the last Ice Age. (Coinciding with the evolutionary rise of humans).

    Those living in the more northerly latitudes don’t care about the cause of global warming. They just hope it continues.

  22. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 13:53 | #22

    Dave re you comment that the ‘usual standards of scientific verification should apply’. While I don’t know what to think on the greenhouse issue, I do find it somewhat ironic that many of those who are usually so post-modern in their outlook (there is no objective truth etc and following Thomas Kuhn this applies as much in the physical sciences as it does in the social sciences etc) suddenly get very absolutist when it suits them. My experience being stuck in a department full of green Nazis for many years is that the modus operandi was to disparage scientific findings when they do not support their end of the world is nigh arguments (referencing Thomas Kuhn etc) and cite scientific findings uncritically when they appear to support their views.

  23. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 14:07 | #23

    Michael,

    I am not a post modernist; nothing I have said in this or any other forum would imply that I am; and I don’t have double standards. When I wrote that the usual standards of scientific verification should apply what I meant was that the usual standards of scientific verification should apply.

    Is that clear enough for you?

    And enough already with your sorry tales about your unhappy experiences in academia. Must everything come back to your own personal experiences?

  24. Econwit
    July 18th, 2005 at 14:19 | #24

    This puts the skeptics on par with prostitutes selling their wares to the highest bidder- giving no credence to the individual concerned.
    People who work for nothing are worth more? or pay peanuts and get monkeys?

    It would have been interesting to have conduct a similar exercise re the millennium bug in 1999. I recall the sky was falling then and yet academia neglected to give a balanced perspective of a non existing crisis.

  25. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 14:28 | #25

    As I recall, the chief proponents of the millenium bug scare were the big IT consulting firms who stood to profit from the scare, and did. This was a case of commercial interests promoting a dodgy theory rather than putting up dodgy opposition to a sound theory, but I don’t see how it weakens JQ’s argument. If anything it strengthens it.

  26. Econwit
    July 18th, 2005 at 14:38 | #26

    Who will gain if more funding is put into research?

    Pro or Con academia has a vested interest in exaggerating the crisis to gain the benefit of more funding for research. As the computer industry gained from the perceived millennium bug. Hence the skepticism about this issue.

  27. July 18th, 2005 at 14:43 | #27

    Yobbos point (and it was a fair one, though intentionally misused by JQ) is that people who survive on the handouts of the government are probably more inclined to support big government. Ergo Kyoto. Ergo all the things that go along with Kyoto…. including warming.

    And there would probably be less funding for researching global warming if it didn’t exist… :) News item: “global warming scientists discover: we are redundant — please don’t give us money!” lol

    Who is in the government is not the point. The institution of government and the current government are different concepts. And I also note that the Aust govt does accept the existence of manmade global warming.

  28. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 14:51 | #28

    “people who survive on the handouts of the government are probably more inclined to support big government.”

    Well, maybe, but I can think of one person who makes his living by consulting to the government yet does not support big government.

    There’s nothing quite like a bit of cognitive dissonance.

  29. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:00 | #29

    Dave, actually it was a general comment, I was not necessarily suggesting you were a post-modernist (so I apologise if I gave the wrong impression). Re your usual snide comments regarding my academic experiences. Well personal experience is of empirical value whether it be in my case 30 years in the Labor party and NGOs such as Amnesty International as well as many years experience in academia. In other words, I have formed my rather negative views of the ideological stupidity of many academics and social activists through many years of personal experience (running fund raising stalls etc and I am not simply carping from the sidelines). The personal is political it seems only when young middle class white females from the affluent suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne are having a whinge about the non-existent discrimination they have supposedly faced.

  30. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:14 | #30

    (Sigh). Michael, just for the record, did you get passed over for promotion in favour of an undeserving young middle class white female in your current unhappy public service career or was it in your previous unhappy academic career? Do you have to put up with the Green Nazis now? Or was it just then? I’m sorry, but I’ve lost track of all the terrible things that have happened to you.

    JQ, I apologise for distracting this thread on the life and very personal times of Michael Burgess, victim extraordinaire, but I feel this is very important.

  31. Paul Norton
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:24 | #31

    “And there would probably be less funding for researching global warming if it didn’t exist… News item: “global warming scientists discover: we are redundant—please don’t give us money!â€? lol”

    But all else being equal, one would expect there to be more funding for researching global warming, over a longer period of time, if there was greater uncertainty (or alleged uncertainty, at least on the part of policymakers) about its existence, extent, local and regional consequences, social and economic impacts, most appropriate policy responses, etc. The fossil fuel lobbies and associated state agencies may well have done their sums and concluded that expenditure on keeping scientists and economists engaged in endless research and debate which leads to minimal and/or persistently deferred action is an overhead cost worth paying when compared with the fiscal costs to them of effective and prompt greenhouse response measures.

    The first scientifically respectable Australian greenhouse sceptic I learned of was the mathematician Professor Roger Braddock, whose scepticism was given extensive coverage in 1989-90 in the Brisbane Courier-Mail and the organs of the IPA. I believe that Roger may have revised his views over time as the evidence has accumulated. However, at the time that he was a public and well-publicised greenhouse sceptic, Roger was Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences (or whatever it was called then) at Griffith University, and this fact was trumpeted by the Courier-Mail and IPA as proof of his authority on the subject.

    Also, the first conspiracy theory I heard about global warming was that it was the result of a Marxist-inspired plot to undermine capitalism. This theory was quietly but quickly dropped when the USSR formed a unity ticket with the Reagan and Bush I administrations in 1988-89 to oppose Western European calls (led by the centre-right Kohl administration in West Germany) for stronger greenhouse response measures.

  32. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:33 | #32

    I thought Michael’s remarks on fair-weather post-modernism were quite interesting. Only yesterday I was contemplating something of the opposite point of view, namely that even though I am usually rabidly anti-postmodernist, I seem to become a bit of a post-modernist when here – deconstructing other posters’ language and attempting to expose the implicit bias.

    It seems like it is you who latches on to his other remarks and blows them out of proportion.

    Comment edited for offensive language. Anything further like this will lead to automatic moderation. JQ

    General policy advice. Rules against coarse and abusive language are not circumvented by the use of asterisks in swearwords

  33. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:34 | #33

    Dave, like to many people who regard themselves as socially progressive (while at the same time defending some appalling reactionary practices among non-western cultures) you resort to snide remarks and general personal abuse when anyone dares to criticise perspectives or groups you support.

    As for green issues, well the acting head of my department when I was at university was an American Gandhian who believed in doing away with the military and arming the population (social defence I think it is called). The present head used to get students colouring in posters (which I as a tutor had to mark and put up on walls) to emphasise issues relating to environmental degradation. Before western development a picture of happy natives in a rain forest. Next to it a picture of miserable people in high rise flats and slums to illustrate the evils of development. In one class the lecturer had them build a paper mache toilet to symbolise water pollution in Sydney. That night, I saw a student express his and my views on the virtue of this approach by kicking the shit out of it – a job I then finished.

    The lecture in question has has won prizes for her innovative teaching methods and was made a professor. This plus other factors (e.g., 30 years or so of misguided negative commentary on the impact of India’s green revolution – one of the most positive development initiatives ever undertaken) has made me somewhat sceptical of the rationality of many greenies and other so-called soical progressives.

    It might well be of course that despite all this, the greenhouse theory has legs. However, those of us subjected to 40 years of constant doom and gloom from the green movement can hardly be blamed for be somewhat sceptical.

  34. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:39 | #34

    TCFKAA, you are new here and haven’t had to suffer Michael going on, and on, and on, and on, about the same things, using himself as the frame of reference, for as long as I care to remember.

    But that’s enough about him. Let’s talk about you.

  35. Homer Paxton
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:51 | #35

    JQ,
    If that is the case then you will not be referring to the ‘competent’ papers wriiten on IR and productivity that was financed by the BCA but actually found results the opposite of what BCA have been asserting publically over the last 15 years!

  36. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:51 | #36

    “But that’s enough about him. Let’s talk about you.”

    No thanks. Why don’t we get back to the topic. I am going to raise this one more time then rack off, seeing as I don’t seem to be getting a response.

    JQ, how are you going to prove that your “hundreds of scientists” have no political axe to grind?

  37. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 15:57 | #37

    Michael, as you well know, or should know by now, I am old Left (old as in political tradition, that is). I don’t support reactionary practices amongst non Western cultures, or any other cultures. I am also, on this very blog, a critic of the Mickey Mouse academic practices you describe.

    Believe it or not, I think our values are pretty much the same. But your consistent failing is an insistence of lumping everybody with whom you disagree on any one issue, and this would be everybody to the left of John Howard, into a big pot – the academic/postmodern/anti western culture/anti Israel/green Nazi/undeserving middle class feminist pot.

    Combined with your self-appointed victim status, your defensiveness, and your continuing use of yourself as point of reference, it makes for unpleasant reading.

  38. Terje
    July 18th, 2005 at 16:03 | #38

    I assume that the 17000 scientists who signed the “Global Warming Petition” have not been adequately profiled. However at a guess you could keep yourself busy reviewing the list.

    http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p37.htm

    I am personally amazed that Kyoto (which is a market based solution) actually got on the table. Imagine using a market to solve a societal problem. What an impressive idea.

    Such a pity they excluded all those developing nations and turned it into a charity piece. I can understand why G.W.Bush would appose it. There are already a lot of jobs moving east. Not that I am a protectionist of any sort.

  39. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 16:18 | #39

    Dave, what makes unpleasant reading is misrepresenting what someone says and dismissing personal experience when it does not fit in with ones framework (again the personal is only political it seems when it involves certain individuals from certain groups). For example, I think pro-Israeli individuals in the United States, Europe and elsewhere do have a right to whinge when they are denied academic positions because of their views. More broadly, the fact that a succession of heads of the American Middle Eastern Studies Association, including John Esposito America’s most famous Middle Eastern scholar, have sung the praises of the likes of Hassan al-Turabi (someone responsible for massive human rights abuses) does indicate that there is a clear bias in academia.

    Like far too many progressive individuals who have belonged to the Labor party and social activist organisations such as Amnesty International, I could simply give up in disgust at the fact that the extremists always seem to dominate and, in the process, allow right wingers to claim the intellectual high ground (I personally know three very active Amnesty International members who have left the organisation in the last year and numerous ex supporters of Community Aid Abroad and the Labor party etc) .

  40. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 16:27 | #40

    Dave, I also note that you ignore my point on the past doom mongering of the environmental movement encouraging scepticism about their present claims. What if, for example, instead of bagging India’s green revolution a generation of left wing and green academics had pointed to it as an example of what can be achieved with aid. Maybe attitudes to the possibility of alleviating poverty in developing countries would have been far more positive among the populations of the developed world over the last 30 years or so. This could well have generated the political will to do something really constructive in Africa and elsewhere. Instead all we have heard from a succession of ideologically motivated doom mongers on the left is that aid does not work and western style development has failed etc etc etc. If nothing works then bother is the message the largely reactionary and selfish populations of the developed world have been more than grateful to accept.

  41. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2005 at 16:51 | #41

    Luis, Lindzen fails on (iii) and Christy on (ii). Links soon.

    Dave, MB and anon, I’ll try to set up a separate thread shortly, where such issues as the failings of Hassan al-Turabi (whoever he is) can be debated at full length. In the meantime, could we stick to comments on global warming.

  42. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:10 | #42

    John, sorry about that. (I don’t know who Hassan al-Tirabi is either.)

    But I cannot resist one last shot.

    “all we have heard from a succession of ideologically motivated doom mongers on the left is that aid does not work”

    This is Orwellian. It is the Right who say that aid does not work, that it goes straight into the Swiss bank acccounts of corrupt dictators, that it weakens the resolve to introduce market based reforms; hence their bagging of Live8 etc.

    Back to global warming. As I said before, the fact that someone comes to an anti-global warming view and has accepted funding from a petro company doesn’t mean they have an axe to grind or that their work should be dismissed out of hand. Their work should be able to be verified, the same as all scientific work.

  43. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:13 | #43

    The point is John (which Dave seems to want to ignore and resort to personal abuse) is that one cannot just simply dismiss greenhouse sceptics as being ideologically motivated or motivated by self-interest etc. Many people have simply had a gutful of the end of the world is nigh (if massive changes are not introduced) approach to policy of most environmentalists – and this includes high profile scientists. Tim Flannery who claimed that Australia cannot support more than 10 million people etc. Also look at the predictability of Ian Lowe and other high profile academic environmentalists in regard to the issue of Nuclear power. They are simply against it and will use any argument to justify their position which will never change no matter how ill-advised it is and no matter how much paranoia their irresponsible scaremongering encourages among the general public. Ditto with the GM food debate.

  44. Mork
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:19 | #44

    Yobbos point (and it was a fair one, though intentionally misused by JQ) is that people who survive on the handouts of the government are probably more inclined to support big government. Ergo Kyoto.

    Now I don’t understand John Humphreys’ point. What does Kyoto have to do with “big government”?

  45. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:26 | #45

    Michael, congratulations. You have now achieved the feat of attributing to me views which are not just exactly the opposite of those that I have expressed, but the opposite of those I re-expressed in the comment immediately preceding yours.

    You may recall that our little exchange started when you commented on my most that said that the research of scientist who reeive funbding by corporate interests should be evaluated where “the usual standards of scientific verification should apply”.

    And, yet again, you are resorting to gross generalisation, with your lumping together of green political activists with the hundreds of scientists who have published serious work supporting the existence of climate change.

  46. Andrew Reynolds
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:33 | #46

    PrQ,
    Can someone fail on (iii) if they received funding after expressing a climate change sceptical position? If so, it might be impossible to find one unless they are in the period between publishing and getting funding.

    BTW Hassan al-Turabi is an Islamic idealogue and former speaker of the ‘parliament’ of Sudan – but he was much more influential than that title suggests.

  47. Dave Ricardo
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:35 | #47

    “What does Kyoto have to do with “big governmentâ€? ”

    Kyoto = green agenda = government sets up trading in carbon credits = socialist = big government.

    It’s obvious, innit?

    PS I looked up Hassan al-Tirabi. He’s one of the bad guys in Sudan, apparently.

  48. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 17:57 | #48

    “Dave, MB and anon, I’ll try to set up a separate thread shortly, where such issues as the failings of Hassan al-Turabi (whoever he is) can be debated at full length. In the meantime, could we stick to comments on global warming.”

    Apart from my missive to Dave, that’s exactly what I have been trying to do.

    I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours. Ie, give me your hundreds of scientists advocating athropogenic warming and the proof that each has no political axe to grind, and I’ll give you the similarly classified sceptics. But until you show us your criteria for proving someone has no political axe, your original request is impossible to fulfill.

  49. July 18th, 2005 at 17:57 | #49

    “I don’t understand Yobbo’s point. Why would a government prefer that human-induced climate change be occurring?”

    Because they rely on peoples’ fear to justify their continued existence and expansion. The environmental movement in general has been a great boon for those who believe that the state should exert more control over the means of production.

  50. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2005 at 18:11 | #50

    New thread is now open.

    anon, you’re reversing the burden of proof, and asking for proof of a negative, which is impossible. I’m happy to accept anyone on either side of the debate as disinterested in the absence of explicit evidence to the contrary.

    Econwit, before making generalized claims about the failings of academics (in this case regarding Y2K) please check the record. Similarly with MB and postmodernism. Both these side issues should be shifted to the Al-Turabi thread.

    Terje, the “Oregon petition” was discredited years ago. Again, please use the search facility before raising old points.

    Andrew, it’s perfectly possible to get ordinary grant funding for research that casts doubt on global warming. Lindzen, for example, gets plenty of research grants, though he also gets industry money and promotes political arguments against Kyoto.

  51. michael.burgess
    July 18th, 2005 at 18:20 | #51

    Comment deleted. I’m moving this debate to the open thread, as advised

  52. Mork
    July 18th, 2005 at 18:42 | #52

    Because they rely on peoples’ fear to justify their continued existence and expansion. The environmental movement in general has been a great boon for those who believe that the state should exert more control over the means of production.

    So, your contention is that all/most governments that have funded research into climate change have done so in the hope that it would yield findings showing that it was an imminent threat merely for the delight of having the opportunity to impose new regulations?

    In other words, they would rather devote time, resources and political capital coming up with unpopular policies about stuff that people would prefer not to think about, simply because it gives them something to do?

    Sam, I’m more inclined toward skepticism of government than most, but that’s just nuts.

  53. SimonJM
    July 18th, 2005 at 19:03 | #53

    Please inform me if I’m wrong but even if we didn’t have climatologists studying HIGW they would be still studing some other aspect of the climate and that like other basic reseach is not goal driven other than knowledge.

    So the results of the research doesn’t have any bearing on whether they will have a job next year-excluding scientific fraud- or financially benefit them-selves or their employer the gov.

    Now in the case of industry or lobby groups what they do can have a direct bearing on both whether they will have a future job and can significantly effect the employer’s profits.

    Now where there may be a conflict of interest doesn’t mean that the group or individual has committed scientific fraud -like the tobacco scientists- but it does raise questions especially given past cases of profit driven conflict of interest and as far as the lobby groups they consistently deny things like GW but any other research that adversely effects company profits.

    So TCFKAA the onus is on you to provide the evidence ‘for each scientist, establish that they have no political axe to grind’/ to rule out a large proportion of the government-funded research sector as many have green/anti-development/anti-capitalist leanings, and global warming is an excellent vehicle for them to try and realise their political goals because it you affirming� as you are making the affirmative, you don’t get the other party to prove the negative.

    Just the same as with atheists it isn’t up to them to prove God doesn’t exist it’s up to the theist to prove it does.

  54. Terje
    July 18th, 2005 at 20:50 | #54

    I’m an athiest on man made global warming. As I see it there are too many theists on that topic with nothing but a gut full of faith that the end is nigh and nature is good and man is bad.

    However despite my lack of faith we may in fact be cooking ourselves.

  55. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 18th, 2005 at 21:23 | #55

    “anon, you’re reversing the burden of proof, and asking for proof of a negative, which is impossible. I’m happy to accept anyone on either side of the debate as disinterested in the absence of explicit evidence to the contrary.”

    My point exactly; you can’t prove the negative. So you can’t make claims about the political motivations of either side based only upon the publicly available evidence. However, if there are good reasons to suppose that a lot of global warming proponents are politically motivated, then it is not convincing to claim they are not so motivated just because there is no explicit evidence.

    In addition to “excluding anyone who has taken money from lobby groups with a political position on climate change policy, is a member of any such group, or has publicly expressed a political position on the Kyoto protocol” you should also exclude anyone who is a current or past member of an environmental group, who is anti-development, who has (publically or privately) expressed a political opinion on population control, etc, etc. You could find these out – get some of your research assistants to start calling around. All these things have bearing on how objective the scientists are likely to be, which is presumably your motivation for including the restrictions in (iii) in the first place.

    Of course, your original motivation was not to establish political bias in the global warming debate. It was to erect a strawman whose defeat would establish political bias amongst opponents of global warming only.

  56. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2005 at 22:17 | #56

    “you should also exclude anyone who is a current or past member of an environmental group, who is anti-development, who has (publically or privately) expressed a political opinion on population control, etc, etc.”

    I explicitly mentioned these criteria. But I’m afraid my imaginary hordes of research assistants [this seems to be a bit of a sore point for you] aren’t going to do the work for you. If you can show that the thousands of scientists who’ve published peer-reviewed work in this field are subject to these biases, go right ahead and do it. Otherwise don’t criticise people about whom you obviously know nothing.

  57. Econwit
    July 18th, 2005 at 23:24 | #57

    Mork

    “In other words, they would rather devote time, resources and political capital coming up with unpopular policies about stuff that people would prefer not to think about, simply because it gives them something to do?”

    Yes

    In government “Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.�

  58. July 19th, 2005 at 03:20 | #58

    What makes you think these policies are unpopular? Everybody likes to think they are saving the planet, especially if it gives them the chance to stick it up a few rich bastards in the process.

    There was a case in Western Australia recently where a guy was torn to shreds in the media for cutting up a dead whale (a violation of C.A.L.M.’s endangered species policy).

    The whale was just rotting on the beach, so he was doing everyone a favour, yet people were horrified that he even so much as touched it.

    And government departments such as C.A.L.M. definitely have a vested interest in increasing environmental regulations, because each new regulation means more funding and more for the ever-growing horde of public servants to do.

    There’s a political party in Australia called “The Greens”, but you think this stuff is something people prefer not to think about?

    Environmentalism is the new fundamentalist religion, in Australia there are many more fundamentalist greenies than there are fundamentalist Christians. And unlike Christians, who are generally weird but nevertheless have respect for human life, greenies couldn’t care less if 100 people died to save 1 koala.

  59. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 05:05 | #59

    “I explicitly mentioned these criteria. But I’m afraid my imaginary hordes of research assistants [this seems to be a bit of a sore point for you] aren’t going to do the work for you. If you can show that the thousands of scientists who’ve published peer-reviewed work in this field are subject to these biases, go right ahead and do it. Otherwise don’t criticise people about whom you obviously know nothing.”

    jquiggin, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest a large portion of those scientists are subject to those biases. For example, the environmental movement is almost universally anti-development and anti-capitalist, and a large portion of those scientists are environmentalists.

    Speaking of criticising people about whom one obviously knows nothing, why do you assume something to do with your research assistants (not sure exactly what, since you didn’t elaborate) is a sore point for me? I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about them. And why do you assume I know nothing about climate researchers? For all you know I could be one. May I suggest that you don’t criticise people about whom you obviously know nothing?

    And c’mon, its bloody obvious you set this strawman up to score some points against global warming opponents, not as an unbiased attempt to analyse bias in the global warming debate. Take your points, if that gives you satisfaction.

  60. jquiggin
    July 19th, 2005 at 07:21 | #60

    “And why do you assume I know nothing about climate researchers? For all you know I could be one”

    If so, why not nominate yourself, or some of your colleagues. Surely some of them are just plain scientists with no particular axe to grind.

  61. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 08:20 | #61

    “If so, why not nominate yourself, or some of your colleagues.”

    Because you rigged the rules to get the outcome you were looking for.

  62. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 08:53 | #62

    …and lest I be accused of misrepresentation: because I am not a climate scientist.

  63. Paul Norton
    July 19th, 2005 at 09:54 | #63

    A brief comment before I launch my annual inroad against the fiscal base of the state.

    Yobbo, the history of Australian government departments and agencies creating solutions in search of problems (or framing problems in such terms that only the agencies’ specialised “solutions” would solve them) in order to justify empire building, did not begin with environmental or conservation agencies c.1970. It can be traced back to the state-developmentalism of the colonial era which actively promoted ecologically unsustainable development including grandiose projects which were never subjected either to decent environmental assessment or to proper economic cost-benefit analysis, and has continued into the post-Federation era with the sort of mercantilist alliances we have seen between developmental state agencies, sectors of private capital, pro-development politicians and (in some cases) trade unions based in developmental sectors.

    Examples? Think of the current state of the Murray-Darling catchment which is the historical legacy of state-sponsored unsustainable development in the 19th century and much of the 20th. Think of the Franklin Dam proposal and “hydro-industrialisation” in Tasmania, which even an anti-greenie like Peter Walsh agreed was unsupportable when a proper economic analysis was applied to it. Think of Queensland Main Roads’ absurd proposal for a second motorway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast in the 1990s which, as well as being environmentally disastrous would have been a waste of money and space as the toll sensitivity analyses showed that motorists would have kept on congesting the Pacific Highway rather than pay the toll to use the second road. Such examples could be multiplied.

    Finally, have a look at the annual budgets and staffing levels of Federal and State environmental/conservation agencies, and compare them with the combined annual budgets and staffing levels of Federal and State economic/developmental agencies – and, for good measure, compare the seniority of the sole environmental minister in Federal and State Cabinets with that of the numerous ministers for developmental and economic portfolios. The fact is that in Australia state-sponsored and state-assisted exploitation of the environment, and the various clienteleships and dependencies which flow from that, far outweighs state-sponsored environmental regulation.

  64. frankis
    July 19th, 2005 at 10:32 | #64

    That’s OK x-anon, nobody assumed that you were a climate scientist. You have some kind of religious aversion to them apparently.

  65. SimonJM
    July 19th, 2005 at 11:39 | #65

    x-anon>
    For example, the environmental movement is almost universally anti-development and anti-capitalist, and a large portion of those scientists are environmentalists.

    I would rather say anti-development where there are no other considerations other than a large profit margin or anti-corporation where they don’t act ethically or sustainably.

    Notice the trends in business ethics to incorporate the Triple Bottom Line in corporate accounting. You would find if this was sincerely taken up by business, much-though not all- of the opposition would stop.

    PLS don’t mix up correllation and causation by having in knowledge about a scientific field they often see the consequences of human activities and when those activities only have a profit motive, would naturally oppose them if they have adverse impacts.

    & again the criteria for conflict of interest only applies to those scientists or their employer who have monetary incentives, and gov scientists -at least at the moment- don’t fit that criteria. Also it doesn’t mean we should ignore lobby funded research -it can go through peer review- it just allows us to be wary. and acknowledge other motives.

  66. StephenL
    July 19th, 2005 at 12:55 | #66

    JQ, I’m totally with you on this issue – see below – but I think your requirements are unfairly tough on one point. I don’t think it is fair to exclude people because they have opposed the Kyoto Protocol. If there really was a disinterested scientist whose research really did suggest that global warming was either not real or not human induced it would make sense for them to become opposed to Kyoto as a result, and they are entitled to express that opinion publically.

    I don’t think such people exist, except in rare cases that are either quite mad, or are totally unable to see wider context – they happen to be working in an area where global warming isn’t observable and are incapable of absorbing the vast weight of research everywhere else.

    Likewise we see many, many scientists who have never had much interest in politics, and probably never made a political statement on anything, who are supportive of Kyoto, possibly publically, but certainly in conversation, simply because their research scares them to pieces.

    To various other posters, particularly ex-anon,

    Of course some of the scientists who express concerns about global warming were environmentalists before they started, but the thing is that if one lined up all the centrist, politically apathetic and actually right-wing climate scientists who have been converted to support for Kyoto and much stronger measures by their research experience the number would definitely stretch into thousands (you would find dozens in Australia alone and we make up 2% of the global research community). Trying to find centrist, apathetic or left-wing scientists who don’t believe in global warming is virtually impossible. Which I think is the real point of JQ’s challenge – there is no need to guild the lily by taking out those who have expressed an opinion on Kyoto, provided they don’t have an obvious pre-existing bias against all things green.

  67. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 13:32 | #67

    “Trying to find centrist, apathetic or left-wing scientists who don’t believe in global warming is virtually impossible.”

    Let’s think about why that might be. How easy is to be apathetic, a climate scientist, and publicly hold that you don’t believe in (anthropogenic) global warming?

    [or publicly hold that it may not be such a big deal]

    I’d say almost impossible. As soon as you take the skeptic’s position, you’ll be besieged by a cacophony of protest from the other side. There’s no way you can remain apathetic under those circumstances. You either pull your head in or you stick to your guns – like it appears Lindzen did – and hence attract accusations of being an extremist, in the pay of the carbon lobby, etc.

    There’s nothing like going against the herd to weed out the faint-of-heart.

  68. Paul Norton
    July 19th, 2005 at 13:49 | #68

    I seem to recall posting a comment in reply to Yobbo’s post of 3:20am, 19 July. It seems to have disappeared from the thread. As I didn’t call anyone any names or use any rude words, I’m puzzled as to where it’s gone.

  69. Paul Norton
    July 19th, 2005 at 13:49 | #69

    Ignore last comment. It’s back on display.

  70. frankis
    July 19th, 2005 at 14:26 | #70

    When it’s been going on for a little too long it’s more likely to be a crank or crackpot who looks to the untutored eye as if they’re “bravely going against the herd”.

    In this context though, as JQ’s original post strongly suggested, show us what you claim to be a rugged, skeptical, tough guy climate contrarian and we’ll show you a lack of capacity in the field and/or a vested interest in denying a persuasive scientific case.

    Lindzen’s vested interest btw is that he’s a smoker so has a personal interest in denying that horrible odds, in that case in favour of lung cancer and rotten health, will ever bite him personally. although perhaps he’s religious as well (I don’t know).

  71. frankis
    July 19th, 2005 at 14:29 | #71

    The remark about Lindzen betting against the odds had a disclaimer to the effect that it was said flippantly, which WordPress has proudly removed for me.

  72. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 14:40 | #72

    I believe Lindzen is ruled out because he has been paid a few thousand dollars in consulting fees by the carbon lobby, not because of his smoking. The fact that he is a highly-paid and well-regarded academic from MIT (and hence is very unlikely to have his opinion bought by small amounts of consulting money) is irrelevant: under JQ’s rules he is biased.

    Just like environmentalists that associate with anti-development, anti-capitalist movements are necessarily unbiased unless they actually make public statements of their politics.

    Something smells around here…..

  73. Terje
    July 19th, 2005 at 15:08 | #73

    QUOTE JQ:-

    Terje, the “Oregon petition� was discredited years ago. Again, please use the search facility before raising old points.

    RESPONSE TP:-

    John I have reviewed your earlier comments on the Oregan Petition. That earlier piece by you does indeed demonstrated why it is probably unapplicable in the context of this current discussion.

    However you did not discredited the petition. It never claimed to be a body of climate experts whos personal research discredited the Global Warming thesis. It claimed to be a petition signed by well educated yet ordinary americans that were not convinced by the evidence. As such it is not discredited by your earlier analysis but merely put in context.

    To discredit the petition you would have to demonstrate that more than an insignificant number of the people who signed it were either not degree qualified scientists or that they did not agree with the statement outlined in the petition. You seem to have invented a somewhat easier criteria with which to “discredit” the petition.

    The Oregan petition was put together at a time when media commentators made bold and silly statements such as “scientists believe that global warming is man made”. Its intent was to counter the notion that scientists are a unified body of opinion.

    When people like David Suzuki (a geneticist) were sprouting the global warming mantra whilst wearing the “halo” of a scientific expert the Oregan petition was a useful and meaningful counter point to popular rhetoric. It still is.

    Part of the result is that the debate is now more likely to focus on what real climate scientists think. Even this discussion here is now preceeding on this more reasonable premise.

    In the future I will try the search function first.

  74. July 19th, 2005 at 15:27 | #74

    Ricardo: Well, maybe, but I can think of one person who makes his living by consulting to the government yet does not support big government.

    Not sure if this refers to me — but if it does I should point out that I’m now “retired” (read: vagrant).

    Mork: Now I don’t understand John Humphreys’ point. What does Kyoto have to do with “big government�?

    Kyoto is another government program, with restrictions and costs. I don’t understand how you can not understand.

    Paul Norton: But all else being equal, one would expect there to be more funding for researching global warming, over a longer period of time, if there was greater uncertainty

    I don’t think that’s how the government works. It is fear, not uncertainty, that drives the political system (including the handing out of money). And global warming is up there with terrorists under your bed as one of the biggest fear-mongering campaigns out there. Both have a basis in fact. But both are being misused to justify huge, expensive and bad government programs.

  75. StephenL
    July 19th, 2005 at 15:32 | #75

    Terje says “However you did not discredited the petition. It never claimed to be a body of climate experts whos personal research discredited the Global Warming thesis. It claimed to be a petition signed by well educated yet ordinary americans that were not convinced by the evidence.”

    Interesting. It may be that this is how the Oregan petition initially presented itself. However, I have seen it used as an arguement a least a dozen times by Greenhouse contrarians on blog sites etc and it has, on every occassion, been presented as being the voice of thousands of scientists qualified in the field.

    Indeed I once wrote an article for an online magazine in which I took to pieces various articles by a contrarian who wrote their regularly. In it I mentioned that the overwhelming majority of climatologists and scientists in closely related fields believed in anthropogenic global warming.

    The author I was debating responded that this could be easily disproved – and then linked to the petition. I was quite explicit that I was talking about climatologists and no one reading the page would have been in any doubt he was claiming that the signaturies all fell into that camp, when in fact almost none do.

    Your own original posting was not explicit on this point, but in the context of a debate about what scientists conducting research in the area think it certainly appears at first glance that you were suggesting these were 17000 climate scientists, rather than 17000 people most of whom had never studied meteorology 101.

    The petition may not have claimed to be something other than what it was, but contrarians have been misrepresenting it for years. However, since virtually every contrarian I have ever encountered is willing to repeatedly bring up utterly discredited claims, and totally distort genuine evidence they don’t like, this is hardly surprising.

  76. Hal9000
    July 19th, 2005 at 16:18 | #76

    As I understand it, there has been a very large increase in the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There has not been this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for many millions of years. There is no credible explanation for the phenomenon other than human activity. I’ve not heard any of the contrarians disputing the above.

    Now we get to the difficult bit. GW theorists have long predicted that this rise in atmospheric CO2 would lead to global climate change. Observations over the last decade at least seem to show the predictions borne out – interestingly only yesterday was evidence of unprecedented coral reef formation in Tasmanian waters! There is also a credible hypothesis (global dimming) for why the warming phenomenon has not been more marked than it has.

    The contrarians, whose numbers are thinning, seem to be in two main groups. First are the compromised, whose bread is put on the table by vested interests in maintaining current consumption patterns of the things they want to sell. Second are the geologists, such as Ian Plimer, who have spent a lifetime uncovering evidence of past climatic catastrophe. It is unsurprising that the geologists would scorn a possible 5 degree rise in global temperatures, when there is evidence of far more catastrophic change in the past. In comparison with the global catastrophes that brought the Devonian and Cretacious periods to a screaming halt, why worry? But then, if that’s the attitude, why bother about pollution, or extinctions, or land degradation – just let it all rip.

    The real debate is about the precautionary principle – whether something can be done, whether it should be done, and whether averting catastrophe (even only possible catastrophe) for the next generation is worth paying a price now.

    If you subscribe to an ideology that welcomes the imminent End of Days, and most of George W’s circle do, then the answer is clear. There is no tomorrow. Environmental catastrophe – bring it on!

  77. Terje
    July 20th, 2005 at 06:20 | #77

    STEPHENL: Your own original posting was not explicit on this point, but in the context of a debate about what scientists conducting research in the area think it certainly appears at first glance that you were suggesting these were 17000 climate scientists, rather than 17000 people most of whom had never studied meteorology 101.

    TERJEP: This would be a fair point except that I did not present it as a list of 17000 climatologists. I merely stated that it might offer up the names of some climatologists who disagreed with the global warming thesis. I was acting with a degree of ingorance about what you would find and I never pretended to do otherwise. Here is what I said when I introduced the Oregan Petition in this debate:-

    “I assume that the 17000 scientists who signed the “Global Warming Petitionâ€? have not been adequately profiled. However at a guess you could keep yourself busy reviewing the list.”

    I qualified it by saying that I was guessing.

    And as I have stated already I accept that John Quiggins earlier article demonstrates why the Oregan Petition probably does not offer much to this specific debate here. Its just he used words to suggest that he had “discredit the petition”. He had not. Rather he showed that in this context it had little to offer. However the petition is still a valid petition and accurate in so far as it is what it claims to be.

  78. jquiggin
    July 20th, 2005 at 07:04 | #78

    Terje, I was a bit lazy in linking to my own admittedly partial discrediting of this petition. It was more discreditable than I showed. As usual, Wikipedia is a good place to start looking: follow the link to Lambert’s more comprehensive effort.

  79. Terje
    July 20th, 2005 at 07:59 | #79

    John,

    The piece by Lambert is worth reading. So thanks for the reference.

    However I still would not say that the petition is discredited. It is what it is. A petition that 17000 scientists signed. And it is a very open document. Most of the criticism that Lamber has for the petition is from the very web site where it is presented. It is not like the producers of the petition tried to obscure how it was created.

    What is perhaps discredited is some of the conclusions that some people have draw from this petition.

    One conclusion that you could draw if you think that the premise of the petition is false is that scientists (or people with degrees) can easily hop on a bandwagon if they think that the source is authorative. This in itself offers us a warning.

    In any case the petion is now getting old and it has already move the debate in the right direction. Which is towards what climatologists understand rather than what David Suzuki and his cult believe.

    I remain an atheist on this issue largely because climatologists and their models have such a limited track record. When did a climatologists model ever produce a meaningful prediction. My “guess” is that they are as fickle as economics models and as sensitive to initial conditions and vagrant variables.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  80. Terje
    July 20th, 2005 at 08:02 | #80

    P.S. I know from your AFR pieces in the past that you have debated Lomborg on the global warming topic. But in any case the section in his book on the climate models presented at the IPCC in the lead up to the Kyoto protocol illustrates my point. These climate models are all over the shop.

  81. jquiggin
    July 20th, 2005 at 09:18 | #81

    Terje, people with degrees are a very large set in the US. Even if you restrict it to people with some sort of science background, we are talking about many millions of people. So the fact that perhaps 0.1 per cent of such people can be induced to sign a misleadingly presented petition on a topic of hot policy debate tells us precisely zero.

    As for Lomborg, why would you rely on information from an unqualified person with an obvious axe to grind? The IPCC reports are public documents: read them yourself and make up your own mind.

  82. July 20th, 2005 at 10:31 | #82

    …so post-modern in their outlook (there is no objective truth etc and following Thomas Kuhn this applies as much in the physical sciences as it does in the social sciences etc)…

    Michael, it’s a long time since I read Thomas Kuhn, but my impression is that you’re misreading him entirely (plus he was a modern rather than a postmodern, surely, given the time he was writing his stuff?) To my memory, Kuhn postulated that scientific paradigms became fairly fixed according to scientific consensus at any given time in history, which was limited by technological limitations, religious dogma, or whatever. Then little by little this paradigm would be whittled down by empirical discoveries. Once those points of conflict with the dominant paradigm reached a certain stage, then a paradigm shift would be possible (e.g. earth moves around the sun rather than the sun around the earth). But it seems quite clear to me that Kuhn’s “paradigm shifts” were the product of empirical research making a dominant theory (paradigm) untenable, rather than the idea that you can choose your own reality, which is what you seem to be saying. Tell me if I’ve got it wrong.

  83. Terje
    July 20th, 2005 at 18:31 | #83

    QUOTE: As for Lomborg, why would you rely on information from an unqualified person with an obvious axe to grind? The IPCC reports are public documents: read them yourself and make up your own mind.

    RESPONSE: John, I listen to you and I don’t think your a climatologist. Lomborg is a statistician. He should be capable of explaining the cross correlations or lack there of for the data output from several mathematical models.

    Why do people listen to David Suzuki? Why does he not get howled down as being unqualified? He is a genetisist for goodness sake.

    I have read some of the IPCC reports but I must admit I have not done deep research on the reliablitiy of one model with reference to another.

    If one of the IPCC models reflects reality and you use one of the others to make predictions the inaccuracy is pretty wild.

    Of course as Lombord points out all the models indicate that things are getting hotter. Thats why he accepts the global warming thesis.

    QUOTE: So the fact that perhaps 0.1 per cent of such people can be induced to sign a misleadingly presented petition on a topic of hot policy debate tells us precisely zero.

    RESPONSE: It tells us much more than zero. However I don’t wish to split hairs endlessly.

  84. detribe
    July 21st, 2005 at 00:20 | #84

    Do the “skeptics” cited in this peer reviewed paper count as part of your challenge Prof Q?

    Pure appl. geophys. 162 (2005) 1557–1586
    The Global Warming Debate: A Review of the State of Science
    M.L. KHANDEKAR,1 T.S. MURTY,2 and P. CHITTIBABU
    3
    1 Consulting Meteorologist, Unionville, Ontario, Canada. e-mail: [email protected]
    2 Department of civil engineering, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
    3 W.F. Baird Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    “Several recent studies have questioned many of the projections of climate change made by the IPCC reports and at
    present there is an emerging dissenting view of the global warming science which is at odds with the IPCC
    view of the cause and consequence of global warming. Our review suggests that the dissenting view offered
    by the skeptics or opponents of global warming appears substantially more credible than the supporting
    view put forth by the proponents of global warming. Further, the projections of future climate change over
    the next fifty to one hundred years is based on insufficiently verified climate models and are therefore not
    considered reliable at this point in time.”

  85. jquiggin
    July 21st, 2005 at 06:38 | #85

    I’ll have to look at the paper [could you send a PDF], but it doesn’t sound very promising. Khandekar describes himself as a meteorologist but doesn’t have a proper job, and the other two authors are engineers. And it doesn’t appear that the authors have done any research of their own, they’re just summarising the literature in a field in which they appear unqualified.

    If a PDF isn’t feasible, why don’t you nominate the skeptics cited in the reference list, after discarding the obvious exclusions (for example, McKitrick and Michaels).

  86. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 21st, 2005 at 14:16 | #86

    “Khandekar describes himself as a meteorologist but doesn’t have a proper job”

    Hmm – did you even bother to stick his name into google? I don’t know if any of it is any good, but he seems to have published a fair bit in legitimate journals.

    And can you please enlighten us as to what is a “proper” job? An academic position? A government funded position? Well, it looks like he used to have one of those too: “Canadian Atmospheric Environment Service”.

    Of course I can understand how you would be skeptical of him now that he is consulting and actually having to persuade people of the value of his services instead of just dipping his hand into the taxpayer’s pocket.

    Excuse me while I get back to my improper, wealth-generating, job.

  87. jquiggin
    July 21st, 2005 at 14:59 | #87

    Fair enough, anon, he does seem to have some good publications. I tend to read “consultant” with no business name attached as meaning “unemployed”, but it looks like things are different in meteorology. I’ve struck this line out.

    Regardless of that, I’ve read the paper (kindly sent to me by detribe) and it doesn’t add much to the debate. The paper by McKitrick and Michaels where their results depended on confusing degrees and radians gets a run, for example, and this error isn’t mentioned.

  88. detribe
    July 21st, 2005 at 16:33 | #88

    Prof Q,
    Putting aside character judgements about the authors, which are not part of science, and looking at the several substantial issues raised in Khandekar et al against IPCC models, for example about the naive nature of computer models, the heat island effect, the importance of ocean water heat transfer, solar patterns, and so on, what have you to say about the issues of substance raised in this paper.

    It made me realise yet again, that computer models, surprise, surprise, are only as good as the assumptions on which they are based.
    The review, in a peer reviewed journal, points those weaknesses out. Why should they all be discounted?

    I must say also that in science to start with the authors credentials and not the major findings is not standard practice.

    And the numerous reference- some are suspect, but are they all?

  89. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 21st, 2005 at 16:53 | #89

    “Regardless of that, I’ve read the paper (kindly sent to me by detribe) and it doesn’t add much to the debate.”

    Should I regard an economist’s pronouncements on climate science with the same skepticism you reserve for engineers?

  90. jquiggin
    July 21st, 2005 at 17:32 | #90

    anon, if you disregard the pronouncements of economists, that will certainly make your task easier on this paper, since it relies at a number of points on Ross McKitrick. But rather than dismissing him out of hand, follow the link above and check out his track record.

    detribe, there are a lot of references in this paper that are sound, and a lot that are sceptical, but few that are both. In addition to McKitrick (three times) there’s a citation to “Envirotruth” (the late John Daly), Soon and Baliunas, Michaels and so on. Take out these guys, all with obvious axes to grind and track records of egregious error on this and related topics, and the argument would look very thin.

    I looked at the bits of the paper that deal with the statistical time trends, since this is a topic on which I can reasonably claim expertise and where I have followed the relevant literature. The discussion of the satellite data is years out of date and ignores most of the literature, picking only the most conservative estimates, and mischaracterising even these. The discussion of heat islands is similarly misleading as a summary of the literature.

    Maybe the rest of the paper is better. But I see no reason to think so.

  91. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 21st, 2005 at 18:01 | #91

    Ok, that paper sounds like crap.

    However, while I was waiting for something to finish, I was surfing around checking out the degree/radian confusion and I came across this business about a “hockey stick”:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/04/sci_nat_enl_1092666337/html/1.stm

    Something seems fishy to me about that picture. Naturally enough, the error bars in the last 50 years have gotten way smaller, as our measurements have gotten better. But as the error bars are so wide in the past, couldn’t the apparent recent uptick in global temperature just be an artefact of the increased accuracy?

    I am thinking that if you take a time series that naturally varies a lot and add a big whack of noise to it, you are not going to be able to spot any pronounced trends in the underlying signal, even if they are there. That’s basically the situation with the old historical data.

    If you suddenly turn the noise right down (increase the temperature measurement accuracy), the underlying signal will pop out. That’s been the situation for the last 50 years or so. Now if a pronounced, random trend takes place it is suddenly going to look like a much bigger deal, beause we’re looking directly at the signal, instead of the big fuzzed out noisy curve.

  92. detribe
    July 21st, 2005 at 19:04 | #92

    Well Q since you offer your personal judgement quite freely let me throw in mine:
    I’m still an ambivalent agnostic on this issue but with some queasy suspicions a few serious promblems exist with the IPCC type model.
    I think its fair enough, as you do, to put aside a fair number of the “papers” cited in K. et al 2005 : the Daly webpage citation really surprised me for instance . It made me worry about the journal standards but I’d still check through the facts referred to in all these citations.
    But I certainly dont share your apparent confidence about the IPCC pronouncements, and I’m genuinely surprised you dont take the indications of serious mechanistic weaknesses and contractions with empirical data that expose the IPCC model to serious criticism. We have for example retrodiction of the period from 1940-1970 (approx) where there was global cooling and increasing CO2: it would be helpful to elucidate that, and to verify how it occured- sunpot cycles, ocean currents and the rest.

    I’m more skeptical about spending $200,000 on a house than you seem to be about allocationing several trillions to reverse largely natural global processes. You know, sellers will just make up stuff because they want to make a buck.

    The other empirical data that worry me are the geological data that implicate solar cycle variations in global temperature changes, by complex somewhat obscure mechanism such as effects on cloud formation. Also the mechanistic worries about cloud cover and coupling between oceans and atmosphere on which the IPCC model is a gross simplification. The K et al 2005 paper in makes some strong points there.

    But what worries me most about this argument is your “unusual” arguing style, a mixture of argument from authority and trust me Im an expert plus a lot of really high quality comments. In science constant skepticism is healthy, but yours seems to be biased one way.

    By your failure to upfront, dispassionately declare the uncertanties in IPCC type models – you seem to not behave with disinterest. Thats a serious intellectual problem, especially when its coupled with frequent personal attacks on investigators. As the subject of discussion is actually so complex, a little humility about the actual limits of our understanding might be in order.

    To win arguments, your obvious high level statistical skills dont release you from the obligation of explaining the details of your position so we can assess its credibibilty, and see if your hypotheseses are close to reality.

  93. jquiggin
    July 21st, 2005 at 20:27 | #93

    detribe, of course there are plenty of uncertainties in the IPCC models, and these are important in thinking about policy. But it’s clear that there’s not going to be any useful discussion of the real issues as long as people like McKitrick are taken seriously.

    As you say, I find it a problem how to engage in debate. Partly the blog format is not entirely satisfactory, but mostly it’s impossible to engage in proper discussion with people who claim to be independent scientists but are actually just seeking to obfuscate the issues – those I named above are mostly examples of this.

  94. jquiggin
    July 21st, 2005 at 20:28 | #94

    “with” should really be “with reference to” in the second para of the commnent above.

  95. July 21st, 2005 at 20:31 | #95

    detribe, why not address what the IPCC says rather than some straw IPCC?

    Look at these graphs. If you just include natural forcings the cooling trend from 1940 would have continued to the present day.

  96. jquiggin
    July 21st, 2005 at 20:43 | #96

    anon, just eyeballing the graph, there’s no overlap between the 1990s observations (including small error bars) and the first 950 years or so of the data set (with wide error bars). I don’t think that can be an artifact of improved precision.

    Of course, if you do what M&M want, and throw out most of the data from the early part of the period (essentially, all the North American data) than you can’t say much.

  97. July 21st, 2005 at 20:44 | #97

    This is from a Khandekar opinion piece:

    As the only Canadian to attend the climate change and Kyoto Protocol seminar
    held in Moscow on July 7-8,

    So who paid for him to go to Moscow? What do you think the chances are that he is a consultant for an energy company?

  98. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 21st, 2005 at 23:01 | #98

    It is only the 1998 point that puts the current data outside the previous error bars. If you look at the temperature since then you’ll see 1998 was a considerable outlier.

    The problem here is that you are comparing apples an oranges: the current readings are direct, the historical readings are proxies. With such vastly differing properties you have to be very careful comparing the two different kinds of measurements.

    I have always been a global warming skeptic, but in attempt to be fair I have read a lot more on it over the past couple of months. Despite that, I am still pretty skeptical. The fundamental problem is that we appear to be drawing very strong conclusions from very little and (at least until recently) very noisy data. And very few papers seem to seriously address this issue.

    You can dismiss me as a know-nothing outsider (although you’d be wrong), just as you can try and dismiss all “qualified” skeptics as being in the pay of the carbon lobby. But I suspect that rather than grinding a political axe, or pleasing their paymasters, most skeptics simply share my unease.

  99. detribe
    July 22nd, 2005 at 08:10 | #99

    I see your point Tim, and thanks for the insight: the model used in the graphical simulations, which I assume omits human CO2 load increases, does not account for the observed recent anomalies, but can be consistent with the post 1940 cooling trend: so the question are (i) is there more than one plausible possibility for the recent anomaly, and (ii) how mechanistically plausible are each of the alternatives?
    The sense I get from the K. et al 2005 review is that the scale of atmospheric CO2 forcing effect could be quite small compared to some other factors eg ocean-atmosphere coupling, so you need to be cautious with interpretation (this is my gut feeling from own experience of other complex kinetic dynamic systems, and also the level of noise in these different simuations)
    Q: I also understand how dealing with too much stuff that you are convinced is trashy nonsense can be taxing on patience. Also apologies for my typing errors: I’m jet lagged from a Europe Australia trip and suffering from the flu

  100. jquiggin
    July 22nd, 2005 at 08:38 | #100

    anon, my eyeballs aren’t up to resolving this kind of detail. I tend to put more weight on the well-documented increase over the past 30 or so years, and the fact that the rate of increase is extreme relative to the historical record, and less on the average temperature. This is clear from the graph, I think, though you’d really need to go to the numbers.

    For most purposes, it’s the rate of change and not the level that matters (I have a paper on this somewhere, if you’re interested).

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