Matt Ridley: What the Climate Wars Did to Science

I cannot recommend Matt Ridley's new article strongly enough.  It covers a lot of ground be here are a few highlights.

Ridley argues that science generally works (in a manner entirely parallel to how well-functioning commercial markets work) because there are generally incentives to challenge hypotheses.  I would add that if anything, the incentives tend to be balanced more towards challenging conventional wisdom.  If someone puts a stake in the ground and says that A is true, then there is a lot more money and prestige awarded to someone who can prove A is not true than for the thirteenth person to confirm that A is indeed true.

This process breaks, however when political pressures undermine this natural market of ideas and switch the incentives for challenging hypotheses into punishment.

Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly.

What these two ideas have in common is that they had political support, which enabled them to monopolise debate. Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defence. It’s tosh that scientists always try to disprove their own theories, as they sometimes claim, and nor should they. But they do try to disprove each other’s. Science has always been decentralised, so Professor Smith challenges Professor Jones’s claims, and that’s what keeps science honest.

What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book  The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press....

This is precisely what has happened with the climate debate and it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science.

This is one example of the consequences

Look what happened to a butterfly ecologist named Camille Parmesan when she published a paper on “ Climate and Species Range” that blamed climate change for threatening the Edith checkerspot butterfly with extinction in California by driving its range northward. The paper was cited more than 500 times, she was invited to speak at the White House and she was asked to contribute to the IPCC’s third assessment report.

Unfortunately, a distinguished ecologist called Jim Steele found fault with her conclusion: there had been more local extinctions in the southern part of the butterfly’s range due to urban development than in the north, so only the statistical averages moved north, not the butterflies. There was no correlated local change in temperature anyway, and the butterflies have since recovered throughout their range.  When Steele asked Parmesan for her data, she refused. Parmesan’s paper continues to be cited as evidence of climate change. Steele meanwhile is derided as a “denier”. No wonder a highly sceptical ecologist I know is very reluctant to break cover.

He also goes on to lament something that is very familiar to me -- there is a strong argument for the lukewarmer position, but the media will not even achnowledge it exists.  Either you are a full-on believer or you are a denier.

The IPCC actually admits the possibility of lukewarming within its consensus, because it gives a range of possible future temperatures: it thinks the world will be between about 1.5 and four degrees warmer on average by the end of the century. That’s a huge range, from marginally beneficial to terrifyingly harmful, so it is hardly a consensus of danger, and if you look at the “probability density functions” of climate sensitivity, they always cluster towards the lower end.

What is more, in the small print describing the assumptions of the “representative concentration pathways”, it admits that the top of the range will only be reached if sensitivity to carbon dioxide is high (which is doubtful); if world population growth re-accelerates (which is unlikely); if carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans slows down (which is improbable); and if the world economy goes in a very odd direction, giving up gas but increasing coal use tenfold (which is implausible).

But the commentators ignore all these caveats and babble on about warming of “up to” four degrees (or even more), then castigate as a “denier” anybody who says, as I do, the lower end of the scale looks much more likely given the actual data. This is a deliberate tactic. Following what the psychologist Philip Tetlock called the “psychology of taboo”, there has been a systematic and thorough campaign to rule out the middle ground as heretical: not just wrong, but mistaken, immoral and beyond the pale. That’s what the word denier with its deliberate connotations of Holocaust denial is intended to do. For reasons I do not fully understand, journalists have been shamefully happy to go along with this fundamentally religious project.

The whole thing reads like a lukewarmer manifesto.  Honestly, Ridley writes about 1000% better than I do, so rather than my trying to summarize it, go read it.

  • https://www.teepublic.com/user/ECM Ergo

    As Max Planck had it:

    Science progresses one funeral at a time.

    There is nothing romantic--or even borderline functioning--about much of 'science' since at least the early 20th century, when it became as politicized as most other aspects of life.

  • joe

    The non - existence of the MWP - at least the regional nature of the MWP is predicated on the concept that it was confined to a small portion of the NH. I have pointed out the improbability of a weather event lasting 300 plus years over a small portion of the globe - I have asked whether any compentent meteorologists beleives that is even possible - yet that thought is treated as settled science - inspite of the extreme unlikelihood of such an event.

    Discussion on the existence of the MWP is CLOSED by the AGW proponents. Mann as a meteorologists should recognize that portion of his theory is BS.

  • Brad Warbiany

    I think one thing that makes this much more difficult is that there aren't 13 people lining up to re-prove many aspects of scientific research, nor is there **even one guy** trying to replicate the science to see if it's valid or disprove it.

    http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33719/title/Science-s-Reproducibility-Problem/

    Scientists don't want to spend their time or effort reproducing someone else's findings. People giving out scientific grants don't want to give them out just so someone can replicate another scientist's efforts.

    It's the same problem you lament regarding building new infrastructure (which get's Robert C. Byrd's name plastered on it) compared to spending money on maintaining existing infrastructure.

    Put simply, reproducing someone else's test just ain't sexy.

    Now, there *is* usually some cachet gained when you find new science which upends collective wisdom. But that--whether related to climate science or not--still doesn't usually win you a lot of friends, and is regarded in a hostile manner by the scientific establishment. Raising your hand and saying "hey, guys, all that work and all that stuff you believed is wrong!" should be met with congratulations for bringing new truth to light... but scientists are just as human as the rest of us, so it doesn't. Usually if you are generating science proving everyone else wrong, you are eventually seen as a hero, but RARELY in the moment.

  • kidmugsy

    Many years ago I read about a study by a psychologist into the truth of Planck's assertion. He found that old physicists adopted the new physics at about the same rate as young physicists. Data trumps assertion, even by as distinguished a man as Planck.

  • kidmugsy

    In climate science of course there's something of a correlation between being old and being a sceptic. The explanatory variable seems to be that it's the retired who can afford to speak the truth.

  • Nimrod

    It might be interesting to find out if those scientists who actually attempt to follow some de jure religion (atheism isn't a religion) are less likely to try to turn "science" into a de facto religion.

    Similarly, I wonder if the people who watch those "ancient aliens" TV shows all the time are looking for some sort of "religion" that seems more consistent with "science".

  • MB

    And at what point do you stop? Should we still be testing the theory of gravity?

    And its not like Steele or Ridley isn't getting an audience - a quick Google turns up numerous "debunkings" of their claims and "work". What I fail to see, however, is an actual scientific paper from either of them.

    Honestly, i have neither the education or inclination to actually assess the debunkings of Ridley or Steele. I'd much prefer the experts to do that. If they feel they have something substantive to say, then they need to convince the experts of that. Their opinion pieces are nothing more than propaganda to try and get the public (the non-experts) to force the experts to listen to them. That's the politicization of science.

    What happens if the experts are wrong, are involved in some global conspiracy, are inept and blinded by their own prejudices, etc? Pretty much the same thing that happens in every other case - you're screwed. If all the doctors in the world (or programmers, or mechanics, or any other field where the barrier to entry is fairly high) want to take you for a ride - they will. Sure, you may spot the odd duck (why we routinely ask for second opinions from another expert), but you can't overcome a systematic bias.

    That said...you may actually be an expert on climate science. I, an admitted non-expert, have no way of verifying that. Seeing as that's the case, it would be irrational of me to listen to you when even you admit the experts aren't listening to you. So, any sympathy from non-experts for your position is either based on non-substantive factors (I like your writing; you seem like a good guy; your views align with my world philosophy; etc) or are (by definition) based on less information than the experts have (who, you admit, discount your views).

    To continue to beat the dead horse...climate deniers are asking us to take the opinion of the first doctor, even though every other doctor is saying they're wrong! And they're asking us to do that with the fate of the entire world (mild hyperbole, but basically). I'd question the sanity of anyone who thinks that's a rational position (not to say you're not right, but since I have no way of knowing that, it'd be irrational for me to act as if you're right).

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "Similarly, I wonder if the people who watch those "ancient aliens" TV shows"

    Hey, the History Channel's Ancient Aliens series can be funny as hell at times.

  • memelo2

    Hang Galileo already! Everyone - especially the scientists - agrees that Earth is the center of the universe. (Your argument version of 1632 AD)

    Your whole argument is what's called "appeal to authority" so sadly all that text is actually completely worthless - rationally speaking.

    And by the way: Gravity is still one of the biggest mysteries to modern physics and to this day physicists try to disprove the relativity theory. Not with a lot of energy (because opposed to the global warming zealotry not much rides on it) but all the time. And all the time they are wrong. And you know what: They aren't shunned by the physicist community because those guys know the value of creative dissent.

    Because you know, all that gravity stuff that Einstein wrote: Scores of physicist denied its validity. It was, in your words, not what the experts thought. But what's great for us: No one called Einstein a "Newtonian physics denier", no one petitioned or even forced the universities he taught at to let him go when he published his thoughts on relativity, none of his peers who disagreed with him formed a Council On Classical Mechanics to collectively punish his crime thinking.

    And then later of cause Einstein himself didn't believe in quantum mechanics, but... ah. You see how this story goes, right. It's called science. It's not what's happening with climate research. That's pure politics. And that's what this is about.

  • mlhouse

    Science is actually very simple. It is the creation of a theory to describe what has happened in the past and/or to predict what will happen in the future.

    What is certain is that the modern day practitioners of global warming theory have failed in their predictions of the future.

    When this happens, real scientist turn to their theory and the underlying assumptions of that theory, and adjust them to better describe what has actually happened.

    With "Global warming climate change" these so called scientist instead have dug in even deeper. Even though real data does not match their forecasts they cling to the world view as described by their erroneous forecasts as if their forecasts further out in the future will be even more accurate. Not only that, they continue to fling out associated relationships, like "drought in California" and "floods in Texas", that have even less evidence as consequences of their dire, but false, predictions of the future.

  • stan

    There is no quality control in science. Peer review is a joke. No one checks the work of anyone else. And a vast majority of studies are badly flawed.

    What passes for science today is really fraud. More specifically, negligent or reckless misrepresentation. Studies like the incompetent hockey stick are embraced by science institutions and presented to the world as fact, when the reality is the studies haven't been replicated. Esteemed scientists make representations to governments that the work is quality work and true when they really have no idea if the work is any good. This is a fraudulent representation. One made for the purpose of inducing reliance.

    If science doesn't embrace some ethics pretty quick, it will become a laughingstock.

  • Brad Warbiany

    MB, you're making Warren (& Ridley's) point, without even realizing it.

    Neither Warren nor Ridley is a climate change "denier". They both believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that human production of CO2 is contributing to the warming of the earth.

    But the media and scientific establishment seems to want to force EVERYONE into two camps. You're either of the belief that climate change not only exists, but is a major and dire threat to the future of the world and must be immediately and aggressively combated... Or you're a "denier" who rejects science.

    Warren & Ridley have both made the point many times that while warming exists and man is at least a contributor to it if not wholly responsible, it hasn't been shown to be as large as many of the most alarmist people claim (i.e. "climate sensitivity" measurements consistently come out on the lower end of the temperature range). Further, folks like Warren and economist David Friedman consistently make the argument that while warming exists and is manmade, the ECONOMIC case for hampering the carbon economy has not been convincingly made.

    In order to justify the steps that are being proposed, you need to prove (or seriously justify) the following:

    1) Warming is occurring (agreed by Warren, Ridley, and Friedman).
    2) Warming is partially or wholly manmade (agreed by Warren, Ridley, and Friedman).
    3) Warming is ipso facto negative (not agreed upon, although I suggest based on what I've read Warren, Ridley, and Friedman would agree that significant warming--i.e. at the very upper range of IPCC estimates--would be negative).
    4) The costs to society of *dealing with* the warming are larger than the costs of *preventing* the warming. Remember that the economic costs of going to a non- or minimal-carbon economy are SIGNIFICANT in terms of economic growth. (Not agreed upon, especially if warming is at the lower range of the IPCC estimate)

    You can agree that warming is occurring, that it's partially or wholly manmade, that significant warming *would* be detrimental, and still oppose the significant measures being proposed to reduce CO2. It's possible to believe that the cure is worse than the disease.

    But, okay, whatever. They're "deniers".

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "What is certain is that the modern day practitioners of global warming theory have failed in their predictions of the future."

    Their descriptions of what has happened in the past are also suspect.

  • mlhouse

    Well from a modeling perspective I believe that they essentially over captured correlation within their sample.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "that significant warming--i.e. at the very upper range of IPCC
    estimates--would be negative"

    This is very debatable. AR4 in its discussion of impacts quoted a paper that showed that deaths from heat and heat related weather events would increase under global warming. However, If you looked at the actual paper, it not only concluded that deaths from heat and heat related weather events would increase, but also that deaths from cold and cold related weather events would decrease. The interesting thing about this was that the decrease in cold related deaths under the IPCC's worst case scenario for warming was and order of magnitude greater than the increase in heat related deaths.

    There are good reasons to believe that while some may suffer if we hit the upper range of the IPCC's projections for warming, it would still be a net positive at a global scale.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    They didn't capture any correlation within their sample, the correlation was built into the models from the beginning. A model is a mathematical/computer programming expression of a theory. The outputs of that model can never, ever prove anything about the theory itself.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Fair enough. Thanks for the additional information.

  • morgan.c.frank

    mb-

    that's the wrong question. the question is why haven't they started? science becomes accepted through replication. if the agw crowd have the science on their side, why do they refuse to share their data and methods? (and they all do)

    when einstein overturned newton, no one was ready to beleive it. they test it 100's of times, probably 1000's. it held. THAT is how science gets accepted.

    this "climate science" cannot be verified. such data as gets out gets ripped to bits. mostly, they refuse to let anyone see it.

    this is how religion is done, not science.

    for global warming to be something we should take steps to stop, 3 things must be true.

    1. the world must be warming

    2. man must be causing it.

    3. that must be a bad thing.

    it's unclear that ANY of those are proven.

    has the world warmed since 1850? yes, absolutely. but in the last 19 years? no. since the medieval period? nope, colder. since the roman, colder still. vs the last 500 million years? coldest 5%. this is an ice age. ice at both poles is rare.

    1850 was the depth of the little ice age, coldest time int he last 9000 years. we have snapped back some, but not to previous levels. the holocene interglacial is winding down.

    has man caused warming? this is VERY unclear and highly theoretical. ceteris paribus, more co2 warms earth, but it's not an independent variable. water vapor is the big driver. it offsets co2 (read lindzen on the adaptive heat iris)

    co2 has been soaring for the last 20 years. temperature is pancake flat. correlation is not causality, but causality without correlation is pretty implausible in a case like this.

    so, the issue of whether and how much man has warmed earth is pretty open. if one looks at the pre industrial warming and the post, they are pretty indistinguishable. keep in mind, co2 levels are quite low historically right now. they were 10X this when we entered this ice age. they spike every warm period from oceans outgassing.

    is the warming a bad thing? no. on this one, we have loads of real data. the medieval and roman periods were THRIVING times for humanity and the biosphere. the cold of the little ice age caused plague and mass famine.

    a return to the temperatures of 1800 would result in gigadeaths. the growing season would simply be too short. this warming has been a huge blessing. but it will not hold.

    we are in an interglacial in a deepening ice age. that interglacial is winding down. we are way, way past the holocene climate optimum (4-5000 years ago). when we hit the steep decline, things are going to get HARD.

    ice from the pole to carolina will kill 80% of humans barring a huge advance in technology. where are we gonna grow food?

    anything we can do to put that off is a huge win.

    warm and fertile, we can deal with. cold and barren is a disaster.

    the idea that earth climate can "run away" due to small increases in a trace gas that has been well over 10X higher in the past is simply risible. there is not a shred of evidence for it outside of "models" that have exhibited no predictive ability.

    here's a fun chart from the IPCC itself.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/14/the-real-ipcc-ar5-draft-bombshell-plus-a-poll/

    the black is real data. it's well outside the 95% confidence intervals of the models. if proving these models false were a drug, the fda would approve it.

    co2 is above the IPCC high case scenarios. temperature is below the low case (predicated on CO2 actually dropping).

    when you get a high case input and produce not even a low case output, your model is junk. the assumptions is makes on feedbacks are wrong. it missed something major or got something wrong.

    this is not a map to use to steer global energy policy.

    when they have a model that exhibits forward predictive power (not tweak to fit historical) then, i will start to take them seriously. until then, this is just extremely expensive sophistry.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    But morg, don’t you see, all the cool kids – sorry doctors – think AGW is real, so we should too!

    Might and superior numbers are the foundation of science. Didn’t you learn that in school?

  • Nimrod

    If any actual aliens were to receive and decode the broadcasts, I imagine that they'd find it even more hilarious. I'm sure someone could make a ton of money if they could just figure out how to target advertising toward aliens during the show.

  • Nimrod

    Using the term "theory" here is part of the problem. A hypothesis isn't considered a theory until it's proven to some high degree of confidence. Since there's no in vitro version of Earth, the sun, the Galaxy, etc to experiment on, I don't see how any hypothesis regarding large scale trends can be considered a "theory" without collecting at least decades of additional data (which requires waiting decades to do so).

    It seems that the degree of confidence required to consider a hypothesis "proven" is extremely low in climate science. The intellectually honest thing to do would be to just keep calling a hypothesis a hypothesis and honestly state the degree of uncertainty.

  • marque2

    The theory of gravity was wrong as shown by Einstein. Einsteins theories though better have some anomolies which create discomfort among physisits who are blind to replace it soon as well.

    Yes you must keep testing theories - even those as solid as AGW which is supported by 97% of scientists

  • Estoy Listo

    Hear Matt Ridley on a recent Econtalk podcast, his second appearance there--search for them both. Well worth listening to, as is every issue of Econtalk.

  • marque2

    The Church actually sponsored Copernicus, some 500 years prior who ce up with the notion that the planets circle around the sun.

  • marque2

    Not so, because they keep changing the past to match their predictions 😛

  • memelo2

    Yes this is true. And it leads to an interesting question: When and why do the powers that be decide to shun a point of view that seemed acceptable or at least debatable for a time?

    The Galileo episode shows that this decision is not necessarily based on an argument's scientific foundation.

  • marque2

    The Galileo incident isn't what most people think. The Church actually agreed that Galileo was probably right, they just wanted Galileo to print his findings in Latin, so it could be properly debated amongst the elite before the masses were informed - agreed this is a repression of speech - Galileo ignored them and wrote his findings about the moons of Jupiter in Italian. But Galileo made a habit of sticking thorns in the churches side. Universities all over Europe at the time were debating many of the Church doctrines and opinions of the populace were already changing. His theory would have been mainstreamed in a few years anyway without problem, if he himself were not a bit stubborn.
    It should be noted the Catholic Church and Christian churches actually sponsored a lot science. It was a Catholic Bishop who proved Halley correct, even though Halley's comet came two year late. Mendel, was a monk, and made interesting discoveries about peas. Even the bubbles in beer, came about when a priest was experimenting with gasses that were the product of fermentation which seemed to kill mice.

  • memelo2

    It wasn't at all my intention to paint the church as an evil anti-science bureaucracy.

    I was trying to make a general point about how mainstream views are not always based upon pure reasoning.

    Didn't know the part about Italian and Latin, though. I will read up on that. Brecht certainly didn't mention it in his drama.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    No, that is exactly why they are suspect.

  • marque2

    It wasn't my intention either to say the Church was great for science. Just pointing out your proposition from a different angle.

  • marque2

    You are not suppose to know that.

  • marque2

    True, and models are only useful if you are honest about them. If you take wind tunnel data and model it, you can use that to help make more efficient cars, by pretesting in the model. If you take the wind data and extrapolate it is twisted ways and change the base data to suit the model, then testing the cars in the model surves no purpose other than propaganda. (Our cars have been computer designed to ...) Of course the government wod crack down on any auto company publishing false model data about their cars.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    Anyone with at least two brain cells to rub together ought to know that.

  • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

    And that 97% number is bogus, as a cursory glance at the methodology shows.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/05/30/global-warming-alarmists-caught-doctoring-97-percent-consensus-claims/

    If there's hard evidence for AGW in the raw data, it's amazingly not apparent until you 'adjust', 'smooth', and manipulate the numbers like a chiropractor on meth.

  • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

    Obviously they need more tourism ads! "Come visit Yellowstone! The Grand Canyon! New York City! We'd be glad to see you!"

  • MB

    > Neither Warren nor Ridley is a climate change "denier". They both believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that human production of CO2 is contributing to the warming of the earth.

    Fair enough - I didn't mean to paint either one of them with a loaded "denier" term. I suppose a more accurate and value neutral representation would be those with heterodox views on AGW and it's implications.

    > The media and scientific establishment seems to want to force EVERYONE into two camps. You're either of the belief that climate change not only exists, but is a major and dire threat to the future of the world and must be immediately and aggressively combated... Or you're a "denier" who rejects science.

    That's some loaded phrasing, but the gist of it is accurate. In my wording though, you either accept what the experts are telling you or you don't. You can, of course, accept parts and deny other parts (like Warren and Ridley seem to) - but the end result is the same: you're substituting your own judgment for the expert judgment.

    > Warren & Ridley have both made the point many times that while warming exists and man is at least a contributor to it if not wholly responsible, it hasn't been shown to be as large as many of the most alarmist people claim (i.e. "climate sensitivity" measurements consistently come out on the lower end of the temperature range).

    And why should I believe Warren & Ridley's interpretation? There's no rational basis for me to conclude that they are correct, and the eg., IPCC report is incorrect unless I believe that I understand the science better than both camps. Even presupposing a conspiracy, you still have to conclude that the IPCC report is flawed (and the conspiracy explains *why* it's flawed) which I admit I'm not qualified to do (and, I argue, neither are Warren or Ridley, etc).

    > Folks like Warren and economist David Friedman consistently make the argument that while warming exists and is manmade, the ECONOMIC case for hampering the carbon economy has not been convincingly made.

    Good point. I've avoided touching on the economic angle of all this on purpose, since that's a different realm of expertise. I'd be all for a nuanced "lukewarmer" position debating the economic and political ramifications of AGW. I think that'd be a worthwhile step in the right direction, and in a direction where we as a people have a lot more experience and knowledge in (vs climate science).

    Unfortunately the "denier" position is a lot more common and nuanced than you're portraying, and exists at every level along your steps (including one you don't mention, which is that there's a consensus opinion to begin with). Until we can all agree on some baseline assumptions, a nuanced "lukewarmer" position doesn't offer much value in settling the debate.

    > It's possible to believe that the cure is worse than the disease.

    It's possible to believe whatever the hell you want. As a matter of fact, I believe in a lot of things with very little or no scientific basis. It is pretty irrational, though, and I'd think twice before subjecting the entire world to my irrational beliefs.

    At the end, as with all expert opinions, it comes down to a matter of credibility - which, as far as I can tell from my time here on Earth, has very little basis in rationality. You believe Warren and Ridley are credible on this topic, whereas I don't. The one argument they *don't* make is the one that could ultimately persuade me - which is that there is no consensus expert opinion. In fact, they (like a lot of skeptics) expressly proclaim there *is* a consensus (and then go on to show why that consensus is flawed, corrupt, a conspiracy, etc.). That pretty much seals it for me...there's seemingly a fairly wide consensus that the mainstream opinion is accurately reported, so that's where I'm going to put my chips.

    As a final caveat - I fully realize that science is messy (like all human endeavors); that a consensus doesn't "prove" anything; that science itself doesn't actually "prove" anything; and that scientific opinions are subject to (sometimes radical) change. My opinion, such as it is, is subject to change along with the mainstream scientific opinion as new data is gathered, old data are found flawed, new knowledge is gained, etc. My core argument is that this is one of those times when you should:

    > Be humble about the limits of your knowledge and expertise. You may have gone to an elite school and have always been told how smart you are, but that doesn’t mean that you understand everything. Understanding comes from real experience and/or rigorous examination of an issue. Reading a bunch of articles or having spent a few years as the deputy assistant director of whatever does not count as experience or rigorous examination.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Actually, Ridley and Warren both address this point. The "experts" are not a monolith. The "consensus" encompasses people who believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and humans are contributing to warming. The consensus runs the gamut between the lukewarmer position and the people who believe the effects of warming will be large and catastrophic for the planet.

    Ridley flat out mentions that the IPCC report covers a wide range of warming. The "lukewarmer" position is perfectly in line with the lower range of the warming in the IPCC report. And as he points out, to use his words, "the 'probability density functions' of climate sensitivity...always cluster towards the lower end." So the lukewarmer position is probably more of a scientific consensus than the catastrophic warming position.

    Warren has ALSO linked multiple times to studies that consistently show that measures of climate sensitivity (the driving factor between whether warming will occur at lower or higher ends of the predictions) are coming in on the low end.

    The 97% consensus position has never been the catastrophic position; merely that humans are causing warming. Within that consensus there's a lot of variation, but it's a variation that the people who demand we "do something about it"--not coincidentally things they already wanted us to do--are trying to obfuscate by painting anyone who argues against immediate and dramatic changes to our economy as "deniers".

  • MB

    You're right, the scientists did agree that the Earth was the center of the universe. And, you know what, even after Galileo said "no it's not" they didn't believe him. And that's OK - even though he turned out to be "right", they obviously had no way of knowing that beforehand so it'd be a little odd to agree with him. Now, as it turns out, as more and more evidence crops up supporting his theory he gets vindicated and the scientific opinion changes. That's the way it's supposed to work. The only hiccup in the whole thing was when *non-scientists* got involved (the Church) and politicized it.

    Which is what Ridley, Warren, and even you are doing. You are non-scientists trying to convince other non-scientists that the scientists are wrong. That's the politicization of science. My position is to just take what the scientists are telling you! (BTW, not exactly an appeal to authority, since there is no conclusion; and any conclusion you want to take on has reams of scientific basis behind it that serves as evidence - this is shorthand, and it's a little petty to try and pull out logical fallacies in that manner).

    A special aside for the arguments espoused by Ridley that "science is broken" - I think it's something about the messiness of actual science that gets people all confused. You see, it's a human endeavor, and there *are* politics involved. And sometimes, things gets messy and take a while and it's not exactly clear who's "right", etc. And even, sometimes the consensus is wrong. Maybe there's ways to improve that - I don't know, I'd want to talk to some people actually practicing science before drawing any conclusions - but the entire premise in this case rests on the fact that they don't like the conclusions coming out of the mainstream (leading us back to problem #1, where they don't have any idea what the hell they're talking about).

    BTW - what's with the visceral reaction to "denier"? Seems like it's almost a slur, which isn't what I intended. What's the more polite and sufficiently succinct way of saying "someone who doesn't accept the supposed consensus regarding global warming, mankind's contribution to it, and the impacts thereof"?

  • MB

    Ok - awesome. Lukewarmists concur with just about everything, but want to throw out the higher range estimates. Dare I ask why they want to do that? What information do they have that gives them a narrower range of estimates? Has that information been peer-reviewed and generally accepted by people who know what the hell they're doing?

    Assuming it's true (I'm too lazy to look it up), I'm quite certain that the scientists and authors of the IPCC report are well aware that "the 'probability density functions' of climate sensitivity...always cluster towards the lower end" and yet they still choose to include the higher range as well. Perhaps they have a scientific reason for doing so? Are you arguing they don't?

  • MB

    > Might and superior numbers are the foundation of science. Didn’t you learn that in school?

    Maybe not, but superior understanding is. Do you really think you're qualified to enter the debate? Then write up a paper and publish - that's how science gets done, not one-upping in blog posts and comments.

    If you're not qualified, then just join the rest of us that have to rely on might and superior numbers to make sense of it all. Unless you have some other way of objectively measuring credibility?

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    I have a far better way of objectively measuring credibility: accuracy

    https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/spencer-73-cmip5-model-fail1.png

    Alarmist warmists have no accuracy, and hence zero credibility. Add to this the fact they refuse to release their datasets (see above), and engage in statistical fraud to “prove” their point, and you get a pretty bleak picture of how corrupt and fraudulent the global warmists are.

    [Had Mann and others done with price charts in an investment analysis for public release what they did with temperature proxies in their “Hockey Stick” and other reconstructions, they would have been sanctioned by regulators, and quite possibly barred from the industry and arrested for fraud.]

    You’re perfectly free to rely on their fraudulent analyses based solely on appeal to authority, just be prepared to be shredded on sites like this for making massively idiotic statements like yours above.

  • memelo2

    "Which is what Ridley, Warren, and even you are doing. You are non-scientists trying to convince other non-scientists that the scientists are wrong."
    No, we see that mainstream scientists (and their powerful allies) try to silence dissenting scientists. And we want the dissenting scientists to have a chance to do science and critique the status quo. We want, in your words, a chance for more and more evidence to crop up so that, if necessary, the sceptics theories can get vindicated and the scientific opinion might change.

    Generally speaking you don't have to be an expert in a specific field to see that the dynamics of said field are broken on a human, political or economical level. With climate science you don't have to be a climate scientist to see social mechanisms at work that undermine the science in climate science. [Just think what it would mean for democracy if people were required to always follow the experts' mainstream opinion: no own opinion on economics, GMOs, education, energy, mass transit, nutrition, child care, ... except if you happen to be a published and peer reviewed expert in the field?]

    "BTW - what's with the visceral reaction to "denier"? Seems like it's almost a slur, which isn't what I intended." Well it is derived from the term holocaust denier (in fact, 15 years back when dissent was still somewhat possible, skeptics used to quip about how it won't be long before the alarmists would start calling them deniers, they didn't really believe it though) and meant to carry the exact same stigma. You could use the term skeptic.

  • MB

    > Generally speaking you don't have to be an expert in a specific field to see that the dynamics of said field are broken on a human, political or economical level.

    I don't think that's true at all. Your idea of "broken" is premised on the assumption that skeptic arguments aren't getting the attention they "deserve". But, if you're not part of the field, the amount of attention you think they deserve is pretty much meaningless (from a scientific standpoint, at least).

    As to the idea that non-experts can sufficiently police an expert community, I'm not sure I buy that argument at all. This is why we have peer-reviewed journals, institutional review boards, etc. - it's a self-governing system that's largely only understandable to the experts. The norms, acceptable behaviors, etc. aren't going to be immediately obvious to an outsider and are bound to lead to confusion (eg, the "trick" email, or claims of not sharing data, etc.).

    > Just think what it would mean for democracy if people were required to always follow the experts' mainstream opinion: no own opinion on economics, GMOs, education, energy, mass transit, nutrition, child care, ... except if you happen to be a published and peer reviewed expert in the field?

    You're allowed to have your own *opinion*, and even to make your own value judgments (eg., that the benefits of GMOs outweigh the risks). But you're not really allowed to have your own "facts" (well you're obviously "allowed", I just don't think it's very productive). And, if per chance, you want to have your own "facts" - then just realize it's irrational, and don't expect others to "believe" you. (I'm using quotes, because "fact" is a loaded term since it implies some knowable, unchangeable truth - which, unfortunately, isn't really where we find ourselves very much).

    In the realm of climate science, if we could all agree to the basics (earth is warming; humans play a significant role; warming is bad) then we could greatly raise the level of discourse and start having a productive conversation (now what?). Instead, the broad skeptic community wants to continue to debate every level of what we think we know in a slipshod fashion, coming up with argument after argument about why something and/or everything is wrong/corrupt/broken/etc.

    Any individual skeptic may agree to one or more of the baseline, but it's hard not to paint with a broad brush since (as humans do) they'll usually resort to one or the other in an attempt to "prove" their argument. For instance, the linked Ridley piece paints him as a "lukewarmer" - he agrees that climate change is real, that it's largely man-made, but disagrees with the likely effects. But, his entire article premise is that the scientific community around global warming is corrupt and broken - that has little to do with his lukewarmer stance, since (if true) that'd require re-examining everything we think we know around climate science (including the points he already agreed to). At other times, Ridley has stated that polar bears are thriving (an argument against global warming occurring at all), that the hockey stick graph is faked (an argument against global warming and/or man-made), that scientists warned of an ice age in the '70s (an argument against...uhhh...all science?), that the climate cannot be stabilized (an argument against human factors), etc.

    It's a multi-pronged attack, with his backstop of "I know the future climate with more accuracy and certainty than the scientists". And yet, he is unable or unwilling to convince the scientists of that. In the meantime, his lukewarmer position and repetition of other arguments gives cover to all sorts of other skeptics that disagree with other aspects of climate change, and then he complains that he gets lumped in with them. Well, yeah - that's who you're aligned with. If you'd like to switch teams, just put out a blog post that says "I agree with everything in the IPCC report", and then work towards refining those future estimates; but, you see, that'd require actual scientific knowledge and practices which he is unqualified to do. Instead, he'd much rather play by the looser rules of journalism - which is what causes the very incivility and dogmatic "with us or against us" mentality he complains about!

    FWIW - and I don't generally share this, because it's not really relevant - I also tend to think the impacts from global warming are likely overstated. The difference between me and Ridley is that I realize it's an irrational opinion, formed on my own biases and opinions and has little or nothing to do with scientific knowledge. Therefore, I wouldn't advise anyone to actually listen to me about it.

  • MB

    I trust that you are aware of and understand the arguments of why that paper is flawed? And that you have sufficient rebuttal to it? If so, write it up and put it into a journal for other scientists to argue with you on it. If not, how about you leave the climate science to actual...you know, scientists?

    Is it inconceivable to you that you don't know what you're talking about? That your understanding of the rules and regulations around investment analysis have nothing to do with climate science? That your understanding, built with perhaps years of half-hearted perusing of blog posts and reading a paper or three pales in comparison to someone who does this for a living?

    If you are as astute as you think you are in climate science, then I'm sure you'll be welcomed with open arms. Oh wait, no you won't, because of the "conspiracy". Well, in that case - sorry, you've got a long road ahead of you trying to overturn an institution. I wish you the best of luck - after all, who knows? Perhaps you are the next Galileo; get back to me when your scientific views are vindicated and I'll buy you a beer. In the meantime, I'll try not to let any "shredding" by one idiot to another hurt my feelings.

    As for the "appeal to authority" trope, you are attempting to confuse the message with a throwaway reference to a logical fallacy that it's not even clear you understand. The classic appeal to authority fallacy would be to proclaim an expert as undoubtedly correct (not my claim); or that expertise in one area makes them more likely to be correct in an unrelated area (also not my claim). My claim is simple:

    1. On average, more knowledge enables better predictions

    2. Climate scientists have more knowledge than mesaeconoguy on climate science
    3. On average, Climate scientists will have better predictions than mesaeconoguy on climate science

    Would you care to refute one of the premises? Or argue that the conclusion is unsupported by the premises?

  • memelo2

    "Your idea of "broken" is premised on the assumption that skeptic arguments aren't getting the attention they "deserve"."

    No. My idea of broken is premised on my observations (or more precisely: shared observations by actual experts in the field) of mechanisms at work that seem to systematically undermine the scientific method itself. The linked article mentions many instances of this which - and I assume Ridley doesn't lie about that - lead to actual self-censorship by skeptic scientists.

    "As to the idea that non-experts can sufficiently police an expert community, I'm not sure I buy that argument at all. This is why we have peer-reviewed journals, institutional review boards, etc. - it's a self-governing system that's largely only understandable to the experts."

    Climate science isn't an arcane art that stands for itself. It should follow the same standards that work for all the other fields of science. Therefore it should suffice to be proficient in one field of science to understand any scientific self-governing system. At least I never felt particularly at loss when I ventured from mine. Mind that the "policing" is not about content but about method.

  • Brad Warbiany

    They're not trying to throw out the higher range estimates.

    What Ridley and Warren are complaining about is the popular conjecture that people either must fall into camps of "climate change is real, catastrophic, and must be addressed immediately and forcefully" (the 'alarmist' position), vs "climate change is a politicized hoax used to increase government control of the economy on a worldwide basis" (the 'denier' position).

    It's just not that clear cut, but when lukewarmers start talking, they get lumped in as deniers, when their position is well within the IPCC ranges.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    This is more time than I should devote to you, but here it is anyway –

    how about you leave the climate science to actual...you know, scientists?

    I recommend you look up “appeal to authority,” since you do not understand that concept. Here, I’ll even do it for you

    https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority

    As Warren has extensively shown on his climate blog, there is wide disagreement among “experts” about the degree of warming manmade CO2 is having, and far from conclusive evidence that CO2 emissions are having an extensive climate effect (they apparently haven’t the last 16 years). What the catastrophists are saying and have been predicting is empirically incorrect. You should not rely upon those “experts,” but you likely will, lacking sufficient cognitive ability and key information.

    And they most certainly have been challenged, by Warren and many, many others, including, you know, actual scientists. They are usually dismissed out of hand, and are excluded from debate for the reasons Ridley discusses. You need to read his paper again.

    Investment analysis, random walks, and economics, and temperature/climate behavior similarities have all been extensively covered by Warren, so you need to go back and read those as well.

    As for your claims:

    #3 is empirically incorrect, from the chart I included above. All of their models have failed, and yes, should I devote significant time to modeling as I have in the past, I could likely devise more accurate predictive models than theirs to date.

    Further, because I have superior economic knowledge than most climate scientists, I would appropriately frame any policy recommendations in a robust cost/benefit framework, which none of the catastrophists have done.

    But none if this is the point. The point is you are deferring to purported “experts” who really have no particular expertise in a field of study that many do not even consider to be a scientific field of inquiry, due to its wild inaccuracies and politicized process.

    You need to do much, much more study of and inquiry into how and why climate “science” has become so corrupt and politicized. And you need to understand that the principles which apply to other fields (statistics, actual science) also apply to the study of climate.

  • MB

    You should really read the links you post, and think about what it is that you're saying. Note the part about "it must therefore be true" (in big bold letters, so it should be easy to spot). Now find where I said anything of the sort.

    If you're in a thoughtful mood, you may even want to try and understand the smaller letters, where it says "this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claim of experts...nor is it reasonable to disregard...experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding". Hmm...does that at all sound familiar?

    Also, it'd be difficult to prove a claim that starts "on average" with a single example. TBH, I'm not even sure my claim is falsifiable, but that potential logical inconsistency just flies by you on your way to "empirical proof" (eg., a single, unattributed, graph). Not to mention, you actually haven't made a prediction - so it actually becomes somewhat of an impossibility of a different sort to compare your track record to climate scientists; but, not to worry, because you "could likely devise more accurate predictive models". Well, if that doesn't prove expertise, I don't know what does!

    Nice bait and switch with "catastrophists", too - if you can't debate the one in front of you, just draw up a strawman? I'll pretend a debating a rock, if it's OK with you.

    And, somehow, you manage to simultaneously hold the idea that Warren's latest position as lukewarmer is entirely within range of the IPCC report - but that the IPCC report is corrupt and politicized, wildly inaccurate, "empirically incorrect", and not even an "actual science" - while Warren is correct. But, I'm spouting "massively idiotic statements" when I say the consensus (as basically embodied in the IPCC report) is likely the closest to truth we have.

    I'm amazed your head doesn't explode from the sheer agonizing mental torture games you must have going on. I know mine is just from trying to follow the tortured trail of your logic.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    I see you failed 4th grade (or was it 3rd? )

    how about you leave the climate science to actual...you know, scientists?

    Because they presumably know more about the subject (they do not, especially statistical analysis of their “evidence”), and are to be believed because of their qualifications and purported expertise.

    Your words, flagrant appeal to authority, as are your other talking points.

    Please come back and comment when you have achieved comprehension level to understand this concept, which will likely be never.