Why it must be frustrating

There are many aspects of the climate change/global warming debate that are clearly frustrating for many of those involved, but one might think that fundamentally everyone is interested in the same thing: understanding the science associated with climate change. It may not be true, but it’s possible. Given this, maybe one should expect climate scientists to hide their frustrations and try and engage openly and decently with “skeptics”.

The problem I have with the possibility that deep down everyone is interested in the same thing, is that I regularly encounter things that make me seriously doubt that some really have any actual interest in understanding the science. One example that I encountered today was Andrew Montford promoting Murry Salby’s tour of England. So, why is this an issue? Firstly, Andrew Montford is regarded by some as an honest broker. Secondly, Murray Salby is very simply wrong. Not just a little bit wrong, but almost completely wrong. If even someone regarded as an “honest broker” can promote someone who’s ideas are completely wrong, what does that say about “skeptics” in general.

Why is Salby wrong? Well, if you want to know more, you can read one of my earlier posts or you can read Skeptical Science’s take on Salby’s ideas. Salby is also quite famous for showing two graphs, one of which indicates a huge mismatch between temperature and CO2. At best, this is an incredibly embarrassing mistake and at worst, intentional deception. Tom Curtis explains why here.

The point is, some things are just wrong and should be acknowledged as wrong. Some of Salby’s mistakes are so trivial that if you don’t realise that they’re wrong, you really should stop considering that you understand anything about science and start listening to those who do. I think engaging in discussions about climate science and global warming is fascinating. There is much we can all learn. However, I do find it incredibly frustrating engaging with those who seem willing to consider ideas that are trivially shown to be incorrect. If I’m frustrated imagine how actual climate scientists feel. Maybe we should give more credence to those willing to engage without letting their frustrations show. On the other hand, maybe showing a little more frustration may help some people to realise that some of what they think has merit really doesn’t.

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175 Responses to Why it must be frustrating

  1. Showing frustration is allowed when the other side is basically sabotaging any rational exchange. I show frustration often enough when dealing with these kinds of exchanges. The thing that I however won’t do is turn nasty towards opponents. Even if you manage to get me angry I’m still polite and civil, but I won’t restrain myself any more in saying what I think about behaviour or merit.

    It’s finding this balance that’s hard and if you slip up you give your opponents something to latch on. But considering the tactics used by some this will happen no matter what.

  2. Bwana_mkubwa says:

    AM is far from an honest broker and far from impartial, as this post exhibits:

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2013/10/18/worst-bbc-programme-of-all-time.html#comments

    All the subtlety and objectivity of Anthony Watts at his rabble rousing worst.

  3. dbostrom says:

    The discussion is inexorably doomed to frustration because only one conclusion is possible, a conclusion fundamentally not compatible with the desired and necessarily presupposed outcome of the discussion for a certain fraction of interlocutors. For that fraction, the supporting factual basis of the argument is in fact a frustration that cannot be treated in a rational way.

    Ownership of frustration shouldn’t be laid at the wrong feet; the people who are truly frustrated in all senses of the word are those whose conclusions are impossible. Anger stems from that frustration.

  4. Mircea says:

    But Salby Murry is an actual climate scientist. The fact that you (or me) do not agree with his theories doesn’t invalidate this. His credibility or the peers’ respect might diminish but the title, as long as is honestly aquired, remains.

  5. Mircea says:

    I do not think that frustration appears from desire to learn. If you want to learn then alternative theories, even wrong, are useful in showing one where the problems are, or how one can think differently, offer subjects of meditation. Why would one get frustrated because someone is wrong? Invite him to a debate and prove him wrong. Why not a debate between him and mr Cuccineli? I would pay to see it.

  6. Joshua says:

    Most folks do not have the scientific (or perhaps intellectual) chops to evaluate the science and determine who is “correct.” There are people who seem quite smart and knowledgeable to make what seem to be logical arguments in support of their views. What is left for the vast majority of observers of this debate/war?

    The vast majority trust the “experts” that they identify with, for one reason or another. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in understanding the science associated with climate change.

    There is little viable alternative, IMO, to serious efforts at stakeholder dialog whereby participants will have a sense of ownership over outcomes. There are many who have no interest in good faith engagement. But I think that also there are many who are caught up in a rather common pattern of fighting over positions rather than identifying shared interests, and who could potentially be brought into a discussion about shared interests. As it exists, both sides seem to be engaged in a zero sum game, and indeed, the sum that is manifest appears to be just about zero. I see little evidence that the expression of frustration will help anyone realize much of anything here.

  7. Tom Curtis says:

    Mircea, you raise (whether you intended to or not) an interesting question. Is becoming a climate scientist like losing your virginity, ie, once you’ve done it you can never go back. Once a climate scientist, always a climate scientist? Or is it more like other professions in which you are expected to maintain professional standards, keep up with current literature and actually conduct research on climate science in order to maintain the title? If the later, then surely Murry Salby is a former climate scientist.

    Whichever way you jump on this, you have a problem with your argument. If you take the view that Salby, regardless of his actions, is always a climate scientist, then simply being a climate scientist ceases to be grounds to listen to him with respect. It is no longer a guarantee of considered, informed views on the subject in question, nor of non-fraudulent presentation of data. Alternatively, if you take the view that failure to comply with appropriate standards of academic integrity mean you can longer claim to be a climate scientist, then Salby’s claim to be one is tenuous at best.

  8. Tom Curtis says:

    Mircea, there are interesting and boring mistakes. An interesting mistake is one in which you have to learn something new in order to discover why it is a mistake. A boring mistake? It is simply a repetition of long ago refuted points, from which the only thing that can be learnt is its proposer’s willingness to learn, or not, as the case may be.

    For somebody first learning about climate science, I guess all mistakes are interesting, if you are willing to learn. But very quickly you discover that most points raised by so-called “skeptics” about AGW are in fact very boring mistakes. Indeed, so boring that they fall into the category of PRATTs – Points Refuted A Thousand Times.

    In your terms, just how many times do you have to refute the nonsense that the greenhouse effect violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics before your frustration with its being raised yet again indicates that you don’t have a desire to learn? Perhaps at some point the constant recycling of tired old arguments suggests that it is the so-called “skeptics” who are resistant to learning. And given that, isn’t frustration at their continued uninformed access to media and developers of policy warranted? Or must we just gracefully accept our gradual slide to destruction through ignorance and gullibility with out demural lest we be charged with that shocking crime of (gasp) “being unwilling to learn” – regardless of who does, and who does not pay attention to the science.

  9. Tom Curtis says:

    Joshua, what you say about choice of authority is unfortunately true. Unfortunate not because it is an irresponsible thing to do. After all, we all must do it in at least some areas of our life. Rather it is unfortunate that the limitations of our nature men that none of us has the time to become well informed on every subject, and hence, like it or not, we must all rely on authority to some extent in shaping our view of the world.

    Given that, however, it places on us an obligation to ensure that the authorities we rely on are credible. That we are not just accepting them as authorities because they are telling us what we want to hear. On that basis, and with regard to climate science, if our authority fundamentally disagrees with the IPCC, we know we have made a wrong choice. Any choice of authority that requires us to believe that the vast majority of “authorities” by conventional standards (ie, long research in the field in question, recognition by other “authorities” in that field, etc) are either corrupt or stupid shows our choice to have been self serving rather than a genuine attempt to base our beliefs on the best available source. And choosing an authority on climate science who fundamentally disagrees with the IPCC requires us to do just that.

    Unfortunately, the fact that so many have chosen to accept authorities who, not only fundamentally disagree with the IPCC, but in many cases propose outright conspiracy theories to explain why the IPCC “keeps on getting it wrong” shows that “stakeholder dialogue” with those people will be futile. They have already demonstrated that they put their own interests first in what they will accept as facts. How then, can there be any common ground of negotiation in which they will compromise their perceived interests in favour of the genuine, fact based interests of the wider community?

  10. Marco says:

    I agree that Andrew Montford is not, nor has ever been, an honest broker. Anyone who associates himself with the GWPF can never be an honest broker.

    However, he does have full rights to promote Murry Salby’s tour. We don’t know what Salby will say during that tour; who knows, maybe he will correct that misleading graph! (a man can surely have some dreams?)

  11. Yes, you do have a point and I did consider acknowledging that in the post. It’s a free world, so I’m certainly not suggesting that Andrew Montford should not promote such a tour. There’s also a chance that Murry Salby will suddenly correct all the issues with what he has presented before. The subtle point though, is that one can choose how seriously to take someone like Andrew Montford on the basis of what he chooses to promote. If it does turn out that Salby corrects his earlier mistakes, then one could re-evaluate one’s views. One is not obliged to assume a priori that this will happen though.

  12. Mircea, the problem though is that Murry Salby isn’t really presenting new theories. To a certain extent he is mis-interpreting existing data (i.e., isotope ratios), violating the conservation of mass (atmospheric CO2 is not anthropogenic) and making a very trivial mistake with his graphs that compare CO2 and temperature (Salby ratio). So, yes presenting an alternative view is absolutely fine. Refusing to acknowledge trivial mistakes, however, is not.

  13. ” Any choice of authority that requires us to believe that the vast majority of “authorities” by conventional standards (ie, long research in the field in question, recognition by other “authorities” in that field, etc) are either corrupt or stupid shows our choice to have been self serving rather than a genuine attempt to base our beliefs on the best available source.”

    Oh really, in your vast wisdom, you couldn’t think of any better reasons why a bunch of people could just be wrong, and not corrupt or stupid, and why anyone questioning them can have no motive other than ‘self-serving’?

    This post is remarkably free of content. All it has are two links to Skepticalscience, whose smear artists we know will say what.

  14. BBD says:

    So you argue that Salby is credible and his claims correct, rather than a farrago of nonsense and error? And you argue that the huge majority of climate scientists who differ with Salby are “just wrong”?

    Or what, exactly?

  15. BBD says:

    Depending on your answer, you will have established that Montford is either demonstrably incapable of understanding the science or deliberately pushing claims he knows to be flawed.

  16. Tom Curtis says:

    shub, it is quite possible for a group of people to be simply wrong. If, however, they are very intelligent, and very well informed, and if your theory (or that of your preferred guru) requires you to have imagined them to have made stupid, dunderheaded mistakes or to have purposely deceived, then your choice of guru is wrong. As it happens, there is abundant evidence that a very large number of so-called “skeptics” do take that view of the IPCC; and find it absolutely necessary to do so because if they (the “skeptics”) are right, then the mistakes of the IPCC are definitely (if honest) complete clangers.

    My point, therefore, is not that your guru must agree with the IPCC; but that they must not disagree with the IPCC so thoroughly that they feel compelled to postulate stupidity or corruption to explain why the IPCC cannot recognize their brilliance. Alternatively, if your theory is so different from the IPCC’s that you cannot explain what are, in your opinion, the IPCC’s errors as rational errors, then no sensible person will accept your view on the subject.

    Nor, lest you try another misrepresentation, is this a standard contingent on some privileged status for the IPCC. If your doctor must postulate stupidity or corruption to explain why the AMA will not sanction his treatment, don’t undergo it. Your a fool if you do. Likewise, if you employ a self described “brilliant” engineer who fundamentally disagrees with the design principles accepted by engineering professional bodies, don’t waste your money. Fire them immediately.

    As to why an irrational choice of guru must be self serving – well it isn’t a syllogism. Never-the-less, people are very familiar with the distinction between trustworthy and untrustworthy advisers in regular life; and if they ignore that distinction when it comes to understanding climate, they must have a motive for doing so. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the majority of “skeptics” are older, white males (who gain, from their “skepticism”, reassurance that they have not destroyed the future of their grandchildren in pursuing their own dreams); nor that the fossil fuel industry has a far higher proportion of “skeptics” than other industries (whose self interest is even more obvious)

  17. Shub, I know this post is short but it was intending to illustrate something fundamental and didn’t really feel like redoing what I’d already done. Salby is wrong about atmospheric CO2 possibly not being anthropogenic. He’s wrong about the relevance of CO2 lagging temperature in the paleo record, and his two graphs that appear to illustrate a mismatch between CO2 and temperature are trivially incorrect. He isn’t doing some kind of subtle work that we should all be thinking about and considering. He is simply wrong and it is frustrating that we have to continually go over this again and again. It is a classic example of the term I’ve just learned – PRATT (Points Refuted a Thousand Times).

  18. toby52 says:

    The philosopher (and evolutionary biologist) Mssimo Piglucci gives 5 pieces of evidence by whcih we can determine when someone is a trustworthy expert or not.

    (1) Examination of their arguments (often difficult)
    (2) Evidence of agreement by other experts
    (3) Independent evidence that the expert is indeed an expert (e.g. credentials)
    (4) Examination of biases the expert may have
    (5) Track record of the expert.

    For example. Murry Salby does not do too well at (5) and it has been pointed out with regard to (3) he is not abreast with the latest research in the field.

    These do not mean that the expert is automatically right, only that they are trustworhty in that they are giving us the best possible advice they can. In the case of a doctor, plumber, lawyer or motor mechanic, that is important. A feature of the modern world is that we have to depend on the expertise of others.

  19. Tom,
    All there is your comment is that some people can be wrong, or right, and that experts when taken together, are usually right.

    Appeal to consensus when discussing medical matters, is misleading. The medical establishment has been wrong and its guidelines serve as a chronological record. Witness recommendations for breast cancer screening, salt intake, cardiac troponin measurement, etc. The list is long.

  20. Marco says:

    May I remind all that we’ve had this discussion with Shub before? It took some time, but it appeared he accepted, in a very convoluted way, that Salby had made a big boo-boo in his presentation.

    And what happens some time later?

    We’re about to have the same discussion again with Shub.

    Round and round in circles we go, and there’s only one who’s happy with that, as this is likely his goal.

  21. BBD says:

    @ shub n misthreaded below

    Please respond substantively – do you accept that Salby’s claims are wrong and have been demonstrated to be wrong?

  22. andrew adams says:

    Yes, the medical establishment has been wrong in the past, but we still go to a doctor for medical advice rather than listen to some guy on the internet with a plausible explanation for our problem.

    No one is arguing that expert opinion is infallible, only that in general it is likely to be a more reliable than non-expert sources.

  23. I’d like to add one thing to what Tom said: debates are a very bad method of discerning who’s right.

    Public debates have their merit in helping hone ideas and to have interesting discussions on controversial topics (as in not well established). But public debates are notoriously bad at helping the audience decide who’s right.

    Take for example the debate at the National Press Club of Australia between Christopher Monckton and Richard Denniss. If you watch this debate without a lot of knowledge about the state of the economic literature and climate research you might be convinced that Monckton is right. Or at least get the idea that claims about global warming are exaggerated .

    But as soon as you look into the claims made by Monckton you will realize that he doesn’t have a point. And that he most of the time is misrepresenting research and what we don’t and do know. That’s something I noticed when I fact checked his claims with my project ‘Climate Changes, But Facts Don’t: Debunking Monckton‘. I even found mistakes when he had a position that was correct and I agreed with him.

    Debates can be very interesting and can serve an important purpose, but only if you allow it between ideas that have merit.

  24. I agree, debates are not really suitable for detailed scientific topics. It could be interesting/entertaining but doesn’t really help to improve understanding as it’s likely to be who’s more convincing rather than who actually makes the most credible case. I notice that there was an attempt to get Michael Mann to debate Joe Bastardi. Michael Mann, wisely, declined/ignored the invitation.

  25. Joshua says:

    Tom Curtis –

    “Any choice of authority that requires us to believe that the vast majority of “authorities” by conventional standards (ie, long research in the field in question, recognition by other “authorities” in that field, etc) are either corrupt or stupid shows our choice to have been self serving rather than a genuine attempt to base our beliefs on the best available source. “

    I agree that those who argue that the prevalent view among experts is the product of corruption or stupidity are arguing from a highly implausible premise. However, when I read the technical arguments of “skeptics,” I often find them plausible. Now I lack the chops to evaluate those arguments scientifically, and so I recognize that I can not really evaluate plausibility in technical disagreements, and so then I look to the logic embedded in non-technical arguments. There, I see much lacking. But that is also the case, often, when I look at the non-technical arguments that I see amongst “realists.”

    I am of the opinion that “motivated reasoning” is a force that has to be acknowledged and dealt with on both sides of this debate, just as it has to be a acknowledged in many other debates where scientific analysis overlaps with social, political, or cultural identifications. I think that the biases reflected in “motivated reasoning,” such as confirmation bias, are the product of basic attributes in how humans reason (as we construct meaning through identifying patterns) and in human psychology (the basic need to form identity by aligning in groups and differentiating from “the other”).

    So while the conspiratorial foundation that underlies much of “skeptical” rationale rests in a bedrock of implausibility – I don’t think that the basic mechanisms for how people build beliefs out of implausibility is in any way unique to one side in this debate. IMO, communicative engagement that strengthens the scorched earth, us vs. them, dynamic will only exacerbate existing problems – if, in fact, it has any significant impact (I suspect it has no significant impact at all because it doesn’t address the underlying problems/mechanisms).

    Stakeholder dialog, and similar processes, can be successful in contentious issues where people are locked into arguing, in a zero sum game, over positions rather than identifying and owning shared interests. One of the advantages of basic participatory processes like stakeholder dialog is that they level the playing field into one where the role of “authority” is backgrounded and structured as a “stakeholder” along with everyone else. Such processes can dismantle the paradigm of dueling authorities, which is an impervious and intractable dynamic whereby people choose (on both sides) authorities on the basis of identification (because they can’t evaluate the science), which then locks them into a position of “my authorities” are right and “your authorities” are wrong. Within that kind of framework, there is a follow-along effect that in not granting “authority” disproportionate power, the participants themselves have the room to step up, claim their own authority, and thereby own the outcomes.

  26. Joshua says:

    BTW – Tom,

    I just wanted to thank you for the technical input that you provide in many blogospheric threads.

  27. Joshua says:

    Witness recommendations for breast cancer screening, …

    Here is a perfect case in point. The value for recommendations for breast cancer screening is a very complex issue. There is much evidence that is strongly argued on both sides. Yet, folks like Shub are ready to use such complex debate as a weapon in the climate wars, based on a selective treatment of “authority,” even as he argues against referencing authority as a means of evaluating complex issues.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/new-salvo-mammogram-wars-says-young-women-should-be-screened-8C11098530

    Yes, why this is all frustrating.

  28. Joshua, that is indeed a very complex topic and if anyone would like to know why, there is an excellent book called “The patient paradox”, by Margaret McCartney, that explains (amongst other things) why breast cancer screening may not be a particularly good strategy.

  29. andrew adams says:

    Joshua,

    It’s quite simple really. When you have very few experts on your side of the argument then it’s necessary to denigrate the value of expert opinion and try to persuade non-experts that actually any opinion is as valid as any other.

  30. andrew adams says:

    I should add though that they are rarely willing to extend that principle to areas where they themselves have expertise.

  31. Joshua says:

    wotts,

    Thanks for that link; I have read arguments about why screening should not be recommended before, but my brother happens to work with Daniel Kopans – the doc at Mass General (my bro’s field is signal processing) – and based on that connection I would suggestion is that anyone who is interested, and who thinks they know that screening should not be recommended, contact Kopans to discuss their opinions for why they think he’s wrong. His arguments are very interesting, very well-supported, and very sophisticated (and I suggest that they come well-armed with evidence). :-)

  32. Joshua says:

    AA –

    “When you have very few experts on your side of the argument then it’s necessary to denigrate the value of expert opinion and try to persuade non-experts that actually any opinion is as valid as any other.”

    I agree that is a general pattern. I often see a corollary where “skeptics” then turn right around and rely on “authority” (Dyson, or Feyman, or Lindzman, etc.). Or we can see where “skeptics,” even as they dismiss the importance of prevalence in viewpoint, turn around and vehemently argue about what they think the prevalence actually is.

    However, the situation is more complex, I think. Look, for example, at how Shub is arguing in this case from the basis of (what he thinks to be) the (current) prevalent view (that screening shouldn’t be recommended). In point of fact, he doesn’t actually know the evidence thoroughly but is convinced that he knows what the correct conclusion should be. The starting point is his proclivity to select data in such a way as to confirm his biases. But we all do that.

    My point is that depending on the starting point, people will use “authority” in any manner of ways. Yes, the manner that you described is one way – but there are others as well. So I don’t think that the explanation lies in that view towards “authority” is dictated by where one falls out on the scale of “expert” opinion. As you know, the flip side of your argument would be that people who can’t support their views rely on the fallacy that if it is in the majority it should then be trusted. I don’t think that either explanation really hits the nail on the head as to what the underlying mechanics are.

  33. Joshua says:

    AA –

    Sorry – please see mis-nested reply below.

  34. Joshua, I’ve only read a little about the topic so would not claim to have any great knowledge as to whether or not screening is worth doing or not. I should try and read some more about Daniel Kopan’s views on the subject. I did find Margaret McCartney’s book really well written and it makes similar arguments (in general) to those made by Ben Goldacre. Essentially, we should have evidence based medicine. I think, if I remember correctly, the issue she had with screening wasn’t necessarily that it was bad in itself, but simply that those being screened are not always being correctly informed about what the results actually imply. Essentially, those doing the screening probably don’t actually understand the significance of the false positive rate and hence don’t explain this properly to those being screened.

  35. Joshua says:

    wotts –

    “I remember correctly, the issue she had with screening wasn’t necessarily that it was bad in itself, but simply that those being screened are not always being correctly informed about what the results actually imply. Essentially, those doing the screening probably don’t actually understand the significance of the false positive rate and hence don’t explain this properly to those being screened.”

    I think a partial response to your point is here:

    “The use of the word “harms” for women who are asked to return for additional mammographic views or an ultrasound based on a concern raised by a screen ing study is, inappropriately, pejorative. Certainly a recall from screening that causes anxiety is unfortunate, but what about the benefit of being relieved to find that she does not have cancer. What about the 90 plus percent of women who are relieved to hear that their screening mammogram is negative? Is this not a benefit that should be counted? Do those who balance “harms” against “benefit” ever sit back and really ask what they are saying? What misguided reasoning equates a recall from screening that shows no cancer as somehow being equivalent to dying from breast cancer ?”

    Some of the arguments I’ve seen against screening are made on the basis of a risk/cost analysis of widespread screening (as opposed to focusing screening based on risk factors). Kopans responds:

    “Page 612 “Screening women with increased risk results in more life – years gained and more breast cancer deaths averted…” is 1. misleading and 2. false. To suggest that “more life years are gained” is grossly misleading. More lives will be saved screening average risk women since they have the mo st cancers. The concept of “life – years” saved takes the number of women saved and the years of life given to them and divides these by the number of women needed to be screened spreading the years of life saved for a woman over the population that was screened. It is a measure of cost and not benefit for the individual. If we assume that screening is as effective in finding cancer in high risk women as among the general population, then it will find more cancers for every 1000 women screened since a higher percentage of these women develop cancers, but since the vast majority of cancers are among women who are at average risk, many more total cancers will be found by screening women at average risk than those at high risk.”

    http://www.sbi-online.org/associations/8199/files/A%20review%20of%20Tipping%20the%20Balance%20of%20Benefits%20and%20Harms%20to%20Favor%20Screening%20Mammography%20Starting%20at%20Age%2040%20Years%20-%20Kopans.pdf

    At any rate – my point is not to get side-tracked into a discussion of the evidence w/r/t breast cancer screening (although it probably would be an interesting discussion), but to comment on how it is a given that there are many who are formulating opinions on these sorts of issue where experts are absolutely convinced of diametrically opposed viewpoints. Given what we know, from empirical analysis, about how humans reason it doesn’t make sense to me to try to find attributes about the reasoning on one side that is somehow categorically or even predominantly different than the reasoning on the other side.

    For people who don’t have the chops or knowledge to evaluate the evidence directly,there has to be some way through this, IMO, other than trying to judge the correctness of experts. On what basis can I judge the correctness of experts if they make opposing arguments that seem, from my limited abilities, to be logically reasoned? The prevalence of opinion (degree of consensus) is information I can use to assess probabilities, but it isn’t sufficient. And in the end, what is gained by trying to navigate his landmine by trying to determine which “position” is correct? That seems like it would be an endless process to me that would produce little benefit. I think it is more productive to try to determine future direction on the basis of seeking agreement – with other people who similarly have a limited skillset – about interests, although admittedly that is an extremely complex task in the context of the climate wars. For me, the choice seems to be between something that I have seen is unproductive (status quo in the climate wars) and something that offers some, perhaps remote, positive potential (stakeholder dialog, deliberative democracy).

  36. Mircea says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for your answer!

    A title is just an attestation that the person has done the work and has the skills required for a certain position. The respect and credibility must be won beside the title.

    Only a legal association can remove a title. So, yes, once a [title] always a [title] unless the association of [title]s says otherwise. Once a published climate scientist always a climate scientist until he’s phd is removed by a legal entity. He, Salby, cannot claim anymore to be a professor at the University but he is free to search for another job as climate scientist and doing this he is not doing any missrepresentation.

  37. Mircea, I would agree that Murry Salby can quite rightly be regarded as a climate scientist. The issue is whether or not he is a climate scientist who’s views on climate science are correct or not.

  38. Joshua, thanks. Irrespective of the issues associated with screenings, it is certainly the case that we should be giving due consideration to those who are actually trained/experience in certain areas. This doesn’t mean that, individually, they’ll always be right but that if there is a general agreement about something, then it’s very difficult to understand why you would rather take the views of those who are both untrained but likely have some kind of vested interest in the topic.

  39. Mircea says:

    Hi,
    You say:
    “isn’t frustration at their continued uninformed access to media and developers of policy warranted”
    Yes, this would warrant frustration if one thinks that this makes a difference in the desired outcome. I, for one, do not think that they have any practical impact. I might be wrong (as I usually am) but I do not think that political decisions are taken function of how will be the climate in 90 years or even 40 years from now. Financial and political capital is spent for fast returns. The green technologies, the push for taxes, all have (or should have) present values and advantages that justifies their existence with or without GHG impact. I’ve read a few documents regarding wind mills development and after the first paragraph about GHG the rest was about jobs, return of investment, regional development, etc. These last arguments, when good sounding, make people pay attention no matter what they believe the climate will be in the future. And vice versa, if these economic arguments do not sound promising then nothing else matters.

    Just to make my point (no relation with Salby now): Have you ever felt frustration that so many are still embracing Einstein’s position that quantum mechanics is not a complete theory? Did Einstein stopped being a scientist because of that?

    PS
    I have to appologise, in my previos post somehow I wrote Cuccinelli when I wanted to write Nuccittelli.

  40. Mircea, you suggest that the influence of “skeptics” makes no real difference. You suggest that everything is about economics. Here’s where I get confused. The UK, for example, used to be able to produce all it’s oil and gas. Since 2004, this has dropped to about 70%. I guess fracking could help, but this isn’t obvious. So, economically it would seem to make sense to consider alternatives that are locally produced (wind, wave, solar, tidal, nuclear) so as to create jobs and reduce how much money we spend importing oil and gas. I appreciate that this is probably a simplistic argument and there will be subtleties, but the point I’m trying to make is that there appear to be perfectly valid economic arguments for developing alternatives. So, what I see happening is that some promote the economic arguments for continued fossil fuel use, while undermining any argument for alternatives. If I really believed that everyone was assessing the evidence objectively and concluding that continued use of fossil fuels was the optimal strategy, I might be willing to accept that. I just think that that isn’t what’s happening.

  41. Mircea says:

    Hi,
    I have to disagree here.
    While you are right that one winning a debate doesn’t mean that he’s point of view is correct it is much easier to winn the audience when reason and facts are on your side. And because one is poor debater it doesn’t mean that the dabate is wrong, it just means that he has to learn how to debate.
    Everything can be debatable, the paying public is (or must be) the one deciding what ideas have merit or not. What other criterias can one use to decide on the merit of ideas? Who decides? In a relative world one can get only relative answers.

  42. We can agree to disagree, but I think science is not a topic that is well suited to debates. Well, not if the goal is to try and determine which scientific idea has the most merit. Partly it’s because being convincing doesn’t make you a good scientists. Partly because it takes more than a couple of hours to determine which scientific idea has more credence. So, it might be fun to have a debate but I can’t see how a debate would improve the public’s understanding of basic climate science.

  43. Mircea says:

    Regarding debates and frustration: Maybe there is a wrong expectation of the results of a debate (or a blog article). Do you expect to convince people right way? To raise and shout “Wott, I was blind but now I see! Your arguments showed me my wrong ways but you brought me back on the righteous path” ?
    It doesn’t work like this. Changing convictions is a slow process, One just plants the seeds in a debate (or a blog). These seeds will grow in other place and other time, often in privacy.

  44. KR says:

    Mircea – “While you are right that one winning a debate doesn’t mean that he’s point of view is correct it is much easier to winn the audience when reason and facts are on your side”

    This only holds true if both debaters hold to the facts. If, as often seen in this subject, one side is willing to throw out multiple erroneous assertions per sentence (cf Monckton), to flatly claim scientific falsehoods (Salby), it can take pages of evidence to counter such a Gish Gallop.

    The proper ‘debate’ for science is the literature – peer-reviewed publications standing on the strength of their evidence, the consistency of their hypotheses. If you have time to consider the evidence, to cross-check against other sources, and truly evaluate claims, and are convinced – then that work has won in the debate. Not shouting, not rhetorical tricks, nor contradictory statements, but in the arena of evidence.

    And, as seen by the 97% of papers in the field agreeing with the basics of AGW, the ‘skeptics’ have lost that particular debate. Hence their focus on rhetoric.

  45. @mircea:
    Please have a look at the page I referred you to for my point about debates. The thing is you can create the perception of winning a debate or validity in a debate purely because it’s difficult for the public to check statements in a debate. That’s why I hold the position that debates aren’t the place where you decide valid science or convince the public (that’s what the literature is for and what science communicators should do).

    You don’t debate for example an AIDS denier or anti-vaccination proponent. That’s legitimizing them in the eye of the public. Same goes for those that promote factually incorrect information in the public debate on global warming and climate change.

    That’s why I said that “Public debates have their merit in helping hone ideas and to have interesting discussions on controversial topics (as in not well established). But public debates are notoriously bad at helping the audience decide who’s right.”

  46. chris says:

    Mircea, re:

    “What other criterias can one use to decide on the merit of ideas? Who decides? In a relative world one can get only relative answers.”

    On matters scientific Mircea, the fundamental criterion is evidence. Debates are interesting in a political context, ‘though sadly not always useful for establishing beneficial policy (Hitler and Mussolini were charismatic and fervent debaters in support of their ideas!), and not a useful means of establishing where the scientific evidence lies unless all the debaters choose to debate in good faith and at least some of the debaters have expert knowledge.

    We don’t live in a “relative world” – we live in a world, the natural elements of which display causality and are subject to exploration and understanding, which is the basis of science. I suspect you’d be horrified to find yourself in a “relative world” in which decisions were made on the basis of bullying, propagandizing and false arguments through debates in pursuit of vested interests. After all, ‘though sometimes the false arguments might align with your particular interests, at other times they might not! Happily, on matters scientific we have evidence in support of decision making if we are wise enough to use this.

  47. One of Salby’s “alternative theories” is that fossil-fuel CO2 emissions aren’t responsible for the observed increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Debunking that “alternative theory” would make for a nice high-school science homework exercise. It really is not much more than a matter of some straightforward accounting math.

    If a PhD mathematician insists that 2+2=5, you don’t need your own PhD in math to figure out that he/she’s wrong.

    Salby is simply wrong, in a very basic “2+2=5 is wrong” sort of way.

  48. OPatrick says:

    Nothing wrong with a debate provided it is set up to avoid anyone being able to game the system. I’d propose something like the following:
    – Debate to be held over a long period (days even rather than hours) with plenty of time-outs to consider points and evidence arguments
    – Any sources being used as evidence should be declared (well) in advance
    – Participants can hold each other to stick to a single point until the point is conceded, both sides agree to disagree and move on or a moderator chooses to move the discussion on

    I wonder if ‘sceptics’ would be willing to commit to a set of rules like this?

  49. Mircea says:

    Hi,
    I cannot see any “reply” button for the answers to my comments so I will answer here.
    Thank you for your answers! Now:

    KR says:
    October 22, 2013 at 6:46 pm
    “The proper ‘debate’ for science is the literature – peer-reviewed publications standing on the strength of their evidence, the consistency of their hypotheses. If you have time to consider the evidence, to cross-check against other sources, and truly evaluate claims, and are convinced – then that work has won in the debate. Not shouting, not rhetorical tricks, nor contradictory statements, but in the arena of evidence.
    And, as seen by the 97% of papers in the field agreeing with the basics of AGW, the ‘skeptics’ have lost that particular debate. Hence their focus on rhetoric.”

    Maybe I am wrong but I do not see the pier-reviewed publication as debate. In the peer reviewed literature can very well exist contradictory papers and conclusions and one can extract different meanings from same paper (and no, the authors once they published it are not referees anymore).
    But, let’s say as you say: Only peer-reviewed papers are allowed. Then we’ll have to admit astrology (because only astrologists are allowed to peer review), and all sort of religions, because only the priests of those religions are peers, and so on.

    No, I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to criticise anything. Most often that critic has no value but… when it has then it’s invaluable.

    Btw, the “skeptics” lost the original debate a long time. They changed the terms and they are now debating from well inside the 97%.

  50. Mircea says:

    OPatrick says:
    October 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm – I totally agree with this. It would be nice to watch something like this.

  51. Mircea says:

    chris says: October 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm “We don’t live in a “relative world” – we live in a world, the natural elements of which display causality and are subject to exploration and understanding, which is the basis of science.”

    An “absolute” world is a world created by God. We have to obey his rules, things are causal and subject to exploration (because we are spirit as God we can understand at least part of his creation).
    A relative world is a quantic, evolutionary world where chance plays the main role. We can detect patterns and build human theories about these patterns. Understandable? Do you think you understand what is an electron? But ok, it’s not fair to get so far, because after all we talk about things at macro level and low speeds.
    Take the climatic models, each represent a possibility, each is logically valid. In the end only one (if) will match the real world. There is a good reason why we use probabilities in all our answers: it’s called relativity.

    You say: ” I suspect you’d be horrified to find yourself in a “relative world” in which decisions were made on the basis of bullying, propagandizing and false arguments through debates in pursuit of vested interests ”
    Isn’t this the world we live in :-) ? Joke aside: Baudrillard showed in his “Simulacra and Simulation” that we passed the era of “reality” (i.e. “absolute” world) and entered the “hyper reality” (i.e. the relative world) where reality is function of the image presented. But this is way out of the subject of this post.

  52. Mircea says:

    Nice debate about debates :-)

  53. Tom Curtis says:

    Mircea, in reverse order, the 97% position is that anthropogenic factors have caused >50% of warming since 1950. There are very few, if any “skeptics” who are willing to concede that point. Most “skeptics” including Salby, Watts, and Spencer are happy to call into question even such basic issues as to whether or not the recent increase in CO2 concentrations are caused by humans. So, “skeptics” do not debate from well within the 97% position; rather they obfusticate about what the 97% of climate scientists believe.

    Further, you clearly do not understand the nature of peer review. Peer review is a tiered process. Each discipline may have its own journals, in which the constitute peers for each other but in addition to that, each journal is considered on its merits by the scientific community as a whole, as to whether the work it publishes is actually scientific, or merely pseudo-science. This is reflected in citation indexes and impact factors. As a result, certainly astrologers can (and do) publish their own journals with purportedly scholarly papers, but those papers are not recognized as scholarly (let alone scientific) by the broader scientific community. Thus if there is any doubt, we can note that the proper debate occurs in scientific journals, recognized as such by the ISI (now Thomson Reuters) web of science.

    I note as an aside that the practice of science most certainly involves a debate of ideas, something very clear from the history of science and (I am told) from practitioners today. That is because scientists focus on areas where knowledge is, or appears to be incomplete. Because knowledge is incomplete, there are inevitably alternative views as to how to approach these areas of controversy.

    IMO, the greatest condemnation of the few scientists who are also AGW “skeptics” is that they spend far more of their time taking their ideas to popular formats, thereby attempting to influence those who are not in a position to assess the veracity of their views; and little time taking their ideas to their peers, who are sufficiently informed to properly assess their views. It is as if they do not want their views to be properly tested, but do want them to have a political impact.

  54. Joshua says:

    wotts –

    I find it all that difficult to think of reasons why people sometimes reject a view that is prevalent among experts in favor of the views of non-experts: The primary reason being a lack of trust. Although I have more sympathy with some of the reasons for a lack of trust than others, choosing “my experts” even if they are a minority reflects a characteristic hard-wired into human reasoning and psychology. One thing that I know for sure is that determining whether to trust the predominant opinion among experts is a process that is fraught with potential for bias.

    It is very difficult to define “vested interest” in an objective way – particularly when you consider that people are invested in reinforcing their group identification, a sense of victimization a the hands of “the other,” just being “right,” etc. Again, I just don’t think those attributes are distributed as a function of specific views on these issues, and I think that there is a solid body of empirical evidence that shows that there are basic human attributes that bias reasoning and risk analysis for, basically, everyone. I think that trying to prove that “they” are disproportionately biased only results in wheel-spinning and same ol’ same ol’. Both sides are completely convinced that the other side is disproportionately biased and both sides basically ignore the evidence that shows that a disproportionate bias is not particularly plausible.

    I don’t think it’s that difficult to think of reasons why people sometimes reject a view that is prevalent among experts in favor of the views of non-experts: The primary reason being a lack of trust. Although I have more sympathy with some of the reasons for a lack of trust than others, that sort of thinking is basically hard-wired into human reasoning and psychology. One thing that I know for sure is that determining whether to trust the predominant opinion among experts is a process that is fraught with potential for bias.

    It is very difficult to define “vested interest” in an objective way – particularly when you consider that people are invested in reinforcing their group identification, a sense of victimization a the hands of “the other,” just being “right,” etc. Again, I don’t think those attributes are distributed as a function of different views on these issues, and I think that there is a solid body of empirical evidence that shows that there are basic human attributes that bias reasoning and risk analysis for, basically, everyone. I think that trying to prove a disproportion only results in wheel-spinning and same ol’ same ol’. Both sides are completely convinced that the other side is disproportionately biased and both sides basically ignore the evidence that shows that a disproportionate bias is not particularly plausible. And in the end, arguing about which side is correct is more clearly biased – even if it were true that one sides was clearly more biased (say, because of vested interest), those arguments seem to get no traction. Why expect different results from the same strategies?

  55. Joshua says:

    Sorry — I don’t find it all that difficult….

  56. Well, Joshua, queue-jumping and getting ahead of yourself, aren’t you?

    Firstly, about breast cancer screening, I uttered not a single specific thing. The larger point is the one to be focused on, and that is in reply to Tom: that experts can be wrong, and experts can be ‘wrong’. Experts can be plain wrong as in the case of plate tectonics and the H. pylori organism and we’re all familiar with the examples. Experts can be wrong in that the sum of evidence that is the product of their work, is biased in some way, and their expertise (at that point in time) is unable to correct for it.

    Breast cancer screening is almost certainly a victim of the latter. Breast self-examination was widely recommended; screening by mammogram from 40 years of age. The practice was institutionalized and the public was ‘educated’ thoroughly.

    Now, the evidence for harm from such unnecessary, utterly non-specific and insensitive testing (such as BSE) would of course accumulate only after the initial expert recommendations had been followed well enough and widely enough. By then, BSE and mammographs were ritualized, a ‘pro-active step’ an individual could take and seize control of one’s own disease before it struck.

    Which is why the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations, an excellent summary of the latest available evidence (which, mind you, includes all available evidence both new and old), recommend against breast self exam and mammograms before 50. The institutionalization of practices from earlier evidence is why it didn’t go down well.

    What are you going to do? Your ‘expert’ model fails you. Which set of experts are correct? The earlier ones who recommended screening for 40>, or the later ones who don’t? Who is ‘stupid’? If you go against the Task force recommendations and seek screening, are you a dishonest self-serving denier?

  57. > Nice debate about debates.

    It gets better and better.
    It never ends.

  58. “Look, for example, at how Shub is arguing in this case from the basis of (what he thinks to be) the (current) prevalent view (that screening shouldn’t be recommended).”

    What a dishonest little twit.

    The point about breast cancer screening is that experts differ in assessment between then and now, and between each other, even today. Irrespective of which of the parties is ‘correct’, here we have, a situation where there is significant divergence in expert opinion, both temporally and across different domains. Yes, it happens, it affects issues far more immediate than AGW, and yes, it affects areas where people might imagine scientists ought to have accumulated vast evidence and knowledge by this point (given all the pink ribbon BS). But yet, here we are, with diametrically opposite recommendations, walk-backs by experts, and confusion.

    Joshua, the universal blog expert on everything, automatically assumes that I am arguing in favour of present-day recommendations, without me having said a single thing on the matter.

  59. From above…

    So you argue that Salby is credible and his claims correct, rather than a farrago of nonsense and error? And you argue that the huge majority of climate scientists who differ with Salby are “just wrong”?

    Or what, exactly?

    …….
    @ niggurath

    Please respond substantively.

    Well, we all can see how *that* turned out…

  60. Why don’t you go back to tinkering with your computer programs and emo?

  61. > that experts can be wrong, and experts can be ‘wrong’.

    There’s nothing you can gain by appealing to these two possibilities, Shub. It trivially applies to all empirical sciences. Most what we think we know will turn out to be crap, in the end.

    Meanwhile, the best explanation wins. But it provides no hindsight. Revisiting our favorite cases from the past makes me think of those who’d suggest we play Poker from the comfort of the TV screen, where you can see all the cards and don’t even have to calculate the odds.

    So yeah, we can always be wrong. Your point is?

  62. Point is? Go back to what Tom said.Point is experts can be wrong and those who speak up or have a different view don’t have to be corrupt.

  63. What would be the equivalent of Salby in the breast cancer debate, Shub?

  64. Dunno a thing about “emo”, but I do have a cool computer program I’ve been tinkering with. I use it to debunk claims that you guys make about the surface temperature record. You can check it out at http://tinyurl.com/NASA-HANSEN4

  65. Nobody *has* to be corrupt, Shub. And everybody *could*. Why think Tom would argue otherwise?

    I’m sure there are many reasons why Salby keeps repeating his lines. Do you think Salby might turn out to be right after all? What kind of evidence would change Salby’s mind?

    We should not conflate what we think we know (e.g. Salby) and what we should do about it (e.g. cancer screening).

  66. I don’t know. Of all the things Salby said, Skepticalscience or any other science has no answer and they climbed on a graph and called it wrong based on a circular argument that makes sense to them. Salby hasn’t even published anything on his theory, he’s only given presentations.

    What about the pink ribbon clowns and dupes, pink ribbon scamsters and the pinkwash? Where’s protection against their push? That’s what we need.

  67. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    Compare and contrast:

    First we have this…

    ” The medical establishment has been wrong and its guidelines serve as a chronological record. Witness recommendations for breast cancer screening,… “

    And then we have this:

    “Firstly, about breast cancer screening, I uttered not a single specific thing.”

    And to top it off we have this:

    “The point about breast cancer screening is that experts differ in assessment between then and now, and between each other, even today. “

    You know, Shub, plausible deniability works much better when what you said is plausibly deniable.

    It is clear that your point was not nothing as you first tried to back pedal, or simply that experts disagree as you tried in your next back pedal. Your argument was that expert recommendations for screening are wrong. You simplified a complex argument because you felt that it would be a useful rhetorical device for arguing against expert opinion. Unfortunately for you, however, not only was your argument simplistic, you also were ironically relying on expert opinion.

    Calling me names won’t change the reality, Shub.

  68. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    “Which is why the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations, an excellent summary of the latest available evidence (which, mind you, includes all available evidence both new and old), recommend against breast self exam and mammograms before 50.”

    I offered some expert opinion, above, that speaks to that question. Did you read it? Do you have a response? Or, are you just content to rely on the “authoritative” US Preventative Services Task Force.

    Interesting how selective and convenient is your trust in authority, isn’t it?

  69. Screening at 40 was recommended because it was thought to lead to good. (increased detection, increased survival, earlier detection etc). It is not thought to lead to good anymore. We knew the former before. We know the opposite today. Recommendations about screening is knowledge, and that is what concerns my example.

  70. KR says:

    Mircea – “Maybe I am wrong but I do not see the pier-reviewed publication as debate.”

    Then you would be wrong.

    Ideas, hypotheses, syntheses are published – those that fail to support their thesis get refuted or (in the case of the quite bad) ignored. Those that support their points with evidence, and in particular those with explanatory power, get incorporated into future work – cited, expanded upon, etc.

    It is entirely a debate of ideas, evidence, and data. Not rhetoric, which is the coin of public/personal debates.

    You seem to be operating from a “relative” point of view, the idea that all viewpoints are in some fashion valid. Reality, however, is a harsh critic – there is an objective reality, and some ideas are simply incorrect. .

  71. Joshua says:

    Fascinating:

    “It is not thought to lead to good anymore.”

    So, I guess that this is not arguing anything specific?

    And Shub accept that “authoritative” opinion of some experts over the opinion of other experts because why? Certainly, it couldn’t simply be that Shub accepts that a prevalent view must be correct because of its prevalence, right?

    So then the reason must because Shub is expert himself,such that he can disprove the arguments of Daniel Kopan- as he will do any second now.

    Hold on, Shub, while I go grab some popcorn.

  72. Joshua, I am reading the exact same text as you. I don’t see what you are seeing, or saw. So, maybe it was my mistake I was not clear.

    My point to Tom does not in any way depend on which of the two competing recommendations about breast cancer screening is correct.

    If we believe in expert opinion, we should believe in the 2009 unrevised task force recommendations. Yes, personally, I believe they have a strong case. It is certainly Tom’s opinion and the entire warmie group’s, that the IPCC should and can generally be trusted. So, my own personal position is the same as Tom’s.

    Whether or not you align your position with the task force recommendations, it remains that there are two expert opinions on breast cancer screening, which are opposite in direction. Clearly, one of them is wrong. In other words, one set of experts are wrong.

    Now tell me what the problem with this is?

  73. Joshua says:

    Actually, a correction:

    I was wrong when I said the following:

    “And Shub accept that “authoritative” opinion of some experts over the opinion of other experts because why? “

    I wasn’t accurate. In fact, as we can see from this statement:

    ““It is not thought to lead to good anymore.””

    That Shub goes so far in his trust in “authority” of the US Preventative Services Task Force that he dismisses that any opinion other even exists (even though I referenced an alternate expert opinion in this very thread). Their “authority” is apparently so trustworthy, so deserving of blind trust, that Shub just simply rubs out any other opinions. It just simply “is not thought” that screening before 50 “leads to good anymore.”

  74. Let us not scatter replies all over the thread. The point simply is that one set of experts, of the two, is wrong. I have no more implicit trust in the task force than others.

  75. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    “My point to Tom does not in any way depend on which of the two competing recommendations about breast cancer screening is correct. “

    You listed recommendations for screening as an example of experts being wrong. (1) I say that your conclusion on the issue is simplistic and, (2) you are ironically relying on (ironically what you perceive to be the consensus of opinion of) expert opinion to draw your conclusion, a certain conclusion at that.

    The point that experts can be wrong seems trivial. Who needs to have that point explained? The point that the prevalent view among experts has proved to be wrong in the past is also trivial. Do you think that Tom doubts that a prevalent view among experts has ever been wrong?

    The prevalence of expert opinion is information. It isn’t dispositive. It is instructive as to probabilities.

  76. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    “It is unclear why supposed experts in epidemiology continue to advise women and their physicians as if the age of 50 has some biological or scientific reason to be a threshold for breast cancer screening. NONE of the parameters of screening change abruptly at the age of 50 or any other age. Recall rates do not change suddenly at the age of 50. Recommendations for biopsy do not change suddenly and cancer detection rates do not change suddenly at the age of 50. This charade to mislead women and their physicians has gone on long enough and needs to stop. Anyone who is making recommendations based on the age of 50 should have to provide ungrouped (and unaveraged) data that show that any of the parameters of breast cancer screening change abruptly at the age of 50. A woman in her late forties is far more like a woman in her early fifties than she is like a woman in her early forties. A 48 year old woman is indistinguishable from a woman age 52 with regard to the “risks” and benefits of screening. The incidence of breast cancer goes up steadily with increasing age with no abrupt change at the age of 50. The breast cancer detection rate goes up steadily with increasing age with no abrupt change at the age of 50. All groups now admit that, as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology have been pointing out for decades, based on the strictest scientific evidence from randomized, controlled trials (RCT, screening and early detection saves lives for women beginning by the age of 40 (none of the trials included women younger than age 39) with no sudden change at the age of 50. Because younger women have a longer life expectancy, breast cancer among women in their forties accounts for more than 40% of the years of life lost to breast cancer.”

    http://www.sbi-online.org/associations/8199/files/A%20review%20of%20Tipping%20the%20Balance%20of%20Benefits%20and%20Harms%20to%20Favor%20Screening%20Mammography%20Starting%20at%20Age%2040%20Years%20-%20Kopans.pdf

  77. “Do you think that Tom doubts that a prevalent view among experts has ever been wrong?”

    Really? Read his comment again. He tells me:

    “If your doctor must postulate stupidity or corruption to explain why the AMA will not sanction his treatment, don’t undergo it. Your a fool if you do.”

    His example is framed in the negative but its thrust is clear: ‘If your doc is going against the AMA, he must be an idiot.’

    My response is to say: not necessarily so.

  78. Joshua, forget about the Kopans stuff. If epidemiologic findings could be intuited the way he explains it, why would there be a need to conduct any studies? While he is right about the apparent random-ness of choosing ’50’ as a cutoff , you are placing an enormous burden of differentiating cancer signal from more dense breast tissue in premenopausal women when you move it back to 40. 50 is about the age for menopause when the gland-fat ratio starts changing. Nothing happens to cancer incidence (as Kopans points out). The test simply starts performing better.

    An entirely independent approach to determining screening usefulness has been undertaken by the UK NHS. Did they come to a definitive conclusion that settles the matter once and for all? Clearly not.

    The simple fact remains that the mammogram has terrible sensitivity and specificity as a screening tool and the more you push its limits the greater the variety of interesting consequences.

  79. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    I am sorry. From where I sit, your arguments are inconsistent. You first argued that one perspective was wrong. You then claimed that isn’t what you were arguing. You then, again, claimed that opinion was wrong. You then, again, claimed that isn’t what you were arguing.

    Not sure what else there is to say. IMO, your inconsistency is clear. If it isn’t to you, then there’s nowhere to go (on that subject, at least).

  80. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    The test simply starts performing better.

    He speaks to that point, and I excerpted what he said. I consider his argument to be non-trivial, and certainly not simply something to just “forget.” The question of cost/benefit, and the relative value of “better” is an important issue, IMO.

    BTW – before telling me to just “forget” what he says, you might want to consider the following:

    “he “Tipping the Balance” analysis is based on modeling.As the authors admit “model outcomes largely depend on the inputs and assumptions.” The use of the word “largely” is incorrect. Model outcomes are, entirely, dependent on the assumptions programmed in. The discrepancies in the results between the models clearly reflect this fact. Assumptions can be consciously or unconsciously used to bias the results.”

    Ah well, what the hell. Just forget it, eh?

  81. Alright. Have it your way. (that’s the real point, isn’t it? scoring cheap points). It really doesn’t matter to what I’m saying. Let me say the task force is correct. There is evidence that earlier screening causes harm. It is the same with second-hand smoke – there may or may not be supportive causal evidence in each and every case but epidemiologic evidence points to possible causation when large populations are taken together. You can go on arguing that screening ‘saves lives’ and provide anecdotal evidence and/or evidence from small trials, or from single experts. But the sum evidence available points in the opposite direction. You are not the only one to whom this is unpalatable or counter-intuitive. But screening for low incidence diseases with insensitive tests is a disaster in the making, irrespective of the disease in question. It is like the drones flying around in North Pakistan detecting and killing ‘terrorists’.

  82. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    I find it hard to understand why you seem to not acknowledge the conditional aspect of what you quoted from Tom:

    ““If your doctor must postulate stupidity or corruption….”

    The point being that if your doctor basis his disagreement with a “consensus” viewpoint on a highly improbably contingency, you probably should seek out another opinion.

  83. Oh please, don’t forget that part.

    Mind you, the only categorical statement from the task force presently is that it recommends against BSE. It backed off from the the 40 year thing and it got brow-beaten into doing so.There was all this talk of Obamacare rationing etc.

    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/gop-women-attack-breast-cancer-findings/?_r=0

  84. Joshua says:

    “you can go on arguing that screening ‘saves lives’ and provide anecdotal evidence and/or evidence from small trials, “

    That is simply an inaccurate description/misunderstanding of Koppan’s arguments…

    ….or from single experts.”

    And that is simply a blatant appeal to the authority of “consensus.”

    Anyway, have a good night. No more “cheap points” from this “dishonest little twit” who’s a “universal expert on everything.” Eh?

  85. Joshua
    I was ticked off that a position was ascribed to me even without me having articulated it. I don’t still see it, but no matter, I was out of line calling you names. I apologize.

  86. Joshua,
    Firstly, see down the thread.

    You are making my point for me. With the USPSTF, one can find oneself as though arguing from a position of consensus, with an expert-written ‘report’ in hand.

  87. dbostrom says:

    “Salby hasn’t even published anything on his theory…”

    Oh, and that’s a feature?

  88. @Mircea:
    I don’t know why but you seem to be ignoring our points that we’re talking abou something completely different than you are. Science isn’t fuzzy, an neither are academic debates, but the public debates that the so-called sceptics like are fuzzy. Most of what they do is misrepresent scientific evidence or use rhetoric. That’s basically all they can do as they have lost in the scientific literature.

    This means an opponent has to deal with trying to clean up that mess first. That’s why public debates with those that have incorrect views shouldn’t be held. It’s fine to respond to what they do, but debates aren’t the place for it. Like I said you don’t put for example and AIDS denier next to a physician.

  89. BBD says:

    Fantastic bit of long-winded trolling there by Shub.

    Now, back to the simple question Shub refuses to answer: do you, Shub, acknowledge that Salby’s claims are demonstrably wrong?

    Now we can engage with the matter of public interest which is Andrew Montford’s role in promoting Salby.

    The public should be interested in this because there are only two conclusions we can reach:

    – AM is unable to understand the science and should not therefore be actively promoting Salby’s contrarian views because of the real risk of misinforming the public on a serious matter.

    – AM is knowingly promoting erroneous and misleading claims by Salby.

    This is clearly a matter of some importance since there are those who think Montford is an “honest broker” and he is periodically interviewed by eg the BBC.

    The public needs to know what is going on here.

  90. BBD says:

    @ Shub

    This, by the way, is arrant nonsense. In fact it is a lie:

    Of all the things Salby said, Skepticalscience or any other science has no answer and they climbed on a graph and called it wrong based on a circular argument that makes sense to them.

  91. Rob Painting says:

    High School? I suspect most primary school children would understand that human CO2 emissions don’t magically disappear. A realization that somehow manages to elude Salby. Very odd.

  92. > His example is framed in the negative but its thrust is clear: ‘If your doc is going against the AMA, he must be an idiot.’

    No, Shub, read the counterfactual again.

    If your doctor says the AMA is corrupt or worse &c. This does not translate into “all doctors going against the AMA do so because they think it’s corrupt”. The case whereby doctors express another kind of disagreement has not been raised by Tom.

    You’re chasing windmills, Shub.

  93. Let’s hope no one conspires to wave pink ribbons at you, Shub.

    Please tell more about the circular argument.

  94. Joshua says:

    Shub –

    Only you can know what you meant. All I can do is go by what you wrote. Now I can accept a clarification as to what you meant, but you clearly stated that you believed the recommendations were wrong, as an example of where the prevalent view among experts can be wrong. If that’s not your opinion, fine, but you repeated that opinion after saying it wasn’t your opinion.

    As for the name calling up-thread, apology accepted, although name-calling doesn’t bother me much. And btw – I don’t think my point was to score cheap points but to highlight flaws in your arguments as examples of the inconsistencies and flaws in arguments about “consensus” that I have frequently read from “skeptics.”

  95. And *this* is why it’s so frustrating to deal with “contrarians”. Skepticalscience described a “schoolboy” blunder made by Salby, a blunder that is so obvious and easy to comprehend that any reasonable person would be too embarrassed to pretend not to understand where Salby went wrong.

    The Salby blunder described by Skepticalscience would make for a nice “gimme” high-school science exam question intended to get the grading curve started above zero.

    Yet schub refuses to acknowledge that Salby erred, even at the cost of looking like a failing high-school science student.

    Harsh words perhaps, but words borne out of the exact sort of frustration highlighted in this wottsupwiththat post.

  96. Yes, ignoring Salby’s other errors (which are also fairly poor) the graph blunder is so obviously wrong that it seems as though it should be something that anyone with a basic grasp of numbers and graphs should accept. That some don’t, very nicely illustrates the frustration that I (and others I imagine) sometimes feel.

  97. You are not very far off from what I said. We are more or less on the same page. If one has to believe the view of experts, as Tom suggested, one has to believe the preventive services task force. This is a different argument from saying ‘I believe the task force is right and that means the previous experts were wrong’.

    The fact that people of all political stripes used the Obamacare rationing bugaboo to beat down the task force recommendations shows that they like feel-good measures even if there is evidence that it can do harm.

  98. Except I don’t think Tom said that you had to believe the view of experts. His point, I believe, was that if the main reason that someone gives for the expert view being wrong is that there is some kind of conspiracy, then maybe you should consider not giving that person’s view much credence. There is an elements of judgement I guess, but if you have to resort to implying a conspiracy then that might suggest that your actual arguments don’t have much credibility. If you can show they’re wrong and provide actual evidence that relates to that actual point (rather than evidence of some kind of conspiracy) then great, but otherwise maybe one should consider the expert view more strongly than the alternative.

  99. I think this kind of comment shows you should stick to your own style, Wotts.

    As if you had a choice anyway.

  100. Tom Curtis says:

    Shub continues to mount up misrepresentations of my view. That is surprising, considering how simple the view is (and that I have already explained it twice). Perhaps third time is the charm (but I suspect not in Shub’s case).

    Put simply, the view that the vast majority of experts in a given field of science are acting irrationally in forming their opinions is not tenable. They may be wrong, but they will be at least rational opinions given the evidence available to them. Therefore, if your chosen expert feels compelled to ascribe irrationality to their views, either by suggesting that they have made a dunderheaded mistake, or that they are corrupt and not presenting their true opinions; then the views of that chosen expert are very suspect.

    Given this, if you as a non-informed observer choose to believe the few experts who not only disagree with the vast majority, but consider the vast majority to be irrational in their stated opinion (either due to simple blunders in interpreting the evidence, or to basing their claims on fraudulent data, or to being part of a world wide conspiracy to introduce one world government based on the UN, etc), then you, yourself are a fool. That follows simply from two observations. First, in the vast majority of situations in which the dissident experts not only dissents from the consensus, but cannot conceive of the consensus as a rational opinion, the dissenter has been wrong. Most frequently hopelessly wrong. Second, people who base important decisions on bucking against long odds (as you would be in this case) do not do well in life.

    Thus stated, it is very clear that Shub’s purported critique of my view is a strawman. He has tried to saddle me with ridiculous opinions (ie, that the consensus has never been wrong). He has introduced, frankly, irrelevant counter examples based on cases where there was disagreement between the majority and a small minority of experts, but in which clearly both sides have had rational grounds for their opinions. He has misrepresented me as suggesting that he isolated expert must be a fool, whereas he may be a genius for all we know. We just have no way of knowing whether he is a genius, or a pseudoscientist (given that, ex hypothesi, we are uninformed on the subject) and the odds of the later are far stronger than those of the former in the situation.

    Of course, there is a very good reason for Shub’s continual misrepresenation of my opinion. He knows full well that most of the so-called “skeptic” experts on AGW do in fact ascribe to the rest of climate scientists dunderheaded mistakes, or conspiracy as a means of explaining why the other 97% of climate scientists disagree from them. He misrepresents my claims not because they are unreasonable, but because they are unpalatable to him; and consequently misrepresents them in such a way that if I believed as he represents me, I would have made a dunderheaded mistake.

  101. Yes Tom, that is the real problem. Rational lay folk have absolutely *no* valid reasons whatsoever to mistrust the output of experts in science, neither those that are valid in a general sense, nor those valid from their perspective.

    Let us see the ways:

    [1] If a dissident ‘cannot conceive of the consensus as a rational opinion’, it is likely he/she would be wrong. (a new one, even to me)
    [2] Skeptical climate scientists/experts have no better reason other than conspiracy to believe that 97% of experts disagree with them.

    Here is a newsflash: A dissident *can* conceive of (a) consensus as rational opinion. He or she may dissent, on other occasions, with a stance that, there ought not to be a consensus on a topic, that the consensus opinion is wrong, that the consensus was forged in order to paper over fundamental gaps in understanding, or that the consensus has retarded greater understanding. *All* these positions will have the same appearance: i.e., one of an individual or a group going ‘against the consensus’, or not conceding its validity. That, by itself, is not enough to dismiss him/her or them.

    Second flash: The ‘97% consensus’ thing is crap. It is wrong, it is invalid. Sell that stuff to journalists and politicians, not to people who’ve taken the trouble, be it in their own way, to have their own opinions. So those, who according to you, have no better reason other than conspiracy to believe that ‘97% scientists agree’ are indeed well and truly idiots. But nevertheless the perfect foil for those who truly believe there is a 97% consensus.

  102. BBD says:

    You are continuing to dodge the questions.

    Clear evidence of bad faith/trolling.

  103. John Mashey says:

    re: What’s a cllmate scientist?
    Salby said, in the preface to the 2012 revision fo his 1996 book, most of which is pretty much the same, with some new science … plus about 20 pages of “interesting ideas” on CO2 and ice cores:

    ‘‘Historically, students of the atmosphere and climate have had proficiency in one of the physical disciplines that underpin the topic, but not in the others. Under the fashionable umbrella of climate science, many today do not have proficiency in even one. What is today labeled climate science includes everything from archaeology of the Earth to superficial statistics and a spate of social issues. Yet, many who embrace the label have little more than a veneer of insight into the physical processes that actually control the Earth-atmosphere system, let alone what is necessary to simulate its evolution reliably. Without such insight and its application to resolve major uncertainties, genuine progress is unlikely.’

    Put another way, the only part of climate science that really counts is … atmospheric physics.
    Salby did some good work in the 1990s:
    1994 papers got 798 cites, 1996 book 410 … but nothing submitted after 2001 got more than 32, and most (of the few published) got less, especially those he led.

    Even ignoring the financial chicanery, the rest of the field had mostly lost interest in his work 5 years before he headed to Macquarie.

    Did people notice that in the announcement for his UK tour, he claimed:
    ‘Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic
    Sciences, University of Colorado, 1997-present.’

    Anyone see any problem with that?

  104. Yes, I noticed that he was claiming to still be at Colorado and I thought he was no longer there. I’m tempted to try and push this Salby issue a bit harder. I think he is the one example of someone who should not be taken seriously by anyone who is involved in the climate science debate (assuming that their goal is to genuinely understand the science). I think that promoting his tour reflects badly on anyone who does so, and I’m trying to think of a way of making this case more forcefully.

  105. John Mashey says:

    He resigned from CU in January 2008, one step ahead of a looming CU misconduct investigation and an ongoing NSF investigation that led to debarment. Then he sued CU twice. He very definitely has no affiliation with ATOC there.

    The NSF closeout was fierce, and gives context to his :Affiliate Scientist, ASA (Company 1 in NSF) claim, 1998-2002, that he treid to hide from both NSF and CU.

    He is labeled Prof. Murry Salby, however, he is still Dr. Murry Salby, but no longer Prof.

    He has a long list of topics, impressive to general audiences … but sadly, zero publication or research in carbon-cycle or ice-cores. When he spoke at Cambridge last Spring, unfortunately for him, he happened to get a serious ice-core expert in the audience. See On the integrity of ice core records [by Eric Wolff].

  106. Tom Curtis says:

    Hardly the one example. He is the picture of rationality when compared to Christopher Monckton.

  107. Indeed, that is true. I think I sometimes try to block out the existence of Monckton.

  108. Rachel says:

    Except that Monckton is Sacha Baron Cohen in disguise, remember? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w833cAs9EN0

  109. John Mashey says:

    Salby is an atmospheric physicist who did much good work in the 1980s and 1990s, not so much since, especially in work submitted after 2002 (citation counts way, way down, relatively few papers).
    He started this in July 2011 at IUGG in Melbourne, where he gave an oral presentation in a stratospheric session, the accepted talk being on Antarctic open issues (also subjecyt of Titova’s PhD dissertation, she was coauthor). Instead, with no notice, he surprised the audience by giving an unrelated talk on carbon cycle. John N-G attended, talked to Salby and commented on that. Although I’ve attended 100s of technical sessions at conferences, I’ve never see anyone give a totally-unrelated talk, a practice frowned on by program committees and audiences. I have been able to find no record of Salby ever presenting this to an Australian uni since.

    Usually, a researcher with interesting ideas tries them out in university seminars in front of experts to get feedback. On the other hand, Salby spoke in 2011 and 2012 for The Sydney Institute, to general audiences, not normally a venue for science, but they seemed to like what they heard, whether they understood everything or not.

    His 2013 Europe tour:
    2013.04.09 EGU, Vienna, poster, not oral
    2013.04.10 EGU, Vienna, poster, not oral
    2013.04.16 Inst. Pierre Simon Laplace, Paris (he did sabbatical), reaction unknown
    2013.04.18 Helmut Schmidt U (German military academy), for EE dept, arranged by Vaherenholt / EIKE
    2013.04.22 U of Cambridge, refuted by ice-core expert Eric Wolff
    2013.04.24 U i Oslo, rented by Klimatrealistene
    2013.04.25 Ui Oslo, unknown sponsor, Ole Humlum seems most likely contact

    I’d guess, by now, speaking engagements at Australian Uni’s will be hard to come by, and I don’t see any in the UK trip, either Unclear what he’s going to do.

  110. Interesting, thanks. I particularly liked this part of John N-G’s comment,

    Eventually I realized that if 0.8 C of warming is sufficient to produce an increase of 120ppb CO2, as Salby asserted, then the converse would also have to be true. During the last glacial maximum, when global temperatures were indisputably several degrees cooler than today, the atmospheric CO2 concentration must have been negative.

    That seems pretty conclusive (although, I suspect he means ppm, rather than ppb).

  111. John Mashey says:

    Oops, I forgot MQ prof Colin Prentice (Coordinating Lead Author of IPCC TAR Section 2 :‘Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’ and (necessarily) a well-published expert on this, in 2011:
    http://www.climatefutures.mq.edu.au/files/file/How%20we%20know%20the%20recent%20rise%20in%20atmospheric%20CO2%20is%20anthropogenic.pdf

    So, between John N-G, Wolff and Prentice, we have 3 serious scientists who heard Salby and refuted him, but then scientists mostly ignored him.

  112. I read the Eric Wolff document where he takes issue with Salby’s description of ice-core CO2 as a ‘proxy’. Wolff characterizes Salby’s use of the word as erroneous. When I listened to Salby’s use of the word, I get the same meaning that Wolff describes, meaning, there is no error in the use of the term by Salby. Of the three page document, 1 and 1/2 pages is taken up by this redundancy.

    The real unfortunate part is people like Mashey running smear jobs and supposed publishing scientists nodding along.

  113. As far as I can tell, what John Mashey has published is in the public domain and is factually correct. However, as far as this post goes it is irrelevant. One doesn’t need to present that information to show that Salby’s ideas are incorrect. Shub, a direct question. Do you think that Salby’s view that the CO2 rise is natural could be correct? If so, why?

  114. BBD says:

    Shub

    Perhaps you will answer the blog owner’s questions about Salby’s claims even though you repeatedly dodged mine?

  115. Point me to the exact, specific claim from Salby, and I’ll tell you what I think.

  116. The claim is that the CO2 rise is natural, not anthropogenic. For example, you could the WUWT post here and watch the video. To be clear, though, the question is essentially, do you think the rise in atmospheric CO2 could be natural and not anthropogenic?

  117. chris says:

    That’s not true Shub. The only part of the Wolff document that addresses the erroneous use of the term “proxy” for describing the direct measurement of CO2 in air trapped in ice, is the following two sentences:

    “Professor Salby incorrectly described the measurement as a “proxy”, but a proxy is when you measure one thing (for example water isotopes in ice) to determine another (temperature above Antarctica).  He may believe there is an artefact in the conserv ation of CO2 in ice but he is wrong to describe it as a proxy.”

    The bulk if the Wolff document is in summarising the evidence that the [CO2] measured in air extracted from ice is a true measure of the [CO2] in the air that was trapped at the time the ice was formed, (given the temporal averaging associated with the time for firn “close-off”). It is the latter that Salby is disputing based on unevidenced inferences from his (Salby’s) flawed assumptions about relationships between [CO2] and temperature on v short contemporary time scales.

    (it’s a four page document – not a “three page document”. )

  118. I’ve watched the Hamburg video with some attention and I can speak to that. The claim, as I gather, is that the relationship derived from the ice core proxies to their corresponding atmospheric counterpart values may be erroneous. Larger atmospheric swings in the past may not be represented in the proxy record.

  119. chris says:

    oops…possible to fix my formatting?

  120. Chris, Not interested in argument if you want to litigate in literal manner. The first page and half of the second is taken up in introductory material and expounding the meaning of the word ‘proxy’ and how it doesn’t apply to Salby’s usage.

  121. Shub, that does not even come close to answering my question.

  122. chris says:

    Shub, address the point please. Wolff’s entire report, apart from addressing in two sentences Salby’s erroneous use of the term proxy, is about the evidence that [CO2] trapped in ice is a faithful representation of the [CO2] in the air trapped at the time of firn closure.

    You have represented Wolff’s report as dominated by a semantic argument over the use of the term “proxy”. That’s entirely wrong. Wolff is addressing Salby’s unevidenced assertion that the ice core record of [CO2] must be wrong.

  123. I think the answer to your question is better provided by you! – the climate expert. My own understanding is improved from Salby’s talk in that how the rise in CO2 has been assuredly attributed to anthropogenic contributions, may have some holes in it.

  124. I think the answer to your question is better provided by you! – the climate expert. My own understanding is improved from Salby’s talk in that how the rise in CO2 has been assuredly attributed to anthropogenic contributions, may have some holes in it.

  125. That seems like rather a cop out. I’m not a climate expert and don’t claim to be. However, I have read enough to be fairly certain that the increase in atmospheric CO2 since the mid 1800s is anthropogenic and not natural. Given that you have a blog called “Shub Niggurath Climate” and your twitter handle is “shubclimate” I’m amazed that you are unable, or unwilling, to answer this very basic question.

    If you want my opinion. Calling yourself a skeptic and giving any credence to what Murry Salby says in that video are inconsistent positions.

  126. See my response to your comment below.

  127. chris says:

    What of Salby’s assertions do you find convincing as an explanation for non-anthropogenic contributions to raised {CO2] in the industrial era Shub? After all the massive anthropogenic [CO2] is being driven into the oceans on a prodigious scale (around half of all our emissions). So “non-anthropogenic” CO2 absolutely can’t be arising from the oceans. It’s not being spontaneously produced in the air. The amount coming by natural plant cycles from Earth flora can’t make a sizeable dent because that would require a truly massive die off-of flora and we’d have seen that (even if we see some fluctuation in plant growth associated with ENSO that give rise to the fluctuations in net annual accumulation that gives rise to the “noise” in rising [CO2]).

    So what of Salby’s assertions/arguments convince you that non-anthropogenic contributions to net rising [CO2] are significant?

    Or if you prefer to link to specific time periods within Salby’s Hamburg talk, that would be useful

  128. As I said before, you need to make a specific statement, either directly quoting Salby, or closely mirroring what he said. I can agree or disagree. Your present statement does not do that. Salby’s contention is that the derivation logic behind anthropogenic contributions is faulty. I agree with this position, from my understanding of the video.

    Does this mean human hydrocarbon combustion has not added CO2 to the atmosphere? Of course not.

    Secondly, science as I use it, is a series of hypotheses. When propositions are made or tested, all hypotheses supporting them, the entire chain, is up for question. There is no allegiance owed to any one component that it be exempt.

  129. “You have represented Wolff’s report as dominated by a semantic argument over the use of the term “proxy”.

    You have a very vivid imagination.

  130. “So what of Salby’s assertions/arguments convince you that non-anthropogenic contributions to net rising [CO2] are significant?”

    I find Salby’s claim that larger swings in atmospheric CO2 that might have occurred in the past are not captured in the proxy ice core record convincing. Some kind soul has broken up Salby’s video into manageable parts and this portion of his talk is here (http://youtu.be/P0d3Od7abb4). I don’t know the actual math behind it and I’m taking Salby at his word. I would be happy to change my view if I see someone else shows different calculations, or that Salby’s calculations are wrong.

    This was the juncture at which I concluded that Salby himself has not published his work yet, so how exactly is anyone else supposed to do the above. Which means Salby’s work, as of now, remains preliminary.

  131. Shub, are you doing this intentionally just to help illustrate the frustrations associated with this topic, are are you serious? The question is simple. Do you think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the mid 1800s could be natural? That’s the question. It’s not a tricky question. A simple answer is possible.

    As I’ve already said, though, it’s my opinion that claiming to be a skeptic while also considering that Murry Salby’s views have merit are inconsistent positions.

  132. BBD says:

    Salby is trying to pretend that natural variability produces a strong, multi-decadal trend in CO2 concentrations. This is obviously wrong. NV is self-cancelling over relatively short time-scales. The trend is driven by anthropogenic emissions.

  133. BBD says:

    To be more clear, Salby is trying to pretend that interannual natural variability is driving the multi-decadal upward trend.

  134. > Do you think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the mid 1800s could be natural? That’s the question.

    You should keep a tab of questions you ask to your guest commenters that remain unanswered, Wotts. Also note where the misdirections lead you. Both are good rhetorical indicators.

    Also, note that your question is good as it goes beyond the scope of Shub’s unwillingness to throw Murry under the bus. Shun can’t claim to have not consider Murray’s argument anymore.

    Expect an answer starting with a double negative like “it is not impossible that”.

  135. “Do you think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the mid 1800s could be natural? ”

    Short answer: I don’t know.

    Slightly longer answer, following up with Salby’s talk: If Salby is correct, it is possible.

    For the purposes of your browbeating, you can take the “I don’t know” as a “Yes”, I don’t mind. They are both equivalent in that I have not accepted the anthropogenic rise of CO2 as offered by the IPCC et al, as gospel.

    I think BBD gets my point.

  136. BBD says:

    I think BBD gets my point.

    How? You have not made one. You are effectively denying that the CO2 increase is anthropogenic while feigning agnosia. It’s insultingly transparent:

    They are both equivalent in that I have not accepted the anthropogenic rise of CO2 as offered by the IPCC et al, as gospel.

    Oh please.

    If Salby is correct, it is possible.

    But Salby is *not* correct – demonstrably not correct – so it is *not* possible.

    This is why we keep asking you if you accept Salby’s arguments – because we understand that they are wrong.

    Now we know that you do not understand this. As always, you have done yourself absolutely no favours.

  137. I’ve been following this discussion and this answer from Shub just floors me:

    “Do you think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the mid 1800s could be natural? ”

    Short answer: I don’t know.

    How can you not know this? It’s at the core of the problem we’re facing with a lot of lines of evidence showing where this carbon is coming from. Why would we take the points you raise about CO2 levels/emissions serious if you don’t know something this basic?

  138. Shub, if Salby is right there are a number of things one can conclude. One would be that the coefficient in Henry’s Law must be very different to what we expect it to be and, additionally, there must have been periods in the past when there was no CO2 in our atmosphere. Ergo, Salby is wrong. There are numerous other ways to show that he is certainly wrong. Hence, I repeat what I’ve said already, if you think that Salby’s ideas might have merit, then you’re no skeptic. It’s not difficult to show that what Salby suggests is wrong. Either you don’t know how to or an unwilling to try.

  139. “How can you not know this? It’s at the core of the problem we’re facing with a lot of lines of evidence showing where this carbon is coming from.”

    How can I not know this? The point of Salby’s presentation is that he is questiong key assumptions and inferences made in the reasoning behind attribution of atmospheric CO2 rise to humans. In order to consider his arguments, one has to suspend any conclusions one might have from earlier.

    Is the ice proxy record a key pillar in the logical chain behind the present orthodox conclusion? I don’t know this point as I am not familiar with the literature. If it is, then Salby’s argument has to refuted by addressing it directly. Not by fluttering one’s eyelashes in a “How can you not believe this?”

  140. “Hence, I repeat what I’ve said already, if you think that Salby’s ideas might have merit, then you’re no skeptic. ”

    Wotts, you are incapable of characterizing the arguments against Salby in your words. I am not a physicist but I can present a summary of what he presented to you. Keep your tall claims of who is a skeptic and how they should be judged to be one to yourself, thanks.

  141. BBD says:

    In order to consider his arguments, one has to suspend any conclusions one might have from earlier.

    No, Shub, in order to consider Salby’s arguments we need to suspend the laws of physics.

    This blog is about civil discourse, which prevents me from editorialising on what you have revealed about the level of your scientific comprehension.

  142. BBD says:

    Shub

    Do at least have the courtesy to read Wotts’ comments before posting your stuff.

    For example:

    Shub, if Salby is right there are a number of things one can conclude. One would be that the coefficient in Henry’s Law must be very different to what we expect it to be and, additionally, there must have been periods in the past when there was no CO2 in our atmosphere. Ergo, Salby is wrong.

    Your claim is false (as usual):

    Wotts, you are incapable of characterizing the arguments against Salby in your words.

  143. “Why would we take the points you raise about CO2 levels/emissions serious if you don’t know something this basic?”

    The answer is: Don’t. I don’t take anything you say seriously because of who you are so I don’t expect you do anything different.

    The simple point is that one has to consider the argument made *to its null*, before accepting or rejecting it. That is how science works, or should work. If Salby’s conclusions are accepted to any degree, they would face the same test of being able to be reconciled with other ‘known’ facts, as the current theory is taken to successfully do.

    Salby makes some very specific claims. He says the ice proxy records dampen larger fluctuations. He provides circumstantial evidence. It would be more productive to argue/discuss specifics than to litigate larger points and start hyperventilating.

  144. Shub, the point is I can quantify the arguments against Salby. I’ve even presented some. It’s not difficult. It’s not just the ice core records that he’d have to show being wrong. He’d also have to show that Henry’s law is wrong. Simple calculations (as I have done and will try and write a post about in the next couple of days) show this.

    If you think I’m being a bit harsh with my comments about whether or not you can be a skeptic if you think Salby’s ideas have merit, then I apologise. It is, however, what I think and Salby is – to me – a classic example of why these discussions are frustrating. How can we have serious discussions about this topic when one party considers that some ideas, that are easily shown to be wrong, might have merit.

  145. Shub, you don’t understand the topic and make a point of not correctly understanding questions.

    The question Wotts asked you was about the rise in CO2 being anthropogenic or not. This is not about claims Salby makes in his presentation. It’s about if you understand the science behind the cause of the rise of CO2. When you said “I don’t know” you admitted that you don’t have the knowledge to check if Salby’s claims are correct.

    In other words what you’ve been doing is just dance around this issue and give us only rhetoric. That’s why I can’t take you serious because show a lack of interest in checking if you have a point. To quote myself from one of my videos:

    scepticism doesn’t start with the viewpoints and claims of others, and being sceptical about those does not make you a sceptic. Being a sceptic starts with examining your own viewpoints, the positions you hold, the claims you make and the quality of evidence you use for those. If you are not doing that [...] you can’t call yourself a true sceptic.

    You aren't a true sceptic and the only thing you've been doing here is frustrating exchanges. As such I'll move on to more interesting exchanges where people actually care about getting the correct answer.

  146. BBD says:

    I refuse to be lectured on “how science works” by someone who has just demonstrated unequivocally that they have no idea what they are talking about whatsoever.

    You are an unsceptical windbag.

    (Wotts, apologies for the mild incivility, but really…)

  147. Shub, you don’t understand the topic and make a point of not correctly understanding questions.

    The question Wotts asked you was about the rise in CO2 being anthropogenic or not. This is not about claims Salby makes in his presentation. It’s about if you understand the science behind the cause of the rise of CO2. When you said “I don’t know” you admitted that you don’t have the knowledge to check if Salby’s claims are correct.

    In other words what you’ve been doing is just dance around this issue and give us only rhetoric. That’s why I can’t take you serious because show a lack of interest in checking if you have a point. To quote myself from one of my videos:

    scepticism doesn’t start with the viewpoints and claims of others, and being sceptical about those does not make you a sceptic. Being a sceptic starts with examining your own viewpoints, the positions you hold, the claims you make and the quality of evidence you use for those. If you are not doing that [...] you can’t call yourself a true sceptic.

    You aren’t a true sceptic and the only thing you’ve been doing here is frustrating exchanges. As such I’ll move on to more interesting exchanges where people actually care about getting the correct answer.

  148. John Mashey says:

    It might be odd that Salby, who used to publish extensively in the 1980s/1990s, has been unable to produce a peer-reviewed article in a credible journal. Of course, being absurdly wrong does tend to do that

    It was quite jolly to watch Salby’s 3 videos, 2 at The Sydney Institute and the one for EE department at Helmut Schmidt U (a curious choice, since the arranger is associated with the nearby U of Hambug, which actually does extensive climate research, unlike H S U.)
    For a general audience, it is quite important to show differential equations. :-)

    Fortunately, we do have a first-hand account of Salby’s talk.
    See On the post-retirement revolutionaries of climate science.

  149. Colin, it is you who doesn’t understand the question, or may be watts is with you as well. Salby *is* questioning the basis for attribution of CO2 to human sources.

  150. Shub, ignoring the ice core records, what’s the null of Salby’s basic argument. Is it that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic? If so, the data is consistent with the null to high significance, ergo Salby’s hypothesis is wrong.

  151. You are a computer science person who has time on his hands. You are an uncivil brute, to boot. You were hankering for me to be banned from this blog, a few weeks back. Take a chill pill and sit back. Science is not for you. If you cannot take the heat, don’t enter the kitchen.

  152. wotts, this part of Salby’s claims are the video: http://youtu.be/tpM8nMMSMO4. Salby’s saying that if natural sources include 13C, “all bets are off”. Beyond this, I don’t see him making the claim specifically, that anthropogenic CO2 has not contributed to CO2 rise.

  153. Mashey you are smear artist who has lots of time on his hands to dig up dirt. If you don’t have anything specific to Salby’s claims, why do you participate in this debate at all? Do you know the dollar figures channelized to James Hansen as award money over the years? When all he’s done is post pdfs of his document drafts to his web server? Or that SAlby specifically posted answers on questions about his CU employment? Or why the NSF never arrived at a specific conclusions in their ‘investigations’?

  154. BBD says:

    You should be banned from this blog, Shub, for your monstrous displays of bad faith. You are little more than a troll.

  155. What Salby doesn’t tell you is that the 14C ratio has also been dropping. Why is this? Well 14C is unstable with a half-life of 5700 years. If the source of atmospheric CO2 were natural then the 14C ratio should not be dropping. That it is tells you that the source is ancient. Hence fossil fuels. Salby’s 13C claims are largely nonsensical. Everything(or virtually) points to the rise being anthropogenic.

  156. Sadly, I’m coming towards that conclusion myself. Certainly, if I was following the example of the Los Angeles TImes, I wouldn’t be letting Shub’s comments stand. We really shouldn’t be wasting our time talking to someone who is seriously willing to consider the possibility that the rise in anthropogenic CO2 might not be anthropogenic. There is no evidence to support this view. The only positive I can say about Shub’s comments is that it is a great illustration of what I was getting at in this post.

  157. I have people over for dinner, so won’t be on the blog, or moderating. They’ve just arrived, so can I ask for some restraint from everyone.

  158. Are there natural sources of Carbon leaner in 13C? “As many do” is Salby’s claim.

  159. Shub, I’m not sure I understand your question. Yes, plants are leaner in 13C as are fossil fuels. However, plants are not – I believe – leaner in 14C while fossil fuels have none.

  160. well wotts, you would certainly be a cowardly flunkie if you believe the bullshitter BBD and ‘ban’ me. Frustrated indeed you must me.

    What a chump.

  161. > If you don’t have anything specific to Salby’s claims, why do you participate in this debate at all?

    I don’t recall you said anything specific to Salby’s claims, Shub.

  162. > Salby *is* questioning the basis for attribution of CO2 to human sources.

    I think Murry does a bit more than questioning.

    Must be a vocabulary thing.

  163. Marco says:

    Shub, even when you discard the isotope question as being evidence of an anthropogenic source, you still cannot explain the increase in atmospheric CO2 by natural sources; not even mostly, not even a bit. We have reasonably accurate estimates of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and we have reasonably accurate estimates of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere. I have yet to see anyone show that the latter is larger than the former (in fact, it is exactly the opposite) or provide a very large anthropogenic sink of CO2 that is enough to significantly offset our emissions.

    Plain accounting says that if we stop our CO2 emissions, the increase in atmospheric CO2 will stop. It really is that simple. You don’t *need* the isotope record, but it is yet another line of evidence that points in the same direction.

    It’s like the employee who gets a $50 bonus each month, sees his account increase by on average $300 a year (apparently he spends a bit more from then on), and then claims it is his normal salary that is responsible for that increase. Guess what happens if his bonus is taken away…

  164. It seems that I don’t need to ban you, I just need to annoy you :-)

  165. “Plain accounting says that…”

    Really? It is a straight question. I used to assume the same, namely that plain accounting is behind the claim that CO2 increases are due to humans. Salby’s claim is that it (rise of CO2=due to humans) is an inference drawn from several lines of argument, rather than from plain accounting. Is this correct?

  166. Shub, Salby’s argument seems to be that the ice record might be wrong. Experts in the field disagree. His next argument seems to be that when you look at the annual variation in atmospheric CO2 concentrations the increase is greater in the rising side than the reduction is on the falling side (yes, because there is an underlying trend from our emissions). He then mentions 13C and says it could be fossil fuels but could also be plants. Sure, but you can’t explain the reduction in 14C if it were plants. You could then consider Henry’s law (as I have) to show that you can’t have a natural rise of 120 ppm for a 0.85 increase in surface temperature. I could continue, but Salby’s ideas are trivially incorrect, hence the frustration.

  167. Marco says:

    Of course it is a combination. Plain accounting already makes it clear that humans are the source. Add the isotope signal (both C13 and C14), which strongly infers a fossil carbon source, and we’re up to two lines of evidence (three if you take both C13 and C14 as independent). Salby may think he has a potential alternative for the C12/C13 question, but without an alternative for the plain accounting, he’s in reality got nothing.

  168. Don’t exclude the possibility that all this may be a vocabulary thing, Wotts.

    Also note how Shub tries to portray accounting as non-inferential.

  169. Tom Curtis says:

    In fact we have 10 lines of evidence, of which Salby adresses just one – and makes hash of even that. On top of that, he finds it necessary to fudge the data (Search for Salby’s Ratio on SkS, or my blog) to even make that case.

  170. John Mashey says:

    Tom Curtis: that was a nice post, thanks, a good intro for non-experts who want to learn without getting snowed by differential equations. I’d picked that as at science reference in the soon to be published Part 2 follow-on to Defamation By Internet? Part 1 – Murry Salby’s Short-Lived Blog Storm.” I.e. I wrote:

    ‘The Industrial Revolution’s cause of CO2 rise was clearly established in 1960s and reconfirmed by further evidence ( http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm history, Revelle, Seuss, Keeling ). Likewise, the strong long-term effect of CO2 on temperature is well-established basic physics. The Greenhouse Effect is real, but correlation is not causation, although clever graphs can fool the unwary.

    Of course temperature changes have short-term effects on CO2, but Salby’s ideas on CO2 were simply wrong. (http://www.skepticalscience.com/anthrocarbon-brief.html good summary, http://www.skepticalscience.com/Murry-Salby-Confused-About-The-Carbon-Cycle.html ) They were hardly new, but long debunked memes to confuse the public, a few cataloged at SkS.( http://www.skepticalscience.com/fixednum.php)
    188 “Murry Salby finds CO2 rise is natural”,
    85 “It’s not us”
    11 “CO2 lags temperature”,
    29 “Human CO2 is a tiny % of CO2″
    57 “CO2 measurements suspect”,
    113 “Warming causes CO2 rise”.

    The public history of Salby’s CO2 and ice-core ideas follows.
    This section just covers reactions to the a few talks, to cover all known cases where scientists met Salby and took the time to publicly refute his arguments. A few science blogs mentioned this and then ignored it thereafter.’

    One of the nice things about SkS is that it collects silly arguments in one place and gives accessible rebuttals, which avoids the waste of time continually repeating them.

    As a US Federal appeals court ruled:
    ‘“This is how science works,” they wrote. “The E.P.A. is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”’

    Likewise, the anthropogenic origin of the rise from 280ppm ought not have to be reproved again and again. (Actually, it looks like 280 was anthropogenic as well, as we would have been ~240-250ppm without human effects about the time the I.R. started, as per Bill Ruddiman & others’ research over last decade. For anyone attending AGU in December, Bill’s giving the Tyndall Lecture on that. Don’t miss it.)

  171. John Mashey says:

    Argh, sorry, delete this, but please fix the HTML in the previous comment.
    I omitted a closing bracket after Blogstorm.

  172. Well for anyone interested I’ve written a blog post about what happened here and what I do to prevent such situations.My rules basically state that you need to stay civil, you answer questions when asked, provide citations (or give them when asked), don’t make claims that are demonstrably wrong, don’t spam, and the comment has to be on-topic. If the comment you place doesn’t abide by those rules you will either get a warning from me or if it crosses the line too much I’ll just remove it.

    This is something that I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been active in this public discussion about climate change and the science behind it. I’ve also learned to very clearly state what the rules are, enforce them consistently, have a procedure in place for complaints, and document everything that I do.

    I even went as far as writing code for my blog that gives me a lot of extra features for moderation. It’s very useful to me that I now can store the original comment, add notes, and attach a publicly visible moderation remark to comments placed on my website.

    Those rules and tools that I now have done wonders for the amount of frustration that I have as discussions now have a tendency to be constructive. Although it never gets any easier on deciding how and when to intervene. Too little and comments derail, too much and I can kill any discussions that are taking place. Although so far I’ve seem to be doing well with the feedback I’m getting from commenters.

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