Travesties, Train Wrecks and Climate Denial Chum

Willard reminded me of the Trenberth travesty in another post. Apropos is this quote, taken from one of the illegally hacked / released CRU emails. Given the continual misrepresentation of it in the denialosphere, it, and the misrepresentation, deserves reconsideration:

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

To consider something seriously, you have to look at it in its proper context. I argue, as do many others, that this line taken from the CRU emails, along with countless others, are used out of context to condemn climate science and smear scientists. Perhaps this line, along with “the trick” to “hide the decline”, is one of the most clear examples of the machinations of the denialist machine and its witting or unwitting dupes who propagate such tripe around the blogosphere.

I’ve come up with a term for the trainwreck that is Curry’s blog and similar ventures  — Climate Denial Chum. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but just to be clear, people like McIntyre, Watts and Curry throw bait out there knowing full well (or at least, they should know full well) that when they do, the sharks will come. Then, they do little in the ensuing frenzy. Hey – it feeds the tip jar and garners traffic…

What do you think?

The infamous and much-misrepresented quote and Trenberth’s submission “Promoting climate information and communication of climate change” to the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, are not given serious consideration on skeptic / contrarian / denialst blogs. They are, in fact, merely used as convenient truncheons to make one’s personal and very biased point.

For example, over at Judith Curry’s blog (which has, IMO, become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the lukewarmers, denialists and their dupes) the peanut gallery is busy discussing the latest Trenberth paper, his “Climategate” quote and its greater meaning. But they aren’t, in my view, giving any of it a serious review and analysis. How could I expect otherwise given the tenor and content over at Climate etc.? Not even Curry gives Trenberth anything more than a brief dismissal before opening up the floor for more of the same.

I shake my head. Many times.

Curry’s blog, along with WUWT, CA and Air vent are all examples of this denialist chum, but Curry’s is the current exemplar.

Here’s Curry:

It will be interesting to see how the AMS responds to this (the AMS has many skeptics among its membership). Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but as a smart move in the politics of expertise, well this statement can’t rank very high, IMO.

So, a thumbs down from Curry at the start.

Here’s more:

Well, burning fossil fuels and other anthropogenic activities have undoubtedly changed the climate and even weather patterns, the butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil, and all that.  Maybe the Brisbane floods would have been less severe without humans on the planet, but maybe the flood would be more severe, there is just no way to know about an individual weather system and it is a pointless question to ask.

This “We just can’t know” response to the impact of climate change on weather patterns seems very disingenuous. In fact, it seems like a way to avoid serious consideration of an issue that demands our attention. She does not deny climate change, or that burning of fossil fuels and other human actions have changed climate and weather, but is unwilling to address linking a specific weather event to climate change as if it’s just not possible to do so. A convenient excuse or scientific fact?

My question is this: when would Curry feel comfortable attributing extreme weather events to global warming?

When we have the hottest decade on record, and some of the most extreme la Nina and El Nino events one year after another, and when we have the worst flooding in a thousand years and other extreme weather events all occurring in the same time frame, are even the most unschooled of us not to wonder if there is some connection? Some causal relationship?

No. “there is just no way to know about an individual weather system and it is a pointless question to ask.”

It’s pointless to ask. That’s it. Game over. The science is settled on this. Don’t even bother to ask any more questions.

No can do.

She adds this:

The kinds of statistical analyses of climate model simulations to come up with such statistics arent convincing IMO (the attribution of extreme events will be the topic of a future post.) The reason reporters ask this kind of question can probably be traced back to Trenberth’s statements in 2005 attributing 7% of the intensity of Hurricane Katrina to global warming, and that 7% of the intensity was just enough to breach the levees (or something to that effect.)

She argues that the climate models aren’t convincing without specifying why in any detail (that’s for a later post…)

But my question to Judith is this: Don’t you think this is important information for your readers to have at their command when discussing this issue? Why bring it up only to leave them floundering in ignorance?

Curry can’t even be bothered to find the actual Trenberth quote, gesturing to it, and then almost shrugging it off — “or something to that effect” — as if accuracy in referencing another scientist’s words isn’t worth the effort.

Dismissing climate models and Trenberth in one fell swoop. Pretty impressive way to set the tone of the post and resulting commentary. How’s that as an example of “the politics of expertise”?

What I see is this: Expert dismisses topic and fellow scientist and then asks the masses to chime in…

Here’s Judy:

“Do you think Trenberth is helping or hindering public education and developing political support for the climate change issue?”

Hey, Judy — back atcha! Are you helping or hindering public education when you smear the reputation of your fellow scientists and by implication, science itself?

She adds this proviso:

Moderation note: No rude words or personal insults.  Criticize the statements or the strategy, but no personal insults, I will be deleting insulting statements that do not make substantive points.

But wait — she doesn’t really delete insulting statements…

Here’s Willis E commenting on Louise’s insistance on using the term “denier”:

Oh, please. If everyone in the room says “I don’t like to be called a whinging Pom, please call me British”, you would be the one idiot in the room who wanted to insult everyone by insisting on accuracy.

“You would be the one idiot” — in other words, Willis called Louise an idiot. That sounds like a personal insult to me, cleverly disguised perhaps, but still a personal insult.

When Louise calls Trenberth “courageous”, Labmunkey opines:

Courageous?? The man’s an idiot.

I’m sorry, but to assert what he does whilst still pretending to follow the scientific method- to preach deliberate falsehoods as fact and to use deeply offensive and politically motivated tactics to marginalise ANYONE who disagree’s with him paints him not as a courageous man, but as a bully and a coward.

Here, Curry steps in to strikeout the insult, rather than delete it.  If she were to follow her own rule, she’d delete the entire rant. But no. We can’t question of the link between weather and global warming, but we can still call people idiots, bullies, cowards, accuse them of lying and political machinations and get away with it. The statement is still there, even if Curry has struck it out.

What BS…

Here’s Saaad:

Idiot….yes but, whilst agreeing with much of your characterisation of Trenberth’s views, I do think that he’s a courageous idiot.

I’m still trying to work out if that’s actually any better than just being an idiot…..actually, yep, definitely better.

I just feel a little sorry for him actually, because he probably doesn’t realise that he’s exposed himself to a storm of indignation and invective for absolutely no gain whatsoever. Feet and shotguns spring to mind.

Curry doesn’t strike out the term “idiot” here. She does post a huffy self-righteous reply to Labmunkey who shows contrition, barely, by comparing his tone to that of Trenberth in a disingenous apology:

the standards here for civil discourse at Climate Etc. are higher than at some other blogs and higher than that expressed in the “denier” section of Trenberth’s AMS essay.

So, at Climate etc. you may or may not use mean words or insults — depending on the whim of the moderator, I suppose.

Unfortunately, Louise, with whom I tend to agree on many points, steps up to discuss not the issue at hand — Trenberth’s statement — but to demand that Curry repudiate other blogs where bad words and insults are routine. This is the old “If you criticize me, you must spend equal time criticizing everyone else like me.”

I’ve seen this done at CA and WUWT – indeed, it is one of the tired old red herrings used to attack a speaker with whom you do not agree or who raises and uncomfortable issuer. Yes, Louise was OT and spent her time discussing moderation policy rather than the issue, which led to another round of “Am too!” “Am not!”  over use of the word “denier”. I’ve already commented on my use of the term “denier” and I defend it against all comers so other than to note this blog post and the comments are an example of this red herring.

Here, we see a very telling exchange between none other than Ron Cram and Joe Lalonde:

Oh yes! And some IPCC supporters will try to change the subject!

  • Of course they will try to change the subject. A great deal of government grant money is still floating around and the ones that stay silent will have a better chance to recieve.

Notice that Curry does not see fit to moderate this common smear of climate scientists because it is not personal, but in reality, it smears everyone with the same lump of turd… but I already posted on that the other day. Just pointing to it as further proof of this meme of “the corrupt climate scientists in it for the gold” that Curry and her denizens seems to propagate. Curry should, if she were genuine, step in and correct this mis-statement but no.

Like I say, chum.

The next part of that comment thread is spent debating whether there is in fact any serious risk from global warming, with Ron Cram claiming that there has been no warming since 1998 — that old canard!

Sharperoo sums Ron Cram and most of the lukewarmer and denialist crowd up succinctly:

“This is the problem with getting your information from blogs, it’s simply wrong.”

Michael also provides a good assessment:

The ‘skeptics’ seem to have a visceral need for a face to direct their bile towards.

May have something to do with what appearsd to be a great deal of identity politics that motives them.

As I have said before, a lot of lukewarmers / deniers are motivated by identity politics.

Willard shows up — thank the gods for his comic relief! He’s far too subtle for the Curry crowd…

Kevin “Travesty” Trenberth.

Let’s not forget that one too.

Lest we forget what it meant.

Obviously Saaad doesn’t get Willard, comparing him to the narrator on Spongebob Squarepants…

Finally, Willard offers this:

You could also try to convince me that we’re not witnessing climate porn.

Climate Porn, Denialist Chum…

Mosher turns up to reply:

climate porn.

and its free.

and the demographic is super tight. trust me. super tight.
and you don’t know how to message them.

Yes, Mosher knows how to message all right.

Sharperoo is among the few who get it, and I quote him/her at length because that gets us past the hijinks of Curry’s peanut gallery to the meat of the issue:

“Basically, he said: “Golly, the data doesn’t support our theory, what a travesty, we really need to work on that data.””

My entire point is that’s not what he said at all. A statement by him was taken sans context and a meaning was inserted, people then argue that their meaning is the real real one no matter what Trenberth has said or continues to say.

His viewpoint is captured in

“To better understand and predict regional climate change, it is vital to be able to distinguish between short-lived climate anomalies, such as caused by El Nino or La Nina events, and those that are intrinsically part of climate change, whether a slow adjustment or trend, such as the warming of land surface temperatures relative to the ocean and changes in precipitation characteristics. Regional climate change also depends greatly on patterns or modes of variability being sustained and thus relies on inertia in the climate system that resides mostly in the oceans and ice components of the climate system. A climate information system that firstly determines what is taking place and then establishes why is better able to provide a sound basis for predictions and which can answer important questions such as ‘Has global warming really slowed or not?’ Decisions are being made that depend on improved information about how and why our climate system is varying and changing, and the implications.”

It’s simply impossible to resolve your interpretation with the above. Trenberth wants enough data to be able to isolate natural variability from other forcings while you characterise his statement as “The data doesn’t support the theory, better work on the data”.

Yes, yes, and yes! Trenberth was commenting on the need for more and better data so that they could better model short-term changes in the energy budget and account for natural variability. This was not at all meant as an indictment of climate science or the theory of AGW or admittance that there was no warming. It was an honest assessment of the weakness in existing science from an insider who wanted to improve it — not an indictment of the science itself.

Instead, deniers and their dupes took his comment in the CRU emails out of context and claimed it showed he was doubting the theory. That he was critical of AGW and admitted that warming had stopped.

IMO, Curry’s blog is a waste of effort because she is not clearing up these fabrications. Just the opposite. She allows them to continue unabated and gives space for denialist dupes to propagate them. Labmunkey and Sharperoo get into a long discussion of UHI — another denialist canard.

Sharperoo — I am really increasing my admiration for this person. Here it is in a nutshell and why I think that Climate etc. is doomed to fail:

“all I’m suggesting is that Trenberth shows us that it isn’t ‘everyone’ by engaging in a debate with those who disagree with him in some sort of public arena.”

When has science ever progressed in this fashion?

“It should be beer and skittles for a guy like him “

No it shouldn’t be. Public debates are very much stacked in favour of the best orator and least scrupulous.

Amen. The best orators and the least scrupulous. Those who know how to turn a phase convincingly, even if it’s a lie, and those who don’t give a crap about truth.

Climate scientists tread this path with great risk. They aren’t, for the most part, equipped to do so and really should have communications advisors to help them navigate.

Fred Moolten says it well:

Climate science still faces the dilemma articulated by the late Steve Schneider and misrepresented by his adversaries – how do we best ensure that the public arrives at an accurate understanding of climate change, when the “sound bite” limits on our speaking time to the media force us to choose between making a few points with all the appropriate caveats, vs presenting details of all the points we believe important but without acknowledging uncertainties?

Science is complex. It is always fraught with uncertainties at some level or in some aspect of a theory. It takes years of training and research to gain competency in doing it and understanding these complexities and uncertainties.

The public, for most part, lacks this expertise and competency. It’s inevitable given our complex division of labour and expertise.

For example, a NSF report finds that 25% of the public believes in Astrology and ghosts, 50% believe in ESP. A third of the American public believe the government was involved in a 9/11 conspiracy. Various polls have shown that between 6 – 25% of respondents believed the moon shots were faked. Half of Americans polled in a Harris poll clung to the belief that Iraq had WMD.

Crafting communications meant for this public involves simplification and reduction. As as result, complexity and uncertainty gets short shrift — of necessity. A summary is just that — a condensing of the whole into a part that encapsulates the whole without retaining its detail.

When scientists do craft such communications pieces meant for the lay public, they are attacked for simplifying the science and reducing uncertainties. It’s a no-win situation.

Whichever option is chosen is often motivated by the expectation that what any one individual says will be matched in the media by challenges from others. It sometimes plays out as though climate science were a courtroom drama, based on the legal philosophy that truth is best reached when differing views are advanced in an adversarial format rather than by a single individual, with the public in the role of jury – and when it comes to policy decisions, judge as well.

I don’t think that’s the best road to the truth. The weight of evidence is not the same as the ability to persuade, and “balance of evidence” is not the same as “equal time”. In that sense, I’m not sure how the process can be improved, except in the sense that each of us tries to improve our ability to understand evidence, to evaluate it objectively, and to communicate it effectively to a public audience with a limited attention span and with many other things on its mind as well.

That, my friend, requires an overhaul in the public education system such that young minds are taught logic and to look more deeply into the underlying assumptions about statements and to better understand what evidence is and what constitutes a solid argument. Dream on.

So, onto the actual substance of the issue — Trenberth, his statement in the CRU emails and their misuse, and his talk to be given at the AMS meeting.

Here’s what Trenberth said that is seen as so terrible:

“…we frequently hear that “while this event is consistent with what we expect from climate change, no single event can be attributed to human induced global warming”. Such murky statements should be abolished. On the contrary, the odds have changed to make certain kinds of events more likely.”

This seems to be what is up for debate — does global warming make extreme events like the flooding in Pakistan and wildfires in Russia more likely? If so, given that fires and floods happen on a regular basis as part of the climate system and weather patterns, if we cannot say that global warming created this flood or fire event, can we at least say that the severity or sheer number of the floods and fires is due to human-induced climate change? At what point could we make this claim and what would constitute adequate evidence?

For precipitation, the pervasive increase in water vapor changes precipitation events with no doubt whatsoever. Yes, all events! Even if temperatures or sea surface temperatures are below normal, they are still higher than they would have been, and so too is the atmospheric water vapor amount and thus the moisture available for storms. Granted, the climate deals with averages. However, those averages are made up of specific events of all shapes and sizes now operating in a different environment.

If we accept that anthropogenic global warming has led to increased evaporation and increased water vapour and increased precipitation (and if you don’t agree with that you are a denier) — even though rain fell before global warming and we can’t say that this particular rain event was caused by global warming — can we say that the rain that falls in the future is falling in a new climate state (warmer moister wetter) and thus, its severity may be due to, at least in some measure, global warming?

Another point is that we have substantial natural climate variability from events like El Niño and La Niña. Given that global warming is always going in one direction, it is when natural variability and global warming reinforce one another that records are broken and extremes occur. This takes place with warming in the latter part of and shortly after an El Niño event, for instance, as has happened in 2010.

In other words, anthropogenic global warming has not stopped, despite what deniers might claim using deceitful statistics, and thus when that warming and El Nino / La Nina are added together, the result is more intense than it would have been without global warming.

Is Trenberth overstating the science when he comments on single events like flooding in India, Pakistan, China — and more recently, Australia?

This is what the IPCC WG1 says about Australia and scenarios for warming:

Precipitation is likely to decrease in southern Australia in winter and spring. Precipitation is very likely to decrease in south-western Australia in winter. Precipitation is likely to increase in the west of the South Island of New Zealand. Changes in rainfall in northern and central Australia are uncertain. Extremes of daily precipitation are very likely to increase. The effect may be offset or reversed in areas of significant decrease in mean rainfall (southern Australian in winter and spring). An increase in potential evaporation is likely. Increased risk of drought in southern areas of Australia is likely.[my emphasis]

Here we see the typical IPCC expression of uncertainty — “likely” and “very likely” and “uncertain”.

and further:

Significant factors contribute to uncertainty in projected climate change for the region. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation significantly influences rainfall, drought and tropical cyclone behaviour in the region and it is uncertain how ENSO will change in the future. Monsoon rainfall simulations and projections vary substantially from model to model, thus we have little confidence in model precipitation projections for northern Australia. More broadly, across the continent summer rainfall projections vary substantially from model to model, reducing confidence in their reliability. In addition, no detailed assessment of MMD model performance over Australia or New Zealand is available, which hinders efforts to establish the reliability of projections from these models. Finally, downscaling of MMD model projections are not yet available for New Zealand but are much needed because of the strong topographical control of New Zealand rainfall.

In a nutshell, climate model projections suggest that extremes of precipitation are likely to increase as is drought in some regions. However, climate models vary with respect to climate projections for Australia and thus, there is considerable uncertainty about the future such that it is not possible to place much confidence in the projections. El Nino and La Nina have a great effect on rainfall and drought in the region and it is uncertain how the ENSO will change in the future.

What this says to me is that much work remains to be done when it comes to climate model projections or regional climate change and its impacts. This is what Trenberth said in that notorious email.

This does not say to me that we are fools to ask such questions as whether the ENSO has become more intense or whether specific weather events are made worse (or better) due to anthropogenic global warming.  We should and must ask the question, but perhaps have to be more circumspect in providing an answer, always keeping clear that there are many unknowns and uncertainties. But to claim, as Curry does, that we shouldn’t even be asking that question is to stop science in its tracks.

Which reminds me of a quote I read recently:

“Nothing is so dangerous to the progress of the human mind than to assume that our views of science are ultimate, that there are no mysteries in nature, that our triumphs are complete and that there are no new worlds to conquer.”
— Humphrey Davy

Curry ‘s statement is the opposite of Trenberth’s intention. While individual weather systems are chaotic, the underlying climate system is much more predictable and ultimately sets the stage for those individual weather systems. As humans with a stake in the weather, given our reliance on weather for our food, and considering how vulnerable we are to its vississitudes, it behooves us to try to reach the point where we can do what Curry claims we can’t and are foolish to even consider.

How small.

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48 Responses to “Travesties, Train Wrecks and Climate Denial Chum”

  1. What an excellent article. Thank you.

    I notice that many scientists are becoming less circumspect in public interviews as the number of extreme events around the world rises. This is a very good thing.

    With the deniers getting more and more vigorous, scientists have to differentiate their audiences, just as anyone does who deals with the media and the public. When doing research and writing papers for publication, spelling out probabilities is important, as are the specific measurements. When speaking to the press for news articles (rather than proper in-depth science articles), the scientists have to clearly summarise the main message so that the reporter and the general public get the message.

    Scientists need to recognise that they are being asked by reporters to inform the public. They are not being asked to give a treatise on their latest research. The public doesn’t want or need to know all the minor caveats, methodologies, whys and wherefores. They just want to know the main message, the ‘bottom line’ as some in business circles still say.

    For the general public, 90% likelihood should be expressed as certainty. 60% likelihood should be expressed as likely. 10% likelihood should be expressed as most probably not.

    Trenberth is absolutely correct. I still see articles that emphasise ‘but we cannot attribute a single event to climate change’, instead of ‘the scope and scale of weather disasters around the world shows clearly that humans are changing the climate’.

    Emphasising the ‘single event’ line is as redundant as saying ‘but we can’t attribute this car accident to Toyota’. OTOH, looking at extreme weather events as a whole can be likened to looking at whether Toyotas (or Chevies or Fords) are involved in a disproportionate number of accidents of similar cause.

    As for why reporters are asking the questions about climate change – most of them asking the question have never heard of Prof Trenberth. They are asking the question because every week there are more weather-caused disasters of increasing proportions. It’s obvious to even the dumbest person that something is happening to climates around the world, even though some smart and dumb people refuse to face the fact.

    Curry woos the deniers and continues to try to smear her colleagues. She is acting like a jealous and spurned lover. Her behaviour is not just unprofessional, it is despicable.

    As for Watts, he implied in an in-line comment to me (in one of my rare visits to WUWT), that he would just as soon take the word of someone who trains goldfish for a living as that of the world’s most widely recognised expert in climate science. WUWT is a very bad joke.

  2. There is no need for a separate word — ‘denier’ will do. What Curry c.s. are denying is not so much scientific fact, as that science as practiced is a legitimate, honourable enterprise. This is if possible even more despicable as it is anti-human, not just anti-reality. Reality will take care of itself — not so sure about the scientists.

    • Denier will do to identify the individual, but I think denialist chumming describes what individuals like Curry are doing with their blog posts – attracting hungry sharks with bits of fresh meat (inflamatory statements, dog-whistles), creating a feeding frenzy. It’s not serious discussion and debate, but is instead an opportunity to vent and smear further. Oh, and grandstand.

  3. Curry posted this at Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-scape, which makes me think she’s intentionally feeding the trolls:

    “What sells at my site (which is a pretty techy group) is anything having to do with climategate. People can’t get enough of that and the emerging personalities.

    Of the technical threads, basic radiative transfer/greenhouse effect sells the best, rather than the more applied topics like Pakistan floods and hurricanes (little interest in disaster porn I guess).

    And when I post something that is timely, about a topic that is getting a lot of discussion at other blogs (like media, communication, politics) it can fall pretty flat at my place.”

    Funny she’d describe her following as being “techy” since it’s dominated by the standard denialist cut-and-paste ignorami.

    • Porn sells. Climate porn sells to a specific crowd. Interesting that she uses the language of commerce…

      • > Interesting that she uses the
        > language of commerce

        Indeed. One wonders how much is in it for her…

        • On the post and comment thread about climate change and and security, Curry does a thought experiment, which in my view is just another opportunity for her to flog her favourite dead horse. See if you can spot it. Hint: I’ve bolded it. 🙂

          Lets conduct a thought experiment and think about how climate research might address the issues related to security concerns and provide useful information to security agencies to support their decision making. I don’t think the focus would be on simulations of 21st and 22nd century climate change associated with greenhouse gas forcing. Solutions to address the security issues overlap in a big way with solutions motivated by humanitarian issues and goals associated with economic development. Expending much more energy on regional vulnerability on time scales from weeks to decades seems to be a much better topic to focus on than the century scale simulations. Once we gain some confidence at these time scales, we would have a better basis for addressing the century time scale. With benefits to global security that also support humanitarian issues and economic development. Maybe if we can better understand climate variability and change on these time scales and can agree on the values of security, humanitarian goals, and economic development, maybe we can actually get somewhere on the climate issue.

          [my emphasis]

          Gee — this sounds suspiciously like the line that Lomborg and the likes of McKitrick’s group of Christians in the Cornwall Alliance (who support intelligent design) take on climate change. Sure it’s happening, but it won’t be that bad, and anyway, we should focus instead on “non-CO2 forcings” and humanitarian goals…

          Andy provides ample reason for research on attribution and why it’s important:

          Events like the Pakistani floods can be destabilizing and can potentially push a weak government over the tipping point. Predicting such events with precision in terms of timeliness, location and scale seems to be very difficult at best and impossible at worst. Improving predictive reliability in this area would be a great benefit not only to national security people like me, but also the communities and governments that would be the most effected.

          A second area to look at is long-term regional impacts – for example, if we could reliably determine how climate change will affect the allocation of water resources in the Middle East, then that would aid in contingency planning for those areas and provide another indicator for strategic warning for future conflicts.

          In short, IMO the best thing climate scientists can do to assist national security problems is to improve predictive reliability at a regional and local level. Global climate prediction doesn’t do much for us – we need to know where impacts will occur, how severe the impacts will be, and when they are likely to occur. Sufficient warning can prevent the use of some of our national security tools (like the military) in a reactive mode. Ideally, we want to prevent problems before they occur, but obviously that ideal is impossible to meet in all or even most cases.

          Hunter chimes in which this rejection of the focus on CO2, which he calls an “obsession” — imagine talking about those damn particle physicists’ obsession with the effing particle!

          hunter | January 16, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
          Something for people involved with national security to consider is this:
          The CO2 obsession has cost climate science the ability to make meaningful predictions about things like the Pakistani floods or the Australian floods.
          By focusing on global solutions for a problem that does not result in out-of-norm historical events, instead of offering adaptation ideas to the historical realities, increases in population and land use will continue to make us more and more vulnerable to what should be manageable events.

          First, Hunter is suffering from cognitive dissonance. He slams climate science for focusing on CO2 and long term projections instead of focusing in on short term events that are historical realities, and then he makes the claim that climate change doesn’t result in “out-of-norm historical events” but climate science should focus on them instead, even though they aren’t the result of climate change…

          Andy replies, in the most honest and objective way and I admire him for it:

          Andy | January 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Reply

          I’m not qualified to judge the efficacy or the relative cost-benefit of focusing on the big picture, global climate vs. regional and local effects. I don’t know what the right mix is, nor do I know how much understanding of global climate is required to improve prediction at the regional and local level. I doubt most people in national security do. All I can really do is to identify what would specifically help us deal with our problems, and prediction at the regional and local level would, IMO, be very beneficial.

          Too bad others on that thread aren’t so honest and objective in their comments and responses.

          Here’s Hunter’s crackpot response:

          hunter | January 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
          Judge the value of what climate science by what is failing to accomplish:
          anything helpful.
          You do not need to be a climate scientist to watch how CO2 obsessed positions fail to help with real world issues.
          A study of history shows that each and every breathless claim by CO2 obsessed people about particular weather events being caused by CO2 fails in the sense that CO2 influenced or not, they are not historically different from pre-CO2 obsessed events.

          You see, every single thread of Curry’s that I have examined is little more than chum, for all it does is draw out the crackpots and denialists who spend their time bashing climate science and / or climate scientists. It’s a big bash fest. A two minutes of hate.

          Does that make Judith the “Big Sister” of global warming denialism? (h/t to dorlomin)

  4. The greenhouse effect is a kinky fetish. Climategate is the blockbuster. Septics are easy to titillate.

  5. “Interesting that she uses the language of commerce…”

    Yes, exactly, it’s a bit weird.

    But then again just about everything she’s been doing publicly the last few months has been weird …

  6. I wanted to make sure that in addition to the AMS talk linked above everyone was aware of the special page Trenberth posted some months back.

    Re Judy, like many who have “gone emeritus” she seems embittered by not having gotten the recognition she thinks she deserves. I wonder, since she’s specifically mentioned no longer having a chance for election to the NAS, is it possible she was put up for it and failed? She appears to have undergone her shift in thinking over a pretty short period of time about three years ago, so I wonder about a specific trigger.

    *Very* informative post and discussion, BTW. Thanks for writing and hosting, shewonk.

    One minor quibble, though. You wrote:

    “What this says to me is that much work remains to be done when it comes to climate model projections or regional climate change and its impacts. This is what Trenberth said in that notorious email.”

    While that’s true enough in substance, it’s not at all what I gather. I think the stated concern (the “travesty”) was entirely about a lack of sufficient observations. This is in the context of cuts having been made in prior years to satellite instruments that would have resolved things had they been in place.

    • Agreed with your comment. Yes, you are right — it was about the need for more data/observations. More data was needed so that climate models could better account for short-term changes in the energy budget and their effect on temperature.

  7. I agree that feeding frenzy is a very apt description, and those who wade into those waters to attempt rational discourse deserve special credit. I’d prefer to think of the feeders as guppies in a tank though, rather than majestic sharks. The host posts some commentary (i.e. pellet food) designed to get the water frothing, and once in a while stirs the net to show them who’s boss.

    As for your suggestion that “Curry’s blog is a waste of effort”, I would argue that its been a very successful effort, given the number of guppies she’s attracted.

    • It’s served her purpose well enough, if her purpose is to make her the den-mother to global warming denialists and lukewarmers looking for legitimation. It’s a failure when it comes to bridging the gap between climate scientists and the public or skeptics. It’s just given denialists, contrarians and lukewarmers another forum to spout their bilge and has done nothing to improve the “climate” of the climate change discourse.

  8. “While that’s true enough in substance, it’s not at all what I gather. I think the stated concern (the “travesty”) was entirely about a lack of sufficient observations. This is in the context of cuts having been made in prior years to satellite instruments that would have resolved things had they been in place.”

    Yes, he was referring to insufficient observations. And IIRC there was a reference to his paper that clearly explained things appended to that e-mail, no?

  9. “We just can’t know”

    This is not to be confused with “I don’t know”. “I don’t know” might be honest skepticism – someone admits they haven’t studied a topic enough to form a strong opinion. Oddly enough, we rarely see such humility from so-called “skeptics”. The “We just can’t know” variety of argument is entirely different. It’s generally stated confidently, is meant to obfuscate, and ignores all the theory and evidence to the contrary, usually since the target audience isn’t familiar with the science on the matter. Those pushing this argument will point to uncertainty as evidence, where any existence of uncertainty means “we just can’t know”.

    Using the “we just can’t know” variety of argument to weather vs climate is akin to an addicted gambler asserting that because each hour at the slot machine is highly uncertain and far from predictable, we just can’t know if the inherent casino advantage caused or even contributed to the gambler losing that hour, and therefore we just can’t know if the casino has an advantage at all.

  10. I like the chum metaphor more than my flypaper metaphor. Curry’s blog is just another WUWT, for all intents and purposes. She didn’t care for what I said in my comment.

  11. I’ve just had a flash of insight – probably everyone else already recognises this, but it was a new angle for me.

    Denier forums and denier chum forums run a very fine line. They need intelligent people to survive as they are. They can’t rely on the denier rabble alone or they would degenerate (even further) into weirdo conspiracy forums. Denier forums could not be maintained if they stuck to mainstream science because it conflicts with the objectives of the forum owners. Neither can they post only denier rubbish – they need to attract just enough normal knowledgeable people so their target audience has someone or something to bash. But they don’t want a preponderance of intelligent, knowledgeable people or their objectives would not be achieved. So if denier-bashers don’t drive normal people away, some of the intelligent end up getting banned when their numbers get too high.

    Denier sites focus on denier rubbish and attacks on mainstream science, while attempting to attract just enough normal people for the deniers to have someone to bag. When individuals (posters or scientists) are thin on the ground, they have to resort to bagging the evidence and the science, which is a bit hard to do. If the forum only did the latter, it would be much more evident to anyone who stumbled across the site that it’s nothing more than an empty conspiracy / hate site. That’s why they always need a few normal intelligent people posting comments or they would not succeed. And that’s probably why they occasionally post normal articles explaining the science, to give their denier audience something to mock.

    Sites like RealClimate and ClimateProgress are the opposite. They are primarily information sites and don’t need deniers along for the ride. People don’t visit these sites to attack people or laud people or mock people (though some people do bag other commenters). The main purpose of most visitors is to get information and expand their knowledge and figure out how to take action to stop greenhouse gas emissions (and in some cases, inform everyone about what is happening in the world). The articles themselves attract intelligent people asking good questions to dig deep into the evidence, science and policy trends. These sites don’t need deniers to succeed.

    • Have you notice their habit on some of them of the occasional but of astronomy or something similar to give the thinnest of veneers of a science blog?

    • I agree Sou. Here’s my view of how a climate scientist should proceed with a blog: if you are serious about discussing the science with an eye to public education, you should limit participation to scientists who can offer an educated opinion and provide rational debate. If you want to keep your blog open to the lay public, then you should moderate very tightly and delete all comments that diverge from strictly science questions and comments. Opinion blogs are different. They tend to be more open and harder to moderate without appearing to be really biased. WU, CA and Climate etc. are all trying to have their cake and eat it. They demand recognition of their scientific-y status and do have posts on the science, but they also very often let the crackpots and denialists post whatever smear and whacko idea that comes to mind. These blogs seem like sewers to me rather than places of serious discussion.

  12. More chum:
    In this thread. And I am specifically talking about this in the summary:

    Not sure what the motive is for the attribution of extreme events, other than to build political will for climate change policies.


    Now I will say that the post was good, right up until then, AND my main complaint with Curry is her vagueness and then unwillingness to follow up on questions. She did have a lengthy discussion with me and another poster, specifically about that line, so that’s a start. It devolved into a conversation about the necessity of knowing the attribution for warming. I honestly can’t believe I had to defend this, knowing the warming trajectory is crucial and attribution is the only way. But in my final statement, I asked specifically about the hydrological cycle and storm energy and she responded that this is still an area of research, which of course it is, regionally. The literature isn’t devoid of information on warmth = quickening hydrological cycle, averaged globally. But this will be in a future post as to what she means…so I wait for it.

    But my main point is that line included in the summary was pointless. I think the main message to Curry needs to be if she wants the interface she keeps saying that she wants, these unfounded attacks on scientists need to stop.

    You have it right ‘Lass’, it’s just chum until then. And the amount of comments that directly reference “other than to build political will for climate change policies” are fair evidence of this.

    • Thanks Gryp — I look in more detail at this thread in my new post.

    • “The literature isn’t devoid of information on warmth = quickening hydrological cycle, averaged globally.”

      Actually it’s not at all devoid of regional studies, here e.g. Judy seems to like to think that if she’s unfamiliar with the literature in a given area it’s somehow open to question, which is reminiscent of Lindzen’s paleo dodge. Globally, the 8% increased water vapor per degree C temp increase (=> the 4% in the last 30 years figure that Trenberth likes to cite) is straight out of Clausius-Clapeyron, and given that it becomes hard to imagine that there won’t be major hydrodynamical changes. (Note the unpleasant irony that increased evapotranspiration and drought are also part oif this package.) Lindzen at least can claim expertise in atmosphere physics, whereas Judy (an obs specialist) brings little to such a discussion. Just have a look at her pubs.

  13. Grypo’s link should be:

    Specifically, the last paragraph.


    Here’s An Ode to Trenberth:


    Yet another
    Onerous climate disagreement
    Universal rancor everywhere

    As we
    Raise our
    Environmental concerns

    Always and forever like this?

    Can’t we get along?
    Love one another?
    In spite of our differences?
    Ad hominem is

    Sorrowful day
    Sorrowful climate of science
    Have we no hope?
    Our reserves of integrity


    INTEGRITY(tm): one can’t have enough of that.

  14. Trenberth is flavour of the month on denier sites. It looks as if they’ve gone off the personal attacks on Prof Mann for the time being. Maybe the supposed strategy is to try to take down the leading scientists one by one. At this rate (only one or two a year get the heavy mockery treatment from deniers), it will take thousands of years before they get to discuss all the climate scientists working now, let alone all those who have yet to enter the field 🙂

    • LOL! Trenberth is the current target, that’s clear. The whole focus is to take down the science by attacking the scientists, one by one. You are correct. That’s what they did with tobacco…

  15. Taking down the scientists one by one:

    As you said, shark feeding frenzy…

  16. I find many of the posts on ‘the other side of the mirror’ often resemble Emmanuel Goldstein hate two minutes. directing party approved hate at a face.

  17. So when does this bridge-building at Climate, etc. begin? Kinda hard to build and burn bridges at the same time.

    • Exactly. If you really want to build bridges between group A and group B then the best way to do it is not by posting pieces which are essentially an invitation for one group to attack the other. And then wonder why the latter group do not “engage”.

      The Trenberth piece just confirms what I’ve thought all along – Curry does not want climate scientists to engage, she wants them to surrender.

    • “So when does this bridge-building at Climate, etc. begin?”

      I swear, it seems to me that the general level of discourse has – as hard as this is to imagine! – gotten significantly worse since the Judy got involved. Is there some way to actually objectively measure this?

      And, yeah @ dhogaza. C’mon!. Her audience is “techy”??? Between regular contributors the iron sun guy, the centrifugal force guy, now the “no downwelling IR” guy, and others it’s an exciting and crowded race to the bottom of techy there. Whilst Lacis and Colose and others are now pleasantly m.i.a. And this doesn’t seem to bother Curry at all.

      Chum-de-dum-chum… Chum!!!!

      • “the iron sun guy”

        You mean the guy Watts banned after someone there unearthed something like THIS? Missouri court records will tell you what eventually happened.

      • My favourite are the ones claiming advanced backgrounds in chemistry claiming the term “acidification” is a scaremongering invention. Not the effect – the word.

        Because, see, the oceans are still not “acid” so you can’t say they are “acidifying”. Like the arctic is not “warm” so it cannot be “warming”.

        I gave up when Curry failed to delete comments expressly calling non-“skeptics” “eugenicists”. As far as I’m concerned she’s squandered every ounce of possible goodwill on setting up a place where the worst sort of blinkered WUWT commenters can get a good ego-stroking. Curry lends legitimacy to extremist positions through silence and tacit approval.

        • Yep. It’s not who is challenged, but who is not challenged that gives the best indication of a blogger’s true leanings, as far as I’m concerned.

  18. On balance climatology and physical oceanograpy, glacialogy, weather science have come together stunningly over recent decades. The extended quote of Ternberth used by Sharper00 is evidence of a mature, synergizing suite of disciplines. As computational power advances, the remaining missing jigsaw pieces will continue falling into place re: smaller temporal and spatial scales of prediction and precision.

    Compare, roughy, the uncertainties associated with climate/physical ocean sciences with, say, the uncertainties endocrine disruption research, or one of the great trans-scientific questions throughout environmental science: cumulative effects. Denialists have it backwards: the climate and physical ocean sciences are mature scientific disciplines.

    The identity politics idea sounds useful.

    • Agreed, Sloop — I don’t know how people can still be in denial about this after all the confirmation in so many different fields.

      This is why Curry is so wrong in her approach to the climate wars. Instead of hosting a serious blog where she engages climate scientists and so-called skeptics in a real discussion about climate science, with little to no noise, she spends her time carrying on this campaign to undermine mainstream climate science through innuendo and unverified and unsubstantiated claims about the science and scientists being “corrupted”. Then, she lets the chorus repeat all manner of nonsense. As Willard said in a thread over there, in different more subtle terms, the word “corruption” carries a heavy connotation that implies fraud and theft and law-breaking. Curry protests that she means a systemic problem with process, but instead she personifies this all the time to be about individuals. I’d still disagree with her if she implied the latter but it would be something that one could at least argue rationally. As it is, the public that reads Curry can’t help but get the former message and hence the cynicism and damage she does to the science at a time when we need action and less cynicism.

    • In support of this point please read the Yale Environment 360 article by M.D. Lemonick

  19. I absolutely love the below comment by “Bart R” (directed to another commenter, not to to JC) as it perfectly expresses the frustration of trying to debate sensibly with some of the people who hang out at CE, and with “skeptics” in general.

    “The superhuman task of anticipating which arcane and inobvious misinterpretation of my statements you are going to ramblingly conjecture about and then seek of me support for your wildly inaccurate conclusions loosely based on what you read is too prior to your tediously unoriginal and unimaginative a priori rejection of any answer in an attempt to link back to your own prejudiced and narrow world view is much to ask, otherwise.”

  20. Considering how much skeptical piles up in climate blogs, it’s amazing compared to how little attention these same talking points are getting in the news:

  21. Thank goodness some bloggers can write. Thanks for this article!

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