The Smug Loop

Both Andy Revkin Climate, Communication and the ‘Nerd Loop’ and Randy Olson, in a linked blog post, bemoan the state of “climate communication”, criticizing what they call the “nerd loop”. While I agree with Olson and Revkin that there is much to criticize in the climate communications community, I don’t think that either of them properly diagnose the problem.

Olson sharply criticized conventional climate communication and complained that foundations don’t spend enough money on “experimental” forms of science communication – apparently thinking, in particular, of the contemplated experimental opus of “marine biologist turned filmmaker and author” Randy Olson himself.

I disagree in the strongest possible terms with Olson’s main criticism – that climate communication has been too “cerebral”.

So there’s too much of the cerebral thing going on with climate communication. I wish I could unleash my old acting teacher on the climate community — boy would they regret having been so cerebral.

In my opinion – and here I repeat a point made on many occasions – climate communication has not been “cerebral” enough for professionals and scientists from other fields. Olson, like the academics that he criticizes, distinguishes the world between climate scientists and the “general public”. He observes that the general public is not particularly interested in the science questions and proposes that more “emotion” needs to be brought into climate communication.

However, the term “general public” disguises the wide variety within the audience. One of the first things that any business learns is that there are market “niches”. In my opinion, while the niche of professionals and scientists from other fields is not a large percentage of the total population, it is an extremely important niche for the climate communication business (not simply in its own right, but as potential opinion leaders) and one ill-served by “climate communicators”. “Emotional” messages aimed at the “general public” are not what this community wants or deserves.

As someone who’s interacted with this niche over the past number of years, my recommendation has consistently been that people who are worried about the impact of increased CO2 need to provide an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.

Such an exposition would probably be 1200 or 2000 pages, not 10 pages. Some of it would be material available in textbooks e.g. description of the infrared bands that are affected by additional CO2 – information that is not in dispute, but which any engineer would include in a comprehensive exposition. The main area of scientific uncertainty is in cloud feedbacks. In an engineering quality report, there might be several hundred pages on this topic, describing precisely what is known and what is not known and how the scientific uncertainties might be reduced. In AR4, this important topic was covered in less than two pages.

I’ve raised this issue with climate scientists on a number of occasions. To date, I haven’t encountered a single climate scientist that remotely comprehended what was missing, while professionals from other fields often understand the sort of document right away. (DeWitt Payne, among others, has endorsed this on other blogs.)

Typically, if a climate scientist responds, they provide a link to some little article on climate sensitivity that is not remotely equivalent to an engineering quality exposition, with the citation merely showing that the climate scientist doesn’t have a clue about the form of communication employed in the professional world. (Computer professionals sometimes confuse this issue with properly QCed computer code but the points are different.)

Unfortunately, some climate scientists – Gerry North for example – have even sneered at the idea of such an exposition. BTW unlike some readers, I do not conclude that the absence of such an exposition means that it is impossible to prepare such an exposition.

In the specific area of temperature reconstructions from proxies (which were heavily featured in climate communication following IPCC TAR), the problem is not that the climate science community is too “cerebral” for statisticians who’ve taken an interest in the field. The problem is just the opposite – all too often, scientists from other fields can readily understand the issues and are unconvinced by (Team) scientists and their reliance on repeated use of questionable proxies like bristlecones on the one hand and on questionable methods like tricks to hide the decline on the other.

This is not to say that I disagree with everything that Olson said. Consider the following anecdote:

Two weeks ago I was at event where they held the standard workshop on communicating climate science to the general public (and they were clear about this — their almighty audience was “the general public”).

The speaker, who was clearly a very, very nice person with enormously wonderful intentions, was old, boring, and utterly clueless about today’s mass communication environment. Eventually what was shown were three clips of “excellent spokespersons” for communicating climate science to the public. One of them was the C.E.O. of one of the largest environmental groups on the planet. He was the standard L.L. Bean khakis-wearing, business class-traveling, privileged, preppy white guy, telling us about how grim our future is because of climate change. And all I could think of was a couple video clips I had shown the day before.

I had given my talk which includes a section on the importance of the “voice” of the messenger, based on the 4th chapter of my book, “Don’t Be So Unlikeable.” To make the point I showed portions of two BP commercials from last year about the Gulf oil spill. The first one is Tony Hayward, C.E.O. of BP and with a foreign accent that automatically conveys condescension. The second one, produced after their communications folks realized they had blown their mass communications, is a homeboy from the Gulf coast with a thick suthern drawl, pronouncing “oil” as “all.” First guy terrible, second guy okay. It’s not frickin’ rocket science. People listen to voices they like.

So there I was in the back of the room thinking to myself, “Should I raise my hand and ask, ‘If you’re gonna use that enviro C.E.O., why don’t you go the full distance and get Tony Hayward?’” No one would have appreciated it.

And that’s when I excused myself, quietly apologized to the organizers out in the lobby, got in my car and left.

There are a couple of points of irony here. Olson’s decision to say that he got into his car seems gratuitous, though somewhat American. Was Olson trying to impress upon us that he was not attended by an idling limousine? Or perhaps that he was not such a zealot as to use public transit or a bicycle. Dunno.

But the greater irony was surely his comment:

‘If you’re gonna use that enviro C.E.O., why don’t you go the full distance and get Tony Hayward?’”

Isn’t that more or less what the climate science community has already done at realclimate? Why get Tony Hayward for likability and condescension when you’ve already got Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann?

Olson’s concluding recommendation to the climate science community:

Quit doing the same things over and over again. Surprise us. Break into the climate skeptics computers and steal THEIR emails. Something. Anything. Make it interesting, people. Break out of the Nerd Loop.

To my knowledge, it is far from demonstrated that anyone “broke into” U of East Anglia computers (as opposed to the emails being leaked by someone at the university), a point raised even by the Guardian.

But quite aside from that, it seems to me that there is non-criminal conduct that Olson and Revkin should be encouraging from the climate science community, at least on an experimental basis.

Things like: archiving data when an article is published. Not refusing FOI requests with untrue excuses. Perhaps even not refusing FOI requests. Disclosing adverse data and results. Disowning practices like hide the decline. If an investigation is done, try including representatives of critics.


  1. Venter
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    They still pretend it’s a communication problem when it’s a fundamental problem of bad science and poor ethics, followed by devious behaviour. The condenscencion, snarkiness and aggression while questioned on any issue, is the topping.

    • ianl8888
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:19 PM | Permalink

      >The condenscencion, snarkiness and aggression while questioned on any issue, is the topping.<

      Not the topping – rather, the giveaway

  2. son of mulder
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

    Maybe that would identify the problem under most circumstances, but when such explaination would undermind the the required message, so they have a problem.

  3. son of mulder
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

    or even undermine or maybe my mistype is relevant

  4. stan
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

    Imagine if climate scientists were open, honest, transparent, respectful, forthcoming, responsive, comprehensive, articulate and competent. The change would be so dramatic the earth might shudder.

    But then they’d just blame the shudder on global warming and ……

  5. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    It is amazing that climate science and the groupies write these things, but it plays particularly well to the uneducated elitist mind.

    “Silly skeptic, we made it too complex. We should simplify. Skeptics? – those guys have no valid points at all.”

    Fortunately, the mainstream climate scientists are losing on this ground because they have pushed too far. It is obvious to any non-plantlife that hide the decline was not good science, the defense of it is worse than the problem. I’ve often wondered just how long they will keep it up, and after over a year I wonder how well organized is climate science as a whole that NOT ONE member of the accredited believer community really stood up for proper science. There were several grumbles though. Frankly, if I were forced to give an opinion on a science subject contrary to reality in order to continue my profession, I would quit. That’s it. There are plenty of ways to make money.

    The pandering posts are a game to confuse the weak minded into comfortable belief that skeptics are too slow witted to figure out the big words. They are also a flag of union indicating the solidarity of the writer.

    • Central Coast Rick
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

      Since Prof. Richard Muller is in the news recently, it might be appropriate to comment that regarding ‘hide the decline’ he stated that the justification for the ‘trick’ would not have survived peer review in “any journal that I’m willing to publish in.” (Lecture at Berkeley – around Oct 2010 – around 33:20 –

      Later on he says that he has a list of scientists whose papers he won’t read anymore (suggesting but not naming which they are – though his slide at that moment is showing curves citing Jones, Mann & Briffa).

    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:25 PM | Permalink

    What’s really discouraging is that there are so many folks that really DO believe the problems the TEAM are having are related to communication only…they really don’t understand or want to understand the fundamental issues. They have their belief and can’t imagine how others can’t simply share that belief.


  7. Gary
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:27 PM | Permalink

    Climate scientists are mostly academics or academics working for the government. As such they’ve been through a Darwinian selection process that discourages the kinds of behaviors and actions that Steve advocates. Instead it tends to reward assertive attitudes of entitlement and condescension. Of course, there are many wonderfully humane academics who do not fit this mold – testimony to good parenting, no doubt – but those with elitist tendencies are more frequent than in “the general public.” Those who haven’t witnessed this may find it hard to believe. They should observe a faculty senate meeting some time. The idea of needing to communicate better is a typical response of the mindset: it’s them, not us!

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

      I’ve always been amazed at the tendency of climate academics to blame others whenever they don’t make a sale. In business, if you don’t make a sale, you have to look into the mirror and ask whether there was something that you could or should have done to make your pitch better. Rather than screaming at the customer for not buying your product.

      • Jim Arndt
        Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 2:07 PM | Permalink


        Not always the pitch that kills your sale. Sometimes the product is just not worthy. If you sell a Yugo its still a Yugo no matter your pitch.

        Jim Arndt

        • Tom Fuller
          Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

          Maybe they know the first caveat about marketing–nothing kills a bad product quicker than good marketing…

      • Duster
        Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 11:03 PM | Permalink

        I think that the difference might be summed up in the difference between having a job and having a patron in the old Renaissance sense, that is a wealthy source of support. “Academics” tend to have almost a patronage relationship between themselves and their institutions. If they are of high profile – “authorities” – then their presence at an institution enhances the institution’s reputation. Decisions concerning what school one might want to attend – especially graduate schools – can be heavily influenced by the presence of the “right” academics.

        • Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

          Dead right Tom…a warning I give my clients before we even think about marketing.

      • Clark
        Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

        Modern science funding and publication discourage frank self-assessments of uncertainties and obstacles.

        If you submit a grant proposal to NSF and point out all the experimental problems and drawbacks, and admit that, in the end, you will be only slightly closer to an answer, you will never get funding.

        If you submit a paper to Nature for publication and lay out all the uncertainties in the data, and that your conclusions could easily be wrong, it will never get accepted.

      • Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

        My favorite example of RealKlimateScientists complaining was Gavin attributing at least part of their loss in the i-squared debate to Michael Crichton’s height.

        Quoting Gavin:

        So are such debates worthwhile? On balance, I’d probably answer no (regardless of the outcome). The time constraints preclude serious examination of any points of controversy and the number of spurious talking points can seriously overwhelm the ability of others to rebut them. Taking a ‘meta’ approach (as I attempted) is certainly not a guaranteed solution. However, this live audience were a rather select bunch, and so maybe this will go over differently on the radio. There it might not matter that Crichton is so tall…

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 9:45 PM | Permalink

          I watched that debate on youtube. Gavin was the only debater to accuse his opponents of lying. Maybe that’s what he means by a “‘meta’ approach.”

          Gavin never actually specified the ‘lies,’ and unfortunately none of his opponents called him on the accusation.

      • Steve E
        Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 6:13 PM | Permalink

        I saw your comment and thought of this Dilbert strip:

        It works in the business world; it clearly works in the climate science world.


  8. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:42 PM | Permalink

    A good point.

    There are lots of books written for the constituency you are talking of which question the science behind climate change (Montford, Plimer, Spencer, etc). There are no books presenting the counter argument in a similar way. Books like Mann and Crump’s Dire Predictions or Archer and Rahmstorf’s Climate Crisis simply regurgitate the IPCC Assessment Report.

    In my professional life I work with diverse teams of scientists tackling environmental issues – virtually all of them are in the sceptic camp – though some are afraid to speak out for fear of the impact it might have on their careers.

  9. tetris
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    Communication professionals will tell you that one of the most difficult [and sometimes impossible] thing to communicate “away” is fundamentally damaged credibility. Tony Hayward can confirm this.

    The “alarmists/warmist” conglomerate has over past couple of decades cried wolf so many times too often. Their methods have been shown to be shoddy to put it kindly, and their catastrophic predictions come up short every time. So, in the eyes of a good number of other scientists and the great unwashed the credibility of the message is fundamentally damaged, and I doubt it can be retrieved through the “better communication”.

  10. Jim S
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM | Permalink

    As someone in the architectural field and who was a true believer in global warming (and who stands to benefit from the “greening” of buildings) it wasn’t until the climategate emails that I began to question the validity of the impact of CO2 on whatever warming might be happening. With some background in engineering, and working in a multi-discipline firm, I was truly speechless once I began to look into the quality of things like the historical temperature record, the meaning of “global temperature anomaly”, griding of temperatures, the proxi-to-temperature linking, etc. None of this would make it out the door of our office — our liability insurer would drop us in a hear beat. Steve is right, it’s the engineers and other professionals who are questioning how a group of academics can make, what are in effect, engineering recommendations based upon such poor data while the rest of us have to play by the rules. It doesn’t take a scientist to see the fundamental flaws that are being put forth as science.

    • Ian UK
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

      Unfortunately, the politicians, in the UK anyway, are not listening (except Graham Stringer), so lack of credibility in the eyes of the public and other scientists doesn’t seem to matter.

  11. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 2:35 PM | Permalink

    They’re in denial.
    They know exactly what the real problem is – they just don’t want to believe it.
    Communication involves three components: the transmitter, the message and the receiver. Well, we’ve been at this long enough now to know that the problem is neither with the transmitter nor the receiver.
    How many more times are they going to check and see if both are really plugged in and turned on?

    • Jim S
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 3:10 PM | Permalink

      They can be in denial largely because they are not fiscally liable for their findings/recommendations. If some pet hypothesis of theirs turns out to be problematic, then it’s simply time to apply for another grant for further study.

  12. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    I’m a big fan of freedom of information, even when it’s a hassle, as is the Union of Concerned Scientists (as described in the following post on UK FOI law and UEA):

    (Climate) Information Wants to Be Free –

    • Jim Arndt
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

      Hi Andy,

      It is not a matter of hassle or freedom it is that everyone is more concerned about saving their butt and not being open with their work.

      Jim Arndt

    • Jeff Id
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:21 PM | Permalink

      How about some strong language regarding FOI in climategate?

    • Jeremy
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 11:03 AM | Permalink

      It’s good to hear you’re a big fan of freedom of information Andy. On that topic I’d like to see more concern from you in your writing for the NYT on the past, present, and future FOI denials from various climate-science organizations.

      As an amateur astronomer and a professional engineer I can tell you that if any astronomer in the world claimed to have found the doom of mankind in the form of an asteroid headed towards earth, he wouldn’t hide behind collegiate/think-tank agreements or legal maneuvering to deny other astronomers the chance to check his work. He/she would simply share their data, and others would confirm/deny the finding, and that would be the end of the matter (or the beginning of a meaningful planetary exodus).

      Why then, does this presumed CO2 doom for humanity have so much of it’s premiere research cloaked under nonsense refusals for publicly funded information? Why does the media (your field) not hold these people to the fire for the claims they make and the secretive way they behave?

    • RichG
      Posted Apr 22, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

      Hi Andy. Fantastic that you stop by CA.

      I would like to direct your attention to a recent science reporting piece by John Sutter on the effects of the Gulf Oil spill here:

      The money quote is:

      “Scientists have two things that probably aggravate the lay public. One of them is ‘I wish I had more data’ and the other is ‘I wish I had more funding,'” said Christopher Reddy, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who has been studying the impact of the spill. “But, in this case, prudence trumps urgency — or, in your case, the curiosity of your readers.”

      If climate scientists and climate reporters were more honest about what the science does and does not say – instead of finding better ways to package it – perhaps climate scientists and those who report on them would not find their credibility as damaged as it is today.



  13. WasteNot
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    As much as I don’t like to acknowledge it, things are different in climate science. Because the topic became politicized, there are winners and losers to identify. Take astrophysics. There has been a 30 year battle over whether information is lost when light or matter passes the event horizon of a black hole. That battle has had some incredibly interesting twists. But, however Andy Revkin (hypothetically) reports it, there’s no winner or loser; it’s just a story.

    In climate science, the media has passed the point of no return. Andy cannot back down from the political position he took. To report anything seriously undermining AGW warmist talking points would be tantamount to acknowledgment that he was wrong. This makes reporting on the topic far more difficult for those who have been covering it. Imagine how difficult it would be to assemble evidence to satisfy Andy that a number of the supporting explanations for AGW are inaccurate or that they consist of selective presentation, or that measurements do not support them. It’s far easier for him to report on some new conclusory assertion by Steig concerning infilled temperatures for Antarctica and the resulting calculation of temperature trends there.

    In my view, this is the basic problem about communication concerning issues of climate – the intermediaries were poisoned by choosing sides in what was essentially a political struggle. Having abandoned the “cerebral” approach and having bought into the politics, intermediaries (journalists) now focus on getting away from the “cerebral” discussion and discuss moving to emotional appeals. Someone without a stake – who has no prospect of being a “winner” or a “loser” – would be all over the most recent AAAS announcement. to point out that the prediction of 2005 to the same end not only failed to see a decline in population in the areas supposedly to be affected, but in fact saw a reversal of sign and an increase in population. A target so big should be featured in Tuesday’s Science section of the New York Times. But it won’t be because then Andy would have to offer an explanation that would be uncomfortable given his prior position. I also will look with interest on the current JASON data from the University of Colorado, showing sea levels. But, I’ll bet Science Times does not address that development either. These are too “cerebral” and not “emotional” enough.

    • kim
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 8:23 AM | Permalink

      Oh, please, let’s not get carried away. Don’t underestimate emotion. Look, this is the time that the ‘rise of oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal’. Look, look at JASON.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

      My subscription to the Scientific American must have started sometime in the late 60s. I had been buying copies monthly for years before that There must have almost 40 years of readership. At the end, it became CAGW Monthly and I despaired of finding anything worthwhile in it. it was not so much the topics but the lack of any real science in the articles. I left messages on their website complaining of the “dumbing down” of their magazine and saw that others did as well. Nothing changed and so I stopped reading it.

      This is very much like the AGW communication strategy advocated by Revkin, Olson etc “dumbed down” and emotional. If it did not work fro the Scientific American, why do they think it will work in this case.

  14. Dave Andrews
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 3:23 PM | Permalink

    Isn’t this just the same as politicians in government always end up claimimg, that if only they had communicated things better then their policies would not have been rejected?

    [snip – please do not refer to individual politicians]

    There is an obvious parallel here with certain climate scientists who have ‘set out their stall’ and now cannot understand why the infinitely wise general public are beginning to reject it.

  15. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

    Good to see Andy Revkin on CA. Andy – and every climate scientist and public official who might read this if you were to draw their attention to it – this has to be Steve McIntyre’s most important message. Hide the decline and all the rest are sideshows – stupid ones that have reduced the intelligent public’s trust in the field, as they have not been condemned and dealt with. But sensitivity to CO2 and cloud feedbacks are surely the heart of the matter. When climate professionals show that they are serious about explaining this, then we will listen.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

      Trust is what it is all about and the climate sciecne establishment has lost the public’s trust. That is why things do not happen unless it is a decision behind closed doors by bureaucrats and politicians. No advertising gimmick is going to change that.

  16. WillR
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

    I was going to suggest a “NI 43101” form for climate research but then I discovered a snag in the form of the documentation:

    Item 16: Data Verification – Include
    (a) a discussion of quality control measures and data verification procedures applied;
    (b) a statement as to whether the qualified person has verified the data referred to or relied upon;
    (c) a discussion of the nature of and any limitations on such verification; and
    (d) the reasons for any failure to verify the data.

    Unfortunately it has the above section rendering it completely unsuitable for Climate Data…

    But for those who fell that they could rework and relax the requirements….
    Just look for:

    I am not sure that an “Engineering Grade” study is a reasonable standard under the circumstances. But, I will keep looking for a suitable standard…

  17. Tom C
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

    One of the root causes of the corrupt climate scientist culture is the widely held idea that if someone wrote a paper containing a claim, then the claim has been proven. They don’t realize, either willing or unwillingly, the burden of proof that is required to substantiate claims regarding enormously complex systems.

    I had a futile exchange on some website a while back regarding whether mid-century aerosols had “cancelled out” the warming from CO2. I was trying to point out that since the extent, magnitude, identity, and timing of the aerosol release was unknown, the claim could neither be proven or dis-proven, but was instead a speculation. My half-dozen correspondents repeatedly cited articles where the claim was made – as if that was proof enough. Not a single caclulation was produced, just repetition of the claim.

    Of course, maybe the extent, magnitude, identity, and timing of aerosols are not needed to do a calculation. I’m sure there PC methods that can take all the missing data and tranform them into solid conclusions.

    • stan
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

      “One of the root causes of the corrupt climate scientist culture is the widely held idea that if someone wrote a paper containing a claim, then the claim has been proven.”

      Absolutely. Drives me crazy, especially given that no one (inside the cloistered community) ever checks anyone else’s work. They make the most extraordinary, far-reaching extrapolations from small samples and poorly understood statistical manipulations and everyone else just nods and accepts the stated conclusion as proven.

      If they had to put up their own money in a bet on some of these claims made by other scientists, they’d be a heck of a lot more careful and require a damn sight more proof.

      • Chris E
        Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 4:40 PM | Permalink

        Sure we inside the ‘cloistered community’ check other people’s work… sometimes for about 3 minutes, then flip it in the bin. Only the ‘lay’ community would accept it as proven just because it’s published. But most researchers have quite specific demands on their time, and so have to just ignore other people’s crappy work so they can get their own done. I only have a tangential interest in climate research and dendroclimatology, but as a forest scientist I tend to flip quite a few of those papers…

        I couldn’t agree more with the points Steve raises in this post. The broad mass of people will never understand all the nuances of all the aspects of the issue (neither do any of the ‘experts’), so all they can hope to rely on is the credibility of the scientists. Now that the public are starting to twig that they’ve been treated like dills, dumbing the message down further isn’t going to help. The first step forward for ‘climate science’ is to try to get some credibility back.

        • Craig Loehle
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

          “Now that the public are starting to twig that they’ve been treated like dills” my slang (or is it Brit?) vocab just keeps increasing, thanks to my fellow posters…

        • Chris E
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

          🙂 It’s actually a rather ‘rural’ dialect of Australian. Think ‘Alabama with koalas’…
          Craig (wildly OT here…), I recently came across an old post of yours where you idly wondered why tree-ring detrending is done on cambial age rather than basal area. I’ve come across a couple of papers that go into this a little – can you suggest an appropriate thread to re-open to chat about this?

    • Julian Flood
      Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Permalink

      My conversation was about attribution of light CO2 to fossil fuel emissions: like you I seemed to just get repetitions, of the mass balance argument in my case. I asked why half of the CO2 increase is absorbed — how does the sink know how much to take? No theory, just post hoc handwaves.

      These conversations, however, sometimes bear fruit — in a fit of proselytising zeal I lectured Tamino about patience and the need to be helpful when people question the paradigm. He kindly provided CO2 forcing calculations for the early and late 20th century warming episodes, so it can work.


  18. DirkH
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

    Steve, Climate Science has *never* tried to communicate properly to the public. If they had, the public would know that it is the postulated water vapor feedback that turns global warming into the purported problem. Not one real life person in the general public ever heard of this.

    snip – overeditorializing

  19. Rod Montgomery
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

    I wonder how many of the – snip – please do not use offensive languate – know how the alarmist Club of Rome _Limits to Growth_ report was undermined by the availability for inspection of the code for the “WORLD3” computer model on which the report was based?

    Perhaps the Lesson they learned from the _Limits to Growth_ episode was that they should seek security for their own predictions through obscurity of their code and data?

  20. Tom Gray
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 5:14 PM | Permalink


    if they cannot say something with certainty then say it acknowledging the uncertainty. Can we also have them tell us the truth unvarnished by other concerns. We have had too many activists attempt to leverage AGW for the purposes of other issues. The public are not fools (contra the self-regard of many climate scientists, they are not smarter than everybody else) and they will not be fooled by communication tricks. Just tell the truth as best as it can be told.

  21. Sean
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    I read Andy Revkins piece about what Olsen had to say and I looked at it somewhat differently. The climate science community KNOW they are smarter on this subject than anyone else, so debate with someone who disagrees with their position simply makes no sense, particularly someone without the proper credentials. Since all the like minded smart people agree, their debate was over and this seemed to become a rallying cry for politicians like Al Gore and a communication strategy that resembled preaching the truth from a high pulpit was adopted and it continues to this day. This almost worked 5 years ago but public support for the consensus has steadily eroded over time. People have much more immediate and pressing needs. In an environment of increasing skepticism preaching from a pulpit is like trying to go on the offensive from safe behind protective walls. It simply won’t work. If the consensus scientists want to convince people, (and there are more people now who need convincing than 5 years ago) they have to leave the castle and do battle with the people that disagree with their conclusions in a series of serious debates. There response has been, publish in the peer reviewed literature but that akin to sending individuals or small groups into the fortress to be savaged by the guards.
    It’s been interesting that Roger Pielke Sr. has tried to spark debate between knowledgable parties from differing camps but there have been precious few times that the interaction has gone more than two rounds with neither side conceding much. With the political and economic consequences so high the science debate between competent scientists with differing views is desperately needed. I also think it would provide a pathway for the consensus view climate scientists to rebuild their credibility by fighting the good fight and winning the day. If instead they choose to hold up in their battlements lobbing periodic salvos, their credibility with the general public will continue to erode as will the status of climate science in general. They have to meet their adversaries face to face.

  22. Rob R
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 5:59 PM | Permalink

    Tom C

    Part of the problem is that, like the theme of the movie “A Few Good Men”, climate scientists as a group appear to believe that the public just can’t handle the truth. My opinion is that the message is not going to change any time soon.

  23. ianl8888
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Permalink

    >“Emotional” messages aimed at the “general public” are not what this community wants or deserves.<

    Nor heeds. We regard "emotional" messages with contempt

  24. RiHo08
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    Like others, I believe the message being communicated by the Climate Science Community is simply the wrong message irregardless that the AGW message is being delivered badly:
    “Listen my children, I have something very important to tell you. After I finish telling you, you will do as I say; you will obey me, and drink the Coolaide”. Indeed, a very effective form of targeted audience communication, I’ve heard it may times before. On the adult level: “I know that you have made great sacrifices. I know you have it in you to succeed, from this experience you will grow and be fulfilled. Step this way into the Sweat Hut”. All effect means of communicating leading to disastrous outcomes. “How could people be so gullible?” By trusting the speaker, lecturer, in short, the authority figure (scientists?). There was no opportunity for most of the participants to reflect later on at Jones Town. Most people in the sweat hut in Arizona came out stunned in disbelief and, ashamed at their naivety.
    When the message is outside of our experience, in order for us to accept the message, requires a leap of faith. Otherwise the message is viewed with skepticism if not outright distain. Saying there will be global warming and catastrophic consequences in a 100 years to people who view local weather forecasting with skepticism; who have to shovel their driveways from record snowfalls two winters in a row, means that your message is not the right message no matter how well delivered. The real message IMO: “there are large uncertainties in predicting future climate; stay tuned”. Plain vanilla truth telling; no advocacy; “we’ll keep working on this climate thing until we can make near term believable and verifiable predictions. This message is clear isn’t it? and likely to have a broad audience.

  25. observa
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

    snip – policy

  26. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

    Steve, you write: “In my opinion – and here I repeat a point made on many occasions – climate communication has not been “cerebral” enough for professionals and scientists from other fields.”

    Olson’s suggested target audience is not “professionals and scientists from other fields.” It’s the general public. Thus I think you have fundamentally misread Olson’s argument.

    Steve: I understand his argument. I think that you misread mine – that climate communicators need to understand that there are niches within the “general public”, that I think that they need to better engage the niche of professionals and scientists from other fields by being more cerebral.

    • Jeremy
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

      I find it generally aloof and supercilious to even suggest that the “general public” is different from those of us who are educated in science/engineering. The idea that, without formal education, smart people do not exist follows in lock step with this idea that there is a “general public” which needs hand-holding through difficult concepts. This is entirely contrary to the goals of a university system which is to challenge all to think creatively/critically and in the process gain broader understanding of whatever it is they are curious of.

      Frankly, the mention of “general public” in this fashion, is in my opinion, a dressing down of the average voter that shouldn’t be tolerated. Instead the situation in all it’s complexity should be made plain for anyone to see. Those who are truly afraid of humans altering the planet will educate themselves and instead of a controlled poplace that is told to trust experts, you have an enlightened voting class.

      This notion of “we have to speak better to the less-than-smart people” is an insult to the potential of your fellow man. I feel we would all be wise to avoid that kind of thinking, to say nothing of behaving in that fashion.

      In short, I agree with Steve, but not for the same reasons. I think this “general public” concept as a separate entity from the “smart people” is the problem.

      • Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

        I think I am probably representative of some majority of the “general public”. I am not college-educated (apart from some community college, no degree), and horrible at math. I was told while in middle school (I’ll be 49 in May) that I had an IQ of 135, but I never held much stock in that as a measurement of intelligence.

        I’ve also stated repeatedly that I don’t pretend to follow the statistics and formulae often presented here, but I do understand the logic and the gist almost all of the time (at least I think I do). I understand that one tree in Yamal has an undue influence over all the other trees in the region with respect to proxy reconstructions. I understand that without any of the questionable proxies, there is no hockey stick. That’s pretty easy.

        However, I’m not representative of the general public when it comes to interests. I don’t watch reality TV shows, don’t watch most prime time. I usually watch History Channel (except for all the annoying shows which don’t deal with history, e.g. Axe Men, Ice Road Truckers, Swamp People, etc). If I hadn’t found this blog, and WUWT, I would only be getting a dumbed-down version of alarmism from television and the MSM.

        The message does need to be more cerebral. Those who are interested in the facts will figure it out, those who aren’t will only continue to be concerned about American Idol.

    • Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

      Yeah, who cares about the professionals and the technically informed segments of the ‘general public’, eh Kloor. Isnt that your ‘message’?

    • Harold
      Posted Apr 21, 2011 at 6:27 AM | Permalink


      “Olson’s suggested target audience is not “professionals and scientists from other fields.” It’s the general public. Thus I think you have fundamentally misread Olson’s argument.”

      I also think Olson is off target here. Opinion formation is more complicated than telling people something and they are convinced or not convinced. Especially with science, they’ll talk to someone they know who is a scientist or a “smart guy or woman” – this generally has more weight, since they already trust the person’s opinion. The lack of an engineering quality document is a big issue with this group. For my part, I’m a physicist, and reading AR4 to see what all the fuss was about (and then checking some of the background literature) convinced me that the science wasn’t there.

      The response of the pro AGW scietists parallels that of a person I ran into in Palo Alto, waiting to see “Dr. Strangelove”. He was handing out CWP anti nuclear weapons literature to people in line, and I wouldn’t take the literature. He went into a rant about a foot from my face, basically telling me I was stupid, didn’t understand the movie, and was somehow deficient by not being concerned about the future safety of mankind.

      Personal attacks on people who are unconvinced of a position indicate to me that the position isn’t very defensible, and I’m likely discount the messenger and future messages.

  27. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    I listened to what Andy Revkin and Randy Olson exchanged in their bitching session and it is still not clear to me what the heck it is that they are attempting to achieve by “better communications”. If they cannot really communicate what it is they are upset about with regards to communication I think there is a problem.

    That new ways of doing things is a hard sell is nothing new. Too bad they failed to make clear what it was exactly that they wanted to sell. If the sale has to be made to the taxpayer and his representatives and not to a consumer in the market place, then yes, of course, the seller is probably going to have to do things in a political context. That does not mean that a good idea or the best ideas will be implemented but rather that the best marketer (to the public and politicians) will probably have the greater success.

    I somehow got the idea that Revkin and Olson were not talking about entrepreneurial risk taking here, but there is a lot that could be done in the US to improve that environment.

  28. Benzopf
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

    “Surprise us. Break into the climate skeptics computers and steal THEIR emails.”

    This is not the first time I’ve heard this suggested. Has anyone considered the possibility that people have tried exactly that but found nothing incriminating? For all anyone knows, dozens of skeptic bloggers and scientists have already been hacked.

    Not implausible, given the threats of jail and bodily harm already out there.

  29. GogogoStopSTOP
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

    Well said, very well said. You should be on Madison Avenue!

  30. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

    I live and work in New Mexico which recently adopted a cap and trade scheme. As a rank and file hydrologist in climate areas and an outspoken skeptic locally, I’ve been engaging all of the ‘experts’ in our state that opportunities have afforded. My efforts parallel and complement those at this blog on a smaller level, but occasionally there are ‘aha’ moments. In one example, local science reporter, John Fleck is an influential voice on climate change in this region. In addition to an abundance of alarming newspaper stories, he has written a childrens book on climate change and published an article in a peer reviewed climate-related journal (but no, he is not a climate scientist by any definition). He also has run an attack-blog on the side against warming skeptics (seems that way to me at least). Nothing unusual there I suppose, except I recognized recently that his peer-reviewed paper that he is apparently quite proud of, was coauthored with William M. Connolley, who is most famously noted for getting ‘fired’ from Wikipedia due to his extensive and unauthorized deletions and re-writing of over numerous climate related articles within that web site. Maybe this is an example of the new activist media that Revkin must be looking for.

  31. Big Dave
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Permalink

    Most would agree that this is a politicized issue. If you wish to see the opponant’s next move, there are plenty of examples in today’s political policy wars. IMO we are at the part where the public has rejected the message because the increased cost of basic energy seems only the begining of the economic pain yet to come. In addition, Climategate has given the ‘candidates’ who are delivering the bad news ‘dirty hands’.  
    Next up; They will agree upon the need to increase the volume!  Pols never back away from their core beliefs. They pause, find a different soft spot, and reinsert. 
    Big Dave

  32. David Smith
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 9:45 PM | Permalink

    Capable people from other fields (mathematics, engineering, other sciences, etc) could actually help climate science convey its message. Technically-literate non-climatologists are not the enemy, rather they are untapped friends, if they were to become convinced of the problem.

    Think of the potential leverage. Technically-literate non climatologists are large in number (compared to climate scientists) and they have considerable influence with friends and associates on science-related issues. We’re a huge potential source of help, if we we’re convinced of the science and the risk.

    On a different note, Olsen’s homeboy comments reminded me of the plain folks category described by the old IPA

    • Harold
      Posted Apr 21, 2011 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

      Could actually help, yes. But in reality, the credibility of the area is poor and there’s little chance they would put together something which would meet my standards.

      There’s some saying about having one chance to make a first impression – climate science has had their chance, and now they’re complaining about not being perceived the “right way”.

  33. DavidO
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

    Revkin’s “The ‘Wave’ of the (Car Engine) Future?” post discouraged me badly.

    I had been alerted to the MSU news by WUWT. It’s cool, it’s hopeful. I was very interested in Andy’s first impressions. But suddenly, and to me inexplicably, he veered into condescending comments about CA and WUWT, about where we readers should focus.

    As if “the quality of analysis of a specific set of tree ring data” is simply an argument on statistical methods rather than a continuing expose of the methods and character (that’s worth a bit of focus, no?) of our worthy (or not?) scientists. If Steve goes on about it a bit, it’s because the characters continue to stand before governments and speak falsely. And can any mention of the present object of his tenacity be understood outside of the years-long record of why that tenacity is required.

    And can WUWT be simply dismissed as an “aggregator of all things doubtful in climate science?” After all, is Anthony not contributing actual data to Richard Muller’s effort, basic QC data that the climate cohort simply blew beyond in their march toward scientific certainty? Any actual work, and data coming from Andy? Or merely talk, and talk about talk.

    And, he says, “On this blog, I have to make choices ever day involving sacrificing covering one thing or another.” Well, he sacrificed deserved respect on this one.

    Gavin lost me years ago with his childish midnight “Harry” caper. Revkin is about to lose me as well. Maybe he cares.

    • Harold
      Posted Apr 21, 2011 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

      “I had been alerted to the MSU news by WUWT. It’s cool, it’s hopeful.”

      I tried to find more technical information on the engine, but wasn’t successful. The researchers mislead about the potential gain. Current engine technology can meet all emissions goals and be ~40% efficient (X prize winner). I looked at the general technology they’re using ~8 years ago, to see if I was interested in developing and patenting the technology. I wouldn’t look for this to be used widely, if at all.

      More salesmanship from researchers – all too common these days. The AGW researchers have a different style, but they’re still selling their research.

  34. Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Permalink

    I am a heavy equipment mechanic, i.e. a skilled blue-collar worker, a layperson. In my trade, we have an expression “that if it don’t go, chrome it”, the obvious choice the warmists have selected to confuse the public and obscure their deficient science. The skeptics, of which I am one, have to trod the cerebral path to convince the public that the warmists’ science is strictly Bravo Sierra. Do Not underestimate the intelligence of John and Jane Doe public, for they can easily understand that a slight increase of a minor atmospheric gas, CO2, cannot conceivably unleash any of the catastrophic events heralded by the warmists. Additionally, inform a farmer that there will be an increase of the harvest season by one month, and he will exclaim to the heavens, “Praise the Lord”. We do not need to see any of the heavy math behind one’s conclusions; however, we do need to see respected experts weighing in on the subject with a practical, commonsense, non-emotional approach.

  35. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 11:02 PM | Permalink

    “So there’s too much of the cerebral thing going on with climate communication. I wish I could unleash my old acting teacher on the climate community — boy would they regret having been so cerebral.”

    So how would he characterize Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth”?

    Maybe the above is what Olson was alluding to when he stated, “Mass communication is not a science.” Do Andy and Randy just dismiss the WWF’s pamphlets as not communicative?

    I see only one problem. When you look carefully, the communications are simply not credible.
    And for me that was even after I read twice “On Being Certain, Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” by Robert A Burton MD. Perhaps more climate scientists should be aware of Dr. Burton’s theories.

    A member of the General Public.

  36. 2dogs
    Posted Apr 17, 2011 at 11:45 PM | Permalink

    Mcintyre’s unanswered call for an engineering style exposition is typical of why the skeptical side is proving so persuasive: it has the ability to ask questions which the other side won’t answer.

    The other side needs to understand that nothing that they might provide in such an answer could be more damaging to their case then their silence.

    • Harold
      Posted Apr 21, 2011 at 6:59 AM | Permalink

      “nothing that they might provide in such an answer could be more damaging to their case then their silence”

      I’m not so sure. They could be put in a position to argue with their own report.

  37. Mark
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:24 AM | Permalink

    I’m an executive in the business world and was previously a CAGW believer. I have, over the last three years, slowly become a skeptic. The reason that the CAGW proponents lost me was not the brilliance of the skeptical arguments (although Steve’s work has been truly commendable), it was almost entirely how the “leading climate scientists” responded to the questioning of their work.

    They responded exactly how people who have the facts on their side don’t. Instead of engaging with the thought leaders among the critics and using their questioning as an opportunity to slam dunk the discussion with open data and specific, detailed responses, they responded with bluster, ad hom, misdirection and artfully vague non-answers. I guess these academics really think “ordinary people” are clueless. I’m ordinary but I understand the fundamental principles of science, data analysis and most importantly – the sound of BS.

    Gavin, Michael Mann and others were the respected authorities, the credible scientist experts and yet they managed to squander what seemed to be an unassailable lead entirely with their own disastrous responses. Anyone who bothered to pay attention to the major points of contention and how they played out would have come to the same conclusions myself and so many others did. The CAGW proponents simply don’t have solid data to back up their assertions. I can offer them some advice though:

    1. Respond to critics. Not all of them, of course, but the good ones who others are listening to.

    2. Stop lacing your responses with meaningless ad hom bile (“oil industry”, “denier”, blah blah). We’ve heard it all before, doesn’t matter. Get to the facts.

    3. Concede when you are wrong. Do it fully and graciously. This builds credibility. No one is right about everything. Start your response by conceding those things you can’t solidly defend. For example: “On point XYZ, I’ve gone back and reviewed the data and it appears that there are indeed some issues with it which I’m looking into. Please disregard any conclusions tied to that data until I’ve had a chance to complete a review. I thank [critic abc] for discovering this and bringing it to my attention.” Wow! Totally classy and *real*.

    4. Actually respond to the specific issues raised. Stop the hand-waving and misdirection. We know that you didn’t really misunderstand the point or ‘accidentally’ focus your entire response on a tangential part of the issue. Those are amateurish tactics and we see quite clearly when you use them. (ahem, Gavin).

    5. Stop trying to bury the issue at hand in complex ‘sciency’ double-speak. Smart people can make even complex things clear. Despite your unfortunate debating style I don’t believe you are entirely unable to communicate the essence of the issue with brevity and clarity. (ahem, Michael)

    6. Acknowledge how you can do better. For example, if one of you guys ever wrote something like “While I don’t believe this specific criticism is correct, I can see how not making my data and methods available has contributed to the issue and will rectify this in the future”, I would be simply stunned. In fact, I’d probably have to start wondering if maybe you guys were, you know, regular people just trying to do the right thing.

    7. Stop with the attitude of being put out or offended that someone dared to even question your work. It doesn’t help make your case and it tends to make you look like pompous and self-important. Try, just try, to respond like you were someone other humans might like to go have a beer with.

    8. Admit to yourselves that your instinctive reactions about how to respond to criticism have so far not been effective in achieving the results you want and *change*.

    Steve – I agree 100% with your points here. On my own position on the “big picture” (as opposed to proxy reconstructions) , I am not as “skeptical” as many readers, who often seem over-confident to me in their knowledge of things. I try to avoid drawing conclusions about the underlying science from the poor conduct of climate communicators, but it takes considerable self-discipline to do so. However, their self-indulgence harms their message. Your experience is very representative.

    • Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:46 AM | Permalink

      Mark, in business what you have written is simple common sense. If one of my team screws up I want to know clearly and quickly what went wrong so we can fix it and avoid the mistake in future.

      Apparently, in Team “climate science” no one has ever made a mistake and therefore there is nothing to fix.

      For the Team to think any serious person will believe that tells us a great deal about the Team.

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 9:46 AM | Permalink

        “Apparently, in Team “climate science” no one has ever made a mistake” yes, this seems to be exactly the attitude, and even when they do correct something (which is rare) it is without credit and without apology.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

      Can’t Mark’s point be summarized as to trust and be forthright with your audience. People want to trust you. Let them.

      The current climate science communication strategy seams to be that the public is stupid and manipulable. I cringe every time I hear or yet another patronizing sermon from some AGW advocate (scientist, politician, professional communicator, columnist, reporter, …. I am not going to believe something just because it was written down by some very smart people in a very lengthy and difficult report.

      Above all drop the “Climate scientists ae smarter than you are” strategy.

    • Jonathan Bagley
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 8:11 AM | Permalink

      I agree completely. The AGW people do themselves no favours. When I first became interested in the suject, I noticed that Steve gives links to all the pro AGW sites, yet they never give links to his and similar sites. A small point, I know, but it makes a big impression on those investigating the subject for the first time.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 9:55 AM | Permalink

      To be fair to the scientist part of advocate/scientist I think we have to separate the two facets of some of these climate scientists. The advocate part as represented, by example at RC, deal with the scientific results of their works in the manner of a partisan politician. Look at the list Mark provides and tell me that it does not fit very well to the image of a US partisan politician.

      The climate science as published in the peer-review literature is the weak link in bringing mitigation policies to fruition. If one reads the important papers carefully it is rather easy to frequently see that the lack of sensitivity testing to test the robustness of the results is lacking and that the presentation of true CIs has not been made.

      The public relations coming from climate science seems rather to be focused on answering the denialists and not the skeptics or even the reasonably informed general public. When we see, instead of addressing the uncertainty of the evidence, a rehash of what nearly every thinking person accepts as true with the physics of GHGs concentrations in the atmosphere and global temperature increase and the evidence that man made GHGs are driving the overall increases in atmospheric GHGs, I think the natural response is going to be – so what and how will that affect me and my children and grand children and great grand children.

      I almost take Olson’s view on these matters as his advocating any means to the ends of obtaining his preferred actions. If he is interested in this tactic, I would advise him that scare mongering can be an effective political weapon, but usually it works best when the public can be convinced (deceived) that the danger is imminent. I would guess that the best one could to in that respect would be to talk of climate change and not necessarily warming and then equate all adverse effects from current climate conditions to climate change. Oh, wait a minute, that is already being done in some circles. I guess then that the Olsons of the world should instead of getting po’d and driving off in their cars from a climate change conference, better strategize using current events to scare monger.

    • Edim
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

      “I have, over the last three years, slowly become a skeptic. The reason that the CAGW proponents lost me was not the brilliance of the skeptical arguments (although Steve’s work has been truly commendable), it was almost entirely how the “leading climate scientists” responded to the questioning of their work.”


      Yes, the response of the “leading climate scientists” is typical, but brilliance of the sceptical arguments is underwhelmed by the dogma. No matter how brilliant the arguments are, the dogma does not fall from the counter arguments. Rather, it eats itself at the end. It cannot sustain, longer term. In case of AGW, a bit of transparency (climategate) and cooling cracked the nut. Now that some minds/eyes/ears are open, the arguments might work. No brilliance is necessary – the AGW hypothesis is not even wrong.

    • Eric Anderson
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 11:20 AM | Permalink

      Great points, Mark.

      One thing I would add on #7: “7. Stop with the attitude of being put out or offended that someone dared to even question your work. It doesn’t help make your case and it tends to make you look like pompous and self-important.”

      I would add (you mentioned this elsewhere, but I think it is relevant to #7 as well): “It tends to make you look like you are afraid of scrutiny of your work.” It can certainly be annoying if someone is pompous and self-important; but if they can demonstrate they are correct on the particular point in question then I can overlook the attitude. But not permitting scrutiny in the first place is a sign raises doubts as to whether they are correct on the particular point in question in the first place.

    • Jeff Norris
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Permalink


      Very well said I would only like to add that advocates should stop encouraging the news media philosphy of “If it Bleeds it Leads”. They shold take a more measured approach to new scientific papers that draw conculsions based on Climate Change. At this point in the controversy the vast uncommited public see these stories as just another “car jacking” or “drive by shooting “. No one is shocked or motivated.

  38. EdeF
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:45 AM | Permalink

    Program Modulate
    lots = 64256
    100 Do I =1, lots
    IF Success = yes
    Go to 200
    Volume = Volume + 1
    Print (*,*) “Climate Catastrophe is Real”
    Go To 100
    200 Print (*,*) “Halt Nuclear Power”
    Call StopNuke

  39. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 1:24 AM | Permalink

    Here’s an Australian example of climate communication being advertised as open to the public, with encouragement for students. (Commercial follows)
    A conference not to miss if you’re into climate science.
    • 13 to 15 October 2010 (Wednesday to Friday)
    • Encouragement for students and early-career scientists
    The guiding theme for the Australia – New Zealand Climate Forum 2010 is Southern Hemisphere Climate: features • findings • futures. The motto is Southern Exposure, with particular focus on the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the climate of Australia and New Zealand.
    The themes are:
    • The living planet – Southern Hemisphere Climate: ecology
    • Impacts on humanity – Southern Hemisphere Climate: the human habitat
    • Observing – Southern Hemisphere Climate: observations and data
    • Linkages – Southern Hemisphere Climate: high/low latitude interaction
    • Changes – Southern Hemisphere Climate: changes in the past, present and future
    Here’s the example of how not to communicate. An intervention letter from the Shadow Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment & Heritage, The Hon Greg Hunt, MP, asking for Proceedings on my behalf, had this response in part from the Organisers, the Bureau of Meteorology and The Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre – they regretted that they could not supply Proceedings of this Conference because
    “…the program consisted largely of emerging science, much of which may not have gone through the full review process and therefore was not ready for publication…”
    This is from the Director of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Tom Keenan of CSIRO.
    It leaves the unanswered question about which finding were delivered at the conference to “students and early career scientists”, material that was not reviewed for them, but that would be too sensitive for experienced scientists who wish to challenge to establishment view – and who know how to improve it.
    The whole approach is the wrong way round. It reeks of of “indoctrinate the young in secret and snub the experienced taxpayer with a poor excuse”.

    • ianl8888
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 3:48 AM | Permalink

      I suppose that we can only hope an increasing number in the populace are grasping this. I really can’t tell through the desperate din that the MSM constantly throw up

      As someone (whose name I genuinely cannot remember now) noted: “Our public discourse sounds like a rookery in full throat”

  40. StuartR
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 3:17 AM | Permalink

    I love the title of this piece 🙂 Climate science is almost wholly in the realm of the media from films to newspapers, so I think to Olsen it may seem logical to accentuate the only lever he thinks he has control over, emotionalism. I think all the less flashy options that Steve lists here will just receive blank stares. Olsen, by compartmentalising climate science practioners as nerds, assumes the technical side is covered and apparently sees no room for improvement there.

    However, even the layman can pick up through the ether (from sites like this) that there are problems at the technical level. Even if it’s just the fact that we can notice that the nerds are too emotional and touchy, and make us nervous.

  41. Ian L. McQueen
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    By coincidence I had read the essay by Olsen at:

    Two parts of it stuck in my mind.
    1. “in general, the “thinkier” you get, the tinier your audience”
    2. “buffing a turd”


  42. Patrick M.
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 6:30 AM | Permalink

    I don’t think Olson wants thoughtful, carefully considered dialog. When I read Olson’s comments it was clear he’s not looking for scientists. He’s looking for people who are experts in “today’s mass communication environment”. You can’t Twitter or Facebook an expert discussion on cloud feedbacks.

    Think about it. What kind of message does he want to deliver in “today’s mass communication environment”?

  43. Stacey
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 7:02 AM | Permalink

    Dear Steve

    Through your work you have demonstrated how climate scientists do not follow normal professional standards.

    I would reinforce this and say that their methods are also outside of mainstream science, such as the work of researchers in medicine, physics and chemistry and especially those involved where new products are being developed and tested.

    Thus, as an insular group they work in glorious isolation to all scientists and engineers.

  44. Noblesse Oblige
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    What we have here is yet another manifestation of “We need to communicate better.” This line of reasoning rests on the assumption that all of the alarmists’ problems stems from a “failure to communicate,” not bad science itself or a corrupted science process. As long as the focus is on communication, there will be no meaningful reform, and the alarmists will continue to be frustrated.

  45. Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Permalink

    There’s been discussion on Micheal Tobis’ blog recently about the engineering quality climate sensitivity study.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      Tobis and his blog does not seem to understand what an engineering report is or is about. It is not a scientific explanation of some toic. it is a justification for a specific project. It will move in two directions

      Firstly, it would describe various things that are planned to be built or done.

      Then it will describe how these things create outcomes that justify their creation
      -so the mine will generate so many ounces of gold annually at a cost so much per ounce.ounce

      Then it will justify these outcomes by the science and engineering behind the design
      – the net amount of gold has been estimated by the method of Smith and Jones
      – the Smith and Jones method has been described in the Journal of XXX and has had implementation experience and such and such a mine

      It will go to any depth necessary to follow these justifications to their needed limit.

      It is not just some arm waving paper about climate sensitivity that Tobis seems to think it is. it will be an actionable document that will link the basic science through the engineering to policy recommendations that will be linked to a demonstration that this is practicable, affordable and will produce the desired outcomes.

      McIntyre seems to think that an engineering report will be over 1200 pages in length. My own experience was that the documents describing and justifying the product were, when placed in a catalog file on a table, at least 6 to 9 feet of double sided single spaced letter sized paper. These were the documents that described and justified the project. The actual design documents were not included and would have been much larger than this. McIntyres’s estimate is much too small for any project in my experience.

      General Montgomery issued the order “The Eighth Army will move in the general direction of Tobruk”. That one order would have caused his staff to create huge masses of specific plans and orders to move the masses the of men and equipment in a manner that would fulfill the general’s order. McIntyre’s idea of an engineering description does not describe a nice thing to do that would be useful for public relations. it describes a necessary thing that has to be done if the problem is going to be addressed.

      The comments on Tobis’ site to his blog posting about this contains many condescending references to engineers by scientists or perhaps wannabe scientists. This is a major part of our current problem. These scientists are, contrary to their own opinion, smarter than everybody else. They contribute to this issue in a narrow and specialized way and that is all.

    • Gerald Machnee
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 4:16 PM | Permalink

      And you can see the usual troll type responses from certain ones. I think Michael Tobis would like to see an effort. Looks the the opposing ones are worried that their apple cart will be upset. What this type of effort would do is get rid of the assumptions with no basis.

  46. Craig Loehle
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

    Here is an example of “communication” by an alarmist. I debated Michael Schlesinger in Chicago 2 yrs ago. He would not shake my hand, interrupted me, told the audience of his “Nobel prize” as if it was about the science (it is a PEACE price, which Yasser Arafat also won), when I referred to him as “my colleague” he stopped me and said “we are not colleagues”. I put up many slides of various points, showing how CO2 benefits plant growth, about the hockey stick and the MWP, about negative feedbacks and he refused to respond to a single point, only saying that one of my papers appeared in E&E which he claimed was not peer reviewed (the audience cared not at all about that). He went over his time and would not stop when asked by the moderator and sneered at me. His presentation was a general hand-waving overview of the greenhouse theory, and then basicly “because he said so” conclusion. Communication indeed.

    • Noblesse Oblige
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

      Don’t feel bad (I know you don’t). These tactics are noted and are partly responsible for alarmists’ declining support. Academic arrogance doesn’t play outside of academia.

  47. Beth Cooper
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    Post Climategate, they have learned nothing. More myth and spin for a long suffering public who ‘just don’t get it.’

  48. Jack chain
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

    Has anyone heard about a rewriting of the standard climate change modle (which I think is writen in fortran) being rewriten in Python. I heard that durring the rewriting they came across quite a few mistakes that at the time I heard the article, were played down as minor.

    • Dixon Craig
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

      your comment and my reply are OT but,
      python re-write is at

  49. John T
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

    Years ago, I naively thought the IPCC reports were supposed to be those “engineering quality” expositions. Boy was I wrong. Wasn’t that the intent?

  50. Dave L.
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

    Climate science has primarily directed its communications to the politicians (who control the purse strings that fund climate science research) and has never aimed at the “general public” or the “science niche”. The spokesperson for climate science has been the IPCC, a political body disguised as a scientific organization, and the IPCC communicates primarily to politicans and not to the general public or the science niche. The news media; i.e., Andy Revkin and Co.; reports on information that has been prepared for and processed by the IPCC, so whatever filters down to the general public has signficiant political biases and perspectives. The general public is now aware of this political slant, and growing skepticism is the result. After all, what group is the least trusted by the general public? Answer: the politicans. So by speaking to and identifying with the politicans, climate science has painted itself into the corner of distrust.
    Now Steve’s point could help to rescue climate science from the pit of quicksand in which it now finds itself. Openly communicate with the science niche and seek its assistance and expertise; i.e., request formal consultations from the science niche that are independent of politics. Climate science is deathly sick with political disease and has lost the scientific method. A transfusion of statistics is needed, surgery must be performed to excise the organs infected with IPCC virus, and the patient’s computer rooms need to be opened and ventilated. The prognosis for recovery is poor.

    • Braddles
      Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 6:17 PM | Permalink

      Places like realclimate function as the base of a pyramid, not the top. They are there to reassure the powerful and the influential that their political positions have foundation. The politicians and journalists rest easy, confident that any sceptical attacks are being dealt with elsewhere, and they don’t worry the detail. The Climategate inquiries had a similar function. They were not directed at the general public.

      Unfortunately for them, there now exist easy ways to bypass opinion-makers. They are being forced into a debate they thought they could avoid.

  51. Jeff Norman
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    “In my opinion – and here I repeat a point made on many occasions – climate communication has not been “cerebral” enough for professionals and scientists from other fields.”


    This may be all semantics, but to me “cerebral” is of the brain as in climate scientists know in their brains that: AGW is a problem and their particular area of research clearly demonstrates this to be true; or global temperatures have never been this high so AGW is a problem; or tree rings are thermometers; etc.

    They know this in their brains. They believe this to be true. We say our emotions come from the heart but really they come from the brain mixed up with all that science stuff.

    Using the emotion of their belief they attempt to convince others that this is true and mask it in scientific terms that are too steeped in the language of their scientific fields to be broadly understood.

    This last sentence, I think, is the basis for the thesis of Andy Revkin and Randy Olson. They want to cut through the scientific BS to get an emotional feel for the issue.

    This sentence, I think, is also the basis for your thesis. You want to cut through the emotional BS to get a scientific feel for the issue. You (and every other technical person familiar with this subject) want a dispassionate, technical description of the processes involved that can be fully tested at all levels.

    Like mid-troposphere heating…

  52. TG
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps the following quote is not exactly relevant to communication problems between climate science and the general public, but it struck me is an extremely apt description of the miscommunication(?) from the side of many (the majority of?) climate scientists. Lawrence Krauss, a noted theoretical physicist, wrote on p. 194 of his extremely readable book “Hiding in the Mirror”: “…it is important to realize that devoting literally decades of one’s career to a theoretical struggle, with unknown odds of success, requires those who engage in it to have a deep underlying faith in the validity of what they are attempting. For these “true believers”, every new development provides an opportunity to confirm one’s expectations that these ideas ultimately reflect reality. What separates this from religion, or what should separate this from religion, however, is the willingness to give up these expectations if it turns out that the theory makes predictions that disagree with observations, or if it turns out that the theory is impotent and makes no predictions.” I will withhold further comments, but the analogy between large areas of climate science and superstring theory is unavoidable.

  53. John F. Pittman
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    Some good publications of the research on this was by Slovic and Fischhoff. The IPCC and the climate ascientists have been using, and continue to use what they term as the “Tell Process.” The tell process communications strategies are limited to “Get the Message Out”, “Educate”, or Decide-Announce-Defend.” Examples of this from the IPCC or those defending the consensus are easily found. The problem is that “tell” works well with high trust/ low concern environments, but not low trust/high concern situations. The humorous note by Fischhoff in “Communicating with Confidence: Preparing for Successful Community Dialogue on RMP” is this one: “”The only improvement possible is doing the Tell Process faster (more often was meant IMO-JFP) or “louder.”” This has been a common complaint.

    I think for this thread, the problem is that the reccommended process to accomplish is the Dialogue Process where one examines their own assumptions of the target group. What are the groups needs, issues, and concerns? The first step in a dialogue process is to define YOUR assumptions about the target group. The next step is to test your assumptions. I like what their research showed, and several have commented that “good” or “real” scientists do this. The quote is:””We typically find that people are pleased to be asked for help and are willing to take the time to share their thoughts if they know you are genuinely seeking their input in order to improve your communication efforts.” As one reads the comments above, and on other sites, untrue beliefs that can block communication are entrenched in the IPCC, spokespeople, and activists, and the comments chronicle the rejection of the untrue beliefs. Here are some beleifs that can block communication from Fischhoff. I am listing ones that I have seen on this thread or others: 1)People are ignorant and irrational about risk; 2) science can resolve all issues; 3)It is easy to predict people’s preferences, beliefs, and how they will interpret information (Please read Steve McI comment above); 4) Laypeople can contribute little to defining and resolving problems; 5) Information=communication (!!! read the RC banner statement); 6) Communication will create or resurrect old issues (The science is settled.); 7) dialogue will shift power, erode authority, show weakness, or show uncertatainty.

    The effort to continue with the “Tell Process’ after repeated failures is troubling. It is not a case that the methodology for effective communication is unknown. Courses are taught on it. The problem is why the continued use of a non-preferred methodology that continues to fail, and can be expected to continue to fail. The expectation of failure is based on it is not the preferred method, aqnd though at one time, there was a high level of trust, this has been eroded. I do not know a way to discuss this continued effort of a failed mehtodology without either ascribing motive or speculating. I would rather note an item from the research: “Citizens mistrust the numbers and many believe that statistics can be manipulated” and “They thought the industry was talking down to them” (when presented with statictics they said they did not understand).

    I think the failure without speculating about motive, etc is best expressed by what has not been done that is reccommended by Fischhoff: 1) listen carefully 2) define the question or clarify if necessary; 3) think and formulate a response 4) answer precisely and concisely (the question that was asked).

  54. Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    Ok, I had time to kill so I watched the video. I will save anyone here wasting 11 minutes of their lives by giving a summary:

    Fire before aiming is preferable, needed and desirable. We just need lots more ammunition. Eventually we’ll hit something.

    Persistent failure should be encouraged and rewarded and funded endlessly.

    Just because no one takes your ideas seriously enough to fund them does not mean that your ideas should not be funded.

    Ideas that sound really horrible (innovative?) should receive priority funding.

    Armageddon should be marketed as fun, attractive, and alluring.

    The 10:10 videomakers, who single-handedly set their movement back immeasurably should be congratulated for thinking outside the box.

    The secret to solving all cancers is right around the corner, but no one wants to fund this because funders are just too damn conservative and cautious.

  55. Mike Mangan
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

    A “James Annan” sneeringly says this on the Tobis thread…

    ” “Engineering-level” is just a sneer, as far as I can tell.”

    An anonymous “scientist”, who speaks, so help me God, in the third person and goes by the name of “Rabbet” attacks Andy Revkin in his thread and blames journalists for the failure to herd the public off the CAGW cliff.

    Smug loop, indeed.

  56. Kip Hansen
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    I liked Olson’s anecdote about film editing leading up to the phrase ‘buffing the turd’. Bad acting, lousy script, poor shooting, etc etc, no amount of editing is going to make it any better, one is just ‘buffing the turd’. I think the skeptical general public has concluded that current mainstream climate science is a ‘turd’ — bad questionable data, sketchy statistical methods, peer-review interfered with, predictions that are absurd and then don’t come to pass, etc. Buffing climate science isn’t going to get CAGW accepted. They have to start with some honesty – an effort which Judy Curry has started, in some sense.

  57. Jimmy Haigh
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 5:59 PM | Permalink

    The trouble with “Climate Scientists” is – well, one of the many troubles – that they think they are smarter than Joe Bloggs. Not only “climate Scientists” but University educated people in general think that they are smarter than Joe.

    ‘T’aint necessarily so.

    I reckon I was at least as smart for the 25 years I was around before I went to University than the 25 years since. I know lots of folks who never went to University who are far far smarter than a lot of these ‘educated’ folks.

  58. Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 6:07 PM | Permalink

    The solution for communicating well seems soooooooooooooooo obvious.

    Go and study those in the field with success stories in communication, i.e. yours truly, Anthony Watts, and all your readers who clearly watch this blog every day, judging by the speed of response, even though there’s little new here more often than not these days. And guess what the successful experts would recommend…

  59. Jerry Haney
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 9:43 PM | Permalink

    Steve wrote: “On my own position on the “big picture” (as opposed to proxy reconstructions) , I am not as “skeptical” as many readers, who often seem over-confident to me in their knowledge of things.”
    I would like to know what your opinion is of CO2 as the cause of global warming? If you are not as skeptical as many readers, then are you skeptical about AGW and why?

  60. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 1:45 AM | Permalink

    Tom Gray
    Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 8:44 AM “My subscription to the Scientific American must have started sometime in the late 60s…..”

    This is so often expressed – happened just like you say. Readers resigned and suggested a better way for SA.

    The question more is “Why did SA carry take its course against many warnings?” Maybe the answer to that question is related rather closely to the topic here. Sorry, I do not know then answer.

    Speculating, SA marketing tried to pick a winner among several competing future themes and came out in favour of teaching kids to be green. Whether they did this in isolation or in conference with other information spreaders would be interesting to know.

    BTW, Jerry Haney above, I do not like being asked what my private position is on AGW. This is because any position involves the future and any future direction involves a non-scientific guess. I suspect Steve has not answered this question of himself for a similar reason, but I surely not going to ask him.

    • Armand MacMurray
      Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 2:25 AM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Sherrington (Apr 19 01:45),
      The magazine was sold to a German publishing company in 1986, but IMHO turned away from more technical content and towards more political advocacy after editor Jonathan Piel (son of one of the post-WWII “refounding” trio) left in 1994. Certainly, by 2001 the articles contained nowhere near the scientific detail that I thrived on in my school days. SA’s role in the Lomborg affair was especially saddening to me.

    • Jerry Haney
      Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

      I have more repect for Steve McIntyre than any other scientist when it comes to global warming science. If he has doubts about the skeptical positon that CO2 is not one the major causes of recent warming I want to know why. This should not be about politics but about the science. I have been researching the CO2 question for many years now and if this question cannot be answered, then the science has made very little progress.

      • Jim Bennett
        Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

        Re: Jerry Haney (Apr 19 10:59),
        The whole point of being a skeptic, Jerry, is to demand that those who make a claim actually prove their point. It’s perfectly legitimate for anyone, Steve included, to respond to the question, “What do you think is the major component in recent warming?” with “How the hell should I know? Climate is unbelievably complicated! If you can demonstrate and prove a hypothesis for a major component, though, I’m all ears!” As to your last sentence: yes, they have made very little progress, because now, even if their hypothesis is correct, their shoddy statistical methodology (to be as forgiving as possible) has cast doubt on their result. But please don’t try to put Steve on the hot seat about what he does or doesn’t think. Once he comes forward with a hypothesis (only in peer-reviewed climate journals, of course), I’m sure that he will allow anyone to come forward and tear his hypothesis to shreds if they can. Why? Because it is all about the science

        • Jerry Haney
          Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 4:40 PM | Permalink

          Well Jim, Steve M is the one who claimed not to be as skeptical as the readers here. He brought the subject up, not me. I just wanted to know his reasons. It is because of Steve’s knowledge and expertise that I was hoping he would expand on his thoughts about his lack of sketicism of AGW.

          If someone doesn’t want to discuss a subject then they should not bring it up.

        • Green Sand
          Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

          Re: Jerry Haney (Apr 19 16:40),

          “Steve M is the one who claimed not to be as skeptical as the readers.”

          As has been demonstrated at Climate Audit on numerous, numerous occasions, attention must be paid to the detail.

          What was actually stated was:-

          “On my own position on the “big picture” (as opposed to proxy reconstructions) , I am not as “skeptical” as many readers, who often seem over-confident to me in their knowledge of things.”

          From which has been derived:-

          “If he has doubts about the skeptical positon that CO2 is not one the major causes of recent warming I want to know why.”

          Finished off with:-

          “If someone doesn’t want to discuss a subject then they should not bring it up.”

          Where did “If he has doubts about the skeptical positon that CO2 is not one the major causes of recent warming” come from? Who apart from you brought it up?

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Permalink

          Re: Green Sand (Apr 19 17:36),

          This is why it’s always important to actually quote the words you wish to attack. That the team doesn’t do it is a given. When skeptics fail to do it it’s a major tactical error.

        • Green Sand
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

          Re: Dave Dardinger (Apr 19 17:54),

          Many thanks for your comment. On re-reading, this time with brain in gear all I can say is – point taken.

          I will get my coat.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

          Re: Green Sand (Apr 20 13:05),

          I will get my coat.

          Huh? I was agreeing with you. You did a sufficient job of quoting the people concerned. I intended the beginning “This” to mean your whole post, which I didn’t see any sense in quoting in toto. I was assuming Jerry Haney was a skeptic and and was therefore provoked that Steve wasn’t sufficiently skeptic for his taste (I basically agree, though see Richard Drake’s comment from 1:17 PM). But skeptics who want to be taken seriously need to be quite careful to watch what they’re assuming and let others know by quoting what they’re referring to. I always try re-reading a comment before I post it to both check for mistakes but to make sure the tone is ok.

        • Green Sand
          Posted Apr 22, 2011 at 8:24 PM | Permalink

          Re: Dave Dardinger (Apr 20 14:33),

          Dave, sorry late in getting back and many thanks again. My original comment was meant as you correctly interpret. I had however missed a previous post by JH, which may or may not have influenced my comment. I was not sure and thus my thanks to you and my hard felt apologies elsewhere.

          The fact that I missed the first JH post throws me, and I don’t like that. No matter what the content.



        • Jerry Haney
          Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 11:35 PM | Permalink

          The “elephant” in the AGW room is and always has been the effects of CO2 on global warming. If Steve M doesn’t want to give any reasons as to why he is less skeptical about AGW than the readers here, it is his perogative. I doubt he needs your defensive posturing to help him make up his mind. When did you become his guardian? I still would like to hear from Mr. McIntyre on why he is less skeptical then we are, whether those reasons involve CO2 or not.

        • Jerry Haney
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 1:43 AM | Permalink

          Geronimo: Did you miss Steve McIntyre’s words at the beginning of this blog?

          Steve McIntyre wrote:
          “As someone who’s interacted with this niche over the past number of years, my recommendation has consistently been that people who are worried about the impact of increased CO2 need to provide an “engineering quality” exposition of how doubled CO2 leads to (say) 3 degree C and thence to problems. More cerebral, rather than less cerebral.”

          “Such an exposition would probably be 1200 or 2000 pages, not 10 pages. Some of it would be material available in textbooks e.g. description of the infrared bands that are affected by additional CO2 – information that is not in dispute, but which any engineer would include in a comprehensive exposition.”

          Steve M brought the CO2 discussion to this post. And surely you must understand that the attempt by politicians to tax CO2 emmissions is the most damaging development of AGW. The act of taxing CO2 emmissions would set back progress on the planet like no other act before. That is why CO2 and its effect on global warming is the elephant in the AGW debate.

          I have been closely following this issue for many years and now I am perplexed as to why you and others have criticized me for asking for Steve’s reasons for his statement about his level skepticism. Are you afraid of what his answer may be?

        • Neil Fisher
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 2:47 AM | Permalink

          Re: Jerry Haney (Apr 20 01:43), Far be it for me to put words in Steve’s mouth, but if you have browsed this blog as much as some of the long term regulars, you would understand that, like most reasonable people, Steve’s attitude is “trust, but verify”. Given the obstacles he’s been faced with in trying to do even the most basic verification, it continues to amaze me (and it seems, many others) that he continues to leave the “trust” at the start. Certainly I for one would suggest that he has more than reason enough to drop that word, and it is to his great credit that he has not. He has also stated many times that were the decission up to him, he would bow to majority expert opinion regardless of his own misgivings about any particular area/paper. And that, gentle reader, is one of the things that make this blog such compelling reading.

        • RomanM
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 7:30 AM | Permalink

          Steve did not bring a “CO2 discussion” to this post. He simply reiterated the need for the provision of proper scientific evidence from the climate science community as opposed to “improved communication”, a point quite consistent with the theme of this post. His position in this regard is well known by blog regulars because it has been discussed in CA posts on several occasions.

          I have been closely following this issue for many years and now I am perplexed as to why you and others have criticized me for asking for Steve’s reasons for his statement about his level skepticism.

          Because it is OT and counterproductive. As far as divulging specific personal views goes, Steve has been blogging long enough to know that any such discussion would rapidly become focused on him rather than the topic at hand thereby derailing that and possibly subsequent threads – something that you seem to be intent on doing now. What makes Steve’s presentations effective and this blog interesting reading is his ability to continually keep the discussion on topic and minimize such troll-like interruptions.

        • Green Sand
          Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

          Re: Jerry Haney (Apr 19 23:35),

          Jerry it would appear that I am hoist with my own petard as on re-reading I find that it is me that has not been paying attention to detail for which I apologise to you and all concerned.

          I am off to hopefully improve my reading skills.

        • Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

          I agree that I’d love to have more from Steve on this:

          On my own position on the “big picture” (as opposed to proxy reconstructions), I am not as “skeptical” as many readers, who often seem over-confident to me in their knowledge of things.

          Steve came to feel that continuous discussion of the “big picture” on a blog like this becomes counterproductive. I think that’s part of his wisdom and what has made Climate Audit so compelling. But I don’t think there’s any need to criticise Jerry for asking. I’d like to hear more from Steve on this myself. Meanwhile Judith Curry has been doing a sterling job with some of the deepest questions in the science at Climate Etc. Any historian of this episode (and they will I think by then count it remarkable how climate science came to such world prominence) will I believe see the friendship between McIntyre and Curry as one of the most significant moves to break the deadlock. It’s a priviledge to watch and learn from scientists such as these – the officially credentialed and the completely blog-powered. Much for pundits of new media and open knowledge to ponder too. So hardly much cause for anyone to feel anxious if not all questions can be answered within the week.

        • Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 1:42 PM | Permalink

          Steve appears to be just skeptical enough to want to see sound science, and not so skeptical that he just handwaves away anything he doesn’t like.

          All this, of course, is OT…

  61. StuartR
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 3:07 AM | Permalink

    Having watched to video interview and read the essay

    My overall impression was the striking inanity of what Olsen is saying. I would extend what Steve says about the fact that Olsen misses thinking talking to the important sector, the niche of professionals and scientists, and say that Olsen also misses talking to anyone intelligent at all. As others have said here, if the basis of the message has perceived flaws then no matter how glitzy, zany, or funny you dress it up even the most humble layman will have misgivings about the message.

    I noticed Olsen quotes Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink which talks about initial perceptions ruling judgements but I think he misunderstands that book, the point is that what is underlying the snap judgments are the life experiences that got you to that point. I think Olsen should try incorporating the philosophy of “The Wisdom of Crowds” into his thesis on communication, but I suspect he would only take from it some other self-confirmatory interpretation that allowed him to make movies.

    Climate science seem wholly in the realm of show business now to me. I can’t think of any other science that has such a high profile journalist such as Andy Revkin being part of the process.

    Forget Ivory Towers, we are talking more about an Ivory curtain between climate scientists and everyone else, with Olsen and Revkin being the border guards showing us pretty pictures with jokes to “get us all on board”.

  62. Don B
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 6:46 AM | Permalink

    Bishop Hill comments on this article by a researcher “auditing” published reports on cloud seeding. The response by the original authors to requests for data were that of cooperation, not refusal, in contrast to what happened to Steve.

    That is an example of proper scientific communication.

  63. Alexander K
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 6:53 AM | Permalink

    Anyone who has ever sold anything knows that good products basically sell themselves, bad products eventually create resistance among even the most undiscerning buyers. When the product requires hype of any kind, buyers walk away.
    Too many prophesies of climate doom from scientists have been duds and the public has generally lost interest in this product.

    • Green Sand
      Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

      Re: Alexander K (Apr 19 06:53),

      My business and therefore sales training has always been involved with a technical rather that a “fast moving” product.

      Everybody has their own “salient” points, but there was one hammered home to me by a very successful (and equally obnoxious) superior, and that was that the least effective action was to criticize the opposition. His view was that if your product could not carry the day then criticizing the opposition would mean that you would carry the next year and maybe two.

      CAGW had a USP, had a major, major, market lead, eventually like all leaders, somebody took a look at the USP and got to ask questions. Result, there are now viable alternatives and the market place is becoming very receptive.

      The market is no longer wedded to the CAGW unique selling point and CAGW is not reacting to the market.

      • Green Sand
        Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 6:55 PM | Permalink

        Re: Green Sand (Apr 19 18:53),

        “that you would carry the next year and maybe two.”

        Should have read “that you would NOT carry the next year and maybe two.”

  64. Greg
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

    Spot on. The engineer in me craves some decent technically convincing communication from the scientists who claim AGW is a serious problem. I just want some real cause and effect explanations that can’t be refuted by simple facts in the blink of an eye. If I can shoot there argument down then it is weak, believe me. In the 15 years I’ve been following this issue I haven’t come across ANY argument on the cause and effect of global warming that is truly hard to refute. I suggest the reason they are having trouble in the communication area is that the majority of people who are constantly following the developments are technically educated and enquiring people who won’t accept argument that is easily refuted and lacking substance. If they provide sound logic, supported by facts, which points at global warming then I’ll be a convert immediately. I have absolutely no reason to challenge global warming “theory” for political or career or economic reasons. I just won’t be sold anything that don’t fit the facts. They also lose the respect of those they are trying to communicate with when they say anyone who challenges their point is a denier. It is very agressive and arrogant posturing to do that. True scientists will genuinely love to be challenged on the detail because they know the devil is in the detail and that is where all their time and energy has been spent and it is where their knowledge is genuinely superior to the rest of us.

  65. Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Permalink

    Smug? They can do anything. Check out this quote from RealClimate:
    “Calculating the net climate impact of an activity requires tracking many different emissions (not just CO2), and accounting for their (time-varying) impact on radiatively active components of the atmosphere or the properties of the affected land surface. While straightforward in conception, this can be complex and, inevitably, there are uncertainties in assessing all the knock-on effects. Over the years, many of the complexities have become better acknowledged which, in some cases, increases the total uncertainty, but the alternative of assuming that the indirect effects have zero impact with zero uncertainty is not tenable.”

    Which means they feel that all human activities effects on the planet can somehow be modeled, studied, and draw conclusions (always we are bad).

    But RIGHT off he says:
    “Seeing how this specific piece of science is being brought into a policy debate is rather interesting.”

  66. dakotadude
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    Having just finished THE HOCKEY STICK ILLUSION and keying on Randy Olson’s plea for more creativity in science communication (DON’T BE SUCH A SCIENTIST) I’m hoping that THSI will be made into a thought-provoking, entertaining and educational video that goes “viral” on Youtube, the sooner the better.

  67. Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 5:16 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps they should do a little video or book on telling the truth?

  68. Chris E
    Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Permalink

    To be fair to the proponents of ‘dumbing down the message’, it is an approach that the environmental movement has had some spectacular successes with in the past. Just look at logging in the USA Pacific Northwest for example. The ‘voters’ aren’t generally on top of the scientific issues, and most probably don’t care much anyway. If it’s couched as an ethical issue (‘save the owls, save the whales, save the planet…’) then it’s simple. If you care, vote Greenpeace. Otherwise, you are clearly an uncaring person. The same line has been tried with AGW, on the premise that societies develop their ‘social philosophies’ based on their feelings, not on informed reason.

    Shellenberger and Nordhaus (2004) saw the problems with this approach some years ago. With global warming (as it once was known…), the ‘environment’ is no longer seperate from ‘society’ – i.e. the voters are expected to pay to care. When it was just some nameless logtruck driver from Oregon and his family that would be thrown on the scrapheap it didn’t really seem to matter, but now? Now all of our electricity bills will rise, there’ll be new taxes, there’ll be economic meltdown and the end of society as we know it (actually, I don’t believe the apocalyptic economists either, but that’s beside the point…). With this issue, not everybody – hopefully not a majority – accepts that ‘fuzzy and feelgood’ = ‘clearly correct’.

    There is perhaps a reasonable (not definitive) case to be made for AGW, and for the wisdom of a ‘risk management’ approach to dealing with it. But made-up graphs and photos of polar bears just ain’t gonna cut it any more.

  69. Posted Apr 19, 2011 at 6:01 PM | Permalink

    You say “Rather than screaming at the customer for not buying your product.”

    That’s caused in part by an inward looking mentality, which comes from theorizing detached from reality. Common among academics and politicians (who are slick enough not to scream, most days), and even in business bureaucracies – look at the prevalence of fads instead of basics, and the use of buzz-words that get extrapolated far beyond the original concept and abstracted to meaningless mush.

    It is also caused by the exploitive approach that is inherent in politicking, which is rampant in bureaucracies. (Politicking being mis-representation of reality in order to gain an unearned benefit. It is a subtle version of the “free-lunch” outlook – which is of course taken to its logical conclusion in the criminal mentality.)

    David Harriman’s book “The Logical Leap” includes some cases of scientists failing to make progress on a subject, and sometimes botching their work, because their ideology got in the way

  70. TAC
    Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 6:30 AM | Permalink

    I do not believe it is a matter of whether or not climate scientists have been sufficiently or excessively “cerebral.”

    It is simpler than that: They knowingly misled the public and they tried to cover it up.

    In short: They lied and got caught.

    Everyone knows it — everyone except for the climate scientists. How is it that everyone knows? It is because ordinary people are surprisingly good at knowing when they’ve been deceived; survival depends on this skill. Anyone who has worked in politics knows this.

    In lying, and not correcting the lies, the climate scientists separated themselves from the larger community. They became a group of exiles, a “they” that cannot be trusted.

    It was a stupid thing to do.

  71. Gord Richens
    Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    If I can make a suggestion, limit the use of the term “skepticism” to reflect “uncertainty” – as opposed to using the term to describe a level of “belief” or “disbelief”.

    To suggest that one person is more or less “skeptical” than another person is to invite a squabble grounded in semantics.

  72. David Anderson
    Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    I’d like to see the team climate scientists asked if they’d be willing to fly in an airplane for which the design engineers had adhered to the same exacting standards as they do in their research – maiden voyage. With lives directly at stake and the law of negligence hovering overhead we quickly discover the stark difference in work standards between those who theorise and those who are held to account. Given the call for action on climate change I don’t see how their work can be exempt from such critical analysis.

  73. Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

    It might be surprising to know this, but in the UK (and in other places as well), there is a large body of science-informed individuals coming largely from a technical background whose general attitudes are surprisingly in parallel with the ‘consensus side’ in climate science, rather than showing any ‘proof-seeking’ activity. Science writer, Frank Swain, examines these underlying attitudes in a talk (Frank Swain on skepticism)

  74. Kate
    Posted Apr 20, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Permalink

    Go to

    Right near the top on the right is a link called Denizons.

    Many hours of good reading.

  75. jgc
    Posted Apr 22, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    Steve, you say:
    ” To date, I haven’t encountered a single climate scientist that remotely comprehended what was missing, while professionals from other fields often understand the sort of document right away.”

    I know quite a few that understand what is missing and are willing to discuss very specific points, but when a global picture that challenges the consensus emerges, silence becomes prevalent.
    Garth Paltridge gives quite a few explanations of why this happens, which basically is that nobody likes to loose his job.

    I lost mine for been mildly critical and I know that I have no chance of getting any research proposal funded once I have made clear my lack of faith. This is an excerpt from an accepted review that killed one of those research projects. 

    “The project is well designed, thoruogh and conceptually top-notch. It is planned in greet detail, the methodology appears to be sound as far as I can tell and I think the goals can be achieved within the time frame and work plan as proposed. The methods are adequate and the collaboration with the — counterparts makes a lot of sense and is also of good quality.

    However, I don’t think this proposal is quite as innovative as it could have been. In particular it does not address the broader implications (water resources) of climate change to which it has the potential of contributing in a very significant way. I wished the PI have looked ‘outside the box’ and included more discussion of the ‘big picture’ and broader impacts of climate change in this proposal. This seems a bit like a missed opportunity to me.”

    Criticism or even doubts are just not accepted. And remember that reviewers of a research project have far more power than journal reviewers, they can send you directly to the unemployment lists.

    Pielke Sr. Could also give you many examples

  76. Posted Apr 25, 2011 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    Some years ago, when Steve M. was complaining about the IPCC and the absence of an engineering document, I started asking just what document he wanted. Rather than actually specify the document so that I, as a largely non-engineer, would know what he wanted, he continued with complaining about the IPCC.

    I’ll repeat my question — what document exactly do you (Steve M singularly or readers here generally) want to see? Specify in sufficient detail that a nonengineer will be able to understand you and tell whether he’s produced it.

    For an illustration of something that’s insufficient (though not directed at a document), the comment Posted Apr 18, 2011 at 12:24 AM
    1. Respond to critics. Not all of them, of course, but the good ones who others are listening to.

    Who are the good ones? How should I know? What happens if you and I disagree about who the good ones are? Why not respond to good critics who are not being listened to (also, who are the listeners who count in making this assessment?)? Why not respond to not-good critics who are being listened to?

    Steve: The best way to see what an engineering report looks like is to look at one. They look different than an article in Nature or an IPCC literature review. I haven’t searched for online documents of this type – they tend to be produced for clients – but perhaps someone else can. It would make more sense for you to look at examples than try to deduce what they look like from my comments.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Apr 25, 2011 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

      The prior discussion referred to here took place here:

      Dr Grumbine said that complaining about IPCC not doing an engineering quality report was unfair to IPCC because it wasn’t mandated to do anything more than a literature review:

      As you note, and I agree, that kind of report cannot be done by IPCC. As such, complaints about IPCC not doing accomplishing what you want are a waste of time. It’s just clubbing a seal for not being a walrus.

      I responded as follows:

      Steve: IPCC is quite happy to swan around accepting accolades and was awarded a Nobel Prize. It wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize for carrying out a literature review. If it’s not competent to do a proper report, then it should have advised its funding governments and the public that it could not do a proper report as presently constituted and that they should organize a different sort of enterprise to do a proper report. The general public presumes that that it was competent to do a proper report and presumes that due diligence was carried out. In professional fields (accounting, engineers), professionals have obligations of doing what they are supposed to do.

      While the tone may be a bit sharp, the underlying point is one that I’ve made for many years.

      Prior to the scoping of AR4, I suggested to someone that I thought to be involved in its scoping or familiar with the scopers (MIke MacCracken, I think) that they attempt to construct a document that answered the concerns of third parties.

      I made precisely the same point in a telephone conversation with Harold Shapiro of the IAC review – that a 5-year literature review was not what the public really wanted or expected given the importance of the issue – and said that the IPCC should reconsider its mandate. Nothing along this lines was discussed in the IAC report – it’s too bad, because it’s an important issue that deserves lots of discussion.

      • Tom Gray
        Posted Apr 25, 2011 at 3:52 PM | Permalink

        What sort of supporting document is produced to justify the expense of very large physics projects such as the Large Hadron Collider. There must be masses of documents providing justification for such massive sums in capital and operational costs and, as well, the worth of the science that will be produced.

        The SSC was cancelled because of its vast expense and the discovery of the top quark had to wait. Why spend billions and billions now to discover the Higgs particle when we could wait 10 or 20 years and discover it much more cheaply. How is this cost justified?

      • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

        Dr. Grumbine is an OB/GYN in Maryland. I’m just an oceanographer with a somewhat unusual background.

        Again, though, you complain about IPCC rather than to say what you want. If you won’t say what you want in terms that those people you want to do the work can understand, I don’t think you’ll get it. Have fun complaining about their smugness instead.

        Steve: I think that my suggestion is reasonably clear – an engineering-type report. People, like yourself, that are interested in what an engineering report looks like should go look at a few. The same applies to articles in Nature – I suppose that you can specify what an article in Nature is, but you need to look at some as well. To make specifications that would be useful to someone who was unwilling or unable to look at an actual engineering report for himself is more complicated than trying to do so for someone who had done so. I agree that it might be useful to define the differences in a specification (since climate scientists don’t seem to understand the differences). Since you’ve brought the matter up, I’ll mull it over and try to get to it some time in the next year. Unfortunately, my time and energy are finite and I have other interests. In the meantime, if you yourself have the opportunity to examine some engineering reports, I urge you to reflect on the point that I’ve offered.

        • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

          Steve: embedding your comments, undated, in my replies wrecks havoc on trying to follow a conversation.

          Are you trying to communicate, or merely to berate? You think something is clear, fine. Speaking as one of the sorts of people — climate scientists — you say you’re trying to communicate with, I tell you that you’re not clear.

          It’s particularly silly to say that I (anyone) should go read an engineering report after you mention yourself that you can’t point to any and they’re probably proprietary hence unavailable.

          In any case, my interest is in communication of science to wider audiences. You say that an engineering report would do that. At your current estimate of 1000-1200 pages, I think the potential audience is rather small. But no matter. If it would achieve that end, it’s interesting to me.

          The single worst way, though, to set about providing you an engineering document would be for me to read one and guess what you considered important about it for climate people to follow. I’ll guess wrong. Then you write another post talking about those smug, stupid scientists.

          As to your time involvement —
          You could have taken a few percent of the time you’ve spent complaining about the IPCC not doing what you want and instead write down what you do want. In the 3 years since my original question, you would have been able to answer my question(s) many times over.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 10:09 AM | Permalink

          I agreed with you that a scoping document would be useful, but you seem dissatisfied with that agreement. You are not alone in your criticism of how I spend my time. Undoubtedly I could I have accomplished more if I’d allocated my time differently. However, criticizing me for IPCC’s failure to more squarely address the professional community – on the grounds that I hadn’t responded to your comment of three years ago – seems a misallocation of blame.

          As to developing a scoping document to implement the idea of an “engineering quality” document – if this concept is of interest, I’m sure that there are other people besides me who are capable of implementing it. I’d be prepared to comment on any such efforts.

          As to your point that I might still criticize IPCC’s scoping document. Yes, there’s a risk of that. But there’s also the chance that I’d endorse what they did. Or that I might make worthwhile suggestions.

          This doesn’t alter the main point that I’ve made here – that literature review of the past 5 years is not the right thing for IPCC to be doing.

        • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

          Er, you hadn’t said anything about agreeing with me regarding the scoping document until just here where you’re acting as if the agreement were already made.

          In any case, I’m not interested in IPCC. If it is somehow mandatory for you that the IPCC produce the document you want, I can’t help you as I’ve never been involved in the IPCC.

          Criticize IPCC all you want. I find it dull, myself, and have my own criticisms of them. They haven’t and won’t produce what you want. There are other places than the IPCC. There are other scientists than those involved in the IPCC.

          I’m not impressed by complaints or excuses about the time required in saying what you would be satisfied by, when you spend far more time complaining about not getting it. Your choice to complain, or to explain.

          I also said nothing about you criticizing the IPCC’s document or not. It was a document that I might write which was at hand. It is a certainty that as long as you refuse to describe what you want in meaningful terms, I will not be able to produce such a thing. And it would be a waste of my time to attempt to do so.

          As you’re demonstrating here, you’d rather complain about ‘smug scientists’ ‘not getting it’ than to describe what ‘it’ is so that they might get it.

          I’ve heard from people I know and have some respect for (e.g. Judy Curry and I know each other from our University of Chicago days, among other things.) that you’re serious and trying to be constructive. I can’t say I see much constructive in complaining about not getting something and then not saying what it is you really want.

          I’m here and considering spending some of my time working on what you want. But, like you, I have a number of things that request my time. Quite a lot of reading already on hand, so if you want me to read something, it’s important that you say what, exactly, and why. Telling me to get a document that you can’t name, and I probably can’t get access to because it’s proprietary doesn’t fly. And ‘Because Steve wants it’ is insufficient as a reason. I also have quite a lot of writing projects in progress and even more in mind. If you’d like to see writing done, you’ll have to describe it.

          I doubt I’m unique among either climate scientists or engineers in those thoughts, so there’d be some general advantage to answering those questions.

          If you’re serious, email is a better place than here to work things out. My email address is bobg at radix dot net. Please use a meaningful subject line and don’t expect speedy first response — as this is a very public address, all mail from new sources goes through the spam filter.

          The offer is open to others as well. I don’t promise to do it, or try to make AGU, AMS, etc., do it. But it’s possible that I would if you can explain what it is you want to see done, and what is good about it.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

          I’m not impressed by complaints or excuses about the time required in saying what you would be satisfied by, when you spend far more time complaining about not getting it. Your choice to complain, or to explain.

          I do not think that you understand the magnitude of this task. This is a NASA project rather than a Masters project, It is also a project for which scientists would be qualified only for certain specialized sections

    • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 9:03 AM | Permalink

      (responding to the comment steve embedded in my original, well after the separate reply he made)

      You don’t want my interpretation of what an engineering document is, you want your interpretation of what an engineering document should be. I never did think that scientific journals, or IPCC, or scientific textbooks were engineerig documents. So if you don’t say in what way they are failing, you don’t advance my understanding.

      If you’re saying that I should go read something, but can’t provide that something or a link to it, it’s similarly unlikely to happen.

      If you won’t say what you want, you aren’t likely to get it.

      Steve: I agree that providing specifications for an “engineering quality” document would enhance the chances of getting one. However, also understand that scoping such a document in formal terms would not be a small job. I raised the concept as a suggestion to climate scientists who had an interest in communicating to the professional community. If you wish to ignore the suggestion on the grounds that I haven’t prepared a scoping document as well, that’s up to you. I still think that it’s a constructive suggestion whether or not it is accompanied by a scoping document.

      • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

        Let’s say you were suggesting that climate scientists should play chess, it being a great game and there being bunches of good things to follow if they did.

        Ok, you’ve got my interest that maybe I should learn chess. I’m now asking that you provide more detail about what’s so great about it, what those good things are, and that maybe that I’ll go ahead and learn it if you can explain the rules of the game to me.

        Rather than follow up any of that, you tell me that what I should do is watch a couple of grandmasters play a game. Well, no. I would eventually do so if my interest continued to hold and my talents were appropriate. But first I think you should tell me how the pieces move and what the goal of the game is in a way that I can understand.

        There’s certainly more to chess than just how the pieces move and the goal of the game. But it’s a starting point for understanding and further learning, including watching the grandmasters. If you’re not interested in providing that elementary starting point, I’ll proceed with the many other things I can be doing with my time.

        It seems likely that the time involved in providing even your ‘formal scoping document’ is extremely small compared to that involved in producing the document that would satisfy you. If doing so isn’t worth your time (aided by the many others here who say they also want to see an engineering document), why exactly is it worth the time of those other people to produce the document you want?

        In any case, I haven’t even gotten to the point of asking for a formal scoping document. I’m still asking how the pieces move so that I can tell if I’m even watching a chess game. The one page description suffices to start with. It’s possible that I have, in fact, read some engineering documents. Since you refuse to describe them, I can’t tell.

        You’ve already written more telling me to read an engineering document than would have been needed to give me that elementary understanding.

        • kim
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

          Inside baseball matters outside baseball if there’s doping.

        • kim
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

          Hammer on the baseball metaphor. It’s not like Godwinning a thread, it’s more like pointing out where the homer will land.

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Apr 8, 2013 at 9:10 PM | Permalink

          It’ pretty easy to understand what steve is asking for. It’s an engineering style report on the green house effect.

          here is a sample organization guide

          Click to access report.pdf

          A formal scoping as you note doesnt take much time.

          Provide a comprehensive history of the scientific theories, articles and experiments that underpin
          the modern theory of the greenhouse effect. Include discussions of the various challenges to the theory
          over time as well as the remaining uncertainities.


  77. RomanM
    Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 6:24 AM | Permalink

    Re: David Weisman (Apr 26 01:24),

    Why would the fact that uncertain knowledge of solar activity preclude the possibility of writing such a document? The fact that we cannot predict the timing and/or intensity of earthquakes or hurricanes does not prevent carrying out an engineering quality assessment of a proposed bridge or nuclear power plant. Nor does it prevent the eventual decision of whether to continue with such a project or what other action may be required if such a project is indeed built.

    Steve’s point is that a scientifically complete, open and unbiased exposition of what is known (or not known) is a necessary starting point for making informed decisions about what actions may or may not be necessary in this case. The IPCC documents do not satisfy the necessary criteria as such from either a standpoint from scientific completeness nor the necessary objectivity to assess all sides of the issue.

    What is not acceptable is making important decisions with possible far-reaching societal impact based on substandard information and understanding pressured by a myriad of self-serving advocacy groups.

    • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Permalink


      Peace and motherhood are nice things. I’m all for those, as well as apple pie and so forth.

      But I’ll ask you, since Steve seems unwilling still, to put some definition on the table.

      * What do you mean by ‘scientifically complete’? Should the document re-derive quantum mechanics — that’s needed for the radiative transfer. Should it provide the crystallographic basis for cloud droplet nucleation (for those types of nucleation that actually depend on that, of course)?

      * What do you mean by ‘open’? Some mean that all email by anybody involved should be public, as should all versions of all code and data ever looked at? All phone calls should be recorded and public?

      * How will you be deciding whether the exposition is unbiased?

      I’ll also point out that you wrote about a scientific document while Steve is asking for an engineering document. Science and engineering are different things. I say that without disrespecting either — I’ve got degrees in both, and grandfathers in both. If you want an engineering document from scientists, it’ll be necessary to explain your meaning to people who don’t have that background.

      • RomanM
        Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

        Re: Robert Grumbine (Apr 26 08:40),

        In my absence, you seem to have had an extended discussion with Steve. However, you asked me some questions and I would like to answer them. My answers are mine and may not reflect the opinio0ns of anybody else.

        What do you mean by ‘scientifically complete’?

        There are a lot of dots from ‘the world has warmed a somewhat since 1970…” to “… a catastrophe is looming”. A complete analysis would connect all of these dots setting out the evidence to whatever depth is necessary. The evidence for all of these connections would be evaluated and the strengths or weaknesses explored as completely as possible.

        What do you mean by ‘open’?

        Just what it says. The process should be transparent. Data and other information that is used in the writing should be accessible to anyone after the fact. Minutes of meetings in which either the structure or content of the exposition are discussed could be available. Disagreements (particularly major) in the conclusions on any aspects should be available as appendices to the full document stating what the disagreements are all about.

        How will you be deciding whether the exposition is unbiased?

        I personally will decide the way I do now. Look at the results and evaluate if they are even-handed and balanced. Propaganda is often self-evident.

        Is it not strange that the IPCC reports contain virtually NO positive effects from any of the warming that has occurred? Food production has gone up tremendously during the last 40 years, yet there seems to be little mention of this fact. Are all species dying in great numbers or are there equally many or more that are thriving because of it? Is there real justification for using graphs with tricks because otherwise “they might send the wrong message”? The climategate emails provide many examples of unprofessional behaviour which has been motivated by personal bias.

        Your last paragraph is interesting. You claim that science and engineering are different things. I would argue that in fact they are not mutually exclusive depending on what is under consideration. In particular, what I see as the difference is the level and type of evidence contained in each, particularly if the welfare of people is involved.

        Science will often use terms such as “maybe”, “is consistent with” or “suggests that” as sufficient to conclude results in their reports. I would posit that if an engineer writing a document to justify the strength of a structure were to point loosely at some evidence and say it “suggests that the structure will be safe”, they might not remain an engineer for very long. Perhaps climate scientists should learn that the level of evidence they need to produce should match that of the engineering profession when the stakes are so high.

        Science and engineering are different things. I say that without disrespecting either — I’ve got degrees in both, and grandfathers in both.

        … and you can’t understand what an “engineering level exposition” might look like? Why is that?

        • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

          To take the last first, nobody seems willing to say what they mean by ‘engineering level’. Something that an engineer would be capable of understanding? Fine, which engineers? Some take a class in partial differential equations, some don’t. Some take serious thermodynamics, some don’t. And so on through a long list. So I’m right back to asking what you mean by engineering level.

          Or do you mean instead exposition that is in the fashion usually used by engineers? In that case I still have questions as my encounters with documents written by engineers show quite a variety of styles of exposition.

          I agree that there would be a lot of dots between ‘there’s been warming since the 1970s’ and ‘catastrophe is looming’. Then again, I’d have to ask you what you consider a catastrophe. The one person I’ve encountered who would say, chose 10 C warming by 2050 as his lower bound for ‘catastrophic’. I don’t think such warming is likely, so can hardly write a document that claimed so.

          Your clarification on ‘open’ is sufficient to be useful to me.

          On the other hand, you raising the IPCC impacts report includes different matters. First, my end of things is the WG I sort of thing — scientific basis, not the ‘impacts’ end. Second, I’m taking (and mentioned explicitly in response to Steve) it as given that IPCC hasn’t done and won’t do what you want. It’s therefore mere distraction to speculate as to why IPCC did or did not do something.

          I can say that as a conservative I think that there are generally far more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. Better than presumption would be evidence, of course.

          Don’t see your problem on science and engineering. They’re different. I didn’t say they were mutually exclusive. Good science and good engineering are important to have around. They also benefit each other greatly when the practitioners don’t get their noses in a sling about there being a difference. Science, I take it, is the project of finding out more about how the universe works. Engineering is doing something useful with that knowledge — in its current state and in spite of the incompleteness. Given the different targets, they use different approaches and standards. Of course. Then too, given my notion of science and engineering, I’d have to say that most of what I’ve done professionally has been engineering rather than science. That in spite of the fact that my job title has generally been scientist.

          In any case, commenting about my ignorance instead of providing answers doesn’t advance the alleged interest in climate scientists producing certain (types of) documents.

        • RomanM
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 6:39 PM | Permalink

          I find your fixation with supposed clarification of niggly details of what constitutes this or that both somewhat vexatious and counterproductive.

          “Or do you mean instead exposition that is in the fashion usually used by engineers?”. C’mon. I thought it was pretty clear that what I was asking for was a presentation of the current state of knowledge in a manner which would have a higher standard of fairly evaluating evidence than what we usually see in Climate Science today. Let’s separate the advocacy from the actual understanding of today’s world. “I don’t think such warming [10 C] is likely, so can hardly write a document that claimed so. ” Yeah, that must have been my major point. By refusing to actually address these issues, you are becoming more and more like the trolls we see here on a regular basis.

          I raised the IPCC because they are a perfect example of out-and-out bias. Their product is the complete antithesis of what is needed – the output of a group whose single purpose is to advocate for a given conclusion AND to influence policymakers into specific courses of action. I wasn’t speculating “why IPCC did or did not do something”. You asked how I recognized bias and I explained that to you.

          Science, I take it, is the project of finding out more about how the universe works. Engineering is doing something useful with that knowledge — in its current state and in spite of the incompleteness. Given the different targets, they use different approaches and standards.

          Although I don’t generally disagree with this statement, there is a difference here. Under ordinary circumstances, the scientist has the luxury of being somewhat more lax than the engineer in the rigor with which the science is done. The engineer needs to be more circumspect because of the greater danger to others when the engineer is wrong. Because the scientist is the one raising the alarm about the current situation and because of possible negative consequences due to choosing a wrong mitigating action whether the scientist is right or wrong, the level of accuracy of the evidence must be much greater for the scientist as well. That is what an “engineering level exposition” needs to determine.

          In the context of your mentioning that you had done both science and engineering, a re-evaluation of your responses to both Steve and myself did not quite make sense. I get the feeling that “advancing the alleged interest in climate scientists producing certain (types of) documents” seems to be pretty much one-sided effort on my part.

        • kim
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 7:06 PM | Permalink

          Several scientists have demonstrated the effect of CO2 in the laboratory, in fact, I hear they did so over a century ago. An engineer has yet to show its effect in the atmosphere.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 6:22 AM | Permalink


          To borrow an old comment, one person’s noise is another’s signal. That you, from your background and interest, consider something to be noise does not mean that it isn’t signal for me. Or, in this case, niggly details for you can be important for me. It’s mostly a matter of my ignorance. You can help cure that ignorance, or sit back and complain about it. Your choice.

          Arguably, however, the entire foundation of climateaudit is precisely that what one person or group consider to be niggly details, another — the climateaudit authors and fans — find to be terribly important. It’d be better if those ‘niggly details’ got answered.

          Given that, I’m moderately surprised at local objection to explaining ‘niggly details’.

          For me, it’s rather important to know whether it’s ok to include partial differential equations in the document. Since I understand them moderately myself, my initial inclination is to include them. But I do recall that not many of my engineering classmates took a pde course. So if the target is being understandable by average engineers, I probably should not include them.

          Since it’s you (and Steve, and assorted others) who ask for an engineering document from climate scientists, I’ll ask you (each and all) what it is you want rather than guess.

          It seems to me that what you want is for scientists to do what you want rather than to tell you what you should want and do that instead. Seems not unreasonable to me. But then I have to ask what you do want. If you ignore the request — smugly (to borrow Steve’s label) dismissing the request as being ‘niggling details’, I’m rather stuck with going ahead with doing what I think is a good idea.

          And then you repeat how scientists don’t do what you want and add my name to that list of ‘smug’ scientists who ‘don’t get it’. Doesn’t strike me as constructive towards getting what you say you want, but is certainly an effective way of being sure to always be able to complain about ‘those people’.

          I dunno. In the mean time, I’ll just observe that I do have a blog, and do regularly put up ‘question place’ posts wherein questions are indeed welcome. If they’re not questions I can do much towards answering (you’re best off with running or ice-related matters), well, I can only go so far, of course. But you and others are welcome to come by and ask questions in those ‘question place’ notes. Or things on-topic to the other posts.

        • RomanM
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Permalink

          I am no longer interested in playing your “niggly” word games in the evasive argumentative style that you seem to favor.

          What “word games”? I mention “engineering level exposition” which you automatically change to “engineering document” and then claim that I need to explain what such a “document” is. Of course, this follows yet another foray into the oh-so-important details that must first be discussed such as the presence of pde’s with a historical flashback to the quality of the mathematical abilities of your fellow classmates. Duh! Call me old fashioned, but I dislike being jerked around. You will forgive me if I am suspicious of your motives for this type of disingenuous sort of behavior.

          You have managed to avoid entering into any meaningful discussion in this series of comments including consideration of my personal raison d’etre for the need for an “engineering document”:

          Because the scientist is the one raising the alarm about the current situation and because of possible negative consequences due to choosing a wrong mitigating action whether the scientist is right or wrong, the level of accuracy of the evidence must be much greater for the scientist as well. That is what an “engineering level exposition” needs to determine.


          Thanks for the invite to visit your blog. If I have any middle-school level questions, I will be sure to drop by. Have a good one.

        • Chris E
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 7:27 PM | Permalink

          Robert, I’ve enjoyed reading your ‘devil’s advocate’ posts, you make some good points. Perhaps as a (trained) engineer and a (practicing) scientists, I can offer a useful viewpoint.

          So far, the IPCC has identified some risks, and offered some scientific support for these risks to be investigated further. Perhaps that’s all they were asked to do, and (as scientists), that’s what their contributors are comfortable with. And all pwer too them, someone has to do this stuff. But the ‘Summary to Policymakers’ is just (over)selling the message, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. A solid foundation document for prospective national ‘climate policies’ is yet to be produced. Perhaps from an international perspective the IPCC is the only organisation that could produce such a document, but they haven’t yet.

          In my view, the most useful thing the IPCC could do would be to approach climate change from a ‘risk engineering’ perspective. Quantify – as precisely as possible – the risk of some specific circumstances (sea level rise of ‘x’ metres, reduced annual rainfall by ‘y’ millimetres per year, extinction of polar bears in ‘z’ years), and give clearly reproducible reasoning for how the figures were arrived at. None of this “likely”, “somewhat likely”, “probable” stuff; tell me: “There is a 55.3% chance that polar bear populations will reduce by 15.7% in 25.2 years, because…”. Then tell me: “This can be reduced to a 21.3% chance of polar bear population reduction by 7.2% in 56.4 years with an expediture of 127.342 million dollars”.

          Considering the million and one apocalyptic scenarios that have been put up over the past few years it’s clearly not possible to quantify them all individually, so… find a way. A ‘proxy’ if you like the term. 😉 For argument’s sake, let’s call that proxy ‘atmospheric CO2 level’. This is OK, but someone has to clearly show the prsopective damage, QUANTITIVELY! Not: “This is bad”, but “A rise of 100 ppm will cause 1.3863 billion dollars of damage, as DEMONSTRATED by…”. Personally, I lost ‘faith’ in the IPCC when I wrote a review of ‘climate change impacts on forests’ and found the IPCC’s perspective to be relentlessly negative when compared to the evidence.

          This is not simple, but it’s (conceptually) the sort of thing that risk engineers deal with all the time. Nobody knows how big the next flood will be, but the engineers have to build a bridge. They can tell you, “OK, for 10 000 000 dollars we can build a bridge that has a 99.5% chance of lasting 200 years, or for 50 000 0000 it has a 99.9% chance of lasting 500 years”. And if you don’t like their conclusions, you can check their sums. It’s not exact, but the insurance companies seem to survive OK with this kind of reasoning.

          I can hear a lot of people crying “But we can’t work it out so precisely!” That’s OK. When you’ve worked it out, THEN ask me to pay for it. Otherwise you might be just guessing, and I don’t trust your guesses that much. Especially when photos of polar bears are supposed to make me deliberately enjoy life less.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 6:39 AM | Permalink

          To be a devil’s advocate, I’d have to be advocating something contrary to what someone else is advocating. Insofar as I’m advocating, I’m for saying what it is you want as a helpful means towards getting it. If that’s contrary to local belief, let me know and I’ll move along sooner rather than later.

          But glad you’ve found something interesting in the notes.

          As to the report you want, can’t help you. But at least I know what it is you want. I wouldn’t mind such a thing myself. But I also don’t believe, insofar as it’s really policy rather than science you’re concerned with, that there’s ever been a policy advocated that had such precision behind its expected effects.

        • ChrisE
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

          Sure there is, municipal flood mitigation strategies are a good example. To simplify, the hydrogeographers recognise the potential, analyse the event risk, package the data and offer some suggestions. Engineers and other professionals take this data and develop costed options (levees, dams, upper-catchment management plans, whatever), and present their conclusions in such a way that policy-makers and the interested public can make informed choices. Nothing is ‘certain’, but everything is transparently quantified and justified.

          What we have in ‘climate science’ at the moment is the equivalent of the hydrogeographers running about yelling “Paris might flood one day! Abandon the city!” If they can’t even produce a valid IDF curve and some hydrographs then it’s not surprising that most people will ignore them. Step 1 for climate science should be some properly rigorous and methodologically transparent climate reconstructions – without that, any of the latter steps are probably premature.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

          I’ll disagree about the certainty involved but move to a more important (to me) point in your description.

          Let’s be more specific, and take the Dutch and their dike system. A friend was involved in their latest update to the engineering evaluation of the system. But that’s it — he’s an engineer, and did an engineering consideration, specifically of waves. His concern was not science — how do waves form, affect each other, affect the sea floor, …? It was the engineering question — given our understanding of those (and other) things, what is the highest wave we can expect to see at least once in the next 10,000 years?

          And quite a few other pieces, including, of course, how confident one can be of the science and engineering behind the estimation process.

          Deciding that you want to build for the 10,000 year wave, though, is straight policy, not science or even engineering. The engineering can help you decide how expensive it is to build to different standards, but deciding which one to follow is politics.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

          If what you are saying is that climate science has only a narrow and specialized role in the AGW debate then I agree with you. I also agree with Steve McIntyre that what is needed is an engineering level document that will organize and document the contributions from many fields that will go into the making of the decisions to address AGW. So fart, no such document exists to my knowledge.

        • Posted Apr 28, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

          I’m sorry . I see the science as grossly retarded compared with other fields of applied physics , eg , electrodynamics . I’m neither a “scientist” or an “engineer” , just an array language programmer with an idiosyncratic but strong math background . I don’t care what the label on the field is , but if it’s not rigorous , it’s worse than useless .

          And I’m serious when I say it appears to me you can get a PhD in “climate science” without ever learning how to calculate the temperature of a simple radiantly heated colored ball .

          You can’t start talking about “engineering” when you’ve got the crude mathematically amateurish nonscience apparent on both sides of the issue .

        • Chris E
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

          I trust that your friend’s analysis of large wave return periods is a hell of a lot more rigorous than the IPCC’s climate projections.

          If you want to see how science should be summarised for a non-science professional readership, have a look at Pilgrim et al (1987) ‘Australian Rainfall and Runoff’, or even Allen et al (1998) ‘Crop evapotranspiration’. A similar ‘bible’ for dendroclimatology (for example) would settle most of the arguments. If it can’t be written, then the science isn’t anywhere near settled.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

          Robert, you asked me what I had in mind – the sort of documents that I had in mind are bankable feasibility studies for mining projects. And I presume that feasibility studies for other large engineering projects look similar.

          As to defining what the climate equivalent of a bankable feasibility study would be, it’s not a 15-minute response, as I’ve said before. And I don’t necessarily agree with suggestions by readers.

          While it’s complicated defining what an engineering quality report would be, it’s easy to say that IPCC reports aren’t ones.

          One feature is that the major sensitivities of the project and major processes are confirmed. In an engineering quality report on climate models, clouds, as the major uncertainty, would be analysed exhaustively, with recommendations for future analysis of particular uncertain parameterizations.

          Another major defect of IPCC reports as “engineering quality” documents is the failure to have a section on the infrared spectra that drive the process and how these are parameterized in the models. I understand that these are not believed to be a particular source of uncertainty and that the topics are discussed to some degree in texts, but this is not the same thing. I think that this belongs in a comprehensive report.

          An important feature of bankable engineering studies is that they are done by independent engineers who are not promoters of the project. The IPCC is widely perceived to be an advocate organization. In my opinion, a truly independent examination of the models (or the “best” model) by independent engineers experienced with sophisticated models would be healthy for the debate. It would need a relatively large budget. The sort of thing that I have in mind is quite different than what Judy Curry is talking about as PolyClimate.

          But these are just thoughts. Precisely what would be required to make an engineering quality document would take a lot of thought – not just by me, but by others.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 3:35 AM | Permalink

          In an engineering quality report on climate models, clouds, as the major uncertainty, would be analysed exhaustively, with recommendations for future analysis of particular uncertain parameterizations.

          That’s the single most important thing. And I agree with everything else you say.

          What’s interesting throughout is how little any of us know, so we have to analogise. Steve McIntyre has only seen feasibility studies for mining projects. I haven’t seen any such engineering study, though my software career led me to Tom Gilb and his considerable influence on the re-implementation of the massive Reuters Dealing System in 1986-7. Tom was unique at that time, I think, in making the right kind of analogies from engineering to so-called software engineering. The wrong analogies – or at least wrongly applied analogies – have been a curse in my discipline. Software architects especially, please note!

          Likewise Judy Curry is grasping at an analogy with the success of Polymath under Michael Nielsen and hoping that it will solve some mighty big problems in climate science. I wish her all the very best. The power of a moderated wiki, as Tom Fuller suggests – who knows what that may be?

          But Steve’s suggestion, quite separable from Polyclimate, is surely hugely justified. Feasibility studies in mining may be all he knows – but it’s surely worth the money many times over to take every leaf out of their book before climate science becomes responsible for such enormous changes in the global economy as have been already been begun.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 6:48 AM | Permalink

          In my opinion, a truly independent examination of the models (or the “best” model) by independent engineers experienced with sophisticated models would be healthy for the debate.

          Fine, have at it. Several climate models are openly available.

          But, as it’s engineers you want doing the work, it seems rather pointless to me to be complaining about what scientists do or don’t do.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

          I take it from your response that you are more interested in scoring points than in understanding. Bankable feasibility studies are big undertakings, requiring budgets in the millions and even tens of millions of dollars. Commissioning such a study for climate is far outside my resources. Nor would such a study commissioned by me personally, even if I had the resources, satisfy the requirements. Your riposte that I should personally commission such an undertaking is absurd.

          This sort of study is well within the resources of the agencies funding IPCC and, in my opinion, would be far more useful than a literature review of the past 5 years in meeting the requirements and expectations of the professional public. While the sort of study that I had in mind would need to be signed off on by independent professionals, it would also need the cooperation of the scientists who construct the models.

          Bankable mining feasibility studies are signed off on by independent engineers, but input from the company is expected and the study could hardly be done without cooperation. Your chippy remark that such a study would have nothing to do with climate scientists is a juvenile remark. That’s not how bankable studies work. That you would make such a juvenile remark indicates that you’re more interested in scoring silly debating points than understanding the suggestion.

          In my opinion, if climate change is a big problem, then it will require a very broad social consensus to implement the required changes, including people that are presently unconvinced. I suggested a method of reaching out to those people. If you think that the present climate communications strategy is going swimmingly, then obviously you have no need to consider this sort of report.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 9:46 AM | Permalink

          What you should take from my response is that you have still not defined what you want. In this latest, you introduce yet another term I don’t know — ‘bankable feasibility study’ as being what you want. Well, is that the same thing as:
          * engineering exposition
          * engineering style exposition
          * engineering report
          * engineering quality report
          * proper report
          each of which has been mentioned at one time or another. Are these all the same thing? If not, pick one and define it. If so, why the many different labels?

          In email, somebody else gave some description of what he thought you might mean, and at least what he did mean himself.

          My best brief description is “Legal cover your a**” document. You have a decision or policy in hand and are now looking to provide documentation that it’s a good enough policy or decision that you cannot be held liable for things not turning out well. Is that what you mean?

          Now you say that what you want is report that’ll cost some hundreds of millions of dollars, written by engineers. Still 1000-1200 pages? Anyhow, I still can’t see the relevance of scientists to your goal. Scientists aren’t engineers. And they’re not the place to go if you want a $100 million check towards some end. Corporations and governments are your target there, and it isn’t scientists in corporations or governments who will be deciding to write the check(s).

          Unless and until you actually describe your ‘method of reaching out’, you have not made a suggestion. To the extent you have described it, it isn’t anything I can help you with, being neither an engineer (at least not the kind you want) nor possessing a spare few hundred million.

        • theduke
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

          “Corporations and governments are your target there, and it isn’t scientists in corporations or governments who will be deciding to write the check(s).”

          Precisely. The federal government should underwrite an engineering grade study staffed by extremely knowledgeable people who scrutinize the science from every vantage point and decide if climate science as presented by the IPCC is valid and whether spending trillions on abatement is worth the investment.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

          You write:

          My best brief description is “Legal cover your a**” document. You have a decision or policy in hand and are now looking to provide documentation that it’s a good enough policy or decision that you cannot be held liable for things not turning out well. Is that what you mean?

          This is absolutely NOT what is being suggested. That you should phrase things in this way says something about you. You’re sounding too much like someone representing the class interests of academics.

          Corporations commission these lengthy reports so that they make the best possible decisions and to try to avoid mistakes and problems. They are trying to succeed, not just CYA. Doesn’t mean that things don’t fail. But a lot of things actually work.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

          I didn’t use the estimate “some hundreds of millions” of dollars. I’d merely said that the bidding would start in the tens of millions.

          I’m not suggesting that scientists fund such a study – what gave you that idea? It’s something that governments should do. And as I said before, such a study would require lots of input from climate scientists. You want something that is a guide to good decision-making, something that reduces arguments rather than adds to them.

          If you are someone that is concerned about that climate change is an important problem, then, in my opinion, you should view such a report as one that would end up endorsing your views and take excuses for inaction off the table.

          Again it’s a suggestion to people that are worried that climate change is a big problem and who want to convince people who are presently unconvinced.

        • Kan
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

          If the EPA were to ever have a mission, this would be it.

        • RuhRoh
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

          Regarding ‘bankable feasibility studies’, these guys make the point that banks insist on their own independent (re-)analysis before committing funds. It isn’t bankable unless it is independently commissioned by the folks with the money.

          Click to access Johnson(T-17).pdf

          Whereas, the politicians in charge of our collective ‘bank’ are eagerly participating in the ‘analysis’. Indeed, the IPCC ‘summary for policy makers’ is negotiated among the various governments and finalized, and only then the ‘scientific’ analysis (literature review) is rewritten to support the chosen summary position.

          In this context, your semantic hairsplits seem disingenuous.


        • Posted Apr 26, 2011 at 9:58 PM | Permalink

          Your questions are pretty much moot, since the IPCC has no interest in such a thing, even if it were spelled out for them.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

          Jeff Alberts:
          As I’ve said, the question is for me, not the IPCC. What they do or don’t want, or will or won’t do, is irrelevant to me.

          If I sit down to start writing exactly the document that you (or Steve, or Roman, or … each speaking for yourselves) want, will I be including partial differential equations or not? If none of you can or will answer, I don’t see much to sympathize with in later complaints about not getting what you want.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Permalink

          If I sit down to start writing exactly the document that you (or Steve, or Roman, or … each speaking for yourselves) want, will I be including partial differential equations or not? If none of you can or will answer, I don’t see much to sympathize with in later complaints about not getting what you want

          The sort of report that would be a climate equivalent to a bankable feasibility study for a mining feasibility study would be well outside the scope of what one person can do, even one as undoubtedly able as yourself.

          In addition, your attitude is all wrong. Any consulting engineer firm would present specifications to the client. Then do a scoping document. Then a pre-feasibility study. The a final feasibility study. No firm would ask for specifications in a blog comment expecting a turnaround time of less than a day. If you went out and did a study without agreed specifications, the client has not waived his right to say that you didn’t do what he wanted or expected. You seem more interested in getting an advance waiver than in understanding the perceived requirements.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

          An engineering level report is a report that describes the engineering aspects of an issue, it is not a description of the level of difficulty of a documents.

          An engineering level report will be an actionable document. it will describe what is to be created (device, system, building etc) and relate that to the objectives that will define its success of lack of it. It will provide justifications that the proposed creation will meet these objectives. These justification will go to whatever depth is necessary.

          Taking the example of the IPCC, one set of justifications for policy might be the efficacy of the GCMs. If the methods of solving these models are inissue then the report may indeed contain discussions of PDEs. If there are known issues with some of the computational techniques involved, this analysis might make reference to the primary mathematical literature.

          The nub of this is that the document is actionable. It can be used by policy makes to make and document decisions. The policy makers can turn to various sections to justify their decision and thus the decision is traceable.

          The engineering level document is also a living document. It is tool like a budget that will serve to illuminate the ongoing discussion. As the views on what is to be created evolve, the document can evolve with it. The history of these changing views and the reason for them can be tracked.

          So for example, a mass storage company may be interested in a scientific proposal to explore mew materials that will allow the creation of an new ultraviolet LED. The funding for this scientific exploration can be justified because it will allow for the creation and marketing of a new line of very high capacity storage devices. So a document will be created to allow decision makers to examine the justification for this expenditure. This document would contain sections that range from the basic quantum mechanics of the material to novel computer architectures and the effects on customer business processes.

          So yes a engineering level document may contain discussions of quantum mechanics.

          This is commonly called rigor in engineering and rigor is something that is highly valued when a company is betting its existence on a funding decision for a major project. One would think that the same adherence to rigor would be a valued part of the addressing an issue that is potentially grave as AGW. In the Hyatt Regency disaster in Kansa City, dozens of people were killed because of an error relating to the design of a bolt.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

          I would just like to add that I have seen an engineering level report fro a majr project printed out in a senior vice president’s office. It was carried in a catalogue file on a table. The report was printed single spaced on double sided office sized paper. It was about 9 or 10 feet long,

          I had thought that the exploratory project that I was on was playing a major role in the project. Seeing the report , in its massiveness, made me realize that I was working one only one specialized aspect of a massive project. I wish that all participants in the AGW effort could have a similar experience. It might make for better cooperation.

        • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 7:43 PM | Permalink

          Tom Gray
          (posts that arrived in various locations).

          Your description is what I was looking for in my request, not (as your later comment was concerned with) that I was insisting on the full, perhaps hundreds of pages, document that would have to be written up to request the work. Whether it is what Steve wants would be a different matter.

          Given the sort of document you describe, and my email correspondent did, I do indeed see little role for scientists in the document. As such, the many complaints about scientists here in just this one article and thread seem more than a little misplaced. Scientists are not the people who would be writing the document, deciding whether or how such a document should be written, deciding whether and how much should be spent in preparing it, nor deciding what to do once the document was prepared.

          Actionable information is the key term in your description, I think. Science (climate or otherwise) doesn’t produce that. As I said before, I consider engineering to be doing something useful with our knowledge of how the universe works. That’s where you go for actionable information.

          Science could say, for instance, that sea level in 2100 is expected to be 1 meter higher than today and give you some idea of the probability distribution function behind it, and then an understanding of the levels of uncertainty to both.

          But that doesn’t name a single action. Have a carbon tax? Relocate cities to higher ground? Build dikes? Ignore it? Not a one is a scientific question. It’s engineering that can say how much it would cost to build dikes against various standards and expectations on sea level change, to build infrastructure resistant to the same standard (or lower or higher) for other climatic changes that might show up. It’s policy/politics that will decide that you want to spend the extra money for an extra degree of confidence, or that certain types of response will not even be considered.

          Interfield pissing contests about whose rigor is better than whose are not interesting or helpful. Different types of engineering have different approaches to rigor. Different fields of science do as well. According to mathematicians’ standard of rigor, nothing in either engineering or science has ever been rigorous.

          I find it more useful to decide what kind of question is at hand, and look for what’s best from that area. What, apparently, you and others here have are engineering questions. I think, therefore, that you should look to engineers for your answers — not scientists. Abusing people who can’t do what you (generic you) want just doesn’t seem useful.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Apr 28, 2011 at 12:18 PM | Permalink

          I am not trying to put words into your mouth but when I read your comment, I see what I have come to believe. Climate change or AGW is not a scientific issue. It is an engineering issue. Its challenge is to create technology and policies to address a problem. Science can contribute to this but only in ways that inform the engineering effort.

          What I have seen in reading of Steve McIntyre’s efforts is that the major problems that he sees are based on the fact that AGW is being addressed as a scientific issue by scientists. Peer review, grant selection, survey papers and academic publishing are inadequate means to address this problem. What is required is engineering with its focus, coordination, rigor etc

          Scientists do what scientists do and that is not what is needed (overall) to address this problem. Yet more hockey sticks are not going to develop a less carbon intensive economy. That is what engineers and policy makers do. We need engineering level reports

        • Tom Gray
          Posted Apr 28, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

          The above is in reply to Robert Grumbine’s comment of 7:43PM on April 27. His observation that what is needed to address AGW is engineering is something that has long been my opinion. I think that it is something that should be emphasized.

        • Posted Apr 28, 2011 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

          Re: Tom Gray (Apr 28 12:18)

          Scientists do what scientists do and that is not what is needed (overall) to address this problem. Yet more hockey sticks are not going to develop a less carbon intensive economy. That is what engineers and policy makers do. We need engineering level reports

          Very helpful, thank you, Tom.

    • David Weisman
      Posted Apr 28, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

      Oddly enough, my comment is still awaiting moderation but you replied to it. Do you have access to the moderation queue, or did my comment get sent back to moderation after you replied somehow?

      If you read what Steve had asked for here and in the past, he emphatically won’t be satisfied with what you’re suggesting. He wants dates for a three degree rise, with error bars, and he wants to know how those dates were derived. He also wants to know exactly what the effects of that three percent rise will be, and since everything interacts, the effects on different continents will be different depending on when that three degree mark is reached.

      For someone merely to show that if the sun did what it seems to have done during the MWP, and that were combined with all the greenhouse gasses currently in the atmosphere, and the fact that we may still be rebounding from the last ice age, it might add up to serious trouble wouldn’t satisfy him at all.

  78. RuhRoh
    Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Permalink


    In what field of engineering do you routinely employ closed form solutions to PDE’s ?

    If the PDE’s (that you are concerned about) are relevant to the chain of dots that are being interconnected, and are being relied upon by ‘climate scientists’, (whatever that means), then yes, the math should be well and fully documented. (i.e. show all steps, with nothing ‘left to the reader as an exercise’ ). As I recall RPF approach, often he would say that a certain partial was small enough to be ignored, yada yada yada, and simplify the whole thing.

    Somehow I am doubting that there is anything like the physical underpinning of Heaviside’s equations (for E&M fields analysis), but if there is heavy classic math happening in climate science, then Yes, show all work. In my experience, some folks like to start with some scary math to intimidate (amaze and stupify), but then overstep the initial assumptions somewhere in the middle.
    These are folks trying to drape the robes of science around their own flaky efforts.

    The Smythe text was an example of the old school, pre-computer-solver approach to E&M. Bessel functions, ellipticals, yum yum… Feynman helped pioneer (at Los Alamos) the automated, iterative solutions by machine that are now predominant (e.g. FDTD methods in EMC analysis, and computational methods in fluid dynamics).

    Look again at the history and final report of the Challenger commission.
    RPF was initially dismayed that the whole report was essentially already written while he was out doing gumshoe work at the Cape. He was able to insist on an appendix regarding reliability, essentially uncertainty of a bad outcome. One of the folks looking into Climategate (Kelly) had strong negative opinions that weren’t included in the final report. He apparently didn’t have the prerogative of RPF, to hold out for a dissenting appendix.

    You seem quite prone to get yourself and some readers wrapped around the axle about incompatibility between ‘scientific’ and ‘engineering’ approaches. You overlook the field of ‘applied science’.

    We are witnessing the ongoing ‘re-engineering’ of global energy policy on the basis of ‘climate science’. Regarding the question of whether ‘climate science’ can be expressed in engineering terms, QED.



    • Posted Apr 27, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

      My perspective is that of an APLer who “understand” things by expressing them in terse executable notation and quantitatively “playing” with them . My vocabulary for calculating the Stefan Boltzmann equilibrium temperature for non-uniformly irradiated nonuniform gray ( flat spectrum ) balls takes about half a dozen lines .

      Simply the calculated temperature of a uniform gray ball in our orbit , about 278.7k given a 5778k sun , explains 97% of our observed temperature .

      Extending the vocabulary to handle full spectra to calculate equilibrium temperature for observed spectral maps of the globe and observed solar spectrum would take a couple additional lines .

      Adding orbital mechanics perhaps half a dozen more .

      So , in a coherent set of perhaps a page of definitions , you can have a more powerful model than the equivalent hundreds of pages of , eg , Fortran .

      I think the use of these legacy languages contributes to what I see as the pathetic state of understanding or presentation of the most basic physics of planetary temperature I see by both alarmists and realists .

      It’s no accident that the dominate market for APLs is in complex , time sensitive , financial systems . Certainly the same level of rigor and transparency needs to be demanded by those who seek to suppress the welfare of currently living humanity by suppressing the availability to the biosphere of the molecule out of which we are made .

  79. theduke
    Posted Apr 29, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Permalink

    Robert Grumbine wrote: “What, apparently, you and others here have are engineering questions. I think, therefore, that you should look to engineers for your answers — not scientists. Abusing people who can’t do what you (generic you) want just doesn’t seem useful.”

    That’s a very constricted view of the process. Engineers rely on scientific research to create their product. Obviously, they will have to review very closely the foundational claims of climate science. This blog has proven repeatedly that the science as presented by Jones, Mann et al is either incomplete or wanting. Any serious engineering study is going to have to confirm or deny this.

    Before engineers can invent remedies for the possible scenarios of CAGW, they will have to confirm that the science as presented thus far is correct. I’m betting they will have difficulty doing that.

    One problem engineers will have is that the field of climate engineering is in and even more nascent stage than climate science.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Apr 29, 2011 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

      I think that Grumbine was referring to the engineers who would be assessing if green technology like windmills, CFLs.. etc would be having any significant effect on AGW

  80. PaddikJ
    Posted Jun 5, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Permalink

    I first read this post when there were only 30 or so comments, thinking that someone would soon call Olsen and the Climate Scientist crowd on their disingenuous claim that they are losing the battle for public opinion on account of not communicating emotionally enough; but it’s now almost 200 comments and while there has been plenty of discussion around the topic, no one has really addressed it head-on.

    Say what?! Un-precedented warming; Worst drought in 5,000 years; Death-trains; Everybody near the coasts is gonna drown and everbody inland is gonna fry. Of course they (usually)trick it out in a sort of inverted rhetoric with this clinical, faux-objective prose style, but the hype is always there.

    Only a biologist could think that climate communication by scientists isn’t emotional enough. The guy must have been weaned on Rachael Carson.

  81. Posted Apr 9, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    Steven Mosher
    Posted Apr 8, 2013 at 9:10 PM | Permalink

    It’ pretty easy to understand what steve is asking for. It’s an engineering style report on the green house effect.

    here is a sample organization guide

    Click to access report.pdf

    A formal scoping as you note doesnt take much time.

    Provide a comprehensive history of the scientific theories, articles and experiments that underpin
    the modern theory of the greenhouse effect. Include discussions of the various challenges to the theory
    over time as well as the remaining uncertainities.


    If that’s what is wanted, then the IPCC reports satisfy the requirements noted in your link. Given that one point of unanimity here is hatred of the IPCC reports, and wanting something different, insofar as you’ve provided an answer, it’s one long since rejected by the residents of this site.

    They want something else. They just don’t answer what in any form that runs a risk of getting it.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Apr 9, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

      Why do you say that I “hate” IPCC reports. However, they are literature reviews, rather than engineering reports. I think that they’ve tended to become a shout-out to every climate scientist in the world. BTW Mosher’s characterization is not really what I have in mind either.

      I use the term engineering report as a constructive suggestion. Engineering reports for a project look totally different than an IPCC report. They aren’t literature reviews. Nor are they code parsing. In this sort of report, I would expect hard and independent assessment of what is really known and not known about each important topic. AR4 spent only a few pages on clouds even though this has been known as the major source of uncertainty for decades. In an engineering report, this would hugely increase in emphasis.

      Independence is also a large difference. An independent engineering report is exactly that: it’s a look at a project by people who are not promoters or shareholders. While many IPCC scientists are accomplished, the people doing the assessments are not independent of their work. People who wish to resist its conclusions can point to the non-independence and they are right. IPCC has become so insensitive to this issue, that it even permits overt Greenpeace activists to be Lead Authors. Even if the person is accomplished in his field, it taints the report. The importance of independence is well understood in other walks of life and IMO would assist wider acceptance of the document.

      It’s not easy to provide specifications, or I would have done so long ago.

      • Posted Apr 10, 2013 at 7:45 AM | Permalink

        Mosher’s reference on engineering reports does not exclude literature reviews. While you continue to say things about engineering reports being different, you refuse to say anything constructive about how they differ.

        Mosher’s reference also says nothing about independence. While condemning the lack of independence, you provide nothing about what would be satisfactory to you. How is, for instance, Richard Alley, insufficiently independent? What exactly is he not independent of? What exactly makes him a promoter rather than a scientist? What is he a shareholder in, rather than being a scientist?

        Your multiple replies in the earlier versions included a fair amount of personal attack on me and my motives — on the basis that it was obvious what you wanted, and simple for me to provide one version of it. Not the multimillion dollar version you also have claimed to want, but you’ve claimed to want more than that.

        You also spent time attacking me personally for asking for that specification, period.

        Now you finally allow as how it isn’t easy to describe what it is you want. Will you progress to not complaining about not getting it until you do?

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Apr 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

          Re: Robert Grumbine (Apr 10 07:45),

          You also spent time attacking me personally for asking for that specification, period.

          Now you finally allow as how it isn’t easy to describe what it is you want.

          I’ve never said that writing specifications for an “engineering quality” report was easy. On the contrary, I’ve said that writing such specifications was a considerable undertaking that would take considerable time and energy.

          Nor do I understand what you have in mind when you accuse me of “attacking” you personally for asking for such specifications. It looks to me like I suggested that you examine actual engineering reports to see what they look like and mull over the differences with IPCC literature reviews. In my opinion, that would be far more useful to you than me trying to explain the difference. I made this suggestion a couple of years ago and I believe that it remains a valid suggestion. Unfortunately, most such reports are private documents, but I’m sure that you can locate something. If you’ve been unsuccessful in such a search, that’s one thing. If you can’t be bothered, that’s up to you.

  82. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    Robert, re-reading this post, I’m struck by how unaware Randy Olson is of the unlikability of the self-appointed realclimate spokesmen, noted in my comment above:

    But the greater irony was surely his comment:

    ‘If you’re gonna use that enviro C.E.O., why don’t you go the full distance and get Tony Hayward?’”

    Isn’t that more or less what the climate science community has already done at realclimate? Why get Tony Hayward for likability and condescension when you’ve already got Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann?

    Realclimate has created many more skeptics than Watts Up.

    • Posted Apr 10, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

      I hope I’m not the only one who appreciates your juxtaposition of a note asking where you attacked someone, with a note in which you make broadscale condemnation of people. You probably don’t realize it, but I don’t participate over at Real Climate. Still, amusing.

      Bearers of bad news are famously unwelcome, and ‘unlikeable’. Snake oil salesmen have understood the converse for thousands of years.

      Mosher provided a definition of engineering report, which is more than you’ve done. By Mosher’s definition, I’ve been reading and writing them for decades. But his definition includes the IPCC report(s), so it obviously isn’t what you mean. But, per the commentary above as people variously provided their contributions towards defining an ‘engineering report’ — all disagreed with each other. Clearly whatever an ‘engineering report’ is, it is something that depends a lot on who is asking for one. As such, until you provide your own definition, I’m never going to be any closer to knowing what you mean.

      That’s only an issue if you _want_ to be understood, and _want_ to see any such report written. I’m just interested in the business of complaining for years on end about not getting what you want, while, for years on end, you refuse to define it. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

11 Trackbacks

  1. […] Climate, Communication and the ‘Nerd Loop’ By ANDREW C. REVKIN 4:15 p.m. | Updated | Randy Olson, the marine biologist turned filmmaker and author who’s about as far from the label “nerd” as can be, had his Howard Beale “mad as hell” moment over climate miscommunication last week on his blog, The Benshi. [Stephen McIntyre of Climateaudit has posted a response, entitled "The Smug Loop."] […]

  2. […] “pretending it doesn’t exist”? Mr. Foster must be stuck in one of those “Smug Loops” that Steve McIntyre writes about […]

  3. […] Steve McIntyre in his recent posting entitled “The Smug Loop” elaborates on a topic which has occurred to me numerous times as I encounter […]

  4. By #126) The Nerd Loopty-doo | The Benshi on Apr 18, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    […] “The Painful Truth,” to the climate skeptic blog, Climate Audit, where their title is, “The Smug Loop.” It’s funny how many of the comments equate the idea of improving communication with […]

  5. By Top Posts — on Apr 18, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    […] The Smug Loop Both Andy Revkin Climate, Communication and the ‘Nerd Loop’ and Randy Olson, in a linked blog post, bemoan the […] […]

  6. […] being a scientist” and learning to appeal to emotion and instinct did not.  The  reply from Steve McIntyre on the need to address niche audiences (politicians, lawyers, economists) rather than the vaunted […]

  7. […] The piece, “The Nerd Loop: Why I’m Losing Interest in Communicating Climate Change,” is a long disquisition on why there’s too much thumb sucking and circular analysis and not enough experimentation among institutions concerned about public indifference to risks posed by human-driven global warming. He particularly criticizes scientific groups, universities, environmental groups and foundations and other sources of funding. Randy summarized his points in a short “index card” presentation (in lieu of a Powerpoint) and followup interview on Skype (above). [Stephen McIntyre of Climateaudit has posted a response, entitled "The Smug Loop."] […]

  8. […] The piece, “The Nerd Loop: Why I’m Losing Interest in Communicating Climate Change,” is a long disquisition on why there’s too much thumb sucking and circular analysis and not enough experimentation among institutions concerned about public indifference to risks posed by human-driven global warming. He particularly criticizes scientific groups, universities, environmental groups and foundations and other sources of funding. Randy summarized his points in a short “index card” presentation (in lieu of a Powerpoint) and followup interview on Skype (above). [Stephen McIntyre of Climateaudit has posted a response, entitled "The Smug Loop."] […]

  9. […] The Smug Loop […]

  10. By The Smug Loop « Bee Auditor on May 6, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    […] Source: […]

  11. By Polyclimate | Climate Etc. on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    […] McIntyre starkly disagrees with Olson’s diagnosis of the problem, in a post entitled “The Smug Loop“, and calls for an “engineering quality exposition” of the climate change […]

%d bloggers like this: