Scientists show us why the climate change campaign failed

Summary: Why has the vast investment over 30 years produced little action in the campaign for policy action to fight climate change? Listen to climate scientists to learn one reason for this failure. Here is one day on Twitter, typical conversations in the decayed wreckage of a once great but still vital science. It’s a sad story, with no signs of getting better. But it’s not over yet. I’ve updated this with new and even stranger tweets.

“First, science places the burden of proof on the claimant. Second, the proof for a claim must in some sense be commensurate with the character of the claim. Thus, an extraordinary claim requires ‘extraordinary’ (meaning stronger than usual) proof.”
— Marcello Truzzi in Zetetic Scholar, August 1987 (text here).

How to Save the World

Example #1 of climate science in action.

Thirty Years On, How Well Do Global Warming Predictions Stand Up?

An op-ed in the WSJ by Pat Michaels and Ryan Maue.
“James Hansen issued dire warnings in the summer of 1988. Today earth is only modestly warmer.”

This op-ed attracted a lot of attention from scientists. Such as this tweet.

An eminent climate scientists replied, as so many have replied to such unprofessional attacks.

Anchukaitis jumped into the discussion at a later point.

Anchukaitis deploys the universal defense of modern climate science against criticism: “deniers!” This is odd. I am a dogmatic supporter of the IPCC and major climate agencies. But after 30 years of massive effort with almost no policy action, I believe a change of tactics is needed. To Anchukaitis, that is “denial.” In a nutshell, that’s why 30 years of massive effort has failed to produce action.

Bio: Kevin Anchukaitis is an associate professor at the University of Arizona (see his University profile page).

A reminder from the past

“In response to a request for supporting data, Philip Jones, a prominent researcher {U of East Anglia} said ‘We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?’”

– Testimony of Stephen McIntyre before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (the July 2006 hearings which produced the Wegman Report). Jones has not publicly denied it, so far as I see.

Example #2 of climate science in action

Another tweet about that WSJ op-ed.

Nick Coweren tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.

That seemed an odd claim. It does not agree with the NOAA data, and short-term climate changes are almost impossible to attribute to human action. So I sent a Tweet showing NOAA’s global surface temperature.

Cowern blocked me – for showing NOAA data that contradicted his tweet. See the offensive graph below from NOAA’s excellent Climate At A Glance website. Note they calculate the 2000-2014 trend as 0.12°C per decade (probably statistically insignificant, and within the instrument network’s margin of error). The graph shows the El Nino spike – and its fall, perhaps returning to the 2000-2014 trendline.

Global Surface Temperature graph from NOAA

Bio: Nick Cowern is a professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Newcastle University. See LinkedIn.

Another reminder from the past

“The time for debate has ended”
— Marcia McNutt (then editor-in-Chief of Science, now President of the NAS) in “The beyond-two-degree inferno“, editorial in Science, 3 July 2015.

Declaring that the debate is over: it is a favorite tactic of climate advocates (see more about this pitiful article). After thirty years, it had not worked. But they keep trying.

Science

Example #3 of climate science in action

Anthony Purcell was acrimoniously attacking Roger Pielke Sr. about the role of CO2 in climate dynamics. Here are three of his salvos.

Anthony Purcell replies to Roger Pielke Sr.

There is not much to be said about that tweet. It’s beyond rational rebuttal. Another one is more substantial.

Anthony Purcell tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.

That is an odd tweet. That a CO2 increase was detected in the 1930s does not mean that it had a significant effect on the climate (the IPCC’s reports make no such claim). The melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets in the 1850s was a retreat from their expansion during the Little Ice Age (whose causes are still debated, but it wasn’t CO2). This other tweet is also material, asking an important question.

Anthony Purcell tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.

Pielke Sr. is too modest to give an adequate reply. Hence my two tweets answering Purcell’s question.

In one sentence, Purcell’s reply shows the essence of the climate science policy debate – and why most the US public still ranks climate change as a low priority vs. our other problems.

Citing a climate scientist’s publications and professional record – in response to Purcell’s question – gets a schoolyard insult. And, in the fashion of climate sciences, he blocked me.

Andrew Dessler jumped into the discussion with this tweet …

This is odd. First, Pielke’s Iron Law says “While people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits.” Explained in his book The Climate Fix (see below). Dessler is not even close. Second, he appears to believe that is a universal defense of climate scientists against any criticism. But he did reply.

Bio: Purcell is a research fellow at the School of Earth Science at Australian National University. Bio here.

Bio: Andrew Dessler is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A and M (his page at the university website).

System Failure

The last word on these sad stories (updated)

“Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory — an event which would have refuted the theory.”
— Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963).

I could post more and even worse tweets from climate scientists in these threads, but pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter.

This is the public face of climate science today: tribal, defensive, discussion by invective, dismissive of contrary data. More like a priesthood than a community of scientists. Having corresponded or worked with many climate scientists during the past decade, I found that most are diligent, responsive to inquiries, and open about their work. But a large fraction – including many of the field’s leaders – are not. Their responses to inquiries and responses is the opposite of what the public expects in public policy debates about the fate of the world, especially when proposing solutions requiring vast resources and perhaps restructuring of the world economy.

For thirty years this has been the nature of the climate science advocacy. Naturally, they have little to show for it. Mike Bastasch (reporter for the Daily Caller) gave the last word on this sad story.

In the past decade I have written 400+ posts about the climate wars, as a stalwart (or dogmatic) supporter of the IPCC and major climate agencies. So I do not agree with this statement by Brandon Shollenberger. But events have forced me to see that his is a rational response to climate scientists’ behavior during the past 30 years.

“My view regarding global warming has always been very simple: the people who claim it is a serious threat act in such a bizarre way, I don’t believe them.”  {Shollenberger has written a series of books about the climate wars; the most recent is A Disgrace to Skepticism.

Arrogance and pride. It makes fools of even the smartest people. This was the flaw at the very start of the climate policy campaign. Mistakes at the start often put a project on the wrong path, and are often fatal. Here’s a post-mortem, and a path to a better future: How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.

“In an age of spreading pseudoscience and anti-rationalism, it behooves those of us who believe in the good of science and engineering to be above reproach whenever possible.“
— P. J. Roach, Computing in Science and Engineering, Sept-Oct 2004 — Gated.

Frontiers of science

Advice about fixing climate science

After 30 years, climate science probably cannot find its way back to normal. But they can find inspiration from outside sources. These might help.

  1. Important: Climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. We can end the climate policy wars: demand a test of the models.
  3. Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.
  4. Daniel Davies’ insights about predictions can unlock the climate change debate.
  5. Karl Popper explains how to open the deadlocked climate policy debate.
  6. Paul Krugman talks about economics. Climate scientists can learn from his insights.
  7. Milton Friedman’s advice about restarting the climate policy debate.
  8. A candid climate scientist explains how to fix the debate.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see this about the keys to understanding climate change and especially these posts about what went wrong …

  1. ImportantHow we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
  2. Disturbing research about the use of “narratives” in climate science papers.
  3. An example of climate activists at work that shows why they lost.
  4. Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  5. Manichean paranoia has poisoned the climate debate.
  6. Paul Krugman shows why the climate campaign failed.
  7. Roger Pielke Jr. describes the decay of climate science.
  8. Roger Pielke Jr. describes the distorting of climate science.
  9. A new paper shows why the climate policy debate is broken.
  10. The irresistible foe preventing action to fight climate change.

About scientists doing public policy

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics
Available at Amazon.

The Honest Broker:
Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics
.

By Roger Pielke Jr.

“For scientists seeking to play a positive role in policy and politics and contribute to the sustainability of the scientific enterprise, scientists have choices in what role they play. This book is about understanding this choice. Rather than prescribing what course of action each scientist ought to take, the book aims to identify a range of options. Using examples from a range of scientific controversies, The Honest Broker challenges us all – scientists, politicians and citizens – to think carefully about how best science can contribute to policy-making and a healthy democracy.”

34 thoughts on “Scientists show us why the climate change campaign failed

  1. Editor
    I think you identified the reason in your other articles. Like the rest of society, climate science has gone tribal. It isn’t about facts or investigations or reasoning, it is about playing to the home crowd. They aren’t out to swing the undecided, it is just advocating for a win for your side, no matter how unlikely that is. The fact that you won’t change an opponent’s opinion by calling them an idiot doesn’t seem to register.

    The academics you quote show why they are coming to be held in low regard. Currently they seem to be living on past glories wanting a return to the “golden” age when they were the movers and shakers, without realizing the past is just history. We can never go back. Compare and contrast the great people of the grand age of university physics – the Feynmans or Rutherfords with today’s crop of climate scientists and it is no comparison. The new are intellectual pygmies. That is a truly depressing situation

    1. Chrism,

      “Like the rest of society, climate science has gone tribal.”

      That’s an insightful idea. I saw their tribalism as a result of other factors. But perhaps it is a cause of their other problems. That’s worth some thought!

      “That is a truly depressing situation”

      I have spent a lot of time in this field, both at work and as a reporter writing here. I totally agree with your summary.

  2. Why has the vast investment over 30 years produced little action in the campaign for policy action to fight climate change?

    There is a simple and encouraging answer. They have failed to convince because they had no case. There never was a problem, there is nothing to fight, it is and always has been nothing more than a moral panic.

    And the general public has realized this, and so the campaign for policy action has gone nowhere. It has been a combination of policy advocacy which did not address the supposed problem, and wild assertions not backed up by any proof of a supposed problem.

    People have had too much sense to buy it. Thank goodness!

    Yes, there is tribalism and failure to communicate. But this is what happens when you basically have no case and nothing to communicate, but refuse to give over advocating your obsessive fears and remedies.

    1. George,

      “They have failed to convince because they had no case.”

      The IPCC, the major climate agencies, and almost all climate scientists disagree with you. The question they debate is the strength of the case. From a public policy perspective, that is the key question. What scientists consider a strong case when writing papers differs from the level of evidence needed to spend a big chunk of global GDP.

  3. I believe they failed because they lied and were caught lying. Then they justified their lying for the common good. Also, anyone who questioned their findings was/is labeled a climate denier or anti science. Lastly, all the bad stuff they said would happen didn’t and hopefully it won’t.

    1. Gute,

      “I believe they failed because they lied and were caught lying.”

      The work of the IPCC and major climate agencies did not have “lies.” There were the usual exaggerations, omissions, and mistakes. Just as in all large projects.

      Individual climate scientists lie. Because they are people, and every large group of people has some who lie occasionally.

    2. Gute – a follow-up note,

      It will take a generation or so for historians to sort out the climate science debacle (i.e., a bad ending seems for most climate futures). My guess from the cheap seats is that the problem was not climate scientists misbehaving — exaggerations, smearing their peers, suppression of dissidents, refusal to provide supporting info, some lies, etc. The problem was the passive — even accepting — response of the institutions and climate science community.

      For example, for decades journals ignored their own policies about disclosure of papers supporting information.

      The effects of their partisanism rippled throughout the climate policy debate, poisoning it.

    3. “The work of the IPCC and major climate agencies did not have ‘lies.’”

      The work of the IPCC does have lies. Lies of omission. They have never admitted that emissions as high as the RCP 8.5 scenario are very unlikely, and that total CO2 emissions in the 21st century will probably be about equal to the total emissions in the 21st century under the RCP 4.5 scenario. Therefore, they allowed a *host* of researchers to claim that the RCP 8.5 scenario was the “business as usual” scenario.

      Why did they lie like that? It’s very simple…if they admitted that the RCP 4.5 scenario emissions were more likely than the RCP 8.5 emissions, they would have gotten a lot less money.

    4. Mark,

      “Lies of omission.”

      That’s absurd. They’re not obligated to say what you want them to say.

      “They have never admitted that emissions as high as the RCP 8.5 scenario are very unlikely,”

      Read a book about risk management. As is good practice, they have four scenarios, from very optimistic to very pessimistic. Assessing the likelihood of each would be a large project resulting with, at best, guesses. They show the range of outcomes facing us, which is all that we can do at this time.

    5. “That’s absurd.”

      No, what’s absurd is clueless amateurs like you pretending you know about a subject about which you’re clearly ignorant. What in your background makes you think you know something about this subject? Your years in the finance industry? Or perhaps your years as a Boy Scout leader?

      “Read a book about risk management.”

      I have a better idea. You go get a degree or two in engineering. Then spend a decade or two doing energy/environmental analyses. Or at least until then, stop pretending you know what you’re talking about.

      Another better idea–since I know you’re not going to get the engineering degree and spend the years doing energy/environmental analyses–is you should read Dave Rutledge’s take on RCP 8.5:

      https://judithcurry.com/2014/04/22/coal-and-the-ipcc/

      Pay particular attention to this paragraph:

      “In the IPCC’s business-as-usual scenario, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5, coal accounts for half of future carbon-dioxide emissions through 2100, and two-thirds of the emissions through 2500. The IPCC’s coal burn is enormous, twice the world reserves by 2100, and seven times reserves by 2500. Coal so dominates that it is not an exaggeration to say that the IPCC and climate-change research programs depend on this massive coal burn for their existence. Without the threat of coal, the IPCC could close up shop and the research program funding would drop to a small fraction of what is spent on research in weather forecasting.”

      Dave Rutledge is saying that the only reason the RCP 8.5 exists is to generate funding for climate change. That’s exactly what I just wrote, and what I’ve been writing for more than a decade (back to when RCP 8.5 was “A1FI”). So why does he say that RCP 8.5 only exists to generate funding for climate change? Well, read the rest of his post, but basically he says it because he’s actually *done* research on the subject. Like I have. And unlike you.

      Also read this paragraph by Dave Rutledge:

      “Some thoughts on more realistic projections for future fossil-fuel production were given in an earlier Climate Etc. post, and in a recent invited talk for the Geological Society of America, “Projections for Ultimate Coal Production from Production Histories Through 2012,” I argue that future fossil-fuel CO2 emissions without any climate policy at all are likely to fall between those of the policy scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP4.5.”

      Again, that’s what I have been saying and writing for more than a decade. And again, he and I say these things because we’ve actually *done* research on the subject. Unlike you.

      P.S. Some more suggested reading, from 2006:

      http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2006/04/complete_set_of.html

    6. Mark,

      I am well aware about the unlikely nature of RCP8.5. It is a good worst case analysis, as it assumes unfavorable trend changes in key factors (eg, fertility and tech). Rick analysis requires unlikely scenarios on both optimistic and pessimistic ends of the spectrum.

      Rutledge’s wild speculation is nuts.

      Thanks for commenting. Good-bye.

    7. Mark,

      Two more details.

      (1) I’m glad that you consider the articles at Judith Curry’s website, Climate Etc, to be authoritative. You might find my articles there of interest. Especially this: “A closer look at scenario RCP8.5” — putting this worst-case scenario in a larger context. It is similar to Rutledge’s, but without the wild guessing.

      For a more technical look at this, see how RCP8.5 came to be misrepresented as the “business as usual scenario”. I follow this from the first papers describing RCP8.5 to now (with full citations and links): Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions.

      I have written a dozen posts about RCP8.5, which have been widely reposted. See them here.

      (2) “In the IPCC’s business-as-usual scenario, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5″

      Rutledge is wrong. AR5 WG1 does not described RCP8.5 as “business as usual.” That phrase only appears in it with reference to a scenario in FAR.

    8. Larry,

      You write, “I am well aware about the unlikely nature of RCP8.5.”

      So where in the 1000+ pages of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report did you find any statement to the effect that RCP 8.5 is “unlikely”?

      And given the fact that the RCP 8.5 scenario is extremely similar to the A1FI scenario in emissions during the 21st century, the “RCP 8.5” scenario emissions in the 21st century have actually been around (just under the name “A1FI”) since the Third Assessment Report was released in 2001. Why didn’t the IPCC authors mention in either the Third Assessment Report, the Fourth Assessment Report, or the Fifth Assessment Report that the A1FI and later RCP 8.5 scenarios were “unlikely”? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. How in three different 1000+ page assessment reports, did they never get around to identifying that the RCP 8.5 and A1FI scenarios were “unlikely”? Don’t you think that’s a pretty important fact…that they are “unlikely” rather than “business as usual”?

      In fact, you stated on Judith Curry’s blog:

      “Unfortunately scientists often inaccurately describe RCP8.5 as the baseline scenario — a future without policy action: “a relatively conservative business as usual case with low income, high population and high energy demand due to only modest improvements in energy intensity” from “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011, This is a material misrepresentation of RCP8.5.”

      And what is a “material misrepresentation”? Isn’t that just another phrase for a “lie”? It sure looks that way to me:

      https://definitions.uslegal.com/m/material-misrepresentation/

      So, you’re saying that Keywan Riahi et al. (i.e. Keywan Riahi, Shilpa Rao, Volker Krey, Cheolhung Cho, Vadim Chirkov, Guenther Fischer, Georg Kindermann, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Peter Rafaj) lied. (Correct?)

      Now, they lied in 2011…what evidence do you have that they have ever acknowledged that lie…let alone tried to correct it? You have zero evidence that they have acknowledged it and tried to correct it, right? And you have ***abundant*** evidence that they have not tried to correct their “material misrepresentation”. You’ve even referred to it on your blog, way back in November 2015, with 8 instances at the end of the post. (I could easily provide 8 more…and given maybe 100 hours, I could probably provide 100 more instances of people in the scientific community or representing scientific organizations who have labeled RCP 8.5 as “business as usual”.)

      https://fabiusmaximus.com/2015/11/05/visions-of-dark-climate-future-90153/

      So why do you call it “absurd” when I wrote that the IPCC authors lied by omission (by not acknowledging that the RCP 8.5 scenario is “unlikely,” to use your own word)?

    9. Mark,

      Amidst your flow of stuff, you make one point. Which is wrong.

      (1) “And what is a “material misrepresentation”? Isn’t that just another phrase for a “lie”?”

      Your original statement was about the IPCC. The material misrepresentation were, I as show at great length, not in the IPCC’s AR5 — but in other articles by climate scientists (papers, speeches, news stories, etc).

      (2) “So why do you call it “absurd” when I wrote that the IPCC authors lied by omission”

      Let’s replay your original statement: “The work of the IPCC does have lies.” Now you move the pea from “IPCC” to “IPCC authors.” Nice try, but you’re busted.

      (3) Anyway, as I said before, good-bye. Persistent misrepresentation and aggressive errors are not tolerated here.

  4. Editor
    Continuing on the theme of tribalism, as your twitter conversations show, the establishment define their own team. Oreskes and Lewandowsky are in, despite no physics background, while Lindzen and Pielke are out. There seems to be a real contempt for Curry, regarding her as a turncoat. The definition of who is a climate scientist seems to depend on which side you are, rather than your academic qualifications and lines of research.
    That type of behavior might be OK in a school playground, but in an academic debate, it is below childish. The namecalling or denigration for anyone not in the team, rather than answer the valid criticisms, adds to this. It does turn away the fence sitters.
    I agree with your comments about journals . They have been commercial for years, but now deliberately seek out controversial papers – which invariably turn out to be the ones that have the most problems with the data not supporting the claims. Then when the faults quite reasonably get pointed out, the tribe defend it to the death. It is self – defeating behavior at best.

    1. chrism,

      That nails it. Telling the public that they have info needed to save the world — then acting like schoolchildren. It’s not convincing.

      Also, that’s a great point I hadn’t thought of about the journals. They want excitement – and to color within the lines of the approvated narratives. So real paradigm-challenging work is often verboten, but weak exciting claims are accepted.

  5. From a public policy perspective, that is the key question. What scientists consider a strong case when writing papers differs from the level of evidence needed to spend a big chunk of global GDP.

    Yes, this is both very true and very inconvenient. So inconvenient that I have watched people be banned from an advocacy site just for saying it!

    But a very important point.

  6. Why has the vast investment over 30 years produced little action in the campaign for policy action to fight climate change?

    Thinking about this a bit more, because its a very good question. Don’t we have to define the failure a bit more specifically?

    The problem, if there is one, is a global and not a US problem. The US only does around 5 billion tons a year CO2 emissions, out of a world total of something like 37 billion.

    So the question we have to ask is, why the vast investment in the US has failed to produce any meaningful action in the part of the world that is doing 70%+ of emissions, and the part of the world that is growing its emissions.

    I think the question we should ask is why the advocates have made so little impression on China, India, Indonesia… and so on. I think it is that outside the bubble of US academia, the case has not been made convincingly.

    1. George,

      “Don’t we have to define the failure a bit more specifically?”

      Most large-scale system failures result from multiple causes. The Titanic sunk because a dozen or more things went wrong, from the steel being too brittle (they didn’t understand this at the time) to the wrong orders given before the collision by the officer of the deck.

      See the seven posts in the For More Information section for different perspectives on what went wrong.

  7. Thanks, Larry. A sad state of communications.

    Tribalism itself has causes, but being an emergent phenomenon, these are not particularly intuitive. They are however universal, so not special to the climate domain in any way, and indeed are repeated endlessly throughout history (the name ‘tribalism’ provides a hint on this). Resultant behaviors span a typical range and include all those you mention at 9.30am above as part of (social, not scientific) consensus enforcement, cultural bias and demonization of opposition / competition. Developing asymmetric alliances with already established cultures (albeit different within different geographies), e.g. in this case Cons and Libs in the US especially, help transform a nascent culture / rejection of culture scenario, into a much more entrenched culture on both sides conflict scenario. We are deeply primed for such behaviors, to which the enterprise of science is still very fragile, because cultural consensus granted large net advantage in our evolutionary history, and possibly may still do so despite some tremendous downsides.

    1. Andy – I don’t think the tribalism even in science is particularly emergent. If you google academic tribalism, you will see it being written about over 20 years ago. You can also read about it in the historic faculty divisions: Jung vrs Freud, continental drift are but two of many examples. It even goes back to catastrophism vrs uniformitarianism. All part of the us and them culture.
      What has happened in recent years is it has become the defining feature of a person. If you believe in this, then you also believe in that, and this, and vote this way. All part of pigeonholing and eliminating independent thought. The “tribe” will do all the thinking for you.

      A sad state of affairs and one that I think is doomed to societal failure. Even Winston Smith rebelled against it. The only real contention is how much collateral damage the “innocents” will suffer.

    2. Hi Chrism56,

      I think you’re largely agreeing with me. Because I do not mean by ’emergent’ that this is only happening or ’emerging’ at modern times (within science or elsewhere), but that tribalism has the property of being an ’emergent phenomenon’. This situation itself is a result of our evolutionary past. While for particular generations it may seem to be stronger or weaker as particular cultures wax or wain, and may likewise affect different areas of society disproportionately (or be more global), cultures, so cultural bias and conflicts, have been around essentially forever. So yes entangled with science, and sometimes even born within science communities, throughout the whole history of formal science. And of course from a very long time before science too.

      Though societies do fail for various reasons, there are self-correction mechanisms that work against over-culturalisation, albeit not necessarily without violence sometimes, i.e. revolutions. But failure, or violence either, is not a given. Generations tend typically to view their own tribalism / pigeon-holing / identity conflicts as unique and probably fatal, yet they are only unique in detail and occur endlessly. The case of the blues and greens in ancient Constantinople is one that emphasizes how arbitrary can be the start of such ‘identities’.

    3. Andy, as I said above, you have to consider what the policy failure actually is. The failure is that global emissions have risen to 37 billion tons of CO2 a year, and the biggest and/or fastest growing emitters show no signs of stopping or lowering.

      Larry’s piece identifies the state of play on policy in the US.

      This is the public face of climate science today: tribal, defensive, discussion by invective, dismissive of contrary data. More like a priesthood than a community of scientists. Having corresponded or worked with many climate scientists during the past decade, I found that most are diligent, responsive to inquiries, and open about their work. But a large fraction – including many of the field’s leaders – are not. Their responses to inquiries and responses is the opposite of what the public expects in public policy debates about the fate of the world, especially when proposing solutions requiring vast resources and perhaps restructuring of the world economy.

      For thirty years this has been the nature of the climate science advocacy. Naturally, they have little to show for it.

      From this you might be tempted to conclude that had they behaved differently, they could have had more success in persuading the public and getting their policies adopted.

      I am skeptical. I think the main problem, which has led to the behavior correctly described, is that the case is too weak to support the policies advocated.

      But the question is, which public? Suppose they could have persuaded the US public, would that have solved the problem?

      No, because the ones doing all the supposedly civilisation destroying emitting, the ones who are increasing it, are China, India, Indonesia etc.

      These are the people who have to buy if a global program is to happen. If they don’t buy, whatever the US does, emissions will increase. And they are just not buying it. I don’t think this is because of the conduct of US climate science. I think its because, outside the bubble of the US and bits of the UK, the case has not been persuasive.

      If the US emissions were to vanish, it would not materially affect global emissions. The US is 12% or so, and falling. If you want to make a dent, tackle the 30% and rising – China. And the other developing world countries of course. The ones who are doing 70% of the emitting.

      The debate in the US goes on as if we were back in the 1950’s, and the US was the world. It is not any more. Compare US and Chinese steel production numbers to see the scale of the change.

    4. Hi George First,

      I have not made any argument about those specific points. I merely indicated the universal (and emergent) nature of generic cultural behaviors, of which those in the climate domain that Larry details, are but one example of many throughout history. Knowing ultimate causation helps us to know what to expect. And the ‘failure’ I mention immediately above is not in respect of policy failure, but in respect of chrism56’s deeper concept of ‘societal’ failure.

      However, I think the question of what would have happened ‘had they behaved differently’ is moot. Given this is a cultural issue, the point is that they would not have behaved differently. Or to put it another way, the apparent (and typically loudly trumpeted) goals of cultural narratives are not what they advertise to be on the surface anyhow (in this case, major emissions reduction). The underlying purpose is only to serve the continuation of the culture (for which end it is often better that the surface goals are never fully met). This does not imply that cultural adherents, whether elite or foot-soldiers, are being dishonest. Cultural narratives are *group* deceptions, at individual level they are fully and passionately believed by the great majority of adherents (some very early brain-scan research suggests that this may work via the mechanisms that hypnosis leverages). Those sub-narratives that best serve the culture (the most re-transmission, highest recruit capture, even useful hypocrisy etc.) rise through natural selection, and high emotive content is always key (in socially critical, or merely *perceived* socially critical, domains, where there is also high uncertainty, emotion provides higher selection value than veracity). In this case the highly successful narrative of imminent (decades) catastrophe in the public domain, touted by the highest authorities (presidents, prime ministers, UN elite), holds the not-catastrophic mainstream science hostage, along the way causing immense dislocation and bias within said science.

    5. Andy, you say:

      Or to put it another way, the apparent (and typically loudly trumpeted) goals of cultural narratives are not what they advertise to be on the surface anyhow (in this case, major emissions reduction). The underlying purpose is only to serve the continuation of the culture (for which end it is often better that the surface goals are never fully met).

      Yes, this is at the core of the social phenomenon of climatism. What requires explanation is that the measures the activists advocate are not effective in themselves, and are not directed to the main source of the supposed problem. They also refuse to advocate the measures which are necessary to remedy the supposed problem.

      As an example, demanding more subsidized wind and solar in the US. There is no evidence that installing wind and solar reduces CO2 emissions anywhere its been tried, because of the need for backup and duplication of facilities. And even if it did, the electricity sector is a rather small emission vector for US emissions. And even if you manage to reduce US electricity sector emissions, this will have little effect on global emissions, which are majorly taking place and growing in lots of other countries.

      As an example of refusing to advocate measures which actually would solve the problem, note that any proposal that the Chinese should actually reduce their emissions is met with a chorus of abuse on the climatist forums.

      These are not stupid people. So the question to ask is why they consistently advocate doing things which do not solve the problem as they have described it, and why they consistently reject measures that are necessary to solve it, and would be effective in solving it.

      In the end you have to say, as perhaps you are hinting, that they don’t believe any of it either, its just ‘continuation of the culture’. Or perhaps, less benevolently, its the Alinsky model of an issue to be used for organizing. Make demands that are impossible to meet, and avoid power at all costs. You don’t want to change emissions, you want to change minds.

    6. George First:

      >”So the question to ask is why they consistently advocate doing things which do not solve the problem as they have described it, and why they consistently reject measures that are necessary to solve it, and would be effective in solving it.”

      Because they passionately believe the (co-evolving) narratives that advocate various typically ineffective solutions. Hence most adherents do not apply any reason regarding relative efficacy or potential flaws in those solutions. To them, most such narratives are just ‘obviously true’, they are blind to reason and genuinely offended by challenges to their belief (which hence they will suspect are not well-motivated). Or for the subset of folks who do apply reason, that reason is itself tremendously subject to bias, which bias is also due to deep belief, and hence reason is easily derailed. This is precisely the same effect as occurs in religions or strong ideologies or extremist politics.

      >”In the end you have to say, as perhaps you are hinting, that they don’t believe any of it either, its just ‘continuation of the culture’.”

      Well this goes to the heart of what belief is. And to understand that we have to acknowledge the very long evolutionary history of belief (that is tied to our biology by gene-culture co-evolution), and also acknowledge that a culture possesses characteristics that none of its individual adherents possess, in the same way that a species has characteristics that none of its individuals possess (e.g. balanced polymorphism).

      There is much academic discussion as to whether group deceptions (aka cultural narratives), in their current form stemming from a long evolutionary arms race between group deception and detection, are lies or not. The current balance is that no, they are not. Or rather, if so they are only lies between one part of the brain, and another part of the same individual’s brain, per above a kind of imposed hypnosis. What this means is that adherents of any strong culture (and there are endless examples of such cultures in the present and throughout history), DO most certainly ‘believe it’; yet at the same time another part of them decodes that this belief is a (necessary) conformance to a cultural narrative, and that therefore there is no need to investigate actual truth or act in any way other than displaying conformance (in fact all strong cultural narratives are false – so *objective* investigation would soon reveal this inconvenient fact). SO… adherents passionately believe, they are NOT being dishonest, albeit indeed they are also participating in a ‘continuation of the culture’ that ignores any contradictions and flaws for the purpose of that continuation. However, they are not as individuals aware of their participation in this manner; the purpose of ‘continuation’ is furthered as a characteristic of culture at the level of group behavior – and culture does this purely via a natural selection process between all its co-evolving sub-threads, i.e. the culture is NOT sentient or even agential. ‘Necessary’ in brackets above, is because cultural participation provides tremendous advantages and has been essential in our evolution, without it there would likely be no civilization just for a start. This is despite some tremendous downsides too (it is a *net* benefit). A consensus in the face of the unknown (and lets face it practically everything was unknown once), is a huge survival advantage, also granting coalition power against individual strong-men and various other benefits. I doubt we have grown out of the need for cultures yet. And before casting a stone at adherents, even the fervent ones, bear in mind we all have this behavior buried inside us, and it would be a brave person indeed to declare that they are free of all cultural constraints and blinds.

      “Or perhaps, less benevolently…”

      In any human enterprise that is large enough, and this certainly includes the climate change movement or major religions or strong political brands etc, in addition to the main cultural operation of such examples, there will be some dishonesty or scamming or more conscious agenda leveraging bolted onto the side. However, such side-effects are not the main mechanisms that dictate the overall development of cultures, albeit they can be important regarding some particular incidents within such development. Deliberate dishonesty and conspiracies are way too weak and too easily revealed to drive major global movements, but passionate and righteous honesty within the context of true belief, for sure can do this.

  8. The IPCC is a joke. In the 1995 IPCC report Ben Santer single handedly completely changed the conclusions of the working group which were at that time they had no evidence of AGW. He wrote the policy for policymakers and it was a 180 degree turn of the scientists conclusions.

    NOAA, NASA. NCAR, BOM , the MET Office and the New Zealand climate agency , and Michael Mann all either fudged data by adjusting the temps up or produced fake graphs. Tony Heller ,Paul Homewood, Ross Mckitrick and others have proved this.

    Purcell and Dessler are only 2 examples of scientists that are PhD’s that are a disgrace to the scientific profession. I can provide you with a 100 other examples of climate scientists that should have never got their PhDs. They arent scientists. They are followers of a religion as are you Larry because you have fallen for this hoax. Any site I visit that allows a true debate, the skeptics are now ridiculing everything that the alarmists are saying. I have looked for 30 years and I ask everyone I meet Have you seen global warming yet? No one has been able to say yes. This is such a joke I am amazed that groupthink could be so powerful. I am not a scientist but after looking at both sides of this for a year 8 hours a day, I am amazed that there has not been 1 piece of evidence that global warming is real. At least for a valid debate you would think that the alarmist could point to something. Oh yah I forgot. There was one study recently that showed th plants grownn with high CO2 levels had slightly less vitamins. I dont think that anybody will be malnourished because of that . I know enough now that I could debate a team of climate scientists and would relish the debate and would win it. But the alarmists are too scared to debate. Our PM Trudeau in Canada wants to put on $75 billion on carbon taxes in the next 5 years. The stupid thing is that if the companies pay the CO2 wont go down. If they switch to another more costly fuel, the temperature of the world will go down 5/1000 of a degree C in 82 years. We are living in a world of Oz all caused by 1 crazy idiot James Hansen.

    1. Paul,

      That’s an interesting quote from Brandon Shollenberger , quite relevant to the next post I’m writing about the climate wars (the great label he used as the title of his book).

      I have 30+ years experience working closely with scientists in a half dozen fields (including one or two nobel prize winners). So I started reporting on the climate wars as a dogmatic supporter of the IPCC and major climate agencies. And remain such to this day.

      But my extensive experience in the past decade working with climate scientists has made me question my believe. They are as a group (ie, with individual exceptions) unlike any scientists I have worked with before. Their behavior is atrocious, quite inappropriate for people working on a project of such importance. Worse, it is suspicious. Why the defensiveness, their fights to avoid revealing data and methods, and reluctance to bring in experts in other fields to bolster their case (eg, statisticians)?

      So I don’t share Shollenberger’s conclusion — he “doesn’t believe them.” But I have slowly come to consider his belief to be a rational reaction to their behavior. I don’t say that lightly, since it is a big step for me.

  9. I imagine you all have moved on, but I’ll note this anyway.

    A thought experiment: What if burning fossil fuels and release of CO2 did NOT cause climate change? I think that we’d be seeing the same emotional and polarizing clash, because what is really at stake is not an environmental scenario of uncertain probability, but rather a certain, inevitable change to our comfortable, fossil fueled life style. The very great majority don’t want to even face the prospect or consider what it will entail.

    What is really being battled over is powering down over the course of the next 20, 50, 100 years ( you pick- it doesn’t matter, it will happen), and climate change ( while a real concern) is a stand in, a surrogate.

    fossil energy is THE central pillar that our global economy and culture rests on, and it will take generations to transition back off this once in a million year event.

    Yes, the climate scientists are human, and not very good at politics or social interactions. But the real reason no fix is happening is because we, all of us, don’t want to make the changes needed.

    1. Steve,

      “but rather a certain, inevitable change to our comfortable, fossil fueled life style.”

      Yep, just like whale oil. When the last whale died, civilization ended. Which is why we’re living in the dark.

      More seriously, such predictions of the future are almost always wrong. They assume progress stops. It seldom does.

      I suggest reading “Hopeful news for us from the Horse Manure Crisis of 1894.

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