Open Mind

New Policy

October 29th, 2007 · 49 Comments

The discussion on the thread “Not Alike” has turned very nasty, degenerating into vitriol.

For a long time I have upheld a “free” comment policy, only editing foul language, in an attempt to encourage the free exchange of ideas. But this policy has been abused beyond belief. I myself have a tendency to “call a spade a spade” — that’s what adults sometimes do. But we have to edit ourselves when children are present, and discussion lately has too often become intolerably childish. For too long I have let the kids play rough.

Therefore I have a new policy which will be strictly enforced: keep a civil tongue in your head, and be relevant. That applies to the people I agree with as well as those I don’t. Comments which mix substantive content with mild snarkiness will be edited, or may be just plain deleted, at my discretion. Comments with extreme uncivility, and those with zero substantive comment, will be just plain deleted. I decide what’s appropriate and what’s not. It’s my house.

I have also been the victim of what are well described as “blog grenades.” These are comments which reveal utter stupidity about climate science, and serve only detestable purposes: to create doubt and stir up trouble. Trolls will be summarily deleted.

It’s not always easy to discern someone’s meaning in a blog comment. With a converstional tone, but without non-verbal cues, meanings are sometimes unclear, and I may misinterpret something. If a comment of yours does not appear, and you think it has been unfairly blocked, post another comment to that effect — but keep a civil tongue. And keep in mind that there are delays between posting and appearance of a comment, and occasionally things disappear for technical reasons beyond my control.

When I started this blog, I hoped to create a place where experts and interested lay readers would feel free to exchange ideas and information, and neophytes would feel comfortable asking naive questions without fear of hostility or ridicule. That is still my goal.


For the time being, I will be overly severe in enforcing this policy. Once everybody gets used to the new way of doing things, I’ll relax — a little.

Categories: Global Warming · climate change

49 responses so far ↓

  • John Mashey // Oct 29th 2007 at 6:37 am


  • cody // Oct 29th 2007 at 8:06 am

    Congratulations, needed doing.

  • John Cross // Oct 29th 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Tamino: the John’s seem unanimous (I won’t dare use the word consensus) - good!

    Although in some cases deletion may be too good! For cases involving verbal abuse I would recommend the disemvoweling approach used by Tim Lambert. It does censor, but it does make the poster look somewhat foolish as well.

    Anyway, I finish by pointing out that this is your blog - your rules apply. If people don’t like it then they can go elsewhere to play.

    Look forward to seeing some more excellent posts in the future.


  • EliRabett // Oct 29th 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Eli reserves the right to be cranky

  • Glen Raphael // Oct 29th 2007 at 3:21 pm

    This might have been a one-off problem. Eli made a silly remark deep in the comments about how hard it was to “update the proxies”, Steve McIntyre heard about it and noted it on ClimateAudit and as a result your comments section got way more attention from both sides than it otherwise would have.

    Most of the new people aren’t regular readers of your blog and won’t be back once that thread dies out.

  • Eli Rabett // Oct 29th 2007 at 4:30 pm

    You know, Eli could get really cranky about this. MBH 98 had about 90 dendro series, a lot of which had multiple trees, four or five ice cores, some corals, etc. Since then there have been even more reconstructions with other series, lots of boreholes, more trees, a couple of new ice cores, etc. You gonna go out and drill all those suckers anew and analys(z)e them Glen. Absent a wall to wall renewal what is the point of jabbing one or two trees?

    This looks like Surface Stations II, which as I recall had a surprise ending for Climate Audit but that’s cause they didn’t RTFR and if they did the overlay of paranoia interfered with understanding.

    [Response: Please don’t get too cranky. It’s bad for the blood pressure.

    I know that some of your comments here have been attacked at CA, in fact it appears they did a post about it, so you deserve some leeway. But I’m trying very hard to set a new tone here, one of geniality; accusations of paranoia, true or not, make that harder.]

  • Leif Svalgaard // Oct 29th 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Hanlon’s Razor says “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

  • a member of the unwashed public // Oct 29th 2007 at 6:34 pm

    We members of the unwashed public are not as stupid as some would like, and most of us know how to pressure our elected officials and in the end, we have the power of the vote. Having been a member of grassroots movements before, I do know this works.

    The popular terms for the 2 “sides” seem to be “Warmers” and “Deniers”. What I mostly see is both sides calling each other names and frankly, the “Warmers” seem to throw the most insults - why I don’t know - but that’s just my observation.

    I generally visit political blogs - where caca-throwing reigns. One thing I’ve learned is most people have an agenda.

    At this point I don’t know “who” is credible.

    One side posts links showing the “Deniers” are oil-funded.. Sounds bad to me…

    Then the other side posts links showing the “Warmers” are Soros funded and Soros is set to make millons.. Sounds bad to me…

    I do all the “good things”… recycle, utilize my grey water, compost, etc. but when it comes to global warming or climate change or whatever it’s supposed to be called, because of all the conflicting information (or is it propaganda?) put out by both sides; well, I’m at the point of throwing my hands in the air and proclaiming “I really don’t care!”

    Both sides may call me stooopid or selfish for not caring… So be it.

    I suppose the “Deniers” can claim victory, because at this point, I’ve decided to just keep going on with my life, as is.

    Perhaps I got too worried about Y2K, which turned out to be fizzle - maybe that’s why I’ve become jaded on this issue.

  • Hank Roberts // Oct 29th 2007 at 7:17 pm

    How can we help you?

    [Response: By example. The next time you see something here that seems really stupid or offensive (and it’s bound to happen, I’m far from perfect), respond as mildly as possible. And I’ll try to keep the trolls away — but if I slip up, don’t feed them!]

  • Hank Roberts // Oct 29th 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Tamino, this is perhaps the most instructive quote I know about the reason for doing science, answering questions like “why bother” and “why worry” from Paul Crutzen’s Nobel Prize lecture:

    … it was a close call. Had Joe Farman and his colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey not persevered in making their measurements in the
    harsh Antarctic environment for all those years since the International Geophysical Year 1958/1959, the discovery of the ozone hole may have been substantially delayed and there may have been far less urgency to reach inter-
    national agreement on the phasing out of CFC production. There might thus have been a substantial risk that an ozone hole could also have developed in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

    Furthermore, while the establishment of an instability in the Ox-ClOx system requires chlorine activation by heterogeneous reactions on solid or supercooled liquid particles, this is not required for inorganic bromine, which is normally largely present in its activated forms due to gas phase photochemical reactions. This makes bromine on an atom to atom basis almost
    a hundred times more dangerous for ozone than chlorine (78, 52). This brings up the nightmarish thought that if the chemical industry had develo-
    ped organobromine compounds instead of the CFCs - or alternatively, if chlorine chemistry would have run more like that of bromine - then without any preparedness, we would have been faced with a catastrophic ozone hole
    everywhere and at all seasons during the 1970s, probably before the atmospheric chemists had developed the necessary knowledge to identify the problem and the appropriate techniques for the necessary critical measurements.

    Noting that nobody had given any thought to the atmospheric consequences of the release of Cl or Br before 1974, I can only conclude that mankind has been extremely lucky….

  • Eli Rabett // Oct 29th 2007 at 7:36 pm

    You know, Tamino, I didn’t even know that they had, although I expected something or other was going on. Frankly I was too busy digging in the garden taking long walks and writing papers. Blood pressure is fine, but could I please blame my cholesterol on the aggro? (given that rabetts only eat carrots it is especially worrisome)

    Gotta learn how to munch the astroturf tho, I hear it is very low on the cholesterol.

  • elspi // Oct 29th 2007 at 7:55 pm

    “those with zero substantive comment, will be just plain deleted.”

    Doesn’t this apply to “a member of the unwashed public”

    I mean really, equating the documented truth
    ““Deniers” are oil-funded.”
    to the documented lie ““Warmers” are Soros funded” is not something you can tolerate if you want a civil discourse.

  • tristram shandy // Oct 29th 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Mild snarkiness will be deleted. Understood.

    Now, comes the question: if you are snarky,
    or if eli is snarky, or if hank accuses people of enabling vandalism, is it open minded to allow snarky responses? Will you hold yourself to the same snarky standard? Essentailly I would have left you guys to your own conversation save these things:

    1. Your treatment of Cody, which impugned his sincerity.
    2. Eli’s misrepresentation of the difficulty of updating proxies.
    3. hanks suggestion that documenting ones tree ring research encouraged vandalism.

    I trust you to be fair.

    Snark meter says 0.
    What say you?

    [Response: I say that this comment contributes nothing to worthwhile discussion or the creation of a friendly place.

    I never claimed to be innocent of snarkiness or even nastiness. But things got way out of hand, so I’m trying to make a new beginning and create a genial discussion. If you want that, great. This comment doesn’t help.]

  • John Mashey // Oct 29th 2007 at 8:09 pm

  • John Mashey // Oct 29th 2007 at 9:03 pm

    For member of unwashed…

    1) This argument can be confusing, because there are at least 3 sides with strong opinions, not 2.
    a) Rational skeptics, i.e., people who weigh data and change their minds accordingly, and often think in terms of probability and levels of uncertainty. For example, most scientists are trained to do this, and most peer-reviewed science works this way. A rational skeptic would read dozens of books on this topic, from {Lomborg, Singer, MicKitrick+Essex, etc} to {IPCC AR4, Schneider, Houghton, Ruddiman, etc} and watch a lot of websites, and keep a list of objections to the consensus and strike them off if they get answered.

    b) One side might be “alarmists”, or “greenie tree-huggers lefties” or something like that, who in some cases exaggerated gloom-and-doom ahead of the science, sometimes irritating those in a) and in the general public. I once read a book on global warming whose concerns included the demise of *Arctic* penguins. That didn’t help, nor did “The Day After Tomorrow.”

    However, the science in a) has steadily evolved to be closer to some of the opinions of b).

    c) Denialists - primarily *know* that there under no circumstances must there be limits on CO2, either for economic or ideological reasons, and hence AGW cannot be true. They like to be called skeptics, although that doesn’t fit the classic definition of a rational skeptic. Some people distinguish between “denialists” who are actively involved in a disinformation campaign, and “deniers” who are consumers of it. As to where *that* came from, see:

    especially from section 2) onward. This was written to answer a question about where the attack on the strong scientific consensus came from.

    You might be surprised at the strong 1989 statement of President Bush (H.W., not W.)

    You might also be surprised to learn about the strong parallel between the cigarette wars and AGW wars, in the former:
    a) medical researchers
    b) Temperance movements of the late 1800s “cigarettes are immoral”
    c) The tobacco companies

    2) As for Y2K, I’m an *old* computer guy, and your use of the computing environment almost certainly includes software or hardware I helped design. I guarantee you: IF the computing industry had not spent a lot of time and effort fixing the Y2K problem over years beforehand, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but it would have been very, very messy. This is the operating system person’s lament: if we sweat blood and make everything work right, nobody notices, but if a system crashes and loses somebody’s disk files, it’s very bad. We had the same problem in the phone company: incredibly hard work to achieve great reliability, and nobody really noticed, except when something went wrong. Likewise, Katrina was a disaster, but Florida and California handle disasters relatively well [more practice], so they don’t get noticed as much.

    Some problems are far more efficiently solved by long-term painstaking work than by attempting a rush job later on. The bad thing about AGW is that a “rush job” probably requires rewriting laws of physics, not just software, so should be avoided.

    Of course, in computing-land, we still have 2038 ahead of us… I won’t live to see that, and I already did my best to get ahead of that one with 64-bit CPUs, but the scary thing with that one is the huge number of embedded 32-bit CPUs around. By now, in the US, there are hundreds of CPUs/person, and by 2038, there will be many more, and some of them have ideas of time that will matter.

    Of course, the computing issues are minimal compared to the Evil Twins of AGW + Peak Oil, although of course the energy savings from smart buildings, smarter cars, sensor-driven agriculture, etc need lots of embedded computers, so they are related.

  • cce // Oct 29th 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Re: Y2K, vendors were releasing patches right up to the deadline. Likewise, I spent plenty of time patching systems right up to said deadline.

  • guthrie // Oct 29th 2007 at 9:21 pm

    The best thing for “a member of the unwashed public” (assuming they are for real) to do is simply read as much of the science of global warming as possible, and this blog is a good place.

    Then you’ll find out why there are a hard core of what we might as well call denialists, since they deny the science. They are of course outnumbered by a much larger number of normal MoPs (members of the public) who have been misinformed or have not yet taken time to investigate the issues.

  • Ralph Becket // Oct 30th 2007 at 12:34 am

    John Mashey, I’m curious: can you name some class (c) denialists who just know that under no circumstances must there be any limits on CO2 and hence AGW cannot be true?

    I consider myself a class (a) rational skeptic: so far I remain unconvinced by the arguments presented in favour of AGW. I’ve read a number of skeptical blogs and papers and honestly cannot say I’ve come across any produced by people meeting the criteria for your class (c) denialists.

    I will be very interested to read your response.

  • tristram shandy // Oct 30th 2007 at 1:12 am


    on the contrary, my comment does help. it clarifies the rules of the road. i ask for a simple clarification. you outlawed snarKiness. fine by me. i pledge to be snark free. yoU pledge likewise i’m sure.

    further, the post served as a cAibraTion of what yoU consider snarky. since snark is largely subjective it is important to calibrate. i find that worthwhile. you disagree. we shall have to agree to disagree on that.

    [Response: I’d guess you’ll agree it’s not always possible to understand what was meant, given written words with no non-verbal cues. I did not find your comment snarky, but neither did I see the value of it.

    Your latest comment (on the “Not Alike” thread) was a model of civility; thank you. I allowed dhogaza’s responses because he had legitimate questions and he’s been a long-time valuable contributor here (and I didn’t see a clear way to edit out the disrespectfulness without “putting words in his mouth”), but I chided him for disrespectfulness and won’t allow any more. Perhaps you’ll understand if I give a little more leeway to long-time commenters.

    Creating a truly genial discussion is an uphill struggle; the blogosphere tends to be a very rude place. Deciding what is disrespectful (or irrelevant, or trolling) is indeed a judgement call, and I can only promise to be imperfect. The new policy is a work in progress. The more you can help, the more grateful I’ll be.]

  • Heretic // Oct 30th 2007 at 2:01 am

    It might a little more simple than that, tristram. I looked at a bunch of Hanks’ posts, for instance, and the available bunch of yours. Hank, who has contributed here for a while, usually has a high density of links to reliable sources (scientific studies, universities sites, and so on). Hence, his remarks about “vandalism” may, after all, appear right on point to some readers.

    If you (or anyone else) disagree with a poster, be at least as courteous as you recently were with Tamino. I like this site because of the abundance of hard data, good maths, and overall better tone than many others. I also make effort to not degrade the tone of a discussion and not get personal, although I might have slipped a little with the Stossel related post.

    At the end, Tamino is right, there is nothing like restraint. For anyone who wants free reign to all that your keyboard sprouts out, Deltoid is a good place. Otherwise, keep it on point, link facts, studies, data, analyze and disagree with the reasoning without attacking the person. And if you’re personally attacked, keep a cool head, it might just be that simple.

  • tristram shandy // Oct 30th 2007 at 2:05 am

    I personally take no affront to churlish behavior. It’s words on a page after all. However, I understand it can be unsettling for some, and cast no aspersions on their apparent lack of epidermal thickness. You are free, of course, to grant anyone you like leeway with regard to the new policy, were you to reign them in eventually, it would foster a more civilized discussion.

  • a member of the unwashed public // Oct 30th 2007 at 2:47 am

    yep, I’m for real.

    I’m just stating that in the political (and social) forums I visit, different credible “follow the money” links have been posted tracing sites back to both oil-company and Soros-funded groups. Right or wrong, I’ve come to believe that both sides have a self-serving interest in the outcome.
    Sorry, that’s what I honestly believe at this point.

    I just wanted to express my frustration, and for allowing me to do so, I’d like to thank the owner of this site.

    What you all should take away from this (imo) is that many of us simple folk tune out when you turn on each other with such viciousness.

    You need to remember that when you annoy the public enough, the public starts to think you’re not worth the time to listen to.

    And as long as I’m grousing… In one of the threads, someone posted something to the effect of “we’ve backed off from x, and we’ve backed off from y”.. That struck home with me. We unscientific types grow suspicious when we repeatedly hear on the news things like “Contrary to prior research … scientists now believe…” Yes, we understand you’re always learning new things, but the public feels whipsawed. There are plenty of us around who remember the hoopla over global cooling! ..and Y2K… newstories telling us what we should have on hand to be prepared for the worst.

    I know this is boring to you, you guys have more important things to discuss, but before I go, I’d like to thank John Mashey for his reply. It was indeed helpful. And thanks for your efforts re Y2K. I worked for a hospital during that time. It was an extremely big deal.

    You guys go back to your discussions, and I’ll go back to discussing politics and equine bloodlines. …which presents another problem… no matter how bad they may be for global warming, you’re going to have a tough sell convincing horseowners to part with their animals. Only a horseowner will understand the seriousness of that statement.

    I probably won’t post again, mainly because I don’t want to be laughed at for asking a question that will undoubtedly seem simple and stupid to most of you; but I will peek in from time to time.

  • dhogaza // Oct 30th 2007 at 3:13 am

    allowed dhogaza’s responses because he had legitimate questions and he’s been a long-time valuable contributor here (and I didn’t see a clear way to edit out the disrespectfulness without “putting words in his mouth”), but I chided him for disrespectfulness and won’t allow any more. Perhaps you’ll understand if I give a little more leeway to long-time commenters.

    I’m done, then.

    I wasn’t disprespectful, simply mocking.

    You appear to be another “civil” person who accepts outright lies, presented in “civil” language, to be acceptable while truth, spoken with an uncivil tone, something to be banned.

    [Response: I do not condone outright lies. But I’ve made it clear that in my opinion, lack of civility has made discussion here difficult and far less productive. And I’ve also made it clear that in order to set a new trend, I have decided to be severe in its application for the time being. I hope eventually to be more relaxed in enforcing the new policy.

    Maintaining civility without stifling discussion and disagreement is bound to be difficult, and involves a lot of judgement calls. But as “a member of the unwashed public” has made clear, uncivil discussion is a tremendous turnoff for those who most need information about global warming.

    Your contributions here have been many and valuable. If you choose not to comment further, you will be missed.]

  • John Mashey // Oct 30th 2007 at 3:20 am

    Ralph: glad to … but
    1) I’ll assume you’ve read section 2) of that URL I gave, which includes some of the entities.

    2) Needless to say, most in c) don’t *say* “I don’t want restrictions on CO2, so AGW doesn’t exist.”
    They usually just say the second part, but every once in a while the first part comes out explicitly.

    However, if someone:
    - has a long history of attacking the science
    - and keeps repeating arguments long refuted
    - or changes arguments from year to year
    - or goes from:
    “no warming” to
    “maybe warming, but not from people” to
    “maybe warming, but nothing can be done” OR
    “anything but CO2; it’s the Sun!, it’s cosmic rays!” OR
    “CO2 is good for us” OR
    “it will cost too much to do anything about CO2″ OR
    “and anyway, people can adapt”
    AND is often funded by fossil fuel interests

    Then I would say that c) is a fair guess, although there are plenty of denialists who are not funded by fossil fuel interests as well, often for ideological reasons, but that’s a little less easy to track. Of course, lots of deniers (as opposed to professional denialists) have lots of reasons.

    Are you familiar with the equivalents over in the tobacco wars? [Those, of course, have fabulous internal documentation made public, unlike the AGW fights.]

    Anyway, would you agree that somebody with the characteristics above is a likely fit for c)?

  • tristram shandy // Oct 30th 2007 at 3:28 am


    I can well understand the tendency of people who have been here a while to grant leeway to people who are normally objective and scientific. On the other hand, you can well understand how I could have just the opposite reaction. I have read Hank for many many months, here and at RC. My reaction to the vandalism diversion, was rooted in my respect for the Hank I had read. Based on his contribution, you excused the slip. Based on his contribution, I was disappointed. Our difference of opinion on this is something you and I will have to agree to disagree about. You can have the last word if you wish.

  • Hank Roberts // Oct 30th 2007 at 3:47 am

    Look, when someone says they took on the persona of someone who’d been unconvinced, and made postings that looked like that person had become convinced — for the fun of fooling people — I think it appropriate to point out that IP numbers can be checked.

    Whether you think it’s just fun to do, or just fun to _claim_ you did pretend to be someone else without having done it, either way, it’s intentional deception and deserves to be noticed not treated as free speech, in my opinion. And it’s checkable by comparing IP numbers if need be.

    I differ perhaps with both you and our host on this opinion. So be it.

    I try to treat any new poster’s questions as honest, no matter how much they seem cut and paste jobs.
    Thinking like a scientist isn’t easy at the best of times.

    Noticing trolling isn’t clearcut either.
    What you write is all I know, I don’t know your name, I don’t know if you’re the same person who posted under that name the last time, or whether the next time someone uses that name it’ll be you — or someone else.

    Only the host with access to the IP logs has even a _chance_ to verify someone as being real online. Anyone rapidly changing IP numbers can avoid even that much identification.

    So trying to be real, and verifiable, means making an honest effort each time.

    My opinion. Our host knows my IP number and can look me up, which is as much identification as I want out there on blogs like this. Hosts can compare notes to see if posts from my name come consistently from a couple of IP numbers or from somewhere else in the world. If they want to.

    Trust, but verify, at least occasionally.

    [Response: I think it’s best if we don’t dwell on what may have offended us in previous commentary.

    And occasionally I do verify.]

  • cody // Oct 30th 2007 at 7:15 am

    I would still like to know, if anyone has it, the answer to my genuine question. Tamino said that CO2 had risen from 280 preindustrial to I think it was 340 or close today.

    I’ve read that the incremental effects of a given increase in levels fall off. So if we go from 340 to 400, it will have less effect, a lot less, than the rise from 280 to 340.

    I’ve also read that there is an upper limit on the amount of warming CO2 can do.

    Is all this true? And if so, how much of the possible warming from CO2 has already happened? I seem to have read 75%: is this true? And if we wanted to reverse the warming, how low would we have to take CO2? And how much effect (before the feedbacks) will another increase of say 100ppm have?

    The argument also seems to imply that supposing it goes to 400, getting it back to 340 would have fairly little effect, but getting it back to 280 would have much more - disproportionately more in relation to the ppm count. So in fact, the argument suggests that effectively to drive GW down by reducing CO2 would require very strong measures indeed. Is this right?

    Tamino’s original post on sensitivity seemed to be written from the point of view that sensitivity was linear. Or maybe I misunderstood it. Is it linear, and if not what’s the curve?

    [Response: The climate forcing due to atmospheric CO2 is proportional to the logarithm of the CO2 concentration. Hence it is true that as concentration increases, the additional warming due to a given quantity of added CO2 diminishes. But the degree of diminution is often exaggerated; going from 280 to 340 ppmv adds about 1.2 W/m^2 forcing, going from 340 to 400 adds about 0.9 W/m^2.

  • henry // Oct 30th 2007 at 11:32 am

    [Response: I do not condone outright lies. But I’ve made it clear that in my opinion, lack of civility has made discussion here difficult and far less productive. And I’ve also made it clear that in order to set a new trend, I have decided to be severe in its application for the time being. I hope eventually to be more relaxed in enforcing the new policy.]

    Does this mean, that when asked a civil question, we would expect a civil answer?

    I’ve seen many civil questions answered with a snarky reply.

    Also, in the interest of being fair, I would expect all reports to be fully vetted, not just those written by “deniers”.

    Every time someone questioned the motives of CA or Surfacestations, that “snarkiness” was always allowed.

    [Response: You should indeed expect a civil reply. Disrespectfulness is sometimes a judgement call, and the volume here has increased since this post (to my surprise), so my imperfections may be magnified by that. At this point, discussing what may have offended us in past commentary will only make it harder to maintain a civil tone.]

  • ChrisC // Oct 30th 2007 at 11:51 am

    Hmmm… In the immortal words of Marge Simpson “so it’s come to this”.

    It is indeed a little disappointing that our host has decided to take this course of action. I always approved of his comment policy, despite what I thought were obvious attempts at trolling by a few commenters.

    However, I liked this blog as it was a little more focused on those of us with some science under our belt (apologies to lay-readers). I liked the use of data and it’s manipulation using techniques that I’m familiar with. And since we’ve proved ourselves incapable of behaving better than children in a sandbox, I have to agree with the steps Tamino has taken in order to maintain the blog’s high standard. I must admit I’ve not been visiting this blog as much as I have in the past due (in part) to the decay in comment quality.

    I hope this will help to keep the comments civil, so hopefully, in the future, the restrictions can be relaxed again.

  • EliRabett // Oct 30th 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Global temperature responds to CO2 as the ln([CO2]+C) until you get down to very low concentrations where it becomes linear. That is because of what is called line saturation. See for example my series on spectroscopy of CO2M. Since methane is not line saturated, the response is linear.

    [Response: Eli’s link is highly recommended.]

  • BrianR // Oct 30th 2007 at 7:20 pm

    As a regular reader I hope the new policy will diminish some of the recent jabbing. I fall into the category of someone with scientific expertise, but not specifically in climate science or with a lot of experience in many of the quantitative methods tamino posts about. So, I like the detail and often the comment thread is illuminating…for example, when a reader suggests that tamino plot the data a little differently, or with other data…tamino usually does it, and the conversation benefits.

    I look forward to continued quality posts and discussions here in the future. It will be difficult to moderate some of it…good luck.

  • Ralph Becket // Oct 31st 2007 at 2:08 am

    John Mashey, thanks for the response.

    1) I did read your article you referenced. W.r.t. AGW, that section names some of the entities you consider to be in class (c):

    “Hence there is: George C. Marshall Institute, SEPP, CEI, AEI, Heartland, Frontiers of Freedom, SPPI, Fraser Institute (Canada), (and more) mostly in USA, and concentrated around Washington, DC, and with a lot of overlapping participants, often with funding from tobacco companies, very-conservative foundations, ExxonMobil, and coal companies.”

    Unfortunately, perhaps due to limitations of space, you don’t provide any examples supporting your claims. Moreover, in the scientific arena I can’t dismiss someone’s arguments because of their affiliation: I just care about whether their arguments hold up to scrutiny. It seems far too convenient to be able to ignore criticism or contrary evidence merely by suggesting motive.

    2) Can you give me *any* example where someone has said “I don’t want restrictions on CO2, so AGW doesn’t exist.”? From what you write it seems to me that you impute the first part where you perceive the second. If I’ve misunderstood you then please accept my apologies.

    The skeptics I’ve read virtually all agree that there has been global warming over the last century or so. There is then a range of opinion from “there is strong evidence that this is mostly natural” to “the case so far presented for AGW does not hold up”. There are quite reasonable grounds for these positions. It is tremendously unfortunate for the debate that anyone stating such a view is usually attacked by having their motives or intelligence questioned.

    As I see it, the “believers” find the scientific arguments presented so far convincing whereas the “skeptics” do not. Fair enough. But so far I have not seen substantive responses to many of the skeptics’ complaints, which for me does place a large question mark over the whole case for AGW.

    So, in answer to your question, “would you agree that somebody with the characteristics above is a likely fit for c)?”, I’d have to answer, “No.” because nothing in your list lets me conclude that such a somebody is arguing, “I don’t want restrictions on CO2, so AGW doesn’t exist.”

  • luminous beauty // Oct 31st 2007 at 3:17 am


    “Substantive responses to many of the skeptic’s complaints…”

  • luminous beauty // Oct 31st 2007 at 3:37 am

    An interesting blog on the psychology of climate change denial:

  • Dave Rado // Oct 31st 2007 at 3:39 am

    “a member of the unwashed public” wrote:

    There are plenty of us around who remember the hoopla over global cooling!

    This is an urban myth, as far as peer reviewed science is concerned. See here.

    You are confusing articles in the popular press and TV programmes (and a fairly small number even of those) with peer reviewed science.

  • dhogaza // Oct 31st 2007 at 3:49 am

    Response: I do not condone outright lies.

    But you don’t forbid them … indeed, they pollute this site.

    But I’ve made it clear that in my opinion, lack of civility has made discussion here difficult and far less productive. And I’ve also made it clear that in order to set a new trend, I have decided to be severe in its application for the time being.

    Got it.

    Lying is OK, as long as the liars are polite.

    Making rude remarks about liars is not.

    (virtual) rude remark.

    After all, denialists are on record as saying that the entire field of climate science is:

    1. Fradulent
    2. Based on a hope for personal financial gain
    3. Based on a hope for totalitarian (to some degree or another) worldwide government.
    4. Want to return human society to the stone age

    It’s not like they’re polite or anything resembling it.

    They swiftboat.

    Creationist insist upon your ground rules when biologists point out they’re full of it.

    While at the same time they argue that evolutionary biologists lie regarding their work, because if they honestly were to say “I’m a Christian”, the could never be published.

    On and on.

    I hate to subject myself to Godwin’s law etc, but Hitler *did* count on the fact that he could be rude, while his counterparts in England and France would bend over backwards to be proper, polite, work through normal channels, etc.

    Jesus said “the meek will inherit the earth”, but he didn’t say *when*.

  • Alan Woods // Oct 31st 2007 at 5:07 am

    dhogaza, who is telling lies on this site? Just becuase someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean they’re telling lies.

  • tamino // Oct 31st 2007 at 5:14 am


    I too have often been angered at the underhanded tactics used by some denialists, and my native instinct is to give them the tongue-lashing they so richly deserve. I rankle at their accusations. Climate science is not fraudulent, the suggestion is an affront. The insinuation that we have a “world-government agenda” (I see this a lot) doesn’t even make sense. That we want to return society to the stone age (I see that a lot too) is as false as can be, that’s precisely what we’re trying to avoid. And the suggesting that anybody ever chose science as a career path because of hope for personal financial gain can only come from someone who never made a living doing science.

    But I really do have a purpose for this blog. It’s not my goal to punish the wicked. I hope to help those who are confused and uncertain, to share ideas and knowledge with my fellow enthusiasts, and to learn more as I go along.

    My policy of utterly free expression for everyone has failed to advance these goals. I don’t like hostility, rudeness, and yes, I don’t like lies, and the lack of restraint has spawned much too much of it. So I’m starting to learn that for my blog to be the kind of place I want, I have to do some things. One is to hit the “delete” button on a lot more comments. This includes outright lies, “blog grenades,” cut-and-paste tomes which distract without really informing, and excessive hostility. I have a fanatical devotion to free speech and I do not want to stifle honest disagreement, so this is very difficult for me. But I also recognize that this is my house, and I really do have every right to limit what gets in my door.

    One of the problems is that I don’t always know an outright lie when I see it. I’m not a climate scientist, and even those who are can’t know everything about every sub-field of the discipline. That’s when I most need my fellow enthusiasts (I count you among that number) to set the record straight.

    But I refuse to abandon the confused and uncertain who are looking for answers on an internet rife with shouting from all sides. And I know that hostility is one of the things which most discredits our arguments in the eyes of the great unwashed. So I’m trying to keep the lid on. If I was too hard on you, I apologize.

    I pledge to make a concerted effort to reduce the worthless, the lies, the misdirections. I’m still learning how to do this, and I’ll surely slip up and let some genuine crap get through. When I do, I hope you’re there to expose the lie, and that you can do so with such grace and charm that the lurking observers will be left breathless. It’s unfortunate that we will rarely see the fruits of our labor, but that will not diminish the value of it. So I don’t just want you to stick around, I need you to.

    My greatest hope is that the meek will have an earth worth inheriting.

  • John Mashey // Oct 31st 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Ralph: your last paragraph confused me.

    I’m perfectly happy to list people, in detail, that have spent years fighting recognition of AGW (or more clearly fighting restrictions on CO2), who continually mistate well-known science (but do it in books, OpEds, whitepapers, not peer-reviewed literature), and are funded by fossil fuel folks … but that doesn’t seem good enough, unless I mistake what you wrote.

    What do I need?: copies of letters from Fred Singer or Steve Millory to ExxonMobil saying “I’ll fight AGW for you if you pay me?”
    Surprise: I don’t have those.

    As a parallel:
    Do you believe that Milloy and TASSC defended tobacco interests out of the goodness of their hearts, or did it have something to do with funding from Philip Morris? or C.C. Little and TIRC/SAB before that?

    I don’t say “membership in organization X” means I ignore what someone says, it means “I have carefully read what Y says for years, they mis-state science, they cherry-pick, they repeat long-refuted things, they don’t change their positions when data clearly changes …” and then I observe that organization X is filled with such people, and then I look up its funding if I can find it. NOT everyone is directly funded by ExxonMobil, Western Fuels Association, etc [recall I said that some of this was ideological, although it gets confused with some big conservative foundations with large fossil fuel holdings.]

    So, take another try at explaining what you need to be convinced, as right now, I can’t tell.

    But also, I’d recommend taking a look at John Cook’s:

    This has a nice list of the standard anti-AGW arguments that keep getting recycled, with one page apiece. [And for anyone, if you hahve suggestions for John for his list or improvements to the pages, he listens.]

  • dhogaza // Nov 1st 2007 at 12:13 am


    I pledge to make a concerted effort to reduce the worthless, the lies, the misdirections…

    Good. And, no, you haven’t been too hard on me. In my personal set of values, lying is much, much more evil than being rude - it’s how I was brought up. So watching a parade of lies go by unchecked angers me.

    I’ll respect your pledge, which seems very even-handed. I get annoyed when folks say “don’t be rude” but say nothing about lies, but that’s not what’s happening here.

    I appreciate it…

  • tristram shandy // Nov 1st 2007 at 2:38 am

    Lying is out.

    Let me correct a factual innacuracy:

    “After all, denialists are on record as saying that the entire field of climate science is:

    1. Fradulent
    2. Based on a hope for personal financial gain
    3. Based on a hope for totalitarian (to some degree or another) worldwide government.
    4. Want to return human society to the stone age”

    Here is the factually accurate version:

    After all, SOME denialists are on record as saying that the entire field of climate science is:

    1. Fradulent
    2. Based on a hope for personal financial gain
    3. Based on a hope for totalitarian (to some degree or another) worldwide government.
    4. Want to return human society to the stone age

    You cannot begin to convice others until you understand and represent their position with a modicum of accuracy. To be sure, as I noted, some who question climate science do so using the previous arguments. If you look around, I’m sure you could find their mirror image on the side. But that is not the point.

    Let’s actually look at the variations of each of these and not paint with such a broad brush, but rather be more discriminating and objective.

    1. Fradulent. Some claim this. But fraud implies willfullness and presupposes a knowledge of intent. Some skeptics argue that climate science
    is: Not subject to falsification. Others argue that it is not suffieciently transparent; others argue that it is sloppy. Fraud implies Intent. no true skeptic would jump to a conclusion about intent.

    2. Based on a hope for personal financial gain.

    Yes some argue this. It is an illogical appeal to motives. Much like the comments about exxon funding. A good skeptic is trained not to make this mistake. If exxon pays me to say 2+2=4, the spectre of financial gain, doesnt go to the truth value of the statement. So you can well disregard both versions of this argument. Those that try to discredit climate science and those that try to discredit skeptics. .

    3. Based on a hope for totalitarian (to some degree or another) worldwide government.

    Yes. some argue this. but a good skeptic doesn’t make statements about people’s hopes. They are largely unknown. A more defensible position some have taken is this: the kind of controls proposed are only enforcable over the long term by a governing mechanism that is not subject to short term changes in leadership. Simply, the climate has a long time constant. If you attempt to “control” it, it is a natural consequence that one body have its hands on that control until you see the desired reponse.

    4. Want to return human society to the stone age

    Yes, some denialists have read green literature that takes this position. Again, a smart skeptic wouldn’t argue about what you want. He would point out what economic science says about the policies that are suggested.

  • dhogaza // Nov 1st 2007 at 7:01 am

    After all, SOME denialists are on record as saying that the entire field of climate science is

    I didn’t say ALL, so my statement stands.

    Don’t play the “put words into my mouth” game, unless you want to prove the broader point I wasn’t trying to make.


  • dhogaza // Nov 1st 2007 at 7:07 am

    I’m having a problem with T.S.’s credibility.


    Want to return human society to the stone age


    Yes, some denialists have read green literature that takes this position.

    Back up your assertion with an explicit reference to “green literature” that LITERALLY says that they are working to return human society to the stone age.

    Back it up. You’re saying that my saying that denialist (kind word for s***h***) claims that science-driven environmentalism claims that we want human society to return to the stone age are true so…

    You can back it up, yes? With some “green literature” that says, literally, “we want human society to regress to the stone age”.

    Waiting …

    Please, don’t cite the Onion. That’s satire.

  • luminous beauty // Nov 1st 2007 at 9:24 am

    “the kind of controls proposed are only enforcable[sp] over the long term by a governing mechanism that is not subject to short term changes in leadership.”

    What controls, exactly? Proposed by whom, exactly?

    Straw men in straw hats?

    AFAIK, no one but science fiction writers or other speculative futurists are discussing ‘controlling’ climate. The question is about discontinuing an unintentional experiment in climate control that promises to end badly based on the accumulated results of that experiment as it stands, so far.

    The difference in ‘denialists’ and ‘SOME denialists’ is inconsequential. It is another strawman used to imply that dhogaza is saying ‘ALL denialists’. SOME denialists may just be misled naifs.

    If you wish to separate yourself from those who make such claims, do so without resorting to innuendo or making reasonable sounding, but factually and rationally unjustified, arguments, couched in broad generalities, that merely restate those claims. Otherwise, you are just like SOME denialists.

  • Marion Delgado // Nov 1st 2007 at 10:13 am

    I would say the response on this thread from the denialists - not skeptics, denialists - has been predictable, and predictably dishonest.

    My recommendation is not using snark, it’s ignoring them. And a good start is simply taking the parts that are common to more than one poster and referring some of them to Warren Siegel’s excellent “Are You a Quack?” by number. And otherwise using at least a mental killfile. does a wonderful job of not repeating itself, so does Coby Beck.

  • luminous beauty // Nov 1st 2007 at 10:19 am

    Pardon the second post, tamino.

    Exxon (through CEI, GMI, Pat Michaels anonymous investors[?], etc.) has been paying people handsomely to say 2+2=(not 4, anything but 4). That goes directly to their truth claims.

    Academic scientists are paid a fixed salary by the institutions that hire them and control whatever research grants they may accrue. If one (particularly an associate professor) makes intentionally false claims or persists in making erroneous claims after being corrected, his career is in the toilet.

    There seems to be a lot of difference in ‘the spectre of financial gain’ in the two cases, don’t you think?

  • tamino // Nov 1st 2007 at 12:12 pm

    A minor fracas is in the works, and it’s my fault.

    dhogaza let off some steam about underhanded tactics. I sympathized because it angers me too (and I even said “some”), but I also tried to emphasize that I’m here for a different purpose.

    tristram shandy retorts that you can’t paint all skeptics with the same brush. Well, I agree with that. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I sure agree with that.

    Suddenly everybody wants “satisfaction” for everything said by everybody else. Perhaps we could organize a mass duel; pistols at 20 paces?

    No more about it here, please. You’ve all had your say, so any more commentary along those lines will be deleted.

  • luminous beauty // Nov 1st 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Don’t blame yourself, tamino. You should see the level of snark in the comments on the correlative post at

    Then again, maybe you shouldn’t. So I won’t link to it.

    I think Marion’s ignore strategy is only applicable to the most obnoxious of trolls. [edit] Tristam is, I think, sincere in his belief that he is upholding a tradition of skeptical argument, even though he is skewing it to the cynical extreme. But a good faith argument is no excuse for making a bad argument.

    I confess, as much as I try to point to logical errors and rhetorical excesses in contrarian statements in as straightforward manner as I can muster, sometimes the resolution of a paradox seems more simply expressed as an ironic bon mot with a discernable twinge of sarcasm.

    Ah, human, all too human.

    Please forgive.

  • windansea // Nov 2nd 2007 at 12:02 am

    tristram shandy retorts that you can’t paint all skeptics with the same brush. Well, I agree with that. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I sure agree with that.

    Tamino, I just want to say thanks for allowing a fairly open comment policy here on your blog

    many climate blogs are restricted or heavily moderated and dampen open discourse, I respect your desire to keep discussion civil and continue to contribute because of this.

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