Jaime Jessop: A Sensitive Issue and Why Advocacy is not a Moral Imperative

Posted: August 8, 2013 by tallbloke in Analysis, Blog, climate, media, methodology, Philosophy, Politics

This article is a repost from new climate blogger Jaime Jessop’s site Notes on a Scandal. One for the bookmarks file.

A Sensitive Issue and Why Advocacy is not a Moral Imperative
Jaime Jessop : August 6 2013

So, the climate debate rushes swiftly on, not so meandering now, not gently spreading out and forming nice ox-bow lakes of comfortably ‘settled science’, but gushing anew, foaming and bubbling as ‘radical’ viewpoints begin to be expressed in the mainstream media and observations of ‘non-warming’ start piling up like so much drifting snow against the front entrance of the warmists’ enclave.

I would say that this paper by Otto et al in Nature Geoscience caused the first really major geological upheaval and set the waters rushing downhill once more. It is authored principally by IPCC scientists and is peer-reviewed (a must it seems, on any papers having to do with climate science, though noticeably not so in many other scientific research fields). I quote:

The authors include fourteen climate scientists, well known in their fields, who are lead or coordinating lead authors of IPCC AR5 WG1 chapters that are relevant to estimating climate sensitivity. Two of them, professors Myles Allen and Gabi Hegerl, are lead authors for Chapter 10, which deals with estimates of ECS and TCR constrained by observational evidence. The study was principally carried out by a researcher, Alex Otto, who works in Myles Allen’s group.”

The paper is disappointingly hidden behind a paywall which, considering the very significant nature of its contents, particularly in relation to public policy, I think is a tad scandalous, but then I suppose I am one of these Moon landing conspiracy theorist types aka ‘concern trolls’ (who, to their eternal credit, do not at least believe that our major satellite is made of cheese).

The basic gist of Otto et al is that, given recent observations concerning global temperatures (in particular the 15 year ‘pause’), combined with the fact that atmospheric CO2 has been steadily rising throughout that period, there is a scientific case for lowering estimates for Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) and Transient Climate Response (TCR). These two quantities basically describe how our climate can be expected to respond (in terms of degrees surface warming) to a doubling of the concentration of atmospheric CO2 in the long term and in the short term, respectively. They are now pegged at 2 degrees C and 1.3 C respectively. Contrast this with the published IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) which gave a ‘best guess’ figure for ECS of 3 degrees C. It is widely expected that AR5 will incorporate these downward revised figures for climate sensitivity and this appears to be producing considerable consternation amongst the warmist community at large because, up until now, the IPCC has been THE voice of authority on everything CAGW and the main impetus behind policy measures worldwide.

In a seemingly desperate attempt to counter this growing acknowledgement of a lowered climate sensitivity and in particular the existence of the highly inconvenient global warming pause, the Met office recently issued three papers seeking to downplay the significance of these events. Otto himself commented on the significance (or otherwise) of the revised climate sensitivity measures via the platform of the Met Office here. On the subject of the ‘pause’ or hiatus, we are now asked to believe that pauses in warming were always ‘to be expected’ and that they are not especially significant and were a feature of the models from the word go but Met office scientists failed to communicate this fact to the general public! [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23409404]

Lest we are tempted to swallow this new explanation for ‘warming that isn’t warming’ (along with ‘missing heat’ gone deep sea-diving), I draw your attention to another paper by Meehl et al which shows that a 15 year pause in global surface warming, far from being an ‘expected’ and not very significant deviation from the predicted rise, does in fact occur only once in 375 years of model runs. As each year passes and still global temperatures stubbornly refuse to accede to the increasingly urgent requests of the global warming zealots, the mismatch with reality becomes ever more difficult to pass off as ‘within the limits of expectation of the models’.

The imperative to look again at the supposed ‘urgent’ policy implementations which are wreaking havoc upon our landscapes and upon our pockets, cannot be overstated, yet such a move is being resisted by our Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, intent as he is on going full steam (or should that be wind) ahead with the ‘greening’ of our energy supplies largely via vastly expensive and inefficient onshore and offshore turbines.

Where policy is concerned, University of Bristol climate scientist Tamsin Edwards, recently had the temerity to suggest that climate scientists should not be tempted to advocate for politicians, industry representatives and environmental pressure groups, even if they are convinced of the reality of man-made global warming. This, she suggests, damages public trust in scientists, climate scientists in particular. I would agree, but her seemingly reasonable comments are stirring up a furious backlash in the media, with many saying that climate scientists should not keep quiet and remain neutral on such an important issue as climate change, even, as in today’s Guardian, that climate scientists have a ‘moral obligation’ to advocate on behalf of their science. This is the biggest load of tosh and absurd nonsense I’ve read in literally hours (the last being the laugh-a-minute latest AGU statement on climate change). There is only one moral obligation upon scientists as scientists, and that is to gather and present the facts impartially to their chosen audience, be that their scientific colleagues and/or the wider public.

We may argue that, as human beings, scientists are morally obliged to communicate their findings to the general public. I wholeheartedly agree. Some of course, may be better suited to this role than others. I vehemently disagree however that this communication should take the form of advocating policy ‘solutions’ because this compromises their roles as scientists. What they should be doing, if they are able, especially in the contentious field of climate change, is communicating honestly and impartially their actual research such that it is accessible to the public and then letting the public decide for themselves whether the policy solutions advocated by politicians, green groups and renewables industry executives, justify the measures being taken. This is the role of the truly responsible scientist; no more, no less.

Comments
  1. DocMartyn says:

    In the SI of r Ottoet al there is much that is odd. They analyze starting at 1970, Table II, even though the have ‘data’ back to 1850, F1andF2.
    They have really ramp up all the aerosols from 1960 to get the 2 degrees. The problem is that the data of measured, not modeled, polar aerosol optical depth is quite different.

    from:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231012001707

  2. Doug Proctor says:

    The separation of man, work, job and profession is tricky. As simply workers, we are supposed to at least report the weaknesses and strengths of what we are doing, and advise our superiors of possible consequences of what we are doing. As “professionals”, we are supposed to take a higher view of things, see and take some responsibility for the outcome of our work, be-it nuclear weapons, genetic modification techniques or climate change. So the separation is never actually complete.

    Einstein was aware of the conundrum. He also advocated the development of nuclear weapons while recognizing the moral dilemma their existence and their use created for those who helped develop them.

    The difference between a simple scientist and a Mannian “scientist” as advocate is that the moral aspect both recognize has been codified by the Mannian (as the Precautionary Principle) and merged into his technical presentations as a logical consequence of his work. The moral imperative does not naturally flow from the scientific endeavour, but with a Mannian, it is presented as such.

    The mainstream public, through the efforts of the media, politicians and vested interests in business and research communities, has come to confuse scientific “beliefs” with absolute knowledge, and the ability to concoct scenarios, with the ability to predict outcomes with high certainty. The advocate – scientist or not – rides the confusion.

    The complete separation of morality – or ethics – and human effort should never be encouraged. We should always be aware of, and take responsiblity for, what we do. There is no difference here and the consideration of the Nuremberg Trial outcome that receiving orders nullifies ones accountability for carrying them out. What we do goes beyond us and we need to be aware of that and act with that understanding.

    The Mannian advocate simply needs to present himself as two individuals, one as scientist with knowledge of some kind, and a social creature who holds that certain acts are “proper” when that knowledge is considered as he does. What he knows as a scientist is not the same as what he may believe should occur as an advocate. the debate is not a technical subject except as the technical subject creates the conditions in which a debate is justified.

    But this is far too fine a point for a newspaper journalist or a 32 point font headline.

  3. John Costigane says:

    Jaime,

    Welcome to the female front on the war against bad science. You follow Donna Laframboise, Judith Curry, Joanne Nova and Tamsin Edward. The last named is a young climate scientist who has listened to sceptics. There is still hope for climatology.

    You may be a latecomer but nevertheless welcome. Media ,your field I assume, has been complicit in the nonsense. Best of luck and I hope it leads to better things for you..

  4. Brian H says:

    For me, the most obvious gaping omission in the scientific reporting-to-the-public effort is the demonstrated and inevitable, permanent non-effectiveness of the “green” aka renewable power source solutions. Followed by the failure to clearly acknowledge that the “pause” means at least a few decades of leeway before conclusions need be drawn or decisions made about them.

    It could be made clear, with simple grade-school arithmetic, that they are not doing and cannot do what they claim. It’s hard not to attribute the omission to threats and payoffs. Hal Lewis had it right.

  5. oldbrew says:

    ‘letting the public decide for themselves whether the policy solutions advocated by politicians, green groups and renewables industry executives, justify the measures being taken’

    That’s where the theory all starts to go a bit pear-shaped isn’t it – where do the public get their opinion-forming ideas from? Hopefully not the biased media but realistically that plays a part.

    As long as only one side of the story gets out, a lot of people are going to think that IS the story.

  6. Jaime Jessop says:

    John, Thank you for your comments. Flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Judith Curry, Tamsin Edwards et al, but really, all of us sceptics, male and female, highly qualified or not, have an essential part to play in taking on the massed ranks of the vested interests industry, the media, the environmental lobbyists, the science institutions and the politicians who are still pushing the myth of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. There is much at stake, not least science itself.

    My field is not media. If I were to describe my motivation, it would be an interest in science and the communication of science, combined with a passion for writing and an instinctive rejection of belief-based narratives. I have come late to the debate, but I’m sure we all agree, the issue of climate change is at a critical juncture. For 25 years, we have witnessed the spectacle of a single theory of CO2 dominated climate change take the world of science, media and politics by storm and assert itself as ‘settled’, dictating policy on a scale the world has rarely, if ever, seen before. Now, after 15 years of Nature refusing to live up to the increasingly hysterical demands of the warmists, the landscape is in violent upheaval and previously taken for granted scientific ‘truths’ are being shattered.

    I agree oldbrew, the public are easily influenced by mis/disinformation and political propaganda. And we’ve seen plenty of that over the years where climate change is concerned! NB I use the phrase ‘climate change’ in its originally intended neutral sense, not the politically charged meaning attributed to it, i.e. the assumption made by warmists that climate change necessarily implies man-made CO2 driven catastrophic warming. We are now seeing more balanced reporting of the issue in the media, though there is a long way to go. We need to see a more balanced approach from scientific institutions like the Royal Society, the Met Office, the WMO, AMO, AGU and the like, which I don’t see much evidence of at present.

  7. John Costigane says:

    Jaime. Pardon my ignorance, I assume that younger people are less scientifically aware than my ‘baby-boomer’ generation. It is good to see your passion for science, much like my own. Where did this originate in your case?

    The female quip is quite apt, for two reasons. All four gals mentioned have taken an unpopular stand and have contributed much to the fight. Secondly, group think, a particularly male defect, is not so common in the fair sex, giving you all an advantage. There are, of course, gals on the dark side too. These tend to be as stupid as their male troll equivalent. Others are smart cookies with an eye to personal advancement.

    Good to see your comment at Judith’s site today. Have you put your personal background in the Denizens post? Unfortunately, there are a host of trolls doing their level-worst to disrupt the site.

  8. Jaime Jessop says:

    John. There’s some personal background on my Google profile accessible via my blog. I guess some people like to know a bit about the person writing a blog or whatever, which is understandable. Your observations on the differences between the sexes are interesting. Personally, I try very hard to judge people as individuals, free of whatever preconceptions i may harbour about age, sex, social status, education etc. Doesn’t always work and indeed, in some cases, such an approach may not always be justifiable. Men and women do tend to think quite differently and approach problems differently, though I would not go so far as to say that ‘group think’ is a ‘particularly male defect’ – I think it’s more of a human defect if anything!

  9. John Costigane says:

    Jaime, Do you agree that there is a generation gap, between all succeeding and preceding generations? I feel this is part of the problem. Younger people have been more exposed to the climate propaganda, than in our ‘mutual assured destruction’ world of the cold war. It is therefore worthwhile to understand how some young people can overcome this propaganda. There are others who have joined the debate. mostly male. These seem to be strongly on the skeptic side as well.

    It can also be argued that the alarmist side has many ‘delinquent’ types, at all levels, Thanks to Donna for the d-word.

  10. Jaime Jessop says:

    I’ve certainly come across a few infantile delinquents amongst the alarmists! Sceptics of all ages strike me as more mature generally. There is a generation gap and young people in education today are mercilessly targeted by propaganda of all sorts, particularly climate change propaganda. I absolutely despair at the rubbish which is force fed into our children nowadays by the state education system.

  11. John Costigane says:

    Jaime, You give me hope for the future, like Tamsin. Focus on the science first and the rest will fall into place. I visited your site, with a view to later commenting there, and noticed an alarmist mentioning the scientific method. This is the crux of my issue with the ‘science’. A written algorithm ,describing the procedures in the climate model code, would show up the glaring lack of logic involved. Fudge factors are extensively used to tune the models. Here is an example:

    fudge ENSO:
    Think of a number to cover ENSO
    Apply the number
    end fudge

    Applying a number to ENSO hides the fact that natural variability, in the climate, is an unknown. This may prove to be the source of the late warming, before the flat-lining. That is the state of settled science.

  12. craigm350 says:

    Jamie/John,

    One reason to consider the generation gap is also experience. Baby boomers are now into their third ~ 30y oceanic cycle so the weather has/is returning/similar to that of their childhood. Older relatives often waxed lyrical to me about these cycles 30/80/100, although I too fell for the unprecedented meme possibly from reading a children’s book in the v. early 80s which scared me witless with a series of man made disasters – acid rain and a Venus like Earth being the standouts, although both dwindled in the face of the threat from nuclear obliteration. It took the 2009/10 winters to reignite my memories and critical faculties to see through the gravy train of quackery. Conversely my child, shortly to be introduced to the CAGW meme at school, knows only snow with deep cold in winter!

    Could the simple observation of seeing/experiencing the weather/climate over prolonged periods make you more skeptical?

    Having said that a little light reading of times past soon alleviates the delusions of having a special climate and instead shows why we have historically not settled in certain places like river flood plains.