Climate scientists plan campaign against global-warming skeptics

Published: Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 - 12:00 am

Faced with increasing political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists
are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional
conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with
investigations and have vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their
critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control
of the House in last Tuesday's election.

On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.

Some are prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk-radio and television shows.

John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate-change skeptics, is organizing a "Climate Rapid Response Team," which so far
has more than three dozen leading scientists to defend the consensus on
global warming in the scientific community. Some are also preparing a
handbook on the human causes of climate change, which they plan to start sending to U.S. high schools as soon as this fall.

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate
science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians
who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

"We are taking the fight to them because we are . . . tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The
truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has

During the recent election campaigns, skepticism about climate change became a rallying cry for many Republican candidates. Of the more than 100 new Republican members of Congress, 50 percent are climate-change skeptics, according to an analysis of campaign statements by the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group.

Prominent Republican congressmen such as Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., have pledged to investigate the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. They say they also intend to probe the so-called Climategate scandal, in which thousands of e-mails
of leading climate scientists were hacked and released to the public late last year.

Climate-change skeptics argued that the sniping in some e-mails showed that scientists suppressed research by skeptics and manipulated
data. Five independent panels subsequently cleared the researchers
involved and validated the science.

"People who ask and accept taxpayer dollars shouldn't get bent of shape when asked to account for the money," said James M. Taylor, a senior fellow and a specialist in global warming at the conservative Heartland Institute in Chicago. "The budget is spiraling out of control while government is handing out billions of dollars in grants to climate scientists, many of whom are unabashed activists."

Ongoing public interest in Climategate has prompted climate scientists to act.

The American Geological Union plan has attracted a large number of scientists in a short time because they were eager to address what they
see as climate misinformation, said Jeffrey Taylor, research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and manager of the project.

Still, the scope of the group's work is limited, reflecting the ongoing reluctance by many scientists to venture into politics.

In the week that Abraham and others have been organizing the rapid-response team, 39 scientists agreed to participate, including Richard Feely, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.

"People who've already dug their heels in, we're not going to change their opinions," Mandia said. "We're trying to reach people who
may not have an opinion or opinion based on limited information."

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@ AndyMeanie

A bit rich considering some of the articles you have posted, but if you don't understand the relevance of preventative medicine and forestry to climate change study, then you really need a good hard look at yourself!
Nope... Preventative medicine, vetinary science, etc, and things like solar radiance, carbon cycles, and so on and so forth. Please, enlighten me. What DOES preventative medicine have to do with climate science?

How exactly is it a bit rich by the way? What about my articles do you find 'a bit rich'?
The manner in which it is "a bit rich" is that you repeatedly post papers that have no direct relevance to the point that you are trying to make e.g Lindzen and Choi, and you extensively quote links to papers written by scientists with no qualification in a relevant field, yet object to the presence of institutes of forestry and preventatve medicine in a list of institutes supporting the current climate change theory.

The relevance of forestry and preventative medicine to the climate change science is in terms of assessing impact, not in the primary research developing the theoretical basis of the models. However, forestry has a very obvious relevance to the feedback effects arising from climate change, as forests are a significant source of carbon storage, and mismanagement and destruction of forests is a significant primary carbon emission source. Foresty as both a human and natural resource will be significantly impacted by climate change. Preventative medicine is relevant to assessing the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human health in terms of heat and water stress, disease, parasites etc. As such, these institutes have a valid interest in understanding and researching climate change science.

The irony of all this discussion is that it does not matter terribly much whether climate change is happening or not, in terms of the actions that we need to take to counter it. Virtually all these actions are needed in order to address other significant environmental, social and economic problems facing our societies. Peak oil, persistent pollutants, resource depletion, human health, work/life balance, water availability and cleanliness, deglobalisation of our economies, energy security, food security, biodiversity; these, and others, are all issues that will be addressed to some degree through adopting the measures that we need to take to guard against the possibility of serious adverse impacts from climate change. Thanks to the naysayers it is already too late to prevent climate change impacts (we have prevaricated for nearly 30 years now) - it is now a question of what degree of impact we will incur.

Ironically, I was sent a video clip today of a "Bell Telephone Science Hour" programme from 1958, which was warning in clear and confident terms of the dangers of CO2-driven climate change. It was clearly understood then, and foolishly we ignored that warning, and so many continue to do so.

Futhermore, it does not really matter whether CO2 is the primary driver of climate change (though it is the explanation which best fits the evidence available, which is the basis of arriving at scientific conclusions); the fact is that we know experimentally (and have done for over a century) that it has a significant greenhouse potential, and, in view of rising temperatures, anything we can do to reduce that potential is a worthwhile course of action in ameliorating climate change impacts, particularly as those actions aid in the combat of other significant issues.

You, like any people, seem to have a confused idea of how science works, and the reality of climate science. Many people seem to expect that there will be one magic piece of evidence that will convince them of the veracity of the theory. Global climate is a vastly complex and interactive set of processes. It is impossible to conduct experiments that can reproduce that system, other than through the medium of computer modelling. Instead, all we can do is conduct experiments which produce tiny threads of evidence which, individually, tell us very little of significance, yet when woven together form a tapestry which, at first, hints at the larger picture, and then, with each additional thread, becomes clearer and clearer.

We create data sets from current climate observations and feed them, along with the emerging threads, into the computer models to continually refine those models to reflect the convergence between predicted and observed data, and to take account of our continually evolving understanding of the complex interactions which direct our climate. That is the process which climate science has been undertaking over many years now, and which it is impossible to properly understand without a good grounding in the multiple disciplines relating to climatology as an integrated field of study. It is necessary to read hundreds of papers, reviews and analyses in order to begin to comprehend such complexity, much as it is in similarly complex fields, such as cosmology.

Were we to wait, as you seem to suggest, for each stage in that process to have the level of verifiable, obvious evidence which you are demanding, then we would be many decades behind in this, and most other, fields of science, and in this case, where the precautionary principle advises us that the possible levels of harm are such that we should take steps toward amelioration as soon as is practicable, then the cost of waiting for such would be far too great to contemplate, as it is inherent in the field that we can only be 100% sure about the end result once it has already happened.

As, noted before, the steps we need to take have synchronistic benefits in various directions which we need to address anyway, so it is madness not to address them, even were the expectation only moderately likely of harmful climate change. When so many of the relevant scientists are confident that change is occurring, and will continue to, and differ mainly on questions of degree of change expected, then it is foolish, to say the least, to delay in expectation of a level of evidence which may not be practicable until the predicted impacts are imminent, and action is futile. This is science as risk prevention, and as policy inspiration; it is not, and never has been, intended as simply pure science, though clearly based in such science. That is all very frustrating to some, but they are either deliberately or unconsciously misunderstanding the nature and basis of the research.
A few points...

You don't think Lindzen has any relevance? It has every relevance. The computer models being used are vital to climate science. The Lindzen research gave usable, verifiable data as to radiance. This needs to be looked at, as what is gave us was a data set that was opposite to what the models were predicting. This needs to be looked at. There is much discussion as to the veracity of the data, but that is what science is there for. It is data, and experimentation like this that shows that the debate is not over, (which was my point all the way back in the beginning). The whole point of me coming in here was to argue against the people who state that the science is settled etc. Can you spot the difference between the observed data, and the model data?

There are issues with forcing, as well as

No-one is disputing that c02 has a part to play in the greenhouse theory. I certainly don't think I said otherwise. Nor did I say that I don't think that the climate has warmed over the last however many hundred years. I'll say it again, and I'll say it again, I simply don't think that we can put a lid on it, and go ahead with steps, and measures before we have a definitive answer. Just in case just isn't good enough, I'm afraid.

As for the forestry people being involved in climate science. I'm sorry, but forestry management is NOT the same as climate science. Climate science involves almost every aspect of science. Forestry is managing trees, and ensuring that manmade limits and regulations are upheld. As for the veterinary society, and the preventative medicine people, sorry, nothing to do with climate science either. These were just a few from the list that have nothing to do with it.

I'm not sure how you think I don't know how science works. I'm the one saying that we need to let the science decide, not the one who can shout the loudest decides.

What do you say to the scientists out there that suggest that the science is not settled?

Are they wrong simply because they go against the grain, or should their work be looked at? If it is the first one, is that bordering on religious? If the second then the debate is not over. Remember that you only need one correct hypothesis that goes against the grain to put the whole thing in doubt. This IS the scientific method.
I'm not sure how you think I don't know how science works. I'm the one saying that we need to let the science decide, not the one who can shout the loudest decides.

What do you think a "consensus" means in science?
Consensus means nothing. The evidence is all-important. Let me ask you a question. Do you think the debate is over? If so, why?
Consensus means nothing. The evidence is all-important.

Uh...I really think you need to study up on how science works. It is no surprise that you struggle in accepting the consensus of climate scientists regarding climate change.
"Uh...I really think you need to study up on how science works. It is no surprise that you struggle in accepting the consensus of climate scientists regarding climate change."...

You think science works via consensus? Ever heard of the appeal to authority?

So let me give you an example... The theory of continental drift. What the consensus says is true? Correct? Science is done via a show of hands, and not via experimentation, and evidential proof?

Actually, as this is an atheist website, why not use this example...

The vast majority of people on the planet believe in a God of some sort. Does that mean it is true? There actually IS a God, as the consensus is with that proposition?
@ AndyMeanie You demonstrate ignorance of the real meaning of both the appeal to authority and the ad populum fallacies. Neither are relevant here.

Appeal to authority is not a genuine accusation here, as the authority in question is directly relevant to the subject under consideration, and there is no assertion that their authority is the only justification needed. In your interpretation the ignorant must always be given equal weight to the qualified. We can not all have expert knowledge of all subjects, so we rely on the consensual judgement of those who do. We do this in almost every aspect of our modern lives. We are not asserting that they are infallible, due to their authority, merely that the balance of probabilities lies in the overwhelming majority knowing what they are talking about, whereas you seem to be asserting the opposite e.g. that the status of dissenter gives them extra authority above the majority, which actually demonstrates a better example of the appeal to authority.

The ad populum fallacy applies to an assertion where the only justification is the number of people supporting the proposition, and that is clearly not the case here. Indeed, a form of it is often used to support your position when the climate scientists are portrayed as elitist and arrogant for ignoring the opinion of ordinary people.

In your understanding of science, how do we decide which evidence supports a theory, and which denies it, other than by the consensus of the scientific community? At what point would you regard the science as settled?

You repeatedly misrepresent the balance of scientific evidence. You quote from the minority of papers that raised questions, but apparently ignore the ones that counter them. Did you even make the effort to find the papers countering those you quote? Is evidence only evidence if it supports your particular viewpoint?

Why do you keep repeating the question as to whether we think the debate is over? If we did, we would not be here engaging with you, now would we? And why exactly is that particular question so important to you?
Appeal to authority is a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. The most general structure of this argument is:
Source A says that p is true.
Source A is authoritative.
Therefore, p is true.

Why is this debate important? Because I am fed up to the back teeth of hearing people on the TV, in the press, and people online talking about the debate being over. Look at some of the first posts on the thread regarding this. For example...

"I have trouble believing that any of them is sincerely 'skeptical' instead of just being a flat-out denialist because they like to invent their own reality."

"t certainly seems to be a case of willful ignorance. I hope these efforts can put these so-called skeptics on the hot seat. Maybe then we can show them for the asses they truly are come 2012."

"Oh, oh, I know - it's the big conspiracy that bothers you. The fact the people who rule the world want your money and your free will"

This is why I started talking about the debate not being over, nothing else. This is my last, I'm offski. Can't be bothered anymore.
@ AndyMeanie

You state the fallacy of appeal to authority correctly, but apparently do not understand how to apply it, nor how it is not a relevant accusation in this case. It is only applicable where the authority is the only justification used. Authority is a valid point, as long as it is not the only one.

You twisted my question regarding the debate. I did not ask why the debate was important to you, but why you felt the need to repeat that particular question, when clearly the answer was in front of you. It seems you are using it as some kind of challenge, when no scientist could ever logically assert that any debate is totally over, as we are always open to the presentation of new data on any scientific theory. Are any of the quotes you use to justify repeating that question even in the same ballpark as many of those which come from the opposing point of view?

I would love to know which TV you watch and press you read. I am constantly assailed by the contrary; the assertion that it is all conspiracy, that there is no evidence at all, that there is all this evidence opposing it, but that "they" don't want to admit it, that the weather proves it is untrue etc etc and the polls show that the public are falling for this. I have never heard any climate scientist assert that the debate is over, though I have heard them assert that the time for delay is over, as the balance of probabilities, weighed against the risk, speaks of the need for action now. However, you apparently prefer to consider the risk of action, but not that of inaction.

You do not address my question as to how you regard the establishment of "settled" science to take place without a concensus. Nor have you ever addressed the question as to why you think that 98% of relevant scientists have chosen to abandon the scientific method in this one regard, and have chosen to cover-up the validity of dissenting science in favour of their incorrect position, choosing to apparently forgo the lifetime pursuit of knowledge in order to enter the world of politics, instead of science. Certainly some are capable of such errors and deception, on both sides of this debate, but to make such an assertion one had better have something a whole lot better than you, or anyone else, have come up with so far. This is not an appeal to authority - it is simply to point out the implication of your assertion - it could be true, but it would take such a colossal conspiracy that it would be pretty much impracticable, and the balance of probabilities is somewhat stacked against it, wouldn't you say? It is a question that you need to address.

I wonder if you honestly believe that the many points you raise have not been considered and properly evaluated by that scientific majority?
You think science works via consensus? Ever heard of the appeal to authority?

Oh, my. You really have no clue, do you? So, what, you are just a contrarian?

Consensus IS based on the evidence. All of the evidence in a particular field as interpreted by the majority of experts working and studying in that field. The consensus is not always correct, but it is the closest you ever get to "settled" science. Besides, who am I going to trust more as a person who will never be an expert in these fields? The experts who know how to analyze and interpret the evidence and put it into proper context? Or some guy on the internet that doesn't seem to know the importance of a scientific consensus?



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