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“The Illusion Of Debate”: A History of the Climate Issue—Part 1

Posted By Brad Keyes On April 20, 2016 @ 8:00 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

John Cook, history buff

History buff: Cook, who believes in learning from the great men of the past, dresses up as a beloved figure from the golden age of Consensus Science.

This timeline, like the climate debate, is best taken with whiskey. Strictly for climate-tragics, it’s layered deep, well aged, and may not make any sense at all. It’s art. It’s been a looong time coming (the second longest draft post ever under development on this blog).  Thanks to Brad Keyes. Smile :- ). — Jo

Introduction by J. Cook

The great Hoofnagle Brothers define climate Menshevism as a trick to ‘create the illusion of debate.’

Opponents of the climate don’t even need to win the debate—though they usually do—they just need the audience to think we’re debating. (Which is why we must never, ever do so.)

Please enjoy as Brad Keyes, my boss at Climate Nuremberg, looks back on some of the most colorful, least edifying moments in a decades-long debate that never happened.

— J. Cook
Twisted Tree Heartrot Hill


c. 1850 AD

  • Fossil fuel revolution begins
    Environmentalists hail the switch to alternative energies—coal, natural gas and petroleum—as mankind’s best hope of kicking its whale-oil addiction.


  • Peak Hiroshima occurs: there are more Hiroshimas this year than ever on record. (Scientists stress, though, that it’s too early to attribute any specific Hiroshima to climate change.)


  • For 20 minutes Dr Stephen Schneider enjoys the only panic-free period of his adult life en route from cooling to warming alarmism.


  • ‘Tobacco Strategy’ devised
    • Unknown marketing geniuses at Big Nicotine come up with the truly game-changing idea of disagreeing with claims you don’t agree with.
    • The tactic is so diabolical it will take humanity’s leading thinkers, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, almost 35 years to put their finger on it.


  • The Science Awakens
    • The global warming movement is born when a scientist and his politician friend sneak into a government building and set the thermostat to a balance between truth and effectiveness.
    • The following day Dr James Hansen urges sweaty lawmakers to act on the 170-year-old process of “global warming,” calling any delay “criminal.”
    • Within a year, climatology—an academic backwater where data comes to die—will become the sexiest discipline ever. The field also goes by the name climate science, leading to speculation that it was once one of the sciences.
    • The abstract noun ‘science’ has never had a definite article, but climate thinkers welcome it as a way of capturing the fundamentally inert, static nature of the canon of human knowledge. (Science Is A Process, Not A Position, in the minds of high-school graduates everywhere: yet another myth Big Climate urgently needs to re-educate us about.)
    • Bewildered academics are now dragged, kicking and screaming, into the political spotlight. In time they learn to suffer celebrity in silence.
  • IPCC created
    • The Panel’s function is to periodically provide a big room—ideally in a hotel or resort—where Policy gets a unique chance to tell Science what to tell Policy to do, in a policy-neutral way.
    • IPCC estimates of certainty, confidence and risk will be determined subjectively, using NASA’s 1986 wisdom-of-crowds system—the same technology that put our Challenger astronauts in space.
  • Today ‘the [sic] science [sic]‘ is credited with an explosive growth in human opinion about nature—not to mention a profusion of new, climate-prefixed job titles nobody could have imagined necessary.


  • Stephen Schneider, interviewed in Discover, calls on climate scientists to communicate more carefully, or ordinary people could get the wrong idea and stop panicking.
  • A coalition of Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Medium Tobacco, Republicans and the Murdochracy meets in secret to concoct the absurd myth of a climate ‘conspiracy.’


  • Working late into the night, IPCC author Ben Santer single-handedly discovers what 2500 of the world’s leading scientists are saying.


  • Almost every climate scientist in the world finds the upcoming 20-year-plus plateau in temperatures too obvious to mention. The Pause quietly begins.


  • A young PhD called Michael Mann rewrites temperature history with a paper so good it’s not even necessary to check his working.
  • Greatest moral and economic challenge of a generation quietly cancelled
    • In a rare win-win for us and the fishies, nature solves AGW this morning by rerouting deadly warmth from the atmosphere to the bathysphere where pentillions of joules can vanish unnoticed.
    • Meanwhile, above the surface, there’s even more reason to rejoice. Ever since we discovered climate change, it’s been killing 300,000 people a year—mainly by lengthening the flowering season and expanding the range of some butterflies—say leading UN politicians. The latest scientists agree, calculating that everybody on earth is now either dead, or knows somebody who knows somebody who is.
    • Paradoxically, however, word of the last-minute planetary pardon is slow to spread on the street. (Years after the average sea cucumber has got the memo, many a Westerner is still none the wiser or calmer.) According to one school of fish, information travels slower in an ultra-dense medium like the human population.


  • ‘Serengeti Strategy’ debuts
    • Lions don’t attack the most vulnerable member of the zebra herd; likewise, skeptics would never target the weakest papers in the pack. That’s why Dr Mann considers it a badge of pride when they keep jugulating his work.


Climate English

Stephen Schneider’s 1989 interview in Discover was seen as a kind of manifesto for a new school of science communication. But this would mean a whole new language: a clearer, punchier and more effective dialect of English designed to anticipate and correct for misunderstandings further down the intellectual slope.

What emerged, say linguists, was a nograj called Climate English [CE].

Historically, the problem with scientific jargon is that it only makes sense if you understand science. CE, by contrast, only makes sense if you don’t.

It speaks, not to the exclusive few, but to the excluded many—exclusively. We Are The 97 Percent Who Never Got Further Than A BSc.

Science—as a body of knowledge—is sensitive only to new evidence, and new evidence can only make it better. To a scientist, this is all too obvious for words; which is why, to a scientist, the CE idiom ‘attacking science‘ would be gibberish. But in the mental model of the mere muggle, it’s a perfect description of the sort of activity skeptics are engaged in.

Technically it’s called ‘doing science,’ but that sounds too much like what scientists do, and would only confuse the illiterati.

Thanks to a panoply of further linguistic innovations (‘carbon pollution,’ ‘the weight of scientific opinion,’ ‘more and more evidence‘ for no particular hypothesis, ‘drastically‘, ‘ocean acidification‘ and many more), scientists can finally talk down to us in a crowded theatre without giving the impression it isn’t on fire.

Climate English has been described as the fulfillment of Schneider’s dream:

Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

Yes, We Can.


  • Michael Mann’s ‘Hockey Stick’ graph is reproduced not once but six times in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, making it one of the most repeatedly reprinted findings in science. Even if one copy is debunked it will have no impact on the scientists, say the scientists.


  • Five years late, the world’s first attempt to replicate MBH98 is complete—but gets the wrong shape. Stephen McIntyre admits his efforts have fallen far short of the original Hoccobacilliform curve, despite advantages Dr Mann never had:
    • correct statistical procedures,
    • today’s faster computers,
    • the luxury of time (academics only have 8 months a year to get all their work done),
    • millions of dollars in undisclosed, undocumented and completely unevidenced oil money for his trouble
    • and last but not least, generous mentoring by Mann himself, who’s risen above centuries of internecine scientist/skeptic loathing to give his enemies copious hints, data and other enabling details he’s never even shared with his own readers!
  • Mann shakes his head in faux-sadness, drunk with champagne and the knowledge that his achievement is in little danger of being repeated in the annals of science. One day, when he looks back on this moment in his autohagiography, he will write:

That’s how the Age of the Citizen Scientist ended: not with a bang but a flaccid, wobbly shaft. As scientists, we’d always left skepticism to the skeptics. Now that they’d found out the hard way that the Hockey Stick wouldn’t appear to just anyone, would the skeptics finally agree to leave science to the scientists?

  • In unrelated news, a retired mining executive subtracts from human knowledge by debunking an important graph; scientists now waste years in their bunker rebunking it.


  • Professor Phil Jones redefines what ‘peer reviewed literature’ means, making it much easier for scientists to reject science that challenges their worldview: science-rejectionist science, for instance.
  • The Canadian statistician who proved science wrong begins to realise what an ungrateful, narcissistic, bald little enemy it can be.
  • The dawn of scientific progress.
    • Just because every modern scientist in every field of modern science on the planet has always said consensus is irrelevant in science, doesn’t make them right. This is the mantra Naomi Oreskes—lone genius—repeats to herself as she works up the courage to submit her magnum opus The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change to the editors of Science.
    • Like any truly seminal work, Oreskes04 belongs to a field that won’t exist until it’s published. Absent any consensuologists to act as peer reviewers, the journal  is forced to ask Oreskes’ consent to put herself in the shoes of a pair of her own peers reading the piece. Oreskes consents. Almost immediately, she unanimously grasps the epochal impact of her own article, even if sections of the argument go over her head, and urges Science to have the courage to run it as a cover story.
    • It’s remarkably good scholarship for something unchecked by non-sycophantic eyes. Not just because it’s more than half-true (Oreskes correctly recalls 2 of the 3 words in her search phrase, making replication a breeze!)—but because it’s the Citizen Kane of methodological innovation. It will be a whole decade before its closest imitator, Cook13, succeeds in violating as many rules of scholarship in a single paper.
    • Without the benefit of Oreskes’ insight—that science works by consensus—is it any wonder scientists haven’t discovered anything in 300 years? They’ve been too busy having heterogeneous beliefs to get science done.


  • With the theatrical release of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore becomes the moral face of the climate movement. A life peddling tobacco, Southern-style religion and Clintonian “values” tells Gore it will take a full 108 minutes to sell the science of global warming.
  • Professor Phil Jones is nearly forced to destroy a priceless library of knowledge about the weather so that anti-scientists don’t discover and publish it.
  • Showing a level of maturity and sportsmanship all too rare in the climate wars, Michael Mann acknowledges that his critics’ work is “pure” and “scientific” (adjectives nobody has ever had the grace to apply to his research).

pure scientific 2

Dr Mann keeping it classy. Skeptics often distort the meaning of this email by cherry-picking the word ‘fraud,’ refusing to focus on all the words preceding it.


  • A feature-length infomercial for Generation Investment Management wins the advertising industry’s highest honor, the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • John Cook launches Skeptical Science, an anti-skeptical site for non-scientists.
  • After browsing Climate Audit, Dr Ben Santer would “really like to talk to a few of these ‘Auditors’ in a dark alley.” Tragically, Santer’s offer of conversation has never been taken up.

talk to these auditors

Dr Santer refuses to give up on interfaith communication. He still dreams one day of explaining to skeptics “how science is actually done”: not on blogs, but at conferences, where legitimate scientists meet to beat the crap out of their critics.


  • Prof. Jones writes a hilarious email ‘conspiring’ in the despoliation of material subject to FOI; Michael Mann’s deadpan reply plays along with the gag, which becomes a recurring in-joke for these best of pals.
  • June 4: the dawn of Hope and Change
    • Sea levels stopped accelerating this morning because registered Democrats stopped being racist, in a theory climate psychiatrists call ocean Obamification.
    • But scientists privately ridicule the whole idea as pseudoscientific magical thinking. The physics is crystal-clear: global warming causes racism, not vice versa.
  • As the absence of evidence of warming gets stronger, the evidence of absence of warming gets clearer. It all keeps piling up, increasingly pointing to a single conclusion! And for ‘pause deniers’ ‘slowdown skeptics,’ the cognitive escape-artistry involved in pretending otherwise is taking a toll. ERs everywhere see the sequelae of climate contortionism up close: injuries ranging from strained credulity to arm-waver’s elbow; willful blindness of one or both eyes; even the dreaded hiatus hernia. The importance of warming up and stretching before and after all climate apologetics is the theme of a $1.2m NSW Health billboard and radio campaign. ◼︎

When we continue in Part II: Climategate changes nothing.

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