Sunday, December 08, 2013

Lewandowsky helps Kahan look a little better

A newish Inquiring Minds podcast by Mooney and Viskontas features a good dialogue between Stephan Lewandowsky and Dan Kahan. Eli and yours truly haven't been all that persuaded with Kahan's interpretation of his own work, which is very critical of climate hawks and pretty silent about the denialists, but in Lewandowsky's presence he moderates it and comes off much more persuasively.

Kahan says he supports trying all approaches (not quite what he said earlier). He acknowledges communicating information can actually persuade people in the lab, which is good, but suggests it hasn't worked in the wild, somewhat contradicting his claimed preference for science over impression-based analysis

I think the framing analysis and group identitity analysis has a lot of value to it, and that's why communicating the 97% agreement among climatologists is so useful. The people who doubt climate science don't perceive themselves as 97% out of the mainstream (disregarding all the Galileos). When they understand where the consensus exists, that's their mental framework of where they belong and where the scientists who share their group identity also are found.

And that's ignoring the fence-sitters and those who are open to the science but don't know how strong it is, and by knowing that can give it a higher priority in their politics.

UPDATE:  thought I'd add that Kahan and later Viskontas assumed some unproven facts so I thought I'd do the same - if the climate hawks hadn't been out there all these years arguing the facts against the liars and misleaders, then we'd have an even worse public understanding than the present.

And just to be contrarian, I'll agree with Kahan on something and partially disagree with Lewandowsky. Kahan said we should watch for and attempt to prevent partisan group identity development where it has not yet occurred, like on GMOs and vaccinations. Sounds fine to me. Lewandowsky said politicians have not been pushing hard enough on climate - that sounds a bit like the bully pulpit argument that has not fared well among political scientists. I'm not sure the bully pulpit is so completely ineffective in the long term though, and Lewandowsky may have just been arguing that it's time to try out all their new techniques for science communication.


Monty said...

Not on topic....but does anyone know what's happened to Tamino?

Anonymous said...

tamino lives in the Boston area and, last time he disappeared for a few months like this, he was lending his skills to a local group that were fighting against some rethuglican BS up there. I suspect the same has happened again.

Anonymous said...

Back on topic... Lewandowsky is being hounded to the ends of the earth by a fake skeptic by the name of Barry Woods who keeps asking why SkS was listed as one of the sites that hosted the infamous survey that led to the Lewandowsky et. al. 2012 paper. As you will recall, that found a strong correlation between free market ideology and AGW denial. There was also a secondary finding that correlated AGW denial pretty well with conspiracy theory ideation, but that wasn't the main finding of the paper (although, of course, that's the bit that got the fake skeptics' hackles up).

Anyway... a link to the survey was never posted on SkS. For the lolz, I verified this myself using the Wayback Machine. So, yeah, John Cook apparently slipped up and forgot to post a link to the survey, though Lewandowsky assumed he had. But in any case, 1100+ responses were garnered from various AGW science-based sites, although one of them wasn't SkS. As you will recall, none of the skeptic sites that were contacted posted the survey, because most of them didn't realise it was from Lewandowsky, as his assistant sent the actual contact e-mails.

Now here comes the ironic bit: Lewandowsky, Mann, and a few other scientists have just published a paper concerning how climate scientists are harassed by those with a political agenda, and what does Woods do? Yep. Continues to harass Lewandowsky. The guy has a one track mind. See the comments here:

You can't make this stuff up. I believe there may actually be a numerical relationship that represents this phenomenon:

Woods/Lewandowsky = McIntyre/Mann

Woods will never rest until Lewandowsky admits that SkS never hosted the survey, but no one else in the whole world doesn't really give a flying F.

Anonymous said...

And 97% consensus among humans can not exist anywhere on any topic so the Lew surveys are surely contrived.

Hardy Cross

Anonymous said...

Hardy Cross asserts that >3% of humans beleive the earth is flat & men have babies.

(S)He also misses that a 97% consensus of scientists does not necessarily equal 97% of humans.

Maybe Hardy Cross should try using >3% of his/her thinking potential...


Tom Curtis said...

Hardy Cross demonstrates the silliness of his comment by not even recognizing the Lewandowsky was not involved in the consensus paper.

Tom Curtis said...

metzomagic, I wouldn't go quite that far. It would be nice if the details in the paper were accurate, and appropriate for Lewandowsky to issue a corrigendum noting the notification by tweet rather than at SkS itself, and further noting the publishing of a link to the survey at Steve Milloy's Junk Science (which for some reason Barry Woods is uninterested in). However, both are probably trivial factors in the composition of the survey respondents. Woods obsession over so trivial an issue does represent harassment IMO.

Anonymous said...

Tom Curtis said:

"Woods obsession over so trivial an issue does represent harassment IMO."

That's pretty much my point.

I too remember Junk Science posting a link to the survey even though they weren't invited to do so, and TBH, I need to go read LOG2012 again before I can comment further on the methodology/breakdown of survey response origins, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Kahan said we should watch for and attempt to prevent partisan group identity development where it has not yet occurred..."

Too right. If I post a critical comment on a pro-science climate site sometimes the regulars bristle and start lumping me in with contrarians (after all the years I've spent mud-wrestling with the anti-science mob at WUWT etc). Doesn't matter how polite I am (and I always am).

I stopped bothering at Greenfyre's ages ago after daring to criticise the way George Monbiot invited Ian Plimer to debate him. They were dead set convinced I was a denier and set about casting me as a "denier", and accusing me of mendaciousness when I told them they were abusing an ally. It's happened a few times at SkS, too, though not as virulently. I'll take some blame for not being smart enough to frame my ideas as cogently as I would prefer.

Although it's an annoying slap in the face, I usually let it go. But I pity the genuine skeptics or fence-sitters who come to these places and get treated with suspicion, condenscension and ridicule. I often cringe at the way new enquirers are spoken to at SkS. It's probably war-weariness from the regulars duking it out with real contrarians, but it looks like and feels like waspish tribalism. I've seen it put genuine enquirers off far too often. There is a serious need for grips to be loosened all round. Too much talking down. Too much wagon-circling. Patience and inclusiveness would be more persuasive.


Susan Anderson said...

Actually, Tamino is in central Maine, and the last time he disappeared he was actively involved in protesting one of the many tentacles of Canadian transport which is trying to re-up an old transport corridor to get Canadian extreme fuels to the ocean. I'll ask a mutual friend and post back here.

OK, excess with the links:

All the activist sites appear to be up in arms (as am I). This from Grist:
"ExxonMobil and Enbridge are also digging in for the fight."

This looks like it might be part of it, but Portland would be the terminus.

I was a little surprised to see a local train in NJ, which used to carry coal, is now often tanker cars (Procor). A devil's choice.

Anonymous said...

Anon-101a here:


You have the wordsmithing of a denier. Worse, a "lukewarmer" tone trolling one.

"I pity the genuine skeptics "

The genuine skeptics are the ones who are part of the 97%.

But avoiding them being given their due is precisely what the deniers want. They cannot prove their point correct. Will not rein in the monstrous elements (because they're so damn useful to their ends), therefore they can only do "But they do it too!" as a "justification".

By your words, you are a denier. Sympathetic to their denial and hostile to the consequences of the facts arrayed on the side of AGW's existential evidence.

So you can't get the 1% ousted. You don't want to debate the 97%. So you claim only the 2% should be given any weight to the argument, as they are "the genuine skeptics and fence-sitters".

Oh, look! Suddenly the arguments aren't solid enough to make a decision to change our society and risk, uh, catastrophe, if we ignore the catastrophists of the IPCC.

Therefore wait.

At least until I've retired and died.

Anonymous said...

"Blessed are the genuine skeptics, for they really are quite ignorant, aren't they?"

Anonymous said...


Excellent demonstration of precisely the sort of behaviour I'm talking about. I'm not sure whether you're kidding or not.

But genuine or otherwise, that's exactly the kind of identity-conscious, fortress mentality has to stop.

If you were for real, the next step might be to call me a concern troll (the laziest ad hom in the book), then search for my name at climate blogs to see if there's any dirt, some way to identify my leanings so you can alert the group.

This is what is happening at both skeptical and pro-science climate blogs, but so depressing to see it happen at the latter. Places like WUWT are beyond hope and care, but SkS is worth caring about.


Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Dude, big meanies and scientists and particularly engineers when shit goes wrong, use like words, among other things, but they're like different from sticks and stones and bullets and bombs and stuff. Get it? Like, get over it. Thanks, dude.

Anonymous said...

Glad someone else asked about Tamino. I wondered if a cache was preventing my browser refreshing his homepage.


Aaron said...

In the spring of 2007, most (97%) of PhD climate scientists thought that Arctic would remain substantially intact for the next 30 years. It did not.

Two years ago the coast of Greenland was warmer than the California coast, and last week the north coast of Alaska was warmer than Dallas Tx.

The idea that the Arctic in the dark can be above freezing has profound implications for ice and sea level, but has not yet been incorporated into consensus climate science.

I do not trust climate scientists to do their homework on the physical chemistry of ice. I do not trust climate scientists to do a full accounting of all the energy stores and energy flows acting on ice. I do not trust climate scientists to do a good structural analysis of ice sheets weakened by moulins and other discontinuities in the ice.

I do not trust climate scientists to account for carbon feedback from clathrates, or tundra carbon, or free methane in geological structures with pemafrost caps.

My best guess is that the climate science consensus on global warming understates the risk to human infrastructure by 2 orders of magnitude over a 30 year time period (2 generations) and 4 orders of magnitude over a 120 year time period.

I consider 97% of climate scientists to be somewhere between skepticism and denial.

willard said...

> Doesn't matter how polite I am (and I always am).

See for yourself:


Barry, the war ended Saturday night.

The Uniformitarians won.

Anonymous said...


I'm not Barry Woods. Barry is not my real name but a monicker I've used for ages (barryschwarz is another one I use). Rabbett can google the name in my email and instantly confirm. I don't use my real name because it is unique, making me easily traceable.

But thanks for demonstrating exactly the kind off-putting behaviour pervading climate blogs that I described upthread

Of course, my comments only matter regarding places that put a premium on public outreach. I was inspired by, amongst other things, the first article linked in the OP: "How Do You Get People to Give a Damn About Climate Change?"


willard said...

Dear barry,

Sorry for having confused you with the Barry metzomagic and Tom Curris alluded to the comments just before your first.

Thank you for demonstrating how politeness can be subjective with this line:

­­> But thanks for demonstrating exactly the kind off-putting behaviour pervading climate blogs that I described upthread.

Nor do I find "waspish tribalism" quite polite either.

Were a Canadian, would you take my word for it?


In any case, thank you for your concerns,


Anonymous said...


"Waspish tribalism" was not directed at anyone in particular. You may think the criticism has no substance but it isn't impolite. My thanks could be read as bitter but I was actually glad you demonstrated my point.

When people who want to ask questions or join in need to mince their words to avoid setting regulars off, then that is poor public outreach. A winning campaign would be generous and inclusive, not suspicious and curt. Realclimate does a pretty good job of this. You mentioned Tom Curtis - his contribution is a fine example of how to engage with people dropping into SkS, IMO. Relatedly, I can think of no one else who commands the respect of both pro-science and contrarian blogeratti other than Zeke Hausfather. The way they operate is a lesson for people interested in effective engagement beyond their familiars.

I'm genuinely interested in a considered opinion. Do you think that commentary on public outreach sites could not be improved? Or that casual visitors are not in danger of being put off if they read through or join in the comments? Because after reading the articles, that is where they can be engaged to be more active. I mentioned SkS because it is THE most visible site for debunking contrarian mythology, and public outreach is a core value there.

("Canadian" - McIntyre reference?)


willard said...

Dear barry,

Thank you for your comment.

I don't think politeness only applies to sentences containing explicit referents to persons. One may use "the bunch of deniers at Tony's" without naming names. Unless you can allow that one can remain polite by using such word as "denier", I don't think your argument will get you very far.

Personally, I learned not to care too much about tone over the Internet. Not that I lack appreciation for measured comments such as yours. My academic experience made me realize how easy and powerful it was to remain polite while knocking someone down. Not only it would be more appealing to others to keep the conversation civil, it would add to the rhetorical arsenal.

But my Internet experience made me realize there's little one can do about the conduct of other commenters. Following advices is not what sent us to the moon, it seems. Therefore, arguing about tone and politeness is good from time to time, but moderation is good in everything, including moderation as wont to say Eli.

So I agree that amateurs should learn to play ClimateBall with gentlemanship. Just don't expect it will happen any time soon.

Hope this helps,


willard said...

Oh, forgot to add that I was merely referring to Canadian politeness. Yeah, I am Canadian. Can't own me.

Anonymous said...


Yes one becomes inured to biffo on the internet. It's desultory and tends to invite contests rather than fair-minded exchange of ideas and that's the blogging world in general. There are some good exceptions. But the biffo can be insidiously contagious, even for those ordinarily disposed against The inuration can make one blind to it. Normal for the blog-inured can be ugly for the un. This matters where public outreach does. Communication is pivotal and should be roundly discussed but I've only ever seen people dabbing at it in the semi-popular places. This thread is a good example. A similar discussion at realclimate a few years ago fizzed without much headway, IIRC. It seems like a non-starter often times, but...

Moderation at SkS is aimed at streamlining tone and content, which seems like a good idea for a site that wants to persuade/enlighten incoming traffic. Many of the regulars fileding comments also post the articles there. They have a common purpose and I believe they talk to each other about how to be more effective. Communication management at SkS is not just an option, they're already practising. Maybe this discussion has meaning for parts of blogsville.

Thanks for the reply.


Anonymous said...

Anon-101a here:

Re: Barry - "Anon-101a,

Excellent demonstration of precisely the sort of behaviour I'm talking about."

Yeah, odd that. Whatever doesn't concede everything to you is an example of that, innit? Because... uh. Because.

Hell, you're not even saying WHAT "behaviour" you're on about here.

But you started off about "genuine skeptics" and now appear to have whooshed those goalposts not merely to a different field, but changed them from Rugby posts to Basketball hoops to ensure that the goal against you doesn't count.

What makes you claim "identity-conscious, fortress mentality" there? Is it identity conscious to say that mathematicians are the ones most intimate with mathematics and that hairdressers do not imply mathematics experience?

No, what I did was called IDENTIFYING THE GROUP. Definitions are required. You appear to think that they are only valid if they are ones you make yourself and everyone else must concede to them.

But you didn't even attempt to keep on topic here, indication that you are merely blustering in the wind.

You didn't describe why the 97% are not genuine skeptics, nor rebut the assertion you were talking about only the 2% that are "yet undecided" as "genuine skeptics".

You see you are sitting in a position saying "I reject the extremists of 'both sides', this proves I'm moderate!" and eliding the fact that you wish to exclude 1% of one side and 97% of the other.

You never even tried to show this was an incorrect assumption on my part.

You merely humped your way over to an accusatory tone with an intention to declare me mentally unstable and therefore illogical and any claim made must therefore be declared null and void.

This is ad hominem, constrained by anonymity to unsourced allegation.

Picking a stance "between two extremes" is false balance.

Throwing away positions either side of that false balance point does not make the remaining views moderate or even vaguely accurate.

But you wish to avoid any defence of your post and instead wish to assert that the rebuttal must be wrong because you've decided it's "xactly the kind of identity-conscious, fortress mentality has to stop."

Skepticism is not merely "I don't believe anyone".

Anonymous said...

Anon-101a here:
"Blessed are the genuine skeptics, for they really are quite ignorant, aren't they?"

Who are these "genuine skeptics"? They cannot be called right merely because you slapped a label of "genuine skeptic" on them.

This is a non-sequitur.

So you need to say who are these genuine skeptics you're on about.

Because I'd call them the 97% of climate scientists.

Do you?

Anonymous said...

Anon-101a here:

"In the spring of 2007, most (97%) of PhD climate scientists thought that Arctic would remain substantially intact for the next 30 years. It did not."

Does this make the 3% right? No.

Are you claiming that not one of the climate scientists saying that AGW is real and a problem caused mostly by humanity thought that the Arctic would remain substantially intact until 2037?

Because that's wrong.

One of them proposed "possibly 2016" and got pilloried by the 3% and blogrolls. He is one of that 97% that you claim ALL got it wrong.

Apparently you don't think you need to know what those people say before you can claim what they said.

This is not the case.