Guest post: “Climate variability research: did the sceptics make us do it?” – Professor Richard Betts

This is a guest post by Prof. Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts at the Met Office, (IPCC AR4 and AR5 lead author) about Lewandowsky, Oreskes  et al’s forthcoming paper, which suggests that climate skeptics influence climate scientists.  I think it highlights a difference of opinion how science should be communicated to the public.

Richard’s post starts now.

Stephan Lewandowsky and co-authors have published an Executive Summary oftheir forthcoming paper* Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community. The authors suggest that climate scientists are allowing themselves to be influenced by “contrarian memes” and give too much attention to uncertainty in climate science. They express concern that this would invite inaction in addressing anthropogenic climate change. It’s an intriguing paper, not least because of what it reveals about the authors’ framing of the climate change discourse (they use a clear “us vs. them” framing), their assumptions about the aims and scope of climate science, and their awareness of past research. However, the authors seem unable to offer any real evidence to support their speculation, and I think their conclusions are incorrect.

As their example of scientists apparently giving undue weight to “contrarian memes”, Lewandowsky et al focus on what they describe as the “asymmetry of the scientific response to the so-called Œpause’”. They assert that “on previous occasions when decadal warming was particularly rapid, the scientific community did not give short-term climate variability the attention it has recently received”. They do not specifically identify the “previous occasions when decadal warming was particularly rapid”, but it’s fair to assume that they are referring to the 1990s, probably the period 1992-1998. This was the most recent occasion when global mean temperatures rose rapidly for a few years, and previous such occasions occurred before climate science had become established as a widely-established field of research.

This assertion, however, is incorrect. Short-term climate variability did receive a lot of attention in the 1990s ­ see extensive discussion in the first 3 IPCC Assessment Reports, and brief discussion by Hawkins et al (Nature Climate Change, 2014). One specific example of a high-profile paper on this topic is Sutton & Allen (Nature, 1997), but there are others.

It is perplexing that Lewandowsky et al do not seem to be aware of this research on short-term climate variability. One explanation may be that there is more effective communication of research. Social media opens up many more channels through which climate scientists can communicate their work, instead of this communication being done by middle-men in the mainstream media or vested-interest organisations such as NGOs as in the 1990s. Those outside of the climate science community are therefore much more likely to be exposed to topics that are of interest to the scientists themselves, rather than just topics which interest newspaper editors or environmental campaigners.

Possibly Lewandowsky et al are wondering why there was not a raft of papers specifically focussing on the observed temperature record between 1992 and 1998. The reason is simple ­ this was not a particularly surprising event. When global temperatures rose rapidly few a few years after 1992, this was very easily explained by the tailing-off of the short-term cooling influence of the Mount Pinatubo eruption. This had cooled the Earth briefly by injecting large quantities of ash into the stratosphere. Indeed this cooling had been successfully predicted by Jim Hansen using a climate model shortly after the eruption. A few years later, 1998 was an exceptionally warm year globally because of a major El Nino event. The fact that these two events were well understood and even partly predicted in advance meant that there was less of a puzzle to be solved, so less motivation for extensive research on the drivers of global temperature over these specific years. In contrast, the trajectory of global temperatures in the last 15 years or so was not specifically predicted in advance. Although global temperatures remain within the envelope of uncertainty implied by multi-model studies, this is not the same as actually predicting it. So this time, there is a interesting puzzle to be investigated.

I have not actually counted or systematically reviewed the papers on variability in the 1990s compared to those in more recent years, so although there was a lot of variability research in the 1990s, it is still possible that there are more variability papers in the latter period. However, even if this is the case, there are other reasons for this. Users of climate information (and hence funding bodies) are increasingly interested in adaptation planning, which tends to require information in the nearer-term when natural variability dominates. More recently this has matured into the agenda of Climate Services, which includes forecasting on seasonal, inter annual and decadal timescales. This has led to the development of new scientific capabilities to address this need, eg. very large ensembles of climate models, initialised forecasting (where models use data assimilation to start from actual present-day data rather than pre-industrial), increased resolution, and greater computing power. So in addition to the scientific motivation to study variability which already existed in the 1990s, there is additional motivation coming from stakeholders and funding bodies, and also more extensive capability for this research.

Lewandowsky at al regard research into natural variability as “entertaining the possibility that a short period of a reduced rate of warming presents a challenge to the fundamentals of greenhouse warming.” Is there any evidence at all of climate scientists actually thinking this? I don’t think so. This indicates a fundamental misconception about the scope and aims of current climate science – the authors seem to assume that climate science is entirely focussed on anthropogenic climate change, and that natural variability is only researched as a supplementary issue in order to support the conclusions regarding anthropogenic influence. However, the truth is very different ­ natural variability was always of interest to scientists as part of understanding how the climate system works, and Climate Services and the ambitions for short­ term forecasting are now major research drivers. It is true that some papers have also used the observational record to try to understand and constrain key quantities of relevant to anthropogenic change, namely equilibrium climate sensitivity and transient climate response, but this is hardly addressing the “fundamentals of greenhouse warming”, ­it is simply trying to reduce uncertainty in one of the key aspects of it. Such studies certainly do not limit themselves purely to the “pause” period ­ instead, they include it in a much longer longer period of many decades, since this is the timescale of relevance to changes in greenhouse forcing. Exclusion of recent years from such studies would lead to misleading results, so of course the “pause” period is going to be included.

So the perceived “asymmetry” can be easily explained purely as an evolution of scientific focus and capability over the last 25 years. Nevertheless, the hypothesis of psychological influences is intriguing. Could it still be happening even though the specific example of increased research on variability can be explained by other factors? Lewandowsky et al suggest three mechanisms by which their proposed “seepage” may occur ­does the evidence support these proposed mechanisms? Here I focus on the situation in the UK, as this is where I am most familiar, and also because this is where a focus on the “pause” is quite common.

The first proposed mechanism is dubbed “Stereotype Threat”. The idea is that climate scientists are worried about being stereotyped as “alarmists”, and react by downplaying the threat. I agree that there may be some evidence for this in the IPCC and the global climate science community – for example, although the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) included projections based on the high-end A1FI scenario, these were performed with the simpler Integrated Assessment Models rather than full, complex General Circulation Models. Moreover, the media focus on the projections sometimes did overlook the A1FI projection of warming up to 6.4C by 2100. (Indeed I was was told by a long-established and respected environment journalist that the media were very much steered away from the A1FI result when AR4 was published in 2007.) This was indeed one of the motivations for my paper “When could global warming reach 4C?” as felt that the A1FI scenario had not received the attention it warranted. However, despite this possible example of reticence by the IPCC, the UK community does not seem to have followed suit. The A1FI scenario was used in the UKCIP02 and UKCP09 climate projections, and a number of high ­profile UK conferences focussed on the higher-end risks of climate change, eg. “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” in Exeter in 2005; and “4 Degrees and Beyond”, Oxford, 2009. UK research institutions are leading two major EU-funded consortia on the impacts of “high-end climate change” (I’m coordinating one of these, HELIX, myself). So while talk of the “pause” is commonplace in the UK climate science community, this does not seem to be accompanied by shying away from discussing projections and risks of higher-end climate change.

The second proposed mechanism is dubbed “Pluralistic Ignorance”, which refers to people thinking that their views are more in the minority than they really are. The authors offer the speculative example of public discourse that IPCC has supposedly exaggerated the threat of climate change. This does not seem to be the case in the UK ­ there is general public acceptance of anthropogenic climate change, and uniquely non-partisan political consensus on taking action on mitigation. For example, a recent article in the Guardian states:

“Britons are more likely to agree the climate is changing than at any time in recent years, with nearly nine in 10 people saying climate change is happening and 84% attributing this somewhat or entirely to human activity, new research has found. Two-thirds say they are concerned by global warming.”

Over the past 25 years, successive UK governments have led the world in supporting climate science and in developing climate policy both at home and internationally. The Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally founded the Met Office Hadley Centre, and at the same time the UK was prominent in establishing the IPCC. For the first 4 IPCC assessment reports, the UK government played a cental role by supporting an IPCC Co-Chair and Technical Support Unit in the Met Office Hadley Centre. The UK has been central to the UN climate negotiations, and under the Labour government of 1997-2010 was the first country to put in place its own legislation on reducing emissions and planning adaptation (the Climate Change Act). In the 2010 election, the Conservative Party manifesto was keen to promote its environmental policies, and prior to the recent election the three main parties signed a statement supporting continuation of the Climate Change Act. Hence, if there is any country in the world where climate scientists can feel that their research is valued by both the public and politicians, it is the UK.

The final proposed mechanisms is dubbed the “Third person effect”, and refers to the idea that someone may think that others are more easily persuaded than they are themselves, and react to this. This seems quite plausible, but I fail to see why this would not apply equally to arguments from activists and politicians aiming to persuade people of the threat of climate change. In fact, given the widespread public and political agreement on anthropogenic climate change in the UK, it seems far more likely that the “Third Person Effect” would apply to being persuaded by arguments in favour of acting on climate change than by those against it.

So overall I do not see that “seepage of contrarian memes” is necessary to explain research on the recent slowdown in global surface warming, nor do I see any evidence that this is likely to be occurring in the UK climate science community where such research is prominent.

There are further intriguing questions arising from the facts that (1) UK scientists discuss the “pause/slowdown”, (2) the UK public acceptance of anthropogenic climate change and (3) successive UK governments have been, and remain, world-leaders in climate policy. If climate scientists have indeed allowed themselves to be influenced by “contrarians”, it would appear that this has not prevented widespread acceptance of anthropogenic climate change or the development and implementation of climate policy. Indeed, if scientific discussion of the “pause/slowdown” is indeed seen by the public and politicians as considering a “contrarian meme”, could it actually be the case that a clear willingness to consider a range of viewpoints could actually enhance the credibility of climate scientists? Therefore could open discussion of the “pause” actually increase the confidence of the public and the government in their advice that climate change is real and man-made? It seems fair to suggest that an intelligent and thoughtful public and politicians would take scientists more seriously if they are seen to be objective ­ indeed some research does support this supposition.

So to conclude, I think Lewandowsky et al are incorrect that scientific research and discussion into the recent climate variability has arisen as a result of the “seepage of contrarian memes”. Variability has always been a key topic in climate research, and if this has become more extensive or visible in this recently, it is simply the result of improved science communication, more specific research questions and evolving capabilities within climate science. The evidence also suggests that even if “seepage” is real, at the very least this seepage has had no influence in watering-down UK public opinion and political action compared to other countries – and that possibly the opposite has occurred because the public are more convinced by seeing scientists being objective.

*it seems they expected the paper to be published at the same time, but it is not yet available. Stephan offers to send the corrected proofs to anyone who emails him – his contact details can be found here.

[BarryJWoods]This article was 1st published at the AndThenTheresPhysics blog and has been republished here with permission of Professor Betts to allow it a wider audience, and for those that are unable to comment at the other blog

Note (update)

This is my personal opinion, I  think that it again highlights a major  difference of opinion of just how science should be communicated to the public. This was demonstrated by the twitter conversation between Dr Doug McNeall and Dr Naomi Oreskes last September where they discussed the usage of the word ‘pause’, Dr Oreskes said she was writing a paper about what words to use (presumably the ‘seepage ‘paper ) which led to Dr McNeall’s comment  below (link which was discussed further at WUWT here)


This gave the impression, to me at least, that a number of  scientists really want to talk about the science to the public and others just want to control the message that the public hear. And for me, that the former approach rather trusts the intelligence of the public more,  than the latter communications approach of apparently wanting to control the language used publicly by scientists.

As this is a guest post I hope  that anyone that comments does so in a constructive and civil manner

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Guest Post – Label the behaviour, not the person – Professor Richard Betts (Met Office)

This is a guest post by Professor Richard Betts, re-posted (with permission of the author) to enable everybody anybody, including myself, who are unable to comment at the other blog, to comment  and discuss it here.

As it appeared originally at AndThentTheresPhysics blog:

This is a guest post by Richard Betts who is Chair of Climate Impacts at the University of Exeter and Head of Climate Impacts in the Met Office Hadley Centre. The post is about the use of the terms denier and denial and how they influence the dialogue about climate science. Since it is Saturday afternoon and I could do without moderating a contentious comment thread, maybe we call all think about what we might choose to say. Richard’s post starts now:

Here what I think about the D* word(s) – the personal label ‘denier’ and the behaviour descriptor ‘in denial’.

I think the phrase ‘being in denial’ can be appropriately applied to a dogmatic insistence* that anthropogenic climate change is not an issue**. [NB see below for definitions before succumbing to knee-jerk reactions!] ‘In denial’ is quite a common phrase in use for other situations, eg. someone who is unable to acknowledge a problem with their health, relationship, business or whatever. A period of being in denial can be quite a natural reaction to very bad news.

However, the use of ‘denier’ is different, and the offence and distraction that it causes makes it difficult to use the former phrase now.

The reason that ‘in denial’ and ‘denier’ are different is that the former labels the behaviour while the latter labels the person. Most training in education, communications, management, negotiation etc, advises that when dealing with conflict situations, it is important to address difficulties but to focus on what is being done/said and not the person themselves. Labelling the person makes things more emotive and distracts from discussing the real issue. Anyone who’s done teacher training in the UK the last couple of decades will recognise this.

The situation is even worse for the label ‘denier’, because it been used by some in connection with holocaust denial, eg. So not only is this making the mistake of giving someone a label as a person, but the label is associated in people’s minds with something horrific. They will understandably find it deeply insulting. If labelling the person rather than the behaviour is poor communications practice, then giving them an extremely insulting label (whether intended or not) is clearly even worse.

The trouble is, it’s now hard to go back to just describing behaviour as ‘being in denial’. With things having been taken too far with ‘denier’, this has built an association in public consciousness and makes it more difficult to go back to using language that might actually be more appropriate. ‘Being in denial about anthropogenic climate change’ might well have been OK as a descriptor of certain behaviour if it wasn’t now linked with the offensive name-calling of ‘denier’.

I think the whole climate conversation would be better off with the word ‘denier’ being dropped completely, and with ‘being in denial’ only being used very judiciously, when it really is appropriate.

Label the behaviour, not the person, and even then take care to do so only when justified.

*NB I specifically say ‘a dogmatic insistence that anthropogenic climate change is not an issue’ as distinct from questioning whether it is an issue – these are different. Questioning is fine, and indeed this is another reason why both ‘denier’ and ‘denial’ are problematic – they are sometimes very widely applied, to include questioning whether there is an issue and not just insisting that there definitely isn’t. If anyone thinks I am saying they are ‘in denial’, please reflect on whether you are questioning or insisting – if you’re questioning then I don’t have a problem with that, but if you are insisting, then I think you are dismissing large swathes of scientific research. We are not 100% certain that climate change will definitely cause huge negative impacts, but there’s enough reason to think that there is a major risk.

**Also, when I say it’s ‘an issue’, I mean it’s something that we probably need to respond to in some way, through some mix of mitigation and adaptation – I’m not pre-judging opinions about the balance of these potential responses, I’m just talking about recognition of the issue.

Disclaimer: this is my personal opinion, not necessarily that of the blog host, my employers nor any organisations I am associated with.

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Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson of the University of Western Australia refused my request for Professor Lewandowsky’s data – my response

I had written to Prof Maybery (Head of the School of Psychology) for an academic request for data from Prof. Lewandowsky’s paper – NASA faked the Moon Landings, therefore [climate] science is a hoax. An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.

I had contacted Professor Lewandowsky (and co-authors) and I had had a reply from him referring all my requests/concerns regarding this paper to the University of Western Australia. (see here)

Instead of a response from the School of Psychology I  received an email from Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson, which copied UWA’s legal counsel.. (here)

so here is my reply to Paul Johnson Continue reading

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I requested data from the University of Western Australia……..

I requested data from the University of Western Australia……..

…so that I could submit a comment to the journal of Psychological Science. I wrote to Professor Maybery (email below) but instead I received this  stunning response from the Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson, (my bold) I have been trying to resolve this very specific issue through the ‘proper channels’ for a considerable length of time now.

This email response has also been discussed at Climate Audit and Watts Up With That

From: Paul Johnson

Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 8:08 AM

To: barry woods Cc: Murray Maybery ; Kimberley Heitman

Subject: request for access to data

Mr B. Woods

Dear Mr Woods,

I refer to your emails of the 11th and 25th March directed to Professor Maybery, which repeat a request you made by email dated the 5th September 2013 to Professor Lewandowsky (copied to numerous recipients) in which you request access to Professor Lewandowsky’s data for the purpose of submitting a comment to the Journal of Psychological Science.

It is not the University’s practice to accede to such requests.

Yours faithfully,

Professor Paul Johnson,



Continue reading

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The Science Was Settled Enough

NarrativesI was invited several months ago, to contribute to a collection of essays and narratives about what sort of story is climate change. The book – Culture and Climate Change: Narratives – edited by Joe Smith, Renata Tyszczuk and Robert Butler, was launched on the 24th June 2014. I originally submitted a rather long essay, and with some careful editing reduced it to the ~ 800 word limit (a big thank you to Hannah/Casper for their patience and help) .

The complete book is available as a free PDF here,

please take a look at all the contributions, some here might consider mine a rather lone voice, but I am glad to be included, and it is probably all the better for being tightly edited.  Looking back now, I may have been experiencing mild ‘Climate Burnout’ when I wrote it.

An extended version of my contribution is below, I called it:

The Science Was Settled Enough Continue reading

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An Inconvenient Tweet

The observant may have noticed I haven’t blogged for quite a while, nearly a year in fact.

This is for a number of reasons (a prime one here) but I have been microblogging, ok, just chatting on twitter, and exploring and commenting at, other blogs on the web.

So I’m only back for a brief announcement that I’m appearing at an Open University Workshop on Wednesday 12th February, details below.

Mediating Change workshop

An Inconvenient Tweet: How social media is transforming the communication of, and engagement with, climate change

The next Mediating Change workshop explores how social and other online media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging have altered the landscape of communication and engagement around climate change science and policy in recent years.

The workshop will feature:

They will join media and environment researcher Joe Smith (OU geography, @citizenjoesmith) and director of the Making Science Public programme Brigitte Nerlich (University of Nottingham, @bnehrlich) who will bring their experience to bear on a question that is of relevance to all researchers engaged in complex or contentious issues: How are these now well established media platforms influencing public debates, and how can researchers best make use of them?
The workshop will be chaired by Melissa Butcher (OU geography), former radio producer who is currently leading two projects, Hackney as Home ( and Creating the ‘New’ Asian Woman.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014, 10:30 – 12:00

The event will be recorded, but there will also be a live feed that can be accessed at:

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The perils of science by press release, to get a headline, with data and publication following months later

(for the pedantic, I just don’t care about typos, grammar, it’s Easter holiday, time I should be spending with my family, may sort out obvious howlers later)

So, I read an article in a national UK newspaper  and was sufficiently interested in it to enquire further,  I contacted the author to check data for myself – (it was  available, ie had passed peer review, therefore presumably the supplementary data, will also have been finalized  for the peer reviewers to ask for it (did they? I don’t think they can have looked very closely)

Yet, when I asked for the names of the 5 sceptic blogs, this was not made available to me, despite the paper being widely circulated – Wide press attention and headline, but only now 8 months later, was the supplementary data put online with the publication of the paper.  And we find that the names of the 8 ‘pro’ (sic) and 5 sceptics blogs there all along in the data. If the paper can generate headlines around the world, why not include the supporting data

Climate Audit has published my email exchanges, very polite, in good faith, never having heard of the author, as far as I remember, so why withhold the 5 blog names, because perhaps it raises a few questions?

Were the peer reviewers asleep, where was the scepticism amongst journalists! A survey of sceptics, nice dramatic headline, not ONE, seemed to have thought ask, hang on no sceptic blogs posted the surveys!

I think the practice of new scientific papers being given press release and wide media attention, before the paper and supplementary data is available, or the paper actually available to read in the journal (or especially not possible to respond to) should stop.

(by all means chat amongst yourself if a paper is in press within your  field, where no doubt you would send the data to a colleague if asked?)

Being in press does not cut it, no one can respond formally, yet a media headline has been grabbed, perhaps a new grant achieved them months later, who knows what the formal response might find wrong with it, buried away in a journal where no journalist or politician will ever see. it.. just the headline remains.. a soundbite to denigrate..

The example of LOG12 I think demonstrates what can go wrong with science by press release.

NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

Lewandowsky et al

Wide media coverage, activist tweeting sceptics are as nutty as moon conspiracy theorists, all happened. (will add later)

Yet because the paper was still in press, NOBODY could put a formal response forward to the journal, because (whilst it was still in press, it was not published, no one could check

Log12 spawned the Recursive Fury Paper Lewandowsky et, which were looking at examples of conspiracy ideation amongst the blog critics of the paper (oops sorry, sceptics)…

Citing LOG12, still in press at the time  of the published  Recursive Fury paper!)

On reflection now, this gives the huge risk to this field of scientist being perceived as using academic papers,  to attack their critics, before their critics of the former (in press paper) could respond formally to the peer-reviewed journals.. or even Punative Psychology

I do think the journals were blindsided here, science operates by the all actors operating in good faith

On August the 2nd 2012 I made this comment below, in response to the Guardian article (linked within) about sceptics, moon conspiracy theorists..

I think I was the first to find 6 surveyed links, out of the 8 anti-sceptic blogs:

( also posted these at Bishop Hill, in discussion threads about the same time)

I after reading the Guardian article,I thought to email Prof Lewandowsky, to ask for blog name (as the sceptic blog names are in the sup data, I bought the statement that because they did not run the survey he could not disclose them)

Steve has put this full email exchange into his comments at Climate Audit..

Reproduced from here:

(you might notice a number of sceptics names, that popped up in the Recursive Fury paper (not Richard Betts, that would have been really funny) Paul, Foxgoose, Geoff, myself and others)

Barry Woods August 2, 2012 at 10:51 am
How many ‘actual’ scep­tics will have seen these survey, or answered them..

as this paper based its research only from 8 ‘anti-sceptic’ blogs.

They asked 5 skep­tical blogs to post a link…
Who refused. [we now know some unaware, some spoke to Hanich](sus­pecting motives?, like those that com­mented below did)

The 8 blogs actu­ally sur­veyed were so called ‘pro-science’ blogs ! (who are all very anti-sceptic, with a lot of very derog­atory lan­guage & rhet­oric about deniers.
The blogs who posted the links are claimed to be:

even the locals didn’t think the ‘den­iers’ would fall for such a trans­parent survey…

“Yeah, those con­spiracy theory ques­tions were pretty funny, but does anyone think that hard­core den­iers are going to be fooled by such a trans­parent attempt to paint them as paranoids?”

Actual links to the ori­ginal art­icles.. these were the links I found:

I haven’t found the links yet to:

where even the locals thought it was a trans­parent and poor survey, an attempt to try to describe scep­tics as para­noids or nut.. ie. very likely, by the com­ments that the ‘anti-sceptic’ locals had some fun with it..

As no data is avail­able yet, it would be very inter­esting to see a break­down based on refer­ring URL’s as the blogs men­tioned some are MUCH more high traffic than others, which begs the ques­tion. did most of the survey res­ults come from just a few of these blogs (who detest sceptics) —
The per­centage of actual scep­tics taking this survey must be tiny…

making the Guardain art­icle con­clu­sions and claims rather laughable.


you would think Psychology as a field would be the first (and best equipped) to spot Lewandowky’s , Cook’s etc, conflicts.

I’, on the side of science, I asked for the data to check for myself, it was not forthcoming, despite we now find in the journals..

yet I find myself named in a psychological journal,  in a perp, where researchers hostile to their research subjects – one who had written on a blog, that my writing was DISINFORMATION, I’m a DENIER, or tagged BULLSHIT. with an adulterated graphic of my Watts Up With That article, red rubber stamped ‘Verified Bullshit” somehow makes me a rejector of science, cherry picker, anti-science or a climate denialist.

And I found Skeptical Science (John Cook) endorsed this blog article,  John Cook, M Marriott  were the supposed uninvolved researcher for the Recursive Fury paper, Lewnadowsky the lead author.  Yet Skeptical Science is in partnership with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project – Realty Drops.. But as far as SkS and Climate Reality Project, a debunking by random blogger – Watching the Deniers – with a red ‘rubber stamped ‘Verified Bullshit’ across a graphic of my named article, is good enough for Skeptical Science, and presumably Al Gore.. I think not

There latest project is Reality Drop, cut and paste ‘science quotes’ to rebut sceptics, by dropping these into comments of media article.. How many people doing this even read the article or understand the soundbite they’ve been given.

I notice Reality Drop as a user ranked Lieutenant, called Watchingthedeniers (same guy, saw it on his twitter feed)

but he researches me!

I have a number of friends and acquaintances in the climate science community (not a single one, would call me a denier, denialist or spreading disinformation, etc,etc, they are always happy to talk,.discuss thinks robustly as rational professional adults.

The names of both the 8 ‘pro-science‘ (sic) and the 5 sceptic blogs were in the supplementary data, it had passed peer review.

Are not psychologists the people most able to protect people from labels like denier, crank, etc . political rhetoric to alienate people, shut people thought down. What happened here. Recursive Fury, had phrases like ‘climate denialists’ in it, what is a climate denialist, exactly!, pure (political? environmental?) activist rhetoric?

I asked for the data, I had other questions, how many referrals from each blog (key question for this online survey) just like every climate scientist I know would have done (if an article in a paper sufficiently aroused their curiosity.

Lets ask Skeptical Science,etc who is anti-science again exactly?

graphic ‘thanks’ to Mike Marriot (co-author Recursive Fury)

wtd verified




(is this article my ‘Reality Drop’ – a truly awful idea – by Al Gore, Skeptical Science,

unlike SkS, I suggest you read it all, make up your own mind and check everything for yourself)

I/we all asked for the data.

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Dr Adam Corner talks with Geoff Chambers – Discussion 2

In this second exchange  (1st here) between Adam Corner (Talking Climate blog) and Geoff Chambers – (a reg­ular and prom­inent com­menter at sev­eral cli­mate sceptic blogs), they continue to dis­cuss research on the psy­cho­logy of scepticism.

Comments are very wel­come – but please be aware they will be tightly mod­er­ated for civility to ensure all com­ments are on-topic (some leeway on topic if interesting/relevant).

Is this kind of ini­ti­ative useful? Should it happen more often? We look for­ward to hearing your thoughts. (Talking Climate)


In your paper (Corner, Whitmarsh & Xenias, 2012) which set off our discussion, I noted that you administered a battery of questions called the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) to your respondents. It didn’t affect your research, but it got me interested in the whole question of how you assess environmental attitudes.

The NEP has its origins in a  2000 paper by Dunlap et al. It updates a previous set of questions called the New Environmental Paradigm developed by Dunlap and van Liere in 1978. The paper, with a list of the questions and analysis of a pilot test can be found at [here] The NEP seems to me to raise the kind of questions about environmentalism, and in particular research into attitudes to the environment, which Ben has been examining at Climate Resistance. What’s your take on it, and why did you include it in your research?



We included it in our research in order to have a well validated scale (i.e., used lots of times and found to have good internal consistency between the items) for measuring people’s beliefs about the environment. We wanted to know how they related to people’s beliefs about climate change (which we measured using Lorraine Whitmarsh’s scale for ‘climate scepticism’), and in turn, how NEP scores might determine people’s ratings of the newspaper editorials.

As you might expect, people’s score on the NEP scale was a significant predictor of their scores on the scepticism scale – the more ‘pro-environmental’ they were (as measured by the NEP), the less sceptical about climate change they were, over and above who they voted for, and whether they were a member of an environmental organisation.

We did not do a great deal with this analysis, but I think it helps to set the scene for what is going into a sceptical judgment about climate change: in part, it is coming from disagreeing with the NEP scale. So, in part, scepticism about climate change is coming from disagreeing with items that measure ‘pro-environmental’ beliefs (and measured them long before climate change was known about by the public.

The NEP is described as measuring whether people have an ‘ecological worldview’ and a ‘pro-environmental orientation’. I don’t see any major issues with this as a description, but you could throw various criticisms at it. These are a couple of the pros and cons as I see it:

Pros: It is internally reliable and has been tested lots of times before, and so therefore has a degree of consistency that another (perhaps more directly relevant to climate change scale) would not. The vast majority of the items seem to tap into something fairly timeless and fundamental: the way that humans relate to nature. It is quite difficult to find questions that do that without asking about very time/culture specific things.

Cons: There is something a bit unsatisfying about saying ‘this one is good because its been good before’ but it quite often does come down to that in the business of trying to measure slippery things like attitudes/beliefs etc. I think it is because psychology wants to move closer to the physical sciences in terms of methodology, and so making ‘one tweak at a time’ is seen as good practice (rather than inventing new scales of measurement each time).

I personally do not think that psychology – or at least the kind I am interested in – necessarily benefits from becoming overly obsessed with aping the harder sciences, because you sometimes end up being a bit hamstrung and having less explanatory power than you might otherwise have. I would favour a bit more room for tinkering with scales to make them more relevant to the research question at hand – although that would come at the expense of their proven reliability. I think some of the items are a bit unnecessarily abstract and vague – but then again if they were not, they would quickly go out of date. So what do you make of it…I am guessing you don’t think it’s a useful scale??



I’ve got no quarrel with the concept of measuring attitudes to the environment in this way, as long as we’re clear what we’re measuring.

What struck me about the NEP questions was 1)  their complexity and level of abstraction and 2) the very high level of  endorsement of the environmental position in the responses to the public opinion survey.

For example: 79% agree that “the balance of nature is very delicate and  easily upset”, 74% agree that “the earth is like a spaceship with very limited room and resources” etc. I’d suggest that a large number of people would find concepts like “balance of nature” and “spaceship earth” pretty foreign to their experience; that these people are probably largely represented among the 41% of non-respondents to the postal survey; and that therefore the “don’t know category” should be closer to 50-60% than the 10-20% recorded.

This was a postal survey, and those who were either opposed to environmental ideas, or who found the questions daunting, would be more likely to bin the questionnaire. Add the fact that the survey was conducted among citizens of Washington State, (the “greenest” state of the USA) and you have a couple of strong reasons for doubting if the survey correctly measures public endorsement of the environmental position.



I don’t know if the reason they get high approval ratings is because its an unrepresentatively green sample – I’d say it is because they are phrased in a way that makes disagreeing with them feel a bit odd. You get the same effect when you ask about ‘environmental values’ (this is a different line of research associated with a big body of publications by people like Shalom Schwarz, and Paul Stern) Who really wants to disagree with the ‘value’ of nature? The problem is that people are probably putting very different ideas into that concept of ‘nature’ – and so they then endorse protecting the version in their head.

So yes, the more abstract questions are, the less you can unpick the detail of what people are responding to. Here’s an interesting thought though: before the NEP etc came along – and this goes alongside a turn towards ‘objective’ scales for measuring all sorts of perceptions/beliefs in psychology – the idea that ‘nature’ was something ‘out there’ to be perceived and measured did not have so much intellectual weight.

There is a great book called ‘Contested Natures’ that argues that the clean lines we like to draw between ‘human’ (read: artificial) and ‘natural’ (read: flowers and stuff) are illusory. We shape and are shaped by our environment: a spiderweb is no more ‘natural’ than a guitar. So there are limits – practical and philosophical – to what survey data and questionnaires can do.

This post [here] by a researcher, Stuart Capstick, who is also at Cardiff and did his PhD on reviewing qualitative data on climate change over a long period of time, is interesting, because it suggests that the survey story about attitudes to climate change ‘collapsing’ or ‘rising’ is actually underpinned by some pretty consistent trends.

So I’d like to throw this back to you Geoff – if things like the NEP are flawed, and if you see our scales for measuring climate change scepticism and its relationship to ideology as not capturing the essence of why people are sceptical about climate change, how should social science seek to understand people’s beliefs about the environment and climate change?



To answer your last question first: I’m happy with social scientists asking any questions they like. It’s the quality of the analysis of the answers that bothers me. I find the answers to the NEP questions fascinating, largely because of the large proportion of the sample (even if I’m right that Dunlap’s original Washington State sample might not be entirely representative)  who endorse statements that no-one would have thought of  formulating sixty years ago.  Dunlap and his colleagues are clearly measuring something fascinating –  the spread of ideas which have come from nowhere to being majority opinions in roughly half a century.

Take the “Spaceship Earth” concept: Wiki attributes it to the 19th century political thinker Henry George, used by Adlai Stevenson in a speech in 1965 and as the title of a book by Barbara Ward in 1966. I would guess that not 1% of the population have heard of these three people, yet  74% of Dunlap’s sample agree that “the earth is like a spaceship”. This kind of statistic is used, quite naturally, by Greens as evidence of public endorsement of sustainability. Now, if you look at people’s behaviour in our western societies, I’d suggest that “the earth is like a shopping mall” or “the earth is like a crappy theme park” comes nearer to most people’s real opinion. But try proposing those statements in an opinion survey! They correspond to nothing in our conceptual stock.

Dunlap is clearly measuring something important, but what? He and his colleagues clearly believe that they are measuring agreement with a political programme. The NEP has its origins in a book by Dennis Pirages and Paul Ehrlich – “Ark II: Social Response to Environmental Imperatives” (1974) in which it is proposed as an alternative to what they call the Dominant Social Paradigm. A quick Google search suggests that the latter idea hasn’t really caught on, but one understands what it means, and it’s clear that the NEP is expected to replace it in a paradigm shift. Dunlap says that the scale questions “tap primitive beliefs about humanity’s relationship with the Earth”. But he clearly endorses the environmental position as being scientifically attested fact, since he goes on to say:

“we suspect that the never-ending emergence of new scientific evidence concerning the deleterious impacts of human activities on environmental quality and the subsequent threats these pose to humans (and other species) will generate continual pressure for adoption of a more ecological world-view. “

So my concern is not that the NEP is flawed. Nor am I bothered that Dunlap is clearly a committed “green” who believes that the ideas he is exploring as a social scientist are destined to triumph. My concern is that the cultural particularity – the ideological origins if you like – of the concepts used need exploring before the findings of this sort of survey  are accepted as neutral objective “fact”.

I’m all for sociological studies of this kind – particularly longitudinal ones which measure changes in public opinion over time – but I believe social scientists are failing in their duty when they fail (or refuse) to interpret data whose meaning is far from clear.

Comments are open for discussion:

Note – ( If need to snip anything as too off topic, I will pass onto Geoff and/or Adam for opinion to see  if I’m too heavy handed with the scissors)

Update: added Geoff’s comment to the bulk of the article

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Clarifications and How Better To Communicate Science


Originally blogged at Realclimategate

(I changed the name of the blog, because of this post)

Reputation is everything on the internet.

Last week I was very concerned to see that Peter Gleick had publically claimed on Twitter he had blocked me because I had made ‘incredibly offensive’ tweets to him. I was very concerned by this public claim from such a senior scientist, as this implied that I had been abusive to him in the same manner as the vile threatening emails, one of our mutual Twitter followers Katie Hayhoe had received (like this)

I asked him (a lot) to substantiate this, or to correct this publically, yet he repeated it, it was only I believe with the input of Dr Tamsin Edwards, Professor Richard Betts and Katie Hayhoe that Peter relented and clarified matters.

Tamsin Edwards, Peter Gleick and I had a very frank email exchange and I found it quite enlightening to see a VERY different perspective on how to communicate climate science between a ‘relatively junior (as he made clear) UK climate scientist (Edwards) and a senior climate scientist (Gleick) in the USA.

In Tamsin’s closing email to Peter Gleick ( that I am party to) I think she inadvertently identifies exactly the feeling of many sceptics, being dismissed as a group to be ignored.

“I would personally be infuriated if I was dismissed on account of the behaviour of a group of people I talk with. Every single person I talk with has a different viewpoint, and I learn a lot about how better to communicate climate science by listening to them. If we dismiss swathes of people by association then our attempts at communication become futile: we end up only ‘preaching to the converted from an ‘ivory tower’, as it were”.

Of course, if communication of climate science is not your aim, then it is your choice if you prefer to communicate with nobody! – Tamsin Edwards

I’m sure many people can only imagine Peter’s reply/thoughts to that (if any).

In the email exchange Peter recognises the extreme polarisation of the debate (especially as Tamsin points out in the USA) but seem totally unselfaware that his approach and attitude that are shown in the email exchange (and that it seems to of many senior scientists in the media) helps drive it.

Peter says he stands by everything he said and I have confirmed with Tamsin (3 times!) that she is OK  with publishing the correspondence as well. So to be fair, I do not wish to misrepresent anybody, I have included ALL the emails I was party to, so that everyone can see the exchange in full context.

In the USA it appear questions around climate science can be ‘attacks’ any criticism or debate of a contentious issue, can be seen by some as ‘incredibly offensive and those people that dare do this are to be dismissed and ignored. I do not find that healthy position for science to be in.

I was personally infuriated when my Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) made ‘anti-science flat earther denier’ remarks (and double denier) in the run up to Copenhagen. Awful political rhetoric to deny the validity of other opinions or even to prevent questions being asked at all.

And here I am 2 years later.

All Correspondence in full – Reverse order,last first (my Bold)


From: Tamsin Edwards

Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2012 6:29 PM

To: Peter H. Gleick Cc: Barry Woods

Subject: Re: Clarification

Dear Peter,

Just a quick note.

One of the most important things I have learned in my (fairly extensive) public engagement activities is not to lump people together in a homogenous group. I repeatedly defend Barry because he works hard *not* to be Anthony Watts.

I hope you’ll consider taking each person and their views on their ownmerits, or lack of, in future conversations. I would personally be infuriated if I was dismissed on account of the behaviour of a group of people I talk with. Every single person I talk with has a different viewpoint, and I learn a lot about how better to communicate climate science by listening to them. If we dismiss swathes of people by association then our attempts at communication become futile: we end up only ‘preaching to the converted from an ‘ivory tower’, as it were.

Of course, if communication of climate science is not your aim, then it is your choice if you prefer to communicate with nobody!

My best wishes,



From: Peter Gleick

Sent: 26/01/2012 18:13

To: Barry Woods;Tamsin Edwards


Again, I am not going to spend more time on this, but I will try to be clear. My comments about your communications with me were not meant to suggest that you were either abusive or threatening to me in the nature of the kinds of emails/comments Hayhoe (or I or others in the climate community regularly receive).

You have not been so far as I know, and *I will try to make that clear in a tweet, when I get a chance*. And perhaps “incredibly annoying” or “incredibly frustrating” or “incredibly discourteous,” or “incredibly uncivil” or some other synonym would have been a better choice. Do you really want me to pick one?

I stand by my other comments in the email I sent to you, about how I personally perceived your participation in exchanges in the fall when I ran out of patience with any chance of rational discussion with WUWT, Bishop Hill, or the regular tweeters and bloggers of that group. It became clear it was an unproductive time sink with a group whose minds were closed to fact, and whose primary tool was ad hominem attack.

The systematic and coordinated and dishonest attack on me after my
negative review of LaFramboise’s book was only one example that made it
clear that rational debate was not possible and dissenting views not tolerated.

The fact that WUWT blocked me from adding comments more than a year ago to his routinely biased and often dissembling blog further convinced me that there was little interest in discussion among that group.

Perhaps you’re having more luck, or have more patience.

Peter Gleick


At 06:31 AM 1/26/2012, Barry Woods wrote:


As you requested my email address, I must apologise in the delay replying back to you. I have been in the process of moving everything from my old
(expired XP PC) to a new Win 7 PC, this did not run very smoothly.

As I and Dr Edwards have expressed, my concern (which your email to me, does not really address) was about your public tweets, that you tweeted that I had directly sent you ‘incredibly offensive’ tweets. I thought that this very public claim could be construed by all your followers, my followers or anybody that receives your public RSS feed, (including the highly influential Huffington Post where you write publically) that I had directly sent you personally threatening or abusive tweets.

All this, at a time where climate scientists, like Katie Hayhoe or journalists like Leo Hickman in the past (Guardian) have received the most vile abuse, of an incredibly offensive nature, using very threatening language, via email and other social media.
Additionally, this issue has recently received a great deal of media attention in the USA (i.e. Katie’s rejected book chapter, for a US potential US Presidential candidate) My concern was that your followers (and all mine) and the wider media, might perceive that I had directly sent you tweets of a similar personally abusive nature.

As my Twitter followers actually include Katie Hayhoe and Leo Hickman, I hope you can understand my particular concern and why I perceive this so seriously. Following your original tweet, I asked you to clarify/substantiate this public claim. As did a number of our mutual twitter followers, including Professor Richard Betts & Dr Tamsin Edwards.

It was then brought to my attention that you publically implied in a tweet to Prof R Betts that I had been less polite to you.

PeterGleick: “and perhaps, Richard, he’s been more polite to you than to me?”

Prof Richard Betts, asked you what I had tweeted that offended you
and you tweeted that you had reviewed my tweets and found some of them
to be ‘incredibly offensive’

I again asked you to substantiate this, that all that would required is  just ONE tweet (url) to demonstrate your assertion, I also stated that I would publically apologise if you could substantiate with just ONE example. It was then brought to my attention, a tweet of yours to @Richardabetts that you had perhaps not actually re-viewed my tweets of the time when you blocked me, and your concerns were perhaps more in-keeping with those expressed in your email to Dr Edwards and myself below (however that email is not public knowledge)

PeterGleick:”@richardabetts I won’t re-read his tweets/WUWT comments on my work from last fall when I blocked him, but our exchanges were unproductive.”

This seems to to me, to run counter to your public claim of ‘incredibly offensive’ tweets, where tweets were just ‘unproductive’ and refers to blog comments now, as well.

As I recall it, you blocked myself and Andrew Montford at the time of Prof Judith Curry’s blog post about your review of Donna Laframboise’s book about the IPCC. Richard Betts, Andrew and I recalled this this article, and that we had all commented in that article and recalled the twitter chats aswell. .

@aDissentient Bishop Hill: @Realclim8gate I read your exchanges with @petergleick at the time. You were not offensive. @richardabetts @flimsin @dougmcneall @nmrqip

RichardaBetts: @Realclim8gate @petergleick Don’t remember you being “incredibly offensive”, just speaking your mind. Maybe I am thick-skinned! 🙂

At that time, my only comment addressed directly to you at Climate Etc I think is totally civil.

As Andrew Montford commented in that article that you had just twittered blocked him at about time of this comment

Peter, Is it perhaps possible that your recollections of their [that] time are unclear, and perhaps you blocked me then and others, more by ‘guilt by association’ with other comments/tweets, than for anything I actually said at Climate Etc. or tweeted. There were very many critical comments of your book review at Climate Etc., by a number of scientists, Prof Curry, Prof Jones & Prof Tol and the whole article comments and your replies got very heated. As you can see, my only comment to you there was very civil, just asking a question.

As you said publically on the 23rd Jan, 2012 that you had reviewed my tweets to you, and found some to be ‘incredibly offensive’ and you publically repeated this. I remain very concerned that all the scientist and journalists that follow me might think that I had been highly personally abusive to you.

I joined twitter with the hope of having civil, informal conversation with a broad range of people, to get a way from the blogs. As you noticed, I have only a small group of followers, I like to think that I have attracted views of quality rather than quantity and enjoy a generally [good] humoured communal debate with a number of people who
have a range of views.

These followers include scientists (among many others), Dr Katie Hayhoe, Prof J Jones, Prof R Betts (Met Off, IPCC), Dr Doug McNeall (Met Off), Dr M Brandon, DR Richard Gilham (Met Off, UEA) Dr Katharine Giles.

Influential writers and highly respected journalists include: Andy Revkin (New York Times),Leo Hickman (Guardian), Mark Lynas (author, & Maldives Climate Advisor)

Thus, I am sure you can acknowledge, my personal reputation for civil polite behaviour, on twitter or anywhere else, is of great concern to me and that your public tweets I believe have put this reputation at risk, however inadvertently on your part. Although, additionally I am concerned that you seem unwilling to actually check/substantiate your comments as I requested.

Peter, as you have made it quite clear that you wish to spend no more time on this issue, but you have yet not made any public clarification/substantiation.

I intend to write a blog post where I quote your email, that I believe does demonstrate, that I have never directly sent you tweets, that might be considered ‘incredibly offensive’ in the nature of the vile abuse threatening emails that Katie Hayhoe has received.

As a gesture of goodwill, on my part, I will include of course the full content and context of these emails, for utmost transparency/clarity, as I have no absolutely no wish to misrepresent you in any way. In fact by doing this, it will bring to the attention of all my scientist followers, your criticisms, concerns and warning to scientists about me, for all scientists to see.

(I will of course, remove all personal contact information)

If I may ask you one personal favour, if you could spare just a moment of your time (only 140 chars) to publically tweet, that I had never sent you anything of personally abusive nature (i.e. swearing, abusive or threatening).

Very Best Regards

Barry Woods


The only WUWT with comment of mine, that I can find from last year about you/your work, was this one, where I defended you:

because this guy had been rude about all climate scientists, picking on you especially:

As you mentioned blog comments in your email, as I described above, in that quite heated article by Prof Judith Curry, at the actual time that you twitter blocked me, perhaps you ‘associated’ me with these scientists by mistake.

For example Prof Jonathan Jones comment (Physics, Oxford University) whilst critical, not ‘incredibly offensive’?

Or Prof Richard Tol: who was a draft reviewer of Dona’s book (and
a IPCC lead author) who asked you to substantiate your claim of

Perhaps you just confused me with someone else… that is why I asked to check and substantiate your public tweet that I was ‘incredibly offensive’. I do note that it appears to that you did not substantiate your claim of ‘lies’ when Prof Richard Tol requested you to.

as he said.

Richard Tol (speaking to Peter Gleick)

 “Now that we are on the subject, you accuse Laframboise of telling lies. Can you quote chapter and verse?  Please note that I have a stake here. I reviewed two drafts of the book. I did not find any falsehoods (let alone lies, which imply intention). I would like to know where I went wrong in my duty asa reviewer.”

Reputation is clearly very important to everyone, especially academic ones …..


From: Peter H. Gleick

Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 12:20 AM

To: Tamsin Edwards  Cc:

Subject: Re: Clarification


I am not going to deal with this anymore. It has taken far too much of my constrained time and bandwidth already.

I am glad Woods’ exchanges with you seem to have been decent. We’re probably all far more polite one-on-one than in public online screamfests. I’m sorry he didn’t like my comment. But I’ve reviewed his tweets, blog posts, status, web URL, and comments and contributions in places like Bishop Hill and WUWT (where, by the way, I’ve been blocked for more than a year from posting comments, presumably because my comments are “incredibly offensive” — yet I’m regularly and personally attacked on these kinds of sites).

His adoption of the language, often coded, of the denier/skeptic/contrarian community, his amplification of memes around “climategate,” “AGwarmists,” “hide the decline,” “the hockey stick,” the straw man of “catastrophic” climate change, etc. may have changed since I blocked his Twitter feed to me last year, but I simply don’t find his input to the debate helpful or informative, and I’m certainly entitled to both my opinions and to decide what part of the climate controversy comes to me through different media.

By the way, I also block people I LIKE, when I can no longer tolerate
or filter their massive overuse of Twitter.

I do what I can to communicate rationally with open-minded participants in this debate, but the polarization makes it hard to find them. If this is something you’re committed to diving into, I wish you the best of luck. I hope you’ll continue to publish in
the scientific literature as your top priority — in the long-run, your reputation as a scientist (and your influence in the associated policy debates) will benefit from it.

Barry, if you want to pursue this further, feel free, but
honestly, you should consider cutting your tweet rate by a factor of 10
until your ratio of tweets to followers improves, you might consider
what you really believe and how you express it, and we should
probably ALL count to 10 after writing anything and before hitting

(and Tamsin, your note about how Barry regrets the domain name,
but “has kept it because it’s known” might be a warning to you,

“All Models Are Wrong…” But I’ve already made my opinion known
on that.)

Peter Gleick

Dr. Peter H. Gleick

President, Pacific Institute


At 01:57 PM 1/24/2012, Tamsin Edwards wrote:

Yes…he says he regrets it actually, but has kept it because
it’s known.


And he changed his Twitter biog after I pointed out it was more antagonistic than his actual views.



On 24/01/2012 21:36, Peter H. Gleick wrote:

OK, not to be pedantic, but I find his URL to be offensive…. Maybe not “incredibly offensive” but….




At 01:21 PM 1/24/2012, you wrote:

Thanks Peter.

I’ve never emailed him, only DMed and spoken on the
phone. I’ve asked for his email but no reply yet – think he is fixing
his skirting board.

He has a contact form on his blog:




On 24/01/2012 17:05, Peter H. Gleick wrote:

Can you send me Barry’s email?

I will respond shortly, when I have time, and will
copy the two of you.

[Katherine, a week ago I got a long rambling phone
message from your  admirer Stan Lippmann — not nearly as horrible
and offensive as his to you, but bad enough. He apparently took offence to one of my posts at Forbes and has no mental brakes on his mouth or fingers. My condolences…]



At 07:30 AM 1/24/2012, Tamsin Edwards wrote:

Dear Peter, (Katharine),

Following on from my DMs to you Peter, I’m writing because I’d like to defend Barry Woods (@realclim8gate). He has always been an absolute model of politeness and good intentions when conversing with me and  all the other climate scientists I know. He actively defends us against others’ (i.e. sceptics’) rudeness when
we post on the Bishop Hill sceptic blog, and always calls for the
debates to be civil. In fact, I would say he does accept the science
and is sceptical mostly about policy choices and the media’s
representation of our results.

So I was surprised to hear that you’d found his tweets “incredibly offensive” and would be very interested to hear what these were. It’s not clear to me (from your tweets to Barry and Richard Betts) whether you have re-read these messages recently, or
whether they were more “unproductive” than offensive.

I have just spoken to Barry and he is genuinely upset and concerned about this. The reason I have copied Katharine into this is that she recently started following him and he is concerned she will write him off due to your description. He describes the
abuse Katharine and Kerry have received as “despicable” and worries that your comments will have branded him in the same category when he takes great pains to be polite. This is one of the reasons I have chosen to write to you. Barry is not a troll, not a mindless frothing angry commenters we so frequently see. He does get frustrated (and
verbose) but is good-humoured with it.

Fortunately for me and my colleagues, in theUK the debate is much less heated than in the US, and some of us have made great progress in holding civil and productive conversations with a range of sceptics, bringing them round to our point of view. I
want to defend Barry’s part in this: to stick up for someone I owe a
lot in developing the conversation.

You may think this issue is not worth giving a moment more of your time. And this would be your decision, of course. But I hope you can.

Best wishes,




There lies a very interesting and remarkably  frank discussion:

Peter has now tweeted this:!/PeterGleick/status/162619414271901696

and I thanked Peter:!/BarryJWoods/status/162835967818993665

but without a considerable amount of effort and Richard, Tamsin and Katies input I don’t think this would have happened.

If it is considered offensive, incredibly offensive, closed minded or even an an attack on a scientist or climate science presumably, to be asked to backup words and accusations like ‘lies’ (Donna’s IPCC book) I am afraid in my opinion that scientist fails in trying to communicate and just alienates people

Reading his comments above, it is sad to see that he presumeably must include Professor Judith Curry, Professor Richard Tol and Professor Jonathan Jones (and Professor Richard Mueller – ‘Hide the decline’ video) in those he has lot pateince with and find ‘incredibly offensive’? as they have all spoken highly critically about ‘Hide the Decline’.

Additionally, as they were FAR more critical than I was of him with respect to Donna Laframboises book. I’ve met Donna once and she is a very nice lady who deserves to be respected to have PUBLIC  accusations of ‘lies’ to be substantiated (and a belated thanks to Donna for the kids, maple leaf lollies & sweets she sent before Xmas)

“…The systematic and coordinated and dishonest attack on me after my negative review of LaFramboise’s book was only one example that made it clear that rational debate was not possible and dissenting views not tolerated…” – Peter Gleick

All Professor Tol, Curry, Jones and myself and Andrew Montford were attempting to clarify with Peter was his claim that Donnas’ book was full of ‘lies’. we were asking for pg number, reference and reasoning from him to substantiate the VERY strong public claim. As a draft reviewer of the book in question, I can imagine Richard Tol’s annoyance.

So this is where Peter has infuriated me, for someone in his position, his refusal to substantiate PUBLIC statement, when he is asked to back up his statement.. ie pg number, url, ref, and reasoning, as it seems to be a worrying attitude that appear to frequently expressed within ‘climate change science’

To be willing to substantiate something is something ANY student would expect of their teacher, or public figure, and Peter is both.

Peter Gleick is no doubt an expert scientist in his own field, but I do think he could learn from Tamsin Edwards approach in attempting to communicate to the public, not least withrespect do not dismiis people because of who the talk with (or percieved sins of association) and yes it is infuriating. This is a point that Tamsin Edwards makes in her new blog after apprently learning the hard way in public debate (bold).

Twitter and Bishop Hill have

(a) toughened me up a bit

(b) taught me to be very precise and ready to back every statement up

(c) taught me not to assume anything about people’s opinions or knowledge, though I admit I forget sometimes (c) given me many friendly allies from across the spectrum of opinions. I recommend them both as places to start.” – Tamsin Edwards

Tamsin thought it odd that Peter had forwarded to me in his email all their previous correspondence, presumably to to beclear about how he felt? I am glad that he did because it gave me a small, but important pause for thought.

As I MUST give Peter Gleick some great credit for even twittering with me and Andrew Montford in the first place.

Why do I give him this credit, because he mentions in passing that he received phone calls from the same ‘gentleman’ that had been given Katie Hayhoe a very hard (abusive time) and again refers to regular abusive emails, that no doubt other high profile climate scientists in the USA recieve (primarily from Americans?)

[Katherine, a week ago I got a long rambling phone
message from your  admirer Stan Lippmann — not nearly as horrible and offensive as his to you, but bad enough.

The situation is no doubt due to the highly politicised polarisation of the issue in the USA, withMarc Morano’s Climate Depot, no doubt NOT helping by publishing climate scientists email addreses alongside ‘tabloid’ style headlines.

So despite my criticism, I do have to give Peter a huge amount of credit for talking to me on Twitter,  in the first place due to the very different highly politicised situation in America, that I was only vaguley aware of. Same credit is due to Katie Hayhoe for talking for someone called – @realclim8gate at all, and I would like to thank her again.

All I wanted to is to persude some in USA/UK climate science that they may be mistaken, and that the highly polarised climate in the USA/UK is preventing the normal civil but lifely debate of the issues.

The reason I choose Realclimategate is like Tamsin to be provocative, to be noticed, and at the time I choose itbecause Realclimate had really irritated me, by just deleting me out of hand in their comments.

I had suggested they just add Steve Mcintyre, Peilke and Lucia’s Blackboard (to their Other Opinion blog roll, and the reply was tha tthese people were dishonest! (Dr Eric Steig – this did not go unoticed by the people I mentioned) and ALL my further comments at Realclimate were modereated out of existance.

The irony is I had gone originally (when climategate happened) to RealClimate in total good faith, on the personal recommendation of a climate scientists  and a very good personal family friend (someone who was part Editorial Team of IPCC TAR, WG1 with a high profile UK role to this day) so I was genuinely openminded about Realclimate.

Ie I did not even know who Steve Mcintyre, Michael Mann, Anthony Watts were,  nor heard of Andrew Montford, Mark Lynas or Leo Hickman (sorry guys!) either.

In Peters and other climate scientists world view it seems to me to even mention, ‘Hide the decline’ climategate, etc is seen as very offensive and ‘attacking scientists’ or attacking science’ and to me this world view is odd.

Think of me what you will, call me a sceptic, denier, crank, flat-earther, anti-science and more names intended to portay me as someone to ignore, as bad, crazy or stupid. But if scientists like Prof R Muller, Prof J Jones, Prof J Curry and UEA Paul Dennis publically have stateded their criticisms their concerns wiht the ‘HIde the Decline’ and the scientists involved,  then I am going to damm well talk about it to, until science deals with it ‘properly’ and moves on.

As in my opinion, Peter  reaction to this (like very many others within ‘climate change’ science) shows them more to be like someone who is an advocate for ‘the cause’ and not behaving as a scientist should.

As demonstrated by the criticism of Tamsind Edwards new blog name, because his primary concern is that ‘sceptics’ might misuse it.

As I have pretty much commnted every in the last 2 years under my name (as Barry Woods) I’m going to drop @RealClim8gate, as It is has become unproductive to what I want to achieve, a civil discussion with no mention of deniers, watermelons, cranks, alarmist, or whatever label anyone denigrates the other to deny them a voice.

So, whilst I am proud/pleased what achieved (and @RealClim8gate ) times are changing, more questions are being asked, a broader audience is gradually engaging the debate and hopefully the need for provocative challenge to a ‘consensus’ will fade away.

So, I have changed my Twitter name already from @RealClim8gate to @BarryJWoods

I might just park this old blog, (don’t want to lead dead links all over the place) and I am proud of the small achievements it has contributed, and thank to those like Katie, Tamsin, etc who saw past the name.)

and of course I will need to come up with a new name for a new blog.

Any thoughts?

So hopefully, Peter will perhaps think some of his communication events effort was not so totally  ‘unproductive‘ after all.

Or I might just retire from blogging (it’s been a long very frustrating 2 years)

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Challenging Thoughts for the BBC and Guardian – BBC’s Michael Buerk at The Fifth Column blog

Originally blogged at Realclimategate

Update: I quickly wrote this last night (26th Dec), I’m working on a more detailed analysis today, come back later for a link.

Interesting thoughts (podcast and transcript) by journalists challenging the ‘media  consensus’ on a number of topics. These words from the BBC’s Michael Buerk (BBC R4 – The Moral Maze) apparently challenging the simplistic mainstream media ‘climate consensus’ at a new blog – The Fifth Column – with has an apparent provocative and challenging devil advocates agenda.

What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument, that all scientists who aren’t cranks and charlatans are agreed on all this, that the consequences are uniformly negative, the issues beyond doubt and the steps to be taken beyond dispute.”

– Michael Buerk – Agitator Fifth Column (Chair of BBC’s The Moral Maze)

I wonder what the BBC’s Environment team will (Richard Black especially) have to say about his from Michael Buerk’s podcast broadcast at the Fifth Column blog.

“…And actually there has been no significant rise in global temperatures for more than a decade now.

We hear a lot about how the Arctic is shrinking, but scarcely anything about how the Antarctic is spreading, and the South Pole is getting colder.

Droughts aren’t increasing. There are fewer of them, and less severe, than a hundred years ago. The number of hurricanes hasn’t changed, the number of cyclones and typhoons has actually fallen over the last 30 years.

And so on.” – Michael Buerk

I hope they don’t mind me reproducing a transcript of the Podcast on an article that apparently has only seen a relatively small audience so far: Michael Buerk on the Climate Summit I will include a few highlights in bold where I would considerit very interesting to all those involved in the climate change (man made catastrophic version) debate:

Transcript – The Fifth Column – Michael Buerk on the Climate Summit

The latest so-called Climate Summit, that’s been taking place in Durban, hasn’t made many waves. It could be because global warming seems less daunting if you can no longer afford heating bills. It could also be that we’re getting fed up with the bogus certainties and quasi-religious tone of the great climate change non-debate.

Now, I don’t know for certain that man’s activities are causing the planet to heat up. Nobody does. We simply cannot construct a theoretical model that can cope with all the variables.

For what it’s worth, I think anthropogenic warming is taking place, and, anyway, it would be a good thing to stop chucking so much bad stuff into the atmosphere.

What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument, that all scientists who aren’t cranks and charlatans are agreed on all this, that the consequences are uniformly negative, the issues beyond doubt and the steps to be taken beyond dispute. 

You’re not necessarily a crank to point out that global temperatures change a great deal anyway. A thousand years ago we had a Mediterranean climate in this country; 200 years ago we were skating every winter on the Thames.

And actually there has been no significant rise in global temperatures for more than a decade now.

We hear a lot about how the Arctic is shrinking, but scarcely anything about how the Antarctic is spreading, and the South Pole is getting colder.

Droughts aren’t increasing. There are fewer of them, and less severe, than a hundred years ago. The number of hurricanes hasn’t changed, the number of cyclones and typhoons has actually fallen over the last 30 years.

And so on.

There may be answers, I think there probably are – to all these quibbles – I would like to hear them.

I don’t want the media to make up my mind up for me.

I don’t need to be told things by officialdom in all its forms, that are not true, or not the whole truth, for my own good.

I resent the implication that the exercise of my reason is “inappropriate”, an act of generational selfishness, a heresy.

I want a genuine debate about the assumptions behind the more apocalyptic forecasts.

As recently as 2005, for instance, the UN said there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010.

That was last year.

OK – so where are they?

I would like to hear a clash of informed opinion about what would actually be better if it got warmer as well as worse.

Where do you see reported the extraordinary greening of the Sahel, and shrinking of the Sahara that’s been going on for 30 years now – the regeneration of vegetation across a huge, formerly arid swathe of dirt poor Africa. More warming means more rainfall. More CO2 means plants grow bigger, stronger, faster.

I would like a real argument over climate change policy, if only to rid myself of the nagging feeling that sometimes it’s a really good excuse for banging up taxes and public-sector job creation.

It’s not happening. It’s a secular issue but skepticism is heresy.

They talk the language of science, but it is really a post-God religion that rejects relativist materialism.

Its imperative is moral.

It looks to a society where some choices are obviously, and universally held to be, better than others.

A life where having what we want is not a right and nature puts constraints on the free play of desires.

To reinvent, in short, a life where there is good and bad, right and wrong.

As with all religions, whether the underlying narrative is true, has become beside the point.” – Transcript here

Very interesting, provocative thoughts from a senior BBC journalist at the Fifth Colum blog especially, with these very challenging words from the BBC’s Michael Buerk for the Guardian and the BBC.

“What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument” – Michael Buerk

The Fifth Column Blog is apprently only a month or 2 old, and at time of writing has only a 113 Twitter followers, it  may become very interesting: (About)

Welcome to The Fifth Column

The name implies a spirit of subversion.. .

Yes, but not in the predictable, ultimately tiresome, sense of arguing with everything and everybody.

Rather in what will be the refreshing sense of saying the un-sayable or asking the un-askable when nobody is saying it or asking it because of behind-the-scenes’ deals, old pals’ agreements, eyebrow-raising scruples, or an unwillingness to offend or to be offended.

Our business will be stories, issues, controversies in the public consciousness. Which deserve more, sometimes deeper, investigation. Truth, after all, is hard to find – it’s usually subjective, and always complex.”

From The Fifth Column Twitter Bio:

“Thought provoking podcasts on topical & controversial issues, with contributions from some of the most respected names in UK journalism as well as new talents.”

I think, that I may just decide 😉 to follow The Fifth Column blog on Twitter (please retweet)

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