the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Rebuilding Trust

Posted by Jeff Id on February 24, 2010

Guest post by Dr. Judith Curry.  This post was offered to many of the climate blogs, we were given an opportunity to comment and changes were made from the original.  Almost as interesting as the article itself was how it evolved and how it will be carried by different websites.  tAV, isn’t even mentioned in it but I was included in the list of those who could carry it.

There are substantial issues in this post which require some discussion.  I’ll leave my comments below.


On the Credibility of Climate Research, Part II: Towards Rebuilding Trust

Judith  Curry

Judith Curry, Georgia Institute of Technology

I am trying something new, a blogospheric experiment, if you will.  I have been a fairly active participant in the blogosphere since 2006, and recently posted two essays on climategate, one at and the other at  Both essays were subsequently picked up by other blogs, and the diversity of opinions expressed at the different blogs was quite interesting.  Hence I am distributing this essay to a number of different blogs simultaneously with the hope of demonstrating the collective power of the blogosphere to generate ideas and debate them.  I look forward to a stimulating discussion on this important topic.

Losing the Public’s Trust

Climategate has now become broadened in scope to extend beyond the CRU emails to include glaciergate and a host of other issues associated with the IPCC. In responding to climategate, the climate research establishment has appealed to its own authority and failed to understand that climategate is primarily a crisis of trust.  Finally, we have an editorial published in Science on February 10 from Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Science, that begins to articulate the trust issue: “This view reflects the fragile nature of trust between science and society, demonstrating that the perceived misbehavior of even a few scientists can diminish the credibility of science as a whole. What needs to be done? Two aspects need urgent attention: the general practice of science and the personal behaviors of scientists.”  While I applaud loudly Dr. Cicerone’s statement, I wish it had been made earlier and had not been isolated from the public by publishing the statement behind paywall at Science. Unfortunately, the void of substantive statements from our institutions has been filled in ways that have made the situation much worse.

Credibility is a combination of expertise and trust.  While scientists persist in thinking that they should be trusted because of their expertise, climategate has made it clear that expertise itself is not a sufficient basis for public trust.  The fallout from climategate is much broader than the allegations of misconduct by scientists at two universities.   Of greatest importance is the reduced credibility of the IPCC assessment reports, which are providing the scientific basis for international policies on climate change.  Recent disclosures about the IPCC have brought up a host of concerns about the IPCC that had been festering in the background: involvement of IPCC scientists in explicit climate policy advocacy; tribalism that excluded skeptics; hubris of scientists with regards to a noble (Nobel) cause; alarmism; and inadequate attention to the statistics of uncertainty and the complexity of alternative interpretations.

The scientists involved in the CRU emails and the IPCC have been defended as scientists with the best of intentions trying to do their work in a very difficult environment.  They blame the alleged hacking incident on the “climate denial machine.”  They are described as fighting a valiant war to keep misinformation from the public that is being pushed by skeptics with links to the oil industry. They are focused on moving the science forward, rather than the janitorial work of record keeping, data archival, etc. They have had to adopt unconventional strategies to fight off what they thought was malicious interference. They defend their science based upon their years of experience and their expertise.

Scientists are claiming that the scientific content of the IPCC reports is not compromised by climategate.  The jury is still out on the specific fallout from climategate in terms of the historical and paleo temperature records.   There are larger concerns (raised by glaciergate, etc.) particularly with regards to the IPCC Assessment Report on Impacts (Working Group II):  has a combination of groupthink, political advocacy and a noble cause syndrome stifled scientific debate, slowed down scientific progress and corrupted the assessment process?  If institutions are doing their jobs, then misconduct by a few individual scientists should be quickly identified, and the impacts of the misconduct should be confined and quickly rectified.  Institutions need to look in the mirror and ask the question as to how they enabled this situation and what opportunities they missed to forestall such substantial loss of public trust in climate research and the major assessment reports.

In their misguided war against the skeptics, the CRU emails reveal that core research values became compromised.   Much has been said about the role of the highly politicized environment in providing an extremely difficult environment in which to conduct science that produces a lot of stress for the scientists.  There is no question that this environment is not conducive to science and scientists need more support from their institutions in dealing with it.  However, there is nothing in this crazy environment that is worth sacrificing your personal or professional integrity.  And when your science receives this kind of attention, it means that the science is really important to the public.  Therefore scientists need to do everything possible to make sure that they effectively communicate uncertainty, risk, probability and complexity, and provide a context that includes alternative and competing scientific viewpoints.  This is an important responsibility that individual scientists and particularly the institutions need to take very seriously.

Both individual scientists and the institutions need to look in the mirror and really understand how this happened.  Climategate isn’t going to go away until these issues are resolved.   Science is ultimately a self-correcting process, but with a major international treaty and far-reaching domestic legislation on the table, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Changing Nature of Skepticism about Global Warming

Over the last few months, I have been trying to understand how this insane environment for climate research developed.  In my informal investigations, I have been listening to the perspectives of a broad range of people that have been labeled as “skeptics” or even “deniers”.  I have come to understand that global warming skepticism is very different now than it was five years ago.  Here is my take on how global warming skepticism has evolved over the past several decades.

In the 1980’s, James Hansen and Steven Schneider led the charge in informing the public of the risks of potential anthropogenic climate change.  Sir John Houghton and Bert Bolin played similar roles in Europe.  This charge was embraced by the environmental advocacy groups, and global warming alarmism was born.  During this period I would say that many if not most researchers, including myself, were skeptical that global warming was detectable in the temperature record and that it would have dire consequences.  The traditional foes of the environmental movement worked to counter the alarmism of the environmental movement, but this was mostly a war between advocacy groups and not an issue that had taken hold in the mainstream media and the public consciousness.  In the first few years of the 21st century, the stakes became higher and we saw the birth of what some have called a “monolithic climate denial machine”.  Skeptical research published by academics provided fodder for the think tanks and advocacy groups, which were fed by money provided by the oil industry. This was all amplified by talk radio and cable news.

In 2006 and 2007, things changed as a result of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” plus the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, and global warming became a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut.  The reason that the IPCC 4th Assessment Report was so influential is that people trusted the process the IPCC described:  participation of a thousand scientists from 100 different countries, who worked for several years to produce 3000 pages with thousands of peer reviewed scientific references, with extensive peer review.  Further, the process was undertaken with the participation of policy makers under the watchful eyes of advocacy groups with a broad range of conflicting interests.   As a result of the IPCC influence, scientific skepticism by academic researchers became vastly diminished and it became easier to embellish the IPCC findings rather than to buck the juggernaut.  Big oil funding for contrary views mostly dried up and the mainstream media supported the IPCC consensus. But there was a new movement in the blogosphere, which I refer to as the “climate auditors”, started by Steve McIntyre.  The climate change establishment failed to understand this changing dynamic, and continued to blame skepticism on the denial machine funded by big oil.

Climate Auditors and the Blogosphere

Steve McIntyre started the blog so that he could defend himself against claims being made at the blog with regards to his critique of the “hockey stick” since he was unable to post his comments there.  Climateaudit has focused on auditing topics related to the paleoclimate reconstructions over the past millennia (in particular the so called “hockey stick”) and also the software being used by climate researchers to fix data problems due to poor quality surface weather stations in the historical climate data record. McIntyre’s “auditing” became very popular not only with the skeptics, but also with the progressive “open source” community, and there are now a number of such blogs.  The blog with the largest public audience is, led by weatherman Anthony Watts, with over 2 million unique visitors each month.

So who are the climate auditors?  They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia.  Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence.  They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports.

So what motivated their FOIA requests of the CRU at the University of East Anglia?  Last weekend, I was part of a discussion on this issue at the Blackboard.  Among the participants in this discussion was Steven Mosher, who broke the climategate story and has already written a book on it here. They are concerned about inadvertent introduction of bias into the CRU temperature data by having the same people who create the dataset use the dataset in research and in verifying climate models; this concern applies to both NASA GISS and the connection between CRU and the Hadley Centre. This concern is exacerbated by the choice of James Hansen at NASA GISS to become a policy advocate, and his forecasts of forthcoming “warmest years.”  Medical research has long been concerned with the introduction of such bias, which is why they conduct double blind studies when testing the efficacy of a medical treatment. Any such bias could be checked by independent analyses of the data; however, people outside the inner circle were unable to obtain access to the information required to link the raw data to the final analyzed product.  Further, creation of the surface data sets was treated like a research project, with no emphasis on data quality analysis, and there was no independent oversight.  Given the importance of these data sets both to scientific research and public policy, they feel that greater public accountability is required.
So why do the mainstream climate researchers have such a problem with the climate auditors? The scientists involved in the CRU emails seem to regard Steve McIntyre as their arch-nemesis (Roger Pielke Jr’s term). Steve McIntyre’s early critiques of the hockey stick were dismissed and he was characterized as a shill for the oil industry.   Academic/blogospheric guerilla warfare ensued, as the academic researchers tried to prevent access of the climate auditors to publishing in scientific journals and presenting their work at professional conferences, and tried to deny them access to published research data and computer programs. The bloggers countered with highly critical posts in the blogosphere and FOIA requests.  And climategate was the result.

So how did this group of bloggers succeed in bringing the climate establishment to its knees (whether or not the climate establishment realizes yet that this has happened)?  Again, trust plays a big role; it was pretty easy to follow the money trail associated with the “denial machine”.  On the other hand, the climate auditors have no apparent political agenda,
are doing this work for free, and have been playing a watchdog role, which has engendered the trust of a large segment of the population.

Towards Rebuilding Trust

Rebuilding trust with the public on the subject of climate research starts with Ralph Cicerone’s statement “Two aspects need urgent attention: the general practice of science and the personal behaviors of scientists.”   Much has been written about the need for greater transparency, reforms to peer review, etc. and I am hopeful that the relevant institutions will respond appropriately.  Investigations of misconduct are being conducted at the University of East Anglia and at Penn State.  Here I would like to bring up some broader issues that will require substantial reflection by the institutions and also by individual scientists.

Climate research and its institutions have not yet adapted to its high policy relevance.  How scientists can most effectively and appropriately engage with the policy process is a topic that has not been adequately discussed (e.g. the “honest broker” challenge discussed by Roger Pielke Jr), and climate researchers are poorly informed in this regard.  The result has been reflexive support for the UNFCCC policy agenda (e.g. carbon cap and trade) by many climate researchers that are involved in the public debate (particularly those involved in the IPCC), which they believe follows logically from the findings of the (allegedly policy neutral) IPCC. The often misinformed policy advocacy by this group of climate scientists has played a role in the political polarization of this issue.. The interface between science and policy is a muddy issue, but it is very important that scientists have guidance in navigating the potential pitfalls.  Improving this situation could help defuse the hostile environment that scientists involved in the public debate have to deal with, and would also help restore the public trust of climate scientists.

The failure of the public and policy makers to understand the truth as presented by the IPCC is often blamed on difficulties of communicating such a complex topic to a relatively uneducated public that is referred to as “unscientific America” by Chris Mooney.  Efforts are made to “dumb down” the message and to frame the message to respond to issues that are salient to the audience.   People have heard the alarm, but they remain unconvinced because of a perceived political agenda and lack of trust of the message and the messengers. At the same time, there is a large group of educated and evidence driven people (e.g. the libertarians, people that read the technical skeptic blogs, not to mention policy makers) who want to understand the risk and uncertainties associated with climate change, without being told what kinds of policies they should be supporting. More effective communication strategies can be devised by recognizing that there are two groups with different levels of base knowledge about the topic.  But building trust through public communication on this topic requires that uncertainty be acknowledged.  My own experience in making public presentations about climate change has found that discussing the uncertainties increases the public trust in what scientists are trying to convey and doesn’t detract from the receptivity to understanding climate change risks (they distrust alarmism). Trust can also be rebuilt by  discussing broad choices rather than focusing on specific policies.

And finally, the blogosphere can be a very powerful tool for increasing the credibility of climate research.  “Dueling blogs”  (e.g. versus and versus can actually enhance public trust in the science as they see both sides of the arguments being discussed.  Debating science with skeptics should be the spice of academic life, but many climate researchers lost this somehow by mistakenly thinking that skeptical arguments would diminish the public trust in the message coming from the climate research establishment.   Such debate is alive and well in the blogosphere, but few mainstream climate researchers participate in the blogospheric debate.  The climate researchers at were the pioneers in this, and other academic climate researchers hosting blogs include Roy Spencer, Roger Pielke Sr and Jr, Richard Rood, and Andrew Dessler. The blogs that are most effective are those that allow comments from both sides of the debate (many blogs are heavily moderated).  While the blogosphere has a “wild west” aspect to it, I have certainly learned a lot by participating in the blogospheric debate including how to sharpen my thinking and improve the rhetoric of my arguments. Additional scientific voices entering the public debate particularly in the blogosphere would help in the broader communication efforts and in rebuilding trust. And we need to acknowledge the emerging auditing and open source movements in the in the internet-enabled world, and put them to productive use.  The openness and democratization of knowledge enabled by the internet can be a tremendous tool for building public understanding of climate science and also trust in climate research.

No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.”  Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda.  There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.

And finally, I hope that this blogospheric experiment will demonstrate how the diversity of the different blogs can be used collectively to generate ideas and debate them, towards bringing some sanity to this whole situation surrounding the politicization of climate science and rebuilding trust with the public.

84 Responses to “Rebuilding Trust”

  1. Bad Andrew said

    I do not trust Judith Curry.

    When the IPCC folds and the Climategate Particpants get in the public confessional and admit the hoax, and then RETIRE…

    …maybe I will listen.


  2. Skip said

    Well, when you start from the premise that there was a “denial machine funded by big oil”, which I presume mostly refers to the fairly easily discredited stuff about the Heartland Institute, that pretty well makes you ineligible to start talking about regaining trust through credibility, in my view.

    As a leftist like most academics, she probably doesn’t even see that the politics of the “AGW machine” are exactly the problem, and not a side issue.

  3. Hal said

    I don’t trust Judith Curry either.

    I am in unfamiliar company in this: RC and Joe Romm. Neither have posted her piece.

    Probably because they disagree with her penultimate paragraph:

    “No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.” Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda. There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.”

  4. RB said

    The Mosher/Ravetz narrative sounds very plausible.

    This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions. … If we are to understand Climategate, and move towards a restoration of trust, we should consider the structural features of the situation that fostered and nurtured the damaging practices. … It seems that several causes conspired. First, the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position. Then, once the position was adopted, its proponents became invested in it, and attached to it, in all sorts of ways, institutional and personal.

  5. Gordon Walker said

    I don’t want to get personal so I will not say anything about Ms Curry.
    However, I do not think that I could ever have trust in the principal advocates of AGW because they have abandonned any sense of scientific objectivity.
    They and the institutions, such as the IPPC that they hold under their thumbs, are as independant as was the Comintern to the policies of Josef Stalin.

  6. Jeff Id said

    In rebuilding trust, the first thing climate scientists need to do is to reject bad work wholly and publicly. When we see papers about shrinking fish by 40% from overfishing and an additional 3 percent from global warming yet nobody speaks out— It’s bad. When only disasters are discussed yet any reasonable person knows it’s probably more likely that a little warming is beneficial – that’s bad too. When the fact that the Maldeves have been 1m above sea level even though there have been a variety of different sea levels is explianed, we should consider that perhaps the drowning of these islands from changing sea levels is not realistic.

    Glaciers, sea ice, Antarctic melting, gravitational shifts of earths axis, direct heating by power plants, malaria, disease, earthquakes, hurricanes, coral bleaching, none of it is real. None!!

    Yet we talk of trust.

    When paleoclimatology admits that Ed Cook is right – excuse the language:

    but honestly know fuck-all about what the >100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know with certainty that we know fuck-all).”

    When composing this post Dr. Curry had the words, “relatively minor errors” that Steve McIntyre pointed out WRT Mann’s work. I successfully requested that this be reworded somehow on the basis that it took from the balance of the letter. But these errors are anything but minor. Why can’t climatology see them I wonder? Is it only statisticians, engineers and physicists that have a grasp of basic math? Dr. Curry took it out but I can’t imagine even writing it.

    I don’t expect to be feeling trust for those who make or fail to reject these obviously false conclusions any time soon. Perhaps if there was a wholesale admission that these papers and conclusions are rubbish, followed by an open re-evaluation of the science including elimination of the obviously corrupted IPCC and UN funding. Then maybe we can begin to discuss a reasonable belief that the scientists have good intentions, trust though is for family and friends.

  7. Bad Andrew said

    “trust though is for family and friends.”

    Harrumph! 😉


  8. PhilJourdan said

    I think Judith Curry has made a lot of great points, but in one aspect has not gone far enough. We all know what a paradigm shift is. Probably the most famous is the Quartz watch and how it killed the Swiss Watch industry.

    Another one is the Media shift. While most people have seen it happen before (without perhaps realizing it), they fail to see that shifts are not one time things, but ongoing. We have seen where the print media is giving way to the broadcast media (and probably the main reason newspapers are in such trouble). But the paradigm shift did not stop there. The internet opened up a new avenue that was not only faster and more graphic than the broadcast media, but more diverse and less susceptible to the rigid ideology of a select few “controlling authorities”.

    The trust was lost in the Climate debate because the “controlling authorities” still worked under the mistaken view that they could control the information. They failed to understand the implications of the “Blue Dress” or “RatherGate”, and so made the same mistake those people did. Once the questions started being posted, and the mistakes were published, instead of addressing them, the Climate debate authorities relied on the old paradigm of controlling the old media to make sure they maintained an aura of infalibility. But of course that only showed they could not be trusted (and hence the crises of trust Judith talks about).

    The issue of AGW and the real science can (and I believe will) get back on track, but not as long as the stonewalling (which is not really stonewalling given the numerous outlets for information on the Internet) continues. And it will continue as long as the “Controlling Authority” in the Climate debate fails to recognize the shifting paradigm.

    It is changing. The Met has agreed to open up the process and take a mulligan. CRU and NASA (along with NOAA) need to do the same, and I think eventually will. Once they do, then the debate will move from name calling to honest scientific discovery, hypothesis and proof, instead of “hiding the declines”.

  9. notpicasso said

    Judith says:

    “No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.” Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda. There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.”

    But the PR machine continues:

    below you can find a list of points that I find are hard to refute.

    – An unabated rise in concentrations of greenhouse gases boosts chances of disruptive shifts in climate and other systems that matter to people and other species.

    Washington Post editorial, prominently featured by Joe Romm:

    THE EARTH is warming. A chief cause is the increase in greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Humans are at least in part responsible, because the oil, gas and coal that we burn releases these gases. If current trends persist, it’s likely that in coming decades the globe’s climate will change with potentially devastating effects for billions of people.

    Contrary to what you may have read lately, there are few reputable scientists who would disagree with anything in that first paragraph.

  10. Tim said

    I would really like to thank Dr. Curry for her piece. She really hit the nail on the head with this comment:

    People have heard the alarm, but they remain unconvinced because of a perceived political agenda and lack of trust of the message and the messengers. At the same time, there is a large group of educated and evidence driven people (e.g. the libertarians, people that read the technical skeptic blogs, not to mention policy makers) who want to understand the risk and uncertainties associated with climate change, *without being told what kinds of policies they should be supporting.*

    I have always felt that using “science” as a trump card designed to quash debate about rational public policy turned science in to political football.

  11. Spen said

    “No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.”

    Ms Curry is obviously not aware that a world authority on the subject, namely Gordon Brown (British Prime Minister) has procaimed publicl that the science IS settled and all those who disagree are flat earthers!

  12. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I trust Judith Curry to give us her honest and unembellished view of what, a policy oriented climate scientist, like she is, thinks about the current situation where policy oriented climate scientists worry about the PR battles on the way to mitigation of the proposed/predicted effects of AGW.

    I am much more interested in Judith Curry, the climate scientist, and her efforts to engage on the blogs on the science. Judith Curry, the policy advocate and one who apparently worries about the advocacy PR, and her views in that area, are not so much an interest for me – other than perhaps to be used as a gauge of the thinking of like-minded advocates/scientists.

    The main problem, as I think Judith Curry alludes to in her article, is the policy advocacy of climate scientists and the effects that it might have on the science that they practice. Climategate, glaciergate and all the other gates that have revealed background on the views of climate scientists, support, in my view, an almost obsessive interest in the effects of the science on policy by those involved.

    Like Jeff ID notes about Judith’s assessment of what Steve M and others, like Jeff ID, have found lacking in Mann et als methods and conclusions; it is certainly not minor as Judith is evidently wont to say. Let me add that it those of us who have taken the effort to analyze some of these climate science papers with the methods used and conclusions reached, who, in my mind, are in the better position to judge than climate scientists peeking from another area of the science and without good background on that which they are peeking.

    Rebuilding trust, if that is the problem with the science, should be left to PR experts and not climate scientists. They should be busy doing climate science and if need be defending their work on the blogs – and for my taste in much more politically disinterested manner.

  13. Kondealer said

    Quote “it was pretty easy to follow the money trail associated with the “denial machine”. ”

    It is even easier to follow the big money trail to proponents of AGW, particularly to the Chair of the IPPC.

  14. Andrew said

    I’ll trust scientists on this matter again when they stop saying things which are just wrong. Until then I have to assume they either are lying or are incredibly uninformed.

  15. David Jay said

    I’m with you, Jeff!

  16. Hmmm said

    I like the essay, but unfortunately this view is not predominant among government funded scientists, let alone left-wing advocates or politicians. She also doesn’t address the media machine that seems so entrenched on one side. Meanwhile, many countries are already waist-deep in climate policy and are screaming at us to join them. Our House of Reps already has a cap & trade bill passed. Our neck is sticking out for climate science already.

    What the public sees in climate science is:
    -a complete lack of humility
    -lack of honesty regarding uncertainty & assumptions
    -poor archiving techniques reducing ability to review/replicate
    -purposeful concealing of methods, full datasets, methodology & programming
    -inability to concede/repair elementary problems and inability to understand that many errors that are insignificant alone can be significant as a whole
    -condenscending attitude to outright obstruction to those who attempt to independently review who have another point of view
    -ridiculous certainty on claims about the effects of global warming
    -biased reporting by the media

    I think I could go on writing all day but you get the point.

    I hate when people claim that science in general is now being questioned. That is a back-handed and baseless way of claiming that climate skeptics are anti-science flat earthers. When in fact most skeptics are generally claiming that the scientific process has not been properly applied, and have an open mind on future results.

  17. David Jay said

    “..the first thing climate scientists need to do is to reject bad work wholly and publicly.”

    Agreeing with this statement

    (sorry, can’t make the block quote work)

  18. Phillip Bratby said

    The trouble is that Judith Curry is another so-called “climate scientist”. In fact she is a trained geographer, and when I last looked, geography is not a science. Far too many of these “climate scientists” are not scientists and yet are taken as experts in a field for which they are not qualified (e.g. Jones qualified as an environmental scientist, whatever branch of science that may happen to be – perhaps someone can tell me?). Climate science is a sub-branch of physics.

  19. Ed said

    Another suggestion – the IPCC wrote the summary for policy makers before completing the major body of the 4AR. This results in at least the appearance of revising the science (through, for example, selective elimination of dissenting peer reviewed papers, as described in the CRU emails and other sources) so that the report agrees with the policy summary completed six months earlier.

    And acknowledge that the science is not settled; stop labeling people “deniers”. In short, the climate science community must stop acting like middle school bullies who enforce compliance.

  20. Phillip Bratby said

    Soen: Gordon Brown’s side-kick Ed Milliband (climate minister) has also said “The science is clear and settled”. So it’s not just settled, it’s also clear. Could Judith Curry write to the British Government and tell them that the science is not settled?

  21. Jimchip said

    I have to start with my typicial apple-polishing. Thank you, Professor Curry 🙂

    The abnormal science that is documented to have occurred came about because some scientists cultivated political input and direction outside of normal protocols. Mann had “friends in high places” who could be used to influence funding and public reception of peer-reviewed papers. There’s nothing wrong with knowing other people, even politicians, but the abberration is that the political and economic advocates were allowed to influence the conclusions published, to back-flow into the science. Not a marriage made in heaven. In the US, Americans have their personal ways of assessing political information. Science, and perhaps other professional areas, were considered to be different; partly because of the acknowledged expertise, partly because of the the history of the benefits that have accrued, and partly because of the notion of independence. The reason for the trust crisis is that, because of the muddied waters, people are wondering if even the scientists can be trusted given these obvious violations of basic scientific principles, especially transparency and the blocking of the ability of independent researchers to attempt to reproduce the results claimed. The political goals trumped the science. There have been similar situations, especially in Medicine, resulting in more definitions of valid practice on the performance of experiments (“double-blind”) and the transparency with respect to conflict of interest and acknowledgment of funding in peer-reviewed papers. X-ray crystallographers got dinged quite awhile ago for holding back on the coordinate data associated with their published papers.

    After the fact, while investigations are ongoing, while the mainstream media are trying to (hopefully) come up to speed, and while scientists are coming to grips with their role in these issues, life has to go on. I think that you have written a relatively complete description of where we are now and how the discussion can evolve in the future. Others who either don’t want to spend the time or don’t have the time can point to your essay. There have been attitudes expressed by ‘The Team’ that if scientists are more open then the amateurs will waste all of the scientists’ time with hand-holding. Although it is not a political example the scientific discipline of Astronomy has a long history of encouraging amateurs. Climate scientists may wish to consider that as a possible model. You quoted Ciccerone several times. There is a notion ‘out there’ that the scientists need more PR training. I don’t think astronomers have had to have special PR training in order to have successful relationships with the amateurs enthusiastic about their science.

    I made this a fairly long comment for another reason. Any of your colleagues, Professor Curry, can write a post to their blog. Any can ‘do it’ once a week or once a month. It doesn’t take too long for a single post [Heck, have a grad student put something out]. Mine is merely a comment to your well-crafted essay. You mentioned Steven Mosher and one of his comments elsewhere struck me so I mention it. Steve mentioned the notion of “squandered”. Wasted opportunities. One way to move ahead is to engage interested people in a constructive way, as you are doing.

  22. Dear Dr. Jones, Mann et al: I would really like to REBUILD TRUST between you guys and me.

    Really. I would.

    Now, you are wielding missiles and planes, and I have a mind. How do we bridge that gap?

    Give me some of your weapons and I’l give you a few more IQ points. That would be a start.

    Give us a litle more media access and we’ll give you a little more truth.

    You know, a show of good faith.

    Tell a few less lies, and we’ll tell a few more facts.

  23. twawki said

    How can one claim to rebuild trust when they still label you a denier – bit of a contradiction me thinks!

  24. […] Waving a white flag means nothing while youre pointing a gun […]

  25. Henry chance said

    I join the list of comments that do not trust Judith. It appears there are many casual papers posted on the AR4 IPCC. It seems you claim to be a revewier of IPCC papers. Did you read them? did you approve them because they proclaimed the correct environmental mantra?

    Why didn’t you blow the whistle and note the papers seemed to lack physical and technical support? You must agree the glaciers are gone by 2035 since you didn’t speak up.
    Please add that I do not respect the “Peer review” claim in the climate science industry.

    Did you review Pachauri’s most recent book? Was it autobiographical or fiction?

  26. Jon P said

    Until the scientists get out of politics, they will be judged with the same skepticism (think extreme distrust) by the public. For example a piece of a recent Mann interview.

    “The debate over the reality of climate change was still alive and well. And now there is such a poisonous atmosphere being created by the climate skeptics — similar in many ways to that poisonous atmosphere we saw last summer in those healthcare town hall meetings — irrational sort of conspiracy-driven lunatics, frankly, entering into the fray — where the discourse has been so skewed to the point where those extreme voices are a substantial component in the debate. It makes it difficult to have a rational discussion.”

    When you go and insult a large segment of the U.S.’s population, because of your political beliefs, you will be judged as a politician and not a scientist, period.

    I tried to have some conversation on this at Halpern Run, but they were too busy playing their same game of labeling and being dismissive, the very same actions that has got them the same level of public trust reserved for politicians. They cannot see it and until they do nothing will change.

  27. Jeff Id said

    Judith has made an effort to reach out from the other side. I think she deserves some credit for that and should be treated well for it. The problems I see are a different understanding of the severity of the issues created by the climate science community. From the background info, many suggestions were made for changes, I didn’t read the ones from RC but she tried to play a balanced view. The result from our perspective is a bit awkward I think. I also note that the last time I checked RC and Climate Progress didn’t find her piece progressive enough for their blogs.

  28. BarryW said

    Dr. Curry has a blind spot when it comes to big business. She repeats the canard that the skeptics were funded by “big oil” with the implications that this was evil. This is stated as a fact without any proof and I challenge her to come forward with said proof. On the other hand she is totally oblivious to the eco-lobby. Billions are at stake in government funds and power that the eco-lobby will control if they get their way. The lies promoting CAGW were the latest in a series with such highlights as the anti nuclear and anti genetic engineering movements. When Dr. Curry acknowledges these facts I’ll be more than happy to listen to her, until then she is the denialist she tags others with.

  29. TinyCo2 said

    I can see what Dr Curry is trying to get at but I’m not sure how climate science trust can be fixed. There’s no one (including the IPCC) directing climate research, they just greedily accept anything that comes along that suits them. Where’s the call for a definitive answer to some of the key questions (like – was there a MWP and can I test the temperature of my living room with this pine tree)?

    I think climate science has lost track of it’s own proof. How many times do we hear that ‘the main body of evidence is still robust’? I’m not sure anyone knows what’s in that body but it’s definitely dead, I can smell it from here. Even Phil Jones was very vague on the subject.

    How many research papers on evidences of warming have been proved wrong? Who keeps track of the expanding and contracting glacier/sea level/etc changes? If we added all those research papers that claim to account for a percentage of the warming observed, how many percent would we get?

    How do we build trust in something so… so amorphous?

  30. Timo van Druten said

    Jeff Id in #27,

    Joe Romm did, but not in a favourable manner.

    RC no (yet)

  31. Henry chance said

    The blame game. Judith blames people that do not buy in as funded by big oil. No one seems to see the trail of money.

    Climate progress blames humans for 80-120% of the warming.

    How can we cause more warming than there is?

    Exxon gathers, remits and collects over 100 billion dollars a year in taxes. Those dollars in America fund NOAA and many Universities and research projects. Is it pot calling the kettle black? Last I checked NASA doesn’t generate sales. They also are at the Federal trough taking money. The fellas at Exxon have to work hard to support all the feds.

  32. […] […]

  33. James Lane said

    I am disappointed to learn that Dr Curry’s draft suggested “relatively minor errors” that Steve McIntyre pointed out WRT Mann’s work.

    It would be hard to find a scientific paper that has been as thoroughly discredited as MBH. (By way of background, it was MBH that got me interested in climate science, as I am a veteran user of PCA – this was well before Climate Audit started).

    Maybe Judith was throwing a sop to the RC crowd? These days I simply dismiss anything written by someone who defends MBH. “Minor errors” – sheesh. MBH is a dark laboratory of statisical horrors.

  34. pete m said

    Thanks for the post.

    I think Dr Curry was mad to try and find a consensus between the warring blogs. You cannot please all the people!

    Here is what will restore my faith in climate science: (note not science in general)

    1. produce quality research that is recorded and verfiable

    2. admit the error margins and what needs to be done to make them smaller

    3. sure, make a news announcement, but save the “robust” and “worse than we thought” for your student classes.

    The temperature information needs to be recognised as data that needs to be publicly available and highly QA and audited. No scientist should ever be allowed to collect it and not release it. It is not your data. We, the people, paid for it, so back off!

    If you want your own data then go build your own satellites / Stevenson installs. Knock yourself out.

  35. timetochooseagain said

    18-Climatology started as a branch of geography, so many university’s climate related research is still conducted from the geography department. The reason is that originally climatology was just a matter of mapping out places which were different climate zones. The study of changes came later.

  36. Jeff Id said

    #30, Wow Romm just blasted her, I couldn’t finish the whole thing – mostly cause I hate the SOB. I think Judy had a bit of a rough day in blogland today, especially considering the intent of her effort. Us skeptics were fairly blunt about our recommendations as well.

  37. Gary said

    Judith Curry deserves some credit for stepping outside the circled wagons of establishment climate science. It’s a short-term risk in trade for a future benefit of being seen as the first to bring some balance to the debate. She may not have it all right concerning the critics history and motives, but it’s something to build on.

  38. I think Jeff and I and one other guy were the only people on the list who responded to the entire CC list with our comments.

    My comments were really minor as jeff can attest to. I wish more people had been open at that stage of the game.

    Anyways as jeff can tell you this is the note I sent out to everybody on that list ( joe romm… players who havent done anything yet)

    It will be interesting to watch. But he is what I said

    “”Thanks Dr. Curry,

    I think if I ran a blog I would challenge my readers to find agreement rather than nit pick the differences.
    That’s hard for most people to do, myself included. It’s relatively easy to say “Dr. Curry is right about such and such, BUT…” Hobby horses are easy afternoon rides. It’s my experience that when people try to extend the areas of agreement, rather than dwell on the obvious and well worn differences, some measure of progress can be achieved. There is also the ever present temptation to engage in catchy phrase criticism. ( insert evil moshpit grin) This is especially true in the drive by world of the blogosphere. It will be interesting to see which blogs can put that aside, if only on an experimental basis.
    So, thanks for the interesting experiment. Let’s hope that the number of thoughtful responses outweighs the knee jerk reactions.

    Best Regards,


  39. hunter said

    the most notable things I see in Dr. curry’s much appreciated effort are this:
    – sticking with the ‘deniliast’ smear of skeptics.
    – not emphasizing the most important aspect of trust building, especially in science: valid results

    In her favor, she is at least trying to stick a knife in the AGW promotional slander of skeptics being in the employ of a vast oil company conspiracy.
    That, at least as much as the ‘scienie is settled’ comment, is why her essay is not being posted, at promoter blogs, I bet.

  40. I find Dr. Curry’s essay interesting and informative.

    The problem is that she and many others fail to understand the underlying cause of the trust problem was in fact MANDATED from day one of the IPCC.

    To quote from the IPCC themselves:

    “The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences.

    The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. Differing viewpoints existing within the scientific community are reflected in the IPCC reports.

    The IPCC is an intergovernmental body, and it is open to all member countries of UN and WMO. Governments are involved in the IPCC work as they can participate in the review process and in the IPCC plenary sessions, where main decisions about the IPCC workprogramme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. The IPCC Bureau and Chairperson are also elected in the plenary sessions.

    Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.”

    The independence of any scientist research was shattered by this nefarious set up.

    This shows that governments can now unduly influence scientific research and also their reviews released BEFORE the scientific one is a dead give away.

    “The IPCC is an intergovernmental body, and it is open to all member countries of UN and WMO. Governments are involved in the IPCC work as they can participate in the review process and in the IPCC plenary sessions, where main decisions about the IPCC workprogramme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. The IPCC Bureau and Chairperson are also elected in the plenary sessions.”

    Why in the hell are the politicians this involved in the first place?

    Because the IPCC is set up to be easily corrupted by outside interests (as shown with environmentalist groups being allowed to post their unverified and misleading trash in the IPCC reports) and that a lot of $$$ is riding on a conclusion that can be arranged before hand by corruption practices.

    Since we learned that the IPCC reveals evidence of corruption and lack of balance with competing skepticism during the review process and that lead authors were allowed way too much power to block critical reviews from being allowed to influence the final reports.

    I vote to have the IPCC disbanded and that will destroy the corrupting political and environmental influence.

    The IPCC is a pust machine and such an organization needs to cleaned up by eradicating it.

  41. Peter of Sydney said

    It’s as clear as crystal that unless climate scientists come clean and admit they have exaggerated the issues about AGW thesis, their trust will continue to decline forever. Nobody can hide that decline – that’s for sure.

  42. hmccard said

    Since Dr.Curry cross-posted her post, I offered this response on WUWT:

    Dr. Curry,

    I’m sure that you realize that only a small fraction of the visitors to this blog leave comments. Some refer to them as “lurkers” but I consider them to be the “silent majority.” Why do you suppose they choose to visit WUWT? I suppose that they find the posts and related comments interesting. I also believe this situation exists at other blogs. If this is true, the number of visitors to the lukewarmer and skeptical blogs listed in Anthony’s blogroll is very large and may be increasing exponentially. I have no sense of what is happening at the Pro AGW blogs but it would be interesting to know if they are also experiencing significant growth.

    My commednts above are meant to suggest to you that the climate science skeptical group has always been large; perhaps much larger than you thought. In the last few years the blogosphere, through the effort of Steve McIntyre, Anthony and others, a “movement” of skeptics has evolved.

    Perhaps you understand the scope of this skeptical movement but I see no sign that others in your field understand it. If they did and recognized that it is world-wide, I think they might appreciate the extent and nature of the trust issue that you have raised.


    Hank McCard

  43. KimW said

    Dr Curry asks for trust- that is faith based. Science is based on FACT. Dr Curry states, in part, and referring to skeptics, “Given the importance of these data sets both to scientific research and public policy, they feel that greater public accountability is required.” Very true, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    The major problem is that experts in one field, take as gospel that which is written. I am a High School Science teacher who came late to teaching – two degrees in Geology and 20 years in the Army. My teaching collegues are committed 100% to AGW and are simply not interested in checking out any alternate views or going through the intricate process of data checking.

    Dr Curry asks for trust. I ask for facts , verified analysis and the logic steps for that analysis. This is less than what beginning High School science requires, where I teach that The Method has to be clearly laid out, The Results displayed and The Conclusion can only follow from the Results and the Method used. The analogy that I like to use is a Glass Castle, where if a foundation stone is removed, the entire structure shatters as glass cannot take the resulting distortion.

    I read the realclimate and Climate Audit blogs and many others. Frankly, facts, reasoned discussion and access to logic steps are found in the skeptics side, very little on the other side.

  44. Maurice J said

    Fact 1. The amount of so called “big oil” money provided to sceptics of AGW pales in significance to the BILLIONS provided by fleeced taxpayers through their Governments to support AGW.
    Fact 2. “big oil” has provided plenty of money in support of AGW in the hope of windfall profits from Carbon Trading !
    Fact 3. Lies, Deceit and Fabrication should not have ANY part in Science including Climate Science
    Fact 4. The NULL HYPOTHESIS of AGW first proposed in 1938 has never had ONE SCRAP of SUPPORTING EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE PERIOD.
    Fact 5. It is way past time to DUMP the NULL HYPOTHESIS of AGW, along with the IPCC and all the rest of the World Wide Cabal of Climate Cheats.
    Only then can Real Climate Science make Real Progress for the good of all Mankind.

  45. So who are the climate auditors? They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia. Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence. They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports.
    “technically” They are educated…… ?????
    I am offended by this statement and so would the doctorates that taught me at my university!!!!

    technically there is no such thing as “climate science”

    this proves just a hand full of idiots can screw up the world:
    In the 1980’s, James Hansen and Steven Schneider led the charge in informing the public of the risks of potential anthropogenic climate change. Sir John Houghton and Bert Bolin played similar roles in Europe.

    BarryW is spot on… tx

  46. Ausie Dan said

    I write in support of Dr Curry.

    What we see here is a scientist (or a geographer if you will) who was originally a full believer, who now realises that there are serious problems, faults and shortcomings in the work of others, which formed the basis for her belief.

    Her language, which many commentators here have criticised, reflects the painful path to a fuller understanding, that she has travelled in the last short few months.

    It is to be hoped that many more scientists are emboldend by her courage, to take the same path to enlightenment.

    Eventually, I can only hope that the Australian media and political world also eventually follow her footsteps.

  47. Ed said

    While quite a number of comments disagree with Dr. Curry on many points, she should be respected for starting or continuing a dialog with those who have alternative views other than the “consensus”.

    For one, she recognizes that damage that climate science itself has done not only to climate science but all science.

    The problem is not just a PR problem but fundamental problems on many levels. Not just the science but problems in peer review processes (that were well known before climategate) and methodology and organizational design errors in the IPCC process itself. With a goal of “consensus” it became too easy for lead authors to simply ignore dissenting papers and to incorporate non-peer reviewed news stories written by advocates. The use of a modified Delphi structure to arrive at the non-scientific “90% confidence” (in AR4) about predictions was an error. “Groupthink” procedures that marginalized and ignored differing viewpoints. Tribalism. As noted earlier, the publication of a summary before the report was finished, was an organizational methodology error. I could go on.

    The most important issue here is that Dr. Curry has in the past and is now engaging in dialog and soliciting input. This is the first step towards creating a new process that is open, involves multiple stake holders, and embraces the “external peer review” concept. Any future IPCC (or other organization that emerges) must presume that its reports must be independently audited before acceptance by the public.

    Scientists are not used to this level of scrutiny. But those in many engineering disciplines are used to third-party design reviews, quality assurance, acceptance testing and auditing of procedures. Those in accounting are certainly used to the audit process. Most published science has little importance – and some researchers say most published research turns out to be wrong or of no consequences. But when the science has large policy implications that affect many lives, then it must be subjected to the stringent audit requirements expected by licensed auditors and licensed professional engineers.

    It would be helpful for commentators, I would think, to propose specific ideas for developing a thoroughly open process that is accountable and provides for a “provable trust”. Trust, based on an appeal to authority, has been severely damaged.

    Science itself, as others have said, may have suffered a black eye that last a generation. This demands entirely new ways of doing business in science. The external environment has changed post climategate – there is no going back, only forward. And that means significant changes to policies and procedures in the world of science, which should result in better science and better confidence in what science shows us (or doesn’t show us).

  48. This Just In:

    Trust in science is trust in data and methods, not in people.

    Unless there is robust and even overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I’m sticking with that.

  49. TinyCo2 said

    steven mosher said
    “I think if I ran a blog I would challenge my readers to find agreement rather than nit pick the differences.”

    Well there was a whole lot to agree with, it was a well written article. Thank you for your time.

    Umm, ok if I’m not allowed to nit pick, I’ll have to ask questions instead.

    What do you [climate scientists] want from the blogosphere other than what it’s already getting?

    Are there particular areas you see bloggers helping with?

    What kind of trust are you seeking?

    Are you giving the work done by bloggers (eg the recognition it deserves and are you planning to use it?

    Will internet peer review replace journal peer review?

    How and when are you going to supply the basic requirements of trust (eg the data and method) to the public ?

    Will you seek advice on procedure from other safety/cost critical fields?

    What can climate scientists do to remove the worst examples of exaggeration /mistake /insult from the media and/or rogue scientists and/or politicians?

    And so on.

  50. Neil Fisher said

    First of all, thanks to Judith for this piece.

    As one of the first of the “establishment” to take Steve Mc seriously while still being on the “inside”, I think it’s important to realise that Judith continues to attempt walking a very fine line. She can’t continue to be on the inside and take the majorly skeptical attitude that many posters here clearly would prefer she would – we all know what happens when one forcefully challanges these people, it’s self evident from their reaction to climategate; their reaction to people like the Pielke’s, Roy Spencer etc etc. In short, if she did so, she would be pilloried and excommunicated and we would have lost a valuable asset and ally in our quest for truth. So she does what she can to nudge the establishment in the right direction, and in the process manages to upset both sides – the believers because she dares to question their dogma, and the skeptics because she does not question it enough. She pleases no-one – except me and perhaps a few others who, if you’ll forgive the immodesty, are astute enough to realise what she’s doing and how difficult and indeed dangerous it is.

    Remember: the ship of climate change is a large and heavy thing, and it will not stop on a dime, nor even turn very quickly. Great care is needed on the bridge to ensure we can get to our destination with the cargo intact and the ship undamaged. Judith is an experienced pilot, and we should value her input even when it seems insufficient to our desire to get the voyage over with quickly. Less haste, more speed is what we need.

    Judith, your efforts are well appreciated by this particular pleb and I salute you. Keep it up because we most definately need someone to fulfill the role you have freely taken on, despite obviously being well aware of the risks involved. I hope to see much more of you and your opinions in the coming months and years – alas for you, I think I will get it!

  51. Jeff Id said

    #50 Neil,

    I agree with your point. Us skeptics don’t appreciate the pressures the scientists experience. Most of us don’t have the personalities to accept something we don’t agree with, but we don’t have as much to lose.

    The effort is appreciated but falls well short of my preference, and no there is no middle ground compromise b/c consensus is not science. Still, it’s kind of a gutsy thing she did when you consider the effect it might have on her career. My guess is Mann would do what he can to prevent her publication.

  52. John F. Pittman said

    IF trust is wanted there is one way to do it. The problem is to understand that climate change by the IPCC was a product that was sold to the public. Unless this is understood most comments will not help, and most likely be part of the echo chambers on the two sides of the issue. With understanding, comes useful information and past experiences that can help one come up with a workable program to gain trust. The and foremost committment should have been immediate. As far as I know George Monbiot was the only syndicated writer I read that understood just how fast and how far the damage control needed to go. With such poor showings as ENRON or Toyota, compared to one of the Tylenol recalls. An immediate recall is needed. Instead what we see is incremental admittance. The problem is those engaged in minimalization by incremental admittance misunderstand the problem. Their thought is that by controlling how often and when an admittance of problem(s), they control and are preserving trust and credibility. But this is an error. They had a product that relied on name recognition. “The science is settled”, “peer-reveiwed” etc., were used and powerful they were, while the product was trusted. Now that trust has been withdrawn, the proponents of incremental admittance incorrectly “see” that their product is tarnished, and don’t see that the power of the name recognition is gone. Whereas they see it a matter of controlling the damage, the very name branding is now a powerful statement for the opposition. The incrementalists don’t realize that every time they have not immediately come clean and admitted to the problems that most, if not all, the PR that they engage in, is wasted. It is wasted because they are misidentifying what is occurring. Each time “peer-reveiwed” is used and Africagate has not been wihtdrawn and vigorously denounced, their credibility is destroyed, or can be destroyed, by one good article reaching an appreciable number of people pointing out a non-peer-reveiwed article stillis part of the canon. At this point the IPCC has only a few limited responses that will work. One is to withdraw AR4 simply stating a rewrite is necessary to correct errors. Another is to dismiss those that have a conflict of interest. Since they have said they wnat tomake changes, it will be incredible (not credible) to continue with those whose vested interest has been shown. Third item is one that Dr. Curry apparently has a problem with, pointing to all the evidence when the trust issue is the relationship of the climate response to CO2. Stating that paleo has little impact misunderstands what product was sold (CO2, unprecedented temperature, climate change). The paleo was the part that combined the different parts into one message of carbon control and carbon’s fault. Repeatedly in the attribution, and model sections, reliance on the paleo was stated again and again as key. This was sold through the “hockey stick”, no models can mimic the current warm period without CO2, and other mechanisms that depended on the paleo for claims of certainty.

    If trust is wanted. There is really only one thing to do. Scrap AR3 and AR4 until the questions are resolved. This is not to say all that work is wrong. But, what it does need, is to be checked to make sure it is correct. Most of it will be. Yet, the withdrawal is needed to establish trust, not the science. Most science will emerge unscathed or changed little; mistakes will be corrected. It is easy to see why incrementalism is appealling. It just doesn’t work. That is because it is not trust that is being addressed, but simple face saving. And this makes the face saving group less trustworthy, not more.

  53. hjbange said

    I just picked up a sentence over at Lubos’ Reference frame:

    The truth about the climate is simply not scary.

    It sums up my feeling completely.

    If the climate science actors admitted that, it would be economic suicide for them; so we can’t expect it to happen.

    Billions will still be spent until this finally subsides. I worry about the “carbon footprint” imprinted on the brains of generations of kids who are growing up during this shameful phase.


  54. AMac said

    Judith Curry gets the main things right. What’s needed is a committment to the idea of transparency. That means archived data, shared code, traceability, accountability, validation. It means procedures and institutions to achieve these goals.

    Much of the rest will follow, once climate science starts moving back into the realm of a normal physical science. And then it’ll have to split in two, so that a large part becomes a normal physical-science-that-impacts-public-policy. This is what happened to biomedical science, among others.

    No sane person would ride an elevator based on work of the quality of MBH or Mann/Tiljander. Board an airplane, take a drug, same thing.

    Have people like that engaged in setting the conditions for economic activity or environmental regulation? No, thanks. Not now, not ever.

    If Curry’s ideas are adopted, improvements will start to happen. Some climate scientists will find success in a profession where transparency is the norm, data are archived, etc. After a time, they will look back on the antics of Mann, Jones, and their ideological bretheren in the blogosphere and wonder, “what were they thinking?”

  55. J. D. lindskog said

    Dr. Curry,
    Thank you for your thoughtful exploration of the effects of trust as it pertains to the present conflicts within the climate change debate.
    The scientific community lives within the bounds of the quest for knowledge and understanding. The political/economic world lives in the environment of competitive advantage. Their quest is quest simply the search for opportunity. The bridge is of course, funding. The social contract between these two worlds can result in beneficial or non-beneficial cooperation or co-option. These transaction out-comes are subject to any and all of the human vanities and as such, trust is best subordinated to verification and documentation. When public policy is to be effected the records must appear in the public domain. If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen, zero trust.

    The climate is changing. It is always changing. The climate research community has now experienced the process of co-option by the political community with regard to alleged warming.
    If the climate is indeed cooling as some predict, my unsolicited advice to the climate research community is, prepare for the attempt of co-option by the political/economic world. Your defense is quite strait forward; produce credible, documented, openly published data.

    Trust is a byproduct born of verifiably successful labor.

  56. Pops said

    Dr. Curry’s forays into no-man’s-land are admirable indeed. But here’s the “but”: I don’t see how wishful thinking can overcome the structural flaws that produced the bad behavior. The chief flaw, ironically, is one Dr. Curry mentions with regard to “deniers” but somehow is completely oblivious to with regard to “alarmists”, which is the source of funding. Research grants provided by political entities will always have political strings attached, and will always have a corrupting influence on science.

    Dr. Curry also has a vastly different view of the IPCC review process than I do. Is she aware of the irregularities that occurred, or does she consider it to have been a normal process? If normal, then, speaking as an engineer, my respect for and trust in some scientists will sink even lower.

    Then there’s the issue that the behavior of many of the alarmists is indistinguishable from political subversion. How are we supposed to deal with that? Give us something we can believe in, please.

  57. TerryMN said

    Willis E responds with pretty much my exact thoughts/response to the essay (after you skip past the digest) over at WUWT, at 13:50:something.

  58. JAE said

    I guess IPCC is rebuilding trust:

    LOL! I have never seen a more pathetic case of sniveling losers! It is truly uplifting! 🙂

  59. I was just there at romms?

    any way his attitude is typical and tone feels like a rat on a sinking ship.
    No one here said anything demeaning like what he said. If I were Judith
    I would right off that ” friendship “

  60. AMac said

    #59 —

    Comment # 264172 in the Romm thread doesn’t appear to be what you say it is, any longer.

  61. Jon said

    I think Dr. Curry is mistaken about this being a question of transparency. Its screeds like the one from Ben Santer, and the generally steady run of falsehoods and misdirection that gets published on Real Climate that gird the trust-gap.

    For instance Romm has now started a bit of a yarn about the history of climate audit. Nevermind that one of Steve’s big gripes was about the (lack of) supporting documentation behind papers. climate2003 was his effort to do his part in this regard. Meanwhile real-climate came out as a professionally orchestrated attack project basically from the start–and arguably was put together to target, first and foremost, Steve McIntyre.

  62. Jon P said

    48.jon rappoport said
    February 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm
    This Just In:

    Trust in science is trust in data and methods, not in people.

    That would work out great if the general populace was composed entirely of scientists. They are not and politicians will take no action until their “finger in the air” test is complete. So a strong element of public relations is very important.

  63. Colonial said

    Dr. Curry,

    One theme that runs through your post is that of the “oil industry” as evil ogre. I recognize that you are, at least in part, quoting others’ charges, but at no point do you take issue with this characterization, other than to note that recent skeptics aren’t actually funded by the evil ogre, despite pro-AGW claims that they are.

    Who conferred upon pro-AGW mouthpieces the right to determine who are “legitimate” opponents and who is to be ignored? The energy companies have enormous responsibilities to their customers and their shareholders, and would be remiss if they didn’t make an attempt to influence a debate that will radically change the market they are competing in. The pro-AGW crowd brought significant economic and political pressure upon the energy companies to neutralize their influence. Any process by which dissenting voices are driven from the debate by force is the antithesis of science.

    The skeptical bloggers succeeded precisely where the energy companies failed, because the bloggers can’t be neutralized by economic or political pressure. As has been noted elsewhere, many are retired. Others work full-time, and do their research and blogging in their spare time. We’re exceedingly fortunate that this is the case, because otherwise we would already have been overwhelmed by green fanatics pushing supra-national governance and draconian controls that would have made the living conditions described in George Orwell’s _1984_ eerily prescient.

    The AGW saga is a catalog of scientific misfeasance and malfeasance, but beyond that is the purposeful suppression of debate by pro-AGW apparatchiks. Until that is rectified, all attempts to find a meeting of the minds will be fruitless.

    [By the bye, while my car uses both gasoline and oil, I don’t work for an oil company, nor have I ever done so. I didn’t even have a job in a gas station in high school or college. I’m an electrical engineer who designed electronic measurement instruments for a leading test equipment manufacturer for 24 years and am now writing software for pacemakers.]

  64. Amabo said

    20 years. Come back in 20 years, scientists, and start again. We may not remember you, and once more stupidly give you our trust.

  65. Peter of Sydney said

    I’m afraid 20 years will make no difference. So called climate scientists who advocate the AGW myth are still well regarded by most of the media and politicians. These so called climate scientists need more than just a critique of how naughty they have been by more traditional scientists. They need to be charged with fraud and hopefully put behind bars. Otherwise, they will continue the hoax for as long as they like ignoring comments by anyone else as they are very thick skinned.

  66. Ruhroh said

    Professor Curry;

    I commend to your attention the symptoms of GroupThink (Janis).
    You might start by examining the Climategate letters for MindGuarding. I think you will find it easily and often.
    (suppression of non-consensus opinions and those who express them; indeed, I think the majority of the emails have it)

    You might next look for instances of ‘Rationalizing Data’ that doesn’t fit the ‘consensus’.
    (i.e., trees are accurate and reliable thermometers throughout history, except when they disagree with modern thermometers, etc.)

    A more subtle symptom is ‘Self-Censorship’ of non-consensus ideation; here you need to compare semi-private stances with the same person in a wider addressee list. People who express private ‘doubts’ remain silent in a larger construct. This can lead to the ‘Illusion of Unanimity’ , a.k.a. Overwhelming Consensus.

    You might next notice the manifestation of the ‘Intrinsic Morality’ of the group,
    in the decisions to take unethical actions (delay unwelcome papers, arrange counterpaper in same issue, breach of reviewer confidentiality, shopping for a way to torpedo a non-consensus paper, etc., etc., etc.)

    And then, Professor Curry, when you have thus become skilled at recognizing the sometimes subtle GroupThink cues,

    I ask you to privately examine the record of your own behaviors.

    Are you thinking about the possible reactions of the MindGuards when you write?
    What steps do you take to ensure that you don’t Rationalize the discarding of non-consensus Data?

    Did you Self-Censor your words to stay within the ‘consensus’ boundaries?
    Do you believe in the ‘Intrinsic Morality’ of the AGW scientific Movement?
    Did you attribute Stupidity or Malice or Greed to the opponents of your beliefs?
    (whoops, I left that GT symptom out of the climategate analysis. Another frequent visitor, though)
    The remainder of the symptom list is left to the reader as an exercise…

    So, Professor Curry;

    I predict that you now face an unexpected dilemma.

    Do you now have the strength of character to stand up and address this pernicious accelerant of ‘premature agreement’?
    From where I sit, classic GroupThink is transparently running rampant within the AGW ‘core-team’.
    Their self-selection of the ‘Team’ designation is yet another clue, if you are still in the ‘disputist’ camp.

    Just my opinion,
    PS, if you ever want to foreclose further discussion,
    simply repeat the allegation of the horrendous term ‘denier’.
    Madam, where is your sense of decency?

  67. This is not an issue of trust.
    It is an issue of science.
    When science returns to Climate Science, trust will automatically follow and it will not be necessary to create trust where none has been earned.

  68. AGW-Skeptic said

    Quotes fro the story followed by my comments.

    “The scientists involved in the CRU emails and the IPCC have been defended as scientists with the best of intentions trying to do their work in a very difficult environment.”

    What “very difficult environment” are you talking about? They’re supposed to collect and analyze data and then report their findings. This is what they have chosen as their career. They are not toiling at the grindstone, working in a mine or steel mill, performing life-saving surgery, repairing downed powerlines in sub-zero temperatures or thousands of other “difficult environment” jobs.

    “Much has been said about the role of the highly politicized environment in providing an extremely difficult environment in which to conduct science that produces a lot of stress for the scientists.”

    The “stress” these scientists are experiencing is not about science at all. It is the lack of transparency and unwillingness to provide data or openly debate the issues that is the root cause of this stress. The stress is self-generated by their own actions (or lack thereof).

    “There is no question that this environment is not conducive to science and scientists need more support from their institutions in dealing with it.”

    They’ve created this environment and their institutions have supported them in erecting the walls of protection to inhibit open debate and thwart FOIA requests. The institutions and scientists priorities have turned away from the science and towards the money. Science has taken a back seat to the dollar.

    “They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”.”

    Why do AGW proponents continue to use the term “deniers” rather skeptics? The denier label, within the scientific community and media, is code for “the science is settled” and you are a wack-job if you disagree. Denier is a derogatory term that should be removed from the debate.

    “The result has been reflexive support for the UNFCCC policy agenda (e.g. carbon cap and trade) by many climate researchers that are involved in the public debate (particularly those involved in the IPCC), which they believe follows logically from the findings of the (allegedly policy neutral) IPCC. The often misinformed policy advocacy by this group of climate scientists has played a role in the political polarization of this issue.”

    Scientists cannot give the politicians the guns and ammo and then be perplexed when they begin shooting. The polarization began by suppressing dissenting viewpoints and attacking critics.

    “The failure of the public and policy makers to understand the truth as presented by the IPCC is often blamed on difficulties of communicating such a complex topic to a relatively uneducated public that is referred to as “unscientific America” by Chris Mooney. Efforts are made to “dumb down” the message and to frame the message to respond to issues that are salient to the audience.”

    The “truth” in the IPCC reports is a belief akin to the “science is settled” statement. Scientists generally think the rest of us are inferior thinkers and not able to grasp the issues. They do so at their own peril.

  69. KimW said

    I have just read Climateprogress blog comments as suggested by Luke Skywarmer -59. There is enough vitrol there to acidify the oceans of the world and directed at Dr Curry for daring to think that climate scentists are not perfect – The Spanish Inquisition reborn. I guess the point escapes them that science has to question assumptions. I mean, these guys are obsessed with CO2 and that we are all going to fry.

    In the end, they have never heard of the message of Oliver Cromwell to the Church of Scotland in 1650,” I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, consider it possible that you may be wrong.”

  70. JLKrueger said

    I’ve had the pleasure, and I mean that sincerely, of arguing/debating with Judy over at CA a few times. She comes across far more willing to hear out opposing views than most AGW proponent climate scientists. I found it difficult to be my normal snarky self with her, because she’s not condescending in any way.

    That said, when she leaves the actual science and starts down the path of funding, politics, advocacy argument, she gets herself into the usual AGW proponent self-inflicted wounds. Though her tone was non confrontational in her essay, her belief in the “Big Oil” conspiracy funding right-wing think tanks in “phase I” hurts her case.

    She says it’s easy to track down the fact that “Big Oil” has contributed to the “denier camp.” Well, the same can be said of the climate scientists. For example, take a look at the sources of income acknowledged by CRU which includes some government and international agency and advocacy groups that do not provide money to the “denier camp.”

    British Petroleum
    Greenpeace International
    Reinsurance Underwriters and Syndicates
    Sultanate of Oman
    United Nations Environment Plan (UNEP)
    United States Department of Energy
    United States Environmental Protection Agency
    World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)

    The complete list can be found at the CRU website.

    Reinsurance Underwriters and Syndicates includes the Catlin Group, which funded the polar publicity stunt (Catlin Expedition) last year and which is deep into carbon credits and “climate change insurance.” Several of these entities have a clear vested interest in the alarmism perpetrated by the IPCC and some of the big players among climate science.

    If you dig, you will find “Big Oil” contributing to many bastions of the AGW camp. Does that then invalidate the AGW research? No. Nor does the funding source invalidate skeptic research.

    Personally, I don’t care where a scientist, school, or research institute gets their money. As long as that scientist, school or research institute makes their research totally transparent and makes the data, methodology and code available without all the nonsense that we’ve seen from the likes of Mann, Schmidt, Hansen, Jones, Wigley, Trenbreth, Santer, Steig, et al, there wouldn’t be the trust issues that Judy points out.

    It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a flawed study or who funds it. Flawed studies readily available for “audit,” as Judy calls it, will be quickly debunked. And that’s how it should work.

    One of the first things I learned as a cadet at West Point was that the mere appearance of impropriety is often worse than the impropriety itself.

    The actions of the scientists named above, some of their institutions, their blogs like RC, their own words in the “Climategate” emails would lead any rational observer to conclude that there is at least an appearance of impropriety. To date, their reaction to getting called out only confirms that appearance, but also seems to indicate actual impropriety.

  71. Did the Founders trust the idea of big government when they framed the Constitution? Should they have been more trustful of would-be dictators?

    When scientists keep lying and presenting false findings, and when they have all the power cards in their pockets, trust is exactly the wrong strategy. Trust would be surrender.

    Putting lies in the light and relentlessly attacking is the only way to go.

    Being nicer is not, of course, going to get the AGW crowd to back away.

    Judth Curry is, at best, envisioning a dream of cooperation that can’t exist in this situation.

    Turn back the clock a little. In her dream world, with more mutual trust, do you think the CRU emails would ever have been released? Of course not. Would Pachauri ever have admitted anything about the glaciers? Of course not.

    Every victory for the truth has come by way of putting the real facts on the table and ignoring the temptation to be polite and kind and trustful.

  72. DeWitt Payne said

    The whole Big Oil funding deniers argument is an example of the variation of the ad hominem logical fallacy called ‘poisoning the well‘. It differs from other forms because it’s pre-emptive. It’s a debate killer. Remember the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ from a few years back? Same thing. I bought a coffee cup with ‘Charter Member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’ on it at the time. If someone could come up with a similar phrase about being funded by Big Oil and put it on a cup or tee-shirt, it would sell like hotcakes. I’m still waiting for my first dollar from Exxon.

  73. BarryW said


    How about “I was funded by Big Oil and all I got was this lousy coffecup/t-shirt”?

  74. Bob Kutz said


    I can assure you, I’ve never been funded by big oil.

    All it would take for my faith to be restored is this;

    1) Prove, from scratch, that global surface T is increasing. Document any and all data ‘adjustments’ such as TOBS and UHI, and share them, along with all source data and methodology. At current time, the data set as it exists is too suspect for science, having been in the custody of advocates with an agenda rather than scientists seeking the truth.

    2) Prove what percent of atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic. I think this is actually fairly well established science, but if we’re going to prove something, we need to prove it all, even if it’s just citing the correct peer reviewed paper. Oh, and if the peer reviewed paper doesn’t have all data and methodology available; start from scratch and be sure to share!

    3) Prove what part of global warming came from CO2, and what part came from natural variance, including PDO, AMDO, ENSO, Solar Cycle, Milankovitch cycles, volcanism, feed back effects, etc, and produce a model that actually works within a reasonable confidence interval. Again; share all data and methodology!

    Finally; (the easy part) split out the anthropogenic CO2 warming from the natural CO2 warming, and you’re done! (Again; share your data and methodology.)

    It’s just that simple. Until you do; you’re wrong. Call me a skeptic.

    Bob Kutz
    Oskaloosa, IA

  75. RB said

    Off-topic, Mike Hulme remarks that there can be no such thing as “consensus” if there is no disagreement:

    Click to access The-IPCC-Consensus-and-Science.pdf

    And that something like “consensus” is necessary for climate science.

  76. Chuckles said


    ‘I got the Big Oil Funding AND I got the T-Shirt’

    ‘The Big Oil Funding included a T-Shirt’

    ‘I liked my Big Oil Funding so much I bought a T-Shirt printing business’

  77. Neil Fisher said

    Jeff @ #51:

    Jeff, like you my training is in engineering, so I understand your point of view and tend to agree with it. However, I spent a couple of years in a support role for medical R&D, which gave me a significant insight into some of the practices of medicine. Personally, I have come to believe that climate science has a lot of similarities to medicine – there is much use of words and phrases such as “indicates”, “seems to suggest”, “is consistent with” and so on. Correlations are not what my engineering background would suggest would “nail” the answer, and opinions and conjecture rule. I’ve made the point before at Jo Nova’s blog that IMO climate science needs the equivilent of medicines epidemiology – someone highly trained in stats, and with a good basic understanding of climate. It’s somewhat ironic to me that people such as yourself and more so Steve Mc have been taking on this role without compensation, and climate scientists in general have dismissed any and all concerns raised – they should be embracing such people and using what is, in my view, an extremely valuable resource that they could use at virtually no (monetary) cost. There are many other examples where climate science could benefit from the processes, procedures and customs of medicine IMO, and if we are indeed going to see some radical changes to the way climate science operates, then I think an examination of how medicine handles such things (uncertainty, conflicting theories and opinions for example) would prove extremely valuable in “getting it right”. I don’t expect that it will happen, but that is what I would like to see – we should leverage the knowledge gained in other areas to maximise the value we get from climate science.

  78. David Williams said

    “Such debate is alive and well in the blogosphere, but few mainstream climate researchers participate in the blogospheric debate. The climate researchers at were the pioneers in this…..”

    Sorry but she lost a lot of credibility for me with this statement. RealClimate is one of the most heavily censored/moderated blogs I have ever come across. They are the anti-thesis of open debate.

  79. xyzlatin said

    The basic idea of this essay by Judith Curry is that there is no right or wrong, and there is some “middle ground” on which people can reach agreement. This may be true in some situations, such as arguing with your neighbour about building a fence, but I would argue that science is not in that grey area category.
    The whole basis of Science is about establishing the truth about the physical world. After that, perhaps finding solutions to any problems.
    Science is not about consensus. It’s not even about trust of this person or that.
    I contend that if monkeys could be trained to do science, the results would be valid if the results were able to be duplicated and verified.

  80. Soulhuntre said

    I will try and be polite but frankly my first response is b**lsh*t.

    It starts with the fantasy of a massive, well funded “big oil” denial movement. It only gets worse with the presumption that Mann et. al. were of “the best intentions”. It is clear they were interested only in continuing to suck down government cash.

    That last bit, that “no one” believes there is no debate? She is either sadly naive or fundamentally mistaken.


  81. GaryC said

    Henry Chance:
    How can we cause more warming than there is?

    This is purely hypothtical, but let’s assume that in the absence of human effects on climate, we would have entered an Ice Age, with a drop in global temperature of 5 F in the past century.

    With our impact, the actual temperature change was an increase of 1 F in the past century.

    Then we would have caused 6 degrees of the 1 degree increase.

  82. […] links to other blogs posting reactions to Judy’s essay as I read them today. Anthony Watts, Jeff Id of TAV, Roger Pielke Jr., Tom Fuller (full essay), Bishop Hill, Guardian response posted before […]

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