We shall argue that consensus among a reference group of experts thus concerned is relevant only if agreement is not sought. If a consensus arises unsought in the search for truth and the avoidance of error, such consensus provides grounds which, though they may be overridden, suffice for concluding that conformity is reasonable and dissent is not. If, however, consensus is aimed at by the members of the reference group and arrived at by intent, it becomes conspiratorial and irrelevant to our intellectual concern.
Both the paper and the blog post are must-reads.
H/T to Biased BBC for this quote from the mezzo-soprano Christine Rice speaking on BBC Radio last week. Before starting her singing career, Rice had been a climatologist and described her experiences thus:
I was amazed really by the inadequacy of what we had, because we're talking about climate change which is over tens of thousands of years as opposed to the twenty years of data that we had. So in a way we were putting out a lot of ideas and not really having concrete scientific research to support it, and I suppose at that point I did lose a little bit of my spark, thinking well I could propose an idea and I could probably draft a thesis that would support it and yet I wouldn't really convince myself necessarily.
The New Zealand Herald has a profile of Chris DeFreitas, which seems to be an extended riff on the idea that De Freitas maybe shouldn't be allowed to teach the things he does.
Kiwi climatologist Martin Manning is probably best known for his role in running the IPCC's Technical Services Unit for AR4, where he oversaw all the strangeness over the Wahl and Ammann paper and the non-inclusion of the Wegman and NAS reports. The article quotes Manning's thoughts on De Freitas's academic freedom as follows:
Victoria University's Manning disagrees: "I think Auckland University does have a bit of a problem with a course looking like it is taking one side of the story and a minority view of that." Yes, he believes in freedom expression and that it should be deeply ingrained in the structure of the university. "The right to have individual views is something that's preserved because it is important - but there does become a point when you have to ask should you be teaching that?"
I'm reminded of Brian Cox and his "Orwellian solution" to the question of allowing airtime to dissenting views. Manning knows he wants to propose something totalitarian, but knows he will be hammered for doing so. So he teeters on the brink, hoping that someone will take the hint.
The former chief scientist Sir David King is in the news again, this time calling for the Kyoto Protocol to be replaced with carbon rationing.
The world should abandon the Kyoto protocol on climate change and move instead to a system where each nation would have a carbon emissions quota based on population, the UK's former chief scientist has urged, in an explosive contribution to the long-running climate negotiations.
Sir David King is one of the most respected figures in climate change policy. He is the architect of the UK's response to global warming, credited with reviving the flagging climate talks in 2004 when he called the problem "a greater threat than international terrorism".
As readers here know, Sir David was responsible for a truly extraordinary bit of "hiding the decline" in his book on global warming. It therefore speaks volumes about the Guardian that they describe him as "one of the most respected figures in climate change policy". I hate to think how the less respected ones behave.
An interesting looking conference at the Royal Society in October:
Warm climates of the past - a lesson for the future?
In several periods in Earth's history, climate has been significantly warmer than present. What lessons about the future can be learnt from past warm periods? The answer depends on the quality of reconstructions of past climates, our understanding of their causes, and the validity of climate models which aim to reproduce them. This meeting will address these exciting and challenging issues.
Donna Laframboise is looking for sightings of the Hockey Stick in the wild. There is a category on Climate Audit for this kind of thing which has some early examples, but if anyone has any other suggestions, do drop Donna a line.
From the comments at Climate Audit:
““We don’t advertise a lot of the things we do,” says Edwards, who was called in by the University of East Anglia when Climategate blew up. “That was really interesting. It’s very high level, and you’re very much in the background on that sort of thing.”
The university’s Climatic Research Unit wanted Outside to fire back some shots on the scientists’ behalf after leaked emails from the unit gave climate change skeptics ammunition and led to an avalanche of negative press about whether global warming was a real possibility.
“They came to us and said, `We have a huge problem – we are being completely knocked apart in the press,’” says Sam Bowen. “They needed someone with heavyweight contacts who could come in…”
This morning the Managing Director of the Outside Organisation was Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis (he’s not MD any longer), Neil Wallis was deputy to Andy Coulson at News of the World. Andy Coulson until recently worked for the Prime Minster David Cameron.
Andy Coulson was arrested a few days ago, Neil Wallis was arrested this morning.
The full MusicWeek article about the Outside Organisation is here. There's not much more about Wallis, apart from a few paragraphs confirming that he headed the UEA project:
The role of Neil Wallis, formerly editor of The People, deputy editor of The Sun and, most recently, executive editor of the News Of The World, is to lend heavy-hitting tabloid expertise, leading some jobs, following Edwards on others.
“Most of my career has been spent working at the top end of tabloid newspapers, so I know how they work and how they think,” says Wallis. “This is not that different, actually. You have very creative people, you have fastmoving situations, you have to think on your feet.”
Wallis led on the University of East Anglia “climategate” job, when Outside was drafted in to help the university’s Climatic Research Unit defend itself against charges of scientific misconduct.
John Abraham, the US academic who keeps falling out with Lord Monckton, has written an article about the MWP. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but there is much of interest.
For example, there's this rather naughty bit of quoting out of context:
the National Academy of Sciences thoroughly investigated [the MWP] and concluded, “the late 20th century warmth in the northern hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1000 years."
As most readers will know, Germany has decided to phase out its nuclear power programme, a move welcomed by most environmentalists.
There's a sting in the tail for them though:
The German government wants to encourage the construction of new coal and gas power plants with millions of euros from a fund for promoting clean energy and combating climate change.
Reader John sent this - a comment on the "Philosopher on Climategate" thread at the NYT. I thought it was an interesting point.
Is a consensus of scientists in a field enough for society to accept what they say unreservedly, and act upon that knowledge?
The consensus of scientists was wrong on plate tectonics for a long time -- the "experts" said there was no such thing, until the "go to" experts were dead. (I don't know if humankind was harmed by that erroneous consensus.)
More recently, the US government, in the late 1980s, advised women that they should take estrogen after menopause to lessen the risk of heart attacks. 15 or so years later, the double blind studies finally got done. These "gold standard" studies contradicted the observational studies which had been the basis for the estrogen recommendation. In the meantime, perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 women had heart attacks BECAUSE they took the estrogen. The government's advice killed. (Yes, the issue is more complex than this summary paragraph states, in particular with regard to opposed vs. unopposed estrogens, but the basic facts are as stated.)
In addition, when women stopped taking the form of estrogen commonly taken in the US, within months breast cancer incidence dropped. Once again, the government's advice killed, but for a different disease.
In this case -- taking estrogen post-menopause -- there wasn't much scientific opposition to the government's advice. But the consensus was very wrong indeed.
In contrast, with global warming, there is a huge amount of scientific opposition. The opposition isn't to the notion that CO2 warms the atmosphere, but rather to the amount and the effects. All of us understand that if a doubling of CO2 causes an increase of 1 degree C, there are far different policy prescriptions than if it causes an increase of 3 degrees. The IPCC is on shaky ground here.
So please, give it a rest on this appeal to authority.
I've always been rather unimpressed with philosophy and philosophers - I keep feeling that there is much less there than meets the eye. I don't think this article in the New York Times is going to change my opinion much. In it, philosopher Gary Gutting looks at the AGW `consensus' and Climategate and frankly doesn't make much of a case. Here he is on Climategate:
Some non-expert opponents of global warming have made much of a number of e-mails written and circulated among a handful of climate scientists that they see as evidence of bias toward global warming. But unless this group is willing to argue from this small (and questionable) sample to the general unreliability of climate science as a discipline, they have no alternative but to accept the consensus view of climate scientists that these e-mails do not undermine the core result of global warming.
The "consensus view" about the emails that Prof Gutting cites is an article about the Russell review, which was not exactly chock-full of climate scientists and was not exactly full of people who could be described as honest brokers either. Prof Gutting also seems to have missed the point about the emails - if they really show that the peer reviewed literature was largely closed to sceptics, then yes climate science as a discipline is unreliable.