Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins

Summary:  Both Left and Right in America have gone crazy. Each sees this about the other, but not about themselves. There is no reality-based community in American politics, unfortunately. Many posts on the FM website have documented this about the Right. Today we’ll look at the Left in action, burning their credibility.

Politics is about credibility


The US has drifted to the Right since 1980, to the Left’s bafflement. Among the reasons why is their repeated adoption of doomster prophecies, such as:

  • The Population Bomb scare of the 1960s, forecasting massive starvation and social upheaval in the 1970s and 1980s (see Wikipedia).
  • The resources will run out scare of the 1970s, forecasting exhaustion of critical resources by 2000 (examples here).
  • The repeated rounds of peak oil scares from the 1970s through recently (a sample here, about the end of civilization)

For a summary see “Plenty of gloom“, The Economist, 18 December 1997 — “Forecasters of scarcity and doom are not only invariably wrong, they think that being wrong proves them right”

These are largely found on the Left (the Right have their own apocalyptic scenarios, mostly involving economic and social collapse). Generations of Leftists crying wolf, without scientific backing. Making forecasts that in hindsight look foolish. Each failure eroding away their credibility. In these debates the Right has repeatedly proven correct.

Now the Left doubles down, predicting doom from climate change — forecasts of disasters beyond anything in the consensus of climate scientists (e.g., forecasts by the IPCC).  This might not end well for the Left, especially if the scientists are correct who forecast that the pause will continue for several more years, perhaps even one or two more decades (links here to papers).

Meanwhile they face the problem of maintaining the loyalty of their followers despite the lack of warming, and the falsification of previous forecasts. Such as predictions that Hurricane Katrina started a new era of frequent severe hurricanes; in fact the period since then has been one of multi-generational lows in activity (Washington Post). They’ve had to get creative, trusting the blind tribal loyalty of their flock.

Today’s example

Polar Vortex Ripped in Half by Anomalous Jet Stream,
High Arctic Experiencing 32 Degree F Above Average Temperatures Over Broad Region

By Robert Marston Fanney (fantasy writer; bio here), at his blog RobertScribbler: “Scribbling for economic, social, and environmental justice”
27 January 2014

He does an excellent job of working his flock into paroxysms of fear. The comments are fun to read! Such as SourabhJain’s (who is eager for the end times!):

“Nice post. Arctic like Death Valley!! What would Death Valley be like then? Volcano?”

A comment was posted citing one of the posts on the FM website about the pause in the increase of surface atmospheric temperature. Scribbler’s reply is typical of climate activists confronted with climate science:


Ignorance is a choice

This is classic poor representation of the science from a blog that appears to have been wrapped up in right-wing misinformation, at least in this case.

First, the IPCC isn’t talking about a pause in global warming. In fact, this most recent IPCC report provides the strongest case for warming of the bunch. IPCC itself claims that only those who falsely read the data find a pause in warming.

So in talking about and, perhaps unwittingly, promoting a fake pause, this particular blogger is going against the scientific consensus. Instead, he is siding with journalists who have wantonly misrepresented and misreported the warming data and misreading a few scientific reports that brought up the question of a potential slow-down in atmospheric warming.

Looking at the long term-record, atmospheric warming has been steady for at least four decades. Other measures of warming, such as ocean warming and ice melt are actually increasing (ocean heat content, rate of glacial melt). So, for there to be a pause we need atmospheric warming to stop (it hasn’t), ocean warming to stop (it’s speeding up), and glacial melt to stop (it’s speeding up).

In short, the best response to this nonsense is to tell the particular fool or duped person who spouts it that he is mangling statistics and misrepresenting the science. If he continues, refer him to this NASA GISS report: “NASA Finds 2013 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend“, 21 January 2014.

The report shows sustained atmospheric warming. In other words no pause in this indicator. So given these facts, why is this individual continuing to misrepresent the science?

This is fascinating, since it almost entirely false. This is one face of the Left’s abandonment of science, of being a reality-based community — and perhaps of its public influence in its present form.  (I submitted a reply, but was blocked and so didn’t follow the comment discussion. The person who cited the FM website says he was banned.)

(1)  In chapter 9 (large pdf) of the final draft of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report is an extensive discussion of the pause: “Box 9-2: Climate Models and the Hiatus in Global-Mean Surface Warming of the Past 15 Years” (pp 28-32).

(2)  UK Met Office discusses the pause (these are large pdf’s): July 2013

(3)  There is a large and growing body of peer-reviewed science discussing the pause. These posts provide lists and links to dozens of papers:

The NASA press release Scribbler points to does not even mention the pause (pro or con). It is a brief note discussing the 2013 temperature record, and its place in the long-term warming history — which the consensus of climate scientists believe continues today. As Chapter 9 of the IPCC’s AR5 says:

Figure 9.8 demonstrates that 15-year-long hiatus periods are common in both the observed and CMIP5 historical GMST time series …

The causes of both the observed GMST trend hiatus and of the model–observation GMST trend difference during 1998–2012 imply that, barring a major volcanic eruption, most 15-year GMST trends in the near-term future will be larger than during 1998–2012 (high confidence; see for a full assessment of near-term projections of GMST).

Significance of the pause

The pause has many levels of significance.  It provides climate scientists with new data with which to improve their models.  It provides us with more time to understand our climate and prepare for climate change (an ever-present on-going process, now complicated by our many influences).

— And it tests climate activists’ commitment to the truth (most are failing).  Rather than explain the significance of the pause, and what it means to scientists and society, they take the low road of concealment. It’s not working. They are burning the Left’s credibility as a political movement in America.

For more about this see Possible political effects of the pause in global warming, 26 August 2013.

A few important things to remember about global warming

While cheering for their faction of scientists, laypeople often lose sight of the big picture — the key elements for making public policy about this important issue.

(a)  The work of the IPCC and the major science institutes are the best guides for information about these issues.

(b)  The world has been warming during the past two centuries, in a succession of warming, cooling, and pauses. Since roughly 1950 anthropogenic causes have been the largest driver. Warming paused sometime in 1998-2000.

(c)  There is a debate about the attribution (causes) of past warming — which probably varied over time — between natural drivers (e.g., rebound from the Little Ice Age, solar influences) and anthropogenic drivers (e.g., CO2, aerosols, land use changes). The IPCC’s reports make few claims about attribution of climate activity, as this remains actively debated in the literature.

(d)  There is an even larger debate about climate forecasts, both the extent of future CO2 emissions and the net effects of the various natural and anthropogenic drivers.

(e)  For the past five years my recommendations have been the same:

  1. More funding for climate sciences. Many key aspects (eg, global temperature data collection and analysis) are grossly underfunded.
  2. Wider involvement of relevant experts in this debate. For example, geologists, statisticians and software engineers have been largely excluded — although their fields of knowledge are deeply involved.
  3. Start today a well-funded conversion to non-carbon-based energy sources by the second half of the 21st century; for both environmental and economic reasons (see these posts for details).

(f)  Posts about preparing for climate change:

Truth Will Make You Free

For More Information

This is a follow-up to Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve.

(a) Reference Pages about climate on the FM sites:

(b)  Other posts in this series about global warming:

  1. Still good news: global temperatures remain stable, at least for now., 14 October 2012 — Scientists’ analysis of the pause
  2. When did we start global warming? See the surprising answer., 18 October 2012
  3. One of the most important questions we face: when will the pause in global warming end?, 25 August 2013
  4. Possible political effects of the pause in global warming, 26 August 2013
  5. Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade, 17 January 2014



19 thoughts on “Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins

  1. I certainly was banned from Robert Scribbler’s blog: at least 3 or 4 comments were immediately deleted, and he didn’t reply to them, including a comment asking him what rules I broke, why my comments were deleted, etc. I found the experience to be disheartening, as I thought that the blogosphere was the ideal forum for back and forth discussions, without the filter of the mainstream media.

    What this has taught me is that I need to calm down, slow down, and read the research myself, starting with the IPCC reports, one page at a time.

    It’s funny – I myself do not fit politically into either the Left or Right as thought of in American politics. I am more of a Burkean conservative, believing in conserving not just nature, but cultural traditions, local autonomy, human dignity, etc. I thus have no loyalty to progressives such as Scribbler, or either party in the USA. In fact, I am seriously considering emigrating to a nation that actually has more than the two corporatist parties of the USA.

    Anyway, I’ve learned a good lesson, and will proceed to do my own “research”, meaning reading.

    1. Publiusmaximus,

      (1) While commendable idea, life is too short for you to do your own research on important issues. We are all dependent on secondary and tertiary sources.

      (2) My recommendation would be to rely on better sources.
      * articles for a general audience written by climate scientists,
      * major news agencies, and
      * amateur journalists (e.g., reporting on the FM website).

      The advantage of reporting here is that we do not have the limitations of mass market journalism. Long-form reporting, relying on excerpts from authoritative sources (with links to the originals, if you want more info). High info density, of a type that would bankrupt a newspaper in a week.

      (3). I strongly recommend reflecting on why you were reading Thomas Scribbler. Learn from your past decisions! He has zero qualifications for the analysis he does. The content was obviously overblown, and poorly sourced. What were you thinking?

      You would have, IMO, been better off reading cereal boxes.

    2. Hmmm…. what was I thinking? Good question. On retrospect, I should have been more skeptical. I think I was looking for the reasons for the extreme weather events I’ve noticed, and trying to scratch an itch caused by my sense that humanity is at a crossroads. We all have biases and world-views based on experience, intuition, reading, and values. Unlike you, I don’t believe humans are able to self-regulate very well. In fact, I think we were better at it in the past, when we didn’t have access to such destructive technology and sources of energy. I already said I’m a Burkean conservative, and think that humanity should forswear destructive technologies. Heidegger did insightful analyses of the danger of turning man and nature into objects of scientific mechanistic explanation and control (many quotes on that).

      Thus, I already see modern science and technology as destructive of nature, meaning, and human relationships. I know that makes me a kind of Luddite, and plenty would argue that technology can bring people together, and bring us to some kind of nirvana. Just read Wired magazine, for breathless accounts of the future. To someone with my outlook, however, the idea that we are possibly not just degrading, but destroying, the basis for life seems not just plausible, but likely. The fact is that we live on a finite planet, and despite the fact that efficiency is increasing, desire and demand and population increases faster. I think that is the nature of modernity and technology.

      So, this isn’t the place to argue about basic world views. You asked what I was thinking. Heidegger wrote about that, too, in his essay, “What is thinking?”
      I wasn’t thinking. I was letting myself by led by fear and the thrill of finding my worst fears materializing.
      Of course, history shows that in some cases, our worst fears did, or almost did, materialize. Our crazy generals almost did start a global nuclear holocaust!
      The devil is in the details, though, and obviously one should vet one’s sources carefully, and not give in to the temptation to seek out only sources that corroborate one’s fears, while filtering out both the consensus view and opposing viewpoints.
      Sorry for the long-winded explanation, but you asked, even if only rhetorically.
      Luckily for me, even if AGW-based disaster is not imminent, there’s still plenty about modernity that I can enjoy hating and critiquing! :)
      Summary: My own biases, fears, thrill-seeking, and psychological tendencies led me to a (temporary) scientific ghetto.

    1. Nnoxks,

      Tamino (aka Grant Foster) is by his own admission “not a climate scientist”, with (so far as I see) an unknown background. He is an activist, who specializes in insulting and denigrating actual scientists. He writes about matters that (from the scientists reactions I have read) appear to be beyond his grasp.

      Fortunately his website gets a tiny fraction of the hits of those by real scientists — such as RealClimate and Climate Etc — which have reliable content.

      You would learn more about climate by reading cereal boxes.

      He spends an inordinate amount of time editing his comment section — such as deleting critical comments (sometimes dozens) when he is proven to have been wrong.

      That people like him are considered useful sources of information is an example of why Left and Right are sinking into ignorance, disconnecting from reality.

    2. I included blogs “frequented by” climate scientists. It is true that Grant Foster is an independent researcher, not a professional climate scientist, and that his credentials are not clear, or at least not immediately evident through a Google search.

      However, there is no question that climate scientists frequent Grant Foster’s blog. His comment section is crawling with them, and they do not appear, on the whole, to share your view.

      That Tamino is often favorably discussed and linked to by RealClimate and other blogs written by climate scientists also calls into question your implied assertion that climate scientists do not respect him.

      That Grant Foster co-authored a paper with Stefan Rahmstorf, one of the world’s preeminent climate scientists, likewise calls into question your assertion. I have not noticed any negative reactions from climate scientists other than Judith Curry.

      On the other hand, you might take note of what climate scientists have been saying about Prof. Curry and her blog, and how useful it is as a source of information. At any rate, I hope we can agree that the other blogs on the list are in fact useful sources of information.

      I would also add one more that is run by a climate scientist (although there are many many more):

    3. nnoxks,

      A quick review of Grant Foster’s website confirms my view that you’d learn more from reading box tops:

      “Under the name “hiatus” or “pause,” it features prominently in public discussion and even in senate testimony (e.g. from Judith Curry). In truth, such a “pause” or “hiatus” is not that surprising, neither from a statistical point of view nor based on climate model output.”

      Bizarrely false. There is almost nothing in the climate science literature before 2000 about the odds of a 15+ year pause in warming, and specifically little or nothing pointing to pauses in the model output. His posts are filled with such statements. He deletes comments from people who point out such things.

      Also see these classy posts about Judith Curry:

      1. The Rise and Fall of Judith Curry
      2. True Lies“, and
      3. (One of) the Problem(s) with Judith Curry“.

      I could go on, but why bother? The guy writes like he is a combination of Einstein and Pope of Science. He and his fans will smear and fume, while science rolls on. But they have poisoned the debate. The ongoing paralysis of climate-related public policy — and its rollback in nations that have adopted some measures (e.g., Australia) — are the fruits of their tactics.

      Depending on when warming starts again, and what follows, the fruits might be quite bitter.

      On the other hand, your esteem for his website explains your amply demonstrated confusion about both climate science and the process of science.

  2. I just looked at Robert Scribbler’s blog. It brings new meaning to “seek and you shall find”. Except in this case, R. Scribbler’s seeking finds whatever nonsense backs his junk science. I am jealous of those of you who were banned.

  3. Part of the problem is the low level of science education. I am a retired astronomy professor in GA and I found that only about 3÷ of my undergrad students had ever had a physics class and about 30÷ a chemistry class.

    1. Socialbill,

      That’s a powerful observation. And a sad one. After Sputnik America realized the importance of basic science education, and our underperformance. Somewhere we list that.

      Perhaps it is part of our gross underfunding of basic infrastructure, both physical and social — which has grown steadily worse since roughly 1980.

      We poaching talented engineers and scientists from the emerging nations, but as they mature that flow will dry up — and Smerica will suffer from it.

      Also, as an astronomy prof (retired), and comments or corrections on the science posts would be appreciated. These posts are journalism, long-form deep technical reporting giving excerpts (with links to the sources) instead of summaries — hopefully useful, of a kind that would bankrupt a newspaper in a week.

    2. Agreed that we have terrible underfunding of physical and social infrastructure. We see much worse outcomes compared to our worldwide peer group. (The opposite of the old days.) When I think about this, I am unable to understand it.

      The natural tendency is to blame our leaders. But the painful truth is that citizens shoulder most of the blame. We can whine about how the corrupting influence of money and gerrymandered districts derail the political system. But motivated citizens in the past have overcome much greater challenges.

      In the area of education, our citizens seem content to spurn learning and knowledge. Just as they As as they are blind to the consequences of bad decision making. (I am talking about a societal problem going far beyond the Tea Party/far right.)

      While we have justifiable pride in our elite STEM universities, one look at the student bodies should tell us that our own citizens have no interest in traveling down that path.

      Again, I don’t understand this.

  4. You don’t seem to address here why these scares are more damaging to the left than the right. Many of these predictions were worldwide, in multiple countries – was the United States the only country that shifted to the Right?

    The Religious Right would have you believe that every major scientific discovery in the last 200 years is false, and part of the Atheist conspiracy to turn our children into gay socialists. This assertion is obviously false – but not only is it not damaging, the number of people who believe it in America is actually rising.

    Why is this?

    1. Joe,

      (1) “You don’t seem to address here why these scares are more damaging to the left than the right.”

      I didn’t for the best of reasons: I didn’t think of the question.

      (2) “Many of these predictions were worldwide, in multiple countries – was the United States the only country that shifted to the Right?”

      There has been a notable shift to the right in Europe, as well as the USA. But I don’t know about the details. I wonder if these panic attacks by the Left were as strongly felt in Europe as in the USA.

      (3) “The Religious Right would have you believe that every major scientific discovery in the last 200 years is false, and part of the Atheist conspiracy to turn our children into gay socialists.”

      They are a weird part of American society, to whom we’ve become accustomed. These are traditional, however odd, and hence accepted (becoming less so as they actively oppose policy changes the rest of society accept). I wonder what foreigners think of this. Could we be any odder?

      (4) “This assertion is obviously false – but not only is it not damaging, the number of people who believe it in America is actually rising.”

      OK, that is odder. I cannot imagine how this is happening. Something commies put in the water?

      (5) “Why is this?”

      My guess is that the problem is that the Left has repeatedly run these crusades, about which the Right has been correct and the Left wrong. Loudly, confidently, stridently wrong. Quite dispiriting for those subjected to these barrages. It’s the serial effect.

  5. I’ll be happy toreadthearticles. I have a pretty good BS detector (and have reviewed a lot of astronomy or optics papers). Some things I can already see:

    1) Go to the figures and see if it looks robust enough. Is the result barely publishable (like 2.5 sigma), or a lot better? Do the stated error estimates make sense?

    2) The climate field looks much more complicated than most of the physical sciences in that there are a lot more variables to consider, some of which are poorly understood.

    3) There is a lot of money on both sides that could bias the results, originally from oil, now alternative energy. In the physical sciences, no one cared financially whether the age of the universe was 13.8 Byr or 10 Byr

    4) The last two sunspot cycles look a lot like the Maunder minimum of the 17th C, correlated with lower temps. We’ll see whether the solar output really decreases.

    5) FM, you are really right about the shortage of research funding- I witnessed this personally.

    1. socialbill,

      Thanks for the checklist — that’s quite useful.

      I’ve wanted to post about the problems caused by lack of funding. Especially in satellites. Some vital ones have gone offline, not replaced. Some are old, with sensors decaying. Some vitally needed new ones are in limbo.

      Re: sunspots, solar cycle 24 – I’ve wanted to post about the sun and Earth’s climate, but have not found a good article for a general audience. Suggestions welcomed!

      See all posts about the solar cycle here.

  6. From Australia – yes, we do have a most despicable neoConservative government right now, which has dragged our Nation backwards in a most damaging manner. Hopefully, this coming election, those blinded by lies and misinformation will be defeated. It beggars belief that there are still many who are willing to falsify the science of climate change for whatever their selfish greedy reasons. Od course we are experiencing an unprecedented changing of our climate – by unprecedented, I mean because this is caused by MAN. There is no argument. The fact that non-climate scientists feel they have more qualifications to make definitive statements dismissing the science, to me, is extremely concerning. Then, in citing Real Science – Steven Goddard as a legitimate source, imdicates the absurdity of these assertions.

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