Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rob Maris' survey among skeptics

Skeptics Survey Analysis

From September 26th until October 11nd, a survey has been run with the focus on “Skeptics”: what do they think etc. The survey was responded to quite well, with almost 500 full responses and another 173 partial responses. After validity/plausibility checking of all records, 578 records are left as useful.

It must be emphasized that this is not a representative survey; to begin with, we have no generally accepted definition of what a “skeptic” constitutes. Instead we have simply asked in the introduction “Do you consider yourself a skeptic?”, and invited for responses only if this question was positively answered. However, we consider our survey useful, as it provides a number of hypotheses about this unknown population of “skeptics”, and it is hoped that social scientists may have a starting point to seriously engage in research about this socio-political phenomenon.
- The complete survey text is contained in this pdf document that contains the detailed statistics
 - A web presentation of the statistics is here.

A note regarding the survey setup
Some survey participants have complained – not only on this site – demonstrating that a checking by a native speaker would have improved readability. Others said that the survey be “clunky” or so. Regarding this: it was not the intention to set up a “simple” survey. Simple surveys that are freely accessible in the internet lack representativeness in their statistics. They tend to attract people having an extra motivation to express their opinions. This was also the reason to make most of the questions mandatory. Anybody who was interested to see the questions on subsequent pages had to fill out 7 mandatory questions. Page 2 requested more attendance – but what would you expect from a classic computer game where you reach next level?

In order to get an impression of seriousness of individual attendants, it was asked whether winter 2010 was a reason to get to skeptics (should not – only 2,4% ticked here), or whether is considered a good place for skeptics (should not , it is a warmist's site – indeed 21% of all participants ticked content OK or “hm”).

About additional data retrieved from the responses
According to the recorded IP-numbers the following frequency distribution according to major cultural regions was derived. Please take notice of the terminology used here. You will encounter it below as well as in the statistics itself. Adapting to common shortform terms the definition is:

Anglo North America and Australia 180
Asia Asia 5
Eur/ang UK and Ireland 51
Euro Continental Europe;342

Normally, “anglo” represents the whole anglo-american culture area. Here the european “anglos” are separated, simply to review the statistics. Asia is not taken into account in detail statistics. About the same grouping into areas was used in my March survey.

Further, most response records contain information about the web site the attendants used to reach the survey (so called 'referrers'). In several cases, other web-sites placed a direct link to our survey – they show up in our distribution.

Note: only a few referrer sites are recorded, simply due to the fact that the survey is not actively promoted.
Interesting filtered response distributions on the cultural region or referrer site are listed in the statistics summary below.

Statistics Summary
The average time to fill out the survey was approx. 6-7 minutes.

Q1: The (roughly) reason for being a skeptic.
The answers to this question show that 2/3 are skeptic because they find that knowledge about the earth's climate system would be insufficient for legitimating mitigation measures. Only 12% respond that what present knowledge claims is mainly wrong. Climate scientists (11 respondents declare themselves as belonging to this category) were more rigorous than other respondents: 36% tick “mainly wrong”.

Q2: How long engaged/interested in climatic issues?
25% of the respondents became interested after the hot news issue of IPCC2007. Most layman are no longer than 10 years, and the skeptical scientists are generally engaged for a longer time.

Q.3: Initial opinion upon first contact with climatic issues?
There is a clear warmist (38%)/”neutral” tendency. There are some differences when the statistics are filtered according to education background, cultural region or referrer – but not truly significant for the purpose of this survey.

Q.4 Which experience had respondents upon having asked their first critical questions?
Two of the six possible answers were clearly on top of the votes:
- The answer was an attempt to promote a political point of view (35%)
- The answer showed limited competence of the other side.
“Anglos” complain more about limited competence than Europeans; they however claim to have encountered more often frequent “ignorance”. An indication of some “ivory tower” mentality among European scientists?

Q.5 How did attendants get to skepticism?
As was expected, internet resources was the most ticked choice in this multiple-options question (63%). The hockey stick discussion also represents a major factor. Both of these are clearly less a factor for skeptical climate scientists (internet 27%); for these scientific publications are an important factor (up to 69%).
Interestingly, laymen are most impressed by Al Gore's “Inconvenient truth” – as a key driver for becoming a skeptic.

Q.6 What is the tendency, related to the past two years?
A vast majority (74%) tends clearly towards skepticism in this time scale. Attendants from web pages as and nelson.blogspot as well as are ticked around 83% (or even 100%).
There is no significant deviation when filtered through the different education levels.

Q.7 The scientific background
Three main categories (layman, engineer and scientist) were defined, the academic ones subdivided in three “expert” levels.
This question serves to provide an analysis aid for other questions. The (link) response statistics as referred to above contains a matrix where this background is compared with cultural region. Laymen are about equally well represented in the different regions.

Q.8 Twentyone statements where the respondent's opinion was requested
Here we discuss only a selection of questions which went with interesting results. For the purpose of this summary they are grouped in six groups (as in the statistics report).

Technical Statements
Just a small majority agreed that CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect (8a). Skeptical Klimazwiebel readers agree to 72%. On the other end of the scale we find at 29% agree, and a high 38% disagree figure compared to others. It is also apparent, that respondents from Anglo countries incl. Britain agree to 71%, while continental Europe agrees to only 42%.
Interesting is also, that the rate of “agree” is proportional to the education level: range from 50% to 73%.
There is high consensus that weather extremes (8b) are NOT occurring more frequently today.
Whether climate forecasts are able to provide knowledge about the future (8o) is declined by a clear majority.

IPCC report statements
Regarding the statement about the very relevance of the recently revealed IPCC report failures (8d), 59% say that these failures have significant relevance. This is almost uniform across education levels. Continental Europeans vs. “Anglos” agree with 50% resp. 71%. A detail figure: a high 39% of nelson.blogspot readers (average = 24%) say that most of the 2007 report (8e) is incorrect.

Perception about rigidness of opinions
When asking about the openness of warmists resp. skeptics to new insights (don't change opinions until hard facts occur), it is interesting to see that the “other” camp is assumed to be more stubborn than people from the “own” camp: Warmists (8f) are believed by 67% of skeptics to not “change opinions until hard facts occur” while skeptics (8g) are by 38% believed to change opinions. The respondent's own “agree” figure: 29% (vs. 31% not agree - 8h), and British respondents tend to find themselves far less stubborn (14%).

Should mitigation measures mainly be based on the recommendations of scientists (8m)? A minor 21% agrees. Continental Europeans agree to 29%, while all others only to 11%. Engineers also tend to disagree.
The alternative: open disputations at many places (8n) goes at 47%/21% agree/disagree rate, but it appears that skeptical continental Europeans agree to a lesser extent – almost complementary to the former question. They seem to trust scientists more.
Whether uncertainties in climatic scenario forecasts legitimate the implementation of provisional mitigation measures (8j), most of the respondents declined (61% no, 9% yes). This is in accordance with the response to Question 1.
A clear majority does not agree (> 65%) that avoiding risks is better than adapting to a changing climate (8p) or – a comparable question – that the present climate has to be conserved (8q).

Warmists are assumed to tend to “left-sided” political attitude, while skeptics tend to favor a liberal economy (8i) – this pattern of answers confirms the results from the March survey: 44% agree to this statement (the march survey attested 0.32 correlation).
The climate debate is highly seen as a political debate (8s, 78%). Whether it is also a scientific debate is considered differently: Again skeptical continental Europeans differ, here 12% agree rate (others: 29%).

Energy related statements
Trading CO2 emission certificates (8k) is clearly treated as a nonsense measure by skeptics. The agreement to the claim that we cannot secure our energy supply without fossil fuels is among skeptical continental Europeans 56%, and thus smaller than among others 68%.

Q.9 Who are the big names in the skeptic world?
Clear winners: Stephen McIntyre and Richard Lindzen. Anthony Watts and others follow with a certain distance.
In 71 responses, an additional name was mentioned – with Henrik Svensmark and Joanne Nova most frequent.

Q.10 Surveying the internet reading resources
A open answer option should have been included with this question, too. Due to a technical limitation this could unfortunately not be included.
Both in terms of visiting frequency and content review, Anthony Watt's web site is the top location for skeptics.
It is also apparent that is a “must check” resource for many survey participants. Quite possibly, many skeptics get the feed from here for maintaining their counterpositions.
Regarding klimazwiebel: Nice to see that for a big part the content is acknowledged as OK.

A final word: Seen the 15% total population that acknowledged content of and as OK, I tested the statistics without these records. Probably 15% warmists had attended the survey. It is found that the statistics without these 15% makes only minor differences.

Regarding the cultural areas: the survey results confirm that British attendants can in fact be categorized in the more general “anglo” category, since their figures mostly correlate with the anglo category in this analysis.


Mathis Hampel said...

nice work!
+just a minor point: why use three dimensional diagrams (obviously distorting) if the information is better presented in two dimensions?

Peter Heller said...

Mathis: Which diagram is distorting and why?

I used the 3D graphic functions of Excel only, because they look nice in my opinion. I think, its purely a matter of taste.

Anonymous said...

"Regarding klimazwiebel: Nice to see that for a big part the content is acknowledged as OK."r

We thank YOU! :-)


Anonymous said...

I am surprised at the low/ almost non existent response from Germany. Have people there especially the educated engineers been brain washed or do they not receive a suitable level of education at University.
I do not look very much at this web site because I find the level of intelligent discuss very low. I expected a bit better from Dr von Storch. However, I did fill out the survey for interest. At the Air Vent some time ago there was a discussion concerning attitudes to the so-called "Climate science". It was was enlightening to note the number of highly technically qualified posters which included many engineers and PHD scientists with knowledge of thermodynamics and other basic technical subjects.
From my knowledge and reading there is/has been no contributors to IPCC reports who have even a small knowledge of the complexity of climate. There has been a number of papers which have shown that everyone of the models give poor predictions all in the direction of exaggerated warming because everyone of them assumes that increasing CO2 is a reason for increasing temperature. However, it has been shown that CO2 lags temperature both in the short term (daily) and in the long term (thousands of years).
Engineer with only a small German language (mainly technical) knowledge

Anonymous said...

@ comment #4 (Anonymous),

I -- as someone who had not participated in this survey -- confine myself for now to just two of your points:

• "been brain washed":

I'm not aware of any university which would still teach that a concept of "brainwashing" is realisable -- at least, it seems to me to be consensus nowadays that the majority agrees that brainwashing is not realisable so long as the person which shall be brainwashed disagrees. I don't know if this agreement/consensus is conclusively justified.

• "CO2 lag":

Needless to say that some namable scientists in a kneejerk response found at a rapid pace an/their answer to this CO2 lag but this process of discoveries reminds me a bit of what Albert Camus observed in The Myth of Sisyphus relating to meteorology (cf. here):

      "You have already changed theories. So that science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art."

As a sideline to "so-called 'Climate science': In Germany exists near enough no noticeable attempt to conduct a balanced debate -- particularly it is missed in the all too well known science(y) "teams" or the (sciencey) media.


eduardo said...

@ 4

It seems that the problem of engineers brain-washing is not restricted to Germany.

We will keep searching for a lag-relationship between temperature and CO2 at the daily scale and report to the World Association of Engineers

Lucia said...

Are the "brainwashed" engineers the ones who are skeptical AGW? Or the ones who are not skeptical of AGW?

ghost said...

"Needless to say that some namable scientists in a kneejerk response found at a rapid pace an/their answer to this CO2 lag"

hm, some even predicted the lag, for example Lorius et al (Jim Hansen was in the group) in 1990. Funny, isn't it? There was not only a response, but people even thought about it 20 years and longer ago, before the lag was finally confirmed. It is interesting, that so-called "skeptics" do not have the knowledge of climate science of 20, 30, or even 60 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I followed this discussion about that lag last time for example last years December by watching the Bjerknes Lecture of Penn State's Richard Alley at the American Geophysical Union meeting The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Climate History. Alley's metaphor “Interest lags debt. How do we know interest adds to debt?“ and so on did not convince me –- notwithstanding his whole lecture seems to be great fun for him.

Yes, Lorius's paper (Lorius Et Al.: “The ice-core record: climate sensitivity and future greenhouse warming“, Nature (Vol. 347, 13 Sep. 1990)) on climate sensitivity were -- and will be -- widely referenced and also discussed e.g. at RealClimate, SketicalScience or in the comment section of joannenova. By reading of "The ice-core record": Of some interest to me was the later research for instance of Ahn Et Al. (2008) or of van Hoof Et Al. (2008) that -- as far as I remember -- suggested that certain CO2 from boreholes can diffuse over time and hence distort measurement results and conclusions over the past or the future.

Ghost, I trust not to have given the impression to be aware of the complete knowledge of “climate science of 20, 30, or even 60 years“. In my opinion nobody should do so.


kuhnkat said...

"Q.9 Who are the big names in the skeptic world?
Clear winners: Stephen McIntyre and Richard Lindzen. Anthony Watts and others follow."

Mr. McIntyre isn't a sceptic, he is a lukewarmer if he must be categorized.

eduardo said...


really interesting poll, thank you very much.

I cannot judge how representative the responses are, but assuming they are indeed roughly representative, I would have two thoughts:

one is that 50% of the respondents indicate that they felt prodded towards scepticism by the debate around the hockey stick (Question 5). The hockey-stick debate is not really related to the question of whether or not climate models may be skilful in projecting future climate change. Either this is a misunderstanding by the 'sceptics' or, more probably, a mistake by the IPCC in the way they presented the millennium reconstructions. I am not judging here whose mistake it was, or even if it was misused by others later. I am pointing here that the presentation of research results in areas in which uncertainty is high can tremendously backfire. Risks cut both ways, either by 'underselling' or by 'overselling'. Climate science will be paying the price for years to come yet, and all of us would be well advised to learn from this episode.

What I would wish from the sceptics community is that they learn from the hockey-stick debate as well. They should evaluate the scientific arguments from the sceptics with the same level of scrutiny that they apply to the mainstream climate science- i.e. that they be truly sceptics and not just follow a party line whatever this line may be. This means that whenever they find what in their view are doubtful hypothesis, they also say so and not keep mum. Otherwise, it can also backfire in the long run.

My second thought is that the dividing line between sceptics and mainstream scientist is not a sharp well-defined one. It basically boils down to the level of confidence one has on climate models. This confidence cannot not presented as black and white: some aspects of model projections are more robust than others. Since climate models are more difficult to validate than in other areas of science, the level of confidence on them will remain a subjective personal choice - I am afraid for a long time. This is not related to the level of technical knowledge about climate models. I have met modellers that are very well aware of model limitations and basically do not really believe what climate models say, and I have also met lay persons with no knowledge of climate models at all who religiously adore them.

lucia said...

>>even predicted the lag, for example Lorius et al (Jim Hansen was in the group) in 1990. Funny, isn't it?

This seems to be a myth. A popular one, but a myth. I'm pretty sure conference (not journal) articles indicating the lag appeared before Jim Hansen"predicted" the effect. ( I'm probably going to have to dig the dates of conference articles out of a discussion in comments at my blog long ago. It took some hunting around for the conference-- not journal articles. )

Rob said...

sceptic vs. skeptic (referring to eduardo's comment).

Upon start of my engagement here, I also tended to use the term sceptic. Meanwhile I'm using (mainstream) skeptic. I'd suggest that this stems from the idea that scientists naturally have a sceptic nature, at least should have ;). So, the term skeptic aids in distinguishing both terms, isn't it?

Hans von Storch said...

Kuhncat/10. "Mr. McIntyre isn't a sceptic, he is a lukewarmer if he must be categorized." - It seems that very many, who described themselves as "sceptic", found McIntyre a particularly relevant person to refer to.

We did this survey even hough there is no generally accepted definition of "sceptic". If you personally hold a specific definition, be it so, but do not claim it is common. A little modesty is helpful in these debates.

Maybe this is one of the major lessons of the whole debate. Others have other understanding of things, and they are - as you yourself- not stupid.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Eduardo #11, you misunderstand the significance of the Hockey Stick in the creation of skepticism. Obviously it has nothing to say about the question of whether climate models are skillful. But it has great deal to say on the question of whether climatologists are honest.

The hockey stick is broken. Everyone knows it is broken. Even Mike and Gavin know that it's broken (that's why Mike had to hide results in his "censored" directory). But they simply won't admit it. So why should we believe what these proven liars have to say about anything else?

Judith Curry understands this point very clearly. I had thought the owners of Kilmazwiebel has also understood it - please don't tell me I'm wrong!

eduardo said...

Perhaps I did not explain my point clearly enough.

Let us assume that I am a CO2 molecule. When I am flitting around in the atmosphere, I do not decide to cause a greenhouse effect depending on whether or not the hockey-stick is correct. I would just obey the physical laws and act accordingly. My effect in the end will be large or small, but it will totally independent of the hockey-stick. Now, poor humans are trying to estimate the overall effect that I may cause on temperatures. This estimation is presently made with the help of climate models. The estimations for, say 2100, are around roughly 2 to 4 degrees temperature increase, if the hockey stick correct. If the hockey-stick is incorrect, they are 2 to 4 degrees, thus unchanged.

What I try to say is that the hockey-stick debate has indeed modified the interaction between climate science and society and has diminished the confidence that society, or parts of it, has on climate science. No question about it. But, in my view, a skeptic truly interested in knowing the state of climate science, knowing the level of confidence on climate projections, knowing uncertainties,, etc. for this person the hockey-stick debate is not central, it is just distracting. To sit back and think that 'all is wrong because Gavin lied' is myopic. In the end it all might turn to be wrong, but not because 'Gavin lied'.

So some skeptics may have become skeptics for the wrong reasons. I just wish that even from a position of skepticism, persons interested in climate change issues would try think independently and see through.

I hope my view is now clearer (?)

_Flin_ said...

@namenlos 9: Sequence of events does is not sufficient to disprove causality.

CO2 lagging temperature in paleoclimatic data says exactly nothing at all about the influence of CO2 on temperature. That CO2 is a GHG is well known and proven.

The question is "how big are the feedbacks?". Not "does CO2 influence temperature?".

Anonymous said...

Rob and Peter, thank you very much for doing the survey and for presenting all the results so clearly.
There are many interesting things here and of course many further questions that could be asked in a follow-up survey.

I thought it was interesting that in Q6, 74% said that their skepticism has increased over the last 2 years. I wonder if this is mainly due to climategate? This might be a good question for a future survey. My skepticism has not changed much in the last 2 years (climategate just confirmed what was already clear).

Oxbridge prat, thank you for pointing out Eduardo's lack of logic in 11. I tried to do this on the following thread.

But Eduardo is quite correct in 16. We skeptics must keep reminding ourselves that just because some climate scientists have twisted the truth and exaggerated the case, this does not imply that the entire theory of man-made global warming is incorrect!


ghost said...


the paper was only an example (I am sure there are others) to show that the "response" to the discovery of the CO2-temperature lag was not a kneejerk one as namenlos wrongly claimed. That's all.

I am sure we can find older papers about this topic. (I should read the references in that paper, but I am too lazy ;)) However, the Lorius et al paper showed, the magnitude of the climate change during glaciation/de-glaciation might be affected by greenhouse gases. That's it. I think, correct me, if I am wrong, it is a simple thought that CO2 can act as forcing (added by external source like vulcanos or humans) as well as feedback (concentration changed by changed temperatures).

_Flin_ said...

@charles: It might be that the increase of skepticism is due to the design, where noone has taken part in the survey that didn't answer positively to "Do you consider yourself a skeptic?"

So assuming random distribution among skeptics and climate hawks and a random move towards the skeptic or the hawk side, how many percent have by design to state that they got more skeptic?

Peter Heller said...

Some remarks (too long, therefore two posts):

#4 "anonymous": I do not understand your point. In my opinion the poll has been very succesful. By providing links to the survey on Science Skeptical and EIKE I expected more than 100 answers in total. We got more than 500. And more than 200 from Germany. What did you expect? Several thousand? In a survey which has not been made public in the most popular blogs? I think that 578 valid answers are enough to claim the results as useful.

#10 kuhnkat: We offered several people who are not skeptics in the way most people are thinking of ("all scientists are liars and global warming is only a worldwide conspiracy"). We offered people, who would not describe themselves as "skeptics" (Curry, the Pielkes, Hulme, maybe Lomborg). The result here is one sign, that the definition of skeptics used by the mainstream-media and most of the warmists does not fit the reality.

#10, 16 eduardo: In my opinion one has to differentiate between the reason to become a skeptic (Q5) and the motivation to stay in the skeptic camp (Q8). Regarding the hockey stick debate Oxbridge has made the valid point in #15. There is a second important argument: If there has been a time, call it MWP, elsewhere in the world several hundred years ago (and it is not important, if this has happened everywhere at the same time) with higher temperatures (or comparable high) than today, than there is no reason to fear global warming today or in the future. Obviously people in medieval times were able to benefit from higher temperatures, in a time without any of the modern technologies we can use today. This is reflected in Q1, where a huge majority votes against political actions.

Peter Heller said...

Follow up (1) (general remarks):

The "skeptic consensus" regarding climate science is clearly about the ability of models to provide knowledge about the future (Q8), it is not the hockeystick-debate. This reflects the competence of the skeptics in science and engineering (Q7). Nearly all of us know, that there is no way to predict the future behaviour of complex, nonlinear and back coupled systems. In my opinion this is a general consensus in the society regarding all topics, ranging from economic to social questions. The IPCC has tried to establish the one and only exception to this general consensus: the climate of the earth. We skeptics do not understand the reason for this and so we have to assume a political motivation. And we cannot understand how it is possible that people can be convinced of the ability of climate models to predict the future. Therefore we have to assume again, that this is driven by a political agenda. You can see this in Q1 and Q8.

(Note the many skeptics support ing the statement, that the current mitigation policy is wrong, independent of the results of climate science. They believe, that even if global warming is happening and even if there are high risks of some catastrophic events, there should be another answer to this challenge. This is also the case for myself.)

The "skeptic consensus" is about climate policy, not climate science. In my opinion the survey provides the opportunity to characterize, to define the skeptic. A climate skeptic is someone, who

- does not believe in the predictive ability of climate models
- is against the most important measures of the current mitigation policy (emission trading, subsidies for selected energy technologies)
- does not believe in the precautionary principle as a strategic base for climate policy
- does not believe in the determination of policy measures by science and scientists

For us skeptics there is no direct link between climate science and climate policy. The latter should be and must be discussed and decided independent from the state of the scientific knowledge.
(And again: this has been and is a general consensus in all other fields. We do not use nuclear physics in debating the use of nuclear energy, we do not use genetics to discuss about genetically modified crops or genetic engineering in medicine, we do not use the evolutionary theory to create population policy. Why using climate science to determine climate policy?)

Peter Heller said...

Follow up (part 3):

From a warmist point of view the survey can be used to create a new strategy in the debate. If you are convinced of the risks of climate change and you feel the need to take actions to save the earth and you feel the need to be supported by skeptics in order to get a majority behind you, than you can follow two attempts:

- Break up the link between climate science and climate policy. For us skeptics climate science has become a victim of a political ideology. Free the victim. Open up the opportunity for an open debate, where different political and value driven points of view are taken into account to create a new approach to the problem.
(This is the concept of the "honest broker" as I understand it. So this is,what here at Klimazwiebel is done and this explains the positive judgment of it in the survey.)

- Create a political strategy beyond mitigation (and beyond the precautionary principle).

(This is, what people like Pielke jr. and Lomborg are doing and this explains, why they are succesful in the skeptics camp. This explains also the positive view of the Hartwell paper (by skeptics, who have read it).)

One can see in the survey that strategies using the concept of "lying scientists" and "global conspiracy" (Monckton, Singer) will not be succesful any more. They will attract some people, but not enough to lead to a substantial change in the direction of climate policy. But Pielke jr. and the other "Hartwells", as well as Lomborg and the honest brokers like Hans von Storch or Judith Curry maybe succesful in the long term. In the last months I observed that some warmists are aware of this...exciting times.

Anonymous said...

Ghost (to #19),


My conceivable wording "kneejerk response" is (for example according to the Routledge Dictionary of Psychology by Raymond J. Corsini (2001):) "commonly used to mean any predictable reaction to a massage, as in 'Opposing taxation is a kneejerk response.' See Classical Conditioning."

Confer also the dictionaries e.g. (online) at and such or the meanings given from other sources for the term "kneejerk response". They are all alike.

For example so-called "knee-jerk reactions" are something else than so-called "kneejerk responses" (cf. here).


eduardo said...

Peter, once again thanks for the interesting survey.

There is one argument that I do not understand in your reasoning about the motivation of the skeptics:

'Nearly all of us know, that there is no way to predict the future behaviour in complex, nonlinear and back coupled systems.'

But within the same non-linear complex climate system we can predict that every July will be warmer than every December in Germany.When the external forcing changes and this change is strong enough, it can overwhelm the chaotic or stochastic behavior of a non-linear system. The analogy is not perfect but it also applies to the CO2 case.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Eduardo, I'm afraid you still don't get it. The problem is not that Mike and Gavin lied: lying and cheating is a lot more common in science than most people think. The problem is that the climatology community has allowed them to get away with it, and continues to allow them to get away with it. Compare their treatment with other similar scandals in science, such as Jan Hendrik Schon in physics or Hwang Woo-Suk in biology. The difference is (1) breathtaking, and (2) extremely revealing.

Until this cancer is dealt with, and is seen to be dealt with, I will find it hard to take anything you say seriously. And it's clear from your survey that I am hardly alone in this respect. You believe you have a minor problem of presentation: trust me, it's far, far worse that that.

Marco said...

Peter Heller, you said
"And again: this has been and is a general consensus in all other fields. We do not use nuclear physics in debating the use of nuclear energy, we do not use genetics to discuss about genetically modified crops or genetic engineering in medicine, we do not use the evolutionary theory to create population policy. Why using climate science to determine climate policy?"

I don't know which earth you live on, but nuclear policy is VERY MUCH driven by nuclear physics and a range of other sciences. The IAEA has a piece on its website on TSOs and the role of science in nuclear energy development, you might want to read that.

Also genetic modification policy, both of food and in medicine, are highly attached to science.

What both have in common with climate science and policy is that 'emotions' and 'economics' frequently trump the actual scientific knowledge. What they do NOT have in common is that in the first two areas the precautionary principle is enormously important, while in climate policy it appears we first need to be 100% sure that the "climate reactor" will explode before taking action...

Peter Heller said...

Marco, do you speak German?

I cannot explain my argument in english sufficient enough. There is a misunderstanding.

For example: Have you ever seen a discussion about nuclear energy based on the differences in using fast or thermic neutrons? Do you really think that any politician knows anything about this, or is interested in the science of nuclear technology? The present discussion in Germany about nuclear waste and its handling is a good example. It is clearly value driven, and not about science. The physical properties of actinides and the technical feasibility of any solution do not play any role in the discussion.

Another example is the discussion about "Embryonenschutz" and "Präimplantationsdiagnostik PID" in Germany. There is no science, it is value driven.

The last time policy in Germany was based on an interpretation of science was during the fascist era. The nazis created their racism and their population policy on their view of Darwins theory. I do not want to see that again.

There is no argument provided by nuclear physics which can help us to decide about the use of nuclear energy. There is no argument provided by the science of biogenetics which can help us to decide what to do with embryos or genetic manipulated crops. The theory of evolution does no provide us with any support to create a population policy. And that is good.

Why do people think that climate science supports climate policy? The precautionary principle itself is not about science, the strategy of "sustainable development" is not about science. Both paradigms are value driven.

We need a discussion about climate policy, which is value driven. Science is not about values, it is about facts. Science is about the greenhouse effect and models. Climate policy is about precaution and sustainability. These two things should be accepted as totally independent from each other. That's what I wanted to say.

I do hope the argument is understandable now. If not, I need to write it in German.

Dennis Bray said...

Peter Heller suggests that one dimension of skeptics is the lack of belief in the predictive abilities of climate models. The measure of this 'belief' is contained in the survey of climate sicentists:

questions #16 a-j and 17 a-j. If it is the case lack of belief represents a skeptic then it would seem that most climate scientists are skeptic.

Now, if you compare this with how convinced climate scientist are that climate change is occurring (question #20) and if it is the result of anthopogenic causes (question 21), it is difficult to conclude that faith (or lack of) in the models can be attributed to being or not being a skeptic.

As someone commented, skepticism itself is a healthy component of science.

I think without an operational defintion we are still at a loss as to what a skeptic is.

Peter Heller said...

Ok, Dennis, another suggestion for a chracterization that can be derived from the survey:

"A skeptic is somebody who does not accept the precautionary principle as base for policy measures."

In my opinion this is the best description (and summary) of the opinions shown in Q8.

Take into account, that the precautionary principle does not regulate climate policies alone. Especially in Germany this paradigma is used in energy policy and leads to strong opposition against using natural hydrocarbon (fear of "peak oil") and nuclear energy (fear of nuclear waste). Therefore our subsidies for alternative energies are also based on the precautionary principle. The opinion of the skeptics is very clear in all these topics.

(The precautionary principle rules in Germany also the field of health policy. We have not asked in the survey, but it is my private observation (clearly not representative): There are much more smokers in the skeptic than in the warmist camp. Smoking is one of the most clear ways to show opposition against the precautionary principle... ;) )

eduardo said...

@ 27

Consider the following example: one year ago or so we had the news about the swine flu vaccine. Some governments urged their citizens to take the vaccine, for instance in Germany, and about 30% or so did. Apparently, quite reasonably pharmaceutical companies had a very strong financial interests to sell as much doses of the vaccine as possible.
Now, if your decision to take the vaccine or not is solely based on those perceived interests, it will not be a rational decision. Your decision should be based on your belief that the vaccine would be beneficial for you, independently of the hidden interests of those companies.

Your argument would be equivalent to saying that since pharmaceutical companies may be dodgy, you mistrusts all doctors now and in the future.

I know that the credibility has been damaged. But in your own interest you should be evaluating the real arguments and not the hockey-stick

Marco said...

Eduardo, as far as I can see, I'm number 27, but your response most assuredly does not fit my comment!

Rob said...

(30, Peter Heller)
"but it is my private observation (clearly not representative): There are much more smokers in the skeptic than in the warmist camp."

I think you could sum up numerous other issues, to mention e.g.: correlation between climate attitude and having children or not, or... (in germany) spelling reform attidue :( Oh, of course - including all those issues in any analysis efforts could well underpin that most of what we find is constituted deeply in our personality's subsonscious level, at least far less a rational level than we mostly believe.

"Smoking is one of the most clear ways to show opposition against the precautionary principle."

Part 2 : I don't believe that (would be a quite obnoxious attitude). In general smokers are simply addicted to nicotine. OK, one could at least make the notion of a correspondence between smoker's non-care about their long-term healthiness vs. skeptics non-care about long term earth healthiness.

Marco said...

Peter, I understand a little better what you mean, but IMHO you just make things worse.

The 'science-driven' policy of the fascist period (eugenetics) was as much a value-driven policy as nuclear policy is today. Like everything else, science can be abused, and NOT listening to the science is not a solution to prevent abuse. Eugenetics, while supported by some scientists, most assuredly was not a science-driven policy, but a value-driven policy: "what type of people do we desire?". Eugenetics merely stated that we can 'create' 'better' people (with "better" a value-laden concept).

Climate science provides us with the knowledge that if we do A, we get B. If we think B is bad, we should something about it. With that, climate policy is a value-driven policy, where the science provides the likely outcome of chosing one value over the other.

Eduardo's example about the swine-flu vaccine is useful also: the science said that the swine flu was a potential mass killer. Huge uncertainty range. Governments considered such a danger undesirable, and pushed companies to create a vaccine (trust me, this initial push was NOT driven by the companies, vaccines are not big moneymakers). The companies then did so, and governments were then pushed to also use that vaccine, even though at that time the uncertainty range had changed considerably.

P.S.: I can understand German to some extent, I may have some problems with the big words, though...

Oxbridge Prat said...

Marco #32, I suspect Eduardo #31 is replying to my #26.

I remember swine flu well, just as I remember avian flu. I ignored the swine flu scare completely, because long experience has taught me that these disease scares are (essentially always) just that: scares with no real substance, driven by pharmaceutical companies (who want to make profits), academic epidemiologists (who want to appear on TV) and government ministers (who want to give the impression that something must be done and only they can do it). The parallels with the climate scare are obvious.

With regard to the general trust issue, Judith Curry's latest post is absolutely spot on; a model of clarity and correctness.

Turning to evaluating the real arguments, you have to be realistic about what is possible for me. Assume for the moment I am an academic scientist (but not a climate scientist) - who knows, that might even be true? Several things are then obvious to me. Wearing my theoretician's hat:

1) The greenhouse effect is real;
2) The standard model in terms of grey bodies is wildy oversimplified but in essence broadly correct;
3) CO2 is a weak IR absorber, but it does block an important hole in the H2O spectrum; and therefore
4) Increasing CO2 is likely to increase temperature to some extent, but
5) Evaluating the raw climate sensitivity is non-trivial, and
6) Feedbacks will exist, which will further change the sensitivity, and evaluating these is going to be extremely hard.

Wearing my experimentalist's hat I would then add
7) The satellite temperature record is likely to be broadly reliable;
8) The historic thermometer based temperature record is likely to be very unreliable;
9) The proxy based paleo-climate temperature record is likely to be complete nonsense.

Should I worry? Well that depends on what I think the climate sensitivity is. My theory musings have told me that there is no way I can hope to work a number out for myself. My experimental musings tell me that it is very hard to extract a reliable number from the 30 years of satellite data we have (which are the only numbers I have any real trust in). So to be honest I have no way of coming to a sensible number. I could adopt the precautionary principle, but that's complete nonsense. Instead I adopt a sensible balanced strategy: watch and see if any evidence of serious warming ever arises, and until then do nothing. And in the meantime I call myself a lukewarmer (that is, somebody who believes that the climate sensitivity dT/dln[CO2] is probably non-zero and positive, but that we have no current reason for believing that it is large).

Of course, you could claim that I should subcontract my judgment to the experts and believe the IPCC. But as the IPCC seems unworried by the fact that Mike is a proven liar their judgment is entirely untrustworthy. So far AGW looks more like yet another swine flu style scare than something I should genuinely care about.

Anonymous said...

More excellent comments from Oxbridge Prat. In his earlier post, the problem is not that one or two scientists produced an incorrect result. The scandal is that the climate science community, as represented by IPCC TAR 2001, swallowed it so completely, uncritically and enthusiastically, with the hockeystick picture appearing appearing many times in the report. It was left to two amateur Canadians to start asking questions - although of course Hans and Eduardo deserve congratulations for being the first climate scientists to seriously and publicly question it.

It is the same with the climategate issue. The problem is not that one or two scientists behaved badly, but that the rest of the climate science community tried to defend them, pretending for example that 'hiding the decline' was a legitimate standard analytical procedure.


Peter Heller said...

@Rob, #33:

My argument about smokers was a joke. ;) Not more - nothing to discuss seriously.


No, you did not get the argument. I will try a more simple example:

Buy a textbook about nuclear physics. Do you expect any argument in this book that will help you to come to a decision about building a reactor or not?

Clearly not.

Buy a textbook about genetics, about stemcells for example. Do you think that this will contain arguments for the debate about using embryos in their early stadium to create stemcells?

Clearly not.

I have read a book by the German climate scientist Mojib Latif, which is labelled as "an introduction to climate science for students". But: a large part of this book is dealing with climate policy.


To make it more obvious:

Buy a book of an engineer describing the function of internal combustion engines. A book for example, which is directed to "do it yourself"-people. Do you really expect that this book will contain helpful arguments for traffic concepts, for traffic policy, for the discussion opened by some environmentalists about "new mobility cultures beyond using a car"?

Clearly not.

As shown in the Hartwell-Paper or in the work of Lomborg: The greenhouse effect does not lead to mitigation policy.

I think this is one of the results of the survey: Skeptics think: There should be no direct link between climate science and climate policy.

Marco said...

Peter, could you please provide the ISBN of that book by Latif? It isn't on his publication list, nor can I find it on the internet. Unless you are pointing to Klimawandel und Klimadynamik (which has no subtitle), which contains one section of one chapter on policy.

Regarding your examples, perhaps you should read "Nuclear energy, 6th Edition" (which is the latest updata AFAIK). Contains plenty of discussion on policy...

Or read "Human embryonic stem cells", which contains a long discussion on the ethical aspects of using stem cells.

Inconvenient counterexamples, I know...

Peter Heller said...


it is "Klimawandel und Klimadynamik". This is the description on the back:

"Allen, die sich im Rahmen ihrer universitären Ausbildung mit dem Klimaproblem beschäftigen - Studenten der Geographie, Geologie, Meteorologie, Ozeanographie, Physik, Mathematik und Studenten verwandter Fächer - bietet dieses Buch ein solides wissenschaftliches Fundament. Es definiert die wesentlichen Begriffe der Klimaforschung. Weiter beschreibt es die Grundzüge der Klimadynamik, die auf den verschiedenen Zeitskalen wesentlichen Rückkopplungsprozesse, die Physik des Klimawandels und auch neuere Entwicklungen wie etwa den Einfluss der Meeresversauerung. - Klimasystem - Physikalische Grundlagen - Wechselwirkungen zwischen Subsystemen - Veränderungen in der Erdgeschichte - Klimadynamik - Klima des 20. Jahrhunderts - Nachweis des anthropogenen Klimawandels - Das Klima der Zukunft - Handlungsoptionen"

There is not only one chapter (the last) dealing with policy issues. Those are mentioned in nearly all chapters. I have read the whole book because I tried to learn something. In my opinion it is totally useless for students. It is marketing for mitigation - it is not explaining the physics of the climate system in a manner I (as physician) can use it.

Maybe that there are scientists feeling the need to make remarks for a political debate. In my opinion they should not do this in textbooks for students. One should not mix science - which is about facts - with policy, which is about values and opinions.

There is no scientific method to distinct between different values and opinions. Especially regarding the question of the beginning of the life of a human being. Different religions give different answers to that question. I cannot see any scientific answer which is based on natural principles, on measurements and the description of processes. And the same occurs when it comes to other disciplines.

There is no scientific answer about the risks people are willing to take. That is the basic problem regarding most of our present discussions. Especially those about environmental issues.
Science can give hints what risks could occur and how big they are. Only hints, nothing more, because risk management is based on propabilities - not on exact numbers. But in science one cannot decide, which risk should be taken and which not. This has to be decided by the public in an open debate.

This is my interpretation of the result of the survey. The precautionary principle is used to prevent this debate. And this is, what the skeptics in common are skeptic about.

Dennis Bray said...

Hi Peter

RE: 'A skeptic is somebody wo does not accept the precautionary priciple as a basis for policy measure.'

In the survey of climate scientists mentioned in a previous posting, the 'precautionary priciple' was not directly addressed. But question 29 asks for responses to 'The best approach to resolving the problem related to climate change is mitigation - adaptation. The precautionary principle, I assume. would lead one to favour mitigation. The results indicate that some 30% of respondents felt that a 50/50 split seemed appropriate, about 43% leaned towards mitigation (with only about 8% strongly favouring mitigation - no room for adaptation) and about 27% leaning towards adaptation. So even if we are generous, about (30+27) 57% of the respondents - all climate scientists - would be considered skeptics to some degree (on the basis of your definition). I think that number would be an overwhelmingly high estimate. I will concede however, that a significant majority of scientists claim 'There is a great need for immediate policy decisions for immediate action to mitigate climate change. (question 67).

Concerning Marco's comment regarding science-policy interaction, in all questions concerning knowledge options for driving policy (questions 30 - 35) there is a definate bias towards the use of 'scientific expertise' as opposed to, for example, public or political opinion (I could say something here about post-normal science but I will save that for another time) yet, when asked if climate change is now a political or scientific issue, there is a tendency for climate scientists to lean toward the claim that it is a political issue. I think one interpretation here is that the majority of scientists see themselves as a service to policy, providing knowledge and information, but that they feel the resolution to mitigation should lie in the hands of policy makers, not scientists. (question 37). What they communicate might be a different story.

The distribution of responses here is very similar to the distribution for the mitigation-adaption question. So it might be that those scientists who favour mitigation also now see climate change as a political issue (more than as a scientific issue).

Which raises the question: Skepticism of science or skepticism of policy? If the vast majority of scientists agree that there is some degree of warming, which according to the survey results, they do (question 20) and a slightly lessor number, but still a majority, agree that it is caused by anrthropogenic causes (question 21), then we might want to consider, with the exception of a handful of outliers, scepticism in science is in a healthy condition. Skepticism of what, if anything, to do about climate change, remains a problem area.

What to do about it, of course, depends on the potential of destructive impacts. A conderable majority of scientists (in the survey) agree that climate change poses a very serious threat to humanity (question 22), in a way, suggesting the neccessity to employ the precautionary principle.

Which raises some more fundamental questions concernig skeptics: What are they skeptic about and are all skeptics skeptic about the same issue? In otherwords, are there variants of skeptics, skeptics of climate change policy, skeptics of climate science, etc? Should a distinction be made? What of the non-climate scientist but none-the-less scientist skeptic? The educated skeptic vs. the lay skeptic? Are the degrees of skepticism? Is there a threshold between healthy and unhealthy skepticism? Certainly the downfall of the hockey stick came from a 'skeptic' camp, but wasn't this with-in science 'healthy' skepticism? Perhaps a better distinction might be between reason and non-reason; a scale from absolute no belief to alarmist belief. Again, I would claim that skepticism (in the climate change issue) is not dichotomous.

eduardo said...

@35 Oxbridge Prat

you wrote
'Instead I adopt a sensible balanced strategy: watch and see if any evidence of serious warming ever arises,'

Allow me one additional question. How should this evidence look like ? or in other words, let us imagine we are now in 2020. How much global warming from now should the satellites have shown for you to consider that dangerous climate change could occur?

1) 0.1K
2) 0.2K
3) 0.3K
4) 0.4K
5) 0.5K
6) independently of the warming or cooling you would not change your opinion

Marco said...

Peter, read the two other books I recommended, on stem cells and nuclear energy. At the very least you will no longer claim that only in climate science policy is a part of textbooks.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo, this is a good question, but it goes the other way also.
The warming of the last decade has been less than the IPCC projection. Now suppose that we are in 2020.
How much (lack of) warming would cause to to consider that your modelling is erroneous?

(a) 0.2K
(b) 0.1K
(c) 0.0K
(d) -0.1K
(e) independently of the warming or cooling you would not change your opinion.


Oxbridge Prat said...

Eduardo #41, that is a reasonable question, though it is not tightly enough defined for me to be able to give a clear answer. But as a starting point let's consider the UAH lower troposphere global mean 12 month running average. As you can see this swings around a fair bit, most notably around the 1998 super El Nino. You can go a bit further than this by looking at, say, 9 year differences, which reveals that rises of 0.5K over 9 years have happened in the historic record, which I have already stated I find less than terrifying.

So the answer to your question is "a rise by 2020 significantly more than 0.5K over current values would be interesting" and a rise of 1K would definitely be worrying. But, of course, the temperature in 2020 is not a great test.

Günter Heß said...

Just an remark. For HadCrut -data the trend of the last dekade was 0K.

eduardo said...

Oxbridge prat,

yes, sorry, my question was not very precisely formulated. I was rather referring to the linear trend in the 2010-2020 and not to the difference between two particular years.

eduardo said...


'How much (lack of) warming would cause to to consider that your modelling is erroneous?'

The question was to be expected.. Before answering, just a remark. I may be wrong but it seems to me that to answer my question with your question is rather an attempt to avoid own uncertainties.

Anyway, I think that if the linear trend of the global surface temp 2010-2020 is less than 0.1K , then climate models have a fundamental shortcoming

Marco said...

Don't forget the caveats of a major volcano eruption, or a lower solar output...

Oxbridge Prat said...

Eduardo #47, it's nice to see a climatologist who doesn't just retreat behind the "more than 30 years is climate, less than 30 years is weather" mantra and who is prepared to draw definite conclusions from 10 year data. But given the high noise on 10 year trends I am surprised that you would consider a 10 year trend below 1K/century to be strong evidence of falsifying the models. This only makes sense if either (1) you believe the models are already close to the edge of falsification [which is my position], or (2) your interpretation of the models leads you to predict a very large underlying trend [that is you actually take the scary end seriously].

In any case my broad proposal is that we should wait until 2020 and then find out who's right.

Marco #48, it would be legitimate for Eduardo to use a major volcanic eruption as a get out clause on his prediction, but he can't legitimately invoke lower solar output unless something really dramatic and unexpected happens - note that the IPCC models claim to include all relevant solar factors. Interestingly he hasn't asked for a get out clause for a bad arrangement of super El Nino/La Nina events, which is brave.

Eduardo #46, a real answer would be a lot of work. My fundamental scientific claim is that we have no reason to believe that the climate sensitivity isn't reasonably low, by which I mean between 0 and 2K per doubling. [I then add a personal best guess that the lower end of this range should cause us no concern, and the upper end should only cause moderate concern at worst.] So we now have to agree on some predicted CO2 outputs to get an anticipated trend, and then agree on a noise model, and then agree on exceptional circumstances clauses. Could all get very messy. But a simpler approach is just to say that I wasn't worried by the last 30 years of UAH data, and I wouldn't expect to be worried by another 10 years of similar variation. Looking at the distribution of 10 year trends we get a mean of 1.5K/century with an SD of 1.3K/century, and a range running from -0.7K/century to 4.1K/century. So a rough and ready answer would be that a ten year trend above 0.3K/decade without an obvious explanation (super El Nino, volcanoes, etc.) would move me some way towards accepting the "consensus". A trend above 0.5K/decade without an explanation would be genuinely interesting/worrying.

Marco said...

Oxbridge Prat:

The GCMs take solar influences into account, but cannot take into account sudden changes in that solar behavior. I.e., the solar behavior assumed in the future is at best a simple extrapolation of the 'current' level.

eduardo said...

@ 49
Oxbridge prat,

my number is also a rough indication, and not a detailed analysis, which as you said would require more time. It is rather a description of what would be surprising, provided as Marco said that nothing really unusual happens. I also think its is reasonable: a long-term trend over 2 decades of 0.1K(decade (the 2010-2010 would the second decade) would mean by simple extrapolation a limit of 1. K by 2100 with no abatement.

Note that I would quite happy with that outcome: one thing less to worry about.

I am also pleased that you are able to state beforehand the limits at which you would start to see things differently. This indicates that your position is, rightly or wrongly, evidence-driven. I would agree that 0.3K/decade under 'normal' conditions would be a strong indicator.

About 'wait and see', it seems that nothing else is presently possible.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Eduardo #51, we do indeed seem to have reasonable agreement, at least on the interpretation of the decadal trend to 2020:

1) We both agree that a trend below 0.1K/decade would be hard to reconcile with the models.
2) We both agree that a trend above 0.5K/decade would be hard to reconcile with lukewarming.

Unsurprisingly we are in less agreement about the middle of the range: you would see 0.3K/decade as strong support for the models, while I would only see it as a sign that the case was still undecided. Nevertheless this is good progress, and I look forward to reopening this conversation in 9 years time.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Returning to my earlier point, Eduardo, have you seen the comment from Greenberg at Pielke Jr's site? [Referring to Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf] In your hands, apple pie and motherhood would come under public suspicion. That is the situation you guys have allowed yourself to end up in. Not a happy place.

eduardo said...


mm, something tells me that you started reading Pielke's blog less than one year ago.

But regardless of past times, Klimazwiebel is at least trying to foster dialog when possible, with more or less success. We will see in 9 years.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Eduardo #54, I was reading Pielke when he was still at Prometheus, so whatever you think you spotted is not in fact correct. I didn't agree with him then, and I don't agree with him now, but he does have interesting things to say. As does Klimazwiebel of course. You are two of the very small number of AGW convinced sites actually worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Even if it is not entirely on-topic – and probably boring for others – it should be possible to react to comments with regards to a equilibrated dialog sought by "both parties" (My previous post (originally comment #31 -- a simple question) was deleted by a blog administrator).

_Flin_ (# 17),

I cannot understand why you addressed your four/five points/sentences directly to me:

• At no point I claimed something like that "[s]equence of events [..] is [..] sufficient to disprove causality."

• Nor I didn't allege arguments whether or not "CO2 lagging temperature in paleoclimatic data says [...] [something] at all about the influence of CO2 on temperature".

• An issue about a question whether "CO2 is a GHG" or not (or to what degree (or about positive/negative feedbacks and so on)), has not been risen so far (here/by me at all).

• I didn't question whether or not "CO2 influence[s/d] temperature".

Excuse me, but your indoctrination/instruction for/to me looks to me at the moment like as a single truantly straw man argument. What caused you to think I would deserve your intervention in this way that seems distractive?