The Logic and Boundaries of Scepticism

In response to a couple of my recent postings, William Connolley has made what I consider to be some pretty absurd statements. The lack of logic and the imprecision of language he uses have elements in common with the more mainstream believers in “climate science”. I consider some of these below, along with other statements.


Consider the statement

You’ve failed to realise that using the label “skeptic” doesn’t actually make you a skeptic.

Equally it does not mean that a person is wrong in using the label. Given the word has multiple broad definitions, demonstrating that another is not a genuinely a sceptic1 is extremely difficult.


I am sceptical of the statement “the majority of twentieth century warming was caused by the increase in GHGs“. In a respected dictionary I find two definitions that both apply to my scepticism

  1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
  2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.

If someone states a different definition of “sceptic“, (which they may have made up) it does not mean I am not sceptical. It just means that they are playing with words.

If someone says the statement is proven by scientific evidence they are wrong. Scientific statements are never proven, just failed to be falsified by the evidence.

If someone says that there is overwhelming scientific evidence in support of the above statement then they are wrong. There is insufficient data to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt at the moment. There may never be the evidence, as much of stored heat energy of the climate is in the oceans. Most of the twentieth century data necessary to establish the hypothesis is missing.

If someone says of the statement I am not sceptical, but instead denying the scientific consensus they would be wrong. Firstly, the consensus IPCC does exclude the possibility that a minority of the warming was increased by greenhouse gases. Check out the 2013 AR5 WG1 SPM to verify. Secondly, even if they did make the claim, given that the IPCC has in the past made knowledge claims that it no longer holds to (e.g. radiative forcing components and the hockey stick), I am justified in being sceptical of their abilities to get it right this time.

Further, if someone says of the statement I am not sceptical due denying the scientific consensus, they are using an evaluation criteria that I reject. They are free to believe it is a valid criteria, but I believe it is equivalent to “hearsay” evidence in law.

My rejection of the claim that the statement “twentieth century warming was human caused” as being essentially true does not make me unsceptical of the weaker first statement. Nor is it sufficient to claim that I reject the IPCC Consensus, as they make even weaker statements.


If someone were to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that a statement were true, then I would cease being sceptical. Personally I would accept the scientific evidence at a much lower level than that in support of the statements “smoking causes lung cancer”2 or “HIV causes AIDS”3.


On reflection the last statement is not quite correct when applied to climatology. In the past I would have accepted a scientific statement based on expert opinion, or reasonable scientific evidence. But on many levels the climate community have breached the trust which any reasonable member of the public might bestow on an expert. They have failed to draw upon the accumulated wisdom of other areas, such as philosophy of science, decision theory, diplomacy or public choice economics. They have rejected things I value, such as comparing and contrasting different viewpoints, recognizing one’s own bias and listening to others. They have embraced principles I dislike, such as marginalizing opponents, and censoring of opposing opinions. But most of all many will never countenance the possibility of their own fallibility.


If someone does not reject out of hand statements of Murray Salby (who rejects the notion that the rise in CO2 levels is human caused), it does not automatically mean they accept wholeheartedly what he says. Neither does posting articles on their blog mean they believe in what Salby says. There are a number of alternative reasons. For instance, they could feel that his sacking was not justified. Or they could mean the website owner is a pluralist in science, who believes that you should not reject new ideas out of hand. Or they could believe in academic freedom. Or they could be trying to act as a forum for different ideas. Instead, using that, or similar arguments shows an inability to consider other possibilities, or to countenance that those you oppose may have valid alternative positions. It is a normal human failing to deny the humanity of others, and one that I believe we should strive to counter. Further, those with high intelligence, coupled with dogmatic beliefs, are often those most guilty of casting those with opposing beliefs as being incapable of understanding their viewpoint.


Claims that doctorates in climatology (or related subjects) confer special skills or abilities, that non-scientists do not possess is just bluster. The subject has no established track record of understanding the climate system, but has plenty of excuses for failure. It ignores many distinctions learnt in other empirically-based subjects. But most of all, the subject demands belief in a particular scientific hypothesis. Any criticism of that hypothesis, or contradictory evidence, undermines their core beliefs. Thus being too close to the subject may be a positive disability in engagement. To counter this more traditional sciences have promoted belief in the scientific method rather than belief in the scientific hypothesis. Those areas with strong ideological beliefs, such as economics and politics, have in free societies recognized the values of pluralism.

Kevin Marshall

  1. In Britain, “skeptic” is spelt “sceptic”. So I use that spelling, except when quoting others.
  2. I discussed the evidence from Cancer Research UK here following an article at “The Conversation“.
  3. AVERT, an HIV and AIDS Charity based in the UK, gives a long and through article on the case for “HIV causes AIDS“. In terms of communication of their case, there is a lot that the climate community could learn from.

William Connolley’s “correction” of the dictionary

William Connolley, at Roy Spencer’s blog, claims that those who disagree with him are not skeptics.

He hyperlinks to his 2004 posting “Septics and skeptics; denialists and contrarians

Consider his definition of the word “skeptic”

the true definition of skeptic in this context is something like: 

skeptic [Gr. skeptiko`s thoughtful, reflective, fr. ske`ptesqai to look carefully or about, to view, consider] 1. One who is yet undecided as to what is true; one who is looking or inquiring for what is true; an inquirer after facts or reasons. 

(I got that from here and edited it lightly (update 2004/12/11: but! they’ve changed the page. Argh. OK, so for the moment you can get the version I saw from googles cache, and if that fails, the original source is Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. I’ve also created an entry atwictionary in frustration; and the same defn is also available from BrainyDictionaryAnyway you know what I mean…)). 

I got that from here and edited it lightly” is a confession that he manipulated the definition to suit his purposes.

The “light” editing is from to, whose current definition is.

1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.

2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.

3. a person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.

4. (initial capital letter) Philosophy.

a. a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece, the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible.

b. any later thinker who doubts or questions the possibility of real knowledge of any kind.

The first definition is about questioning something “purporting” to be factual. If somebody makes a claim that they earnestly believe to be true, they may not comprehend how anybody can be somewhat sceptical (or even incredulous) about those claims. Those who believe in alien abductions, for instance, may present “overwhelming” evidence to support that belief. If you try to convince them otherwise, you will be called stupid, or even as part of the conspiracy to discredit the truth.

The second definition is about a doubting attitude. There is nothing in those definitions that demarcates between good and bad scepticism. There can be a huge number of reasons for the doubt. For instance, a good marriage depends on trust. If one party has an affair, there will likely be a breakdown in that trust. The betrayed will now questions every statement and every motive. Once lost, that trust, it is very hard to regain – a point that Dale Carnegie makes in “How To Win Friends And Influence People“. Shifting blame, or failing to acknowledge fault, will only make matters worse.

However, given that it is worth having a healthy scepticism to any claims on the internet, a more reliable source is the printed word. My dictionary is a Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 1983 reprint edition. William Connolley, with a Dhil from Oxford, can hardly dispute its authority. This is what I wrote a couple of years ago:-

Definition 1 pertains to a school of philosophy after the Greek Pyrrho, which doubts the possibility of knowledge of any kind.

Definition 2 is someone who doubts the validity of knowledge claims in a particular area of inquiry. This includes, but is not confined to the natural sciences.

Definition 2.1 is “one who maintains a doubting attitude with reference to a particular question or statement”. The OED has this as the popular definition.

Definition 3 is one who doubts the truth of Christianity.

Definition 4 is one who is seeking the truth. That is “an inquirer who has not arrived at definite convictions”. This is only occasionally used, at least in the late 20th century.

Like with the definitions, there is no implied demarcation, between scepticism and denial of the truth. William Connolley’s definition is nearest to 4, implying that scepticism is transitional stage on the road to enlightenment or denial. But the oldest definition is denial of knowledge in general, and doubts of the truth of Christianity, can be a static state.

There are a huge number of possible reasons for the doubt that is scepticism. For instance, a good marriage depends on trust. If one party has an affair, there will likely be a breakdown in that trust. The betrayed will now question every statement and every action. Once lost, that trust it is very hard to regain – a point that Dale Carnegie makes in “How To Win Friends And Influence People“, although mostly with business relationships in mind. Shifting blame, or failing to acknowledge fault, will only make matters worse. William Connolley has helped betray the trust that people bestow on the authority of Wikipedia and in the authority of science. Rather than trying to restore that trust, he just makes comments that confirm people’s scepticism.

Kevin Marshall



Extreme Socialist-Environmentalist Ideation as Motivation for belief in “Climate Science”


Professors Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac have now produced papers two internet opinion surveys. The “Hoax” paper was from a survey placement on pro-climate science blogs. The second was from a cross-section of the US population. Both claim evidence that the rejection of “climate science” is associated with extreme “free-market worldviews”. I find two opinion surveys do show a clear relationship between the agreement with “free-market” statements and disagreement with the “climate science” statements. But in US survey clearly shows that extreme views on both “free-market” and “climate science” statements are held by tiny minorities, with most occupying the middle ground. Conversely the blog survey is dominated by responses that are both pro “climate science” and anti “free-market”. There is no evidence from the papers that enlightened expert scientists and their supporters are trying to save the world from an avoidable catastrophe, but plenty of evidence that people with strong and dogmatic political beliefs are using “climate science” as a vehicle to foist those beliefs on everybody else.



Professors Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac have now produced two opinion surveys that, they claimed certain political views were behind rejection of “climate science”. In “NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (hereafter LOG12 (blog survey)), they say

..we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science.

In “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science” (hereafter LOG13 (US survey)), they say

Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues.

I have previously looked at the other major claim of the two studies – that conspiracist ideation leads to a rejection of science. This claim I found to be false when looking at conspiracy theories unrelated to science or policy.

In examining the relationship, I first look at the “climate science” belief against aggregate “free-market” statements. This is then put in the context of number of respondents. Then I examine the evidence presented as to whether “climate science” informs political choices of its supporters, and for the contrary view.


Evidence for “Free-market” views and rejection of “Climate-Science”

For LOG13 (US survey) study I have plotted the distribution of belief in “climate science” against belief in “free-markets”. With five “free-market” statements and options 1 to 5, the possible scores are 5 to 25. Please note that the X axis is reversed. That is, moving from left to right increases with the rejection of free markets. This is plotted against the rounded average response to the four “climate science” questions1. This “climate science” band I have colour-coded by a traffic light system, with red for reject, amber for neutral and green for accept.

The highest scores for “free-market” statements have a preponderance of the red and pink for net reject of for “climate science”. Conversely, strong belief in “climate science” is related to anti “free-market” statements, with those with no net belief either way on climate most thickly spread over the middle ground of political opinion.

This is shown by the “climate science” acceptance ratios2 against the “free-market” scores.

The graph clearly shows that the higher the score for free markets, the greater the rejection of “climate science”. The reverse relationship is not so clear-cut. Responses with the most extreme anti “free-market” opinions are not the strongest accepters of “climate science”. Further those who are in middle on the political scale are also net neutral on the climate issue.

The LOG12 (blog survey) has one extra “free-market” statement. This I have ignored for this study. With only were only four responses to each statement the aggregate possible scores range for five statements 5 to 20. Lack of a neutral option means lack of the amber “climate science band”.

Even allowing for the absence of a neutral amber option, the proportion of respondents taking the more extreme positions on climate appears much greater. This is clarified by the climate acceptance ratios.

Compared with the US population, in the blog survey rejection of the “free-market” is a much stronger predictor of the acceptance of “climate science”. Conversely, acceptance of the “free-market” is not quite so strongly associated with rejection of “climate science”, but it is still a strong association.


Numbers of Respondents

In the above I have only looked at the split belief respondents for each “free-market” score. Including the number of respondents helps clarify the picture.


There is a normal distribution of responses on “free-market” beliefs. Over a quarter of responses were net neutral. The most frequent “climate science” band is amber, with 423 (42%) of responses. The overall climate acceptance ratio is 0.09. That is the American public are neutral on “climate science”, with “accepters” being almost exactly offset by “rejecters”. Strong belief in climate change is the preserve of a small minority. Further, although the majority of the 44 responses on climate band 5 net reject the “free-market”, 13 are net accepters and 3 are neutral. Every indication is that the American public does not view global warming a pressing problem.

So where do those who frequent “pro-climate science” blogs stand?

Compared to the US public, the vast majority of respondents on the blog survey were strongly anti-free-market and also presented a very strong belief in “climate science”. The dark green strong accepters of “climate science” form 69% of total responses, outnumbering the strong rejecters more than 10 to 1. In all the furore over the blog survey paper, there was little mention, apart from by me, that a study was published on a group of people that were a very small minority of the total responses, and accessed only from blogs that are virulently hostile to their views. But for that very reason, it becomes a very good survey of the beliefs of the most fervent supporters of “climate science”.

So which comes first for these dogmatic supporters? Is it the evidence of science that leads to the necessary political policies? Or is “climate science” just a means to subvert the democratic process, and impose extreme political or pseudo-religious beliefs?


Climate Science
lead or follow Political belief?

If belief in the projected harm of rising greenhouse gas levels, the policy used to combat that issue would be closely derived from it, and tailored to it. Much in the same way that cancer treatments are closely tailored to the needs of the patient, taking into account both the effectiveness and harms of the treatment. If it is the other way round, then there will be leaps of faith, and biases all over the place.

The evidence of the two papers, and the writings of lead author Stephen Lewandowsky, show the authors to be upholding political beliefs as the driver of belief in science. Examples include

  1. The LOG12 (blog survey) paper fails to reference any overwhelming scientific evidence in favour of the catastrophic global warming hypothesis. The evidence is that the vast majority of climate scientists believe in trivial propositions. There is no evidence presented of belief in extreme versions of “climate change” by the experts. Nor is there evidence that climate scientists” are free of the normal motivations for studying a subject. That is belief in the value of the subject.
  2. The use of the term “climate denial” suggests that, for the authors, “the catastrophic global warming hypothesis” is not a normal scientific hypothesis capable of falsification by the evidence, but a self-evident truth. Thus anybody who disagrees must do so from some errant thought processes. By implication, a “free-market worldview” is also based on a set of errant beliefs.
  3. The language of the LOG13 (US survey) suggests a bias. This quote from the introduction

    People who embrace a laissez-faire vision of the free market are …… than people with an egalitarian-communitarian outlook.

    The normal term for people with a “laissez-faire vision” is “libertarian”, with the antonym being “authoritarian”. The author’s outlook is more socialist and environmentalist. The authors avoid using more meaningful terms, as that would create prejudice against their conclusions.

  4. Failure to recognise bias in the questions. Three of the five “free-market” questions contrast with an “environmentalist” alternative. Therefore, it should be no surprise that a conclusion is reached that people with a libertarian outlook “are less likely to accept that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet than people with” socialist- environmentalist views.
  5. Failure to acknowledge that the rejection of “climate science” on political grounds could be because no distinction is made in the public domain between science and policy. People who question policy, whether of wind farms or rising costs of energy, are accused of science denial. Further, the LOG12 (blog survey) shows that the strongest supporters of “climate science” believe the association.
  6. Failure to acknowledge that the language of “climate science” is similar to the language of politics, as opposed to the language of hard sciences or engineering. Particularly when some of the short-term prophesies have been contradicted, we get mealy-mouthed excuses and ex-poste justifications. Mike Haseler’s recent survey of opinions from sceptic blogs found

    ..that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals, most degree-qualified and around a third with post-graduate qualifications.

    People used to precise measurements and judging success by results will think “climate scientists” talk rubbish. On the other hand, mainstream politicians will understand it.

The overwhelming evidence for catastrophic climate change, the analysis of policy effectiveness and the guidelines for effective policy implementation are totally lacking.


Final Comments

What is clear from the US survey is that those with extreme belief in both climate science and socialist-environmentalist views are very few. Further, the studies present no evidence that the “scientific” views are anything more than something that those with extreme left beliefs have arrogated to push their dogmatic opinions. Yet climate mitigation means essentially removing individual freedom on certain lifestyles and democratic choice from energy policy, placing it in the hands of people with extremist and intolerant beliefs. It is not just people who oppose “climate change” who will be no longer have their opinions represented, but (in the case of the USA) the vast majority of the population.

I have found these results by various trying different hypotheses, along with comparing and contrasting between the two surveys. I have only shown my results graphically. The statistical significance of the conclusions can be calculated by others. The key relationship is in the blog survey, for the 955 responses that express overall support for the climate science statements (score 11 to 16). Magnitude of disagreement with the “free-market statements” is a strong predictor of magnitude of support for the “climate science”.

There is also a need for evaluations of the surveys by professional opinion pollsters and occupational psychologists, with experience of setting opinion surveys.

All first time comments are moderated. Please use the comments as a point of contact. I will not publish approaches in this way. All email addresses are treated as confidential. The opinions expressed are my own, and I have received no funding for this work.

Kevin Marshall

 Note – “Out of Office” until 11th Aug


  1. Climate Science Bands

    In the LOG13 questionnaire there were 5 options, from 1 for “strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree”. For each respondent, the “Climate Science Band” is obtained by the rounding the average of the questions to the nearest whole number. These bands are traffic light coded as below.

    LOG12 (blog survey) did not have a neutral option, hence there is no amber.


  2. Acceptance Ratio

    There are two issues with using the average responses. First is that a negative response is a positive number. Second is that LOG12 had only four possible responses for each question, whereas LOG13 had five with the addition of a middle neutral, option. The Acceptance Ratio converts the responses as follows.

    Please note, that the calculation of the acceptance ratio is calculated from average responses to all the “climate change” questions and not on the average of the “Climate change bands.


  3. The five “Free-market” statements

    FMUnresBest     An economic system based on free markets unrestrained by government interference automatically works best to meet human needs.

    FMLimitSocial     The free market system may be efficient for resource allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice. (R)

    FMMoreImp     The preservation of the free market system is more important than localized environmental concerns.

    FMThreatEnv     Free and unregulated markets pose important threats to sustainable development. (R)

    FMUnsustain     The free market system is likely to promote unsustainable consumption. (R)




The Cassandra Effect and Insulting Climate Sceptics

There are two articles published today that are related. Bishop Hill posts about the “reverse Cassandra effect” and Jo Nova comments on Matt Ridley’s article in today’s Times on THE SCEPTICS ARE RIGHT. DON’T SCAPEGOAT THEM.

Bishop Hill refers to a Wired article on the late Julian Simon published some years ago:-

Simon always found it somewhat peculiar that neither the Science piece nor his public wager with Ehrlich nor anything else that he did, said, or wrote seemed to make much of a dent on the world at large. For some reason he could never comprehend, people were inclined to believe the very worst about anything and everything; they were immune to contrary evidence just as if they’d been medically vaccinated against the force of fact. Furthermore, there seemed to be a bizarre reverse-Cassandra effect operating in the universe: whereas the mythical Cassandra spoke the awful truth and was not believed, these days “experts” spoke awful falsehoods, and they were believed. Repeatedly being wrong actually seemed to be an advantage, conferring some sort of puzzling magic glow upon the speaker.

I believe that the Cassandra effect is still working. What is relevant is how you view awful. Take a classic example of the Cassandra effect. Ignaz Semmelweis found that doctors washing their hands between examining each patient reduced mortality rates. The implied “awful” truth that every experienced hospital doctor in 1840s Vienna had to accept was that, due to their ignorance, they had killed people when they were in the business of saving lives.

But for environmentalists the “scientific truth” that the human race is destroying the planet confirms their beliefs. Politicians whose mission is to make a real difference to the world – an honourable motive – can now take part in saving the planet from an evil menace. Maybe not as spectacularly as James Bond, or Flash Gordon, but they can still expect to receive plaudits and a place in history. Or at least a pat on the back from green activists in Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun….

For those who believe materialism is ultimately depraved; or humankind is inherently sinful; or capitalism will collapse through its inherent contradictions; or the rich got where they are through trampling over those like themselves; – all can latch onto the cause as well. For all these people the awful truth for the world is not so awful for them.

This is why the Cassandra effect is still very much with us. The awful truth is that politicians now find themselves in the same position of those doctors in 1840s Vienna. When they thought they were saving the world, they are in fact harming the futures of their constituents. As Matt Ridley points out in the Times today of climate change:-

Sceptics say it is not happening fast enough to threaten more harm than the wasteful and regressive measures intended to combat it. So far they have been right.

My next article will show that even the most extreme climate change believers can postulate a big enough harm from climate change than the wasteful and regressive measures intended to combat it.

Kevin Marshall

Answering Michael the Realist

The summary conclusion I reach from this posting is

Cherry-picking is being selective, to confirm one’s prejudices. To use all the available data is (according to Michael) the sign of a true skeptic. So (a) Michael is right, therefore wrong (b) Michael is wrong, therefore right (c) Michael contradicts himself. I cannot think of any other logical category.

One of the issues I find with the blogs on climate, and particularly with many of the comments, is that many believe that the arguments hinge on a single piece of data, or on the weight of opinion. There is also a lot of denigration of others but no substantiation. The reason I chose “Michael the Realist” was because he was trolling Jo Nova’s blog, whingeing that nobody would answer his ridiculous points, which were totally out of context with the theme. When I do a search on “Michael the Realist”, in one posting I get 37 hits out of 297 comments. This understates the way he sought to hijack the debate. A couple of comments he made are at the foot, with comments by Joanne Nova

My subsequent postings with direct answers to his questions met with no acknowledgement that I may have anything useful. I fully realise that I could be fundamentally wrong somewhere, or rejecting good strong arguments for superficial reasons. Climate is an enormously complex issue. The study of climate is an applied science, requiring drawing upon a range of skills from a variety of areas. I have therefore listed, and explained, the fundamental issues that climate science ignores. It is from the study of the philosophy of science, economics, econometrics, accountancy, and history. I also draw analogies with principles of trial by jury in English Common Law. Over hundreds of years there has developed principles for establishing whether a claim is proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. The people that need convincing are ordinary people. It is an analogy that the PR people should draw upon.

The fundamental issues are listed below. In some cases I will refer to only the letter for brevity.

A Positive and Normative

B Boundary conditions

C Open and closed questions

D Trivial v. Non-trivial

E Quality

F False Positives and False Negatives

G Relevancy and significance

H Necessary and Sufficient

I Levels of evidence

J Values of the Legal Process in Reverse

K Underdetermination Thesis

L Vulnerability

M The Null Hypothesis

To retain the flow I will post my previous comments in orange, and Michaels in green. New comments are in black. This exchange took place here and here.

  1. Your so called “proof” of AGW is lacking something. It has data on the alleged effect (C20th warming), but no data on the alleged cause – human greenhouse gas emissions. Do you agree?

    No. It is warming, this fits the theory of AGW as greenhouse gas emissions are increasing K. Natural factors are examined and cannot be the cause. All other predictions of AGW caused warming are also occurring, including falling ph in the oceans D, melting Arctic D, falling global ice volume D, rising sea levels D, increasing extreme weather especially floods D, heat waves D and droughts D and much more. Also
    F applies to weather trends.

    There is no other plausable explanation put forward that I have seen yet.

  2. Above I show there is no apparent link between C20th CO2 emissions and the pattern of warming.

    That is incorrect. C CO2 emission have been increasing and temps have been rising, plus all the other observations. Both rose in the C20th, but I claim that “the relationship of CO2 emissions to average temperature is weak.” I look beyond the simplistic statement, and Michael does not.

  3. If I used HADCRUT4 or GISSTEMP, the fit would be closer, but still have anomalies.

    The trend with GISS, even against the satelites is the same. So unless Michael is claiming that HADCRUT4 and GISSTEMP is the same as HADCRUT3 (thus contradicting his earlier claim that HADCRUT3 was out of date), then they are only the same in an unscientific, cherry-picking sort of way. So there are three option here. First, we trust the Michael who says HADCRUT3 is out-of-date and thus inferior to HADCRUT4 and GISSTEMP. Second, we trust the Michael who says HADCRUT3 gives the same results as HADCRUT4 and GISSTEMP. Third we conclude that Michael does not know what he is talking about.

  4. Pages 2K shows considerable natural fluctuations, including two previous warm periods in the last 2000 years. Maybe not as much at in Esper et al 2012 (published in Nature), but there nonetheless. In the absence of an accurate and clear method of deciphering the human signal from the natural signal, it is easier to assert that C20th warming was predominantly due to natural factors, than >100% due to human factors. (The AR4 of 2007 had aerosols as offsetting much of the GHG effect.)

    Natural factors do indeed exist, but just because we have less information about past natural factors than present ones does not nullify how much we know about present ones. G, I, L, M Most significant natural factors that we can measure and are currently aware of since the 50′s have been cooling. (Unsubstantiated claim) . Also the 2001 to 2010 decade, the hottest on the instrumental record, has been significantle in the grip of cooling la ninas and falling solar. (Unsubstantiated claim) Despite that it is still hotter than the previous decade with predominantly warming el ninos. (Answered here, which Michael has not contradicted) This is the proof that you are wrong, I even skeptic scientists expected it to cool by now. It is not cooling because it is being overwhelmed by greenhouse gas warming.

  5. Given that the GISSTEMP shows much a greater warming spurt in the late C20th than the second half, and that most the extreme rise is in the Northern Hemisphere (especially the Arctic), is it not surprising that the Pages 2K proxies have most of the Arctic and European warming in the early C20th, with little warming thereafter?

    The fastest warming is in the second half, with .5 degree rise snce the 50′s. Repeats what I said about GISSTEMP, but does not engage with the significant bit – that the Pages2K temperature reconstruction contradicts the GISSTEMP temperature record. Pages2K (Michael promotes) appears more in line with HADCRUT3 (Michael rejects as being out-of-date) than GISSTEMP (Michael promotes).

  6. Given a lack of comment to the contrary, you accept that your claims about hottest decades is not evidence against warming having stopped. Rather it is what Stephen Lewandowsky terms “misinformation”.

    No, as I have pointed out, when you take all the science, information and data into account, it is clearly still warming. That statement only works if all your (lack of) science comes from an eyeball look at a cherry picked portion of a graph out of context and ignoring all other data. People, like David Whitehouse of the GWPF, have looked at the surface temperature over the last 15 years or so and found there is no statistically significant warming. Even Nature Climate Change has a peer-reviewed paper showing that the recent warming over the last 20 years is a lot less than the climate models predicted, and agrees that no significant warming in the last 15 years. (see quote in Appendix 2) Note the difference in the periods of the last two sentences. It is a matter of degree. So Michael falls foul of H and I, as established in the peer-reviewed science. Will Lewandowsky and Cook (a) now acknowledge that one of their own spreads “misinformation” (b) declare “Michael the Realist” an outsider (c) duck the issue and implicitly deny that somebody who agrees with the “science” could be more of an “eccentric” than some of the skeptic scientists.

  7. That your definition of “Skeptic” is completely at odds with the premier dictionary of the English Language.

    I use skeptic to be kind and because if I use the term that more accurately describes your behavour I get fake indignation. I actually believe myself to be the skeptic as I look at all the data and information with an open mind. This referred to Michael’s definition of “skeptic” here and my follow-up here. The definition he used was

    A true skeptic is somebody who looks at all the data, science and observations and makes rational and logical determinations on that…

    So Michael does use the term skeptic to refer not to me, but himself. Despite being pointed to the definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary, he still persists in promoting a falsity.

Also from the same comment.

On Correlations

This pearl of wisdom from Michael.

Even your graph above shows fairly good correlation with CO2 and temperature.

Correlations are obtained from running statistical tests against the numbers. It is purely obtained from eyeballing the data – which anybody who understood data would not do. If Michael, the self-proclaimed expert on climate science, wants to run the appropriate correlations, and report on whether they are “good” or not by the appropriate statistical tests, then I will provide them with the data. I will also provide the Excel spreadsheets (raw data and adjusted data) to anybody else who requests it. They can then run this data for CO2 emissions against any temperature set they see fit. It will not be easy, as the test is for a non-linear, time-series correlation. As such a battery of tests are required.

Michael’s opener on my blog is

Your cherry picking again. Your use of hadcrut 3, a superseded non global data set is a dead giveaway and then choosing specific proxies that match your confirmation bias.

I went to CO2, where they summarize all the available proxies. From those that show estimates of average temperatures estimates since the medieval warm period, they produced this graph.

Cherry-picking is being selective, to confirm one’s prejudices. To use all the available data is (according to Michael) the sign of a true skeptic. So (a) Michael is right, therefore wrong (b) Michael is wrong, therefore right (c) Michael contradicts himself. I cannot think of any other logical category.

A couple of comments by “Michael the Realist”, with bold-type comments by Joanne Nova.

Michael the Realist August 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm · Reply

I also do not ignore responses. I hope you can appreciate that I work for a living and so by the time I get back on it is hard to work out whom has replied to whom and when. So keeping up is a huge issue. THere is one of me and I get attacked by 10+ of you guys. If someone would pay me then I could devote full time to this but I doubt that will happen. I reply to as many as possible.
I’m unpaid too. Do your research before you comment. – Jo

As to repetition, the main arguments from skeptics revolve around 3 areas.
1. There is no consensus, or there is a global conspriracy

[Dishonest or ignorant. This is not remotely a “main” argument. On this site almost everyone agree there is a consensus among climate scientists — the issue is that it’s meaningless. You pretend I talk about a conspiracy. Our main point is the empirical evidence. – jo

The post above with the list of scientific organisations puts those claims to bed. It is not feasable to maintain those views when organisations as far apart as China, US, Russia, Mexico, Peru, France, Canada, India, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Japan, Turkey etc, just to name a few all agree in the science of AGW.

[Consensus proves nothing about the atmosphere. It can be bought (with say $100 bn in science grants) or bullied or a genuine mistake from groupthink. Scientific consensus has been wrong many times before. Name which of these agencies actually surveyed it’s members? Ans None, apart from 2 or 3 surveys on tightly defined and annointed “climate scientists”. The other statements come from 6 – 8 activists in a committee in each group, are meaningless and have been protested by thousands of members of the major groups. I have covered all this over and over, you don’t respect us enough to read my site before arriving here to lecture us repeatedly on a topic we know better than you. – Jo]

2.The models are wrong
I avoid the models completely in discussions as I want to stick to the actual data and observations. The models are useful, and have been really accurate in many areas, because you cannot put the planet in a test tube, isolate variables and see what happens. But as I have pointed out many times, they are still just projections based on ceratin scenarios and reality is always going to be slightly different due to natural variations that are not completely predictable (like ENSO), lack of computing power and accuracy due to grid sizes, and the parameters like how much CO2 or aerosols emitted being different to that entered. The science is not based on the models, it is based on the physics, data and observations, and I make my points on those basis.

[The models are broken and even alarmists admit that now. They have not been accurate about anything that matters. This is blather you can’t back up. Read my “new Here” post. We agree with alarmists on physics, but not on feedbacks, you’ve been misled and are waging the wrong war. – Jo]

3. Warming stopped 16 years ago, or there is a pause etc.
This is answered by the fact that it is a dynamic system with natural and anthropogenic forcings and that even though there are many dips and pauses in the long term record the trend is up. I prove that the 2001 to 2010 decade was the hottest on record globally, over ocean, land and both hemispheres, and that every decade bar 1 in a hundred years has been hotter than the previous one. Using years in such a complicated system is deception becasue it has to many natural cycles to make judgements that way. I show the ENSO charts to prove that the current 13 years have been mainly la nina, but temperatures have not fallen and the period is still hotter than the decade with predominantly el ninos. I show skeptic scientists who have predicted cooling due to natural factors, but this has not occurred. This proves warming is occurring as it has overpowered natural factors. This has not been able to be explained away by your readers using any properly scientifically accepted theories and data. Is this why you are blocking me.

[Since I’ve published over 700 of your comments, will you apologize for dishonestly suggesting I am blocking you? _Jo]
[As as for the “pause” read my last comment again. Even if is still warming in the long term trend, the models are broken and the 300 years of warming does not correlate to CO2.- Jo]

As to the repetition, I would say that 90% of your posters postings are based around those 3 themes so the repetition is all here.

[You start and amplify these themes by posting 700 comments on exactly these points. That’s why commenters get so angry. You drive threads off topic and into these inane repetitious channels. Jo]

Obviously since I am using accepted sceince…

[You don’t know what science is. Logical fallacies are not “Science”. – Jo]

…and data my answers are not going to change. The posters will repeatedly not accept my answers and keep posting the same questions over and over and over again (Heywood especially but many others) Why are they not being moderated? If I have answered a question but asked it again how should I respond?

[Stop taking the threads off topic and repeating errors and you won’t get caught in the same loops. – Jo]

So I have valid answers to all queries that clearly point to a consensus

[Which means nothing in science… -Jo]

and clearly answers why there is a pause,

[Trenberth, Jones and Mann don’t know why there is a pause, if you do, you should write to them, quick, they need you! -Jo]

using previous periods is not proof of anything unless you can put forward measurements to show that natural factors were not the cause. Currently natural factors are not the cause, they can be measured and determined. That being the case, to promote delay and to not accept the science, for what I can presume are only ideological reasons, is not the right thing to do. There is more than enough evidence for concern and to justify action, until the science and the data start pointing the other way. The consequences are to severe.

Obviously being moderated this might not (likely) be posted, but I hope you actually read it and think about it. My only motivation is my kids and they do not deserve the short shrift they are getting in regards to the future planet we are leaving them.

[Your kids deserve better science – we’re happy to help them have a future with less corruption, better reasoning, and based on evidence – Jo]

Michael the Realist August 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm · Reply

Michael, I don’t want to moderate you or block you. I want you to learn what our basic position is so you can argue at a level commenters will enjoy. I want debate, and I want people to point out where we might be wrong, but repeating logical fallacies is too basic a level. Perhaps I should write an FAQ? _Jo

You still haven’t provided a working email address. You are now on the moderated list until you do

I have not been dishonest about questioning my blocking.

You’ve posted 700 comments repeating the same points many times. You have not been blocked. It’s dishonest to say you have.

I have been told that my address is false as I have not responded but I have responded many times, and you have replied. I work, check when I can, the replies come into the hundreds, I will scroll through trying to pick up which ones applied to me. It is easy to miss individual ones, your email does not come in special, it just looks like it is from the list.

Yes you work to but most of your posters do your work for you, I have many more responses to answer personally than you do.
Wow. That is some delusional framework you are creating there. Or perhaps you don’t read my posts? -Jo

My query above has been unable to be successfully answered with any firm science.

What query? I suspect there is no answer anyone could give you… – Jo

That is why they get angry, they cannot answer it. It is based on actual data and observations, not models. I attempt to be as polite as possible and I try to answer as much as possible, repetition comes from them asking me the same questions over and over and making the same complaints. Do you find Heywoods million questions on how much in deg c Australias emissions reductions will reduce temps? I don’t, it is not about one country or minute temps it is about global responsibility and consequences, thats what everybody is resonding to. Do you find blackadder throwing in vikings, without any references as an argument that disproves AGW? What about all the personal questions about why I have kids and drive a car? You say my questions are irrelevent to the science, do you ever question supporters?

[Yes I do. I send emails to commenters privately. Theirs works. They respond before they write another 14 comments. – Jo]

I am not sure what you are after now. Do you want me to go through point by point on your evidence list? Do you want it done on this thread or that one? Can you answer clearly where my logic above is wrong and prove it so that I can be secure in my childrens future?

Read your emails before you write comments asking for answers I have sent you.
PS No I don’t want to tutor you on any thread. 
Argument from authority is a logical fallacy known for 2300 years. It isn’t evidence about the climate.


Appendix 2 – The Nature Climate Change paper.

The inconsistency between observed and simulated global warming is even more striking for temperature trends computed over the past fifteen years (1998–2012).

For this period, the observed trend of 0.05 ± 0.08 °C per decade is more than four times smaller than the average simulated trend of 0.21 ± 0.03 °C per decade… It is worth noting that the observed trend over this period — not significantly different from zero — suggests a temporary ‘hiatus’ in global warming. 

Ed Davey’s anti-science, anti-British and anti-Liberal attack on Climate Sceptics

Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Climate and Energy has, according to the Telegraph recently said

“Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue.

I agree that there are uncertainties with climate science. But if you only allow believers in that “science” to contribute, without any training in decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, then the conclusions drawn out of that research will be wrong.

“But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups,”

Such as the Guardian, the BBC, or central government departments? It can work both ways.

“This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing.”

Are you speaking of sceptics or of climatology? You must first establish that climatology is not just a science, but is a science of the highest standards.

“This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.”

Matthew 7:3-5 says

Why do you stare at the splinter in your neighbour’s eye, but ignore the plank in your own? How can you say to your neighbour “Here – let me get the splinter out of your eye,” when you’ve got the plank in your own? You’re just play-acting! First take the plank out of your own eye, then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your neighbour’s eye.”

These two thousand year old words, translated by Tom Wright (Britain’s leading New Testament Scholar and former Bishop of Durham), show the issue of climatology. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky or Bob Ward, or desmogblog are some of the “planks” that deliberately blind and prejudice people from examining the evidence, moral and political arguments for themselves. Putting in a milder fashion, you cannot say that people are wrong, or have a massively inferior argument, if you cannot first demonstrate that you are on the side of truth, or encourage others compare and contrast your arguments with the opponents. As I posted last week, there is a strong lack of a positive case for the science. As I posted last week, this should be a combination of trumpeting the short-term predictive successes, showing that climate science build on the traditions of the greatest scientists and philosophies of science and also of the moral case covered below.

“This tendency will seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty and portray it as proof that all climate change policy is hopelessly misguided.”

Rubbish. Criticism of policy is often for separate reasons to scientific uncertainty. The argument is that the costs of policy are far greater than then benefits. Some of the policy might be totally ineffective, or in trying to reduce CO2 emissions may make people less capable of dealing with the impacts, through making them poorer.

He added: “By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped so we can all relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want without a care.”

Sceptics say that climatologists selectively read the evidence. Many would say that increased CO2 provides net benefits, and I do not come across any blog that we should create general pollution without a care. Many of the leading sceptic blogs (WUWT, BishopHill, Jo Nova) accept that increased greenhouse gases will lead to some level of warming, but not a significant one. As put by Warren Meyer, most sceptics deny the catastrophe, not the basic science.

“Those who argue against all the actions we are taking to reduce emissions, without any serious and viable alternative, are asking us to take a massive gamble with the planet our children will inherit, in the face of all the evidence, against overwhelming odds.”

I believe that morally politicians should act like medical professionals. They should have a duty of care towards the patient. That duty should be based on the reasonable expectation that treatment will leave the patient better off than not being treated at all. If anyone claims that climatology and public-policy making have the same level of knowledge of diagnosis and treatment as medical professionals and pharmacy on such ailments as common cancers or arthritis, then they are wrong. I would say that climate “ethics” needs to catch up with medical ethics as well.

Finally, let me point to four areas where Ed Davey is severely out of line.

First, my late father voted for the Liberal Party for over 50 years at every election – bar at one local election where no Liberal was standing. Then he voted for the underdog Conservative candidate. He believed in the consensus through seeking the middle ground, a thoroughly British trait. This middle ground was the opposite of the extremism of climatology, which is increasingly about demeaning the opposition and denying them a platform to speak.

Second, a virtue of English Common Law is that of letting the accused have the same rights of presentation, and to have the same rules of evidence as for the prosecution. This is not in the belief that the most notorious criminals can get off scot free. It is because the most guilty who proclaim their innocence will most convince an independent jury of their guilt as their lies and ridiculous stories unravel. On the other side, if the prosecution, convinced of the guilt of the accused perverts or supresses the evidence, the later unravelling of the case will undermine the rule of law. It did with the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, men falsely sentenced for heinous crimes that they did not commit. Another example is that I strongly believe that those who do not accept that around six million Jews were massacred in the Nazi genocide should not be silenced. Rather, comparing their evidence will the overwhelming evidence of the historical truth will demonstrated that there is no debate, and those deniers are have an inability to assess the evidence. Silencing such views will lead to false conspiracy theories that there is something to hide.

Third, is the British sense of fair play. The very British idea of having a level playing field is not unconnected to the fact that most major sports are British inventions, or have been strongly influenced by British rule-making. Winning is not at any cost is not the point. It is playing the game to the best of one’s ability. There is a lesson in life as well. Somebody might be far superior in a sport, or in science, or in any intellectual field, than anyone else alive. But it is only by going head-to-head with others that everyone will be convinced. But in losing in sport, we go back and try harder. If we are beaten in science, we are forced to re-examine our conclusions, and may improve. Finding out where we went wrong, or how to improve from failures is a general lesson in life. Within wider society it leads to improvement.

Fourth is something very anti-British. The most evil powers, whether governments, religious cults or tribal gangs, are those who assert their power by belittling and silencing others. Ed Davey and climatologists are not in their league by any means. But they fall into a false sense of superiority by demeaning others. It is a very human trait to practice this, but has mostly held back humanity.

The previous Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, earlier this year convicted of perverting the course of justice, was similarly dogmatic. Why there should be two ministers so at odds with the older philosophy of the moderate Liberal Party traditions is the subject of the next post.

Three Positive Ways to Counter Climate Denial

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am deeply sceptical of the whole global warming scare. That stems from trying to compare and contrast the arguments through understanding different positions. One element I found coming to the fore is trying to shut down any criticism by maligning of opponents through untruths, derogatory comments and questioning of motives. A recent example of is Paul Syvrets’ attack on Jo Nova, a Vince Whirlwind’s follow up to my comment.

Suppose for one moment that alarmists of being on the side of science, and hold the fundamental truth about the coming apocalypse unless the human race repents of its evil ways. As climate science is based on public relations, I would suggest that the whole approach of attacking opponents and shutting them out of the media is a PR disaster. Tell somebody they are wrong and smearing them will get their backs up and help persuade others you are not on the side of truth. Now scientific models are too difficult for the lay public to understand, and outputs ambiguous to the uninitiated.

Let me suggest three, very positive, ways of winning over people from the “false prophets of climate denial”.

First is building up a track record in predictions

As I have often read, only true climate scientists can understand the science. But people will understand when through the using the climate models clear, bold predictions are made that later come true. Nobody will expect a 100% hit rate, but a good track record will be sufficient to convert the most waverers.

Let me help out with some examples, which I am sure some climate scientists can complete.

  1. More than twenty years ago the models predicted a continuing upward trend in global surface temperatures if greenhouse gases emissions were not severely curtailed. Emissions have exceeded our worst expectations so…..
  2. In 2000 in both Britain and Germany, it was predicted that children would grow up no knowing what snow was. The decreasing can trend can be found ……
  3. Following the massive heat wave in Europe in 2003, it was predicted that would extreme heat waves would become more frequent. This trend is shown….
  4. Following Hurricane Katrina, it was predicted that would be an upward trend in these severe storms. The evidence can be found……
  5. In 2007 the UNIPCC predicted that climate change could lead to a drop fall in crop yields by up to 50% in some African countries by 2020. The latest evidence to support this prediction consists of…..
  6. One of the most visible signs of warming is the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro. This continuing trend can be found…..
  7. One of the direst predicted consequences of global warming is accelerating sea level rise. The latest data demonstrating this trend can be found at…
  8. One of the biggest contributors to sea level rise is melting of the polar ice caps. Velicogna and Wahr 2006 predicted that the contribution to sea level rise from Greenland alone would rise from zero to over 1mm per annum between 2002 and 2012. The actual data to support this is to be found……



Second is that the doubters believe that climate scientists practice pseudo-science.

To counter this

  • Show that the methods are in the tradition of the greatest scientists like Newton, Pasteur, Einstein and Feynman. Where different, explain why climate science’s methods are superior, or more appropriate.
  • Define clearly the boundaries of climate science, and the different skills and specialisms within it. People might then start appreciating what how complex and diverse the subject actually is.
  • Demonstrate how climate science learns from the different philosophies of science.
  • Demonstrate how climate science utilizes basic distinctions of philosophy. For instance the differences between open and closed questions, between positive and normative statements and between a priori and empirical statements.
  • Show how, like in the field of medical science, climate science is advancing and over-turning or modifying previously held views through better quality analysis.
  • Climate science needs to draw upon a number of areas. Demonstrating how the science draws upon specialists in statistics, forecasting and other disciplines where it overlaps.
  • Show how proper controls are being implemented and adhered to in order to prevent any conflicts of interest from, for instance, the same people creating temperature sets who are also the trying to vigorously promote their theories.

Third is the support of policy controls

Medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies fully realise that whilst medication properly diagnosed can deliver huge benefits, it can also generate great harm if there is not a proper diagnosis, or the incorrect medication or dosage of that medication was prescribed. Similarly, there would be great alarm if the armed forces did not have proper control of their weapons, so that rogue elements could seize control of those weapons to start an insurrection.

From a policy point of view, the UNIPCC in the Summary for Policymakers in 2007 that

Peer-reviewed estimates of the social cost of carbon in 2005 average US$12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2).

Given that it would be totally immoral to impose policy whose consequences are more damaging that the issue it is supposed to alleviate, proposals for the proper implementation and control of policy are to be found ……

I welcome any discussion or debate on these issues. If you have more examples, or help with links, please use the comments.

Kevin Marshall

Update 29/05/13 23.56

To encourage debate , left the following comment at

In any realm of life, calling people names, or making claims that they think are false will only get their backs up. Further blocking them from any access to the media will generate the idea they are a victimized minority.
The best public relations present positive images about one’s own ideas. Negative images of opponents always backfire. I have made three suggestions how this might be done.
First, loudly proclaim the predictions of climate change that have come true.
Second, counteract the claims of pseudo-science by demonstrating that climate science not only builds of the greatest scientists and philosophies of science, but enhances them.
Third, disperse the claims about pursuing high-risk policies, by proposing safeguards and audit checks against them being usurped by profiteers and swindlers.

Update 30/05/2013 03.00

Watching the Deniers says:

Nice comment. Thanks for posting it.

I hope this leads to positive discussion, and recognition that there are legitimate positions that can be taken contrary to one’s own. 

Update 30/05/2013 00.19

Have also contacted at with the following.

As you are experts in public relations, you must realize that negative images against opponents will create a group of “victims” who will garner support from the alleged “oppression” by the media. Much better is to present positive image of climate science. I have suggested three ways this could be done at my blog.

Best Regards
Kevin Marshall

Update 02/06/2013 20.40

Posted to the Guardian  here:-

Why all this negativity? Imagine if a similar public relations campaign was launched against those who deny that six million Jews died in the Holocaust? Headline would be

“Deniers of the Holocaust are wrong because they disagree with 99.9% of expert historians.”

It would have just created an underclass of believers in denial, claiming that the “truth” was being suppressed. I know that projections about the future are more difficult to persuade people of than historical facts, but a positive public relations campaign might include:- 
1. Short-term predictive successes. A track record of bold predictions that turn out true is highly persuasive.
2. Showing that climate science is building on traditions of the greatest scientists and philosophies of science.
3. Third is the support of policy controls. Many nay-sayers point to alleged policy failures that enrich businesses at the expense of the poor. Campaigning for independent auditing of policy outcomes would show concern for wider society.

Reply to Hengist McStone’s “Climate Truthers and 9/11 Skeptics”

At the Heretics Corner blog of Hengist McStone has a posting “Why can’t we have climate truthers and 911 skeptics?” My comment, which I am about to submit is:-

Your statement that

“running through the heart of climate skepticism is the belief that truth about climate science has been suppressed”

is a new one on me. Major climate sceptic blogs (WUWT, Jo Nova, BishopHill) do not see a hiding of the truth, but that a lot of spurious claims are based on very little evidence and of prophesies that fail to come true. They also point to other ways of looking at the data. They would agree that the public is being misled, but this is about the quality of the science, and ultimately the very definition of what is called “science”.

There is a huge weight of evidence for 911 being an act of al-Qaeda terrorism, with no assistance from the CIA. Similarly there is a huge weight of evidence for millions of Jews being killed in the Holocaust and that the average adult smoking 60 cigarettes a day from age 18 will live a much shorter and unhealthier life than the average adult who never inhales a single lung full.

Analogy with these different strongly-supported propositions can be in three areas. The first is on based on numbers of expert supporters of a proposition. The second is showing that there is similarly very strong evidence. The third is showing that techniques and standards of outside from other areas are utilized.

Use of the first area is attempting to gain credibility by association. The second area would make analogy and name-calling superfluous. The third area is contradicted by claims that only expert climate scientists can divine the real truth.

Perhaps another analogy would help. Suppose that a popular and charismatic celebrity is accused of rape of young children. Despite the overwhelming evidence showing that person’s guilt the accused vehemently denies the charges and many who idolise that person make all sorts of spurious claims about the evidence and the victims. What would be the best course of action?

  1. Dispense with a trial due to the overwhelming evidence, then deny a voice to those who not believing that their idol is guilty, question the evidence. Furthermore, mount a propaganda campaign against “evidence deniers” and “supporters of paedophilia”.
  2. Have a fair trial, even funding the defence, so that people can see the evidence being presented and challenged. If the evidence is overwhelming, the idolizers will be silenced.

I would suggest that the first course of action is taken by those who dogmatic belief in their being right is based upon very little evidence.  Widely applied would undermine people’s faith in the ability of the court system to achieve justice, thereby undermining the rule of law. Widespread practice will result in highly repressive regimes, often with discrimination against sections of the community, in particular anyone who challenges orthodoxy. The second approach might sometimes result in the guilty getting found not guilty on a technicality, or getting found guilty of lesser crimes. But pursuit of the highest standards will win over the doubters and gain support for the rule of law. This is the thinking that led to the development of the trial by jury system in Anglo-Saxon England. If you give people a fair and open trial, then others will trust authority. If you let a ruler or appointed expert divine the truth, then, even when they consistently get decisions right there will be distrust. If they are perceived to get things wrong, or the process is hidden from public view, then distrust will emerge.

In a similar fashion, supporters of climatology are making a massive public relations blunder. Rather than engaging in open debate, and encouraging people to analyse the differing arguments they make false analogies, misrepresent the opponents and discourage people from questioning, or comparing differing points of view. 

97% of Climate Scientists claim they are not “Climate Deniers” Survey

In the back of my mind on analysing Charles Hanich‘s bogus Climate & Science questionnaire recently, was another, more prominent, survey. The 2009 questionnaire by Peter T. Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, amongst scientists, concluded

It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to the policy makers and the public who mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.

Laurence Solomon has shown has biased the result actually was. First by excluding scientists who might be give greater emphasis on natural causes, like “solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists and astronomers.” Second, by whittling down the 3146 responses from “earth scientists” to just 77, they create an insignificant sample. Here I want to consider some points that can be drawn from the method and the conclusion

Questions do not isolate the trivial from the catastrophic

The Survey Questions were

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

Most people would accept that temperatures have risen in the past 200 years. Most climate scientists who are active in the field of researching anthropogenic global warming will tend to think human activity has a significant impact. However, this could not mean as little as 10% or over 100% of recent surface temperature warming could be accounted for by human activity. As such the questions are far from sufficient to establish consensus that there on a high level problem that requires a high level policy response.

Identifiable responses create bias

Laurence Solomon has shown has biased the result actually was. First by excluding scientists who might be give greater emphasis on natural causes, like “solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists and astronomers.” Second, by whittling down the 3146 responses from “earth scientists” to just 77, they create an insignificant sample.

However, there is a further element. The responses were identified, hence the ability to classify the core scientists. What if you are a practicing climate scientist, who no longer believes in the scientific case for global warming? The scientist finds themselves in the position of a priest/pastor/minister of religion in the Christian Church who has lost faith. They may enjoy the status, and the work, and the people they work with. With a questionnaire such as this, there is a risk of being “outed”. There are three strategies to adopt. Firstly it is not to respond. Secondly, to respond, but rationalise or lie. The wording of the question allows for rationalising. Thirdly, is to answer truthfully, risking your career, along with possible damage to friendships and co-workers funding. This is a huge issue for opinion surveys on controversial subjects. The best way to get honest answers is to guarantee anonymity, and for the survey to be conducted by an independent polling organisation.

Publishing record is not a good indicator of scientific understanding

Climate science, like in many other empirical research areas, is full of papers with multiple authors. The issues are complex, and the workload enormous, so the bulk of the work is done by the research assistants, and often most of the science. The lead authors may act as a project manager, or even just a name to get the work published. Major journals need articles by big names to maintain readership and prestige. The leading scientists, by publishing in the major journals, and having lots of works cited are able to attract funding for further projects and thus promote the other department members and the prestige of the university or other institution to which they belong. Thus looking to a core group based on publishing record might be misleading. Some of the leading scientists might now be more managers than cutting edge scientists. Others might be so enmeshed in the detail and hard-working, that they might never step back and question the bigger picture.

On the other hand, highly intelligent people who believe that the science is flawed, or dogmatic, will never have the desire to enter the field, or move into other areas when they change their minds. Alternatively, they may stay in the subject, but keep quiet about their views, backing away from publishing.

The Boundaries of Climate Change Denial

Many of the “pro-consensus”, “pro-science” blogs call those who think the science is faulty, flawed, or unsubstantiated, “deniers” or “denialists”, without ever defining the characteristic features actually are. This survey gives us the minimum criteria for knowing that someone is not a denier. It is someone who supports the “mainstream” view that the world has warmed, and that humans are to some extent, part responsible for it. This survey can only be taken as a public proclamation by a small minority that they are true believers.

If, however, the definition of “denier” is anything different then there is the logical possibility that people can be both part of the mainstream and climate change deniers. As such the word “denier” is nothing more than a term of discrimination and abuse by those in the mainstream.


Published in response to an article in Nature, mentioning “Deniers” in the Scientific literature for the first time. Responses by Anthony Watts, Bishop Hill and Warren Meyer.

Scottish Sceptic on summarizing the sceptic position

I came across the blog Scottish Sceptic at the weekend. At the site, the owner has been compiling a non-polemical summary of the mainstream sceptic view of the science. Unlike here, the statement studiously avoids discussion of policy or politics. I made the following comment in the hope of furthering discussion.

I have had a look through the above, and it appears a fair summary the sceptic position of the science. In general it shows how magnitude and likelihood go in opposite directions. The best corroborated science has trivial implications. The most alarming predictions are basically of the form “If A then maybe B. If B then possibly C. If C happens in a certain way then it could be D. D is an extremely alarming situation” This then gives the headline like

Leading scientists are concerned we are heading for D“.

Having read quite widely on sceptic ideas, on the subject of climate models, sceptics view them as “black boxes“. This would not be concerning if they followed the normal scientific procedure of rigorously evaluating the predictions with the actual data, and adjusting accordingly. Instead, it appears to be past data that gets adjusted to the models, along with some very fuzzy analysis.

Another point is that sceptics tend to see a scientific approach as questioning, identifying anomalies, and getting ever more precise answers. Mainstream climate science is nearer to a definition of “science is what scientists do”.

That leads to another point. Sceptics tend to demand higher levels of evidence. The mainstream seems to accept levels of evidence that a criminal court of law would reject. “Scientists believe/agree”, or “Climate Models predict” or comments a court would reject such views as either hearsay or unsubstantiated. So in the wider world sceptics are not the ones with the marginal position.