Why the climate change campaign failed – Scientists demonstrate

Why the climate change campaign failed – Scientists demonstrate



Summary: Why has the vast investment over 30 years produced little action in the campaign for policy action to fight climate change? Listen to climate scientists to learn one reason for this failure. Here is one day on Twitter, typical conversations in the decayed wreckage of a once great but still vital science. It’s a sad story, with no signs of getting better. But it’s not over yet.

“First, science places the burden of proof on the claimant. Second, the proof for a claim must in some sense be commensurate with the character of the claim. Thus, an extraordinary claim requires ‘extraordinary’ (meaning stronger than usual) proof.”
— Marcello Truzzi in Zetetic Scholar, August 1987 (text here).

How to Save the WorldHow to Save the World

Example #1 of climate science in action.

Thirty Years On, How Well Do Global Warming Predictions Stand Up?

An op-ed in the WSJ by Pat Michaels and Ryan Maue.
“James Hansen issued dire warnings in the summer of 1988. Today earth is only modestly warmer.”

This op-ed attracted a lot of attention from scientists. Such as this tweet.

An eminent climate scientists replied, as so many have replied to such unprofessional attacks.

Anchukaitis jumped into the discussion at a later point.

Anchukaitis deploys the universal defense of modern climate science against criticism: “deniers!” This is odd. I am a dogmatic supporter of the IPCC and major climate agencies. But after 30 years of massive effort with almost no policy action, I believe a change of tactics is needed. To Anchukaitis, that is “denial.” In a nutshell, that’s why 30 years of massive effort has failed to produce action.

Bio: Kevin Anchukaitis is an associate professor at the University of Arizona (see his University profile page).

A reminder from the past

“In response to a request for supporting data, Philip Jones, a prominent researcher {U of East Anglia} said ‘We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?’”

– Testimony of Stephen McIntyre before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (the July 2006 hearings which produced the Wegman Report). Jones has not publicly denied it, so far as I see.

Example #2 of climate science in action

Another tweet about that WSJ op-ed.

Nick Coweren tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.Nick Coweren tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.

That seemed an odd claim. It does not agree with the NOAA data, and short-term climate changes are almost impossible to attribute to human action. So I sent a Tweet showing NOAA’s global surface temperature.

Cowern blocked me – for showing NOAA data that contradicted his tweet. See the offensive graph below from NOAA’s excellent Climate At A Glance website. Note they calculate the 2000-2014 trend as 0.12°C per decade (probably statistically insignificant, and within the instrument network’s margin of error). The graph shows the El Nino spike – and its fall, perhaps returning to the 2000-2014 trendline.

Global Surface Temperature graph from NOAAGlobal Surface Temperature graph from NOAA

Bio: Nick Cowern is a professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Newcastle University. See LinkedIn.

Another reminder from the past

“The time for debate has ended”
— Marcia McNutt (then editor-in-Chief of Science, now President of the NAS) in “The beyond-two-degree inferno“, editorial in Science, 3 July 2015.

Declaring that the debate is over: it is a favorite tactic of climate advocates (see more about this pitiful article). After thirty years, it had not worked. But they keep trying.


Example #3 of climate science in action

Anthony Purcell was acrimoniously attacking Roger Pielke Sr. about the role of CO2 in climate dynamics. Here are three of his salvos.

Anthony Purcell replies to Roger Pielke Sr.Anthony Purcell replies to Roger Pielke Sr.

There is not much to be said about that tweet. It’s beyond rational rebuttal. Another one is more substantial.

Anthony Purcell tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.Anthony Purcell tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.

That is an odd tweet. That a CO2 increase was detected in the 1930s does not mean that it had a significant effect on the climate (the IPCC’s reports make no such claim). The melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets in the 1850s was a retreat from their expansion during the Little Ice Age (whose causes are still debated, but it wasn’t CO2). This other tweet is also material, asking an important question.

Anthony Purcell tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.Anthony Purcell tweet to Roger Pielke Sr.

Pielke Sr. is too modest to give an adequate reply. Hence my two tweets answering Purcell’s question.

In one sentence, Purcell’s reply shows the essence of the climate science policy debate – and why most the US public still ranks climate change as a low priority vs. our other problems.

Citing a climate scientist’s publications and professional record – in response to Purcell’s question – gets a schoolyard insult. And, in the fashion of climate sciences, he blocked me.

Andrew Dessler jumped into the discussion with this tweet …

This is odd. First, Pielke’s Iron Law says “While people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits.” Explained in his book The Climate Fix (see below). Dessler is not even close. Second, he appears to believe that is a universal defense of climate scientists against any criticism. But he did reply.

Bio: Purcell is a research fellow at the School of Earth Science at Australian National University. Bio here.

Bio: Andrew Dessler is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A and M (his page at the university website).

System FailureSystem Failure

The last word on these sad stories

“Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory — an event which would have refuted the theory.”
— Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963).

(Update) I could post more and even worse tweets from climate scientists in these threads, but pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter.

This is the public face of climate science today: tribal, defensive, discussion by invective, dismissive of contrary data. More like a priesthood than a community of scientists. Having corresponded or worked with many climate scientists during the past decade, I found that most are diligent, responsive to inquiries, and open about their work. But a large fraction – including many of the field’s leaders – are not. Their responses to inquiries and responses is the opposite of what the public expects in public policy debates about the fate of the world, especially when proposing solutions requiring vast resources and perhaps restructuring of the world economy.

For thirty years this has been the nature of the climate science advocacy. Naturally, they have little to show for it. Mike Bastasch (reporter for the Daily Caller) gave the last word on this sad story.

In the past decade I have written 400+ posts about the climate wars, as a stalwart (or dogmatic) supporter of the IPCC and major climate agencies. So I do not agree with this statement by Brandon Shollenberger. But events have forced me to see that his is a rational response to climate scientists’ behavior during the past 30 years.

“My view regarding global warming has always been very simple: the people who claim it is a serious threat act in such a bizarre way, I don’t believe them.” {Shollenberger has written a series of books about the climate wars; the most recent is A Disgrace to Skepticism.

Mistakes at the start often put a project on the wrong path. But it is not too late to restart the policy debate.

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

Superforest,Climate Change

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