Are there any sceptical “sceptics”

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just reported that the global mean temperature for July 2015 was the highest for any month since record keeping began in 1880. That follows a string of record-breaking months. And with a major El Nino well under way, it seems highly likely that more record high temperatures will follow.

To anyone with a sceptical attitude to factual assertions, this evidence would appear to cast grave doubt on the claim that the world is experiencing a “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming. On the face of it, either the supposed “hiatus” never occurred, or it has now ended.

So, it’s natural to ask whether such sceptical attitudes have been observed among those who describe themselves as “global warming sceptics”. I would be genuinely glad to find examples, since it would imply some possibility of serious discussion, as opposed to a restatement of tribal shibboleths.

Are any sceptical sceptics reading this? Has anyone else noticed any? Or are self-described “sceptics” only sceptical about things they don’t want to believe.

40 thoughts on “Are there any sceptical “sceptics”

  1. @Julie Thomas
    For those of us who were around then, there were some bitter disappointments in the aftermath of the Greenhouse conference, which included an opening address by Graham Richardson that clearly explained what the government knew about AGW, and what sort of changes had to take place. I think it was called “Greenhouse 88”, and was in 1988.

    Politics, especially the opponent’s politics, poisoned much of the effort made in trying to set policies which would reduce emissions significantly below the 1990 benchmark. As we know now, we have failed spectacularly and it’s really unforgivable. The two major parties should have put the public interest front and centre, rather than kicking the issue around as some kind of political football for their own entertainment.

    Greenhouse 88 (IIRC) was a promise shredded, and is one of the reasons I am not an optimist with respect to the current discussions and debates about what to do and whether we will actually deliver. We’ve been there before and effed it up.

  2. @Donald Oats

    For hippies who were around then, the same. It was clear then what we needed to do and how we needed live to keep the planet liveable and build a decent world.

    Maybe we can learn from our mistakes this time; the evidence is convincing to those who do not have a conflict of interest and/or have ‘chosen’ to develop a personality disorder to avoid being wrong.

    I think the person that Phillip interviewed in the program I linked to did her PhD and has written a book on how the Climate Change denial machine worked to create the situation that we have now and although she was not a good interviewee, her story was coherent and convincing.

    So be hopeful and it’s probability all the way down you know so we could be lucky.

  3. @Ken Fabian

    how the satellite data progresses, as it tends to show greater response to ENSO than actual surface temperature measurements, ie it may well end up showing a very strong temperature ‘spike’ as the current el Nino’s effects flow through.

    We all know who is going to tell us all about this natural property of El Ninos, don’t we?

  4. Maybe the Zombie Anthrocalypse has already started. 😉

    These people who otherwise appear to be more or less compos mentis but are “sceptical” AGW denialists have in fact already turned zombie on us. Hmmm, that would explain quite a lot about Tony Abbott and his cabinets’ behavior and utterances. If you realllllllly think about it, real life is scarier than any zombie movie.

  5. Yes the Zombies never stop. This is possibly one site where they reveal the types of disordered thinking that allows them to flaunt their denial as a superior understanding of how the universe really works.

    This is one comment typical of the level of rationality

    Bryan Roberts • 15 days ago

    “My experience has been that the advocates of AGW are so blindly committed that they are completely incapable of considering any other viewpoint.
    Dr Ducan Steel, a highly respected astrophysicist, has postulated that orbital precession has not been adequately considered in climate models (, and may contribute, at least in part, to present conditions.
    I put this viewpoint to both ‘The Conversation’ and to ‘skepticalscience’. On both, I was subjected to the most astonishing torrent of abuse, as ‘an ignorant denier’. Neither could show any flaw in his calculations, but both rejected them outright.
    Ironically, Steel states in his discussion that he is not denying AGW, but is pointing to a possible flaw in the assumptions.”

    The most recent post at that site refers to this post, but apparently no-one is willing to subject themselves to the astonishing torrent of abuse that always comes from people who believe the scientific story.

    And I’m always interested in the way they understand irony.

  6. Well if you want sceptism – I was sceptical of the evidence of reduction to near zero (“hiatus”) in the underlying trend because of the difficulty of accounting for other variation.

    But similarly I’m sceptical of the strength of the observations cited in the first paragraph as evidence that a hiatus has ended never/occurred.

    In particular NOAA’s claim of hottest month for July is before removal of monthly variation – and removing the annual cycle is the first thing you should be doing. I think Jan 07 is the hottest month if you do this. Given correlation between months, a string of warm months isn’t necessarily much strong evidence than a single month. And if you suppose a continuing “hiatus” in the underlying trend, you would still expect warmer months with a high-amplitude El Nino.

  7. Julie Thomas and Chris O’Neill. Duncan Steel never said the climate change models did not consider orbital forcing. He said the way they did it was in error.
    As Duncan Steel said “I identify the reason why the influence of perihelion precession on the present-day climate and its changing nature has been overlooked by climate scientists: they appear to have compared the latitude-dependent insolations in different epochs over the past millennium at different points on Earth’s heliocentric orbit in terms of equal steps in ecliptic longitude rather than equal steps in time, the results derived therefore being erroneous and misleading.”
    This is a perfectly reasonable question to raise. But it took me an hour of searching to find out that Duncan Steel was wrong in asserting the climate models used ‘equal steps in ecliptic longitude’ rather than the correct ‘equal steps in time’.

    And why did it take me an hour to find this out?
    Because the blogs that discuss this point are filled with both sides of the debate shouting insults at each other rather than discussing the scientific point in question.
    It was also Duncan Steel’s fault for not putting his argument into a proper peer-reviewed journal. He had instead published it only in the unscientific Journal of Cosmology (as well as in his online blog). (I know this is a sign of an unscientific approach by Steel, but I do wish people would spend their time pointing out what is wrong with Steel’s arguments rather than insulting him (or praising him as the denialists do)). I want arguments not assessments of character.
    But this does illustrate that debate in this area has become most unproductive.

  8. @John Goss

    He had instead published it only in the unscientific Journal of Cosmology (as well as in his online blog). (I know this is a sign of an unscientific approach by Steel, but I do wish people would spend their time pointing out

    People do point out the lack of publication in a properly reviewed journal AFAIK.

    this does illustrate that debate in this area has become most unproductive

    Not much to debate when there is no publication in a properly reviewed journal.

  9. @Chris O’Neill
    I don’t see why a blog discussion can’t be a useful way of exploring a scientific issue. Not all truth is discerned by peer-reviewed interaction. But in the area of climate change science, people come to the discussion with pre-determined rigid positions so discussions and interactions are mostly unproductive. And in the process both sides get pushed further apart. Sad.

  10. I don’t see why a blog discussion can’t be a useful way of exploring a scientific issue.

    In principle, sure. But the qualities that make a blog article or discussion a credible primary source or meta-analysis are pretty much exactly the qualities that make an article publishable: “publishable” is not a high standard nor logistically particularly difficult. I mean, literally the worst research scientist in the world can throw together publishable articles.

    In the world we actually live in, in the context we’re actually talking about, we can treat “isn’t published” as “can’t be published” and we can treat “can’t be published” as “unworthy of further consideration”. It’s not like the fossil fuel companies are actually shy about funding published scientific articles, there’s decent amounts of ecological, geology and chemistry work that they do fund and do get published. But for what’s literally an existential threat to their business model to meet with the sort of silence we get is worthy of further comment, and honestly justification to start coming to some conclusions.

  11. @John Goss

    From my own experience, to tell the tale against myself, my blog discussion has been mostly about starting out and derping my priors. In this process, to defend my derp I have been forced to a do a “lot” of “research”; that is to say a risible amount of dubious quality compared to a real practitioner in the field, any field. Eventually, I have been forced to abandon some of my derp and some of my priors. Yet I still derp on about other stuff. I am addicted to derp.

    The best that can be hoped of blogs I think is that some inveterate derps like me are actually forced to retract some of our statements and modify some of our views. Occasionally I manage it.

  12. Thank you for your honest thoughts Ikonoclast. I am an eternal optimist about blogs (as I am about the economy and the environment), but discourse on blogs is always going to be a lot coarser than peer-reviewed journals, and I should accept that. I do enjoy blogs like this one though where John’s ruthless banning and warning leads to much more interesting discussion.

  13. Well this professional economist was a sceptic. Until events forced me to work on climate change economics for 5 rather boring years – with consequent forced reading. And the rather obvious finding that the sceptic experts are either in earth sciences or decrepit emirituses. Yes forceable exposure to the facts and research is the way to go.

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