2011-06-23 21:37:27Yet another crazy idea for a series: the history of skeptic arguments
John Cook

Was driving around thinking about how deniers complain that warmists try to stifle debate. My usual response is that there already has been a climate debate - in the peer reviewed literature. Often decades ago. So then I thought - what if we take each climate myth and map out the history of the unfolding debate in the peer reviewed literature.

Take for example the very first skeptic argument, "CO2 effect is saturated". Angstrom published a paper making that argument a few years after Arrhwnius published his historic global warming paper and effectively killed off global warming theory for half a century. It wasn't till Plass in the 50s worked out that Angstrom was wrong that research into greenhouse warming warmed up again (pun intended). It's an interesting story, we have a blog post about it already.

The good thing is this approach let's you draw upon several of the sticky traits. It allows you to tell a story and if told well, can unfold the mystery in an engaging and gripping manner. It also let's you make use of credibility by drawing on the authority of peer reviewed literature and these historical scientific figures. And of course, the core message - that the climate debate has already happened in historical peer review. So any deniers who complain that there is no debate haven't been paying attention.

Now that I think about it, this is the approach Spencer Weart takes in The Discovery of Global Warming. But we'd be taking a slightly different approach to him - prepackaging the history into bite sized chapters each focused on a separate climate myth.

Hmm, just had another thought. What if we collect all the blog posts after we've done enough, package them up into an ebook and sell it on Amazon. We could either divide up the proceeds among the authors or donate it to a charity.

Hmm, another thought. If it's not too difficult to do, we could do similar ebook releases for other blog series we've done. It's another way to get the word out there, spread the message. Idont know if it's practical, wise or just plain stupid - just thinking out aloud here. :-)

2011-06-23 21:51:02


- I like the idea of redoing Weart's history, along the lines of a storyline per myth. I have always said that the denialist's "explanations" have been taken from the scrapheap of scientific history, and this approach would make that explicit.

- Packaging up the blog posts: A good idea, but they need a bit of work to bring them into a more uniform level. With different authors, it's never going to be perfectly uniform: But more effort is needed.

- The proceeds: a) I think it would be appropriate to form a non-profit SkS organization to sponsor the project and collect the money, if any. b) Some kind of arrangement for compensating the authors could be worked out within the non-profit. c) It would also make sense to have the SkS organization pay some of the bills, yes?

2011-06-23 21:56:37Great minds etc. ;)
Anne-Marie Blackburn
Anne-Marie Blackburn

Ha! I had a similar, but more vague, idea about the history of sceptic arguments. I've used this line of argument (without going into any detail)  when debating climate change in the past and I think it would be great resource. Spencer Weart's book is excellent, but having something in a perhaps more accessible/high-profile format would shoot this type of argument down pretty quickly. In my humble opinion. And of course it introduces a narrative that is generally missing when we're trying to debate sceptic arguments, which may enhance the coherence of our arguments and introduce a more personal side to it all. Not sure I'm making any sense but it's thumbs up from me.

And for the ebooks, though I know nothing of the feasibility of it all. But I think grouping articles according to themes and making them widely available is not a bad idea - it might encourage people to look into climate science more if the them is an area of interest. 

2011-06-23 22:11:41
Ari Jokimäki


It might be good to check what kind of themes we have covered well and then fill in the gaps in that theme to make the book thorough representation of the subject. Also, updating existing articles might be a good idea at that point also.

Couple of days ago I toyed around with the idea of 'Atlas of climate science', where you would have a book with a picture in each page and a brief explanation below. Perhaps something like this has been done already.

2011-06-23 22:55:07
Rob Painting

Another idea I've thought about his how the skeptic arguments conflict, contradict and a consistent theory can't be cobbled together from them. It would be good to take the ideas of those published skeptic scientists (Spencer, Lindzen etc) and illustrate how they look like one of those babies shape puzzles (the ones where various shaped blocks fit into correspondingly shaped holes) where someone has mashed the wrong pieces into the wrong holes. Or something along those lines.

I imagine an image on the LHS of the screen where climate scientists have fitted blocks into matching holes, but one or two blocks are missing. On the RHS of the screen is the skeptic version which looks totally arse, blocks mashed into wrong holes in comical fashion.