Saturday, February 6, 2010

BBC poll shows shift in public opinion

The Guardian has a comment today. It says:

[The] closing of intellectual ranks witnessed at UEA was serious and, in the end, self-defeating.
That point is made by the briefest glance at the sort of polemical denials which instantly found their way into the mainstream media after the emails first emerged, and was underlined yesterday by a new BBC poll which showed public scepticism has increased since November. What Copenhagen did for the chances of a meaningful climate deal, East Anglia has unwittingly done for the prospects of prevailing in the battle for hearts and minds.

The BBC poll referred to here shows an increase of climate skepticism among the British public. Here are the two graphs:


Carl C said...

hmmm, it reminds me when Gavin Schmidt did a global warming debate with (celebrity author) Michael Crichton -- in front of a friendly i.e. AGW-friendly audience. And after the debate, it turns out Crichton had won over the audience! it just goes to show that personalities & egos can mean more in the scientific/academic fields than actually just doing the "raw" science. there is definitely a lot of scadenfreude over the whole "climategate scandal" which unfortunately will just turn off some people to science.

Hans von Storch said...

I wonder if the situation is like this: Many people know for themselves that man-made climate change can not be. Independent of all scientific results, they somehow feel this, consider it a fact. If true, it would be interesting why they do not trust the science. Part of culture, bad experiences, such as Waldsterben? Concerns that acceptance of the science would have significant consequences for one's way of life?
Of course, there are the others who also know that man is destroying the given world and order, that nature strikes back - that man must repent - also independent of the science.
Now, that doubt seems to become more acceptable, the first group feels better in voicing what they thought all along. Thus, possibly the proportions have not really changed, but the willingness to speak and to signal one's position. Or is this a too simple, naive or constructed explanation? Just a proposition, a hypothesis, maybe useful to begin a discussion.

Carl C said...

I think people need dramatic proof (or worse, horrible disasters). And at least in the US with science, much of it is out-of-hand "questionable" just of the political nature, i.e. many on the right outright reject biological evolution, and don't trust scientists, hence when Jim Hansen runs around screaming about global warming they immediately discount him.

This is why you get McIntyre held up as a hero by these types (and I suppose you as well to some extent ;-) by the very sorts you probably wouldn't want to be associated with, i.e. Sen. James Inofe et al.

But I'm afraid other than the immediate political reaction (i.e. right-wing Republicans dismiss scientists because it will impact taxes/corporations/etc); it really comes down to a "cult of personality" thing. And let's face it, it's not hard to paint scientists as anti-social & egotistical & "out of touch" (hence Crichton winning over the AGW-friendly New York City audience vis-a-vis Schmidt etc).

So in my cynical view it's mainly a "marketing" problem rather than science, hence the UEA "scandal" is akin to a Toyota recall of failed brakes. And the IPCC choosing "worse case scenarios" over again (hockey stick; now "glacier-gate") doesn't help. And there's no real "Carl Sagan" type these days to make scientists look good. My old boss at Oxford is good on telly but, like Sir David Attenborough, he wouldn't "crossover" to an American market. And Jim Hansen just sounds nuts to the average Yank.

And let's face it, isn't the IPCC & AGW battle really about "how do we convince Americans who are dumb enough to vote for George Bush twice?" ;-)

Steve Carson said...

Hans suggested a possibility: "..Now, that doubt seems to become more acceptable, the first group feels better in voicing what they thought all along.."

That might be happening but my experience is a little different.

As anecdotal evidence only, most people I know have only the vaguest notion of what evidence exists that the world is even warming. And as to atmospheric physics.. nothing.

Most of them would say something like: "I think the world is warming and I think humans are largely responsible".

When they find out that sea level has risen 120m in the last 18,000 years they are absolutely amazed. This now shakes their previous confidence in their position. (Imagine what will happen to Prince Charles when someone tells him this..)

The point is that the construction of the AGW belief system for a large majority of people (I don't personally know many skeptics) is based on the flimsiest of foundations. (Ok, this is based my anecdotally small sample..)

Therefore, it is very easy for it to become a belief which is called into question.

Many people have taken it on faith pretty much. Show that the organizations which promoted this faith have a few serious flaws and it's all over for the belief system.

Anonymous said...

It's overselling.

Bjorn said:

Here in Germany, the swing in public opinion about AGW must have occurred earlier. Ten years ago, everybody to whom I was talking to accepted the "A" in AGW. Starting maybe 2-3 years ago, I realized that opinions are very steeply divided into two groups. AGW believers are usually found in sociotopes among people who believe in a strong government and profit from it directly: public service employees, designers, artists. AGW sceptics are usually people working in the private sector, engineers, merchants, craftspeople.

My personal belief why there is such a divide in the German society is that the latter group is by profession more suspicious and cautious when checking facts before acting. They are usually quite allergic against overselling of scientific concepts, inparticular when it comes in combination with new 'eco'-labeled taxes. If researchers such as Schellnhuber (he is the official councellor of the chancellor in climate change issues, what a title...) and Lativ are caught with alarmist statements that are not based on the scientific consensus, even worse for the mainstream climate scientists.

On the other side, any form of 'anti-scientism' is found extremely rarely among private sector people, fortunately. These people adopt modern technologies quickly and are more than proud of their newest tech-toys -- a new BMW or Mercedes, an iPhone or a navigation system, all of which are known to be based on modern physics.

IMO, we do not have a science crisis in Germany but a climate science crises. And, Carl, people here do not want to see more storytellers in Attenborough-style (although he is brillant!). Climate sciences, unlike biology, is happening in a deeply politically contaminated space. Too much money on the table. What we need over here, is more honest brokers and more Hans von Storch in the public debate: a senior scientist who explains soberly what exactly is the level of knowledge and the level of ignorance in the latest scientific findings on climate change. People will believe honest brokers. Good luck Hans!

eduardo said...

@ 3

Carl wrote
'And let's face it, isn't the IPCC & AGW battle really about "how do we convince Americans who are dumb enough to vote for George Bush twice?" ;-)'

This quote prompts me to also ask the following question:
how was it possible that Gore lost to George Bush after a Clinton-Gore presidency that was widely considered to have been successful?
My recalling of that time - I was living in Germany - is that Gore appeared arrogant , distant, imperious, I-know-better-than-you. Actually Bush didn't win, Gore lost.

I am afraid we are seeing the same thing happening again.

Carl C said...

well eduardo, this ties nicely into the point I've been trying to make. Gore wasn't really that bad, but the media had already "constructed" their version of Gore -- i.e. the "wooden", arrogant, imperious and (worst of all) intellectual.

I remember watching his first debate with Bush in '00 and I thought he deconstructed Bush well, and he actually used numbers & facts and Bush was just flustered and screaming about "fuzzy math." Well lo-and-behold -- the "media consensus" was that Gore was "too wooden, intellectual, uninspiring etc"; and made Bush seem "brilliant" because he just didn't collapse into tears.

This similar "victory due to low expectations" occurred with Bush vs Kerry and Sarah Palin vs Joe Biden in the Vice Prez debates in '08. So the media repeated that Gore was a geek who claims to have invented the Internet etc, and Bush was a "regular man of the people" which was a laugh from his overprivileged background.

So what does this have to do with the AGW debate? well basically fluff often wins, hence Sarah Palin, who quit her major political job as governor of Alaska, is the main Repub candidate for Prez in 2012. likewise, Prof. Storch is a highly regarded scientist, but probably won't get onto TV if he doesn't do some "showmanship".

This is why I find the whole PielkeJr/"honest broker" all a bunch of garbage -- since basically there is no "honest" reference point, and a rebuttal to (for example) a Prof. Storch on Fox News or even CNN would be to go to the (unscientific but seemingly omnipresent) right-wing think-tank "expert" (who is just a paid shill) such as Myron Ebell.

The Pielke's of the world basically will insist on a sort of bland honesty which "won't play in Peoria" -- but the "other side" can get away with the most egregious, shameful lies and distortion. But these guys like Ebell (and before he died Crichton) are far savvier with the whole media circus, and scientists can just be "spun" as "out of touch geeks" the same way that they did it for Gore.

It's far more Chomsky "Manufacturing Consent" than Pielke "Honest Broker." I often wonder if Carl Sagan were around today, and a spokesman for AGW, if they would have to rip him down even if he is giving calm, reasoned "honest broker" debate (my guess is they probably would).

(NB -- I'm not sure if this is a problem in Germany or elsewhere in Europe -- I'm speaking from the view within the USA. I don't think Rupert Murdoch owns a major news org in Germany, although even his SkyTV in the UK is a bit more "fair and balanced" than the garbage on his US Fox (Faux) News; probably from his insane friend Roger Ailes).

PS - I'm glad to have discovered this blog as I think it's a good "missing link" in the whole debate, which seems to be either ultra-right/denial/skeptic versus their opposites.

eduardo said...


Certainly the fact that you live in the US and I live in Germany provides us with a different perspective. I have very limited experience with US public opinion - therefore, I may be perfectly wrong in my diagnosis. Werner's opinion, who also lives in the US, nudges me towards a more cautious stance here. This being said...:-) I feel uncomfortable with the explanation of Gore's and Kerry's defeat, or the possible backlash on global warming in the US, simply by the influence of the media. I just read that a whole 40% of the population between 25-35 in the US has completed higher education against just 30% in Europe. I know examples of university professors in the US where where staunch Bush supporters.

In Germany, or Spain for that matter, I cant see very little debate about global warming in the big media, at least until 12 months ago. And yet, what I perceive in my admittedly small sample of friends and colleagues is that it was the exaggerated banging the drum announcing the impending end of the world what has really saturated the public opinion. You simply cannot say sentences like we have '5 years to save the world from disaster' and expect that people believe this. There are many examples of this type of overselling here. The call for urgency doesnt sell well here either. People want to have the feeling that they have something to say if the world has to be completely re-organized.

The recent climate scandals can be very well compared to the Toyota case. If Toyota is pitching cars as infallible, and they happen to be not that perfect, no wonder that customers turn to other manufacturers. It is not a matter of car quality any more, it is a matter of trust. The customers are not to blame because they failed to know that a car can never be built to be a perfect machine.

Similarly , the IPCC cannot say now that the report of Working Group 2 is flawed but WG1 is still perfect. It was sold in a unique package as the most scrutinized scientific report ever. It is indeed a PR blunder, I would say a disaster, and it is all too inevitable that many vested interested are trying to capitalize on it. Is this a surprise ?

The solution had been either to present the report in a different way or to really write the best scrutinized scientific document ever. None of these happened.

Don Shor said...

Gore won the popular vote by over 500,000 votes nationwide in 2000, but lost in the electoral college due to a tie in Florida which was settled by the Supreme Court.
AGW is not perceived as a high priority issue by Americans. In fact, it usually ranks last on nearly any list of issues in public opinion surveys.

Don Shor said...

A reference:

Werner Krauss said...

Why not have the BBC poll as the next Klimazwiebel poll?

Werner Krauss said...

Reading the previous comments, I come to the conclusion that there is a problem with people's BBC vote. They should have answered differently. But how exactly? What exactly should good and educated people think about anthropogenic global warming?
Here some guidelines from what I learned as an old Klimazwiebel reader:

- should not believe in the IPCC
- should not believe Pachauri
- should not believe Stern
- should not believe Jones, Mann and their friends
- should not believe in alarmism
- should not be afraid that Himalaya glaciers melt away
- should (not?) be afraid that sea levels rise
- should be glad that Copenhagen failed (for above reasons)
- should believe in honest brokers
- should follow von Storch except when he is wrong
- should follow Pielke jr. except when he is wrong
- should not follow (anonymous) except when he is right (minority position!)
- should not follow Al Gore (except when he runs for president)
- should discuss with skeptics (but not believe everything except all points above)
- should believe in objective science (is done by honest people and engineers)
- should not believe in junk science (is done by dishonest people and engineers)
- should not believe in the one model whose name I forgot, but it is notoriously unreliable
- should believe in the results of the other model (the good, objective one), but only when it is run by Eduardo
- should not believe in the hockey stick (except in the sledge and when used in ice-hockey)

Yes, you are right, it is so simple. Folks out there are really stupid. Why don't they vote correctly? Of course they should believe in anthropogenic climate change under the condition of...see above. Don't they read klimazwiebel?

Anonymous said...

Hans. In your comment 2 above, you say: "I wonder if the situation is like this: Many people know for themselves that man-made climate change can not be. Independent of all scientific results, they somehow feel this, consider it a fact. If true, it would be interesting why they do not trust the science. Part of culture, bad experiences, such as Waldsterben? Concerns that acceptance of the science would have significant consequences for one's way of life?"

If I can be frank, I find your statement astounding. Speaking personally, the reason that I don't trust much of the science (not all) is for the reasons that have been revealed over the past few years at Climate Audit, The Air Vent, Lucia's Blackboard and similar sites.

First, Al Gore and Stephen Schneider have both made prominents statements to the effect that the problems facing mankind are so serious, that it is necessary to exaggerate the problems in order to alarm the public and to gain the attention of governments.

Second, as has been revealed by the CRU e:mails and the revelations lately about the poor quality of the IPCC reports lately (Himalayan glaciers, Amazon rain forest, disasters, and now African issues) it has become abundantly clear that that many of those telling us about the science have an agenda, and are resorting to misleading or even false statements in order to try to alarm us.

Third. Rational scientists like Roger Pielke Sr have argued that man is likely having impacts on climate, but that it is land-use factors that are likely most important while CO2 is at least unproven as a factor, and likely to be only a modest contributor.

Fourth. Many 'climate scientists' associated with the IPCC, and particularly those dubbed 'the team' have clearly been refusing to comply with normal standards expected in science relating to provision of data/methods/code which has led to the FOI imbroglios.

Fifth. The 'leading' science journals in the area of climate, and main stream media have clearly been captured by the alarmist stuff from the IPCC, and they have refused to give a fair hearing to sceptic voices.

This (and much more) has all emerged in recent months. You ask me why I don't trust all of the science. I hope that I have given you some flavour as to why not.

Carl C said...

eduardo, I'm afraid that you're just really underestimating the power of the commercial media in the US. I lived in the UK for 5 years, and Germany for a few months (not much I know!) - and the skepticism of media sources seems to be much higher than in the US. As an example, you may have heard that 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein/Iraq was behind the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. of course that fit in nicely with what our "dear leaders" wanted us to believe.

but anyway, back to AGW, I personally think the truth is that we are heading for warmer (maybe interesting ;-) times; and probably not at the alarmist/Hansen/Schnellenhubr/tipping point rate. And I think there's been enough doubt sowed, whether from Exxon or "climategate" that people won't really do much of anything preventive -- so we may unfortunately (hopefully not) see a future with some horrible "Haiti-type" disasters where we're trying to do disaster recovery after a major catastrophe hits. and maybe my old boss will be able to pin it on Exxon via detection/attribution studies someday! ;-)

Werner Krauss said...

to Anonymous: I agree with you (sic!) that Hans' question is really strange. Hans, didn't you only a few days ago state that climate science & the IPCC lost lots of their credibility through recent scandals? And now you ask why people are critical of climate science and the IPCC? Maybe because of exactly the loss of credibility you stated? (and not because of some diffuse 'culture' or Waldsterben or whatever)

Furthermore, how come that experts in statistics give a simple populist BBC poll so much credibility? Any critique of sources, how many people were asked, what was the context, who was asked, etc etc.? First the British press shoots with all its canons at Pachauri and Jones etc, and then the BBC comes with a questionnaire!!! I hope that climate researchers are a little bit more cautious and critical when they interpret their own statistics gained from tree rings and other proxis!
Unfortunately, I do not agree with your other points, Anonymous. Sounds too much like conspiracy theory to me.

Werner Krauss said...

by the way, here just a short collection from my memory what I read these days in the Daily Telegraph and other British newspapers:
Pachauri wears an expensive Armani suit, he lives in a luxury house in the gulf link (wherever that is), he is a vegetarian(!) Hindu and published recently a novel with slippery sexual content (excerpts in the Telegraph). These are just some additional infos to the headlines that he gains a lot of personal profit out of the IPCC business and from the glacier story.
The good ol' British Empire, the good ol' British press. Did you ever hear the technical term in literary studies called 'orientalism'? It means that the colonizers created certain stereotypes of the colonized, not all of them positive. The image of Pachauri in the British press represents perfectly every negative stereotype of the Oriental man that a white colonial soul ever could imagine.

Sure, maybe some or all accusations are true, and Pachauri should resign from chair of IPCC. Maybe he could be replaced by some proper white Englishman, such as the former IPCC chair Sir John T. Houghton, who once presented the nobel prize winning IPCC report standing before a huge Christian cross? Would that help to re-establish lost credibility?

Climate science is a cultural activity, too. Believe it or not.

Anna said...

@12, Werner, you really do have a point here! ;)

@ 13, I agree with most of your statements. There are way too many fishy things going on in climate science and the IPCC.

I don't think it would be rational at all to keep ones trust when there are odder and odder things revealed. In stead that would be naive and rather stupid.

And in overselling catastrophe AGW loses the intelligent people.

Hans Von Storch, perhaps a few people act in the way you suggest, but I agree with no 13 and 15 that this speculation is very odd... Kudos for sharing it though!
I think the solution is much simpler than that, agree with no 13, and with Werner who is simply quoting your earlier posts....

P Gosselin said...

Those who attribute the collapse to "celebrity authors" or "distrust of science" or whatever, simply miss or refuse to see the point. People disregard the AGW hypothesis because the science isn't there to support it. And what is there is fraudulent and exaggerated (think Mann and Gore).

And it only isn't in the US that people are seeing the lack of science. Here's an intersting commentary:

Another point: Maybe Americans were dumb enough to vote for Bush twice. But at least they were clever enough not to vote for Gore once.
And a 535 vote margin in Florida is not a tie, unless of course you work at GISS or Hadley.

P Gosselin said...

eduardo and others,
I've been fortunate enough to have lived a good many years in both countries, USA and Germany. Carl's views are not uncommon in the USA. But so are other views. And as a result the AGW position has lost.
Yet, these real denialists prefer to blame such things as "fluff" or an elecorate that is too "dumb" for the scepticism rather than admitting the science is hopelessy weak and unconvincing.
My children go to school here in Germany and they had to watch AIT in classes like Chemistry and Geography (now talk about an argument for home-schooling!).
Of course, I did not sit idly by. My daughter made a presentation showing the other view. Not only was the teacher impressed, he bumped her up a grade - and the pupils in the classroom all agreed with her. Myth dispelled in 20 minutes. That's what happened at the NPR debate as well.
Sadly I think the science situation at German Gymnasiums is in a sorry state. When films like AIT are presented in science classes, and groups like German Watch are allowed to peddle their pornography as science, then you really have to wonder what spell has yet again befallen the German Volk.

Hans von Storch said...

Folks - I am pleased to see that I caused with my comment (no. 2) some confusion. Indeed, I tried a different angle for interpreting the survey. Does it really contradict my previous statements, as expressed in Werner's question "didn't you only a few days ago state that climate science & the IPCC lost lots of their credibility through recent scandals?"? And, indeed, was my previous statement possibly wrong? That really the credibility was all the time not as high as we perceived it, but people did not dare to express doubts about what was presented as most credible?

It is always useful to try out a different approach when analysing a situation, even if we think we have already a solution.

Hans von Storch said...

I like Werner's analysis (16) of Pachauri being described as a stereotype of the Empire's view. Even if he is incompentent as IPCC Chair (because he fails to deal appropriately with crises), this does not imply that he is not a reputable person.

Werner refers to Houghton - "former IPCC chair Sir John T. Houghton, who once presented the nobel prize winning IPCC report standing before a huge Christian cross?" - I knew that he unfortunately mixed his Christian mission with the science, which was inappropriate. - Do you have that article incl. the mentioned photo?

What about the first chairman Bert Bolin? Actually, he was my student (sat in a lecture I gave as a guest lecturer in course about the history of climate science at Stockholm U). I remember a pleasant and intriguing discussion with this old gentleman afterwards. :-)

Unknown said...

@Werner #12 nice, nice...

but you forgot one: thou shalt not believe in the hockeystick, except some study is using it (or a derivative of it) to show the CO2 feedback is maybe less then thought.

"Double Think" makes the live so easy.

eduardo said...

@ 22
Dear ghost,

you are probably referring to the recent Frank paper in Nature. This study indeed used the Mann et al reconstruction, together with other 8 reconstructions, thus acknowledging the existing uncertainty. This is different to touting it as the *only* one reconstruction.

eduardo said...

About US politics and politicians... One Republican congressman quotes the oldest climate report assessing the consequences of a flood which Noah survived: 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man.. never again will I destroy all living creatures'.

According to this congressman, this quote assures that the Earth is protected from all climate risks. Apart from this, the IPCC could also draw a lesson from this quote: to estimate the impacts of climate change is very tricky, even if this climate change was brought about by your own hand.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Let me also speculate a little about the BBC poll results, as posted above.

As someone who lives in the UK I can tell you that we have a very peculiar situation with regard to the role and status of the BBC and the MET office. Both are seen as world leading as regards news and weather services. Both are closely linked.

Expectations are therefore high.
Before Copenhagen the MET office famously said that the last decade was the hottest on record. It also predicted a mild winter, after having predicted a barbecue summer. The BBC poll was conducted in the midst of one of the harshest winters for decades.

The MET office also maintains the temperature record and was therefore implicated in the CRU scandal (in the perception of some parts of the public).

All these little anecdotes may have triggered some of the sceptical responses, at least on the part of people who are not so well informed or do not care too much.

On the other hand, there are people who do read a lot and are uncertain in their opinion. They know, for example, that one should not confuse weather with climate... but they also know that they will always be reminded that a very hot summer has to be seen as an indication that climate change is happening.

My suspicion is that some (many?) people in this category also have been encouraged to voice their scepticism (as Hans rightly indicates, there is now a climate for such opinions).

In case someone thinks I am defending or accusing something or someone -- rest assured: I do not. Just trying to be 'objective' and 'scientific' ;-)

To answer the hypotheses I have drawn up one would need to do more research, both through surveys and qualitative interviews.

Unknown said...


you are saying, the IPCC successfully corrected in its last report a mistake that was made in the 2001 report. Frank et al used the reconstructions presented in the IPCC report 2007.

Okay. I think the paleoclimate chapter has improved a lot if I compare 2001 to 2007. Do you agree with that?

eduardo said...

dear ghost,

do you mean by mistake the fact that in 2001 the hocky-stick was prominent and in 2007 it was not? yes, i think the IPCC corrected that mistake. and yes, I also think that the paleo chapter was better - perhaps you were engaged in the writing :-).

To be honest, I do think that Briffa and Osborn (I guess you are referring to the section on the last 2000 years) did a very good job in very difficult circumstances, and I think that Tim Osborn are in some sense silent 'heroes' in this story. Although everything can be improved in retrospective, they navigated quite well through the mine field.
My opinion, anyway.

Unknown said...

many thanks for your answer.

yes, exactly that is the mistake, I was referring to. I read in different real science blogs that it was a mistake.

no, no, I was not evolved, I am not a scientist... just my observation as an outsider: more works, more discussions, more explanations, more everything. But of course, therefore I cannot see the subtleties.

My real question as lay person is therefore: is this because the science advanced considerably in the time from 2000 to 2007? They cite a lot of works made after 2000 or 2001, none from the 90s except Mann and Jones et al. Or was the 2001 report so bad and did not mention works that were different to the original hockeystick or the problems of the new(?) approach? Okay, you mentioned the pressure in this topic, I think it is at least a mixture. It is strange that there is such pressure.

You praised a bit Keith Briffa and Osborne several times after the email hack. That I am missing here sometimes: showing the good sides in the IPCC, CRU, and climate science in general. Thanks for your honest answer again.

And a last point, I always thought all curves in the "spaghetti graph" are more or less strange hockeysticks. Some show more some less variation. Therefore I came up with my adapted hockeystick rule. I considered Manns curve always as one among others. Maybe, because I started looking into climate science in 2003 or 2004.

eduardo said...

@ 28

In 2003 the Esper, Cook and Schweingruber paper was published in Science. You may want to read the carefully selected email exchange that this publication prompted. It is interesting because it reveals aspects about peer review, the state of the 'atmosphere' at that time, and where the 'pressure' came from. Certainly, not from CRU

Unknown said...

not sure, if I found the right ones... (actually, I do not want to read them ;)) but some emails just sadden me a bit. They show a narrow mind and a quite strong aggressiveness, IMHO. I do not have to say the names? Does the pressure come only from this one source? Hm... Okay, I see the mine field

I see in many emails this behavior slowed the progress and distracted from real problems and interesting things in the papers. One mail from Keith Briffa to Jesse Smith shows this quite clearly.

It is all totally irrational for me. Strange, strange. I saw only, black "skeptics" with conspiracy and fraud stories (most are just idiots, I am sorry), and white science. Hm, some gray is there.

Thanks again, that makes it a little bit clearer for me. This behavior did not help in the public debate at all.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

We are probably talking about emails like the following (correct me if I am wrong): Michael Mann (1133532909)

"thought you all would be interested in this. Esper et al have played
right into the hands of the contrarians:,2933,177380,00.html

The wording o their abstract is franklyjust irresponsible..."

What does the abstract say?

Unknown said...


that example is sad, because it shows also the dishonesty of the "skeptics". They deliberately misrepresent scientific results and take quotes out of context. That is a big problem in the debate, but I think, it must not be considered in scientific papers. There, you are right. If idiots misrepresent results, then they are idiots. Blogs like realclimate should explain this.

I found another part more troublesome (maybe it is connected), it was a email from Briffa to Smith reviewing the Esper et al. paper:

That does not look like a healthy atmosphere and real problems and real interesting things seemed to be buried under personal(?) (political(?), paranoid(?)) interests. I read an open EGU review, which showed the similar problem mentioned by Briffa here.

Interesting is: Briffa has been vilified by Steve McIntyre and the echo chamber and so-called documentaries for some years now. The emails show a totally different picture. Does this change your opinion about McIntyre, Watts, or Bishop Hill.

Everything IMHO as an outsider, of course. Actually, I really do not care so much about the personality of the scientists as long as the result do not suffer.

eduardo said...

@ 31


Mann is cross with Esper's paper because it shows more temperature variability in the past, and this would contradict the 'hockey-stick' idea.
Mann says, however, a different thing: 'that it would play into the hands of the contrarians' which is not necessarily true. It is subtle aspect here: if the higher variability is internally (chaotic) then the contrarians would argue that even the present warming could be internally generated. If, on the other hand, the past variability is externally forced, for instance, by solar forcing, high past variability would indicate higher climate sensitivity.

So Esper's papers can be interpreted in either way, because other related scientific questions are not known.

The same caveats apply to the von Storch et al paper in 2004. Mann and realclimate could have chosen to explain this nuance or even say outright that last pat variations indicate high sensivity. Instead, they confronted quite aggressively both papers.

Because they supported contrarians claims? No. I think they did it because thesetwo papers didnt support the hockey stick view, which had been elevated to be the standard truth.

Marco said...

@ghost: you and Reiner are discussing two different Esper et al papers. Reiner's quote refers to the Esper et al 2005 paper in Quaternary Science Reviews, while your quote refers to a completely different paper.

The abstract of the Esper et al 2005 paper is probably considered irresponsible by Mann, as it suggests that the studies would have an impact on the impact of Kyoto. This, however, depends on the forcings at work during the MWP. If the climate *without* any external forcings (that includes solar forcing) would indeed show the high variability as shown in some reconstructions, this would indeed reduce CO2 climate sensitivity, and hence the impact of Kyoto. However, none of the reconstruction articles discuss forcings to my knowledge, so in that sense Esper et al's conclusion is pure speculation.

Unknown said...

"The same caveats apply to the von Storch et al paper in 2004. Instead, they confronted quite aggressively both papers.
think they did it because these two papers didnt support the hockey stick view, which had been elevated to be the standard truth."

I thought always, things like the Wegman report were reasons of the aggressiveness and defensive discussion style against this paper and others. Of course, that is also not an excuse.

On the other hand, Gavin and others said several times in comments in the last years, more variability could mean a higher climate sensitivity which we would not like.

yes, I was referring to the Science review 2002. And I think, nobody should be afraid of to "offend" some groups by new, real findings.