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Gavin Schmidt … Speaking up and Speaking Out

Posted on 20 December 2013 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Bruce Lieberman at Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media

Climate researcher and blogger Gavin Schmidt offers scientists an alternative to ‘saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing’. What are the ‘rules’ of engagement and why?


SAN FRANCISCO, CA., DEC. 12, 2013 — Gavin Schmidt, the NASA scientist and climate science blogger at the website RealClimate, had the late Stephen Schneider behind his left shoulder for much of his talk at the AGU meeting today.

They were video clips from Schneider’s lectures over decades. The Stanford University climate scientist was a passionate advocate for sober and reasoned discourse on the globe’s changing climate, and he often spoke out against dishonesty in the public sphere — whether by opinion-makers, politicians, fossil fuel interests, or news personalities.

“I realized that everything I wanted to say was said 20, 25 years ago by Steve,” said Schmidt, a researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

During his talk, “What should a climate scientist advocate for?” Schmidt offered fellow scientists a framework for how to think about being more public — or public at all — as an advocate for science and, most of all, integrity.

He began with the story of Schneider taking a stand against a column by Eugene Guccione in 1971 that misrepresented climate science. In a letter to the Times, Schneider fact-checked the column and then ended with a personal argument that more research was needed in climate science. “That’s advocacy!” Schmidt said.

Schmidt went on to show a list of activities and asked audience members to raise their hands if they considered a given activity advocacy to avoid. Among them:

“Scientists should communicate more about what they do and find.”

“Funding for scientific research should be a higher priority.”

“People should understand the basics of the greenhouse effect.”

“Global warming should be in the high school science curriculum.”

“Geoengineering should be seriously considered.”

As fewer hands went up, Schmidt declared, “All of these statements are normative.” In other words, they are expressions of advocacy.

Whether or not scientists should speak out on policy matters related to their fields continues to be controversial. Just this year, UK climate scientist Tamsin Edwards wrote in the Guardian that climate scientists should not advocate at all, Schmidt said.

Why is that?

Part of the answer, Schmidt said, is that scientists fear that advocating for a policy — related to climate change, for example — is a threat to the public perception of their objectivity. The truth is, everyone comes to the table with their own perspectives, and scientific advocacy at its simplest is an argument for what we should do in the face of scientific facts, Schmidt said.

In today’s political and cultural climate, science gets politicized when scientific results appear to impact a vested political, ethical or moral interest, Schmidt said. (I would add to this short list: “economic.”)

In that respect, scientific results are regarded in the public realm only to the extent that they project onto some political, ethical, moral — and economic — question.

Another important dimension to today’s political climate is that politics often becomes what Schmidt called “scientized.”

“Politics gets ‘scientized’ when advocates appear to debate the science in order to avoid debating the values that underlie their positions,” Schmidt said. The subsequent discourse has nothing to do with real scientific debate, and “sciency-ness” is used to make a case, not find a truth.

There are both good and bad consequences to this, in Schmidt’s view. Among the consequences that some people might see as positive:

  • Scientific papers that project onto the perceived debate are easier to get into the high-profile academic journals Nature and Science.
  • Scientists can get more media interest in their work.
  • If a scientist fills a niche in the popular discourse, he or she can get invited to testify in Congress, write op-eds and be profiled in the media.

While some consequences may have their upsides for individual researchers, there are often clear negatives. These might include:

  • Scientific papers are frequently quoted out of context.
  • Political forums are generally not as civil as scientific ones.
  • Scientists who enter public debates are under much more public scrutiny.
  • Media reports, in Schmidt’s view, are generally not accurate. They pursue a “false balance” while striving for sensationalism and an over-interpretation of results.
  • Scientists can find themselves embroiled in debates over irrelevant issues.

Schmidt went on to review the changing media landscape — the well-documented decline of traditional media (foremost newspapers) and the rise of online sources of information both good and bad.

So, the question for science communicators is: “Why do it?”

Maybe, Schmidt said, it’s because you’re sick of Hollywood getting the science completely wrong (“The Day After Tomorrow“), maybe it’s that error-ridden op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, maybe it’s books like Michael Crichton’s State of Fear.

Scientists who choose to communicate widely cannot avoid advocacy, Schmidt said. “You can’t be a science communicator and pretend you have no values. What instead you need to do is accept them.” If scientists don’t, people will choose for them what values they hold, he said. “You’re much better off owning that, and telling people what you’re advocating for.”

Scientists must be careful, however, and follow a handful of rules of engagement that will protect their integrity as a scientist as well as their rights as a citizen. Responsible advocacy is characterized by a handful of principles, Schmidt said. The individual should:

  • communicate his/her values fairly and truthfully;
  • make the connections between his/her values and policy choices explicit;
  • make sure to distinguish his/her personal conclusions from the scientific consensus;
  • acknowledge that people with different values would have different policy choices; and
  • be aware of how his/her values might impact objectivity, and be vigilant.

Irresponsible advocacy, on the other hand, can be recognized through a handful of clues. Among these:

  • Individuals misrepresent and hide their values.
  • The basis of their policy choices is unclear.
  • There’s an untested presumption that the individual’s personal scientific conclusions are widely held.

Scientists should have the right to advocate for anything they want, as long as it’s absolutely clear that they speak for themselves. They also have the right not to advocate for anything at all.

Schmidt reiterated that scientists should be explicit about their values, and not assume that others hold them. They should examine how their values might be shaping their assumptions, and they should make it absolutely clear that they don’t speak for their agency or community unless it wants them to. Finally, Schmidt advised scientists to be good listeners.

During his talk, he flashed a great quote on the screen, which sums up much of the talk: “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” — Aristotle

As he wrapped up, Schmidt offered some encouragement. More and more scientists are “sticking their heads above the parapet,” and the people taking potshots at them are not as numerous as scientists might think.

For scientists to sustain a credible and effective presence in the public sphere, they must, above all, be honest — to their science and to their values. The political discourse over climate change will continue for decades, and so scientists should be prepared for the long haul.

Schmidt ended his talk with another great quote, this one from the late climate scientist and Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”


During a Q&A session after his talk, Schmidt offered a few more words of wisdom for researchers thinking about becoming more vocal about their science and their personal views. Among his more memorable remarks were:

“It’s important for people who know things not to give up the public sphere to people who don’t know things.”

“There are forums in which you can have a serious conversation, and there are forums in which it’s impossible. … Talking over each other …. solves no one’s purpose.”

When asked to appear on Fox News, Schmidt told the producers: “I’m not here to make good TV for you. I’m not interested in adding to the noise.”

When asked where to engage the public, Schmidt said: “You have to be tactical and find places where you can be heard. … avoid comment threads of most major newspapers.”

“You can create spaces online that are not noise-free and not discussion-free but are abuse-free. And I think we should create spaces like that.”

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Comments

Comments 1 to 26:

  1. "That's the responsibility of having eyes when others have lost theirs."

     

    Jose Saramago

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  2. Scientists have an obligation to communicate effectively to the public one aspect of AGW in particular: the delay between human action and planetary response.  The public has gadgets that respond instantly to commands, we order something and expect it yesterday, our media is '150 channels and nothin's on'.  'Change is here, now' is every politicians soundbite, and our motto is 'I want it now'.

    This culture is in no way prepared to take hard, revolutionary action on Climate Change and find the Planet indifferent to that sacrifice for up to half a century.  Halt all CO2 emissions forever, starting today, and the Planet will cheerily continue warming for 40 years or more.  And IN that 40 year window of Planetary indifference, the Arctic will continue melting and absorbing more sunlight, the permafrost will continue melting and venting CO2: processes will be unleashed that could make a MOCKERY of our sacrifice.  This aspect of this slow-rolling tragedy is just not understood by the general public, afflicted as it is with 'short-attention-span' disease, and I fault the Scientists, in part, for not making that plainer.

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  3. The key to understanding what Gavin said is to figure out who benefits if scientists can be kept from commenting on policy implications of the science.  Now true one has to be extremely careful of assigning expertise to the policy statements of people like Hansen, but one also need be careful of anything said by those who try and control the dialog.

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  4. Just as a question to EliRabett @3. Why do you need to be careful about assiging expertise to people like Hansen?

    I've found his public statements to be very well thought through and backed by data that is sound science.

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  5. I suspect Eli was influenced by Hansen's AGU presidential address. Hansen was very clear for the first part of his talk when he described the physics of climate change. It is obvious that he has a solid grasp of this, because he can explain it in a rational and logical manner, as well or better than anyone. On the moral imperative, he was also very convincing, speaking from the heart and with everything based on moral principles that he holds and that most of us share.

    However, at the end of his talk, he drifted into a bit of an incoherent ramble. He is clearly a skeptic of the potential of renewable energy to power our economy and an enthusiast for nuclear power. I hesitantly lean that way, too, but it's a difficult case that needs to be made with detailed arguments and data, not just assertions and appeals to common sense.

    Similarly, he wants to see a revenue-neutral carbon tax introduced, but it's not enough for him simply to say that such a policy is self-evidently the best one, although I would agree that it probably is. Nor should we assume that such a tax would be sufficient to solve the climate crisis. In my opinion, this would only be a good start, we'll need lots of regulations, plenty of government support for research and development and a change in the culture of consumerism and growth. 

    Hansen shows both the positive and negative cases for scientists becoming advocates.

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  6. "Nor should we assume that such a tax would be sufficient to solve the climate crisis. In my opinion, this would only be a good start, we'll need lots of regulations..."

    That's my sense, too. When something is causing actual harm, we don't usually just tax it to make people less likely to buy it. We ban it, or put severe restrictions on it. If someone sold childrens toys that would spontaneously blow up and take off kids' hands and feet, I hope we wouldn't just put a high tax on it to encourage parents not to buy it.

    I tend to trust scientists most when they are issuing warnings; often less so when they are saying to trust some technology or other. Nuclear is a tought sell after Fukushima, rightly so imho.

    What needs to be given up is the idea of limitless growth. Shortening the work week and reconsidering the mad rush to automate everything will go a longer way to full employment than continually chasing the impossibility of endless economic growth.

    What we have to hear very clearly from Hansen is his call for six percent or more decrease in C emissions immediately and Kevin Anderson's call for 10% or more reductions from industrialized countries. These are arguably the top climatologists in the world.

    Neither nukes nor alternatives can be built fast enough to accommodate those kinds of cuts--cuts needed if we are going to have even the mere posibility of a livable world. Only 'demand side' can possibly respond that fast.


    These scientists have bravely told us the truth--the situation is beyond crisis level now. If we don't immediately turn the ship around we are going over the falls. The job of the rest of us is to telegraph that extreme level of urgency to our fellow citizens and to our 'leaders.'

     

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  7. Gavin Schmidt's lecture is now available on AGU's Youtube Channel:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJC1phPS6IA#t=209

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  8. I've always wondered how individual scientists who 'hide' their views on hot topics (...one particular scientist comes to mind...) can think that's the same thing as being neutral.  It's not.  Nobody can divorce themselves from their human nature, even scientists.  Way better to be honest, so that your peers, and yourself, can see your biases and handle them accordingly.

    Not to mention we are citizens first.  Why shouldn't we have opinions about policy?  Why should Joe Plumber's opinions about climate change policy be more acceptable to express than a climate scientists' opinion about it?  Scientists live in this world just the same as everyone else.  Which means we scientists suffer the consequences just the same.  Why would anyone want to prevent a citizen from exercising his or her right to be a part of society?  We can vote, but we can't ever say out loud what we think?  How dumb is that?

    (I'm no climate scientist, just speaking about scientists in general.)

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Corrected typing error.

  9. “Scientists should communicate more about what they do and find.”

    I agree!  Higher than normal energy input from solar storms that spawn hurricanes has caused the average global temperature to increase over the last 30 years.  The convection of energy by the north Atlantic current from the tropics to the arctic has caused the sea ice to melt and produce a minimum area of sea ice as a result.  The number of hurricanes were a minimum this season, 2013, and as a result; the area of sea ice at the northern ice cap will increase and the average global temperature will drop.

    The average solar energy input to our planet by radiation is a constant over the period of one year.  If Carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases were continually increasing and the power source is a constant, the average temperature of the earth would be continually increasing.  This is not what is observed in the average temperature data; therefore, the radiation from the sun is not the only energy source.  The incoming severe weather from solar storms is a variable and the average global temperature will increase and decrease on a yearly basis as a function of the severe weather energy input to our atmosphere. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [TD] I'll point you to just a starter set of factual rebuttals to just a few of your claims, in addition to what PhilMorris pointed you to

  10. I had an interesting and disheartening experience at an event with artists and scientists held through the Columbia Earth Science PositiveFeedback program.  When I mentioned my play "Extreme Whether" and said it had elements in common with Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People", most of the scientists I spoke with had never read Ibsen's great play, or even heard of it.  Are science and the humanties really so far apart?  Art and literature give us insight but also courage.  As a theater writer writing about climate change, as a college teacher who teaches literature and also gives students scientific papers to read and discuss, I would urge scientists to read--at least read "An Enemy of the People"...it is a great play and is directly related to the topic under discussion here.

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  11. wpokeland@9:  I

    really like how you provide references to peer reviewed journals substantiating your statements. Oh, sorry, I read your comments so quickly I didn't realize that you hadn’t provided any such references. You are, of course, simply stating results from real research, but forgot to include them, right? No? Are you quoting from newspaper articles, then? Or certain blog posts (numerous ones come to mind...)? Hm, perhaps its what you feel intuitively has to be the case then? Perhaps reading some of this site, or any of the other sites that have real science, would help clarify the true situation for you - one can but hope!  In the meantime let me tell you about two physicis items...

    1.  CO2 absorbs infrared.  See http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=200

    2.  CO2 absorption of infrared predicts that the troposphere will warm and the stratosphere will cool.  And we have satellite evidence that this is happening. See "Human and natural influences on the changing thermal structure of the atmosphere", PNAS, Aug 2013.

     

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  12. A suggestion here for increased communications between scientists with friends and associates: I am a retired analytical chemist who spend a considerable portion of my research on problems related to the atmosphere. Upon retirement I started a web site (ericgrimsrud.com) and associated blog (ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com) on which I write about one post per week followed by a heads up to my friends and associates on my personal mailing list. My blog constitutes an additional layer of simplified representation of the things I read. Many of my ideas come either from Skeptical Science or Climate Progress with links to those more in depth articles. These posts seem to go over quite well and seem to be read by most on my mailing list. The cost of running my blog at wordpress is nothing at all. One can be set up and used as I do by anyone for free. I happen to like to write so this also provided me with one of my main retirement "hobbies" - while doing what I can to help "save the world". There are many other ways for retired scientists to help, of course. We have the great gift of free time and hopefully still carry some credibility at least with our friends and associates.

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  13. Excellent article.

    The summary of the rules and cautions for advocacy were especially succinct.

    "Scientists must be careful, however, and follow a handful of rules of engagement that will protect their integrity as a scientist as well as their rights as a citizen. Responsible advocacy is characterized by a handful of principles, Schmidt said. The individual should:

    - communicate his/her values fairly and truthfully;
    - make the connections between his/her values and policy choices explicit;
    - make sure to distinguish his/her personal conclusions from the scientific consensus;
    - acknowledge that people with different values would have different policy choices; and
    - be aware of how his/her values might impact objectivity, and be vigilant.

    Irresponsible advocacy, on the other hand, can be recognized through a handful of clues. Among these:

    - Individuals misrepresent and hide their values.
    - The basis of their policy choices is unclear.
    - There’s an untested presumption that the individual’s personal scientific conclusions are widely held.”

    These are excellent rules for all of us to follow and consider.

    However, when important public policies are being discussed, it is often very difficult to differentiate between data, information, and interpretation, i.e., there are few instances when science can be separated from advocacy.

    Advocacy is not a bad thing, but when science is used to support government policy, NGO advocacy, or business operations, the scientists who interpret the scientific information, or indeed construct the scientific experiments, are engaged in advocacy.  They should also follow these rules.

    Too often businesses, governments, and organizations gloss over the very critical values that are used to frame their scientific work, analysis, interpretation, and communication.

    So broadening the scope of these rules:

    Responsible advocacy is characterized by a handful of principles … . The individual or organization (government, non-government, or business) should:

    - communicate his/her and the organization's values fairly and truthfully;
    - make the connections between his/her and the organization’s values and policy choices explicit;
    - make sure to distinguish his/her personal and the organization’s conclusions from the scientific consensus;
    - acknowledge that people and organizations with different values would have different policy choices; and
    - be aware of how his/her and the organization's values might impact objectivity, and be vigilant.

    Irresponsible advocacy, on the other hand, can be recognized through a handful of clues. Among these:
    - Individuals or organizations misrepresent and hide their values.
    - The basis of their or the organization’s policy choices is unclear.
    - There’s an untested presumption that the individual’s personal or the organization’s scientific conclusions are widely held.

     

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  14. Wpsokeland @ item 9, you imply solar energy is higher than normal and is driving climate change. The sun has been cooling slightly over roughly the last 40 years, and the research evidence can be found on this website, and obviously a cooling sun cant generate global warming.

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    Moderator Response:

    [TD] ...the counterargument to the myth "It's the Sun."

  15. Climate scientists should speak out in the daily media, but need to tread a fine balance. Certainly they could comment on the science and refute sceptical arguments, and discuss their personal feelings and backgrounds. James Hansen is a good communicator, concise and gets to the point.

    However they should avoid being drawn into debates as such. Determining the scientific truth shouldnt become a public spectacle like a court room, complete with emotive battles. I also feel climate scientists should avoid comments on political issues, and mitigation measures unless they have specific expertise.

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  16. .

     

    >>When asked where to engage the public, Schmidt said: “You have to be tactical and find places where you can be heard. … avoid comment threads of most major newspapers.”<<


    True, so very true.

    I'm not one for posting every minute on blogs, but I do read the london Daily Telegraph online most days: it's shocking the number of blog posters that come out of the woodwork whenever there's anything to do with climate change who are utterly abusive and ignorant of the most basic science. In general nowadays they get a free run because experts have run out of patience with repeating the same rebuttals over and over again to a readership that lacks the will to look at anything that doesn't match their convictions. Non experts (like me) eventually give up for the same reason and the constant abusive language.

    Whilst personally persuaded of the fact of MMGW, I can't help feeling that any amount of CO2 per capita reduction is completely negated by the increase in population - roughly three extra "emitters" per second.

    The problem, like so many in the present, fundamentally boils down to too many people and I don't see any realistic prospect of that changing voluntarily.

     

    .

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  17. A good article highlighting the dilemma within which the science community finds itself. What involvement in the end-to-end communication exercise? how far it should go in presenting impact analysis (physical and social), and solutions that might be construed as political interference.

    We appear to be suffering from a ‘communications gap’ with the perceptions of a wider audience tainted by media misinformation and misdirection... perhaps this is the most significant barrier to public acceptance and active participation.

    Tackling the problem from a purely scientific standpoint will have limited success.
    Communications cannot be a ‘one size fits all’. The tailoring of content and emphasis, delivery channel and messenger, are essential to penetrate any particular 'market' sector. Start thinking like an advertising agency, establish the message to meet the ‘requirements’ of the audience and manage their expectations.

    What is the value proposition?

    The market has numerous dimensions and permutations:

    Off the top of my head:


    1) Scientific and academic publications key source and empirical baseline – Communicated by scientists and scientific publications - A mainly technical audience.
    2) Science journalism through scientific articles in science magazines, blogs , podcasts, presentations etc. – Targeting the more technically savvy audience, science professionals and students. Perhaps a first port of call for latest news and links to published articles?
    3) Science journalism through higher end quality documentaries, TV, radio podcasts etc. - Scientifically aware and with particularlinterests.
    4) Science journalism through popular and entertainment media, TV, radio, YouTube, press articles and social media. A generally wider and diverse audience (certainly the largest segment ).
    5) Activist and environmental organisations, mainly communicating to the converted


    Our friends in the denial community operate within 3, 4 and particularly 5.

    This is where most effort should be invested for greatest impact. Engaging the audience has to be at a more emotional and organic level, not through overstatement but in ways that command their attention to risks and consequences. Financial and economic consequences along with family wellbeing tend to deliver the most immediate response.

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  18. I am a retired aeronautical scientist. I have learned four fundamental scientific principles late in life. They are:

    1. All the technological systems of civilization irreversibly consume the limited natural material resources, including oil, in producing the, infrastructure (from cities down), goods and services society has become so dependent on. This is an unsustainable process.
    2. This process produces immutable waste material which is polluting land, sea, air and organisms (including human beings), with climate change being only one of the unintended deleterious consequences.
    3. Natural resources will have to be used to operate and maintain the vast array of technological systems, including the infrastructure, during their limited lives. As these resources are running out, the demise of much of the infrastructure this century is certain.
    4. The extravagant usage of the limited natural resources has enabled the exponential growth of the global human population but this will end and a dieoff follow as natural resources become scarcer and the infrastructure crumbles.

     

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  19. Its an article with many interesting points. But I am missing one aspect. Our research is based on observations of the past and present, and our advocacy is related to predictions of the future and what we should do about it. In natural sciences nature is always one up on us by being incredibly more complex than our numerical models and theories can capture, so we have to work with uncertainties. The best way to do this is with scenarios – so that we can say for example there is a 60% chance that our emissions will bring uncontrollable consequences to the planet (this number is just an example – nothing to do with the facts!!). Then the scientist can advocate radical action based on a 60% probability of calamity, without having to falsely argue that all is certain – and thereby laying himself open to the observations/theories which support the other 40%.
    I believe the biggest threat to action on climate change is the polarized and unscientific nature of the debate, both in the blogosphere with its brainwashed extremests, and to some extent among climate scientists. I would love to see a forum where scientist A presents his new findings on AGW, and scientist B takes issue with some of the content – followed by scientist A countering these comments. In the old days this was done in scientific literature (peer reviewed of course), but this process is I believe too slow for our modern times. Of course I am dreaming again ! But I am wholly in agreement with denisaf that we should open our eyes  – its not just about CO2 – it’s the way we live which is unstainable.

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  20. It's worth noting that Gavin's own understanding of advocacy has evolved in the last 4-5 years, as the digital media took over the bulk of science communication from TV/newspapers that dominated earlier on.

    In his lecture, at about 11:20-12:20 of video pointed by BaerbelW@7, Gavin admits his definition of advocacy as "deliberate cherry-picking a piece of apparently useful data  without consideration of any alternative explanations" (source) was wrong. Scientists have the same right to be advocates as any other citizens but in doing so, they need to make explicit distinction between their advocacy - based on personal moral values and their science - based on objective facts.

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  21. MartinG@19,

    I would love to see a forum where scientist A presents his new findings on AGW, and scientist B takes issue with some of the content – followed by scientist A countering these comments. In the old days this was done in scientific literature (peer reviewed of course), but this process is I believe too slow for our modern times. Of course I am dreaming again

    No, you're not dreaming, your exact scenario is happening as we speak, e.g. here on SkS, or on realclimate (where Gavin is most active contributor) and on other blogs. Some comment threads are very interesting, sometimes enlightening for myself. Your old "peer review debate" is happening fast in the digital blogosphere now.

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  22. Well I dont know about the statement "in the old days". This still happens all the time and is frankly how science debate should continue to be done. Slow is good. Science should not be a spectator sport. A scientist who is convinced of AGW can still strongly criticize the methodology or interpretation of another scientist publishing supporting evidence.

    On the whole, pseudo-skeptics prefer blog science, where any garbage can be served up to a willing audience without the inconvenience of having to get things right so it passes peer-review. Peer-reviewed comments or counter-papers against published science is rare but happens (eg O'Donnell et al 2010 paper on Steig et al 2009). On the other hand, skeptic papers often draw a response. (look for cites of papers published by Lindzen, Spencer, Douglas and Knox etc). You have to remember though that there are very very few actual climate scientists that deny AGW.

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  23. scaddenp #22 Dr. Lindzen positively does not deny AGW. I've viewed one of his talks to lay persons in which he gives his estimated range of transient climate response (TCR) at ~+1.0C (I've forgotten his low end) to +1.6C due to his opinion on cloud changes (vs Dr. Hansen's stated best guess of +2.8C). As far as I've seen, Dr. L's actual science point is that he considers AGW feedback's to be greatly overestimated by the consensus, so obviously he considers +CO2-caused warming to be factual and significant. I'm assuming Dr. L and Dr. H mean TCR because the ECS is a long time in the future and IPCC calls TCR "a more informative indicator".

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  24. Yes, fair enough, but it's hard to find examples of climate scientists that somehow think climate physics is wrong. Spencer also readily accepts AGW theory while wishing for a lower sensitivity. They are "skeptics" in sense that they are in denial about the published literature on sensitivity. Both have ideological bias which means they are trying to find a theory which will give a sensitivity such that no climate action is needed. Ie they have an a priori position on sensitivity and are thrashing about trying to justify it. I think such probes are good as they strengthen the science and they argue through the science literature. Not so great is misleading statements to the naive (eg congress).

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  25. "Nor should we assume that such a tax would be sufficient to solve the climate crisis. In my opinion, this would only be a good start, we'll need lots of regulations..."

    I'm not sure this is the case.  If the price on carbon emissions is adequate to reflect the environmental cost, that should be all we need.  Of course its not anywhere near that simple, because like any tax people will try and avoid it.  But a well designed carbon tax of the type Hansen envisages would work.

    Sometimes there is an element of Catholic guilt about all this.  A desire to self-flagellate.  We don't need to.  

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  26. Hmm, the whole point of a carbon tax is that people will try to avoid it - don't use carbon based energy and you can avoid the tax completely.

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