Scientific Consensus, Leadership & Stephen Schneider
When I purchased the NOconsensus.org domain name and began this blog in 2009, I was directly challenging the notion that such a consensus existed. Once I’d begun researching it didn’t take long to discover that many reputable, experienced, highly-credentialed scientists don’t subscribe to the supposed climate consensus.
I thought the public had a right to hear about those people – and to evaluate their arguments firsthand.
Much has changed in the past three years, but much has not. Over at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media an article dated yesterday tells us that “the world’s scientists agree” that the atmosphere is warming. We’re also told that there exists:
“a broad consensus on causes and potential consequences” [of climate change] among “highly regarded institutions in the international scientific community.”
Global warming is called “the greatest moral issue of our time,” and we read that:
Rabbi Melanie Aron…equates a do-nothing approach to climate change to a person’s sitting by a pool and reading while a child in sight is drowning. “You would be seriously condemned,” she says, “but today, many of us are standing idly by while the lives of the children of the future are being seriously threatened.”
That a rabbi, of all people, is suggesting that people with alternative perspectives are equivalent to monsters takes my breath away. But alas, such is the state of the debate.
In any case, Jay Currie has contributed an insightful comment to Judith Curry’s consensus discussion. He points out that, because climate science is a relatively young scientific discipline, there has been a shortage of grownups to set a good example, to nip delinquent behaviour in the bud:
Consensus is a proxy for “common wisdom” or “commonly believed”. It is, as [BBC journalist Richard] Black rightly points out, a nose count. It is not, of course, science.
The appeal to consensus is simply an appeal to authority in a very young and, if I dare say so, rather immature science…
The games revealed in Climategate 1 & 2 are not at all surprising given the immaturity of the science. Unlike a relatively mature science like physics or biology, there are no elders, no Nobelists (except the Peace Prize kind), no Hans Bethes, or Oppenheimers or Feynmans, to call the infants to order. As the Climategate emails reveal, things get pretty nasty when there is no adult supervision. Peer Review is redefined as Lord of the Flies; bullying runs rampant and interesting results are repressed for “the Cause”.
Lord of the Flies, indeed. I think that’s a particularly apt observation.
And yet, while peeking at Climategate e-mails recently, I stumbled on a doozy authored by the late Stephen Schneider (backup link here). He was a well-respected scientist and the founder and editor of the journal Climatic Change. Born in 1945, he was one of the elders in the climate change world. When he died in 2010, at the age of 65, people said marvelous things about him – many of which were richly deserved.
But if we want to know where the contemptuous, sneering, arrogant attitudes of younger climatologists comes from, we need look no further than the example Schneider himself set . I’ve cut-and-pasted that 2003 e-mail below, leaving its grammar and spelling intact.
Addressed to an employee of the Environmental Defense Fund!! – and cc’d to a long list of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change insiders (see the bottom of this post for their names) – this e-mail is so nasty it makes me cringe. I apologize in advance to those being disparaged here, but it’s important not to avert our eyes. This is the mindset that anyone daring to challenge the supposed scientific consensus has been up against:
Hello all. Ah ha – the latest idiot – McKitrick – reenters the scene. He and another incompetent had a book signing party at the US Capitol – Mike MacCracken went and he can tell you about it – last summer. McKitrick also had an article – oped, highly refereed of course – in the Canadian National Post on June 4 this year. [URL removed for brevity]
It was a scream. He argued there is no such thing as global temperature change, just local – all natural variablity mostly. To prove this he had a graph of temperature trends in Erie Pennsylvania for the past 50 years this is from memory) which showed a cooling. THat alone proves nothing, but when reading the caption I noticed the trend was for temperature in October and November!! So one station for two months consitituted his “refutation” of global warming – another even dumber than Lomborg economist way out of depth and polemicizing. I showed it to a class of Stanford freshman, and one of them said: “I wonder how many records for various combinations of months they had to run through to find one with a cooling trend?” THe freshman was smarter than this bozo. It is improtant to get that op-ed to simply tell all reporters how unbelievably incompetent he is, and should not even be given the time of day over climate issues, for which his one “contribution” is laughably incompetent. By the way, the Henderson/Castles stuff he mentions is also mostly absurd, but that is a longer discussion you all don’t need to get into – check it out in the UCS response to earlier Inhofe polemics with answers I gave them on Henderson/Castles if you want to know more about their bad economics on top of their bad climate science. “Enjoy”, CHeers, Steve
When smart, sincere people challenged the dominant climate science clique a leader of that clique responded by hurling insults. Idiots. Incompetents. Bozos.
In two paragraphs Schneider libels Ross McKitrick, his co-author Christopher Essex, Bjorn Lomborg, Ian Castles, and David Henderson.
Henderson is only a former head of Economics and Statistics for the OECD. Castles was only in charge of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Lomborg is only a word-renowned academic and author. Essex is only the associate chair of applied mathematics at the University of Western Ontario.
And McKitrick, well he just happens to earn his living as an economics professor. In his spare time he’s been half of the celebrated M&M team (Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick) – you know, the folk heroes who demolished the infamous ‘hockey stick’ climate graph.
But Schneider had not one good word to say about any of them. This elder scientist didn’t encourage his younger colleagues to treat dissent with patience, tolerance, and humility. He didn’t demonstrate, by his own behaviour, that science is a cooperative exercise, that knowledge evolves via skepticism, re-examination, and questioning.
Instead, he taught the youngsters to call non-members of the clique bozos.
UPDATE: I missed it at the time, but Ross McKitrick responded to Schneider last November, after the Climategate 2 e-mails became public. It seems that Schneider was confused about a few things. Read all about it here.
UPDATE #2: Climategate 2 broke while I was traveling in Europe for two weeks last fall. It seems I missed a great deal of the discussion during that time. Here’s what Matt Ridley wrote on the same topic back then.
Schneider’s e-mail was also addressed to:
- Ray Bradley
- Keith Briffa
- Tom Crowley
- Gabriele Hegerl
- Malcolm Hughes
- Phil Jones
- Mike MacCracken
- Michael Mann
- Tim Osborn
- Jonathan Overpeck
- Ben Santer
- Lonnie Thompson
- Kevin Trenberth
- Tom Wigley
If any of these people objected to Schneider’s sneers, if any of them demonstrated positive leadership by injecting a more measured tone, I’d be delighted to let the world know about it.
Entry filed under: activist scientists, climategate, ethical & philosophical, IPCC. Tags: activist scientists, Ben Santer, Bjorn Lomborg, Christopher Essex, climategate, David Henderson, Environmental Defense Fund, Gabriele Hegerl, Ian Castles, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Jay Currie, Jonathan Overpeck, Judith Curry, Keith Briffa, Kevin Trenberth, Lonnie Thompson, Malcolm Hughes, Melanie Aron, Michael MacCracken, Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Ray Bradley, Ross McKitrick, Stephen Schneider, Steve McIntyre, Tim Osborn, Tom Crowley, Tom Wigley.