In the comments here: E.M.Smith (Chiefio) responded to Paul Bain and then posted it on his own site. It’s very popular (thank you Michael!)
Dear Paul Bain:
First off, thank you for responding.
FWIW, I am a hard core skeptic. I’m the “target” of your analysis. As such, what folks like me think ought to be particularly important to you. So a bit of history on me and climate change.
I first came to the AGW issue thinking “Gee, this looks important, I ought to learn more about it.” At the Skeptic sites (like WUWT) I had generally kind acceptance and explanation of where I had parts missing from my understanding of the “issues” about AGW and where it was “gone wrong”. At “Believer” sites (an curiously appropriate term as it has all the hallmarks of a religious belief) I would ask simple and innocent questions and largely get derision in return. Simply asking “But doesn’t CO2 have a log limit on absorption effects that we have passed?” or worse, saying “But this article (on skeptic site) seems to have a valid issue.” would bring “Attack the messenger” responses. That, for me, was the first and largest clue about which side was indulging in propaganda more than in dispassionate examination of facts and data.
So I set about a long path of “learning for myself”.
At Believer sites, I’d have a load of links shoved down my throat with, effectively, “You idiot, read all this first or shut up”… At Skeptic sites I’d get “Well, here are some links, and the net-net is that the data are lousy and the models do not predict. But check it out yourself.” Hardly something to make one feel like Believers were doing decent unbiased examination of the facts.
But I read a lot of the links anyway. Most of them were of the form “Given the assumption that AGW is real, what bad thing happens?” Many more were of the form “Assuming the theory is correct, what does our model show?” While all of that is interesting speculation, none of it is really what I’d call Science. Where are the data? The analysis? The testable hypothesis? Etc. In short, where is the SCIENCE in “Climate Science”? (In most part it really ought to be called “Climate Model Storytelling” once you get to the end of the papers.)
At the core of it all, I found the general truth that there was Agenda Driven Politics. What published papers could be bought to support a pre-designed Agenda for political change. (Only much later did I find the Agenda 21 site at the UN and found the source of The Agenda… but it was nice to find that my earlier conclusion was supported by the facts.) The more I looked at the AGW “Science” claims, the more I found flawed and politically driven papers being written “for effect” with little in the way of actual unbiased search for truth.
On the Skeptic side I found a lot of folks who had no agenda. Often, like me, they just need everything to “fit”. And that “fit” must also fit with the scientific method we learned oh so long ago. (No ‘new age’ science here. No “moral relativism” and there IS an objective reality.) So when we find things like the GHCN temperature history being continually re-written to create a warming trend, it “doesn’t fit”. History is fixed. Temperatures were recorded once, by a known person, and written down. They do not change. And a big buzzer goes off… (One of the earliest users of thermometers was Newton. Another was Galileo. Do we really think folks of that quality could not read the instruments that they, themselves, created?…)
We get folks looking at the statistical methods used and finding them badly designed and poorly used. “Broken” comes to mind. I took it on myself to look into GIStemp (as I am a computer programmer who knows FORTRAN and after saying for 6 months “someone ought to look at it” decided “I am someone”.) What I found was a nightmare of crummy code and questionable methods. A complete lack of any kind of ‘test suite’ or ‘benchmark testing’ code. A level of amateurish code and testing methodology that would have caused me to stop the product from shipping in my shops. (I have managed software production commercially including software that got 4 patents and was used in production.) Eventually that lead to examination of the GHCN data set directly where even worse issues were found.
The result from the Believer side has largely been “We are right, shut up.” Occasionally “We are right, our friends tell us so and we tell them so.”
Then ClimateGate broke. In the emails was direct evidence in their own words of exactly those faults. Producing “science for effect” and manicuring the data and code to produce ‘desired’ warming results.
Along the way, the term “Denier” was coined (as noted in the links) directly to tie Skeptics to The Holocaust” and as a political term. Please read that twice and think about it.
Now, to your response.
Your first paragraph amounts a (or reduces to a) argument that “Everyone is doing it”. So, it is OK to use the N-Word because all your friends in the KKK us it? Is it OK to use ANY insulting degrading term “because all your friends” use it? Really?
Ignorance of where a term came from, or what it’s propaganda purpose was and is, is not an excuse. It is even a worse excuse in what is supposed to be a peer reviewed or carefully objective broad science context. Is it acceptable to just plead ignorance of, say, Einstein and Relativity in a paper on physics? Just say “Oops, didn’t know that, but I’m going to keep on ignoring it anyway.”? In ANY paper on the sociology of “Denier” one would reasonably expect the very first step to be looking at where the term originated, from whom, for what purpose and to what effect.
So here’s one free clue for you: I, like others, will now use the term “Denier” from time to time for ourselves. This is EXACTLY like blacks using the N-Word with each other to blunt the effect of it. Someone outside the group uses it, it is a red flag of bigotry. Similar to an Italian calling himself a “Wop” or any of a dozen other bad terms being used inside or outside the insulted group. So WHEN you use the term Denier, and you are not a Skeptic, you are waving a large “I Am A Bigot” flag. Got it?
Keep using it, and you are saying “I am HAPPY to be waving a large I Am A Bigot flag”…
Saying “All my friends us it” is saying “I’m Happy that all my friends are waving large I Am A Bigot flags”.
Just ask yourself “When is the N-Word” acceptable and you will have a decent guide to the proper usage and context of the term, and an accessible touchstone for the sociology of the term.
Now, ask yourself this: If you wish to convince Skeptics to join the Believer side, do you think calling them “The D-Word” will be helpful?
Your second paragraph, as others have pointed out, is mostly a ‘dodge’. “We don’t care to figure out if it is real, just how to convince folks to act on it.” If it isn’t real, acting on it is incredibly stupid. At the core of the “Skeptic Problem” you face is simply that we do NOT agree that “action” is needed and never will as long as the science is dodgy, the data are mutating before our eyes, and the “science” is politically Agenda (21) driven and of the form “Given these conclusions what assumptions can we draw?”.
So dodging the issue of “truth” is to simply ignore the basic problem. Skeptics are all hung up on that truth and accuracy thing. We are not so interested in “truthyness” and “feeling good”, but in what is actually and accurately true and correct. ANY proposed “solution” that does not recognize that will fail. What I like and what I want and what makes me feel good is entirely irrelevant. My ‘belief’ or ‘skepticism’ is entirely a function of the analytical side of the brain, of hard core real science based in data and analysis. No amount of “feel good” or “peer pressure” or “desired outcomes” will have any effect. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Got it?
Your third paragraph says, in essence: “Some Believers think we have to convince them. That hasn’t worked, so maybe if we focus on other presumed ‘benefits’ of the actions we propose then they will get on board anyway.” See my last paragraph.
But it is even worse than that. The Agenda 21 stuff comes directly from efforts by The Club Of Rome to foster panic and fear about “running out” as a means of social control. They have been at this for at least since the ’70s (when I studied “The Limits To Growth” by Meadows et. al. Yes, studied. I had an entire 3 unit class at University focused just on that book, promoted by The Club Of Rome). They have now updated The Big Scare (since Limits predicted Doom In Our Time for the ’80s and ’90s and those have, well, kind of passed by without incident…) to be the AGW Scare (and with ongoing ‘resource shortage’ scare sprinkled in for effect). Now I’ve devoted several years of my life to looking at resource issues. The bottom line is, we are not running out, we never run out, and the Big Scare is a political tool.
So, you see, attempting to convince me that we need to destroy Western Industrial Economies to support a political agenda that is based on misdirection and error is not going to be a very productive path either.
Make no mistake about it. Cutting CO2 emissions to 1990 levels means little things like no iron production (coal is used a coke in reducing iron ore from the oxide, and putting out CO2 in the process), no steel (that depends on iron), no aluminum (that uses massive amounts of electricity of a sort not available from solar panels. It needs cheap and concentrated electricy, not expensive and diffuse.) It means no shipping of goods by trucks, ships, or airplanes. (You can make a marginal electric car, but not an effective electric truck or ship. They need energy dense fuels.) It also means a dramatic reduction in food production and the attendant deaths. (Modern agriculture largely turns fossil carbon sources into fertilizers, ploughing and harvesting, and processing and delivery. It is not possible to change that and produce the food needed by the world). BTW, my degree is in Economics and from an Ag School in Ag country. I’ve helped raise cows, grow corn, pick fruit and nuts. This isn’t a hypothetical.
So while the Believers have what looks like a “Fuzzy Bunnies and Fluffy Slippers” view of the economy, where it’s always simple, easy, and has no consequences to do things like substitute solar cells for nuclear and coal; ask the engineers and farmers who have to make it work. Ask the business owners who have to make a profit to keep folks employed and fed. They can tell you that it isn’t all Fluffy Bunnies and Fuzzy Slippers…. It’s hard work, often just barely worth it at the margins.
That means that your “maybe we can convince them it’s just a good idea anyway, even if it’s wrong.” approach is going to run headlong into reality. The only question, really, is “Before or after the economic collapse is realized in the economy?” That is going to be a very hard sell. Especially to folks trained and experienced in avoiding The Bums Rush and The Fairy Tale Story and Yet Another Bright Idea That Implodes. In essence, the Skeptics tend to come from the group that is expected to make things work, and they can see that the proposed “solutions” just don’t work.
A specific note on oil:
The Peak Oil Theory is just that, a theory. Right now oil prices are in freefall as supply is well ahead of demand. Even IF Peak Oil is true, it’s a bell curve. We’ve taken 200 years to get here, so even if this IS the peak (and that is very much not demonstrated, what with Brazil finding more oil faster than they can produce it and with at least a Trillion Barrels in shale oil in the USA coming into production) but even if this IS the peak, it will take 200 years to slide down the backside of the bell curve. So given that we have a few hundred years of coal, and at least 200 years to the last of the oil, exactly what is the urgency, what is the “emergency” right NOW to do anything, if not AGW and manufactured panic?
Now think about that.
You want to sell me a “bill of goods” that has destruction of electric generation while my transportation is made dependent on electric generation. You want my electric costs to rise from 10 cents / kW-hr to 50 cents kW-hr at the same time. You want me to buy a new $50,000 to $100,000 e-car instead of a $30,000 gas car (or just keeping my old Mercedes Diesel running at about $2000 / year) and you want all of us to do all this buying inside 5 years.
Can you see how “nutty” that is? (If you can’t; I strongly suggest some time spent with an engineer who can ‘do the math’ for you and perhaps a business major who can show you the costs). By putting Coal and Natural Gas ‘off limits’ you assure that there can be no effective conversion away from OPEC oil. Not now. Not in a decade. Not in my lifetime.
So, in summary: Social POV, meet Engineering Mindset and Reality Constraints.
Want to convince me? Then show an Engineering solution that makes business sense.
Until then, the Fluffy Bunnies live in the back yard… (Which reminds me, I need to go check their feed and water… I really do have bunnies…)