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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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?

Appeal to authority is not a genuine accusation here...

That was beautiful, man.
Have you read and made any attempt to understand the posts that have been made in this discussion? It seems you reiterate points that have already been addressed with no regard for the counter-points and rebuttals made.

Do you actually have any concept of what the scientific method is?

You certainly have not read the critiques of Lindzen and Choi, or you would already be aware of why it is not relevant, and why it was a deeply flawed piece of research. The various pieces of research you have quoted have been looked at. They have, in some cases, been taken account of and incorporated into the models, where they have been found to be sound, but in many cases they have been shown to be flawed or of limited relevance.

No one is wrong because they "go against the grain", but neither are they right simply because they do so, a point you seem to have difficulty with. It is arrogant in the extreme to propose that their work has simply been ignored, and that, for some reason, all climate scientists abandon their objectivity in considering their work, whilst all opponents of mainstream climate science are virtuous mavericks, battling against unjust and misguided lesser scientists.

The debate is never completely over; that is the nature of science, and, hence, it is nonsense to suggest that we should do nothing until it is. You seem incapable of distinguishing between the pure science and the application of that science. In this context, science without application would be both ridiculous and immoral.

Once again you quote articles by a geologist and a geophysicist, not by climate scientists. Or is it that you think all climate scientists are corrupt, inept, biased, incompetent and misguided, whilst all other disciplines are unquestionable? Do you look to archaeologists to teach you about geology, or soil science? There are probably many papers out there questioning aspects of geology and geophysics, written by chemists and engineers, or whoever, but do we give them primacy over the qualified specialists when thay have been examined and found wanting?

You ascribe religious aspects to those accepting the evidence in support of the current scientific understanding of climate change, yet you yourself seem to have a blindness to that weight of evidence and expertise, embracing a minority, mostly lacking in relevant qualifications, assigning to them seemingly mystical levels of insight and discernment, apparently lacking in all those actually conducting the most relevant research. Does that not sound a little "religious" to you?

I suggest you go and study the real methodology of science, of scepticism, and of the evaluation and validation of source materials. You currently appear to be a contrarian, not a sceptic.

"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."

That is exactly what you are proposing! That the vocal minority be accorded unwarranted status against those with actual expertise and the greatest experience in the relevant field. It is the loud shouting of the minority position which has perpetuated this debate in its current form, and not genuine significant scientific uncertainty. And you demonstrate an exceedingly low opinion of the majority of scientists if you think they have been so easily fooled, duped, blinded or corrupted, that they can either overlook what is so obvious to you, or cynically ignore it for their own selfish ends. Whenever a conspiracy theory requires thousands of the most qualified people to be simultaneously completely stupid, or completely corrupt, and to be ignorant of their own field of expertise, then that should stop you dead in your tracks.

"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."

Frankly, the above shows clearly that you pay no heed to what anyone else is attempting to explain to you, and reveals you to be blinkered in your outlook, the very fault you ascribe to everyone else! You were given reasonable explanation, and you choose to continue as if it were never written, as you have with many other answers to your questions. It is ironic that, contrary to your assertion above, you view geology, geophysics, astrophysics, engineering and mathematics as being equivalent expertise to climate science, when it suits you to do so. No-one asserted they were equivalent; it was explained to you why these institutes have conducted research in this field, due to its impacts on their own, giving them validity in endorsing the science.

It seems that it is pointless to continue this discussion with you. Science requires that when presented with valid evidence to the contrary that one alters one's position, which is what you claim you are advocating, and yet you do the opposite, preferring to continue along the same fallacious path, even when its error is pointed out to you. I'm afraid I, and others debating you, have seen all this before, and had these same arguments before, many times! Do you honestly believe you have raised anything new, which had been previously overlooked?
YOK... You seem to know your stuff. Sorry, but when did I say somebody was right because they went against the grain, or wrong if they did not? I have posted papers that go against the grain purely to demonstrate that the science is not done. That is all.

Would you care to comment on the central England temperature record, and where you see the irregular rise which you would presumably see as a signal of human temperature influence? Would you care to explain how much of the 0.7 degrees Celsius temperature increase in the last century was man made, and what was natural? What about the limits of the GCM's, and the fact that applying cloud, and water vapour variables are normally at much smaller scales that the cells they use. What about the high climate sensitivity applied to these models,a nd the forcing used therein?

Why have the models predicted warming at a certain level, when observed measurements show only about a third of the warming actually taking place? Do you think a 33% accuracy is OK? What about the oceanic oscilations that show a very nice 30 or so year rise and fall, etc? There is so much involved in climate science that to put all the eggs in one basket is I feel dangerous.

You seem to think that I have some blind refusal to accept any of the theories put forward. I do not. What I do object to, and I keep having to say this, is that I do not think that this subject is something that should be leading policy forward before it has even been really examined. There are so many variables that we simply do not know about. This thread has shown that certain people view skeptics as 'deniers' or 'flat earthers' and that they are all under the purview of big oil or some other entity.

yes... It is clearly me being blinkered, insisting that we examine all the different facets before marching off on some co2 crusade. It's clearly pointless trying to investigate tectonics, water vapour, solar radiation, accurate modeling, failure to predict el nina or el nino, as well as upper troposphere temperature. We need to accurately find out what the feedbacks are, and whether they are positive, or negative. We need to get a much better grasp of cloud interference, etc. These are not petty things. There is so much on the shoulders of the models that we really do need to get them right before we begin something foolish.

Do you agree? Do you agree with my statement that the debate is NOT over, and that anybody who says such is being utterly unscientific? Do you agree that science is not done on consensus?

I'm out, again... You are right, it is pointless discussing it.
I like that video, but am I the only one who finds it just a little bit creepy?
Interesting choice! It illustrates an environment completely shaped by human activity. No way that could extend to the atmosphere, I suppose?
I'm almost falling asleep, I couldn't stand it in all its glory, had to skip through it.


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