When Michael Mann published what has become known as the hockey stick, he was not expecting the inquisition – from Joe Barton or Ken Cuccinelli or any of a number of other cranks and contrarians. If you have found the twists and turns of climategate confusing, or wondered why there are those who continue to be obsessed with his emails, or why he introduced Bill Clinton at a McAuliffe campaign rally and was featured in campaign ads, this would be a good time to get his book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines - which was just released in paperback. Even if you have read it, you might want to read the new forward, by Bill Nye the Science Guy, and the update which shows continued vindication of the Hockey Stick, as it continues to be confirmed by additional studies. Those studies, and the now nine investigations in which no improprieties were found, surely make him the Most Vindicated Professor (MVP) ever – as he was referred to in a tweet by Peter Dykstra. But there are even more important reasons to read it.
In a nutshell, the book provides a well footnoted account of one scientist’s initially reluctant journey from the laboratory to the political arena, which goes by a very different set of rules, as he became one of the main targets of a deceitful disinformation campaign. In Mann’s words, he went from the “belief that the role of the scientist was, simply put, to do science” and to “avoid entirely the subject of policy implications” to becoming “convinced that there is nothing more noble than striving to communicate, in terms that are simultaneously accurate and accessible, the societal implication of our scientific knowledge.” In so doing, it also illustrates the changing nature of the relationship between science and society, as we grapple with the implications of living in the anthropocene.
I drew on the book heavily in a post earlier this year to make the case that those calling themselves “climate skeptics” are not making good faith arguments. Rather, that they are engaged in the performance of a deceptive parody of science, that starts with the act of calling themselves skeptics (Real skeptics actually consider and respond to evidence, and can even be swayed by it). As discussed in a subsequent post, when challenged in a court of law, some of those who have made repeated claims that he has been engaged in fraud and scientific misconduct won’t even stand behind their own allegations. They now claim that their statements were merely “expressions of opinion and rhetorical hyperbole… not assertions of fact” – which could be proven false.
If these self-proclaimed skeptics are to be held to the same standards as scientists, there is no better place to start than by demanding that they respond to this book point by point – instead of changing the subject. They might also release the code used in the Wegman report and subject it to an actual peer review…. That should keep them constructively occupied and quiet long enough for the rest of us to consider the implications of climate change, and what we can do to actually get to some sort of a new normal. If they cannot or will not be held to these standards, they should be dismissed as cranks, along with anyone who gives them airtime – other than for the purpose of exposing this hypocrisy.
But Mann’s story is about much more than just responding to rampant disinformation about climate change – which is important to do but can seem pointless. Given that climate change challenges not only vested interests, but also a deeply entrenched world view – as once did the notion that the earth goes around the sun, widespread denial of the human role in it should not come as a great surprise. Disinformation campaigns take advantage of equally entrenched and erroneous views of science among those to whom the misleading information is directed. Such misinformation only sticks because of unrealistic images and expectations of science, e.g., that, unlike life, it can deliver proof and certainty rather than probabilities.
In a rapidly changing world, as we grapple with the consequences of the human capacity to alter global scale processes of life support, even probabilities can be elusive, but science at least provides a basis for learning and hopefully, for detecting those changes in time to adequately respond to them. Therefore it is critical that citizens have some appreciation of the scientific process, if not the technical details of science.
Communication of that knowledge is not merely about “framing messages” but about a process of learning, which cannot happen in the absence of knowledge sharing and good faith dialogue in which value conflicts are at least acknowledged. Before we can have any hope of responding to pollution of the environment, we have to respond to pollution of the public discourse, which needs to be held to the same standards of good faith dialogue as scientific inquiry. In another excerpt from the book:
A fundamental principle of scientific inquiry is the honest exchange of ideas, the communication of caveats and uncertainty. Without a science-literate and politically aware populace, there can be no match against well-funded, well-organized groups that place little value on honesty or integrity, that cleverly masquerade denialism as skepticism, and that are more than willing to state their own positions in the most absolute of terms, while exploiting and indeed misrepresenting the frank admissions of uncertainty by those they view as their opponents.
Links to buy The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Frontlines:
Update – Links to other selected reviews of the book:
- ClimateScienceWatch: “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” — Now in paperback, highly recommended
- Climate Progress/Joe Romm: Mann 2, Cuccinelli 0: Climate Denial Becomes Wedge Issue, As Hockey Stick Beats Tea Party
- Mother Jones/Chris Mooney: Meet the Computer Geek Who Took on Ken Cuccinelli – and Won
- D.R. Tucker: Amazing Grace: A Survivor’s Story
[This post is in response to some questions that were posed in a twitter chat on Oct 31, on Revaluing Ecosystems]
The idea behind the concept of ecosystem services is that if people better understood the value of ecosystems for such things as providing clean water and storing carbon, they would take action to protect them, or at least be willing to pay for the added costs. This could, in turn, provide a source of finance for the added costs of conservation practices as well as provide an incentive for land owners to implement them. There have been many attempts to do this in various kinds of compensation schemes, i.e., “Payments for Ecosystem Services” or PES initiatives, in which payments are presumably conditional on the provision of a well-defined service.
In practice, it is never quite that simple and there have been many lessons learned. Given the variability and complexity inherent in ecosystems, which is exacerbated by rapidly changing conditions, many of these services can be difficult to define. In the context of watersheds for example, payments are often (but not always) made by governments rather than individual water users, for practices rather than for demonstrated benefits which can take time to materialize. Transaction costs of engaging many small landholders can also be high. A commonly cited definition of an ideal PES that includes these and three other criteria is usually accompanied by the acknowledgement that few if any PES initiatives actually meet all of them (Wunder, 2005). Nevertheless, it continues to be viewed as a framework for analyzing and comparing PES initiatives.
Although it is absolutely necessary to change the economic incentives if land is to be managed as an ecosystem, what I want to suggest is that the definition of a PES as well as of ecosystem valuation needs to take into account that services from ecosystems have very different characteristics from a loaf of bread. A learning approach will also be needed, that supports the development of new institutional capacities and that links different levels of governance in which individual small scale initiatives are nested. What follows is a framework I developed with a colleague in my earlier work on payments for watershed services, which can also be found buried in a chapter of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for which I was a lead author.
As a point of departure, I take it as a given that ecosystem values are at best hypothetical unless and until there are policies and institutions in place that enable their protection. Therefore (building on the ideas of Elinor Ostrom): to the extent that ecosystem services have public good characteristics (i.e., access to them is not exclusive), and there is rivalry over access to them, willingness to pay for them will depend not only on demand, but also on confidence in the effectiveness of management actions needed to ensure the service is delivered, and that those who pay the costs will have access to the benefits. In other words, the value of ecosystem services will depend on:
- The integrity of ecosystem functions or processes that support service provision;
- The scale at which impacts or benefits have economic significance; and
- The effectiveness of institutional arrangements needed to insure provision of the service and access to benefits by those who incur the costs.
(Tognetti et al 2005; Aylward et al 2005)
Another way of putting it is that, an adaptive approach to managing ecosystems will require an adaptive approach to valuation, or will at least require standard approaches to valuation to be used in a broader framework. Standard approaches to valuation and cost benefit analysis were only intended to to used to evaluate small or marginal rather than systemic changes. Before one can even begin to consider costs and benefits, stakeholders need opportunities to learn about changing conditions, and reconsider objectives.
Aylward, Bruce, J. Bandyopadhyay, J. Belausteguigotia, P. Borkey, A. Cassar, L. Meadors, L. Saade, M. Siebentritt, R. Stein, and S. Tognetti. 2005. “Freshwater Ecosystem Services.” In Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Volume 3. Policy Responses, edited by Kanchan Chopra, Rik Leemans, Pushpam Kumar, and Henk Simons, 3:213–255. Washington DC: Island Press. (link to pdf)
Tognetti, Sylvia S., Bruce Aylward, and Guillermo F. Mendoza. 2005. “Markets for Watershed Services.” In Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. UK: John Wiley & Sons. (link to pdf)
Rather than stand behind their allegations – that Michael Mann has been engaged in fraud and scientific misconduct, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the National Review (NR) along with two of their journalists. now argue that these were merely “expressions of opinion and rhetorical hyperbole… not assertions of fact”.
These arguments were made in their Motion(s) to Dismiss a Complaint brought against them by Michael Mann for “utterly false and defamatory statements” with regard to the falsely debunked hockey stick. On July 19, that motion was denied by the DC Circuit Court, which held that the statements were based on “provably false facts”, and thus not protected under the constitution. (unless indicated otherwise, quoted text in this post is from the legal documents available through the above link)
As a public figure, the challenge for Mann and his legal team will now be to show that there was “actual malice.” In this case, that the statements are not merely false, but that they were “made with knowledge of their falsity”, i.e., “with reckless disregard for their truth.” Given that there have been at least six investigations of Mann’s research activities that have found no evidence of data manipulation or other scientific wrongdoing, which were at least partly a result of calls for investigation by CEI itself, this case should not be a difficult one to make. (Those six investigations do not include all of the peer-reviewed studies confirming Mann’s work.) Although Judge Green found it likely that Mann “could prove actual malice”, she also considers it a potentially close case.
So unless the defendants find other ways to have the case dismissed, it looks like a jury will get to decide whether they were making good faith arguments, or not. In a few previous posts, I reviewed some of the hockey stick allegations to make that case that these so-called climate “skeptics” are not acting in good faith. Rather, that they are engaged in a deceptive parody of science, intended to deceive those least informed, who cannot tell the difference. It starts with the act of calling themselves “skeptics”. Given that the “defendants contend that any reasonable reader would interpret their statements as rhetorical hyperbole,” it might be interesting to hear from their readers (or maybe not). In those previous posts, I neglected to discuss the role of certain think tanks, such as CEI, who played a lead role in publicizing if not actually fabricating these unsubstantiated claims, and in calling for investigations. However, much of what is known is well chronicled in Michael Mann’s book, and by John Mashey. Revisiting these…
It also looks like Myron Ebell (one of the ringleaders at CEI) will get what he once wished for. According to some of the Mashey Chronicles, back, in 2005, when Congressman Joe Barton sent letters to Mann and his co-authors, essentially initiating a witch hunt, Ebell very promptly circulated those letters to an undisclosed email list – possibly before they were even seen by those to whom they were addressed. Ebell was also quoted in a BBC article saying “We’ve always wanted to get the science on trial” and “we would like to figure out a way to get this into a court of law.”
So one would have expected at least CEI to welcome the opportunity to make their case, and to hear something more from them than the chirping of crickets. However, as Eli has pointed out, the arguments in their Motion to Dismiss, that the statements were “not assertions of fact” is “going to make it tough for them to argue that they were telling the truth about him and askin for discovery to dig dirt.” Mann will be under no such limitations.
Jerry’s response to my previous post, does not actually respond to the question of whether or not the climate “skeptics” are making good faith arguments – or are simply engaged in an act of deceitful parody, which starts with the act of calling themselves “skeptics.” He may well have a some sort of rationale for sounding like one himself – a different rationality from mine which has little relationship to science, but mostly, he has failed to convince me that his more recent material actually follows from his earlier ideas about Post-Normal Science, which I carefully drew on to make my case. This is an observation also made by Willard in a more active comment thread over in the Rabett hole.
While PNS has raised legitimate issues about the adequacy of scientific institutions and practices in what have become post-normal times, it does not provide an excuse for legitimizing incoherent arguments. The bottom line is that, if PNS is to retain any relevance going forward, it is important to be able to identify cranks and hold them to the same standard as real scientists when evaluating the quality of information. In other words: to be able to distinguish between those with legitimate disagreements and those who don’t accept the consensus either because they don’t understand the science, or for ideological reasons. Boundaries are also important, lest cranks become the evaluators…
Jerry also did not comment on any of the examples I used to illustrate bad faith, which included numerous references, links included. To quote ‘Lucy Skywalker’ (who he cites), apparently “no amount of good references is good enough for someone whose mind is already made up.” I’ll confess that I did not take the time to click through all of Skywalker’s links either, as anyone who evangelizes the plagiarized, misleading and discredited Wegman report to dismiss the hockey stick has simply lost their credibility. She also references Benny Peiser’s “challenge to the legitimacy of [Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming] CAGW’s claim of consensus”, but all three links she provides go to a code “401” non-existent page. Both of these cases were among the detailed examples I elaborated on, and for which some of the key source material can be found only using the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine”, because they are no longer available at their original locations. Could it be that they were taken down out of embarrassment after they were thoroughly debunked?
Instead, Jerry provided more anecdotes and vague assertions, but I will try to briefly respond to his main points, one at a time.
Regarding the “impassioned lecture by John Schellnhuber, detailing his ‘cascade of catastrophes’ as if they were sober predictions based on tested models”:
Without the direct quote from Schellnhuber himself, it is difficult to tell what was actually said and whether or not certainty was implied or overstated. But it is my understanding that, as a general rule, models leave out extreme events because their impacts depend heavily on when and where they happen, and models are simply not good tools for credibly capturing randomly timed and non-linear events. However, I do think it is important that such events be included in scenarios, and that it is important for scientists to make the case that such events are plausible, and are something we should worry about. It is also important to keep in mind that giving a speech is not the same thing as doing science, and that informed opinions of scientists should be welcomed, as long as they are stated as such.
The Meteorological Office statement that snow would become a distant memory is anecdotal, and also irresponsible – if it was actually said.
Even with climate change, it still gets cold, and even snows in the winter, perhaps even more so now that there is more moisture in the atmosphere. I did not see a citation for this one. Update: Actually, that is not quite what was said. Steve Bloom provides the background on this in the comments that I am now incorporating into the post:
Regarding the second item (the future of snow in the UK, it was a newspaper quote (in the Independent) of an individual scientist, not by the Met Office as such, and was anticipating conditions in 2020, so regardless it’s a bit early to be criticizing it.
But the 2020 prognosis is almost certainly wrong, although for a very interesting reason. (This is from recent work done by Francis and Vavrus, primarily.)
It is the case that there was a general expectation from the modeling results circa 2000 that climate zones would continue to shift poleward (consequent to expansion of the tropics) and that the already not-too-snowy UK climate would become even less so, especially if we’re talking London and southern England. That was all fair enough given the science of the time, but then polar amplification threw a large and unanticipated monkey wrench into the works in the form of changes in the northern jet stream.
While the climate zones indeed have continued their northward movement, the jet has slowed and increased its amplitude, making it possible for cold weather to set up and persist farther south than would otherwise have been the case. Worse than that for UK winters, a related change is the much-increased tendency for a persistent high to set up around southern Greenland, with a resulting downstream trough tending to channel high-latitude winter weather straight into the UK.
So, while it would appear that those snow-bearing storms won’t largely taper off (i.e. turn to rain) by 2020, none of this reflects poorly on the scientist who made the statement except insofar as he failed to anticipate an unknown unknown that has made things worse.
Lord Robert May could have done better than to simply base his argument on his own position of authority – which may work better in the UK than in the US, but there is deep consensus around Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), if not about the particulars, such as feedbacks and regional impacts. Science can be wrong, but given what is known and accepted by “all but cranks”, it would require extraordinary evidence to overturn that consensus.
Climategate exonerations may not have been universally accepted but I fail to see where they were lacking in candour, as is alleged in the New Scientist. Nor has anyone made a credible case that the scientists involved were not acting in good faith, even if documentation and record keeping practices could be improved in light of unforeseen demands for greater public accountability as climate science moved from the lab to the policy arena.
Sir John Beddington may have made a poor word choice, but we should be grossly intolerant of cranky and deceitful arguments, even if we might have some sympathy for those who make them – it is unsettling to have ones world view challenged. Given that good science tends to do just that, cranky reactions come with the territory. I could even respect the cranks if they made honest arguments and conceded to value differences, in which case I would no longer dismiss them as cranks.
I have looked at the “critical blogs” Jerry suggests, and I am going to admittedly cherry pick, since they also aren’t worth spending much time on. Tallbloke apparently believes a theory has been confirmed that would overturn Einstein’s theory of relativity… (with thanks to MikeH for noting this one in the comments). As I am not a physicist, I am not even going to try to explain arguments about ether.
I should perhaps revisit Judith Curry’s posts on PNS, but I did recently read her paper on Consensus, and it actually pointed me to a few good references. However, while concluding that the “consensus seeking process used by the IPCC has had the unintended consequence of introducing biases into the both the science and related decision-making processes,” nowhere does she provide any examples to make the case that this has actually happened, or say more specifically why she disagrees with the AGW consensus.
She also writes “consensus among a reference group of experts thus concerned is relevant only if agreement is not sought. If… arrived at by intent, it becomes conspiratorial and irrelevant…” which is quite a broad statement. As she is quoting someone else (Lehrer), I’m not sure I can call it another one of her unsubstantiated allegations, or whether it implies she really thinks that most climate scientists are part of a global conspiracy. She concludes from this passage that “with genuinely well-established scientific theories, ‘consensus’ is not discussed and the concept of consensus is arguably irrelevant.”
As I discussed in my paper, consensus is not sufficient because it tends to exclude processes that are not well understood for which there is insufficient information on which to agree, leaving large uncertainties that are not in our favor. However, Curry, like Joe Bast, apparently rejects a consensus approach without saying how policy could otherwise be informed by what science can offer. Should we act on information that does not have broad acceptance by peers? Or just accept Judge Judy’s verdict? Or only act on tacit knowledge that is so broadly accepted that it is not even discussed? That doesn’t seem to be working – as shown by Oreskes (2004) many if not most journal articles on the subject of global climate change accept the AGW consensus implicitly or do not even question it – which suggests that AGW is a genuinely well-established scientific theory that should fall in the category of “accepted by all but cranks.”
Jerry’s statement: “now that we have had some considerable time without continued warming,” is a gross misinterpretation of what the UK Met Office actually said. He may have cherry-picked this statement from the BBC article he linked to: “If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.” But the article also contains this quote from a Met Office spokesman: “this definitely doesn’t mean any cooling – there’s still a long-term trend of warming compared to the 50s, 60s or 70s.” Further clarification can be found on the site of the Met Office itself: “Small year to year fluctuations such as those that we are seeing in the shorter term five year predictions are expected due to natural variability in the climate system, and have no sustained impact on the long term warming.” There is further analysis at Skeptical Science, concisely explained also in this video clip:
Jim Hansen, cited on Judith Curry’s blog, elaborates a bit:
The current stand-still of the 5-year running mean global temperature may be largely a consequence of the fact that the first half of the past 10 years had predominantly El Nino conditions, and the second half had predominantly La Nina conditions.
The approximate stand-still of global temperature during 1940-1975 is generally attributed to an approximate balance of aerosol cooling and greenhouse gas warming during a period of rapid growth of fossil fuel use with little control on particulate air pollution, but quantitative interpretation has been impossible because of the absence of adequate aerosol measurements.
Curry simply dismisses this as simplistic, based on “GWPF reports on the latest decadal simulation from the UK Met Office, which basically predicts no warming for the next 5 years.” This is because, she has more confidence in UKMO predictions than in “Hansen’s back of the envelope reasoning” – which leads me to wonder if she actually read the UKMO statements themselves. Perhaps she can explain how they differ from Hansen’s statements? Note also that the GWPF, aka, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is directed by Dr. Benny Peiser – who cannot tell the difference between uncertainty about whether or not global warming is human induced, from uncertainty about possible impacts, or between studies of the climate itself from studies of climate policies, or between uncertainty and lack of consensus! (for more on Peiser see the paper attached to my last post)
Jerry often quotes Angela Wilkinson on the “evangelical science” of global warming, but without context or citations, it is difficult to know what she meant by that. In his paper, Jerry suggests that the leading practitioners of this science “propounded, as a proven fact, Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming” leaving “little room for uncertainty.” Since science doesn’t provide “proof”, and I haven’t actually heard any climate scientists say that, he is going to have to back that one up. It is, of course, common to find evangelizers on all sides of any issue of broad scope – I am reminded of Lucy Skywalker’s “conversion” by Al Gore, which was apparently followed by some sort of reversion, which is more typical of “true believers” than of scientists.
One cannot blame Al Gore for becoming a polarizing figure as a result of a media campaign that set out to make him one! I still think we all missed an opportunity for leadership by someone who gets the complex and systemic nature of global issues, not only on climate change, which I probably first became aware of as a result of his first congressional hearings on the subject in the late 1970s – when there was still time to take early action. Spurred by the oil embargo as well as Three Mile Island, there was even momentum towards renewables. Unfortunately Ronald Reagan was then elected, the solar panels came off of the White House, and a few people I know had to switch careers.
I fail to see the relevance of Jerry’s statement about the “consensus focused on the evils of fat while ignoring those of sugar” – even if I agree with it, from my own experience with the evils of sugar, which I have found it best to avoid for many years. Climate change science has at least strived to be an integrated science, in spite of the feudal institutional barriers to cross-disciplinary work. I’ll save that rant for another time, but it has come a long way, even if it still has a long way to go with respect to the social sciences. Again, it is important to distinguish the kind of science that has led to unintended consequences, from the kind of science that investigates those consequences, and tends to lead to a questioning of the legitimacy of existing institutions that got us where we are. But both kinds of science are rooted in the same dysfunctional institutions, because that is all we’ve got. In other words, the practice of science is messy. I agree with Willard, that there is no Normal Science “except perhaps when Kuhn studied it at the dawn of the militaro-industrial complex.” The problem is that it still exists in the public image and expectations of science. And beliefs drive human behavior and decision-making…
And with that, I hope I’m done responding to crank arguments, which are a diversion from the critical challenges presented in Jerry’s earlier work, on how science can support a transition to sustainability – which cannot be achieved without addressing climate and also equity, and which is where I would prefer to focus this blog. I’m happy to continue the conversation with Jerry if we can stick to that.
[Updated, 2-2-2013, 3:35 pm est to incorporate Steve Bloom's comment on the Met Office statement, and to correct a few typos. ]