Climate scientists must not advocate particular policies

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This is an invited contribution to the Guardian Political Science blog.

 

As a climate scientist, I’m under pressure to be a political advocate.

This comes mainly from environmentalists. Dan Cass, wind-farm director and solar advocate, preferred me not to waste my time debating “denialist morons” but to use political advocacy to “prevent climate catastrophe”. Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist, urged climate scientists to sound a “more desperate note…Be arrested if necessary”. A concerned member of the public judged my efforts at public engagement successful only if they showed ”evidence of persuasion”.

Others ask “what should we do?” At my Cheltenham Science Festival event Can we trust climate models? one of the audience asked what we thought of carbon taxes. I refused to answer, despite the chair’s repeated requests and joke (patronisingly; his aim was to entertain) that I “shouldn’t be embarrassed at my lack of knowledge”.

Even some of my colleagues think I should be clearer about my political beliefs. In a Twitter debate last month Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist and blogger, argued we should state our preferences to avoid accusations of hidden agenda.

I believe advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science. We risk our credibility, our reputation for objectivity, if we are not absolutely neutral. At the very least, it leaves us open to criticism. I find much climate scepticism is driven by a belief that environmental activism has influenced how scientists gather and interpret evidence. So I’ve found my hardline approach successful in taking the politics and therefore – pun intended – the heat out of climate science discussions. They call me an “honest broker”, asking for “more Dr. Edwards and fewer zealous advocates”. Crucially, they say this even though my scientific views are absolutely mainstream.

But it’s not just about improving trust. In this highly politicised arena, climate scientists have a moral obligation to strive for impartiality. We have a platform we must not abuse. For a start, we rarely have the necessary expertise. I absolutely disagree with Gavin that we likely know far more about the issues involved in making policy choices than [our] audience.

Even scientists that are experts – such as those studying the interactions between climate, economy, and politics, with “integrated assessment models” – cannot speak for us because political decisions necessarily depend on values. There are many ways to try to minimise climate change (with mitigation or geoengineering) or its impacts (adaptation) and, given a pot of money, we must decide what we most want to protect. How do we weigh up economic growth against ecosystem change? Should we prioritise the lives and lifestyles of people today or in the future? Try to limit changes in temperature or rainfall? These questions cannot be answered with scientific evidence alone. To me, then, it is simple: scientists misuse their authority if they publicise their preferred policy options.

clouds

Policy decisions on climate change: not black and white.

Some say it is safe to express our views with sufficient context: “this is just my personal opinion, but…”. In my experience such caveats are ignored. Why else would we be asked “what should we do?” by the public or media, if not with an expectation of expertise, or the desire for data to replace a difficult decision? Rather than being incoherent – “I don’t know much about policy, but I know what I like” – or dictatorial – “If I were to rule the world, I would do this” – we should have the courage and humility not to answer.

Others say it is simplistic and impossible to separate science from policy, or that all individuals are advocates. But there is a difference between giving an estimate of the consequences of a particular action and giving an opinion on how or whether to take that action; between risk assessment, estimating the probability of change and its effect on things we care about, and risk management, deciding how to reduce or live with that risk. A flood forecaster provides a map of the probability of flooding, but she does not decide what is an unacceptable level of risk, or how to spend the budget to reduce the risk (sea defences; regulation of building and insurance).

We must be vigilant against what Roger Pielke Jr. in The Honest Broker calls “stealth issue advocacy”: claiming we are talking about science when really we are advocating policy. This is clearly expressed by Robert T. Lackey:

“Often I hear or read in scientific discourse words such as degradation, improvement, good, and poor. Such value-laden words should not be used to convey scientific information because they imply a preferred…state [or ] class of policy options…The appropriate science words are, for example, change, increase, or decrease.” (Science, Scientists and Policy Advocacy)

I became a climate scientist because I’ve always cared about the environment, since a vivid school talk about the ozone layer (here, page 4) and the influence of my brother, who was green long before it was cool to be green. But I care more about restoring trust in science than about calling people to action; more about improving public understanding of science so society can make better-informed decisions, than about making people’s decisions for them. Science doesn’t tell us the answer to our problems. Neither should scientists.

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116 Responses to Climate scientists must not advocate particular policies

  1. Tamsin Edwards says:

    Sorry everyone, this blog, and especially this post, are not places for “does the greenhouse gas effect exist?” conversations or similar. There are plenty of unmoderated spaces for that, like Judith Curry’s site or Bishop Hill’s Unthreaded. I try to keep my comment threads much more tightly focused than I unfortunately did with this one. (There has just been too much going on for me to read all your comments.)

    Cheers, Tamsin

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  2. July Linett says:

    I was merely a weather forecaster in the US Air Force for 6 years, and a chemist before that, so I do not claim to be anywhere near a climate scientist. However, I will tell you that what makes people distrustful of the “science” of Climate Change is the following:

    1. Scientist makes some findings. They are frightening, if true. So they announce it and multiple people find the same results! A consensus arises. It is published. Politicians who may or may not have an agenda run with it–either to save society from doom or to promote pet causes.

    2. Other scientists say, hold on, are you sure? Is there maybe something a little weird with the math? They are told to Shut up. They lose their jobs. Or are treated like heretics during the 1600s.

    As someone above said, science is actually accomplished when a hypothesis, after much painstaking research, cannot be disproven. I do not believe that has happened yet. (Primarily because of “Shut up”).

    Further, models, complete with internal bias (impossible not to have bias given current computing technology which relies so heavily on human intuition), do not suffice as evidence that our economic and social world needs to be turned upside down immediately or we are DOOMED!

    So, while scientists should certainly report their findings on important matters, at the same time perhaps offering ideas to policy makers for possible mitigation (should that be needed), the process should not stop right there. Consensus without completing the scientific circle is little better than religious faith. Galileo anyone?

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  3. Bryson Brown says:

    I think much of the discussion on this thread reveals just how misguided Dr. Edwards’ diagnosis of the mistrust of climate science and scientists is. Advocacy by scientists is not the problem here. The mistrust of science is driven, first and foremost, by the inconvenient implications of what the science is telling us, and by substantial efforts to manufacture convenient doubts. If you doubt this, you surely haven’t looked at the history (for example) of the tobacco industry’s efforts to deny and delay. In climate science, vigourous efforts to correct the record, including open and detailed reports from public inquiries and the extremely open and inclusive IPCC process, have done little to nothing to discourage deniers, including the kinds of amateur physicists who invent extravagant thermodynamic fantasies (see above) and are utterly impervious to correction from patient and knowledgeable scientists (see above). Adopting a monkish isolation from the rough-and -tumble world of public commentary and policy discussion will do nothing to correct the misapprehensions of those innocent souls now convinced of the perfidy of scientist-advocates on this or any other important public issue.

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  4. Alan Emery says:

    In climate science, the scientists for the most part are not associated with an industry. The funding primarily comes from government funding agencies that do not restrict funding to any particular ideology other than accurate science, so in theory should not exert pressure to take a biased position in the science. If true, the scientists should be able to present a relatively accurate view of what policy options would mitigate or allow people to adapt to the effects of global warming. In looking at the field, it would seem there are not a huge number of climate scientists who are actually actively engaged in policy advocacy. Many do science outreach, but stop short of policy advocacy. Dr. Edwards appeared to suggest it is not a great idea to cling to a one-only policy strategy, but it is OK to define a number of policies. She, in twitter feed, “adamantly denies” that she advises scientists not to participate in policy discussions. If I interpret her correctly, based not just on this article but also her attempts to clarify her position, virtually no climate scientists are running counter to her suggestion. I do not know of any promoting only a single policy while rejecting all others.

    So for all those climate scientists and those in related sciences that can accurately comment on the effects of policies to mitigate or adapt to global warming, I think we have been given the green light to engage in policy discussions by Dr. Edwards, but don’t get trapped into thinking a single policy will solve everything.

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    • TMLutas says:

      The idea that governments do not steer science should have died a long time ago, at least since the time of Lysenko. Normally things don’t get quite as obvious as in the USSR under Stalin but the sheer blatant manipulation of science by government should start from the most obvious and then move to the edge cases.

      It is an unscientific comparison to make the reality of industry sponsorship of science with the theoretic state of government sponsorship of science. Didn’t we all learn to compare reality to reality and theory to theory in secondary education? In theory, industry maximizes shareholder value by honest science sponsorship so, in theory, industry sponsorship is not problematic at all. Of course it is problematic, but then again, so is government sponsorship when government is dominated by people who want more power for themselves and a bigger government to exert that power.

      There is no disinterested money raining down to fund science.

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    • Mark Buehner says:

      “In climate science, the scientists for the most part are not associated with an industry”
      If you don’t think government is an industry you’re living on another planet.

      “If true, the scientists should be able to present a relatively accurate view of what policy options would mitigate or allow people to adapt to the effects of global warming.”

      Think about what you are suggesting- a scientist may be an expert in, say, the atmosphere. They can say with some confidence what the addition or subtraction of so many pounds of CO2 might mean (though with less certainty than we all would like if the recent revisions to the likely bounds of CO2 sensitivity are any guide).

      Well enough- but HOW one might go about introducing a reduction in CO2 is almost certainly entirely outside a climate scientists expertise. Burn less gasoline, everyone knows that, right? Well, electric cars require electricity, which WILL be made in coal fired factories for at least the near term. Is a climate scientists versed enough to know that? Will he or she know the costs associated, and what that would mean to energy prices, and what energy prices mean to the average family? What energy prices mean to people living and dying in the developing world?

      Of course not. Tamsin is wise enough to recognize this. We all tend to think we know a lot more about subjects we havent studied than we ultimately do. Everything seems straightforward from the outside looking in, and its a real slippery slope that leads from 1)put less CO2 in the atmosphere to 2)switch to wind power and not scary nuclear power because it sounds nicer.

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  5. David Young says:

    There are a couple of discussions on this at Annan’s blog.

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  6. David Yooung says:

    Tamsin, Thanks for expressing your thoughts on this subject. It’s a conversation we need to have.

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  7. Alan Emery says:

    Myrrh: I forgot to mention that if you seriously believe you have found a fundamental flaw in theoretical physics, it is worthwhile submitting a paper to a refereed journal that deals with theoretical physics. You do not have to be associated with an institution, nor do you have to be a scientist to do so. You do have to prepare the paper according to the instructions on the website for whatever journal you choose. In preparing your arguments, be sure to read and understand the literature that you will be refuting. Your paper will be sent to several external readers who in most cases will make helpful comments and suggestions if your case is good. Be prepared to revise your paper according to suggestions by referees if you get past the first threshold. The reviewers do not have to agree with you, but you must be logical and accurate, or you will get a rejection slip.

    If you are correct, we will all applaud your determination and insight. If you are wrong, welcome to the crowd of scientists who didn’t get their pet theory right the first time.

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    • Myrrh says:

      Alan Emery says:
      August 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm
      Myrrh: I forgot to mention that if you seriously believe you have found a fundamental flaw in theoretical physics, it is worthwhile submitting a paper to a refereed journal that deals with theoretical physics. etc.

      You have missed the import of what I am saying. I am arguing from well known, well empirically tested, used in countless industries and applications world wide, basic real physics. It is no longer taught in general education because the Greenhouse Effect fake fisics has replaced it..

      For example, the GHE “shortwave in” which claims visible light from the Sun heats the surface land and water.

      Visible light works on the electronic transition level, this is on the level of electrons, not on the level of the whole molecule which has to moved to vibration to heat it up, which is why it is called the molecular vibrational level. Vibration, is heat, aka internal kinetic energy. All this is extremely well known in industries, Thermodynamics has been with us a long time.., if you want to find out about visible light go to Optics, or, Biology.

      If you re-read the NASA page I gave, you will see that there is a difference in size between shortwave infrared (which is classed in with Light not Heat, with Reflective not Thermal) and the longer wavelengths which are thermal, which are heat, which we feel as heat. Visible light is even smaller than near infrared.. That is all highly energetic means, because all the wavelengths travel at the same speed the greater the frequency in wave the smaller it gets – there is a rather large difference between gamma rays and radio waves, radio waves can be as big as a house and several football pitches long.. Visible light is much, much smaller than longwave thermal infrared, so it works on the smaller electron level, not on the larger whole molecule level. If infrared was not invisible we still would not be able to see shortwave infrared, it is microscopic, we would be able to see the bigger longwave infrared heat waves.

      Now, the atmosphere is not transparent to visible light as claimed by GHE, it is opaque – that is why you do not see the stars during the day. What you are seeing is visible light being bounced around by the electrons of nitrogen and oxygen, blue visible being more energetic, think more nervy pin ball, gets bounced around more hence our blue sky.

      When electrons of the molecules of nitrogen and oxygen absorb visible light from the Sun they get briefly energised, and electrons always wanting to return to their ground state do so, in doing so they emit the same energy they absorbed, blue light in blue light out. This is called reflection/scattering.

      Visible light from the Sun does not knock the electron out of its orbit, it is non-ionising, because it is too weak, but, for example, some uv does this, this is called ionising uv. This affects the skin on the DNA level, will damage the skin, so our bodies produce melanin to absorb it preventing damage. That is how we get our tans. We get burned when our melanin production cannot keep pace with our stupidity, when we expose ourselves to more Sun than we are used to.. Acclimatise slowly. UV is not a thermal energy, it is not hot, it does not heat our skin, it scrambles our DNA.

      So, visible light from the Sun is not capable of heating matter, the claimed heating surface land of GHE, because it is not big enough, does not pack enough punch to move whole molecules into vibration, but also, visible light is claimed to heat the water in ocean in the GHE, but it cannot do this because water really is a transparent medium for visible light, it does not absorb visible light but gets transmitted through unchanged. You can see this in clear water, you can see through water to the visible light bouncing back from the bottom of a stream for example.

      Still on the electronic transition level, which is the smaller level visible light operates on, the molecules of a transparent medium do not absorb visible light at all, they do not get in to play with the electrons as they do in the real gas medium of air molecules. They try, and this delays them a little, but they are passed along and so transmitted through the transparent medium unchanged.

      If visible light from the Sun heated the water in the ocean then we would have no life as we know it, we are carbon life forms from the photosynthesis which began in the oceans. Visible light is used by plants to convert to chemical energy, not heat energy, in the production of sugars from carbon dioxide and water.

      This is basic physics from real world traditional physics, still taught to some and particularly in relevant applied science fields. We really do know a great deal about the properties and processes of matter and energy – that is why the electromagnetic spectrum has been divided up and given different names, and put into different categories. We have come a long way from Herschel’s first brilliant discovery that the great heat we feel from the Sun is invisible infrared. His measurements were crude then, he moved his solid glass prism by hand at the edge of the table.. We now know that there is a great difference in size, relating to frequency, so the visible light he was measuring was getting overlap from the bigger longwave thermal infrared heat waves/photons which are packets of particles.

      As I have already explained, the AGW Greenhouse Effect has taken out the direct longwave infrared heat we get direct from the Sun in order to claim that real world measurements of this are from “backradiation by greenhouse gases from the atmosphere under TOA”.

      This is simple science fraud by sleight of hand. The KT97 and ilk GHE energy budget is science fraud, Trenberth needs to go back to traditional physics to find his missing heat..

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      • Eli Rabett says:

        Well, Tamsin, you asked for it. Care to help out or are you going to continue to rely on the good will of others to deal with the confused?

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        • Mr. Lynch says:

          Eli, you seem wise enough to know that some forms of BS are so advanced they are indistinguishable from real knowledge. ;-)

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          • Tamsin Edwards says:

            I normally monitor comments to prevent them going off topic like this. It’s boring for people to hear the same arguments they could elsewhere. Please stick to the topic of the post or else I’ll have to revoke (all) your auto-accept moderation statuses or end commenting. I don’t have time to read all your comments at the moment, beyond a very quick skim, so I rely on trust for people to stay on topic. Thank you.

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          • Eli Rabett says:

            Sorry, that will not do. You open the door to misleading nonsense, you have the personal responsibility of closing it, a point that you missed in the original post/guardian column and continue to ignore.

            “Going off topic” is the usual false balance, and FWIW, this comment is on topic, the first responsibility of scientists who speak/write in public is to clearly define scientific reality.

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  8. Jon H says:

    Unfortunately, those who lie about science in order to protect their profits don’t have any compunctions about advocating policies.

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  9. Alan Emery says:

    Myrrh: If you were correct about CO2 not being a greenhouse gas, and if the reason the earth is warming is from the sun warming us directly, then both the upper and lower atmosphere layer should be warming at the same rate. If by contrast, excess CO2 acting as a greenhouse gas is the cause of global warming by trapping the heat and not allowing it to escape into the stratosphere and on into space, then the only the lower atmospheric layer (troposphere) would be warming and the upper layer (stratosphere) would be cooling. Guess what? The upper layer is cooling and only the lower layer is warming. You need to re-read that NASA report. It is not dealing with the lower atmosphere.

    You cite two authors who propose only that climate science is flawed (as do you) and that climate scientists are conspirators. This in the face of rising ground level atmospheric temperature increase, sea surface temperature increase, deep ocean temperature increase, ocean heat content increase, declining snow cover in the winter north, declining sea ice cover in the Arctic summer, and rising sea levels. I repeat there is no alternate explanation other than excess CO2 and other gases such as CFCs and methane causing the global warming at this time.

    The science, with close to 96% confidence, predicts that if we continue to emit CO2 and other GHGs at the rate we are now or even faster, the lower atmosphere in which we live will continue to rise in temperature reaching between 2C and 4C higher and sea level rises between .6m and 2 m higher than it is now by the year 2100. It will not stop magically at 2100AD either. My youngest grandaughter will see into the 22nd century. I do not want her to face intractable problems because of inaction on our part when we could effectively reduce the problems.

    Despite the attempts to find the climate scientists guilty of fraud and the science fundamentally flawed, the real world is getting warmer and the real oceans are rising. The human consequences of this are serious threats to our collective health and societal well-being. It is just plain stupid not to innovate alternate energy sources based on such things as solar and wind energy, nuclear power (with substantially improved safety and disposal systems), and others to replace fossil fuels as quickly as possible. It is much smarter to invest in and improve effective means of removing carbon at the emission sources, legislate its removal, and store it. It doesn’t take many brains to understand that with the observed rates of rising sea level, and the threat of land-based glaciers melting faster than expected, people who live near the coasts will need to take action to either move to higher ground and abandon their current infrastructure or attempt to find ways to defend the shore line temporarily. For those who live in very low-lying or below sea level areas, the storm surges will only get worse because of the higher water. Freshwater sources near the ocean will be invaded (and are now being invaded) by sea water causing a shortage in drinking water. As the number of people increases to a predicted 9 billion, the extra 2 billion people will need to be fed on agricultural land that does not now exist. In our area (Canada), the vast forests are seriously threatened by invading insects that these trees have never experienced before and against which they have immunity. Excessively warm waters are killing salmon off Alaska today.

    Is the earth going to turn into a cinder? No, of course not, but is it going to get hotter and will the sea continue to rise? Yes. Will arguing over conspiracy theories help us in any possible way? No. We need to move on innovative ways to bring down the CO2 emissions and we need to do it now. Is global warming the only problem and the only cause of future human challenges? No. Pollution, increased population levels, non-sustainable farming techniques, loss of biodiversity, shrinking fresh water supplies, poverty, and many others also demand our attention.

    Let’s deal with global warming and all the other issues in a sensible and intelligent manner instead of arguing while real world problems need our sensible attention to find solutions in a timely manner.

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    • Myrrh says:

      Alan Emery says:
      August 11, 2013 at 11:57 am
      Myrrh: If you were correct about CO2 not being a greenhouse gas, and if the reason the earth is warming is from the sun warming us directly, then both the upper and lower atmosphere layer should be warming at the same rate. If by contrast, excess CO2 acting as a greenhouse gas is the cause of global warming by trapping the heat and not allowing it to escape into the stratosphere and on into space, then the only the lower atmospheric layer (troposphere) would be warming and the upper layer (stratosphere) would be cooling. Guess what? The upper layer is cooling and only the lower layer is warming. You need to re-read that NASA report. It is not dealing with the lower atmosphere.

      The AGW Greenhouse Effect missing hot spot has been the subject of debate for some time, not interested in it, but it has been shown to not exist: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/16/about-that-missing-hot-spot/

      You need to re-read that NASA page, it is on infrared – it clearly states that the heat we feel from the Sun is the wavelength of invisible longwave infrared, that is why it is called thermal, which means of heat.

      The Greenhouse Effect energy budget has excised this, claiming it does not enter at TOA because there is some, unknown to traditional science, “invisible barrier like the glass of a greenhouse preventing entry”, and has given its properties and processes to “shortwave, mainly visible” – visible light from the Sun cannot heat matter. This is simple sleight of hand science fraud.

      The other reason AGW gives for no longwave infrared heat reaching us from the Sun is even funnier than the “invisible barrier”, it claims the Sun is a cold star of 6000°C and so gives off “insignificant” amounts of longwave infrared heat.

      I have gone into more detail in my earlier post on this.

      I have not said carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas.. I do realise this is a standard meme rebuttal, but was not my point.

      My point is that the real greenhouse gases which act as a thermal blanket are majority nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere, which are our atmosphere.

      The real world around you is not empty space populated by the imaginary massless ideal gas of the Greenhouse Effect, it is a heavy, voluminous real fluid gas with mass therefore weight under gravity.

      The AGW Greenhouse Effect has changed the properties and process of matter and energy to create its fantasy world with its cold star for a sun..

      ..and introduced a greenhouse which only warms.., real greenhouses both warm and cool which is why, in traditional physics, the real gas atmosphere around the Earth was first likened to a greenhouse.

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    • Aldyen Donnelly says:

      Alan,

      As is obvious from my posts, I am not a physical scientist. I am an economist (which some would call a “social scientist” and others would call “no scientist at all). But I wonder if it might not be constructive to try to break the carbon and climate change science down into two parts (carbon concentrations vc. atmospheric climate change), and from there into two more (reduce net carbon releases because we can, regardless whether man is or is not the originator of marginally significant carbon releases).

      FIRST: CARBON CONCENTRATIONS in the ATMOSPHERE VS. “CLIMATE CHANGE”
      We are talking about the implications of increasing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. There are multiple potential implications of growing atmospheric carbon concentrations, including but not limited to climate change. I do not profess to completely understand the physical science of climate change. I am not a skeptic; but I do find the modelling quite a black box and many explanations hard to understand. Most of the inferiour or dangerous economic analysis I see comes out of what I call “black box modelling”–the CDF and related financial market crashes come to mind. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. So I am weary about modeling that I am told I can’t be expected to understand. (Not, for a moment, suggesting you have said this at this site. But other scientific leaders in the debate do tend to get to this place, sometimes rather quickly.)
      So, at least to that extent, I have some small empathy for some (not all) skeptics. I do, however, get the demonstrable link between atmospheric carbon concentrations and the risk of ocean acidification. Personally, I find this risk large enough to justify my already 25 year commitment to work on the development and implementation of effective and efficient policies that would lead to reduced rates of anthropogenic carbon releases to the atmosphere–however small the implications of ocean acidification might appear to scientists who are more pre-occupied with the potentially larger risks associated with climate change. In my work, I talk about reducing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. I rarely talk about climate change. There is a reason for that. In my experience, that strategy opens more doors that might close if I talked “climate change” only.

      I am not suggesting the scientific community should stop raising concerns they feel are valid about “climate change”, or stop trying to help people like me learn to understand the modeling. But the issue we are trying to directly address is the increase in atmospheric carbon concentrations, one of the risks of which is climate change, another is ocean acidification, and there are others. Maybe the debate could move forward a little faster if we focussed our dialogue more on the disease (increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations) and its multiple potential impacts than on one impact (risk of climate change), because there are multiple negative impacts not all of which weigh equally for every listener (however dumb that might sound to those of use emersed in climate modeling).

      WHO IS AT FAULT VS. WHAT CAN WE DO?
      I find arguments over whether or not anthropogenic releases are significantly driving the increase in atmospheric carbon emissions somewhere between a waste of time, at best, and a dangerous distraction. (I am grateful, the “who is at fault” debate has made only the smallest appearance in this comment section, but wish to address it anyway.)

      I am old enough to have grown up with the fable of the old lady in the shoe. Her family was growing and was finding it harder and harder to fit into the not-expandable gigantic shoe that her family called home. While we are having the larger, longer debate about population growth and how we are going to fit on this earth with its fixed carrying capacity, we might at least agree that it will be essential to limit and manage our family’s use of space and waste streams differently as we continue to try to fit in this fixed space. (I should say that while I am clear that the earth’s carrying capacity is fixed/limited, I can’t agree that we are curently certain we know what that limit is–whether we have passed it or are soon to pass it or have more time.) The constraint on the old lady’s family is the size of the shoe, and that is not the fault of any one or combination of family members/waste generators. Reducing non-essential consumption, the amount of space we use and our own waste is simply a survival requirement. “Life ain’t fair and then we die”, as they say.
      We know atmospheric carbon concentrations are increasing. We should reduce anthropogenic releases of carbon to the atmosphere, as well as sequester more atmospheric carbon in biological and geological reserves to which we have access, because and as long as we can. We can try to convince our neighbours to do the same, as much for their own comfort as to avert the risk that their family might spill out into our space. But we don’t have to wait to do what we can until they decide to do so, too.

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      • Eli Rabett says:

        Understanding why adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere must increase the temperature of the surface is not trivial, but it is not rocket science either

        A somewhat longer version with links and comments this happens because

        1. The total energy emitted by the earth has to equal the total energy absorbed from the sun. The only mechanism for either of these processes is radiation to and from space

        2. The earth radiates in the infrared at wavelengths longer than 3000 nm , the sun radiates at much shorter wavelengths, principally in the visible, 800-300 nm.

        3. It gets colder the higher you go in the troposphere and the density of molecules is lower.

        4. From 3 the rate of radiation from IR active (greenhouse gas, GHG) molecules (CO2, H2O, CH4) is lower the higher you go (hotter things radiate more, see Stefan-Boltzmann law, more molecules radiate more).

        5. The GHG effectively block radiation escaping to space at wavelengths they absorb EXCEPT at high enough levels where the gas density is low and the radiation can escape directly to space without being absorbed by other GHG molecules(this is about 7 km which is still in the troposphere).

        6. Because radiation to space is blocked at IR wavelengths where GHGs (and clouds) absorb, the surface has to warm so that radiation can increase in unblocked areas of the spectrum and escape to space maintaining radiative balance.

        Also here and here

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  10. Michael Powe says:

    Repeating myself, ad nauseam, (sorry) — the appearance of climate change deniers did not spring from some ill-advised policy advocacy by climate scientists. That did not happen. The deniers selected their positions before ever having seen the science. No one should let themselves be fooled by the ad hoc claims that climate scientists are to blame for the outbreak of ostrichism in the legislative hallways and video yak fests.

    If 99% or 90% of climate scientists are agreed on the structure and development patterns of global climate change, they are under no moral or scientific obligation to include the other 1%-10% in the discussions. Fred Hoyle died disbelieving in the Big Bang Theory. He was not at the table, when modern cosmological theories were being hammered out.

    As one with almost 20 years as a trainer, teaching computer hardware and software classes at universities and corporate conference rooms, I know that nothing derails comprehension more effectively than a boatload of caveats introduced in the main talk. Colloquially, we refer to that as “getting too far off into the weeds.” People will be dying on massive scales, probably within our lifetimes, unless we have more “scary talk” and less punting about in the weeds.

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    • Mr. Lynch says:

      Your last graf hit a nerve with me. I’ve sat through a number of such software development classes and seminars such as those you mention, and there were often two versions of the course: a five-day course for practitioners, and a half-day summary for the execs who were paying for it. There were also two-hours talks given at technical conferences. Some of the trainers were forthcoming about the caveats, and some were not.

      After the five-day course, we all went back to our jobs to put the training into practice, but found we needed quite a bit of hand-holding (aka “consulting”) from the training company, as we pursued one bad idea after another; meanwhile the executives quickly came to realize they had been misled to think that the five-day course was a magic bullet that would make all their software development problems go away.

      Fudging the truth, in this case, led to a short-term advantage, but ultimately cost the training company a lot of its customers, and led to a big hit on the reputation of those techniques, in general. This seems a perfect parallel to what Dr. Edwards is cautioning the climate research community

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  11. Alan Emery says:

    Frank: You are still accusing us as scientists of manufacturing scary stories or distorting the truth by simplifying or dramatizing scenarios, and omitting any doubts or caveats when we discuss possible policy options for solving global warming. As a scientist, I personally resent that accusation. To the best of my ability I always present factual information. When predictions are called for, I always provide a confidence range. When an estimate of consequences are called for I make sure we have some level of probability built in. I am not sure where you are hearing scientists make up stories distorting the truth, but if a scientist does that, he or she will be well aware that they are being dishonest.

    Scientists spend enormous amounts of time checking and attempting to duplicate the findings of others. That is specifically how science sets up confidence limits on interpretations of findings. Steve McIntyre lost credibility not because he challenged the temperature reconstructions, but because he made a fundamental error in statistics. In routine fact checking of the scientific process, many other scientists using independent sources of data and independent methods of interpretation have all found similar results adding significantly to the confidence in those interpretations that McIntyre unsuccessfully challenged.

    I see no reason whatsoever that a scientist must be dishonest in order to discuss policy options. Scientists do not have a bias built into their positions the way lawyers or politicians do in representing a client’s perspective or a political ideology. While I do not accept your profoundly cynical opinion of lawyers and politicians, I absolutely do not agree scientists behave in the way you describe.

    Finally, I should comment that if something scary is well inside the realm of possible consequences, then not telling people about the probability of potential problems and how they might be avoided or adapted to is just as dishonest.

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  12. Alan Emery says:

    Excellent response and much better information. This puts the policy in a proper context and suggest why taxation as an incentive has some history that may be instructive. The approach that governments took at that time to legislate lead-free gas as a future requirement worked in the US, and later in Europe to replace the taxation incentives.

    Finding a similar legislative approach in the US to phase-in carbon-free energy sources may not be quite so straight forward as happened with lead. But the point is interesting that taxation is not the only method, nor is it necessarily the most efficient strategy. The implication is two-fold: first make certain that the scientific evidence regarding carbon reduction policies is accurate, and second continue to search for both effective and possible ways to reduce carbon emissions while at the same time ensuring that these potential policy options are well known and publicly communicated. The case is well made for the need to be clear and accurate if scientists are going to advocate policy options, but not to stop suggesting solutions to climate change or other scientifically addressable problems.

    In the meantime while carbon tax is in use in a number of jurisdictions, it will be instructive to follow its successes and failures as guidance for future taxation policies.

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    • Eli Rabett says:

      There is an excise tax on freons in the US to discourage use of ozone depleting substances

      http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-mssp/ozone_depleting_chemicals.pdf

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      • Aldyen Donnelly says:

        Yes, but this tax has nothing to do with the US phase out of these products.

        “Freon” is a DuPont brand name, where “Freon” is to CFC-based refrigerants and halons as “Kleenex” is to tissue. All such products, including halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl bromide, are called “Class 1″ substances under the US ozone-depleting substance regulations, which regulation flows from section 604 of the Clean Air Act (CAA)

        Section 604 of the CAA sets the phaseout targets for these Class I substances. A regulation introducing a phase out of the US production and import of these substances for all but limited use in the US was introduced in 1992. A ban on production and import of halons took effect on January 1, 1994. A ban on production and import of other Class I ODS – excluding methyl bromide – took effect on January 1, 1996.

        The tax to which you refer applies only to the limited production that is still allowed–without constraint. Note that the tax applies onily to domestic production and imports of the ODS when they are consumed (for the limited, allowed uses) in the US.

        In fact, a tax on all Class 1 substance sales was introduced in the 1992 regulation, so it did apply to all products legally sold during the phase out. This was the first time the US included a tax on legal sales during a pollutnat phase out, which tax was the third among three coincidentally applied regulatory measures also including the basic regulation that required the reduction in production and sales, as well as an allowance trading and banking regime. (Remember the US leaded gasoline phase out strategy included only 2 coincident measures and no new tax: the regulated reduction in sales and allowance trading and banking.)

        The big difference between the CFC phase out and precedents was the emergence of a significant US trade in smuggled CFCs. (Smuggling did not emerge as an issue for the leaded gasoline phase out.) Most detailed analyses attribute the smuggling to tax evasion–where both the direct CFC tax and the indirect “allowance” requirement are included in the definition of “tax”. You can read about the smuggling issue many place, like http://www.monitor.net/monitor/9701b/cfcarrest.html.

        The principal driver of the US CFC (and subequent HCFC22) phase out was the basic regulation. So far, the addition of the tax and quota measures–note that “cap and trade” is simply a fancy name for quota-based supply management and works the same way for refrigerants or energy products as for dairy or beef–has almsot always brought with them fraud and/or smuggling. This is always more likely when government taxes domestic sales but exempt exports and imports that pass through the US, or issues surplus quota to US producers who export their US-sales-restricted products.

        I would argue that the US CFC and HCFC22 experiences are strong arguments against both taxes and “cap and trade” as pollution control measures, especially when exports are exempt (encouragin the continued US production and export of substances that are no longer legally marketable in the US).

        I know that is opposition to both tax and cap and trade is not mainstream thinking, but I think the evidence belies theories in support of those measures.

        Back to the leaded gasoline phase out, Canada’s initial regulation and the US’s were the same, except for two things:

        (1) Canada phased out sales and domestic production on the same schedule; the US phased out domestic sales and introduced time-limited measures that acted as financial incentives encouraging US producers to export products that were no longer legally marketable in the US.

        (2) Canada’s regulation allowed any combination of obligated parties to “comply jointly” and bank “over-compliance” credits. The US regulation did not include these words, but in addition to (not instead of) the basic reduction regulation, the US also obliged entities that legally sold the regulated substance during the phase out to retire US (lead, CFC or HCFC) allowances.

        Under the Cdn “comply jointly” provisions, any combination of obligated parties could jointly file their compliance reports. If they complied in combination, they complied severally. If they over-complied, the govt of Canada issued bankable over-compliance certificates per the instructions of the filers. There was no govt.-created or administered quota supply/system. There was no ex-ante allocation of lead quota nor any political motivation to issue free quota to expert lobbyist friends of elected officials. Any system credits were issued “ex-poste” proof of over-compliance, and had a time-limited bankable life. In Canada, it was up to the private sector to build/administer and operate settlement and clearing services required to run a secondary market in lead credits, whereas in the US, all of those costs were and are born by the taxpayer under “cap and trade” rules.

        All the Cdn government did, in the lead phase out, was collect and audit compliance reports. Who traded what with whom was of no concern to govt. From a govt perspective, all that mattered is compliance reports were complete and filed on time, and whether reported releases were audited and within limits. Since credits were only issued ex-poste, there was nowhere the “hot air” supply we see in quota-based join compliance regimes. There was no such thing as a lead “offset”, i.e. a voluntary offer to reduce lead releases to earn marketable credits in unregulated product lines (i.e. paint). But an unregulated product supplier could earn credits by “volunatarily” opting into the regulated product regime. There is a WORLD of difference between a voluntary opt-in and the entirely wishy-washy, hot air credit-dominated offset market we first saw in Los Angeles’ RECLAIM’s SO2 and NOx market rules, and we now see in govt.-administered carbon markets world-wide. the strict registration of credits to ensure that all credits used in compliance were legitimate. (I should note that even with its shortcomings, the RECLAIM ERC market are still much more disciplinced than the most “disciplined” and government-overseen GHG offset market in the world.)

        Things got a whole lot–and unecessarily, in my view–messier when our governments (both Cda and the US) decided to create quota (instead of simply allowing joint compliance under the regulations), sell quota (for revenues), issue lots of free quota ex-ante (instead of issuing small volumes of over-compliance credits ex-poste proof of over-compliance), tax permitted pollution, and to publicly operate the secondary market settlement and clearing system (at a cost that has, typically, been greater than revenues from quota sales).

        First, once governments get used to large pollution tax and quota sales revenues streams, their commitments to reduce pollution (and give up those revenue streams) erode. Companies find legal and illegal ways to stay in production and evade the direct and indirect taxes.

        Smuuggling and fraud characterized the US CFC and HCFC22 allowance markets and currently characterize the US REC market.

        In the US CFC/HCFC markets illegal offshore producers launder(ed) their production and export sales to 3rd countries through the US import/export tax exemption. When it comes to US RECs, US biofuel producers at least used to export biofuel to Canada to free up US RECs, then import Cdn biofuel, earning more US RECs–as long as the Cdn exporter is registered as required in the US. That’s two times as many RECs per unit of US biofuel sold than they otherwise would earn.

        And then there is the well-documented CO2 allowance fraud in the EU CO2 market.

        Of course, any government sincerely committed to the allowing market participant the most flexibility to react efficiently to pollution reudction orders would simply write simple phase out regulations incorporating the very simple, administratively straight forward, “joint compliance” and “over-compliance credit banking” provisions that were so much a part of Canada’s leaded gas phase out strategy. (The unavoidable complication is always how new market entrants/sources will be treated during the phase down, when an 100% phase out is not on order.)

        There is no precedent in which a tax, in and of itself, drove down pollution to any significant degree. There are many examples where it caused fraud and smuggling responses that we would never have seen in response to a simpler regulation (including joint compliance provisions), especially when the regulation treats domestic and export sales the same way and IS NOT designed to incent domestic producers of the regulated products to dump high-polluting substances on unregulated foreign markets.

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        • Eli Rabett says:

          Freon was the commonly used term for CFCs in the US. Please don’t try and teach Eli how to eliminate liquid wastes.

          The reason for the tax was to allow the use of heritage equipment which had been optimized for the CFCs including, among other things, auto air conditions, for which industry claimed no drop in replacements existed. As the fleet ages there is decreasing demand and, of course, as the manufacture of CFCs decreases with countries such as India and China no longer manufacturing the stuff is harder to get.

          Halons are more difficult because there are critical uses (airplane fire extinguishing systems), but there too usage is shrinking. In one sense, this is an easier market to control because the users tend to be subject to other regulatory regimes which would turn up violations.

          Of course, it is trivial to make the perfect the enemy of the useful.

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  13. Aldyen Donnelly says:

    Tamsin, thank you for a well-reasoned and well-written argument.

    I would like to go one step farther.

    First, I think that sometimes physical scientists can, quite unintentionally, defeat their message when they shift from objective science reporting to policy advocacy.

    Think about what the average busy, hard-working mom or dad who might have an undergraduate degree in arts might hear when leading climate scientist advocate for a carbon tax: “GHG pollution could lead to the end of the world, as we know it, by 2100, if not 2035. So let’s tax the GHG pollution and use the GHG emission revenues to pay down some government debt and lower short term income tax rates for families and corporations.” What?

    I wonder how often it is the inadequacy of the policy recommendation (as the average person hears it) that leads the audience to be at least a little skeptical about the expert scientific analysis that resulted in the risk assessment?

    Back in 1978, when our governments announced they were ordering gasoline suppliers to phase out lead in retail gasoline fuel formulations over 10 years, they said the reason was that they accepted the science that suggested that tailpipe lead fumes were causing significant child development issues. H0w do you think parents/taxpayers–anticipating a significant increase in gasoline prices (which increase never actually occurred) due to the lead ban–would have reacted had our governments said, as an alternative: “We agree that lead fumes are causing harm to our children, so let’s tax the lead releases and use the revenues to cut state/fedearl debt and income taxes”?

    I appreciate that most scientists who have shifted into policy advocacy are sincere. But they might still be making a big mistake, especially when their policy advice seems such a mismatch with the scientific assessment.

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    • Alan Emery says:

      Let’s assume you did not intentionally misquote the anonymous climate scientist, nor did you intentionally leave out the reason for and strategy of the tax.

      A 1965 report linked human use of leaded gas to high levels of lead in the environment. A phase-out was planned and implemented in 1972. The lead was phased out from 1972 to 1986 for most of the US, but Washington State allowed its use up to 1991.

      The carbon tax is a similar strategy: In 1980 a report indicated human use of carbon was adding significantly to the greenhouse gas effect and potentially raising the global temperatures of the atmosphere, oceans and land masses. The author acknowledged the need to continue to use fossil fuels until they could be phased out. In several countries and regions, policies were introduced to begin phasing out carbon-based fuels. To do this a tax on the use of carbon was introduced to raise the price of using carbon-based fuels to discourage its use. In the future the plan is to increase the tax burden to further increase both the cost of carbon-based fuels and also to improve the financial competitiveness until alternate energy can replace it. This is a brief description by the BC government of its plans: http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/tbs/tp/climate/A6.htm. Just as with gasoline, it is a normal market assumption that innovation will step in to lower the cost of alternate energy if it can be competitive. A further innovation of the carbon tax strategy is to make it revenue neutral — no net increase in tax. This is done by taxing the heavy users of carbon and lowering the taxes in other areas, such as personal incomes and food, etc.

      No government must follow the policy advocated by anyone in particular. In fact, usually such moves are voted in by a majority of the representatives in a government. On the other hand an honest depiction of the scientists’ ideas presented by others goes a long way to keeping the policy debate on an even keel. The main advocate in BC was not a climate scientist, but a geneticist who many years ago decided to bring science to the public in easily understood radio and television programs.

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      • Aldyen Donnelly says:

        Alan,

        I think you misunderstand my points.

        First, at no point did any US jurisdiction propose to or “put a price on” lead to remove it from the consumer supply chain. I hypothesize that by 1978, when the US lead phase out reg became law, Americans would not have stood for a “tax it”proposal. I acknowledgethatbis only an hypothesis, but let’s also consider some facts.

        The US EPA was created in 1970. Immediately, GM started lobbying for the elimination of lead from US gas sales, thinking, at the time, that they were in a lead position when in came to the commercialization of then-nascent cat converter technology. In 1972, the cat converter patent was filed and the first demo car with a converter built. Note that significant US govt funding had previously been committed to the development of the technology. (Cat converters could not work with leaded fuel.)

        So in 1972, the EPA compelled gas retailers to offer unleaded fuel at the pumps and published a generic plan to order leaded fuel phase out at a later date. Ethyl Corp sued and the phase out plan was tied up in court for 4 years. In spite of GM’s early lead, Volkwagon signed the first contract to develop commercial cat converters in 1972, and the first cat converter-equipped car (a VW) hit US showrooms in 1975. It was the case that leaded gas share of total US gas sales fell 50% between 1975 and 1980–not entirely but significantly due to the popularity of cheap, small VWs. But total US gas sales grew over the period, and the decline in total US lead gas sales, relative to pre-75 levels, was only 30%. Over this period, the pump price for unleaded gas started at 4.5% and grew to 8.0% higher than the price for leaded gas. It was the lower relative price of the converter-equiped economy cars that primarily drove the 70s shift to unleaded, in spite of the price premium on the greener fuel.

        The regulation to phase out lead in US gas sales was promulgated in 1978, but did not come into full effect until 1980/81. Expert consensus at the time was that ethanol was the only likely replacement of lead as the oxygenate in gas. Coincident with the President’s signing the EO ordering the lead phase out, Congress passed the first ever US ethanol production subsidy into law, with a view to positioning US corn producers and refineries at a competitive advantage as lead was phased out.

        Canada & Europe also passed lead phase out laws in 1978. Key differences were that Canada phased out domestic sales and refinery production on the same schedule. The US law phased out domestic sales by 1991, but allowed refinery production through 1996. US refiners dumped leaded fuel on developing nation markets as long as they were permitted to do so. (US refineries are currently dumping high sulfur diesel on developing markets, now that it can ‘t be retailed in th US. US coal producers seeking to be allowed to export are simply expecting the same advantage that US administrations have always allowed US petroleum producers in the past.)

        Another key difference is that the US added lead allowance trading on top so the US lead phase out regulation. EPA required all gasoline suppliers to buy and surrender US lead allowances covering all of their permitted lead content. Then the EPA freely allocated 98% of the allowance supply to US refineries. So during the phase out, any foreign supplier to the US had to buy lead allowances from US refineries. As a result, lead was eliminated in Cdn gas sales 3 to 4 year ahead of the US, and Cdn refineries ceased leaded gas production (except for smal volumes of allowed special products) more than 10 years before US refineries (who got a back door leaded gas export subsidy out of the allowance allocation scheme). Take note that the California CO2 cap and trade regulation, though immensely more complex, closely follows this model. The problem is that it likely won’t survive WTO/GATT /NAFTA challenges if/when they are launched.

        While European nations jointly passed laws setting the same deadline for getting the lead out that North Americans had adopted (1990), Europe elected to use a pricing mechanism–the lead differential tax–to get the lead out.

        By 1990, in Europe, leaded petrol’s share of total EU petrol sales was down only 5%, in spite of the fact that the price premium on leaded equated had reached between USD$0.15 and $0.40/US gallon, depending on the country. (If there ever was a precedent illustrating how ineffective pollution pricing schemes are, compared to regulated products standards, the lead gas phase out is it.). In 1992, EU states agreed they had to work harder to get the lead out and ratcheted up their lead differential tax rates. But by 1999, when the leaded fuel was priced at USD$.40 to USD$1.11/US gal above unleaded, leaded fuel sales still dominated EU petrol sales. In 2000, the EU finally promulgated a product standard (almost identical to Canada’s 1978 regulation), initially putting a firm 2003 deadline on the elimination of lead. However, the EU regulators extended that deadline to 2006 for Greece, Italy and France, who needed extra time to phase in the new taxes their governments required to replace the significant lead differential tax revenues on which govt operations had come to depend.

        Note that the EU missed the developed nations’ previously-agreed lead phase-out deadline by 16 years in spite of the fact that the critical enabling technology was commercialized first in Germany and a German automaker was the leading producer of unleaded fuel-requiring cars for many, many years.

        I have studied over 40 other post-1978 pollution pricing precedents from North American and Europe and think an objective analysis suggests that when a government elects a tax measure as its first move to reduce demand for a pollutant/pollution precursor, it is always inefficient, usually ineffective, and that decision/distraction can be expected to delay the nation’s adoption of efficient/effective reduction strategies by at least 7 years.

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      • Aldyen Donnelly says:

        Alan,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond. I actually think–but would appreciate others’ input–that the Cdn leaded gas regulation stands outnasmthe superior pollution reduction strategy, on comparison tomboth the US and EU approaches.

        I wonder why that isn’t the nautenofethendebatenwe are having today?

        One of the things that gets me the most is that while a seemingly large population of highly qualified economists have “decided” that “putting a price” on carbon is the most efficient way to reduce emissions, they are not looking hard at the many actual precedents available for review. Intuitively, I agree that ollution taxes should work. Bug they don’t. I think we can learn more about how to develop effective and socially efficient policies by asking why, in fact, they don’t…not insisting they will if we just get leaders with adequate will.

        For example, let’s talk about the BC carbon tax. The tax was announced, by surprise, in March 2008 and quickly implemented by July 1, 2008. As with all of the European carbon-based consumption taxes to date, BC used the new CTax revenues to finance cuts in corporate and personal income tax rates. Roughly 8% of the revenues are rebated to low income earners, but less than 25% of BC households have an occpuant that gets a CTax rebate. CTax rebates covered 100% of the low income earners’ direct CTax-related cost of living increase in the first 12 months of the tax, but less than their direct CTax costs since then. Statstics Canada estimates that for each $1 in direct GHG costs these families pay, they are exposed to $2.60 in GHG costs embedded in their food and service purchases. 50% of these families had given up the privilege of owning a car long before the CTax was introduced, so it’s not like they can park their cars and use transit to free up the cash they need to cover the increase in their food costs. (BC welfare/income support rates have not changed since 2002, so it is not as if the poor families’ buying power issue has been addressed another way.)

        While BC announced that the income-to-CTax shift would be “revenue neutral”, in fact it has been revenue negative for government. BC Ministry of Finance budget documents show that in 2012/13, after 5 years of CTax rate increases (from $5-$30/TCO2e), the CTAX is still delivering $250 million/year less than the income tax revenues the BC govt gave up. In part to make up for that mistake, the BC government has returned corporate tax rates to close to the original pre-CTax levels.

        The CTax created other problems. In BC, government agencies, schools, universities, hospitals, charities, etc., never paid income taxes but pay all energy taxes. So, inherent in BC’s income-to-carbon tax shift, is a shift in overall tax burden from corporations and high income individuals to the public sector, education, health care and charities. As well, significant shares of CTax costs are deductible from royalties payable by large resource extractors. Also, the CTax is an operating cost and therefore partially offset by reductions in corporate income taxes paid.

        One great irony as that government-owned utilities that operate BC’s ferry and transit systems are among the 5 largest “corporate” CTax payers. Academic leaders, scientists and other CTax advocates are calling on the BC govt to earmark the CTax revenues to subsidize these public transport services. How about starting by exempting them from the tax in the first place?

        When we account for the share of BC CTax revenues that is actually paid by taxpayer-financed agencies, as well as the offsetting reductions on BC’s royalty and corporate income tax revenues, and add those totals to the $250 million/year hole that BC admits the income-to-CTax shift dug in the government operating funds, we get a govt revenue shortfall closer to $600 million per year.

        So far, please note, all of the deficiencies in BC’s CTax also characterize Sweden’s, Norway’s, Denmark’s and the Netherland’s. Because of these problems, all of those EU nations have reduced their reliance on pollution taxes for govt revenues since 2002. The BC govt current relies on its CTax (as a % of total govt revenue) more than any of those nations, even though demand for the CTaxed energy products has actually grown faster in the EU CTaxing nations than the rest of Europe or BC since 2000.

        BC recently introduced an unprecedented increase in health care insurance premiums, largely (but not only) to cover the whole in hospital and health services budgets created by the CTax. We see the same thing in EU CTax nations’ histories. As CTax rates increase, the public and essential service budget problems get bigger. After increasing health care insurance costs, most EU CTaxing nations then increased payroll taxes. The question is whether or not this is next in BC.

        A critical difference between BC and the EU nations that taxed carbon earlier, is that all of the EU tax systems are designed to minimize, to the extent possible, the impact of the tax shift on the largest, most energy intensive industries. BC’s tax does not have all of the industrial exemptions that characterize the Eu precedents.

        That is why, in the last 6 months of 2012, the average Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch or German household paid over USD$0.40/kWh, and as much as USD$0.60/kWh (Munich) for electricity, while oil refineries, chemical plants, aluminum, iron and steel smelters, cement plants, typically pay less than USD$0.08/kWh. 100% of energy tax and cost increases in most EU nations have been directly allocated to households.

        (There is much in the media about EU large industry moving to the US to avoid the high EU electricity prices arising from direct CTaxes and cap and trade. But, in most–not all–cases, the issue for large energy-intensive industry is not the power prices they directly pay. It is the pressure on wages they face due to the enormous and continuously increasing power prices their employees have pay at home.)

        Does the BC CTax get the desired demand response? Is it worth that much pain and confusion? Some recently (poorly done, in my view) studies say “maybe so”.

        But the reality is that BC per capita demand for the CTaxed energy products has declined, generally, since 1978. The post-CTax (post-2007) BC rate of reduction
        is actually slower than either of the 1978-2007 or the 2003-2007 trends. We see the same in EU numbers.

        The most referenced resource in studies that attribute energy demand and GHG reductions to the BC CTax is a study that compares actual BC 2008-2011 per cap energy use to a simulated counterfactual demand level, taking actual demand entirely out of any historical context. This study posits that in the absence of the CTax, BC per capita carbon-intensive energy use would have skyrocketed back up to 1983 levels by 2011. After years of decline, that represents an almost unprecedented short-term increase in per cap energy demand, during an economic recession that, so far, has claimed over 26% of the jobs in BC’s manufacturing sector since 2007. We see that the inclusion of similarly incredible counterfactual energy use demand/GHG discharge scenarios dominate the academic studies that find in favour of European carbon pricing strategies. In the meantime, one new coal-fired power plant that is currently under construction and will be commissioned in Denmark in 2014 will generate 20% more electricity than has been produced by all of Denmark’s on- and offshore wind turbines in any one year. Most of the electricity produced in this coal plant will be exported to Sweden.

        These studies are reminiscent of research that approved of the EU lead differential tax approach throughout the tax’s entire life, until the EU governments finally gave up on it.

        I am confident that if our leading climate scientists had the time to examine the energy demand, tax rate and price data with the discipline and diligence that they typically apply in their approach to climate data, they would at least be silent about–if not oppose–energy taxation as a means of reducing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere.

        Dr. Suzuki, to whom you allude, is not alone. I would not even describe him as a leader in the pro-CTax lobby at the time BC’s premier adopted it. So he does not deserve to be isolated for criticism. But he is part of a larger crowd of physical scientists who should either stop recommending policies they have not studied closely, or look at the data (as opposed a mountain of studies which were authored by individuals who have not looked at the data but rely on other studies by authors who have not looked at the data who rely on other studies by authors who…you get my drift).

        In their defence, one has to ask: how does some of this policy research get through the peer review process? Shouldn’t the science community be able to trust the peer-reviewed conclusions of other disciplines? My old Econ profs would have given me a failing grade had I handed in a paper like the one I describe above.

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  14. Alan Emery says:

    Myrrh: Anthropogenic global warming has essentially all the scientific evidence on its side. There is no contrary climate model to AGW. While the AGW model is uncertain about some details, it is not uncertain about the reality of AGW. The immediate consequences of AGW are sufficiently small that you personally can remain aloof and suffer not at all. The same cannot be said for our future descendents, who at this time have no say in the decisions.

    Michael Powe: I agree that only climate scientists can bring “climate science” to the policy table. I also agree it is important to counter the arguments that are not based on evidence, but which do seem to be effective — for all the wrong reasons — in stalling both the development of the science and the development of policies to deal with the effects of AGW. The key aspects climate scientists should be dealing with at this time are not about the evidence for global warming, but rather the evidence for and predictive modelling of the degree of global warming and its consequences in physical terms such as temperature regimes of the ocean and atmosphere, circulation patterns that affect the moisture regime of the planet, and so on.

    What remains for the rest of us (scientists, technologists, and any one with a good idea) is to use the findings of the climate scientists in our own fields. One of my areas of expertise is ecology. Ecology can observe the distribution of plants and animals, for example, and ask if these correlate to the climate scientists observations and predictions. Ecologists can also make informed predictions. For example many disease vectors, agricultural pests, and forest damaging insects are moving north and up mountains following the retreating cold isotherms. These are not theoretically harmful effects, they are real harmful effects and they are happening right now. In my area, the controlling cold seems to be a sustained period of -30C. Once we don’t have that cold period, many more southerly insects can survive and are moving in (emerald ash borer, pine bark beetle, west Nile virus in mosquitoes etc.). Regional planners can observe the effects of increasing sea level beginning to invade freshwater supplies, and beginning to push up against the infrastructure close to tourist beaches and coastal cities. Indeed may regions now have preliminary adaptation plans. Agricultural experts are already altering their techniques to account for the shifts in moisture and temperature. Technologists and business people have already seen that alternate energy sources are increasing in popularity and as the industry gains expertise, the prices will come down to rival or beat fossil fuels.

    So it is not just climate scientists who can speak about and develop policies to deal with the effects of anthropogenic global warming. If some climate scientists decide not to participate in the policy debates — or at least keep their voices only on the actual climate science — that is their choice. For the rest of us we can expand the areas of commenting expertise and help to develop useful and appropriate policies. And we can use our observational evidence as sources of testable hypotheses about the effects of global warming. If these tend to corroborate AGW theory (as most seem to just now), that is further evidence that the time is now to start developing policies in many areas to mitigate or adapt to what we see happening around us, and what we can logically predict will happen in the future.

    But if we all as experts stand aside, Michael Powe’s unhappy scenarios will probably be the fate of our grandchildren and their grandchildren to deal with.

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    • Myrrh says:

      Apologies for delay in responding.

      Alan Emery says:
      August 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm
      Myrrh: Anthropogenic global warming has essentially all the scientific evidence on its side. There is no contrary climate model to AGW. While the AGW model is uncertain about some details, it is not uncertain about the reality of AGW. The immediate consequences of AGW are sufficiently small that you personally can remain aloof and suffer not at all. The same cannot be said for our future descendents, who at this time have no say in the decisions.

      AGW is built on the Greenhouse Effect, you, CAGW and AGWs both, have never shown that to be a physical reality.

      I have shown some of the reasons it is not physically possible, by showing you, below, that the Greenhouse Effect has a made up physics of properties and processes, it is not even describing the real world.

      Michael Powe says:
      August 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm
      We have the perfect storm of denier action. All Myrrh has to say is, “I don’t believe you” and all progress is stopped. When Eli showed him the documentation proving his claims about the 1995 report were in error, Myrrh didn’t rethink; he just backed up to “I don’t believe you.” Which was his actual subtext all along.

      No it certainly was not and that is not what I said. I have given Santer’s own admission that he changed the real consensus of the scientists working on the ’95 report – he took out their conclusion and all their reasons for it. This is science fraud.

      They had already signed off on it. He came in, under instruction from Houghton, and changed that.

      They did this because the IPCC was consciously set up to show evidence for AGW, it is a political organisation, not a science body..

      The real scientists’ conclusion was that no human signal was discernible.

      It cannot be clearer than that.

      Deniers of global warming are not acting on science. They’re acting on emotion. And like all emotion-based arguments, their arguments are going to resonate in the legislative halls. Deniers are not constrained by facts or truth. They’re on a mission; and the mission is to stop the populace and the legislatures from believing in climate science. Period. If they can point to “science” and use it as a prop to accomplish their mission, great. But if they can’t, they’ll soldier on, merely switching the grounds of the argument.

      Listen, put aside for the moment all the diatribes you have picked up.., I am arguing from real traditional physics.

      You do not have any of it in your AGW Greenhouse Effect world. You have no direct heat from our real millions of degrees hot Sun, instead you have visible light heating matter which in the real world is impossible, and, you have a cold star for your GHE world, 6000°C. I’m sorry you take that seriously.

      Here, this is how the GHE science fraud begins:

      From real physics:

      Temperature of Earth with voluminous real gas atmosphere with mass therefore weight under gravity, mainly condensable nitrogen and oxygen: 15°C

      Temperature of Earth without atmosphere: -18°C

      Compare with the Moon without atmosphere: -23°C

      Temperature of the Earth with real gas atmosphere of mainly condensable nitrogen and oxygen, but, without water, think deserts: 67°C

      Which is the real “thermal blanket” around the Earth?

      Where is the physical process of the Greenhouse Effect claim that “greenhouse gases warm the Earth 33°C from the -18°C it would be without them”?

      Our real thermal blanket of the heavy real gases nitrogen and oxygen have a two fold role in Earth’s real greenhouse, real greenhouses both warm and cool unlike AGW’s GHE which only warms..

      These act as an insulating blanket preventing our Earth from going to the extremes of cold which happens on the Moon without an atmosphere, and also, because they are condensable gases, the GHE says they are not, these also expand when heated and transfer heat away from the suface and then condensing cold air sinks to the surface.

      The Water Cycle of course, water with its very high heat capacity, is the prime cooling mechanism, bringing the temps down to 15°C as it takes heat away from the surface in evaporation and condensing in the cold heights to liquid water or ice precipitates out to return to the surface. Bringing any carbon dioxide around with it..

      So you see, they, whoever they are who created this fantasy fisics, have had to take out real gases with volume, and the whole of the Water Cycle, but in doing so they have created a completely different world with no weather and no sound, as well as no heat from their cold star..

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      • Michael Powe says:

        If you are claiming to be a scientist with published, peer-reviewed research on the behavior of atmospheric gases, research that contradicts Dr. Edwards’ models, then please cite.

        In the absence of such, you have shown nothing in the way of scientific evidence to substantiate your claim that 90% of climate scientists are frauds and liars. “Saying doesn’t make it so.”

        Further, Eli already linked through to the article in which Santer addresses your hearsay allegations head on. Here’s the link again.

        Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

        I am not a climate scientist. I read science. I do understand the logic of scientific investigation, however. Fred Hoyle was entitled to deny the Big Bang Theory; he was not entitled to prevent all other cosmologists from proceeding on the basis of their research that established the validity of the Big Bang theory. And that, despite being OBE.

        I also understand that you are not morally entitled to impugn the integrity and motives of the 90% of climate scientists who endorse the theory of climate change that includes human activity as a significant factor. If your own theories were based on science, you’d be including the research and modeling of Dr. Edwards in them. It’s insufficient to simply say “You’re wrong.”

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        • Myrrh says:

          It’s insufficient to simply say “You’re wrong.”

          But I have not done that…

          I have given information from the real world physics as still traditionally taught in applied science, those people who make things that work, which contradicts your 90% of climate scientists. There is only one logical conclusion, only one rational conclusion, your 90% of climate scientists are pontificating on an imaginary world created out of fantasy fisics. I’m sorry, but that is simply a fact, it is not a matter of opinion. A fact requires only one person to show it is a fact.

          Here, as I have given below, NASA contradicts your AGW Greenhouse Effect energy budget of KT97 and ilk – this shows at the very least that there is a different physics teaching about the properties and processes of matter and energy.

          I have also given the base science fraud on which this GHE energy budget was built, which clearly shows that the Water Cycle has been removed from your models and “33°C greenhouse gas warming from -18°C by greenhouse gases” is an illusion, that is, with no logical connecting parts.

          It is up to you to read and absorb what I have given, and respond to it directly.

          So far none of you has done so.

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  15. Michael Powe says:

    We have the perfect storm of denier action. All Myrrh has to say is, “I don’t believe you” and all progress is stopped. When Eli showed him the documentation proving his claims about the 1995 report were in error, Myrrh didn’t rethink; he just backed up to “I don’t believe you.” Which was his actual subtext all along.

    Deniers of global warming are not acting on science. They’re acting on emotion. And like all emotion-based arguments, their arguments are going to resonate in the legislative halls. Deniers are not constrained by facts or truth. They’re on a mission; and the mission is to stop the populace and the legislatures from believing in climate science. Period. If they can point to “science” and use it as a prop to accomplish their mission, great. But if they can’t, they’ll soldier on, merely switching the grounds of the argument.

    This methodology is quite effective. In the United States, we’re still fending off “scientists” who claim that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time. And, who are trying to get that nonsense taught in schools.

    Only scientists who know climate science can bring it to the policy table. And, as long as they’re willing to stand aside and let the deniers control the debate, we’re at a standstill.

    I’m going to miss my annual spring vacation in the Bahamas. But the people who live there are going to miss their homes, even more.

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  16. John says:

    What policies, or tactics, should a climate scientist adopt? I ask because of Michael Powe’s definition of a good policy for climate change: “Anthropogenic climate change is real and must be addressed.” Yes, but how?

    I ask the question in the context of the recent revelation in the Financial Times that since 2006, relative to the US, EU electricity prices have increased 40%, and that UK and other EU manufacturers are moving production to the US because energy prices — electricity, not just natural gas — have become so lopsided in favor of the US.

    The EU price increases largely stem from the decision to have so much renewable energy at such high costs for the last 5 years. If these jobs hadn’t moved to the US, they would have moved to China in response. Did the world really save much CO2 here? Or did the EU just lose jobs and taxes for little climate gain?

    So — as someone who does believe that CO2 (and black carbon, and methane, and reduction of sulfates) is responsible for much of the warming we’ve seen in the last 40 years — I would propose that another policy (or tactic) to address climate change might be to accelerate the research needed for solar energy to be commercialized at prices equivalent to alternatives. To do this would require that we don’t try economically unreasonable tactics that only plunge the EU further into depression. It would accept that CO2 (from the EU, anyway) wouldn’t go down as much in the near term (but would go up less elsewhere). But people in the EU will be better off, and I would argue, we will still get at CO2 emissions a decade or two later than hypothesized.

    Eli talked about the book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which is relevant to people in the Tea Party. But also look to the origins of Fascism in Europe — it starts when people are desperate financially. Does the EU really want to go further down the road to economic poverty right now?

    Climate policy does not exist in a vacuum.

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    • Mr. Lynch says:

      “What policies, or tactics, should a climate scientist adopt?”

      As you point out, climate policy does not live in a vacuum.

      What that suggests to me is that climate scientists should have regular contact with specialists from other disciplines. I.e., work within (and establish, if necessary) multi-disciplinary teams, alliances, research-institutes, etc. This should have a number of benefits, the enumeration of which I leave as an exercise for the reader. ;-)

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    • Myrrh says:

      Nonsense, of course AGW is not real – nothing has changed since the consensus of scientists working on the ’95 IPCC report concluded that no human signal was discernible.

      Houghton/Santer took out all references to this and put in the fake consensus you claim. And ever since then all your ‘consensus proofs’ show the same unconscionable dishonesty and a continuation of the science fraud which this engendered , e.g. http://www.thenewamerican.com/tech/environment/item/15624-cooking-climate-consensus-data-97-of-scientists-affirm-agw-debunked

      This following is an example of the outcome from ‘climate scientists’ themselves without a clue as to the real properties and processes of matter and energy unable to see through the manipulations of physics which created AGW and so passing on their ignorance through general education:

      http://www.inquisitr.com/tag/earths-core-hot-as-sun-surface/

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      • Eli Rabett says:

        Oh, you mean the 1995 IPCC report which says that

        THE BALANCE OF EVIDENCE SUGGESTS A DISCERNIBLE HUMAN INFLUENCE ON GLOBAL CLIMATE

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      • Mr. Lynch says:

        @Myrrh: You and Eli Rabett may be in possession of different versions of this report.

        I am not vouching for any of the following — just providing an entry point into the “Chapter 8 controversy”:

        http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/Science/Social/IPCC-Santer.htm

        I do recall an IPCC co-author quitting over something like this.

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        • Myrrh says:

          Yes Mr Lynch, it appears Eli Rabett missed the import of what I was saying, your link much appreciated.

          Santer admitted his science fraud: “IPCC’s Santer Admits Fraud
          December 18, 2009 • 10:16AM
          Ben Santer, a climate researcher and lead IPCC author of Chapter 8 of the 1995 IPCC Working Group I Report, admitted last night on Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory national TV show, that he had deleted sections of the IPCC chapter which stated that humans were not responsible for climate change. Accusing Santer of altering opinions in the IPCC report that disagreed with the man-made thesis behind climate change, Lord Monckton told the program, “In comes Santer and re-writes it for them, after the scientists have sent in their finalized draft, and that finalized draft said at five different places, there is no discernable human effect on global temperature — I’ve seen a copy of this — Santer went through, crossed out all of those, and substituted a new conclusion, and this has been the official conclusion ever since.”"
          http://larouchepac.com/node/12823

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  17. Eli Rabett says:

    May Eli take the opportunity of adding to your reading list:

    A Perfect Moral Storm by Stephen Gardiner

    Experiences of modernity in the greenhouse: A cultural analysis of a physicist ‘‘trio’’ supporting the backlash against global warming by Myanna Lahssen

    The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter

    and, oh yes, if you doubt the subtlety of those you seek to work with, read this in full

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  18. Michael Powe says:

    There seems to be a confusion about the definition of policy. A policy underlies a strategy: “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” “Anthropogenic climate change is real and must be addressed.” After the policy is established, legislative and other types of action implement the policy. Implementation is tactics: “How do we alleviate the effects of climate change.”

    After following the winding path of this discourse, my conclusion is that nothing will be done. The climate change deniers have succeeded in stymieing the adoption of any policy/strategy to address climate change. That’s their goal. They don’t have to prove you wrong. They just have to prevent you from being effective in changing policy. “I told you so” will be cold comfort when the waters are sloshing in the streets of Miami.

    Welcome aboard the Titanic. May I offer you a chair?

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    • Alan Emery says:

      Correct. Strategies flow from goals, and tactics flow from strategies. Policies are essentially political implementations of tactics by setting up rules. The political agents setting the rules in the policies can be government, corporate, or organizational.

      Think about how the goals set the stage for the strategies. For example, if the goal is to understand the causes of global warming, the strategy will be different than if the goal is to avoid global warming, and different again if the goal is to reduce the effects on humans of global warming.

      Strategies to understand the causes of global warming call for tactics of climate research. Who can do this work? Scientists. Who defines the tactics? Scientists. Who defines the policies of research? Groups of scientists.

      Strategies to avoid global warming invoke tactics to reduce excess greenhouse gasses. Who can do this work? Scientists, technologists, economists, business people, ordinary people, politicians. Who defines the tactics? Anyone with a good idea. Who defines the policies of reducing excess greenhouse gasses? Any group who chooses to do so for their own members, including politicians for their jurisdictions.

      Strategies to reduce the effects of global warming on humans invoke tactics to reduce of greenhouse gas emissions, to adapt to rising temperature and sea level, geoengineering tactics, tactics involving alternate energy sources, educational tactics, migration tactics, etc. Who can do this work? Everyone. Who defines the tactics? Everyone. Who defines the policies on reducing the effects? Everyone at different levels.

      Personal policies, group policies, corporate policies, government policies are all sets of rules governing the members of the group. The only goal that in any way truly restricts who sets the strategies, tactics, and policies is the goal of understanding the causes of global warming. That can only be done by scientists or people carrying out scientific research. The other goals are broader in scope and can be addressed by a much bigger group of people, and in the case of reducing the effects on all of us, we can all set the policies or influence those who would set the policies, because they all affect all of us and we all have equal logical authority to suggest what might work and what might not work to reduce the effects on us. These can be at the personal, local, regional, countrywide or global levels.

      Understanding the goal you set predetermines who is doing the work and who sets the policies. Within the goal of reducing the effect of global warming on humans, essentially anyone at any level can logically, appropriately and legitimately set or influence the development of policy.

      So who sets the goals? We all do. We do it at our own personal level, we do it in our non-governmental organizations or charity groups, we do it by writing letters to our politicians and voting in government elections at all levels. In this debate, if you don’t want to reduce the effects of global warming on people, then your strategies will be different from mine, and so will your ideas about what policies should govern our actions. But being a scientists has nothing to do with my right to advocate to reduce the effects of global warming on me and my family as well as the rest of humanity. By being a scientist, however, I can also discuss and advocate within my scientific expertise.

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    • Brad Robbins PhD says:

      “Anthropogenic climate change is real and must be addressed.” is not a policy; it’s a belief system that requires a leap of faith. Politically it might be a useful tool but scientifically it fails. Consensus isn’t science. If it were we would still be operating under the principle that the world is flat and the sun revolves around the earth.

      Properly stated, a policy concerning AGW (climate change, whatever) might be: greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to level x, or reduce global population to level y, or beaches will be restored to “natural” conditions to include a dune system, or advanced countries will lower their standard of living, etc.

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  19. Marcel Kincaid says:

    Congratulations on becoming the latest darling of the denialsphere.

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  20. John says:

    Dr. Edwards, I think you are right that climate scientists are often perceived as not particularly objective, because they essentially become politicians (or are seen that way, in any case).

    May I suggest that part of the issue could also be the preferences of funding institutions? Meaning: no matter what the findings, good or bad, the press releases and articles always points out bad news, even if the science of the article only carries good news. I imagine that this is done to indicate that the researchers and their institution are still “on the team.” They need to keep getting their funding, don’t they? I’m guessing they wouldn’t behave this way unless they felt they needed to, in many cases.

    I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read — the article and the press release — where the results are actually good news, but somewhere there is a section that explains why it ISN’T good news, even though it seems like it.

    Back in the Eemian, we now find that Greenland was about 6 to 8 degrees hotter than it is today, for about 7,000 years, and had lesser elevated temps for another 8,000 years. Yet according to this research, Greenland contributed about half the sea level rise of the time, e.g. contributed 2 to 4 meters. Call it three meters.

    Here’s the link, with further links to full study:

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/eyes-turn-to-antarctica-as-study-shows-greenlands-ice-has-endured-warmer-climates/

    Assume that none of Greenland’s melting occurred in the other 8,000 years of elevated temps which weren’t 6 to 8 degrees higher. Three meters in 7,000 years comes out to a couple of inches per century. You can play with the numbers, but what ever you do, it is a few inches per century, AND it takes 7,000 years to do it. Compared with so many headlines over the years about “unprecedented Greenland melt,” this is tremendously good news. And it appears to be the best science yet on the subject yet, since it is the first ice core from Greenland to capture the full Eemian with likely accuracy.

    Yet, at the link, you will find that climate scientists like Jason Box and Richard Alley try to explain why it isn’t the good news it seems.

    If you assume, as I do, that when solar energy is finally equal in cost to alternatives, starting about twenty years from now, solar will be the main source of new electricity in most of the world — including in most deserts, on building roofs, and with time, windows of commercial buildings — then we aren’t going to have 7,000 years of increasing warming, we will have perhaps 2 more centuries of it. So to find out that Greenland’s contribution is so small — and is likely to be back loaded, so we might get only an inch or two per C in the next two centuries — makes me want to dance with joy that we aren’t going to be swamped.

    Same thing with the recent article which showed results of a 20 years experiment in the Arctic, where researchers artificially warmed a large plot for those 20 years. No big net releases of CO2 — no, the releases from soil were balanced completely by increase storage in new roots and growth in and above the soil. Great news, again. No huge carbon releases. But it was spun as having unexpected negative side effects. Please.

    Won’t the public trust scientists and funding institutions more if they see such institutions not try to put a sad face on good news all the time (in my view)?

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  21. Mr. Lynch says:

    Of potential interest to followers of this discussion:

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/08/02/climate-caution-is-about-the-policies-not-the-science/

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  22. Alan Emery says:

    Oops, typo: “no reason not to”

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  23. Alan Emery says:

    Frank explicitly agreed with Schneider that climate scientists who advocate policy only so by rejecting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in favor of scary stories, omitting caveats and doubts and simplifications. I interpret that to be dishonest, regardless of whether the scientists declare they are advocating or not. I completely disagree that one needs to use anything but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to be a proper advocate. Anything else, such as Frank suggests of scientists, would be dishonest. If there is a better word for not telling the truth, I don’t know it. And there is reason not to tell the truth as an advocate. That is why I do not agree that a scientist must not be an advocate. I have no way to distinguish between describing results and conclusions in a scientific forum or public forum.

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  24. Alexander Harvey says:

    Hi Tamsim,

    Are you discussing the wisdom of your supporting various policy choices in a public manner or of your commenting on various policy choices? I think the former would be a distraction but the latter might have some limited merit.

    Given that there is an abundance of policy choices on offer is it too much to request a scientist’s personal view on them? I think the answer is no, but that it is not all that important either way, so why give it.

    If someone enquires as to what they, or we collectively, should do, I suspect they want for a rational answer. What is my rational response? No amount of material science can answer that question, it seeks guidance as to how to make a subjective choice.

    Given my underlying system of beliefs and assumptions, my perception of the current state of my environment, my assessment of my abilities, and my goals, what policy might there be that would be rational for me to adopt?

    That is the most I believe to be decidable, a subjectively rational choice. I think it nonsense that to suggest that there be an objectively rational policy.

    I am not sure whether I care very much whether about a scientist’s objectivity; I do care whether they reason objectively, reason logically. I would be interested to determine whether a scientist’s subjective view clouds their reason. If it doesn’t, I cannot see that their views are any more or less relevant than mine.

    I think a scientist can give a valuable perspective on whether a policy is well reasoned, hence given some set the beliefs, perceptions, abilities, and goals whether it is rational. That is little different to suggesting that a scientist can offer good counsel, be a scientific friend.

    So perhaps next time someone enquires as to what they should do, you should ask of their beliefs, perceptions, abilities, and goals and suggest that these are the crux of the matter, and offer only an attempt to assist them with their reasoning.

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  25. Victoria Slonosky says:

    Thank you, Tasmin, for so clearly articulating why and how scientists should draw a line between scientific expertise and policy. Having spent some time reflecting on this myself, I would add two points:
    1) just as a climatologist is qualified to give scientific advice on climate matters, so are there people who have spent just as much time becoming experts in their own fields of economics, transport, policy, etc who are qualified to state the impact of, for example, tripling the cost of petrol. In a democracy, it is in fact up to our elected representatives to decide on policy, based on the opinion of experts in many fields, not just the field that we happen to find of concern. We are all of us free to run for office or write to our MP or organize a political campaign if this is where we think our moral efforts should be directed.
    2) The most compelling reason I find for a separation of the role of scientist and policy is actually mostly psychological. In a fast-moving field like climatology, we are struggling to keep up with the flood of information coming in from new technologies, synthesize terabytes of data, and reconcile information coming from sources as diverse as satellites, 18th century thermometers and deep-sea forams. While we’ve been saying that climatology is a science in it’s infancy for nearly 200 years, it’s true that we still have much to learn, and need to keep our thinking flexible. I would imagine this becomes much harder to do once one has made public statements (or given policy advice) definitively stating something along the lines of ” I’m completely sure that all the warming of the past 50 years has been caused by humans, and immediate action must be taken to decarbonize the economy”. It’s generally difficult for most of us to admit we make mistakes, and our “gotcha” society in journalism and blogs makes it even more difficult for people to announce that they’ve changed their minds on an issue (so hats off to people like James Lovelock). But in science, we have to be free to change our minds with changing evidence, and in a field like climatology, the evidence is always being updated as time goes on and we continue to monitor the climate and uncover more information from the past. It’s this imperative to attempt to approach the data in as impartial a manner as we can that, for me, is the most compelling philosophical reason to draw a strict line between science and policy.

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    • Victoria Slonosky says:

      I should add that this is equally true for someone who has stated “all climate change is natural, and nothing needs to be done”, the point being that public statements of personal opinion and specific policy advice unrelated to one’s area of expertise intermingle one’s professional expertise and opinion with one’s personal opinion. All this makes it harder to approach data and ideas with detachment, as from that moment on, there will be something to live up to, to try to justify (I would think, I’ve never personally been asked to give an opinion on policy!).

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  26. Brad Robbins PhD says:

    Science and policy are two hats that mustn’t and cannot be, worn at the same time. Science is and should be the pursuit of knowledge and understanding; we can present these to policy makers so they may develop and implement solutions and/or alternatives to problems. If asked we can offer our opinion as to what those solutions might be but if and when, we as scientists, put on our advocacy hats and begin to actively support policy then we are no longer acting as scientists.

    Why? Because science demands that we be skeptical. If I raise an hypothesis my job as a scientist is to disprove (or attempt to) that hypothesis. Once done another is raised in its place and the process repeats. Only in this way does science (and our knowledge/understanding) advance. When we become advocates for a particular solution we are no longer skeptical of our science rather we have become “believers”. Scientists should ask how; philosophers should ask why.

    In the current debate, AGW supporters have developed a faith-based belief system that they defend as a “consensus”. In other words, they are no longer attempting to refute their hypotheses but are instead working toward proving them.

    A similar example is evolution, specifically Neo-Darwinism. Evolution can be demonstrated through experimental manipulation; natural selection — not so much. But to the Neo-Darwinist, the hypothesis of natural selection is now a law and as such has been raised to a consensus. They no longer seek to advance knowledge but rather to defend their belief system.

    AGW theory has suffered the same fate as evidenced by hockey sticks that use cherry picked data to advance a belief, by emails that reveal an effort to inhibit alternative hypotheses, by advocates who’ve forgotten that science is never settled (e.g. Newton — Einstein — modern physics), and by those who use ad hominem attacks to silence their critics. AGW adherents would have us believe that they have THE answer; skeptics argue that the shaky ground that answer stands upon demands alternative explanations.

    I applaud Dr. Edwards’ stand to act as a scientist rather than an advocate.

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  27. Alan Emery says:

    That Mr. Lynch suggests a good balance of information flow for policy makers is to give public voice on global warming to McIntyre (a prospector and mining consultant), McKitrick (an economist), and Watt (a TV weather broadcaster), while simultaneously holding qualified climate scientists silent in their research labs or via refereed papers in expert journals is disingenuous at best. Even if Mr. Lynch does not think global warming exists or does not think it is a threat, to promote such a distorted horizon of information sources is a long way from helpful, unless the intent is something other than evidence-based policy-making and decisions.

    Making such a suggestion reinforces the argument for qualified scientists in climate sciences as well as the unqualified non-expert to be heard at equal volume in public forums.

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    • Mr. Lynch says:

      What I said was this:

      “I think the right posture is for scientists to say: let us keep working on this and give us robust QA on our methods and assumptions (e.g., folks like McIntyre and McKittrick and Watts should be encouraged and maybe even paid.)”

      I believe it was M or M who came up with the idea of feeding random series into Michael Mann’s computer code. This kind of creative challenge is what I mean by “QA”. As a 30-year software professional who has worked in banking, medical device, and aviation software, I want this kind of QA backing me up and keeping me honest. If the climate science community is not producing this kind of challenge to its own models, I respectfully suggest it needs to cast its net a little wider.

      This is not about giving them “equal voice” or a platform, but following Feynman’s dictum to bend over backwards to prove yourself wrong (which Dr. Edwards quoted, approvingly).

      I am frankly surprised that there are commenters who do not perceive the conflict of interest (real and perceived) that exists in a researcher who is also a policy advocate. When I was writing up medical device studies, I did not comment on healthcare policy, even though I had strong feelings about it. I knew that it would compromise the credibility of my studies. This just seems so basic, to me.

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      • Alan Emery says:

        Of course your position is exactly about giving public voice to critics, but suppressing the public voice of concerned scientists. McIntyre and McKittrick ran a very public test by introducing red noise to Mann’s data set, but made fundamental errors in their procedures, so it was a spurious test and falsely produced similar shapes because they left the shape in the noise. Far better testing of the famous hockey stick curve has been the many independent studies using different data sets that all confirm the fundamental shape of the curve and its implications for global warming. The so-called “QA” by M&M was a failure.

        I am certain all climate scientists welcome debate and testing of their original methods, data, and conclusions. As science progresses, many original conclusions get modified by the testing, and uncertainties get reduced. That is standard procedure.

        Do I recognize the potential for conflict of interest in some sciences? Of course. In medical summaries now, the financing source is a regular piece of information associated with the results, implying that big Pharma is a perceived source of bias because they have much to gain from favourable results.

        Most climate science funding however, comes either directly or indirectly from governments, not industry. The scientists have little reason to exhibit any bias other than their own findings.

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        • Leo Linbeck III says:

          You make some excellent points about the importance of disclosing potential sources of bias in scientific reports. The human brain is bedeviled by bias (Kahneman and Tversky, among many others have elegantly demonstrated this), and diligent effort is needed to manage our biases.

          Given your insight on this issue, it is puzzling that the clear bias that attaches to government funding does not appear to create serious concern. Is it mere coincidence that government funded research supports policies that serve the political interests of government officials (i.e. the accumulation of political power)? And how, fundamentally, is this different from industry-funded research that supports policies that serve the economic interests of industry (i.e. the accumulation of profit)?

          [Note: It may be tempting to make the claim that government represents the people and is therefor altruistic, while industry represents itself and is therefor selfish. However, the mercantilist and neo-feudal behavior of political and economic elites in modern "democracies" makes such a claim untenable and, well, quaint. So I'd encourage you to avoid such arguments should you choose to respond. ;-) ]

          Finally, I applaud those like Dr. Edwards who are working to increase our knowledge of the world, while also maintaining a healthy skepticism and humility about the true status of that effort.

          Cheers,
          L3

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        • Mr. Lynch says:

          Thanks for the clarification about what MM did and how the climate research community assessed it in retrospect.

          However, I don’t think it’s quite right to say that the MM work was “invalid” QA. Its critique of the MBH statistical methods did find sympathy outside the climate research community, at least back then (I have no idea what has happened since 2006 on this.) Since that time, there have been of course very embarrassing disclosures about the peer-review system, which only adds fuel to the fire.

          ***

          I agree with you that MM should not have done what they did publicly. Ideally, their challenge would have been brought forth within the privacy of the review system. However, given the problems that have been revealed in the climate journals, they probably felt this was the only route open to them.

          What I would like to see is some forgiveness and some healing among all involved, including dropping of all accusations of academic misconduct. That charge, in my mind at least, has been brought far too eagerly.

          I think some of Wegman’s opinions on this in his ’06 report are excellent:
          * blogs are not the place for this kind of discussion
          * climate statisticians need more interaction with mainstream statisticians (presumably, both groups would benefit from this.)

          I apologize if I said or implied that climate scientists should not have a voice. What I intended to support was the the position of Dr. Edwards listed in the title of this blog post.

          Finally, you make good points with respect to my comments about conflict of interest. I’m afraid I expressed this poorly. I probably should have referenced “cognitive dissonance”, instead. That is, if I decide to take up action in the public sphere, how can I go back into the lab and be objective? Now I am “locked in” to the POV implied by my advocacy.

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  28. Frank says:

    Wonderfully idealistic. IPCC (and NRC) reports should be written by scientists like you who have deliberately chosen not to be involved in advocating any particular policy. Unfortunately, scientists who aren’t interested in policy aren’t likely to want to invest the time to work with a highly politicized UN organization. And others will feel that an unwillingness to advocate for any particular policy will be perceived as a lack of confidence in climate science in general and climate models in particular. So, I don’t think many of your fellow climate scientists will follow your lead.

    Instead, what we really need is a code of behavior for scientists who also want to be policy advocates. When climate scientists are testifying before policymakers, talking with reporters, giving a public lecture or just writing a blog post, their audience needs to know whether presenter is speaking as a scientist or as a policy advocate. Stephen Schneider provided a classic description of the difference between these two roles:

    “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

    The problem Schneider didn’t acknowledge is that one can’t be both at the same time. An audience deserves to know when a climate scientist is speaking as an ethical scientist (with all the caveats and doubts) and when a climate scientist is speaking as a policy advocate (telling scary stories, over-simplifying and omitting doubts). Ethical reporters need to know or find out whether a scientist they are speaking with can be trusted to present all sides of a scientific controversy or whether opposing views need to be sought. Climate scientists should be free to do whatever they feel is appropriate and necessary to “make the world a better place”, but other scientists don’t deserve to have their profession tarnished and their purely-scientific forums polluted by climate scientists acting like politicians, lawyers and used-car salesmen.

    Therefore climate scientists who wish act like any other policy advocates need to warn their audience that they have taken off their “scientific halo” and adopted a different standard of behavior. An academic climate scientist who has chose to behave as a policy advocate in a forum doesn’t deserve more credibility than an expert on climate science who works for the fossil fuel industry

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    • Alan Emery says:

      What on earth makes you think a scientist must be dishonest, to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have to be of intense interest to the media and the public? The real world is a fascinating and emotionally compelling place. Climate change need not be scary if we offer solutions, nor does it have to “simplified” to the point of being incorrect. You make a direct accusation that scientist who advocate policy are routinely dishonest because they always tell scary stories, over-simplify and omit doubts. That is a heady accusation and one that is quite uncalled for. Scientists can easily attract the attention of the media and policy-makers by speaking honestly and accurately about the implications and potential solutions to challenges they have uncovered with their science, including global warming and climate change in general.

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      • Paul Matthews says:

        The comments here illustrate how easily respect and trust in scientists can be lost. Reading the comments in order, I was impressed by Alan Emery’s 45 years of science and his enthusiastic support for young scientists. But he’s lost that respect here by misrepresenting what Frank said. Frank didn’t say or imply anything about scientists being ‘dishonest’, a word that Alan uses twice. All he’s saying is that scientists need to make it clear whether they are wearing their ‘objective researcher’ hat or their ‘concerned policy advocate hat’, and in Frank’s view they can’t really be both at once.

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        • Alan Emery says:

          Dr. Edwards has made it clear she is quite comfortable speaking about the limitations of climate science in her blogs by focusing on them — hardly a balanced approach but not untruthful to the science.

          Nowhere does she claim climate scientists should not comment on science policy because the science is flawed or that she must make up scary stories, distort or omit the caveats or uncertainties, or indulge in simplification. The science has limits to what it can predict and she is clear about that. Where she claims to be uncomfortable is when she comments outside her area of her area of expertise.

          Any honest person should be uncomfortable proposing policy outside an area of expertise, but where the expertise is appropriate, scientists should feel at liberty to use their expert knowledge to assist others to formulate policy in a broader context. Science after all is but one of a range of considerations even in a topic like global warming.

          If global warming were of no consequence and of little or no cost, this would not be a debate. If climatologists are correct — and that seems to be in the upper levels of certainty — then the consequences are important to understand and consider. If the extant policies are not sufficient to avoid a serious consequence, then in my opinion as a scientist and a human being, the scientist must point out the consequences within their area of expertise of a poor policy choice. In that way, I completely disagree with Dr. Edwards.

          I also disagree with Dr. Edwards feeling she can tell me that I “must not” advocate policy in my areas of expertise. That is my choice, not hers.

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      • Frank says:

        Alan: If a scientist offers up scary scenarios, makes simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts; he may not be acting dishonestly – that scientist is simply not acting like scientists are expected to act. However, it would be dishonest for a scientist to allow his audience or a reporter to believe they are hearing a scientific talk or analysis (the truth, with all of the caveats and doubts) when that scientist is actually behaving like a policy advocate (telling scary stories, etc).

        Scientists who tell scary stories etc are behaving like lawyers or politicians. Lawyers and politicians seek truth/justice/betterment/success through an adversarial system, where half-truths, deception, mis-direction and other tactics are accepted practice. Science doesn’t work by an adversarial system; scientists normally don’t have the time to waste checking each others papers for accuracy and candor (as Steve McIntyre does). Scientists expect to hear the whole truth etc from their fellow scientists. There are good reasons why scientists should talk with policymakers, reporters or the public using the same candor.
        a) It is tough enough for scientists to communicate effectively with non-scientists about their work. The tactics practiced in adversarial systems make communications much harder.
        b) Behaving like lawyers and politicians reduces the prestige and influence of all scientists. The economists who work for the CBO, for example, are treated with great respect by Congress because they perform analyses but refuse to make policy recommendations.

        My recommendation: When a scientist feels he must act like a policy advocate, warn your audience that you are not speaking as a scientist would normally speak and explain your reasons for doing so. Keep these roles separate: If your are preparing a document you wish to characterize as a “scientific report”, be sure to include the whole truth with all of the caveats and doubts. “If our climate models are correct, …” Most attempts to strive for consensus are likely to lead to suppression of caveats and doubts.

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  29. Michael Powe says:

    Again, I point out that Dr. Edwards’ assertion is a false premisse. She claims that if she just stays in her lab and does “pure science,” the climate-science deniers will become climate-science believers because she presenting “just the facts.”

    Simply, the historical fact is that denial of scientific evidence long predates the doctor and “climate science” itself. Only 40% of American citizens believe in evolutionary theory. Is this because biologists were “advocates,” too “passionate,” — what?

    If nobody advocates on the basis of the results of scientific research, those results absolutely do not matter. She’s engaging in ivory tower dilettantism. That’s her right as a human being. However, she has then no claim that she is motivated by a desire to make the world a better place.

    What’s missing from this discussion is any sense of the real world. Actions and words matter. Some scientists are trying the top-down approach, advocating for policy solutions that will bring the danger to heel through governmental action. Some are trying the bottom-up approach, educating the populations on the science and the dangers. Scientists who choose to “sit this one out” are thereby declaring that the outcome of the debate is not sufficiently significant to them, that they feel a need to be involved. Climate deniers will simply turn this declaration into the meme, “If it was really as bad as you say it is, Dr. Edwards wouldn’t be silent on the subject.”

    Never in the history of humankind, has a side of a debate been turned because those on the other side refused to engage in the debate. That circumstance never has happened; as I predict the sun will not rise from a westerly direction tomorrow, I predict that that circumstance never will happen in any future.

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  30. Nichol Brummer says:

    Isn’t it a bit contradictory, if you advocate that the group you belong to should refrain from advocating anything? Still, strictly dividing responsibilities and competencies over different groups of people that each mind their own business and do their own thing .. that seems to make sense, doesn’t it?

    This is a fascinating moral problem, but I think it is fake. It is a false dichotomy. You cannot simply divide the world into those that advocate, those that decide, and those that don’t know and arent interested, and scientists that sit on their ivory tower and potter away at their obscure science. Luckily we are all a bit of each, and the world can only function if we communicate, or advocate, if necessary.

    I originally come from South Africa, and visited it many times as a child, when apartheid still become more and more entrenched, withdrawing into a security system. The old friends and relatives of my parents were mostly white, but varied in their politics. Quite a few of them ended up playing a role pushing forward the big transition when apartheid came to an end. Most of them just moved along when they found they had to.

    The interesting observation was: for a nation to make such a big transition, it is *essential* that you don’t just have the advocates and the disinterested. You need a complete chain of people with a large variety of opinions. Most people only speak to those that don’t differ too much from themselves. If you want to have the whole world to move, we will need a wide variety of both disinterested researchers, and scientists that do various levels of advocacy. And journalists, etc, etc.

    The other thing I remember from South Africa under Apartheid is that all the different advocates of progress where always fighting each other. Telling off the others that they were following the wrong strategic plan. Let met tell you: there is no single strategy. We all need to move, and take along with us those that we can influence.

    So: I have complete respect for Tamlin, and the choice she made for the position she likes to occupy in this global chain of communication and activism. Withdrawn on ivory tower of scienctific objectivity. But please don’t tell other scientists they should all make exactly that same choice!

    On the other hand, Tamlin: welcome to climate science advocacy :~)

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  31. Mr. Lynch says:

    I wish I had the link for this, but don’t. So, apologies to Walter Russel Mead, whom I attempting to paraphrase.

    Those pushing for drastic action on the CO2 front and hoping for a wave of scientists to tip the balance are neglecting some very important things:
    * the tradeoff is between uncertain probability of catastrophe and certainty of drastic change in standard of living. Human beings being what they are, they will cling to any slim thread of hope that they will not have to reduce their standard of living.
    * it will be political leaders who will pay the price for inflicting discomfort (or worse) on the people when they cut back on CO2. Politicians being what they are, they are not about to inflict pain on their constituents without nearly unanimous popular support or metaphysical certitude that the imminent climate catastrophe requires that they override popular will. Neither of these conditions is in the offing.
    * in our democratic culture, there is a role for technocrats, but it takes a back seat to popular will. Those who believe that scientists’ high intellectual level is cause to put them at the top of the power structure are not in tune with the lessons of history.

    What can scientists do? Try to keep their funding, improve their knowledge, and reduce the uncertainty level that is part of the “calculus of reluctance” that is part and parcel of the landscape.

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    • Alan Emery says:

      Mr. Lynch, you are both correct and incorrect. For much of science, discovering what the universe contains and how it all operates, is a relatively benign occupation. Good and not so good things come of it. It enriches our understanding of the universe. Technology can transform some of it into lifestyle improvements, but much of it goes to fuel commerce, not all of which remains benign. On rare occasions, “science” discovers things that have direct and important impacts on our lives. An even rarer few science discoveries are revealing not-so-easily seen threats to our collective futures. In those few instances, such as anthropogenic global warming, scientists can do much more than hide in a hole and keep their funding to reduce uncertainty in the calculus of reluctance. They can step up and reach out to the public (that mass of people who create pressure on politicians) to inform them and engage them in guided conversations either directly or through their institutions. A conversation is a two-way affair, so the scientists are only one side and need to listen to the people and respond to their questions in their terms. Human beings are not generally stuck on maintaining a given lifestyle if there is good reason to shift. If in the conversation, scientists learn a lot more about the opinions of the lay public perhaps can they make good use of that new understanding to counter misinformation with sympathetic answers that provide some answers as well as simply contribute to the definition of the problem. By helping to steer public opinion on the science, as well as the key factors in reducing or eliminating a problem, the scientist can have a profound if indirect effect on political decisions. But not unless they engage with the public and respond to the public’s questions and concerns in terms the public can deal with — not just doom prophecies, but ways to avoid or mitigate the potential problems.

      It is not the intellect of a scientist that is important in these issues that are dangerous for human civility and health, it is their passion and innovation — their human qualities — that we need to see out front.

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      • Mr. Lynch says:

        Thank you for your response. An additional thought I had in the interim is this: in ten years the calculus of reluctance will shift markedly if there is a dramatic upswing in temperature of if some engineering breakthrough dramatically reduces the cost of alternative energy.

        While I agree with much of what you say about the humanity of the scientist and the importance of having them “make a difference”, I am skeptical of the idea that the “passion” of scientists on this issue can (or should) move the needle. I have seen too many occurrences of passionate false alarms which have boomeranged. All it takes is for one overly passionate guy or gal to make a foolish prediction, end up with egg on his face, and set his profession’s credibility back by years or decades. The problems with passion are several :( a) as an emotion, it cannot be truly, reliably communicated as well as facts and ideas can; (b) it can fade in the face of disappointment or wilt in the face of the passion of those who oppose you; (c) passion arouses suspicion of “motivated reasoning”, and (d) passion multiplies the effect of failure.

        I think the right posture is for scientists to say: let us keep working on this and give us robust QA on our methods and assumptions (e.g., folks like McIntyre and McKittrick and Watts should be encouraged and maybe even paid.) This will help restore trust, and keep the project alive until the day when the climate science community can start making predictions that come true.

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        • Mr. Lynch says:

          I neglected to mention that passion is irrational.

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          • Michael Powe says:

            Rationality is overrated. Few policy decisions made on the basis of “what’s rational” benefit society. Further, if you were to jump down the philosophical rabbit hole, you would quickly find yourself floundering in an attempt to precisely define “rational” in the context of social policy decisionmaking.

            Also, passion and other emotions are far more easily communicated than ideas or “rational thought.” That’s because human beings are designed to connect emotionally. Ideas have to rely on intellectual skills of their proponents unless the proponents communicate those ideas with passion.

            In the latter case, the passion communicates the significance of ideas that the recipients may not fully understand. They may not fully grasp the ideas, but they grasp the significance and importance of those ideas. This engagement will lead them to make the effort to get that full grasp of the ideas themselves.

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  32. Alan Emery says:

    I have been a PhD level scientist for 45 years. I have seen that the passion for human values and a promising future rests in the hands of our young people. Young scientists can combine that passion with high intellect and fresh new ideas potentially built on the foundation of evidence and adherence to critical logic. Graduate students usually reach for our most fundamental questions and the best continue that search as they mature in their careers. In our lifetimes we accrue wisdom as well as knowledge; for scientists it is an admixture of scientific knowledge and understanding with worldly human experience. Wisdom does not come from sterile thinking in a pseudo-intellectual vacuum. The best of intellects use much more than pure logic; they combine moral values, philosophical thinking, an array of cultural and social experience, to arrive at considered conclusions. While such wisdom is not often enough part of political and social decision-making, adding the best of our young scientific intellects to that capacity will enhance the final resulting decisions.

    There are times in the human condition that knowledge and understanding of potential dangers is more than just numbers on a chart or reasoned conclusions from a predictive model. There are times in the human condition when risk is an important element of the altruism we take in protecting future generations. Although I am not a climate scientist, I am a biologist, and can see the early stages of major shifts that serve as testable hypotheses for global warming. Loss of biodiversity is a kind of bell weather for many environmental challenges. As a biologist, I understand that humans as a species and many other species will probably survive global warming quite handily. As a sapient and feeling human being, however, I also understand that the consequences of the many factors facing us (global warming, increasing drought and desertification, increased rates of pollution in some key areas, reduced proportion of arable land to population, rising sea level, loss of biodiversity, and many more) will potentially cause much conflict and hardship, including probably many unnecessary deaths. Given this knowledge and understanding, I feel it is incumbent on me to make a difference in how the world moves into the future. So I have been an advocate in political and social circles. I don’t have a lot of time left, but the young scientists do. I hope they can take up the mantle of protecting our collective futures, not as a species, but as civilized cooperating human beings.

    If Dr. Edwards does not think global warming is a real threat, then her position is easily defensible and quite logical. If on the other hand she believes that global warming is a real and significant threat to our collective future, I hope in time she will develop the wisdom in addition to her scientific knowledge, to reclaim some passion and step into the public spotlight to help take us and our future generations into a comfortable and rewarding future.

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  33. Brian J BAKER says:

    Dear Dr Edwards

    You will have to accept that Climate science had a political agenda from day one. A recent manifestation of this came from the co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group III Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer – who stated that “One must state clearly that we redistribute the world’s wealth by climate policy.

    This has always been the aim, right from the Rio summit in 1992. These people understand nothing about developing society. When I was a boy we envisaged a chinaman living on one bowl of rice a day. But under that great wealth distributor Mao Tse Tung, there was a tremendous redistribution from the needy to the greedy. Since Tinnamen Square, I will not pretend that the policy has changed but they don’t live on a bowl of rice a day. Now the live on meat from New Zealand. They have developed there economy. Clowns like Ehrlich who thought that a) we would run out of resources due to the population bomb and b0 that it was immoral to make energy cheap. Yes this was the clown who thought that making energy cheap would be akin to “giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

    And we have yet to add to this mix: Sub Saharan Africa whose population of 700 million have less generating capacity than Poland! Even Andy Revkin realised that when discussing the fact that China was building a new power station a week that “Is all of this bad? If you’re one of many climate scientists foreseeing calamity, yes. If you’re a village kid in rural India looking for a light to read by, no.”

    Actually Tasmin it be useful in this age of consensus to remember the words of Emperor Marcus Aurelius that, “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

    Perhaps you might like to peruse a book by Shearman and Smith who in a book “The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy”, argue that liberal democracy has failed humanity and the planet. They conclude:

    “that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power. There are in existence highly successful authoritarian structures – for example, in medicine and in corporate empires – that are capable of implementing urgent decisions impossible under liberal democracy. Society is verging on a philosophical choice between “liberty” or “life.” But there is a third way between democracy and authoritarianism that the authors leave for the final chapter. Having brought the reader to the realization that in order to halt or even slow the disastrous process of climate change we must choose between liberal democracy and a form of authoritarian government by experts, … Unpalatable as this choice may be, we call for the adoption of this fundamental reform of democracy over the journey to authoritarianism.”

    Then we have the typical bureaucratic approach as in that espoused by Lord Krebs, ex-chairman of the Nuffield Council enquiry into Bio-ethics. When discussing the balance between public good and individual freedom he concluded “that the stewardship model provides justification for the UK Government to introduce measures that are more coercive…” thus continuing the language first implemented by 18th century mill owners and perfected by the British Empire.

    You will have to accept Tasmin that we hate the environmentalist because we understand precisely what their real agenda is. They do not care about raising people from poverty. Their real agenda is that they consider that human beings are a cancer on the planet as is demonstrated by the response of the Greenpeace spokesman for Southern Africa describing the proposal to build a hydroelectric power station in Mozambique:

    “What do they need this for? They are only going to buy jeans and cell phones.”
    Whilst no doubt Tweeting an update to headquarters.

    This whole bureaucracy was never about science. All they wanted from people like you was in the words of Lenin “useful idiots” to help sell their agenda to the rest of us.

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  34. Faustino aka Genghis Cunn says:

    I promised a long reply, not done, here’s a snippet from a post at CE:

    One aspect of proper policy assessment is having inputs from specialists at a professional, non-advocacy, level. In “wicked” problems such as climate change, it’s hard enough to determine how best to respond even with the best data, modelling, prognostications, impact assessments, CBA etc without having to take account of the fact that those providing the inputs on which you depend are not playing straight but pushing their own agenda, from their viewpoint, their assessment, coming from a limited perspective compared to that of policy-makers dealing with a full gamut of issues. That is why Tamsin is right, and those who oppose her are wrong.

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  35. srp says:

    The only cogent point against Tamsin Edward’s argument is the one provided by Schmidt: Openness about one’s values and ideology may make it easier for a scientist to maintain trust among those suspicious of “hidden agendas.”

    In order for this openness to generate trust, however, the scientist must conduct him or herself in public debate in a way that demonstrates the ability to separate scientific judgment from value and policy preferences, a standard that Schmidt himself has at times found it hard to maintain. Hence Edwards’s “cold turkey” approach on policy is likely to be more robust, even if in principle the “show one’s cards” idea could do better.

    I am also sympathetic to the critics who point out that the Edwards approach, if taken literally, would seem to rule out even mentioning the potential public relevance of one’s research when that relevance is not apparent to the layman, thereby depriving the layman of any opportunity to even consider the issues at stake. That would obviously be an absurd result. A more charitable reading of Edwards’s position, however, would place it in the context of situations like the climate debate where the threshold of awareness has long since been crossed.

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  36. Biff Vernon says:

    I can’t find much to disagree with Tamsin Edwards about, but there are nuances and where one places emphasis where we might differ.

    She’s right to draw the distinction between what the scientist, speaking as a scientist can say and what a poitical economist, well versed in science, might properly say.

    Some things the scientist can say quite clearly. The Earth is round not flat. Adding greenhouse gasses will, sooner or later, cause the planet to be warmer. One cannot be impartial on such matters. But when Tamsin asks questions such as “How do we weigh up economic growth against ecosystem change? Should we prioritise the lives and lifestyles of people today or in the future?” then she is right to declare that’s not her job, as a scientist, to answer.

    But then the difficulty arises. I can see Tamsin’s argument and it has merit. However, her case rests on the assumption that the non-scientists, the politicians and their electorate, are able to make the right policy decisions based on the information provided by the scientist.

    When one meets a man standing on a railway track oblivious of the oncoming train, one might assess distance and speed, do a calculation and inform him of the result and probable consequences, leaving the responsibility for action based on the evidence to him. Or one could grab his arm and give it a good yank.

    I guess Gavin Schmidt has decided it’s time for the latter. I tend to be pleased when a scientist moves into politics.

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  37. Dongo says:

    The study of computer models is a valuable endeavor, useful in many ways, including the study of the environment. But, to perhaps oversimplify, models are statistics. Computer-driven, animated, 3-D statistics, but statistics nonetheless. Statistics, as in lies, damned lies, and statistics.
    Statistics can be manipulated in the service of politics, and computer models can likewise be manipulated. It usually doesn’t take in-depth specialized knowledge to become adept at finding the biases in the presentation of statistics. The problem with models is that beyond the most simple of models it all but requires an advanced degree to detect where manipulation has creeped in.
    Also, the usefulness of any model is dependent on the validity of its underlying data. This is why the conspiracy among certain climate scientists to tamper with or hide original data is so troubling.
    It is refreshing to see a scientist, especially one whose work is applicable to climate studies, acknowledge the limits of her work, and refuse to extrapolate beyond them into political comment. Thank you, Dr. Edwards. May many more do so as well. It is a shame that it requires such resolve and even courage to simply be professional.

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    • It’s not so much a problem of “… lies, damned lies, and statistics…”, but more that our statistical methods are inadequate. Climate models make very good use of precisely the same methods that got Neil Armstrong to his destination; the difficulty for climate modellers is that their simulations involve many more (billions more) variables, and nonlinearity is the devil in the detail.

      So, true, you need a PhD to appreciate the subtleties. We need new mathematics, and that will come with time. Meanwhile, we have to validate our methods – erring on the side of caution – as best we can.

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  38. Boblo says:

    As an educated but scientific layman, highly skeptical of the mainstream theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (let’s put “climate change” and “extreme weather” over on the side burner until we have some meaningful resolution on the central premise), I can tell you that you are spot-on in your essay. Don’t allow yourself to be mislead onto the path of advocacy if you would hope to retain and grow public trust.

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  39. Michael Powe says:

    Undoubtedly, we have a need for “pure science,” i.e. scientific investigation that is not related to derivative consequences resulting from the application of the results of scientific research. However, the pursuit of pure science does not relieve the scientist of her duties as a citizen and human being.

    Every citizen has a duty to advocate for what is right. That’s called “ethics.” You’re not excused by saying “I’m a scientist.” If a medical doctor encounters an individual in medical distress, he has a duty to provide any aid possible. He is not allowed to say, “Well, not my problem,” or “She’s not my patient.” The duty is all inclusive.

    The scientist who sees and understands the implications of her work has a duty to make sure that those implications are recognized. Seriously, if Dr. Edwards discovered a cure for cancer in the course of studying a beetle, would she publish the results of her beetle studies and keep silent about the cure for cancer? Because, hey, “I’m a scientist. I only study beetles.”

    Scientists do have public responsibilities and those responsibilities include more than keep the lab coat a pristine white.

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  40. Ron Manley says:

    Ultimately the question which has to be asked is “how much do we sacrifice our current standard of living for the sake of our grand-children (perhaps given the current ‘pause,’ for our great-great-grand-children.) This is a political question.

    It is legitimate for scientists and economists to point out the present and future costs but ultimately it is for the public to decide.

    There is another danger with advocacy bordering on the political. If climate scientists appear to be more closely aligned with a political party which supports their views, the Democratic Party in the US for example, they will be less likely to be listened to if voters choose the other party, the Republicans, for reasons unconnected to climate change.

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  41. Myrrh says:

    There would be a greater ray of hope for climate science if climate scientists got a grip on physical reality:

    // snip //

    Sorry, off-topic with a liberal sprinkling of ‘hoax’ and ‘fraud’. — Tamsin

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    • Myrrh says:

      Why censor it if it is not true?

      Traditional physics teaching contradicts the CAGW/AGW Greenhouse Effect claim “shortwave in longwave out”.

      I am posting this from a NASA page on the subject. If you have any pretence to being a scientist you cannot ignore this – it contradicts the claims of the Greenhouse Effect.

      This is how it is still taught traditionally, it is junior level physics in the real world where our Sun is a millions of degrees centigrade hot Star and the thin 300 mile wide atmosphere of visible light around it does not stop its great thermal energy, heat energy, transferring to us in longwave infrared and reaching us in around 8 minutes.

      NASA traditional up to date physics:

      “Far infrared waves are thermal. In other words, we experience this type of infrared radiation every day in the form of heat! The heat that we feel from sunlight, a fire, a radiator or a warm sidewalk is infrared. The temperature-sensitive nerve endings in our skin can detect the difference between inside body temperature and outside skin temperature

      “Shorter, near infrared waves are not hot at all – in fact you cannot even feel them. These shorter wavelengths are the ones used by your TV’s remote control.”

      http://science.hq.nasa.gov/kids/imagers/ems/infrared.html

      So now examine the AGW Greenhouse Effect Energy Budget as in KT:

      Trenberth’s missing heat:

      Trenberth’s missing heat is hidden in his comic cartoon Greenhouse Effect energy budget – several things at play here.

      Firstly, AGWScienceFiction has taken out the direct radiant heat from the Sun, which is the Sun’s thermal energy transferred by radiation, longwave infrared aka thermal infrared, and given this to “shortwave in at TOA”, mainly visible light, (a bit of uv and near infrared either side, infrared 1% of the total).

      Visible light from the Sun interacts with matter on the electronic transition level, not on the molecular vibrational level, it cannot heat matter.

      Traditional up to date physics has known since Herschel’s time that the great heat energy we receive from the Sun is invisible, which we feel as heat and which is physically capable of heating up matter on the whole molecular vibrational level, and has since divided that invisible infrared into thermal and non-thermal. Shortwave infrared is not thermal, it is not heat energy, it is not hot, we cannot feel it at all. Ditto visible and uv in “shortwave in”.

      The AGW Greenhouse Effect has no heat at all from the Sun.

      They give two reasons why “no longwave infrared heat from the Sun reaches the surface”.

      The original, which I have been told is the CAGW view, that there is “an invisible barrier at TOA like the glass of a greenhouse which prevents longwave infrared from from the Sun entering. This “invisible barrier at TOA” is unknown to traditional physics.

      The AGW version is that the Sun radiates “insignificant longwave infrared and insignificant of insignificant reaches us”.

      They have clearly been so brainwashed by the impossible physics of the meme “visible light from the Sun is the heat we feel and heats the Earth’s surface”, that they have no idea they have taken out all the direct heat from the Sun..

      This second version is even more absurd than their classic greenhouse barrier, they have calculated the Sun’s temperature by some weird planckian manipulation to be 6000°C on the thin, 300 mile wide atmosphere of visible light around the Sun, from which they say they get their heat. They do not have the physics nous to see just how absurd that is and not even common sense to see they are claiming our millions of degree hot Sun is a cold star..

      AGWSF has put this fictional fisics in place for one reason only, so they can use the real world measurements of downwelling direct from the Sun longwave infrared heat and attribute it to their “backradiation by greenhouse gases from the atmosphere under TOA”.

      Secondly, they have taken the Solar Constant which is in real world physics is calculated on the amount the Sun’s thermal energy heats the surface, and given it to their “shortwave in at TOA” .

      So we have as in Trenberth’s cartoon, the amount of shortwave finally being absorbed by the surface and thereby claimed to be heating it, producing upwelling heat from the surface three times more the shortwave energy absorbed.

      http://www.rmets.org/weather-and-climate/climate/energy-and-climate-dr-kevin-e-trenberth

      You could try circulating it for discussion …

      ..you would certainly be doing the rest of the us a big favour to take this NASA traditional teaching seriously, it contradicts The Greenhouse Effect physics.

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  42. Emanuel Sferios says:

    It is more than possible for a scientist to also be a political activist, without this causing bias or degrading her/his science. The truth is we need scientists to advocate for policies! Washington is a house of corruption. Decisions are made solely for power and profit. Scientists might actually make decisions based on Reason and science. This would be a good thing.

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  43. Dave Thomas says:

    The debate about global warming left the realm of science long ago.

    // snipped for accusations of fraud // – let’s keep discussions civil please — Tamsin

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    • FreedomFan says:

      Censorship always makes me trust authority figures more.

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      • Tamsin Edwards says:

        I have a comments policy to stop discussion descending into name-calling. I very, very rarely moderate a comment or alter it. Probably around 5 in total over the last 1.5 years. If I do alter it I say how and why. I see my blog as a house party: everyone is welcome, as long as they are civil.

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      • Michael Powe says:

        The word “censorship” doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.

        I don’t appreciate seeing blog commentary filled up with off-topic trash talk from out-of-control attack droids. The doctor is not under any moral obligation to allow her blog to be hijacked by every spew monkey with a penchant for dumping trash in public areas and nothing better to do with his time.

        The appearance of such detritus usually indicates that the blogger is not actively involved in the discussion. I’m thankful that she takes the time to curb the intellectual litter, keeping the park clean for those with better manners and more interesting ideas.

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      • Bravo Romeo Delta says:

        I don’t know about you, but insults and incivility always makes me trust criticism more.

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  44. Faustino aka Genghis Cunn says:

    Tamsin, I also think that your post is spot on. I’ve posted several comments at Climate Etc, and hope to draft a longer response here, including to some comments above.

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  45. Mr. Lynch says:

    Dr. Edwards,

    Thank you. In sphere of “people stuff”, your stance is particularly important after the revelations of the East Anglia emails. The charge of “motivated reasoning” has not been unreasonable, since then. This is particularly fitting, since the skeptics have so often been accused of having secret oil ties.

    Another counterproductive behavior among those advocating dramatic CO2 reduction has been treating consensus as if it were evidence. Voting does not produce knowledge.

    As an engineering professional who develops and tests life-critical technology, I expect the climate research community to display the same objectivity, open-mindedness and respect for dissent that exists in my community.

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  46. Jungledoctor says:

    “I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about science. But government involves questions about the good of man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value.”

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  47. Alan Emery says:

    Interesting, but not terribly realistic idea.

    How far do we take it? If a climate scientist knows that reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere will mitigate global warming, should that scientist only say that carbon causes global warming? Should the scientist say it is likely to have been caused by human activities, or instead not comment on that because it might suggest a “position”? Most people are really lousy at judging both exponential effects and long term effects. How long does a scientist wait before warning ordinary people that the problem is real and difficult to see, but very dangerous if left unattended? Do they just not ever comment no matter what the consequences?

    Decisions are almost never left in the hands of scientists. In fact, I doubt scientists ever really make important decisions. On the other hand they can and do influence serious decision-making. Why not take a position that is informed by a scientist who understands the implications of the science rather than someone that is not informed. Many other people who have little or no real knowledge of the science, or who purposely misdirect science weigh in on climate change . They have no hesitation to express their value-laden opinions about what decisions to take — why not have a scientist weigh in on his or her value-laden opinions of what decisions to take? At least they will have some scientific accuracy, even if the scientist is not in a position to see all the economic, political, societal, cultural, and other variables.

    Eminent scientists also disagree with Dr. Edwards’ opinion. On my blog, I review (http://www.kivu.com/?page_id=2322) an article by eminent scientists who want to have direct access to final decision-making at the political level: Authors Kinzig, Ehrlich, Alston, Arrow, Barrow, Buchman, Daily, B. Levin, S. Levin, Oppenheimer, Ostrom, and Saari, Social Norms and Global Environmental Challenges: The Complex Interaction of Behaviors, Values, and Policy. BioScience Vol. 63, No. 3, March 2013. Here they propose “Government policies are needed when people’s behavior fail to deliver the public good” and that they as scientists should take action to warn people in critically influential positions of the dangers of inaction and what policies can be implemented not just to correct the problem but using behavioural science to suggest policies that will modify people’s behaviour to do as the government wants (including imposing penalties and burdens). I think there is a danger in going that far, but if they are convinced that humanity has never before faced environmental problems of their own making, that are almost invisible but that are accelerating both locally and globally at such a rate that we may not have time to fix them unless we can quickly convince people there is a huge problem that could spell the end of civilization as we know it — well then maybe there is some justification for doing something more than publishing in a respected journal that only experts read and then just standing by and watching humans “go to hell in a hand basket.”

    Indeed how long will you, Dr. Edwards, wait before you do more than explain the science and refrain from entering the fray on what to do about the impending problem?

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    • Mr. Lynch says:

      To answer the question in your final paragraph, I would refer you to her statement that she is trying to “restore credibility” to climate science. Advocacy without credibility is moot.

      Note the multiple notes of caution she strikes in this post regarding what can be inferred from modelling. This is welcome to me, as I have repeatedly seen gross overconfidence expressed in the output of questionable computer programs.

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    • Shadeburst says:

      The guides of a nation require two qualities: knowledge, and wisdom. The popular image of the nutty professor was developed precisely there seems to be no positive correlation between extremely high intelligence and wisdom. Until 1986 at least, nutty professors were not considered suitable sources for government policies. The reversal of this belief is the outstanding achievement of Hansen, Gore et al.

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      • Michael Powe says:

        Actually, this is not historically accurate. Respect for science and educated thought was high in the United States until the 1950s. In the post-WWII period that ramped up to the “Cold War,” many intellectuals and scientists were demonized by conservative politicians as Communists. In the hysteria of the Red Menace, it became a convenient lever for conservatives to get into office. This attitude set the tone for the decades that followed. Anti-intellectualism that had bubbled beneath the surface of American society for most of its history, erupted into a permanent fixture in its politics.

        The public distrust of scientists (and science) has nothing whatever to do with “activism” on the part of scientists. It was around for decades before “climate science” as such, even existed. Nobody thought the less of Einstein or his science because he campaigned against the American monopoly on nuclear weapons; nor because he was an outspoken socialist who thought and wrote that capitalism was a “predatory phase of human development” and an evil to be overcome.

        In the present instance, the good doctor is deluded. Secluding herself in an ivory tower will not convince any individual or government that her science is correct. She brings to her science a prejudice against political activism. She’s engaged in a kind of solipsism, doing what makes her comfortable and extrapolating from that position that because it’s comfortable, some good will come of it.

        I challenge Dr. Edwards to apply some scientific method to her political position. What is the empirical basis for her claim that advocacy has damaged the reputation of climate science? What is the actual history of attitudes toward science in the United States, the UK and elsewhere? How do you differentiate between a cynical critic using “advocacy” as a public talking point to condemn the science, for financial gain; and a sincere critic who really believes it? If every climate scientist retreats to the ivory tower, and refuses to enter the public forum to defend the validity of the science, who will do it? Does a scientific conclusion really stand alone, in isolation from its cultural and social context? Can we take seriously the implication (or claim) that “somehow,” scientific results will triumph over prejudice and short-term personal comfort? I’m an empiricist. Prove it.

        By applying the same rigorous conditions of study to her attitudes as she does to her climate science, she may find herself arriving at a different position or even set of positions. Mother Jones once said, “My job is to afflict the comfortable, and to comfort the afflicted.” Words to live by, however you earn a living.

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    • Phil Cartier says:

      Mr. Emery-
      “Government policies are needed when people’s behavior fail to deliver the public good” Is not the public good what the public thinks is good? As Mr. Powe points out below, America does have a history of anti-intellectualism. Statements like this are a big reason why. Who can forget the fanatic hysterics of the eugenics movement in the early 20th century. Or the slavery in earlier periods? Or the fact that this country has moved beyond eugenics and slavery in the recent past?

      “How long does a scientist wait before warning ordinary people that the problem is real and difficult to see, but very dangerous if left unattended? ” I’d suggest that a scientist would wait as long as it takes to establish the basis for a claim. In the case of climate, we are talking at least 1000 years. I would give a nickel to the first climate modeler that can model the current glacial/interglacial climate we have been in for the last million years!

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  48. Magnus Sandvik says:

    A very insightful article and a valuable insight, but one I fear you are quite alone of considering the move toward consensus based climate science and conglomeration of research around the IPCC.
    By creating a central organization like that, climate scientists basically created their own “inner council”; the keepers of the ultimate truth. The IPCC has also done what most people with ideological power tend to do which is to try to silence critical voices. Any evidence that contradicts or questions the accepted truth is attacked, ridiculed and the careers of the reputable scientists who dared ask questions every member of that panel should have asked are ruined.
    Holding the truth gives you power, and anyone who has power will want to yield it. That is why every Tom, Dick and Harry of the climate science world expresses their opinion on policy. Changing policy is great. Seeing your worlds in a political program or even in a bill of law is a thrill. I know because I have felt it. But scientists tend to view the world through a straw. The solutions they come up with work very well to solve one specific problem, but they are often blind to how their solutions affect other aspects of life.
    Scientists should stick to gathering and presenting data. They should never filter data through personal opinion or prejudice, because once they do, and in the climate sciences they frequently have, you compromise the science you are doing. Good science turns bad, and everyone is poorer for it.

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  49. Tatiana Romanova says:

    It is not enough to be impartial in word and deed but a scientist must be impartial in thought as well. The proper role of a climate scientist should be to present the facts as they are known and allow the public to determine the conclusions and what, if any, actions are needed.

    Even if a climatologist had perfect evidence that the carbon dioxide levels would increase temperatures 2 degrees by 2050, he would be stepping out of his area of expertise to advocate doing anything about it as that becomes a matter of economics beyond his field of expertise.

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  50. Dave says:

    A thoughtful article. You can’t assume expertise or wisdom in one area because you have expertise in another. A scientist who creates carbon fiber for military body armor can’t tell you the implications of the amount of carbon fiber in body armor will have on a soldier’s survivability in combat. Whether the added weight will slow him down to the extent that he is actually more likely to be killed. Or whether money would be better spent on other things that might improve his survivability more such as communications, or in field medical technology. Knowing that something is happening is not the same as knowing the best way to solve the issue.

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  51. G. Ryan Faith says:

    Dear Dr. Edwards,

    A fascinating post and thoughtful argument. I hope that your position becomes more widely adopted in this and other interfaces between science and policy. I do agree that the temptation to let politics and science bleed into each other can have dire consequences, and it is incumbent upon both scientists and politicians to better understand their mutual limitations and strengths if science is to be an effective tool in shaping political debate.

    Congratulations on an interesting and thought-provoking essay!

    Best regards,

    G. R. Faith

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  52. Excellent article. I was somewhat amused, following the publication of my recent book
    Invisible in the Storm: the role of mathematics in understanding weather (co-authored by John Norbury and published by Princeton UP) , by one reviewer who considered our comments in the final chapter (about climate models) somewhat subversive (in relation to quantifying uncertainty). Sadly, we had neither the space nor the energy to do justice to the Bayesian approach, but it is a topic that should be brought into the wider (public) debate.

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  53. Jonathan Chan says:

    In terms of climate change, I believe the question is no longer “what we should do?”, but rather “how?” The growing body of evidence has shifted the opinions of both the public and the scientific community towards acknowledging that global change is occuring, whereas the extent that mankind is contributing to it might still be argued by some, many see that this is currently a major issue, and will likely to become more so as time goes on. Even for non-scientists, it has become apparent that the answer to “what should we do”" is quite obvious; we need to mitigate the effects of the current climate change, and act accordingly to stop any further progression. The tricky part is how we carry out this change. For example, while policy makers may propose a “carbon tax” and implement laws regarding said example, I believe it is the scientific community that holds part of the responsibility and burden to evaluate whether such a tax would be a viable solution to climate change, and make recommendations accordingly based on the objective data.
    In such a manner, it is necessary to advocate what the data seems to suggest, as the “denialist morons” will always exist, and will seek to scream louder in order to make up for their lack of data. Considering the ever expanding population, and the compounding effect that it will have on the environmental changes, it is no longer about an acceptable level of risk, as we have already gone past that point.

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  54. E. Swanson says:

    The conclusion that scientists must maintain a wall of separation between themselves and the social and political discussions of their findings demonstrates a failure to understand politics in a “democratic” society. The trouble is, in the case of global warming, this leaves the denialist camp with the upper hand in spreading their distortions throughout the political landscape.

    The flood of disinformation about climate change is built around repeated claims from a few people who have science backgrounds, psudo-scientific claims that misrepresent scientific facts, often via cherry picking those bits of data which support their political aims. How is the public to know this is happening if the scientific community intentionally absents the field of politics in order to preserve the public’s perception of objectivity? The result is that the side with the most money and thus the loudest, most frequent presentation will win out in the political arena. As a result, humanity’s future will continue to become ever more difficult and the entire Earth will be the ultimate loser…

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  55. I think that your stance and your public espousal of it are admirable. But I also think that, no matter how objective a stance you take in a matter of public consequence, you will always be branded as a political advocate by those who are uncomfortable with the consequences. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stick to your guns, as it were. But it does mean that you can’t recover public confidence in scientific objectivity that way.

    There is a difference between academics (here, climate scientists sticking to their work) and public intellectuals (here, climate scientists who have become activists). Edward Said does a good analysis of this difference in Representations of the Intellectual. He suggests two constraints for the public intellectual: advocacy should be for an otherwise unrepresented group or cause, and advocacy should only be based on the advocate’s personal evaluation, rather than a group position.

    One implication is that we can’t ask the public intellectual to “tone it down so the cause doesn’t look strident” or “curb your protestations to avoid making the whole community look political.” That would require her to represent a group position. It seems messy and counterproductive. But the idea is that the role of the true public intellectual is so important that we have to put up with the negative effects.

    That doesn’t mean that we can’t take public issue with them, as you have here. Indeed, making the argument public is important. But if you do it in public, you should start considering whether you are becoming a public intellectual yourself. The objective, professional scientist would only carry out the argument within the venues of colloquium, conference, or journal.

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  56. Greg Goodman says:

    Thank you for this article Dr Edwards.

    A ray of hope for climate science.

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  57. Steve Ta says:

    As usual, spot on Dr Edwards.

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