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Climate change: Significantly limiting the right to be considered a “skeptic”

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As opposed to a denier:

I propose a basic test to determine who has earned the benefit of the doubt on whether to be labelled a denier or not.

Does the person have an academic or professional background in atmospheric science or climatology? If the answer is yes, then they earn the benefit of the doubt and should not be called a denier.

Does the person have an academic or professional background in another discipline and not a climate-related field? If the answer is yes, then they have not earned the right to be called anything other than a denier. Brian Brettschneider, “Climate Change Skeptic Or Denier?” at Forbes

Reader Otto Pellinen writes to say,

This article has an interesting take on appeals to authority:

– If you are yourself an expert, and you hold a minority position, you are a skeptic. This means you have a legitimate position of doubt.

– If you don’t have expertise, and you hold a minority position, you are a denier. Period. You should simply give the experts what they deserve, and trust that the consensus will reflect reality more closely than your naïve approach.

Let us assume for a moment that this principle is all true and rational. What happens?

Assume there is a multidisciplinary paradigm X holding a majority position. Suppose we are talking about disciplines A, B and C. Here you should be an expert in multiple fields of study in order to be legitimately called a skeptic, rather than a denier. Nearly the experts of A are not experts in B or C, so to question the paradigm X they would be deniers with respect to these fields. The same holds for experts of B and C. Very few people will be experts in all three fields, so they can be dismissed as a marginal minority.

Here we have a locked situation, in which any multidisciplinary consensus efficiently prevents experts from questioning the paradigm.

True, and the formula very much limits the role of informed judgment, a useful quality that is distinct from direct expertise. Informed judgment would include reflection on the relationship between pronouncements on matters of concern and the political and economic fortunes of the group making the pronouncements, for example.

When professionals’ livelihood and social status depends on a given state of affairs being accepted as fact, it is mere prudence to seek alternative viewpoints from less dependent sources before we commit to anything.

See also: Union of Concerned Scientists inconsistent as apocalypse marketing agency

Union of Concerned Scientists got started during the Viet Nam war, which could be the reason their rallying cry seems to be A-crock-a-lypse Now!

See also: A scientist shares his cyberbullying story: The anonymity that the internet offers can free academic scientists of the restraints that would typically govern their public behaviour. So trolling becomes the new peer review.

And Bill Nye thinks scientists who doubt human-caused global warming should be jailed. Sure, like Galileo.

It might surprise people who get their science history from Joe Bullroar and Bimbette Fluffarelli of Airhead TV, it was not at all clear centuries ago that Galileo and Copernicus were correct about the basic structure of the solar system. Many respected astronomers thought them obviously wrong for evidence-based reasons. It took decades to be sure who was right.

47 Replies to “Climate change: Significantly limiting the right to be considered a “skeptic”

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    I wish we could stop using Galileo and Copernicus as examples of a clear objective right/wrong situation.

    In fact this is the BEST example of REAL subjectivity.

    Ptolemy and Galileo were both equally wrong, but both of their models are useful and convenient in some circumstances. It literally depends on your viewpoint. If you’re doing earthbound calculations, Ptolemy’s system is easier. If you’re sending a rocket to Mars, Galileo works better. If you’re calculating cosmic stuff, both are useless.

    Very few of us need to send a rocket to Mars, so the geocentric system is all we ever need.

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    A suggestion: Dispense with the labels and focus on the evidence and arguments.

    One slight issue is that (IMHO) a lot of the people who sling derogatory labels at one another don’t have a clue about the actual science. I count myself among the clueless, btw.

    And while this position is indeed prudent:

    … Informed judgment would include reflection on the relationship between pronouncements on matters of concern and the political and economic fortunes of the group making the pronouncements, for example.

    When professionals’ livelihood and social status depends on a given state of affairs being accepted as fact, it is mere prudence to seek alternative viewpoints from less dependent sources before we commit to anything.

    one must always be careful not to slip into motive mongering.

  3. 3
    asauber says:

    Does the person have an academic or professional background in another discipline and not a climate-related field?

    Climatology has chosen to be the study of weather-related statistics. That’s all it is.

    I don’t think people who engage in statistical studies are endowed with any special gifts of knowledge none of the rest of us have. Pretty much all adults can evaluate statistics, unless their minds have been ruined by faulty educational institutions.

    I’ve been following the Global Warming issue for many years and I can say that most climate scientists presented to the public as experts don’t know anything more about the climate than someone on the street who takes a few minutes to familiarize themselves with the information available.

    Andrew

  4. 4
    asauber says:

    If I could interview a public-facing climate scientist, I would ask him what was the most important thing he knew (or believed) about the climate I didn’t know.

    I suspect I could start having a little fun at that point.

    Andrew

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    ‘Pretty much all adults can evaluate statistics, unless their minds have been ruined by faulty educational institutions.’

    Ha Ha Ha.

    Why Smart People Are Stupid
    By Jonah LehrerJune 12, 2012
    And here’s the upsetting punch line: intelligence seems to make things worse. The scientists gave the students four measures of “cognitive sophistication.” As they report in the paper, all four of the measures showed positive correlations, “indicating that more cognitively sophisticated participants showed larger bias blind spots.” This trend held for many of the specific biases, indicating that smarter people (at least as measured by S.A.T. scores) and those more likely to engage in deliberation were slightly more vulnerable to common mental mistakes. Education also isn’t a savior
    https://www.newyorker.com/tech/frontal-cortex/why-smart-people-are-stupid

  6. 6
    ET says:

    CO2 only absorbs in 3 different wavelengths of IR. That equals a mere 8% of what the Earth radiates. And thanks to thermodynamics the Earth only radiates where and when its surface is warmer than the atmosphere- mostly a few hours at night before an equilibrium is reached.

    That 8% is halved due to the fact the CO2 re-emits in random directions.

    So the Earth is losing 100% and in return from the CO2 it gets 4% @ 410PPM. That doesn’t seem like it could cause any warming beyond slightly slowing down the cooling which would skew the daily temperature average.

    There is also the fact that our clean-air policies have worked which has allowed more solar radiation to reach the earth’s surface causing warming.

    Urban heat islands are real which also skew the daily average. And our clear-cutting or forests adds to any problems we have already caused.

    So it isn’t the CO2- we all die if the CO2 gets to below 150PPM (plants will die first and we will follow). It is everything else we are doing. Glaciers melt even in freezing temps because they are covered in soot.

  7. 7
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber @ 3 –

    Climatology has chosen to be the study of weather-related statistics. That’s all it is.

    I don’t think people who engage in statistical studies are endowed with any special gifts of knowledge none of the rest of us have. Pretty much all adults can evaluate statistics, unless their minds have been ruined by faulty educational institutions.

    I think I can claim some authority on statistics (it’s what I’m a professor of), so a couple of comments:
    1. Climatology is about more than statistics. A lot is about modelling the physical processes. There is a lot of physical modelling that goes on.
    2. Of course statisticians are endowed with special gifts of knowledge, it’s what makes us superior beings.
    *ahem*
    More seriously, yes there is a lot of statistical knowledge that a lot of people do not possess. Some of this is well known in numerate circles (you may or may not know about the prosecutor’s fallacy or Simpson’s paradox), some is not (the Hauck-Donner effect is obscure but an absolute menace to the unwary, for example). I’m sure the same is true for climatology: I’m not a climatologist, but I would be astonished if there aren’t aspects of the area that are not well known outside the subject, but which have a large effect on how the experts view climate.

    One of the nice tings about being a statistician is you get to play in everyone else’s backyard. Which means to soon learn that everyone else has a lot of expert knowledge about their area, which should be respected.

  8. 8
    asauber says:

    yes there is a lot of statistical knowledge that a lot of people do not possess

    Inside Baseball?

    Anyway, Bob O’H, aren’t the statistics that are informing the public about Climate Change the same statistics that are informing climate scientists about Climate Change?

    Andrew

  9. 9
    ET says:

    Strange or very telling that climate models have been wrong

  10. 10
    asauber says:

    I guess the clarifying question for Bob O’H is: Should Joe Street Climate Changer rely on expert opinion only? Or should he evaluate the information presented to him?

    Andrew

  11. 11
    asauber says:

    Another follow-up for Prof Bob would be:

    Since you are a Stats Prof, have you evaluated any climate statistics?

    Why or why not?

    Any guess on what the probability is that you might find issues if you did?

    Andrew

  12. 12
    jdk says:

    At 3, asuaber writes, ” Pretty much all adults can evaluate statistics, unless their minds have been ruined by faulty educational institutions.”

    LOL! Stats and probability are one of the least intuitive aspects of mathematics, and it takes quite a bit of education (by educational institutions, I might add) to properly analyze and interpret large data sets.

  13. 13
    asauber says:

    Stats and probability are one of the least intuitive aspects of mathematics, and it takes quite a bit of education (by educational institutions, I might add) to properly analyze and interpret large data sets.

    jdk,

    So I take it you can tell when a large data set has been “properly” analyzed by someone? If you think that person the proper credentials, right?

    Andrew

  14. 14
    asauber says:

    And this is just too funny:

    “Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60 percent (up from 25 percent in May) in the updated outlook, issued today. The likelihood of a near-normal season is now at 30 percent, and the chance of an above-normal season has dropped from 35 percent to 10 percent.”

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/08/09/noaa-forecasters-lower-atlantic-hurricane-season-prediction/

    If it’s NOAA, its got to be good, right? It’s in the letters, ya know.

    Andrew

  15. 15
    jdk says:

    re 13, to asauber: Don’t ask me questions and then answer for me. That is a poor way to have a constructive conversation, and a pretty sure indicator that in fact a constructive conversation is not really desired.

  16. 16
    asauber says:

    What’s funny is that the appearance (or lack thereof) of an actual hurricane totally throws the numbers. 😉

    Andrew

  17. 17
    asauber says:

    a constructive conversation is not really desired

    You’re correct. It’s not.

    Andrew

  18. 18
    jdk says:

    Well that’s clear, and at least you’re honest.

  19. 19
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is a summary of Dr. Curry’s testimony before U.S. Senate a couple of years ago. Please notice how rudely she was treated by Sen. Markey of Massachusetts. Professor Curry a climatologist by training was labeled a denier by Markey who is not a climatologist.

    “Markey must have been a little shocked when climatologist Judith Curry demanded to be able to respond to his testimony trying to discredit her views on climate science,” said author and political commentator Mark Steyn.

    “I did not ask you a question,” Markey, a Democrat, retorted when Curry asked if she could respond to his testimony during a Senate hearing Tuesday on the science behind global warming.

    “Why can’t she respond senator?” Conservative author and columnist Mark Steyn shot back at Markey. “You impugned her integrity. I think she’s entitled to…”

    “I was basically called a ‘denier’ — that I’m denying science,” said Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech University. “Did you read my written testimony?”

    Markey sought to discredit Curry in his testimony by framing her as ignoring the evidence humans are putting the planet at risk. Curry was not happy with essentially being labelled a global warming “denier” and pushed back against the senator’s remarks.

    “Are you aware the IPCC and the consensus has no explanation for the increase of ice in the Antarctic?” Curry said. “Are you aware that they have no explanation for the fact the rate of sea level rise from 1920 to 1950 was as large, if not larger, as it currently is?”

    “Are you aware that temperatures have been warming for more than 200 years, and, that in the 20th Century, 40 percent of the warming occurred before 1950 when carbon dioxide was not a factor in the warming?” Curry continued.

    Curry highlighted even more uncertainties among climate scientists many Democrats and environmentalists are loathe to admit. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has trouble explaining the recent “hiatus” in warming as well as the warming trend before the 1950s.

    “Doctor, as I just said in my testimony — corroborated by Dr. Titley [another witness on the panel] — this is the warmest year ever recorded,” Markey shot back. “Last year was the warmest year ever recorded until this year. This was the warmest November ever recorded. October… was the warmest ever recorded.”

    “You do not have an answer for that,” Markey said before going on to site [sic] Galileo and claim Curry was relying on “something that is perhaps God-made rather than dependent upon something that is man-made” and backed by science.

    “Are you saying there’s no natural variability senator?” Steyn cut in. “There were alligators at the North Pole. What was that? Was that you in your SUV?”

    Markey was forced to acknowledge the planet does in fact warm and cool on its own, but said natural variability is regional and the warming trend “is straight up.”

    “Do you know what the little ice age was senator?” Steyn said to which Markey responded by claiming Boston’s record levels of snow are a product of global warming.

    http://www.steynonline.com/766.....ho-chamber

    Here is a video of the exchange.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh6zDbWMuP0

    “Nuanced” or not (not IMO) she is sceptical of man caused climate change and she has paid a price for that scepticism professionally.

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber @ 9/10 – of course Joe Public should be able to evaluate the information presented to him. But he should, at least, respect the people presenting the information to them: these are people who have spent a lot more time thinking about the data and the issues it has.

  21. 21
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber @ 11 – No, I haven’t looked at climate statistics in any detail. It would take a lot of work to do seriously: I would need to learn much more about climate models, for a starter.

  22. 22
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber @ 14 – what’s funny about that? NOAA have got more data since May, so they have updated their opinions based on that. It’s what rational people do.

  23. 23
    The creationist says:

    BOH@22 I think he’s commenting on NOAA’s predictive powers. Interesting you use the word ‘opinion’.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: it shows instead inability to project accurately on a key issue even across a season, much less decades or centuries ahead; though given where I am, I am quite grateful for a downgrading. I think further to all of this we must recognise that probability values are inherently indices of ignorance, peaking of course when we don’t even know enough to assign a scale (or else when things are flat — as opposed to peaked — across the range of alternative possible outcomes). We need a much more prudent evaluation of our knowledge claims, risk projections and suggested remedies. For instance if on a radical doomsday scenario we empower unaccountable elites to make and enforce big decisions affecting liberty, economic prospects, government and governance, media control and censorship, discrediting of people we maybe should at least listen to etc, we may have a case where the proposed cure is too dangerous to be tried. And those who advocate it show themselves to be actual threats themselves. That, for sure, is the story of Marxism over the past century. On climatology, I suggest we need to acknowledge how little we really know, recognise that computer simulations and projections backed by proxies and likely biased data sets and more are not equal to essentially certain knowledge of reality, and more. It is likely our activities from deforestation to urbanisation to huge fossil fuel burn-off have affected weather patterns from local to global scales and that we should be prudent. That is a very different thing from we know to practical certainty or even moral certainty. I point to the sun’s behaviour, orbital cycles, even ocean and atmosphere decadal oscillations etc. as factors we do not have a firm handle on, to feedback loops and parameters, granularity of models and more. Let us be prudent and let us avoid pretence that ideologised, polarised narratives that are full of targetting of the despised other presented as consensus are safe guides to decision and action. KF

  25. 25
    EvilSnack says:

    To the distinction in the original post, add:

    If you don’t have the expertise, and you hold a minority opinion, you are a curmedgeon.

    If you don’t have the expertise, and you hold the majority opinion, you are a sheep.

  26. 26
    asauber says:

    No, I haven’t looked at climate statistics in any detail. It would take a lot of work to do seriously: I would need to learn much more about climate models, for a starter.

    B’OH thank you for your honest admission of ignorance about all this. Something constructive has emerged on this topic after all.

    Andrew

  27. 27
    john_a_designer says:

    Dr. Judith Curry, a former AGW believer now turned skeptic, posted an article on her website in Dec. 2015 which includes an interesting graph.

    https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/christy_dec8.jpg

    The red line represents what the average of 104 IPCC* computer generated climate models was predicting or forecasting.

    The blue and green lines represent actual data from actual global measurements. The blue is balloon data. The green is satellite data. The real data does show some global warming (the sceptics DO NOT DENY this) however, it does not show the runaway, catastrophic warming the alarmists are predicting with their models. Who is being more rational here? The alarmists who cling to their predictions even though they have been proven wrong time and time again by real world data? Or those who analyse the real data to reach a tentative conclusion?

    Here is the full article:

    https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/17/climate-models-versus-climate-reality/

    If the scientific evidence showed that global warming was being caused by human activity I would not be a sceptic. I am a sceptic BECAUSE of what the scientific data presently shows, which is that any human contribution to global warming is being totally masked by a natural climatic cycle. AGW proponents have yet to provide any solid evidence to support their POV.

    footnote: *The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

  28. 28
    asauber says:

    But I must say B’OH, you are an interesting study, because you tout your expertise in statistics, yet you won’t use it to become familiar with Earth Saving Climate Information, possibly the most important thing there ever was in the history of well… history. 😉

    Andrew

  29. 29
    jdk says:

    Hi Bob. I seriously doubt that asauber has looked at climate statistics in any detail nor knows much about climate models either.

    This kind of lack of expert knowledge about things is true about most of the things we know a little about. Information and knowledge gets condensed, starting with raw data and ending in summaries accessible to the general public. If we refused to claim some educated opinion on anything that we did not know at the expert level, we could talk very little with anyone about anything.

  30. 30
    jdk says:

    Hi Bob. I seriously doubt that asauber has looked at climate statistics in any detail nor knows much about climate models either.

    This kind of lack of expert knowledge about things is true about most of the things we know a little about. Information and knowledge gets condensed, starting with raw data and ending in summaries accessible to the general public. If we refused to claim some educated opinion on anything that we did not know at the expert level, we could talk very little with anyone about anything.

  31. 31
    john_a_designer says:

    jdk,

    Logical arguments are not based on logical fallacies.

    ad ho·mi·nem

    1. (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

  32. 32
    daveS says:

    jdk,

    This kind of lack of expert knowledge about things is true about most of the things we know a little about. Information and knowledge gets condensed, starting with raw data and ending in summaries accessible to the general public. If we refused to claim some educated opinion on anything that we did not know at the expert level, we could talk very little with anyone about anything.

    Yes, and from my perspective as a layman, climate science seems very difficult to approach, because there are so many facets to it. It’s hard to know where to begin. Furthermore, because we’re talking about “global” issues, any isolated “local” facts are not going to suffice.

    I wonder if any constructive dialog is possible in a venue such as this. What do you think would be a reasonable goal? Perhaps examining a single graph or dataset and understanding its importance?

  33. 33
    ET says:

    With climate research we have models that do not reflect reality and predictions which have not come to fruition.

  34. 34
    asauber says:

    as a layman, climate science seems very difficult to approach

    It’s also difficult to approach for some experts we know.

    Andrew

  35. 35
    jdk says:

    re 31, JAD: I don’t know what you’re talking about? What comment of mine are you responding to?

    re 32. Dave, you ask, “I wonder if any constructive dialog is possible in a venue such as this?” I doubt it.

  36. 36
    Marfin says:

    Why did they change its name from Global warming to Climate
    change would it perhaps be that if it gets to cold, to hot,to rainy to dry, to snowy,to huricaney, to tornadoey,these are covered by the great catch all CLIMATE CHANGE, were if we can show the planet is not heating up we can deny global warming hmm I wonder.Recently the national meteorological dept in Ireland made a statement that in this part of the world with the current equipment and models you cannot predict the weather beyond 10 days once again hmm how can they predict what the future holds for planet earth weather wise.

  37. 37
    Marfin says:

    By the way hurricaney and tornadoey = poetic license

  38. 38
    john_a_designer says:

    jdk @ 29 you wrote,

    Hi Bob. I seriously doubt that asauber has looked at climate statistics in any detail nor knows much about climate models either.

    How in the world do you know what asauber knows? Do you know him personally? Well enough to make a judgement about his character? Are you here to make valid fact based arguments or attack other people’s motives and character? That’s ad hominem. If you don’t have something of substance to say why say anything at all?

    Of course, we could make the same criticism of asauber based on his comments to Bob at #28. I have criticized my side here many times in the past for enabling the trolls by counter trolling. (Ironically, the New York Times editorial boards doesn’t think there is anything wrong with mean and vicious counter trolling when someone is defending a far left secular progressive world view.) I find both trolling and counter trolling to be not only inane and stupid but a waste of time. Sadly the trolls of both stripes don’t seem to realize they are even wasting their own time. That is neither ethically or intellectually honest.

  39. 39
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber @ 28 – I’m sorry for not living up to your expectations.

  40. 40
    asauber says:

    I’m sorry for not living up to your expectations.

    B’OH,

    Don’t worry. I’m not blaming you. I’m blaming the bad schooling that enabled your underachieving.

    Andrew

  41. 41
    Bob O'H says:

    What particularly about my schooling was deficient?

  42. 42
    asauber says:

    B’OH,

    I really don’t want to get into a mud-slinging match with you, but it’s obvious that you are one node of the Great Flaming Prog Collective. That doesn’t happen overnight.

    Andrew

  43. 43
    ET says:

    Marfin:

    Global warming: the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases.

    Climate change: a long-term change in the Earth’s climate, or of a region on Earth.

    Any warming due to CO2 is negligible- it only absorbs 8% of what the Earth radiates. And thanks to thermodynamics that only happens when and where the earth’s surface is warmer than the atmosphere. Also thanks to the fact that the CO2 re-emissions are random less than 50% of that 8% would be headed back towards earth. But unless that radiation is warmer than the earth it doesn’t have any effect on its temperature. Again, thermodynamics.

    Climate change- yes it does and has been for a long time.

  44. 44
    OldArmy94 says:

    Since these scientists believe that only those with the proper credentials can determine the veracity of the claims surrounding climate change, then why do they violate their own edict by proposing radical political and social “solutions” to the problem? If they are playing by their own rules, then they should immediately shut up when stepping outside the bounds of their own expertise instead of pretending to be policy makers.

  45. 45
    Bob O'H says:

    *shrug*
    asauber – if you don’t want to get into a mud-slinging match, then I’d suggest you don’t sling mud around. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to not do.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    B O’H:

    Perhaps, 22 – 24 above may help:

    22
    Bob O’HAugust 10, 2018 at 1:42 am

    asauber @ 14 – what’s funny about that? NOAA have got more data since May, so they have updated their opinions based on that. It’s what rational people do.

    23
    The creationistAugust 10, 2018 at 4:42 am

    BOH@22 I think he’s commenting on NOAA’s predictive powers. Interesting you use the word ‘opinion’.

    24
    kairosfocusAugust 10, 2018 at 4:47 am

    BO’H: it shows instead inability to project accurately on a key issue even across a season, much less decades or centuries ahead; though given where I am, I am quite grateful for a downgrading. I think further to all of this we must recognise that probability values are inherently indices of ignorance, peaking of course when we don’t even know enough to assign a scale (or else when things are flat — as opposed to peaked — across the range of alternative possible outcomes). We need a much more prudent evaluation of our knowledge claims, risk projections and suggested remedies. For instance if on a radical doomsday scenario we empower unaccountable elites to make and enforce big decisions affecting liberty, economic prospects, government and governance, media control and censorship, discrediting of people we maybe should at least listen to etc, we may have a case where the proposed cure is too dangerous to be tried. And those who advocate it show themselves to be actual threats themselves. That, for sure, is the story of Marxism over the past century. On climatology, I suggest we need to acknowledge how little we really know, recognise that computer simulations and projections backed by proxies and likely biased data sets and more are not equal to essentially certain knowledge of reality, and more. It is likely our activities from deforestation to urbanisation to huge fossil fuel burn-off have affected weather patterns from local to global scales and that we should be prudent. That is a very different thing from we know to practical certainty or even moral certainty. I point to the sun’s behaviour, orbital cycles, even ocean and atmosphere decadal oscillations etc. as factors we do not have a firm handle on, to feedback loops and parameters, granularity of models and more. Let us be prudent and let us avoid pretence that ideologised, polarised narratives that are full of targetting of the despised other presented as consensus are safe guides to decision and action. KF

    KF

  47. 47
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    if you don’t want to get into a mud-slinging match, then I’d suggest you don’t sling mud around.

    Hypocrite

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