2010-09-10 00:22:56A perspective on Graham Wayne vs Roger Pielke
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.93.62

When the brouhaha erupted over Graham's post about Roger Pielke, my initial private reaction was that Graham's label of 'skeptic' and use of the phrase 'denialist spin' were perhaps an unfair characterisation of Pielke. In the ongoing and illuminating discussion, I've since come to revise that assessment. Graham, you nailed Pielke.

Lately, there seems to be a lot of posts on Skeptical Science about the evidence for global warming. Sometimes, I feel like it's a bit of a strawman. Surely no reasonable skeptic thinks global warming isn't happening. Hasn't the debate moved onto questions of attribution or better yet, climate sensitivity and future predictions? Not for Pielke. He's in full denial that global warming is happening.

Jmurphy's comment highlights this as we see examples of Pielke denying sea level rise, ocean warming, Arctic sea ice melt, surface temperature warming, tropospheric warming, etc. For some reason, I had this mental image of Pielke as a bit of a contrarian but focusing on fairly obscure topics like land use. But no, despite the veneer of scientific impartiality, he's truly drinking the kool aid. Kudos to Graham as the ensuing discussion thread has shed some light on his nature.

That said, Graham and I have discussed this and both agree that strategically, it's not a good idea to use labels, at least here at Skeptical Science. Here, the focus is on science and labels distract people from the science. So shortly (any day now), I'll get around to writing that style guide for basic rebuttals and part of it will address how we reference skeptics (which will be as little as possible).

 

2010-09-10 01:23:33
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151

Pielke is a fairly agile and crafty fellow, that's the assessment I formed from reading his responses to Graham's article. As with John, my estimation of him has fallen as a result of following the discussion thread.

The upshot was a different twist on expository writing, with a focus on "expose." 

Pielke recently engaged in a fairly elaborate attempt at what I can only term a vendetta against the NSF for their failing to fund a proposal of his having to do w/anthropogenic effects on regional climate. He went so far as to accuse NSF program officers of dishonesty. That affair was another permanent blot on Pielke's reputation, more damning in its own way than anything he's said regarding actual science and something to remember when people begin whining about "ad hom" attacks. 

As to "denialist spin," that's one way of acknowledging a fact. Other expressions are available, for instance "rhetorical expediency." 

2010-09-10 01:39:31Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.205.242
I'm actually really enjoying this debate. I very much like to see real scientists enter into the skeptical science realm and engage in some debate on these issues. Would love to see the direction of this blog going more towards being able to respond to skeptic debate topics very quickly...
2010-09-10 02:25:18good call graham
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.249

I've never paid a lot of attention to Pielke, but didn't have a terribly high opinion of him.  Nevertheless, I agree that for a 'skeptic', he always seemed relatively reasonable.  But I didn't realize he disputed the warming of the planet.  Arguing for an Arctic sea ice 'recovery'?  Really??  That's Watts-level denial.

"Hasn't the debate moved onto questions of attribution or better yet, climate sensitivity and future predictions?"

Even attribution is settled, as I've tried to show in a couple of my articles.  Among all serious scientists the debate has moved on to issues like climate sensitivity, cloud feedbacks, future predictions, level of necessary GHG emissions reductions, etc. 

It really frustrates me that most people think the debate is about whether the planet is warming or whether humans are causing it.  There are perfectly valid questions and uncertainties that are worth debating, but we get so bogged down trying to convince people that these settled questions are indeed settled, that we rarely get to discuss the valid questions.  When supposedly serious scientists like Pielke Sr. and Lindzen try to argue that the settled questions aren't settled, that just makes things worse.

2010-09-11 23:12:41Does anyone really understand Roger Pielke Sr.'s point of view?
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.46.1

He is not just a denialist: Some of his work is quite mainstream, and goes into technical details that are quite normal.

My general impression is that he sometimes appears to be making sure that every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed: Not really denying that GW is happening, but making sure that every point claimed is fully proven.

The instant example we're discussing seems somewhat difficult to understand that way, although it might fit into this category: He seems to be saying that if you can't find the quantity of heat in the water, the trends don't mean anything.

The question I have is, Does anyone understand his full point of view, or is he just having inconsistent neurological function? (I won't mention what I'm thinking about.)

 

2010-09-11 23:17:41more background on RPs
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.46.1

from Wikipedia:

"Pielke has a somewhat nuanced position on climate change, which is sometimes taken for skepticism, a label that he explicitly renounces.[3][4] He has said:

the evidence of a human fingerprint on the global and regional climate is incontrovertible as clearly illustrated in the National Research Council[citation needed] report and in our research papers (e.g. see [http://blue.atmos.colostate.edu/publications/pdf/R-258.pdf]). [2]

However, Pielke has criticized the IPCC for its conclusions regarding CO2 and global warming and accused it of selectively choosing data to support a selective view of the science [3].

In 2010 Pielke revisited a question provided by Andrew Revkin[5] "Is most of the observerd warming over the last 50 years likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations", Pielke stated that the answer "remains No", and that "there are other equally or even more important significant human climate forcings".[6]"

2010-09-12 09:08:16
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.214.144
Neal, Pielke is the scientific equivalent of a concern troll. He's got a long track history of quibbling over at Real Climate, his son also. 
2010-09-12 10:08:32
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.46.1

Dappledwater,

Regardless, RPs seems to be a very respectable worker in the field; even when disagreeing, the RealClimate folks treat him with respect. (Not the case with RPj)

2010-09-12 11:23:29Repost on WUWT
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.93.62
Inteeresting, Pielke seems so concerned about this issue that he's seen fit to use the much louder megaphone at WUWT:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/11/pielke-senior-misinformation-on-the-website-“skeptical-science-–-getting-skeptical-about-global-warming-skepticism”/

2010-09-12 11:26:04Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.205.242

I was literally just about to post that article here... Yeah Pielke must be quite concerned about his credibility. Perhaps a large and robust response is needed. Graham should post a response on here and we will all see that it is not in any way able to be misconstrued by Dr. Pielke...
2010-09-12 17:56:21Yeah, that's why I wanted to have this article checked by an expert before the release
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.43.165

OK, the essential point of RPs's argument is:

"What the Skeptical Science fails to recognize is that with respect to the diagnosis of global warming using Joules of heat accumulation in the oceans, snapshots of heat content at different times are all that is needed. There is no time lag in heating or cooling. The Joules are either there or they are not. The assessment of a long-term linear trend is not needed."

The exact meaning of this has to be pinned down.

Let's not go marching off to battle until we're on very firm ground.

(This is why I was concerned previously.)

2010-09-12 19:38:00
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.229.63

Neal,

Spencer & Christy were once respectable too, look at the work they did with the satellite data. In fact I see a few parallels with the saga of the satellites. I don't see that Pielke deserves any credit for previous good work anymore than Spencer & Christy, all three have wiped the slate clean with their shenannigans in the intervening years.


 

2010-09-12 21:12:57You're missing the point
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.43.165

Dappledwater,

All these three are professionals in the field. Even given their known biases, they have loads more credibility than any of us. Simply dismissing them makes us look bad, not them.

Pielke is a climate researcher in very good standing: He regularly publishes papers that are well-received in the climate science community. He seems to have a very particular point of view, but it is a mistake to dismiss him as a crank. In general, he seems to emphasize the need not to forget about the non-CO2 methods of anthropic global warming.

Doing a bit of follow-up on his reaction (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/11/pielke-senior-misinformation-on-the-website-%E2%80%9Cskeptical-science-%E2%80%93-getting-skeptical-about-global-warming-skepticism%E2%80%9D/ ):

He seems to have a particular issue on using oceanic stored heat as a better indicator of the warming situation than temperature measurements. ("Heat storage within the Earth system," (2003), http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/r-247.pdf) He seems to have been promoting this approach recently: http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2010/09/interview-with-roger-pielke-sr.html , at the blog of Hans von Storch.

He also relies upon an article on ocean cooling: recent measurements by Willis et al. (2008); I found this somewhere, but can't spot it right away. The Lyman paper also references Willis (2008) but doesn't respond to that specifically; evidently they come to a different conclusion. However, Willis seems to be a fairly active up-and-coming guy, and has co-authored papers with Lyman previously.

So my impression is that we have walked into a family fight on the best way to characterize/parameterize warming, which is not really our concern at all. But Pielke is using this occasion to beat the drum again about how his parameterization is more meaningful than the usual one.

If someone wants to do this:

- First need to focus on what Willis is, and is not, saying. The measurements by his group seem to be the only empirical evidence that supports Pielke's claim that the oceans are cooling. I think Willis will be very careful on exactly what he says, because he got burned a few years ago: claiming a cooling which made it all the way to Rush Limbaugh's show before the error was detected. Find out what Willis really thinks is going on; and find out what Lyman et al. really think of Willis' conclusions.

- Then try to figure out what the difference is between Pielke's "ocean heat" parameter and just some integration of the heat flow into the ocean. See if you can figure out why he thinks the first approach is so much more meaningful than the second.

- If these can be done, I think we will find that this is a tempest in a tea pot. 

This will take a bit of a sustained effort: chasing down, studying and summarizing the references, and really building a case. And, like I said last time, getting a real expert to respond to the result. John, you have to have a few friends you can contact. Maybe Lyman or someone: He's been getting some free press from SkS, so maybe he would be willing to chat with you to vet the write-up, and possibly even help orient you to the question.

2010-09-13 01:05:02I've spent some time watching the match
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.43.165

We've been doing better than I had expected:

- Someone was able to engage RPs on the Ocean Heat Content (OHC); there's something I still don't get about it.

- We nailed him pretty good (I thought) on the time-frame issue (which was the main point). I guess his argument relies on the OHC and what is meant by "stopped".

- I think he was able to defend what he said, I believe, on very narrow grounds: The strict statement might be literally correct. Unfortunately, these statements could (and would) be interpreted more broadly in the context of the wider debate. He didn't express any concern that his statements would be misinterpreted in that way.

This is similar to a problem I have with Lindzen: In his published scientific work, he's very careful; but in informal settings, he'll insinuate things that are definitely intended to be taken the wrong way. And when he's dumping into the bottom of the barrel (Wall St. Journal op-eds), he'll just lie outright. It's kind of amazing.

Here's an idea: What if we set a watch on the papers and presentations of Pielke, Lindzen, Christy and Spencer? Whenever they cross the line, post it, with a link back to one of their own more-reasonable statements: Publicize their contradicting themselves. 

 

 

2010-09-13 05:48:27A paper pointed out
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.205.242
A paper pointed out on another forum by Ari

http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/people/gjohnson/Recent_AABW_Warming_v3.pdf

Might help a little here...
2010-09-13 06:26:33
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.92.89.50

Neal, I don't suggest publicly "dissing" any of them, if that's what my earlier post seemed to infer. Just my personal thoughts - I don't care how brilliant their previous work is, if they repeatedly argue for inaction action and delay in dealing with global warming. Spencer/Christy/Lindzen have repeatedly done so in the media for a number of years. Their public claims are scientifically unsupportable. Pielke seems to have joined the bandwagon. So despite people like myself not being a Climatologist, or a scientist at all, my net contribution to humanity will likely be more positive then theirs. 

Now as far as countering the claims by Pielke, I agree, make sure you are right before wading in, and tie him down to exactly what he means, so he can't wiggle out later. 

 

2010-09-13 06:58:25Cast of characters
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.43.165

I think these guys are all different:

- Spencer: I believe he understands the physics quite well. But I think that he trusts God not to allow the world to be destroyed by AGW, so it will somehow work out. He therefore doesn't see the need for industrial-economic changes.

- Christy: I have seen less from him, but I suspect he is similar to Spencer.

- Pielke: I think his motivation is to get the buzz. My impression is that what he says seems to be highly limited and qualified, so that it is technically true - but also it is intended to be easily interpreted to be denialist if you drop the qualifications (time frame, etc.). I think this strategy is deliberate: He gets the attention and support of the deniers, whilst not dirtying his hands by saying something that is unambiguously wrong. Perhaps he thinks this will be an avenue to getting his point of view propagated.

- Lindzen: A Jekyll/Hyde guy: In his professional papers, he is strictly correct (if somewhat speculative, as in the cases of his "iris effect"); but when he does a Wall St. Journal op-ed, he lies through his teeth. Maybe he is being paid

I do not believe we will be fighting these disinformation wars forever: Maybe another 10 years. These guys will still be alive. Some sympathetic historian should get ready to interview them, to find out what really makes them tick: What were they really trying to do, what did they really believe? I don't think Singer, McIntyre, Baliunas, and so on, are mysterious or interesting at all: They are just highly paid PR flacks, pure & simple.

Another curious one is Judith Curry: She seems to have been trying to build bridges to both sides; but I think she'll find that she's burned one bridge and will not be able to build the other. I doubt she will have any audience among the pro-science side (tell me if you think I'm wrong), and she will keep her audience on the deniers' side only as long as she blogs on things she doesn't know anything about (like palaeoclimate studies); if she blogs about her actual research, she'll lose them right away.

What a curious mix!

2010-09-14 03:40:52Oh dear...
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
86.158.204.104

I just had a look at the WUWT page - it's a cut down repost of Pielke's original defence on his blog. I have already responded to this here, of course, but I also addressed it from a rather more critical perspective on my own site. It's here if you want to have a look: Climate Change Ducking and Diving: Shadow Boxing with Pielke Sr

To me, this was never about science. This whole debate is about propaganda. Pielke is lending his name and reputation to the cause of denialism. He knows they will use what he says. When he says unqualified things like 'global warming stopped during this period', any nuance is completely lost, any uncertainty invisible. He does the same with ice, sea levels etc - so for those who oppose climate science and attack its probity, this is perfect. It is ammunition and they are firing it at us right now.

All this OHC guff had nothing to do with making wrongheaded, politically loaded, unscientific statements. Pielke knows what he's about, and revealed very clearly in the thread quite how slippery he is. A slick act, like Monckton, but an act none the less. He is deeply cynical, a smart con-man, it's all a pattern of demagoguery I'm entirely familiar with, and I entirely stand by my remarks.

(The tone was weird. I felt like I was watching an extraordinarily polite mugging).

2010-09-14 07:13:12Wuwt post
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.93.62
The comments on WUWT about Skeptical Science are quite extraordinary. I confess I LOLed at the one about mendacity.
2010-09-14 07:22:33
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.124.246

Isn't it possible that if you read the statement as, "global warming stopped during this period, as measured by OHC" that the statement is literally correct?

Meaning:

- It did not advance over this very short time period

- As measured by this 1 parameter

 

I agree that it's kind of dishonest: I would have a better gauge of how dishonest if I understood his motivation. Is he just being a devil's advocate (q.v.), or is he being paid off? What gives?

I mean, we know S. Fred Singer gets paid. What does Pielke sr. get?

Maybe it's attention. I'll give you an example: I saw some denialist quoting a recent scientific paper that he interpreted to mean that AGW was not happening. I studied the paper a bit, and realized very easily that he was drawing the opposite conclusion as the author. So I sent a note to the author, a young post-doc, saying "Mr. X is quoting your paper in exactly the opposite sense that you intended it. Maybe you should issue a correction." He sent back a note, basically saying, "Uh, yeah, thanks." Nothing happened.

My reading of the situation was that he had decided that "anything they say is OK, as long as they got my name right." For him, it's a win, because far more people will read the paper than would otherwise; and the people that matter to him will quickly realize that it's Mr. X's mistake and not his. So why should he kill the goose laying the golden eggs? A minor problem about not helping to undeceive the public? Well, people get hit by buses all the time, too.

So could Pielke sr. be doing an upscale version of that?

 

2010-09-14 17:46:27
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.208.120

Neal, I've read a few of Pielke's posts over the years, Graham has him down to a tee. As for your example, I think it's closer to describing Josh Willis. No way is he a skeptic (as far as I'm aware) but the allure of his name in lights has, and continues it seems, to cloud his judgement. 

 

2010-09-14 20:36:44Attention
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
86.158.204.104

Neal, I think it's probably a mixture of things - most times, there isn't just one explanation - I've had serious fights with bad historians on this point. Attention, sure - I suspect that would be a key thing at his age, spending most of his life known only within very limited circles, then suddenly BANG! - he's a star, a key player in a global drama. On top of that, however, there will be speaking fees, articles, the press clamour, WUWT fawning and the like. All mixed up, it must have an influence, and I think that these effects combined led him to side with those whose own views meant he would be lionised. If he were neutral, or warmist, in sympathies, then he'd just be another member of the 97%. Instead, by aligning with the 3%, he's a bigger fish in a rapidly evaporating pond.

And that's as far as I'm willing to go speculating about motive. It smacks too much of denialist tactics, and I start feeling paranoid myself. Strange times, eh...

Speaking of which, John is understating the case with the comments at WUWT. The mendacity quote just made my jaw drop: "Skeptical Science was conceived by, of and for mendacity. Thanks for adding your statement to their history of abuse". Wow!

Thing is, if Anthony wanted credibility he wouldn't allow much of the crap that gets posted. It's a clear marker for the differences between hosts, for SkS screens all that shite out, and what's left is plenty of dissent, civil discussion and argument, most of it largely on topic too. Compare that to the horrid free for all, the bile and venom, the lies and distortions and relentless personal attacks that characterise so much of WUWT, and I think it's fair to observe that the moderation policy there cannot be said to aid the credibility of the site.

2010-09-14 20:59:16
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.111.29

- WUWT: Someone who claimed to have worked for that site stated that the goal was, ultimately, to drive numbers; not even, necessarily, to advance Watts' views, such as they may be.

- Mendacity: That reminds me of a funny situation: I was involved in a telecommunications standards war for a few years, and a very well-known expert on the other side referred to me as a "total liar - every word out of his mouth is a lie" in discussion with a mutual acquaintance. The funny thing is that, because he had me out-gunned technically, almost everything I said in his neighborhood was PROCEDURAL, not TECHNICAL: So what he was saying was impossible.

The fact that our mutual acquaintance was reporting this back to me is an indication of how unconvinced he was by this attack: He was already familiar with my way of doing business.

Keep to the high road, I say.