A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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Cross Indexing Brainstorm

Development of the How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic guide is about to resume. I think I have so far covered most of the low hanging fruit that is out there, but there are clearly alot of arguments still to make against the swarm of objections still swirling, some silly but necessary, some a bit more sophisticated and indeed some with merit.

One thing stopping me at the moment is a concern that it is already a bit cumbersome to quickly find the needed rebuttal of the moment.

I like the "Guides by Category" well enough, but it is divided up too coarsely. There are also perhaps better ways to categorize things. But rather than trying to find the "best" way to subdivide topics I want to present as many different ways as feasible to chop it all up and let people chose their preference, perhaps using a different one depending on the target argument.

So this is a call for help. What works for you? How would you divide things up? Below are the categories and subcategories I have come up with so far so you can see what I mean.

Stages of Denial

  • We Don't Understand Climate
    • Prediction is Impossible
    • Climate is Chaotic
    • We Lack Certainty
    • There is no Consensus
  • The Climate Isn't Changing
    • There is Contradictory Evidence
    • There is Insufficient Evidence
  • Climate Change is Not Our Fault
    • CO2 is Not the Cause
    • It Has Happened Before
    • It's a Natural Change
  • Climate Change is Not Harmful
    • The Effects are Minor
    • The Effects Are Good
    • Change is Natural
  • Climate Change Can't Be Stopped
    • It's Too Late Now
    • It's Someone Else's Problem
    • It is Economically Infeasible

Scientific Topics

  • Atmosphere
  • Oceans
  • Temperature Change
  • Modeling
    • Uncertainties
    • Scenarios
  • Extreme Events
    • Hurricanes
    • Temperature Records
    • Droughts
  • Climate Forcings
    • Solar Influences
    • Greehouse Gases
    • Aerosols
  • Paleoclimate
    • Holocene
    • Ice Ages
    • Geologic History
  • Cryosphere
    • Ice Sheets
    • Sea Ice
    • Glaciers
    • Permafrost

Argument Types

  • Uniformed
  • Misinformed
  • Political
  • Economic
  • FUD
  • Dodges
  • Underdog Theories
  • Crackpottery
  • Strawmen
  • Cherry Picking

Levels of Sophistication

  • Silly
  • Naive
  • Specious
  • Technical

Argument Users

  • CO2 Science
  • Junk Science
  • John-Daly
  • Warwick Hughes
  • Bob Carter
  • Patrick Michaels
  • Michael Crichton
  • Richard Lindzen
  • Steve Milloy

    What is missing?

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      • At May 30, 2006 5:49 PM, Blogger Cinefreak said…

        Wow Coby! That is a very well thought out list. The only suggestion would be to cover common logical fallacies use examples of how they're used by denialists.

      • At May 30, 2006 6:54 PM, Blogger coby said…

        Thanks cinefreak, I should put some of those fallacies in the argument type listing.

      • At May 31, 2006 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

        Looks good to me. The only question I have is: Where would you put the obvious question of variability? Or would you put it in more than one category?

        That's the question that comes up first in people I talk to, and I'm not sure into which of your categories it would fall. Climate is Chaotic? It's Happened Before?

        Not a big point, but you asked for comments.

      • At May 31, 2006 5:18 PM, Blogger coby said…

        Part of the basic idea is that individual articles would fall in more than one, possibly many categories.

        Let's see, that sounds like "it's a natural variation/cycle" which would go in Not Our Fault -> Natural Change, FUD, Naive and under a bunch of contrarians.

        Seems it should have a scientific category too, probably Temperature Change.

        I expect to discover both missing topics and missing arguments but that is where a wiki will help move things along very quickly.

      • At June 06, 2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Wag the Dog said…

        To add to your list of deniers Competitive Enterprise Institute with their CO2=Life campaign.

        Dr. Tim Patterson - Professor of paleoclimatology at Carelton University - one of the main contributors to TechCentralStation.

        Dr. James O'Brien - Robert O. Lawton distinguished professor of meterology and oceanography - director of the centre for ocean and atmospheric prediction studies at Florida State U. - believes natural cycles determine everything in agreement with Dr. Willam Gray.

        Dr. Ian Clark - professor of isotope hydrogeology and paleoclimatology, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa - one of the infamous 60 and questions Kyoto because clouds are little understood and not modelled well.

        Dr. Fred Sietz - Past President US National Academy of Sciendces, President Emeritus Rockefeller University

        Dr. Chris deFreitas - Professor school of geography and environmental science, University of Auckland - claims to be agnostic rather than skeptic.

        Dr. Fred Singer - Distinguished Research Professor, Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University

        More skeptics are listed at sourcewatch however many can be collapsed into a single source, ExxonMobil.

        You might also be interested in Joel Achenbach's article on the skeptics to see if there is anything more to add.

      • At June 07, 2006 3:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

        I'm joining this thread somewhat late, but I was attracted to this site because of the "How to talk to a sceptic" page. I've been burned by this over the course of the last few days arguing with a friend of mine who is remarkably pig-headed. I've come to the conclusion that there is no point whatsoever in talking to most so-called "sceptics" because most of them have no interest in learning about the science -- they have made up their minds already and no amount of "evidence" is going to persuade them. The first rule of argument is that you cannot argue with a closed mind. The first thing my friend pointed me to was a very questionable internet petition, the Junk Science web site, and the Cato Institute pages on the subject. Having to respond to crap like that (as opposed to genuine scientific disagreements) makes me feel like someone who has to spend hours scraping shit off his shoes every day. And, of course, saying "these sites are not reputable science" is met with "you haven't refuted their allegations". The point: only argue with someone who you feel is willing to listen to reason; otherwise, politely decline, and, if necessary, let them know that you don't consider them open-minded enough to engage in a real discussion.

      • At June 07, 2006 8:54 AM, Blogger coby said…

        Hi Michael, thanks for the visit. I understand what you are saying and agree with you in Real Life. I tend to take a different tact on discussion forums because of lurkers and archives. But as I described in the Guide's preamble, I felt the same frustration you did at the need to repeat and refute such weak arguments all the time, or leave them unanswered for future readers to conclude they were correct. I hope I have made some decent lemonade out of those lemons after all ;-)

        To be fair, there are many legitimate controversies and uncertaities in this issue, but they are not good enough to justify the all too common "hoax" and "religious zealot" heckles from the contrarians.

      • At June 07, 2006 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

        Good evening, Cody.

        1. Thank you for a well organised and intellectually crushing website. Over the past 6 months I have copied most of it onto a Word Document and added Key Papers, and am now at 375 pages and going strong. I now use the document on unbeleivers.

        2. Unfortunately, you cannot crush the trolls and troggs, but I was quick enough to capture two postings from the late lamented

        Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
        From the PC of Peter K Anderson
        E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com
        June 01, 2006 6:06 PM

        "Worth their weight in hot air".

        3. My original background is in glacial geology in the 1970's. However, I was nearly terminated with extreme prejudice doing my PhuD (like George Mallory) in 1979, and went into the (gasp) awl budiness (they were hiring absolutely anybody in the boom years). The advances in technologies and ideas over the last 30 years are what we were dreaming about - my previous most-up-to-date book was Nigel Calder's The Weather Machine, featuring photos of the late Nick Shackleton in a paisley shirt and long hair, and Willi Dansgard staring morosely at an ice core from Greenland.

        4. Where can I find a list of Naomi Oreskes 928 references - it does not appear on the e-version of her paper?

        Do not forget to add the celebrated "Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine", Cave Junction, Oregon, to your list of junque skience purveyors.

        Despite American Association of Petroleum Geologists (of which I am a member) making that ridiculous award to Michael Chrichton, I will professionally recommend AAPG Studies in Geology #47, "Global perspectives on climate change" as a serious scientific review of what professional geolgical scientists have concluded about climate change over the geological record.

        5. Your site is a necessity. Please keep up the good work.

        Richard J. Hawes, P.Geol.

      • At June 07, 2006 8:53 PM, Blogger coby said…

        Thanks for your kind words, Richard!

        You will find Hartlod's comments all over this site, but that has not satisfied him and now he is the sole reason that comments are moderated.

        I don't know of a listing of those 928 references online, I don't even know if a paid Nature subscription would have it, since presumably anyone with access to http://www.isinet.com/ doing the same search will get exactly the same returns.

        Your word doc sounds like a valuable chunk of work! Maybe when this site becomes a wiki we can find a way to incorporate it...?

        Given your background, you would probably like the discussions and posts over at RealClimate.org if you don't know about them already.

      • At June 24, 2006 5:30 PM, Blogger C W Magee said…

        Re: scientists

        It is probably important to distinguish between skeptics who do real science poorly (e.g. Lindzen, Gray, and those who obfuscate in a believable-sounding manner (junkscience). Drawing that distiction should enable people to see the difference between lousy science and non-science.

        Also, for variability, error margins, statistics and such, the online GPS info might be a useful resource/analog, as they explain fairly well how a large number of imprecise measurements can be used to generate a more precise conclusion.


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