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Discussion > I have no idea what the skeptic cause is

geronimo:

"Tol made significant, undisclosed changes to the latest IPCC report without any external review to heavily promote his own work. Nobody "on the sceptic side" has made a peep. They all know about the story, something I've made sure of, but they just won't talk about it."

That's quite a leap, "They all know about the story..." I'm assuming you mean "important" sceptics, not the myriad of nobodies like myself who've heard it mentioned for the first time today?

I was referring to the content producers. That is, the bloggers. They're the ones I've personally talked to about this subject and found zero interest from. I obviously can't do the same with their readers because I have no way to talk to their readers directly. I've written about this subject at length on my site, but that doesn't mean you will see it. As long as skeptic bloggers choose not to cover the subject, many skeptics will be unaware of it because there is no way for me to make them aware of it.

But I've done pretty much everything I can to make skeptics as a whole aware of it. That includes getting my reputation trashed by frequently talking about the story in the comments sections of many different sites, which has led to three leading figures in the skeptic community telling me my criticisms of Richard Tol are making me look bad. One even did so in public.

"Tol made significant, undisclosed changes to the latest IPCC report without any external review to heavily promote his own work." You know this how? Not that he made undisclosed changes (which I am assuming you have evidence for) but what his motivations was? Do you have evidence which will prove your allegation that he was motivated to make the changes in order to heavily promote his own work?

Huh? It's trivially obvious to see when changes are made to heavily promote someone's work like Tol has done. Tol had work which wasn't discussed at all; then he made changes to the IPCC report, and suddenly, it was given significant amounts of attention. Self-promotion is one of those things that's easy to see by its very nature.

I've spent a significant amount of time discussing this subject, so I'm not sure I can give a single link which would adequately summarize it. This post can give you a decent introduction though. It shows a letter I sent to the IPCC about this, which the IPCC ignored in violation of its own policies (fun story there). If you want to start at the beginning though, this was my first post on the subject.

Oct 5, 2015 at 2:15 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Sorry, Mr Shollenberger. I had not realised that my acceptance of a theory meant that I had to support the opinion of another who accepts it. I am just so-o-o ignorant of the etiquette of science! (You never have answered my quite simple questions, yet, by the way, all of which are more relevant to this thread than verification or otherwise of Maxwell’s theory.)

NiV: I am as sceptical of the Maxwell theory as I am of the greenhouse one, but it does offer more to support it. My mind tends to glaze over when reading mathematical formulae, so I would be happy for someone more capable than I to highlight its flaws – though I understood that the reason it does not take albedo into account is that it shows that albedo is irrelevant.

Anyhoo… I was not on here to discuss the merits of one theory over another, but to discuss what scepticism is, and that to have it is not something to be ashamed of (unless, perhaps, those “…prominent self-labeled skeptics like Antony Watts…” should be – I mean, “self-labeling” yourself a “skeptic” while demonstrating that you actually can be sceptical! Has the guy no shame?!). There is nothing about scepticism that requires you to hold a particular position on global warming, that is true – but, in relation to global warming/climate change/call it what you will, should you express any scepticism about it, you are immediately labelled, “Denier!” That is not a healthy position for any field of science to hold, yet little seems to be done to change it.

Oct 5, 2015 at 2:42 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Brandon Shollenberger

I think you have been attacking RR on the basis of mistaken identity, as far as I know I am the only one who has said that Maxwell's theory proved the theory by Arrhenius to be wrong.
Arrhenius stated that greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect needed to be taken into account in order to correctly calculate the surface temp of a planetary body. Maxwell on the other hand disagreed and stated that one only needed to know atmospheric pressure at the surface and solar radiation received at top of atmosphere. Those two theories seem to me to be mutually exclusive, what do you think?

Oct 5, 2015 at 3:00 PM | Registered CommenterDung

"though I understood that the reason it does not take albedo into account is that it shows that albedo is irrelevant."

His argument for that was that all the planets must actually have the same albedo, because if they didn't his albedo-ignoring model wouldn't work. (Which is a case of confirming the consequent. And a circular argument, to boot.)

"Anyhoo… I was not on here to discuss the merits of one theory over another, but to discuss what scepticism is, and that to have it is not something to be ashamed of"

That's fine. Scepticism is good.

I think what gets people wound up about the term is that there is a difference between Scepticism as a general principle and scepticism of specific claims. Every partisan is always sceptical of the claims of their opposition. AGWers are sceptical about the claims of climate sceptics. It's a fairly trivial sense of the word - anyone who holds any opinion on anything is always a 'sceptic' of differing opinions.

Whereas there is a philosophy of scientific scepticism, which is to be sceptical and test the evidence for any claim, whether supporting or contradicting your prior beliefs, the prevailing dogma, or your own side in any partisan divide. It's a lack of this sort of scepticism that the climate scientists are rightly criticised for. And so it is hypocritical to make such criticisms, while being a partisan and partial sceptic oneself. To be a scientific sceptic, you need to be as critical and challenging with the stuff you believe to be true as you are with the things you think are wrong.

I don't see a problem with being either, so long as you make it clear which you are. You can be a 'climate sceptic' and be a partisan disagreeing with the AGW consensus, without making any such commitment to apply your scepticism to anything else - your own beliefs especially. If you do, you can't legitimately complain about activist-scientists on the other side doing exactly the same. That's plain politics, not science. Or on the other hand, you can take a stand for 'scientific scepticism', but then you have to be careful to be as critical of your own side when they get caught out in errors or mistakes (or worse).

Scientific scepticism is seen as admirable - it's hard to do, frequently uncomfortable, and far from an empty/trivial distinction. Everyone with an opinion can be a partisan sceptic, but there are relatively few scientific sceptics.

Oct 5, 2015 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

NiV: while I do try to be a scientific sceptic, I am as prone as humans are to err, and might fall into partisan scepticism. As I have said before, while I am sceptical about the Maxwell theory, my perception is that it does have more to support it than the greenhouse theory (but that does not necessarily make me right!); that was really the only point I was trying to make. Though it is a while since I came to this country, it appears that I have not absorbed many of the nuances of its culture and language; I shall endeavour to be more rigorous in my application of scepticism, and my response to others.

Oct 5, 2015 at 4:41 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Nullius in Verba, I think you've done a good job of describing things. The problem, as I see it, arises where you say:

I don't see a problem with being either, so long as you make it clear which you are.

I think "skeptics" have, by far and large, co-opted the term by applying it to their partisan skepticism. That is what causes me to want to distance myself from self-labeled "skeptics." They want the respect which comes with being viewed as scientific skeptics, but they want to only be partisan skeptics.

It's like what fundamentalist Christians did with the word creationist. Once upon a time, creationist was widely understood to just mean anyone who believed there was any external influence on the sequence of events which led to humanity coming into existence (whether it be aliens seeding the planet with DNA or some god starting the universe via the Big Bang). Then fundamentalists co-opted the term. Now, we see Creationist primarily used to refer to them, with the only distinction being that people will often capitalize the word when referring to fundamentalists and not capitalize it while referring to creationists in general.

Now that's an idea. Maybe that's what should be done with "skeptic." I wonder if people could be convinced to start calling people Skeptics instead of skeptics to indicate they're partisan people who've simply co-opted the term. Maybe not, but I might go ahead and use it anyway. Using scare quotes all the time gets really tiring.

Oct 5, 2015 at 9:17 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Brandon

I am struggling to understand your message
"That is what causes me to want to distance myself from self-labelled "skeptics." They want the respect which comes with being viewed as scientific skeptics, but they want to only be partisan skeptics."

Where do you get the SELF-labelled from? We are labelled by others and mostly just adopt the labels we are given. WE do not share enough common cause to be able to label ourselves. I certainly do not think we look for or get any respect for our scepticism and it does not bother me one little bit.
The people at BH want the truth to be recognised and for the government to stop fleecing us all and making themselves rich in the process.

Oct 5, 2015 at 9:37 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung:

Where do you get the SELF-labelled from? We are labelled by others and mostly just adopt the labels we are given.

That isn't remotely true. If that were true, we wouldn't have had a decade of people arguing about what to call Skeptics. Just look at how much discussion there has been, including on this site, about how wrong calling people "deniers" is. Or any discussion of name calling, really. That wouldn't have happened if peopled mostly just adopted the labels they were given.

WE do not share enough common cause to be able to label ourselves. I certainly do not think we look for or get any respect for our scepticism and it does not bother me one little bit.

I've seen any number of posts on this very site in which both the proprietor, and commenters, self-label. I could quote e-mails from leading bloggers who do it. I could probably quote public statements from many of them too, if I cared to look. I know I could quote public statements from dozens of posts and comments on WUWT which do it, both from Anthony Watts and the people he has write posts there.

I don't know what "WE" you're referring to, but it doesn't seem to be any "WE" I'm aware of.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:06 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

"As I have said before, while I am sceptical about the Maxwell theory, my perception is that it does have more to support it than the greenhouse theory (but that does not necessarily make me right!); that was really the only point I was trying to make."

That's fine. If you put it that way, there are usually helpful people around who will be happy to explain, and of course you don't have to take anyone's word for it. Just as they don't have to accept your point of view, in return.

I was just trying to explain why nobody was responding to the Huffman references.

--

"I think "skeptics" have, by far and large, co-opted the term by applying it to their partisan skepticism. That is what causes me to want to distance myself from self-labeled "skeptics." They want the respect which comes with being viewed as scientific skeptics, but they want to only be partisan skeptics."

I think the same might be said of activist climate scientists and the word "scientist". There's only so much outrage I can generate before I get 'outrage fatigue' and start to shrug at the antics of both sides...

I find it preferable to just stick to the technical content and leave the partisan label definition-chopping to others. I indulge occasionally, but only for its entertainment value.

--

"Where do you get the SELF-labelled from? We are labelled by others and mostly just adopt the labels we are given."

Umm. The label you're given is the 'D' word.

I think not.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

I'm sceptical about CAGW. I'm sceptical that climate sensitivty is a valid concept except in limited circumstances. I'm sceptical about 9/11 'truth', about the dangers of sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol and various dietary fads, but not about the danger of smoking. I'm still not totally convinced that MMR is safe. I am not sceptical about the EU, my mind is made up aganst it and the UK's membership of it. I'm sceptical about Unix and Apple products. On a non-intellectual level and a non-religious one I still can't totally buy evolution (but I can't defend my doubts).

I do not claim consistency. I do not belong to any organisation which requires me to be consistent. I might decide to challenge bad work on 'our' side or I might let it go. If I were publishing or reviewing my responsibility would be different but as a pseudonymous net commenter I need defer to no-one. And I am not responsible for anyone else's behaviour.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

"I do not claim consistency. I do not belong to any organisation which requires me to be consistent. I might decide to challenge bad work on 'our' side or I might let it go. If I were publishing or reviewing my responsibility would be different but as a pseudonymous net commenter I need defer to no-one. And I am not responsible for anyone else's behaviour."

That's cool with me.

That said, people are also free to judge a lack of consistency, and they often do. You need to develop a thick skin to survive on the internet.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Probably the best way of putting it in perspective, Rhoda. While I might not agree with all you say, I will not challenge it as to do so would be overly-picky, and well off-topic. At risk of invoking the ire or scorn of many, this is where I feel we can equate ourselves with Galileo – he knew intuitively that the ideas of Copernicus were right, even if he could not prove them when challenged. Also, like him, we might well be wrong with some of the finer details.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Dung:

"Where do you get the SELF-labelled from? We are labelled by others and mostly just adopt the labels we are given."

That isn't remotely true.
Oct 5, 2015 at 10:06 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Yes it is true, Brandon. And a lot more than remotely.

Many people of the cAGW persuasion have many different labels for those who may disagree with them for many different reasons. The more thoughtful or politer ones have used terms like "contrarian(s)" or "skeptic/sceptical". I am quite happy to go along with this where it is clearly done for the benefit of clarity, understanding or economy of words.

The less thoughtful and the downright political tend to reach for terms like "denier" more readily. I'm not particularly toubled by this either because I think it is often seen as being merely perjorative by the disinterested observer, and so will work to the long term disadvantage of those who employ it.

In short, I don't think "skeptics" generally chose the label for themselves. I think it arose as an almost middle-ground of linguistic convenience.

Oct 6, 2015 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Nullius in Verba:

I find it preferable to just stick to the technical content and leave the partisan label definition-chopping to others. I indulge occasionally, but only for its entertainment value.

I indulge in it because I don't want people to get the impression I do things like deny the greenhouse effect. Which apparently is a thing self-labeled Skeptics do now. I remember when sky dragons were routinely criticized and shunned, but... oh well.

And yes, I get some of you are saying Skeptics don't self-label. But you're wrong. Maybe some of you guys don't self-label, but I could easily find a dozen quotes from Anthony Watts alone where he insists he's a skeptic, not a denier. I could find hundreds on his site from commenters doing the same. I could quote e-mails and interviews from him and other leading figures doing exactly what you say they don't do.

(And then there's the lukewarmers, pretty much all of whom self-identify.)

Oct 6, 2015 at 6:42 AM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Brandon
Maybe you should go and read Rhoda's post above and ask yourself where a sceptic is supposed to draw the line.
Joke: man on train asks girl on train "will you go to bed with me for £10". Answer "no". Question "will you go to bed with me for £10,000?" Answer "yes". Question "will you go to bed with me for £100". Answer " no, what sort of a girl do you take me for?" Reply "we've already established that; what we're doing now is haggling about the price."

So ... I am sceptical about some of the science supposedly underpinning global warming. I am not sceptical about whether the sun will rise tomorrow morning. I don't have to be sceptical about everything which you seem to be implying I should be. There is a point along the scale where I am not sceptical because experience or knowledge has taught me to believe something is correct (or incorrect, as the case may be)
Anthony Watts, like me, is sceptical about certain aspects of climate science. He blogs pretty much exclusively about climate so whether he is sceptical about sunrise or gravity or US chances in the next Ryder Cup is irrelevant. Ditto Montford. It's hard to see what you are expecting from them (or us, come to that).
Most of us, as far as I can tell, are prepared to be convinced that a) there is global warming; b) it is at least partly anthropogenic; c) it is conceivable that it may be catastrophic.
The trouble is I don't see very much coming from the climate science community that shows any of them is prepared to be convinced that a) there is little or no global warming; b) the anthropogenic element is minuscule, c) it is inconceivable that it could become catastrophic.
In fact, very unscientifically, many of them move heaven and earth to debunk even the slightest suggestion that there may be "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in [their] philosophy".

Oct 6, 2015 at 9:19 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"They want the respect which comes with being viewed as scientific skeptics, but they want to only be partisan skeptics."

There you go again with assertions of motivation.

Brandon, you seem to specialise in "Angels on the Head of a Pin" arguments, which is fine if that's what floats your boat, but asserting motives to people, as you've done above, and then giving the equivalent of, "It's obvious innit?" as an answer when challenged as to how you know these assertions to be true doesn't fill me with confidence in your forensic abilities.

You cannot lose an argument if you get to say what you think your opponents are thinking, so why have one?

Oct 6, 2015 at 9:20 AM | Registered Commentergeronimo

Brandon, now you've explained where you gripe lies I understand better. I can't say I'm specifically interested in the details any more that I bothered to read the Climategate emails. But if Tol did what you say and the IPCC aren't interested then you concerns fit my issues with climate science. The whole thing needs the kinds of regulation we impose on businesses, with inspectors and punishments. Anything that is used to maked decisions, especially the IPCC report should be absolutely transparent (data, code, etc) and all of it should be trawled through by teams of qualified people tasked with finding fault. There should be standards for the work, including data archiving. Any work that is paid for by government money should automatically be freely available. Intellectual property rights are not awarded to scientists working for a company and just as their work belongs to the company, government science should belong to the government. Those who fund or are privately funded should decide if their work is to form part of the international evidence and if they do they must hand it over in it's entirety (enough to prove the argument) and not just the conclusions. A department should be set up, simple to sift through public complaints and act upon them. All that is expensive, time consuming and annoying but we do it in other fields.

What is most flawed about climate science is that it still acts like a science and not a tool to enable major decisions. Individuals can get away with bad practice because all of them can get away with bad practice... and they like it that way.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2: There's absolutely no proof that Tol had any motivation other than to provide the current state of the literature on the economic v. catastrophic impacts of increased warming. In his own words this is what he did:

"The twenty-two studies cited above all agree that the impact of climate change is small relative to economic growth. This was found in studies by Professor William Nordhaus and Professor Samuel Fankhauser. It was confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from its Second Assessment Report, in a chapter led by the late Professor David Pearce, to its Fifth Assessment Report, in a chapter led by me. Even the highest estimate, the 20% upper bound by Lord Professor Nicholas Stern of Brentford, has that a century of climate change is not worse than losing a decade of economic growth."

The results posted by Tol had been confirmed by other studies which were cited in AR5. He appears to have used his more up to date papers to confirm what the IPCC had been saying since AR2.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Registered Commentergeronimo

TinyCO2
And, to extend your point, we could do without that damned "Summary for Policymakers", or we could do without the money being spent on climate research.
Because the SPM says what the politicians and the environmental activists want it to say and the science is then tweaked to fit the SPM. And we know that to be the case because the IPCC has said so more than once and in so many words.
Which makes the entire system corrupt which is why many of us are not just sceptical of the science but downright cynical about the whole process.
As geronimo says, Brandon is in "angels on the head of a pin" territory, nit-picking away at his understanding (or interpretation) of the precise meaning of one word.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

geronimo, the point is Brandon needs to know someone impartial has done the investigation and reached the same conclusion as either you or him.

Brandon makes the point that sceptics are inclined to just criticise the other side and he's largely right. I still think we're better than them at self reflection but we are still biased. Me, I'm ok with that, simply because I think we need the voices. Climate scientists MAY take note of Steve McIntyre's work but mainly because the sceptics blogosphere chatters about it first. If we were too picky about our members, we'd soon be lonely... or one of the excluded. Any pressure to reform would stop.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Tiny life is too short to solve the minutiae of Brandon's arguments. I don't know that I know what his argument is, but let's deal with the issue of bias. The vast majority of sceptics accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that it has increased in the atmosphere so some warming can be expected. Now what's biassed about that?

They can see in the records that there has been warming with increasing CO2, warming without increasing CO2, cooling with rising CO2, cooling with falling CO2 and stationary with rising CO2. So sceptics say it is premature to assume that CO2 will have the warming effects forecast by the IPCC. They can prove this by pointing to the disparity between the forecasts from the models assumed effects of CO2 and the actual temperature. In other words sceptics are drawing conclusions from the empirical data. What's biassed about that.

Sceptics claim that the IPCC has already said that the climate is coupled non-linear chaotic system which cannot be modelled to foretell it's future state. What's biassed about that?

This particular sceptic doesn't believe that Big Chief Medicine Man can foretell the future climate of the planet a week out let alone decades out. What's biassed about that?

(that might be smidge biassed) -:)

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:06 PM | Registered Commentergeronimo

geronimo, so you've never skipped over an article you thought was flawed but didn't want to rock the boat by objecting or just couldn't be bothered? We certainly don't post all the stuff from the other side we agree with, which is bias, albeit a reasonable one. I take the view that we can't do the job of both sides.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Brandon should trawl through some of the discussions (wars) we have had on this blog before he claims to be able to label us.
I would say that Andrew Montford accepts his label as a luke warmer and I would also say that his acceptance indicates a change from his earlier position. I would say that a majority of BH regulars are also luke warmists and therefore that the majority of BH regulars accept the greenhouse effect but are not convinced about the size of the effect.
However there is a large minority of BH regulars who doubt the existence of the greenhouse effect and I am part of that minority.
You have appeared and you are the one throwing labels at people when you have spent virtually no time at all reading what people have said here over the years.

Oct 6, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, humans use labels to deal with the mass of people and opinions they meet. As I wrote to Brandon, there are only two sides because unless you're an absolute failthfull follower of the CONSENSUS you are the other side. The other side has to have a label just to make communication easier. It's hard to talk about believers because they have no easy label. The ones suggested by AP are too long. They want to relabel us as contrarians. We should and have reject that. So for want of a better way of defining those who are on this side of the divide, you are a 'sceptic'.

Oct 6, 2015 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I accept the label “sceptic” as I feel it is an honourable position to hold in proper scientific thought, and do endeavour to properly observe its strictures (with, of course, varying levels of success), whereas “consensus” really has no place, there. A sceptic withholds judgement until enough evidence has been gained; a “contrarian” merely disagrees with whatever is being said, evidence or no (hmmm… does that remind you of anyone?).

One reason I am sceptical of the greenhouse effect is simple observations: on a cloudless day, the temperatures soar; if the night remains cloudless, the temperature plummet. On a cloudy day, temperatures might rise slightly, but the night shows a similar reluctance to alter the temperatures. The “greenhouse gas” concentrations of the first situation are lower than the second, but the “greenhouse gas” in question is water; CO2 concentrations in both are likely to be similar, indicating that CO2 is not as dominant a factor as claimed.

Now, should the cloudless day be followed by an evening where the sky is clear until the falling temperatures reach dew-point, and the wind speed is such that the condensing water forms a low cloud layer – the temperature suddenly stops falling as fast. In this situation, there has been no change in “greenhouse gas” concentrations, yet there has been a noticeable effect on the temperature change, merely by the water in the atmosphere becoming visible; is this “greenhouse effect” or “blanket effect”?

Oct 6, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent