On the Morality of Global Warming Criticism

Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times and winner of a prestigious banking prize (usually mistakenly called a “Nobel”), has said that those who criticize theories of global warming are immoral and treasonous. ¡Treasonous!

Scores of lesser luminaries, backed by IPCC boss Rajendra Pachauri, say that such criticism, when it is not purely ignorant, is motivated and organized by a conspiracy. ¡Conspiracy!

Global warming scientist James Hansen has said that oil executives and their supporters should be put on trial for crimes against humanity. ¡Crimes against humanity!

And now, childhood hero Bill Nye, The Science Guy, has said that to question the veracity of man-made global warming is to be unpatriotic. ¡Unpatriotic!

Treason. Conspiracy. Crimes against humanity. Unpatriotic. These are not words to use lightly.

And they were not. They were not spoken in the heat of the moment. They were considered.

They describe crimes historically punishable by imprisonment and death. We can only infer that their use is driven by bloodlust and a pathological inability to accept criticism.

These words are bludgeons; raw, brute-force weapons. They are threats meant to silence utterly any who would dare speak up.

They are also fighting words, slaps in the face.

But since I paid attention to my catechism, I will this time turn the other cheek. Instead of punching back, I make a plea.

I call on Gavin Schmidt, Kevin Trenberth, Tom Wigley, Phil Jones, and other top global warming scientists to repudiate the language used by Messrs. Krugman, Pachauri, Hansen, and Nye. Scientists—especially in the wake of “climategate”—should issue a public statement admitting that criticism is not treasonous, is not conspiratorial, is not a crime against humanity, is not unpatriotic.

They are free to say that any or all criticism is factually wrong, or likely to be. But it is not morally wrong to offer it.

Honorable scientists—and the vast majority are—should understand that their silence when such apocalyptic language is used only encourages more of the same. When you call somebody treasonous, or a criminal against all humanity, or unpatriotic, that person will shut up his ears and rightly think you are either a rock-headed zealot or a lunatic.

Global warming scientists should publicly announce that, while they appreciate the support of such eminences as Mr Krugman, it is possible to go too far and that such harsh words hurt more than they help.

In an attempt to restore some sanity to the debate, global warming scientists should admit that, however unlikely the possibility, they might be mistaken.

(Incidentally, when penning this statement, it is as well to leave out the call for “peer-reviewed” criticism, or to say that this is the only valid form of criticism, since part of the debate centers on the veracity of the peer-review process.)

I have been a critic of the man-made harmful global warming theory, mainly by showing what is and is not evidence of that theory, and how that evidence leads to a judgment of the likelihood of the theory being true. I say that it is unlikely. By doing so, I implicitly, and now explicitly, admit that I might be wrong.

I have also examined many studies which make claims of what will happen if, or when, global warming strikes. I have found these studies wanting, extremely poor, or worse. Their conclusions are stated with a certainty that is unwarranted. But my criticisms are not proof that these studies have reached erroneous conclusions (no such proof can exist). That is, I might be wrong.

Now, the latest IPCC document says (variously) that there is only a 90% chance—note that this is not 100%—that mankind is responsible for warming the planet. This implies that the authors of this document might be wrong.

However, that 90% is everywhere in the mainstream press and in “environmental” organizations ratcheted up to 110%. The possibility of error has been removed. Man-made harmful global warming theory (morphed into “climate change”) is ever accompanied with the words “unquestioned”, “settled”, “debate is over”, or the appalling “denier.”

Periodically, polls report that such-and-such percentage of people “believe” in the man-made harmful global warming theory, and that this percentage has been falling. Global warming scientists are right to insist that these polls are not evidence that the theory is false.

But neither is it evidence that the theory is true when Mr Krugman or The Science Guy spout off using absurd and unjustifiable language.

To my colleagues: Let’s remind everybody that the truth is not decided by a vote; neither is it a function of celebrity and political power.


  1. Robbins Mitchell

    “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

    ~Oliver Cromwell~

  2. C. Stanton

    In the 1970’s the scientists were telling us we were headed to another ice age (and man was the cause of that too!). I used to be open minded about the possibility of AGW, but have since done considerable reading and study on the topic and now am convinced that it is the biggest hoax since the “Piltdown Man.” AGW is political and is all about the money! Ever wonder why MSNBC never says a word about climategate? It;s because they are owned by GE – a company heavily invested in the hoax!

  3. Briggs

    C. Stanton,

    Just to forestall an unnecessary discussion: Regular readers will know that I have never claimed that climate scientists are engaged in a hoax (whether any non-scientists are engaged in a hoax in not at question here). The word “hoax” is just as strong as “conspiracy” and should never be used lightly. While it has been the case that some scientists have exaggerated evidence (for whatever reason), the vast majority of climate scientists are as honest as anybody else, and even those that exaggerated did so in service to a theory they accept as proven.

    And the few, like Jim Hansen, that use apocalyptic language, are in the grip of True Belief.

    A hoax can only be perpetrated when the conspirators know what they are saying is baseless or false. Hoaxers know they are lying.

    But most climate scientists are convinced that their theory is true, or very likely to be true. Statements they make based on this belief, therefore, cannot be done in the name of a hoax.

    Critics harm their cause, just as supporters harm theirs, when they rashly use words like this.

    In this plea, I am reaching out to actual scientists. I am asking them to reign in politicians and “activists.”

  4. Hi William,

    There may be a Bayesian reason why such language should be repudiated. It may actually *cause* a divergence rather than convergence of rational opinion about climate change. (And surely a greater consensus is a goal for preparing for policy action in any democracy.)

    For those interested as to why this may be the case, see, for example, E.T. Jaynes understanding of the issue of rational divergence here.

    I could not find a post where you address this issue. I suggest it might be a good topic. Jaynes is not that easy to read.

    Anyway, I just want to add my support. It has long been my opinion that people who resort to such language are not thinking clearly, or are not really interested in changing any person’s mind.


  5. Person of Choler

    Krugman’s prize is perpetrated by the Swedes, not the Swiss.

  6. Briggs

    Person of Choler,

    Right, dammit. Another one of those “S” countries. I goofed and will fix.

    George Crews,

    Yes! I love that chapter (5) in Jaynes. “Queer uses of Probability” I think is the title: I’ll check and make sure. And you’re right that I never wrote about it.

  7. oldtimer

    Impressive insults, but do they match what is said here in the UK? Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister no less, has declared that non-believers are “flat earthers”. Ed Miliband, his Secretary of State responsible for climate policy, has “declared war” on the said “flat earthers”. Now beat that!

  8. George

    I think the mere existence of a Secretary of State for Climate Change makes his role rather blinkered, even if it is in truth “Energy and Climate Change”.

    I also find it vaguely amusing that he’s “for” Climate Change, not “against” it.

    But this thread is not for wordplay or politics, and on that note I think it’s notable that GoBo and EdMi are politicians, so nobody expects them to be reasonable – hyperbole is 110% expected of them.

  9. Amen. This post is important, and expresses many of my own views. It will be interesting to see whether any of those you call on respond.

    The opinion piece linked to below, authored by a Greenpeace UK employee, is in the same vein. I feel a little ill just reading it. Notice how sure this person is that he knows “the truth” and how certain he is that any other views are politically-motivated fabrications.

    As a former vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Assn, I have been appalled by the tendency toward censorship displayed by many AGW-proponents. Declaring that “the debate is over” and the “science is settled” is not conducive to free speech. In this piece one sees this tendency naked: other views amount to censorship of the one and only true view. Really, really scary.


  10. RichieRich

    I have been a critic of the man-made harmful global warming theory, mainly by showing what is and is not evidence of that theory, and how that evidence leads to a judgment of the likelihood of the theory being true. I say that it is unlikely. By doing so, I implicitly, and now explicitly, admit that I might be wrong.

    The increase in CO2 levels since the industrial revolution is due to human activitiy. This, I think, is not in dispute.

    If everything else remains the same, a doubling of CO2 concentration raises the global average temperature by around 1C. This, I think, is not in dispute.

    However, everything else will not remain the same if the CO2 concentration doubles and the consensus view (i.e. the view of the majority of researchers in the field) is that climate sensitivity is between 2 and 4.5C with a most likely value of 3C. However, clearly a consensus does not guarantee truth and this consensus view is disputed by, for example, Richard Lindzen who puts the most likely value at 1.5C and James Hansen who thinks it’s nearer to 6C.

    Now, it’s quite possible that pre-industrial levels of CO2 concentration could treble in the absence of an international mitigation effort. And although I concede that it is not certain that 3C is the most likely value of climate sensitivity, it is also very far from certain that it is not the most likely value. So if there’s a possiblity that levels of CO2 concentration could treble and that climate sensitivity is 3C, then we could be facing a temperature rise of around 6C.

    We quite simply have no idea what a 6C temperature increase would result in. But it’s not unreasonable to suppose that, on balance, it might not be good and it might indeed by bad, very bad, even.

    So my question is do we want to take the chance of seeing what 6C is like?

  11. Bill NYE? [Sigh] Next you’ll tell me Clark Kent wrote a piece pushing AGW in the Daily Planet back in eighty six. Are there no good guys left?

    Well done, Matt. Important topic. Keep their feet in the fire, OK?

  12. Dr. Briggs has written an important and perceptive piece.

    It is one thing to call another a fool (flatearther, moron, el stupido, etc.).

    It is quite another thing to accuse others of criminality (traitor, conspirator, criminal). Some Alarmists have gone so far as to call for Nuremburg style trials to convict and mete punishments to those who dare question the theology of AGW.

    Dr. Briggs is acting like an adult when he calls on Alarmist leaders to disavow the criminal accusations.

    Let us hope they do — for if not, they invite similar approbation and things may spiral out of control. The social fabric is based on respect for laws. Disrespect, in this case manifested as hysterical accusations of criminality, may well lead to violence.

  13. Briggs


    Maybe not. But do you believe it should, essentially, be illegal to doubt that rise?


    I commented on that paper on the request of an earlier email. Look for my name in the comments.

    Donna Laframboise,

    I rarely get exercised when people announce “the science is settled.” Like Uncle Mike suggested: sticks and stones. Besides, it’s a statement easily refuted. What bothers—what frightens—me are those that see the phrase, “Congress shall make no law” as an unnecessary impediment to their programs.

  14. VIC

    Re: crimes against humanity-

    Even today a very large portion of human populations live a marginal existence. Marginal here means exactly what it seems to mean, they have just enough resources and food to survive. If the various brands of tomfoolery – copenhagen, cap and trade etc were to gain widespread acceptance, the inevitable consequence of these regulations would be that there would be a dramatic upsurge in prices of energy and food. Those living marginally would no longer be marginal – they would starve.

    To me the alarmists are the true criminals against humanity!

    So much for out 21st century version of Utopian Socialists

  15. JT

    RitchieRich said “The increase in CO2 levels since the industrial revolution is due to human activitiy. This, I think, is not in dispute.” Actually, it may be if I read Dr. Glassman aright. See http://www.rocketscientistsjournal.com/ and in particular two articles there

    Mr Glassman makes the following point in the first article about the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, “16. Anthropogenic CO2 may be an additional component of the 3.3 PgC/yr seen at Mauna Loa. It is at most 7.8 parts in 90, or less than 9%. The 3.3 PgC/yr is not unabsorbed ACO2.” He sums up in a third article at the same location as follows:

    5. IPCC errs to model climate without the full dynamic exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and the ocean. IPCC ignores the planetary flows of CO2 through the atmosphere and across and through the surface layer of the ocean, and then into and out of the Thermohaline Circulation. CO2 is absorbed near 0ºC at the poles, and returned about one millennium later to the atmosphere at the prevailing tropical temperature. IPCC does not model this temperature-dependent exchange of about 90 gigatons of carbon per year, even though it swamps the anthropogenic emission of about 6 gigatons per year.

    The outgassing is a positive feedback that confounds the IPCC model for the carbon cycle.

    6. IPCC errs to model different absorption rates for natural and manmade CO2 without justification. IPCC considers the ocean to absorb ACO2 at a few gigatons per year, half its emission rate. It reports natural CO2 outgassed from the ocean as being exchanged with the atmosphere at about 90 gigatons per year, 100% of the emission rate. IPCC offers no explanation for the accumulation of ACO2 but not natural CO2.

    Thus IPCC models Earth’s carbon cycle differently according to its source, without its dynamic patterns in the atmosphere and the ocean, without its ready dissolution and accumulation in the surface ocean, and without the feedback of its dynamic outgassing from the ocean.

    As a result, IPCC’s conclusions are wrong that CO2 is long-lived, that it is well-mixed, that it accumulates in the atmosphere, and that it is a forcing, meaning that it is not a feedback.

  16. JAE

    Briggs: I am 90% certain (at least) that you understand that, in dealing with the far-left crowd, whom you quote here, you are not dealing with very wise or smart people, despite their claims to the contrary. It is just amazing that the “progressives” really believe that they are more advanced than us folks that “cling to our religion and guns.”

  17. RichieRich


    …do you believe it should, essentially, be illegal to doubt that rise?

    It should absolutely not be illegal or deemed immoral to question or criticize the scientific consensus on climate change. (BTW, unlike your other quotes, the Hanson quote is not about criticism of science.) In Popper’s view, a scientific claim is that which is falsifiable and of course people should be free to seek to falsify the various aspects of the consensus.

    Trouble is that there is so much playing the man rather than the ball. Both believers in AGW and those who are skeptical far to frequently impugn the motives and intelligence of the other side. There are some unfortunate examples from the skeptical side in the posts above. So I do appreciate your playing of the ball in your posts.

    Isn’t the crux of this issue how to deal with uncertainty. Sure, the IPCC authors concede they may be wrong, but how should be we proceed given that they may also be right. Climate sensitivity may turn out to be a lot lower than 3C, but how should we proceed given that it may (well?) be 3C (and that fat tails on climate sensitivity PDFs can’t be ruled out).


    When I said that it isn’t disputed that the increase in CO2 comes from human activity, I guess I didn’t mean that there is absolutely no-one who disputes it. (And you’ve shown that there’s one person who does). But – and this is a serious question – how is policy meant to proceed? Presumably, policy on AGW shouldn’t be brought to a halt simply because Dr Glassman has posted some non-peer-reviewed thoughts on his website?

  18. schnoerkelman


    I think we would agree that climate sensitivity is a critical factor in the debate but I believe it is also important to consider the time frame within which the doublings will occur.

    If one assumes an historical baseline and an exponential rise we reach a first doubling in (say) 50 years which in turn gets us our first (say) 3C from the pre-industrial baseline. The next doubling needs to get us to about 1100ppm which is not projected before 2100 except under A1F1 (fossil intensive) which comes in 2080.

    The next 50 years is what I find most compelling for purposes of this discussion because it turns out that I can remember just about 50 years. What I remember tells me that the technology fifty years hence is unlikely to much resemble what we currently have and that the cost of mitigating technologies will have likely changed by orders of magnitude. I find this likely regardless of what we attempt to do now with the exception of one very important thing: money.

    If we spend 1% of GDP on mitigation at the cost of an equivalent reduction in annual growth we will have taken a very large benefit from our children and grandchildren. The Economist made this observation: “In a world of limited resources, it is not obvious that spending them on future generations rather than on the current one is morally right. After all, since future generations will probably be much richer than we are, it makes no more sense for us to sacrifice our well-being for them than it would to expect 18th-century peasants to go without gruel so we can buy more computers.”

    On Matt’s original subject, I can only say hear, hear.


  19. Leonard Weinstein

    I want to point out that the idea that we should do something just in case it might warm enough to cause major problems brings up the counter point that if we did anything at all we should actually preferentially do something in case it cools significantly instead. If we DO SOMETHING just in case it is going to warm, we may do the wrong thing if a long term cooling trend is the actual problem and exacerbate the actual problem. It actually make the most sense to wait until we better understand the potential for a problem to exist and to what degree before jumping. Meanwhile, planning for the possibility of either direction of problem can be done, but without taking action. The reason the choice should favor the precaution for cooling is due to the fact that cooling may have much larger negative effects than warming (at realistic levels). Crop loss due to cooling would cause mass starvation. Warming would possibly cause some groups to relocate from very low-lying areas, or need to build water barriers, but this is far less likely to occur on a short time scale. Increasing glaciers would threaten land, where retreating glaciers would make land available. Human history has indicated that warm periods were generally productive times, and cold times much worse. Since the temperature is presently tending to dropping (and predictions are for at least a couple of decades of more drop), and since we are in fact near the end of the present interglacial period (from comparisons to the several previous ones), worrying about cooling is potentially the far larger problem, especially with a growing population.

  20. Noblesse Oblige

    They will not renounce, because they are not capable of doing so; Phil Jones might be the exception but someone will need to ask him directly. The psychology of the ‘bunker’ pervades their thinking, and that is born of cognitive dissonance. And if you are a skeptic, you really don’t want them to renounce. It plays into your hands, for it shows ‘them’ to be what they really are.

  21. RichieRich


    My understanding is that whilst land surface temperatures haven’t increased over the last few years, the planet is still accumulating heat.

    And as I understand it, emissions to date have been sufficient to ensure we don’t hit a mini ice-age any time soon.

    I agree that a little bit of warming might have a net benefit but many people believe that an increase in temperature of 2C will have net disbenefits and is “dangerous”. Whilst, we might disagree as to whether 2C is dangerous, I think it’s more difficult to make a case that 4C or 6C is likely to be anything other than bad news. And the way we’re heading, such increases are not out of the question.

  22. Pat Frank

    By making a considerate plea to honest climate scientists, Matt, you exemplify one side of the observation by Bertrand Russell that, paraphrasing, ‘The foolish are full of certainty, while the intelligent are filled with doubt.’

    People like Hansen, Pachauri, and Krugman are ideologues on the issue of climate, and will be relentless, focused, and outspoken. Those in reply like you will be episodic, generalized, and cautious. The history of religion is filled with examples of this sort of social debate. The extremists always won, and the reasoned get persecuted into silence and oblivion.

    The lesson of the Enlightenment is that you must be as relentless and outspoken as they are, if more reasoned and more accurate in your language. For example, have you ever published your climate analyses in an actual academic journal? Have you followed up with a news conference or a press release? In that release, have you ever explicitly denounced as unfounded, the violent accusations of Hansen, Krugman, and Bill Nye, the used-to-be-kind science guy? If not, why not? These guys need to be called out in public and shamed, in public, for their entirely unjustifiable incitements to violence.

    Be Thomas Paine, not Alan Watts.

  23. Briggs

    I thought I had been outspoken, Pat, boyo. But I’m always up for concrete suggestions.

    As far as peer-reviewed publishing, I have (on the non-increase in hurricanes; see J. of Climate).

    But no longer, because money for research and page charges I have not. Grants I have not. A position I have not. Contacts I have not. A press conference called by me would create a barren room.

    I can shout real loud, though.

  24. dtr

    Is this blog a proponent of those shouting for zero restraint on pollution and near-outright exploitation and destruction of the global environment because “God wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen to the earth”? Brilliant.

  25. dtr

    Originally I thought this post would be about the moral dangers faced by those skeptics who call for unlimited use of environmental resources without regard for any consequences, calling any discussion of environmental awareness a “hoax” or “socialism”. Instead, it turned out to be the opposite.

  26. Leonard Weinstein

    The contention that the planet is accumulating heat is not totally invalid, but the level of accumulation (mainly in the oceans) is far less than the required amount needed to accomplish net warming claimed. In fact, the ocean heating stopped several years before it started rising again, all while CO2 continued to rise rapidly.

  27. JH

    Oooh, Krugmann, Paucharri, Hensen and Nie shall all go to hell! There. ^_^

    Those harsh, nutrition-less words are simply their opinions and are of no legitimate and scientific values to me. I do think they have achieved a great deal professionally. Perhaps “all of us could take a lesson from the weather; it pays no attention to such criticism.”

  28. JT

    RitchieRitch said,

    “how is policy meant to proceed? Presumably, policy on AGW shouldn’t be brought to a halt simply because Dr Glassman has posted some non-peer-reviewed thoughts on his website?”

    Why not, if they are right? Policy should proceed on the basis of sound science, which the ClimateGate emails strongly suggest is not assured by peer review, and which Dr. Glassman’s analysis would appear to me to be. But the larger question is “What Policy?”. A policy of achieving a good understanding of the question before making an unrecoverable change in your position (commonly called “Look before you leap”) or a policy of ignoring dissent and stifling debate with a view to achieving a goal before any organized opposition can be mounted (commonly called “He who hesitates is lost”)? Your question seems to presume that current GW policy is on the right track, so that bringing it “to a halt” would be a bad thing, but this begs the very question. Policy can be changed in response to new and better information without being “brought to a halt” wherever that new and better information may be found.

  29. PaddikJ

    “And the few, like Jim Hansen, that use apocalyptic language, are in the grip of True Belief.

    A hoax can only be perpetrated when the conspirators know what they are saying is baseless or false. Hoaxers know they are lying.”

    Just so, which is why I find True Believers much more frightening than hoaxers. Classic grifters are ultra-rational & self-centered, preying on the irrational beliefs & greed of their victims. They are at least amenable to reason (and to some extent, perform a public service). True Believers are impervious, no matter what their background or training.

    Excellent essay, William, and thanks for the nudge: I believe I’ll dig out my copy of Hoffer’s The True Believer & re-read it over the weekend.

    BTW, you missed the scariest example of enlightened-class moral preening & hubris: The Krugman’s & McKibbens of the world are also seriously suggesting that Democracy is just too sluggish & hamstrung by the lumpen proletariat to react quickly enough to this, The Gravest Challenge in Human History. Somehow, the reins of power must be transferred to the Knowledge Class (temporarily, of course!) if humanity is to survive.

  30. John Pedersen

    The discussion of global warming is only a matter of feelings for the political “correctness” – not scientifical knovledge and proofes.

  31. Michael Clarke

    Interesting article. Now I’m convinced that global warming is happening and that humanity needs to take action to limit it, but at the same time, I think global warming skepticism, and skepticism in general, is a Good Thing. Seriously, if more people in society stood up on a regular basis and said “I’m skeptical of what you’re telling me, show me the evidence!”, and then carefully paid attention to such evidence, then we as a society would be a lot more informed and knowledgeable about any issue you care to name.

    I’m distinguishing global warming skepticism from global warming denialism – the refusal to listen to anything about it, the clinging to the idea that it couldn’t possibly be happening. That doesn’t help, and muddies the water with regards to genuine, intelligent debate. Sure, when the people that Briggs quotes in the article use the words “treasonous”, “conspiracy”, “crimes against humanity”, and so on, that muddies the water too, and I’m equally against it. But so does claiming that global warming’s a hoax, that it’s just political correctness, that it’s a “secular religion”, and so on.

    If someone tells me they’re skeptical about global warming, I usually say “right, why do you say that?”, and then if they show me solid, reasonable evidence consistent with global warming not happening, then they and I can have a productive, reasonable discussion. But if they use these fluff words, “hoax”, “conspiracy”, and so on, then they’re no better than the also misguided people saying “unpatriotic”, “treason”, etc., that they’re speaking out against. They’re just using these labels as an excuse to avoid giving actual evidence to back up their views. Show me the evidence, and you may well convince me. Slap infantile labels on your opponents and run away, and you won’t. That goes for both sides.

  32. RichieRich


    Why not, if they are right? Policy should proceed on the basis of sound science, which the ClimateGate emails strongly suggest is not assured by peer review, and which Dr. Glassman’s analysis would appear to me to be.

    But, JT, how exactly do we decide what science is sound? I entirely agreed that peer review can go awry at times but are you suggesting that peer review is neither necessary nor sufficient? And if you are, then what do you propose as an alternative. It surely can’t be simply what JT or RichieRich think is sound!

  33. RichieRich


    It’s surely at least debatable that if temperature rises by 3 or 4 degrees over the next fifty years, then future generations won’t be wealthier than we are.

    If there’s enough fossil fuel to get us to 1100ppmv by 2100, lord knows what the temperature increase would be? 10C? In my view it’s supremely optimistic, verging on cavalier, to suggest that such a temperature increase need not concern us as presently non-existent technologies will somehow come along and save the day.

  34. GhiOm

    On the forums here and there, I see a lot of people criticizing global warming theories with no argument at all, just because they don’t like the implications of such theory. This is not a moral way to behave (morality and use of reason are linked in this case where people let their power to reason go to waste in favor of passionate argumentation, backed up by—often unconscious—hidden agenda).

    From a morality point of view, those who criticize the global warming theory because it shakes their own beliefs are in fault.

    The same applies to those who defend this theory only because it supports their own beliefs.

    These beliefs generally are related to whether consumer society, on which our economies rest, are good or bad, and whether we should restraint ourselves in the waste we produce (and on which our economies rest as well).

    So, although I don’t know about the use of words like conspiracy or treason, the morality of many people in this debate is dubious. On both sides, and both sides should be examined in the same way.

  35. George

    RichieRich: Deciding what to do is the politicians’ job. Scientists should present their evidence openly, and may state their views just as anyone can, but should steer clear of policy. Scientists are free to disagree with each other – again, it’s up to the politicians to work out who they agree with and what to do about it, or whether there’s not enough information to be sure and they should hedge their bets.

    If scientists want to control policy then they need to stop doing science and become politicians.

  36. Briggs


    What you say might be right, but it is incomplete. It is not evidence that man-made harmful global warming theory (MMHGWT!) is false because one wants it to be. Many people do, as you suggest, make arguments along this line.

    But just as many, and perhaps more, make the same error and suppose it is evidence MMHGWT is true because they want it to be. The idea that mankind is harmful “to the planet” is comforting to some.

    This must be so. Read any discussion or list of comments and you will find that emotions run high, beliefs are absolute. How can so many people, who haven’t any background in meteorology, climatology, or oceanography, be convinced that MMHGWT is true? That they heard it was likely true from their betters is part of it. But I am in this class of betters (I say humbly) and I say it is likely false. Now, who do you believe?

    I suppose you take a vote. But even so, it should not lead to the passion and shear strength of conviction seen. Unless there is more to it, some underlying pull that makes one rush to take sides.

    What do you say?

  37. RichieRich


    Agreed politicians must ultimately decide what we do, taking into account sound science. But my question was really about how one determines what science is sound. Dr Glassman’s position can’t be judged to be sound just because JT says it is. Society has developed mechanisms – including peer review – for assessing the soundness of science. Lots of skeptics have a problem with peer review and I’ve said that clearly sometimes it doesn’t do the job it’s meant to. But is there a better alternative to peer review? Can peer review be improved?

  38. Leonard Weinstein

    Michael Clark,
    I think you misunderstand the positions of most skeptics. Almost all of the skeptics who are also scientists (including myself) agree there has been some global warming in recent times, but to a large part as the result of natural variation (Solar variation, long period ocean currents, natural aerosols, etc.). Most even agree that human activity (farming, deforestation, urbanization, burning fossil fuel, etc.) have a finite effect. The debate is on the accuracy of the data and the degree of the effect. Many of the skeptics think the net human effect is small globally, but may be larger regionally (especially in highly urbanized areas). It is not possible to effective combat a possible problem unless the validity and scope are reasonably known. If a precautionary principal is applied, the danger is that the proposed cure might be worse than the problem, and in fact may precipitate a new problem. We may be approaching the end of the Holocene, and a major cooling might be on the way (probably not sooner than many hundreds of years), and if we tried to stop warming, we might in fact trigger early cooling, which is MUCH WORSE than warming. Crops would fail, people would freeze, etc. Periods of warming have historically actually been prosperous times overall.

  39. dtr

    skeptics and deniers simply want nothing more than the ability to continue unfettered exploitation of the earth’s resources without regard to pollution. many skeptics are sponsored by oil companies and big polluters.

    Look at Texas, the largest producer of greenhouse gases. They just happen to be strongly protesting any EPA decisions that might say greenhouse gases are harmful. Why? Because the state wants to continue polluting freely without any regard whatsoever, to avoid paying any monies to reduce pollution. Screw any science whatsoever, big polluters will deny any and all evidence regardless of fact. this is the morality problem you should be talking about.

  40. Briggs


    I’ll give you three extra-credit points for identifying the logical fallacy which forms the basis of your latest comment. It is also a fallacy when it is applied to all the environmental groups and scientists who are richly rewarded for their work.

  41. dtr

    and what about this, Utah (http://le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/hbillamd/hjr012.htm), based on a lack of consensus at Copenhagen, demands that “the United States Environmental Protection Agency to immediately halt its carbon dioxide reduction policies”.

    Seriously? HALT all reduction policies? there are your skeptics. Keep the pollution money flowing, screw the earth! see no evil, hear no evil.

  42. dtr

    It is also a fallacy when it is applied to all the “skeptics and deniers” who are richly rewarded for their work and have heavy financial interests. You keep pretending the same doesn’t apply both ways.

    Michael Clarke’s post is the only reasonable one here.

  43. Jouni Osmala

    The probability of things is irrelevant of what action we should take on global warming.

    Let me put analogy.

    If there would be a 10% chance that your entire family would be executed if you don’t pay 100$ would you pay or not?
    Now would you pay if lot of knowledgeable people claimed that the probability is 98%?
    Now if there would be a time when you could pay, and after that the execution would happen, and it would be soon, how long would you like argue about how probable it would be between 10% and 98%, remember that the execution could happen anytime during argument or if you don’t choose to pay after?

    Now lets make that analogy back to global warming.
    If global warming alarmist are wrong and people spend money on preventing it, we loose some fun stuff we could of spend that money instead of.
    If we didn’t spend money on preventing global warming and alarmist are wrong we all be happy.
    If global warming alarmist are right and we spend money on preventing it we loose some fun stuff we could spend that money instead of, but it wouldn’t matter since it was well spend.
    If global warming alarmist are right and we don’t spend money on preventing it the bad scenario is that 90% of earths population is about to die. That means large fraction of your family too.

    We don’t choose the truth, we choose which action to take, and continuing to debate about probability much longer makes we choose that we shouldn’t take any action to prevent global warming.

  44. Briggs

    Jouni Osmala,

    Thank you. Your analogy is interesting, but not on target. A better one would be is that you only suspected your family has been kidnapped, and that, if so, the kidnappers might cause them harm.

    The point at question is whether the suspicion is right, not whether, given it is, harm might happen. The analogy is complete if you would feel it should be illegal, or unpatriotic, or treasonous, for somebody to suggest that your family hasn’t been kidnapped at all, that it would be immoral of them to guess that they are home and well.

    Anyway, it’s a good try, but I imagine the analogy is more confusing than helpful.

  45. dtr


    And yet, in that analogy, it’s perfectly ok to take the stance so many skeptics and deniers do and say that anyone saying your family had even a chance of being kidnapped is simply involved in a global socialist hoax and conspiracy, there should be laws passed to avoid doing anything to even reduce the risk of being kidnapped because God wouldn’t let that happen, and since not everyone completely agrees on exactly how and where the kidnapping could potentially happen, it should simply be ignored completely, forcefully if needed. any risk should be flaunted and even ratchet up to face down the global hoax.

    the stupidity goes both ways. you are unwilling to temper the ridiculousness of the extreme denies and skeptics because their underlying religiously-held goal supports your current opinion.

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