Consensus? What Consensus? The Lie Comes Undone

Posted: February 4, 2013 by tallbloke in alarmism, climate, flames, Incompetence, Philosophy, Politics

reformSylvia Tognetti said:
Science can be wrong, but given what is known and accepted by “all but cranks”, it would require extraordinary evidence to overturn that consensus… However, Curry, like Joe Bast, apparently rejects a consensus approach without saying how policy could otherwise be informed by what science can offer.

Eli Rabbett (Josh Halpern) said:
“choosing up sides happens in the Pre Normal Science stage before the scientific consensus’, but it persists afterwards but is only important if there are economic or philosophical drivers blocking acceptance of the science.”

Tallbloke (Roger Tattersall) responds:
However, if the scientific consensus’  is itself a political contrivance achieved by suppressing alternative legitimate scientific viewpoints, then those rebels/cranks (TM NUSAP) will persist not because of economic or philosophical considerations, but because they care about scientific ‘truth’ as they see it.

And when they see the scientific consensus’ gathered together in a single place debating amongst themselves about climate sensitivities ranging from:

“one of them stated quite openly in a meeting I attended a few years ago that he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises (i.e. exaggerating the probability of high sensitivity) in order to help motivate political actionA value (slightly) under 2 is certainly looking a whole lot more plausible than anything above 4.5.’” (James Annan)


“say S falls to ~2.5K. Does it mean the sceptics are correct and we can all go to the pub and forget about AGW?” (BBD)


“1.77 K – over 1 K short of the unsupported 2.8 K number that you plucked out of the air.  (You can check the 9% change back to my original, detailed, calculations.)”  (Nic Lewis)

then the rebels/cranks (TM NUSAP) perceive that there is no such thing as the scientific consensus’  but a  mixture of rent-seekers/ranters/liars/realists (TM Tallbloke) who don’t ownthe science’.

Jerry Ravetz says:

The difference between a crank and a rebel may become clear only in retrospect.  Which was Galileo?  He spent a huge part of his working life on a theory that anyone could have told him would never succeed.

Oceanologist Professor Judith Curry probably knows better than enviro-consultant Sylvia Tognetti (who cheerfully admits her inexpertise) how to distinguish the various elements. She says:

 “Until we better understand natural internal climate variability, we simply don’t know how to infer sensitivity to greenhouse gas forcing…As scientists, we need to embrace the uncertainty, the complexity and the messy wickedness of the problem. We mislead policy makers with our oversimplifications and overconfidence”

Kudos to James Annan for lancing the boil.



  1. tallbloke says:

    Plenty of labels in there for Willard to point at. 🙂

  2. It isn’t the purpose of a scientist to seek consensus. On the contrary; it is their implied duty (in line with falsifiability) to seek disagreement.

    Nor is it the role of scientists, acting as scientists to seek to form political opinion. That is their role as citizens; on an equal footing with all other citizens.

  3. tallbloke says:

    Yup. Scientific fraud isn’t a good basis for sound policy.

  4. oldbrew says:

    ‘the IPCC continues in the manner best described by a Polish aphorism much heard during the Soviet-dominated 1970s: The future is certain, only the past is unpredictable.’

  5. tallbloke says:

    Andy Revkin is sort of almost considering getting around to thinking about the possibility that we could entertain the idea that sensitivity might be at the low end of the spectrum:

  6. tallbloke says:

    Revkin adds an update: Words with Gavin Schmidt, who is trying to back away from high sensitivity claims.

    Gavin Schmidt of NASA and the Realcimate blog sent this note as part of a group e-mail exchange:

    Andy, I think you may be slightly misrepresenting where the ‘consensus’ on this issue has been. While there have been occasional papers that have shown a large tail, and some arguments that this is stubborn – particular from constraints based on the modern tranisent changes – there has always been substantial evidence to rule these out. Even going back to the 2-11deg C range found in the initial cpdn results in 2005, many people said immediately that the high end was untenable (for instance).

    Indeed, the consensus statements in the IPCC reports have remained within the 1.5 – 4.5 range first set by Charney in 1979. James’ work has helped improve the quantifications of the paleo constraints (particular for the LGM), but these have been supported by work from Lorius et al (1991), Kohler et al (2010), etc. and therefore are not particularly radical.

    By not reflecting that, you are implying that the wishful thinking of people like Ridley and Lindzen for a climate sensitivity of around 1 deg C is tenable. It is not, and James’ statement was simply alluding to that. For reference, James stated that his favored number was around 2.5 deg C, Jim Hansen in a recent letter to the WSJ quote 2.5-3.5 (based on the recent Palaeosens paper), and for what it’s worth the CMIP5 GISS models have sensitivities of 2.4 to 2.7 deg C. None of this is out of the mainstream.
    I sent Schmidt and the group this reply:

    In policy circles, including popular calculations of emissions trajectories necessary to avoid a high chance of exceeding 2 degrees C. of warming, the hot tail has not been trimmed (unless I’m missing something?).

    To me, that says the climate science community — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change science working group — has not adequately conveyed the reality you state here.