Sunday, December 8, 2013

Whom do you call Alarmist, whom a Skeptic?

… that I was asked a few weeks ago at a public discussion with a lay audience. This question was of course lingering around for a while, and I tried to avoid answering it, because I was concerned it would lead to a discussion about people. I think now that we can discuss this issue without referring to specific people, but to concepts. When preparing a talk, given to a group of journalists, I found an answer, which is mostly consistent with an analysis by Quentin Quencher on this weblog.



Motivated by a result of an ad-hoc survey among a lay-audience in the University city of Dresden , where a majority of skeptical attitudes emerged together with opposition to the ongoing “energy transition policy” in Germany and strong support of the concept that science should give policy recommendations (80% support), however only after a consensus has been established (50%).

A very different set of opinions showed up a few days later, when all participants supported the concept of presently ongoing climate change, who overwhelmingly supported the energy transition policy but had a similar opinion on the role of science in advising policy – namely about 60% for recommendations – of which 47% expected such recommendations after first indications, but only 12% only after a consensus has reached.

Obviously, both groups, independently of their contradicting perceptions on the quality of climate change and the legitimacy of the energy transition policy (as dominant element of German climate policy), see science as the key actor in influencing policy formation. This is insofar interesting, as defining a successful policy needs incorporating very many aspects, of which most are outside the competence realm of climate scientists. Thus, if scientists have the capacity to recommend, beyond honest brokering of providing estimates of options and their consequences, then only because the hazard is overwhelming, that climatic change outweighs all other considerations, say in the societal domain.

This brings me to the definition of using the term “alarmism” and “skepticism” to approaches, according to which it is dominantly science and its findings, which determines the “right” climate policy. Therefore, the fight on what represents the “truth” becomes the key aspect of “winning” the political fight on the “right” future. For both, the issue is “saving” the world, either from climate catastrophe or loss of personal freedom. I guess such a configuration is what is to be expected in a post-normal set-up, when decisions are urgent, high stakes and values involved, and science uncertain.

A side effect of this approach is that public opinion, or democratically legitimate definition of policy, becomes secondary, because it is “truth” itself, which is deciding about the “right” way (cf. An Inconvenient Democracy: A Guest Post by Nico Stehr and Hans von Storch).

In my presentation I used this diagram to sketch the situation.



Because it is fight about the “truth”, and not “the best explanation for the time being, suggested by scientiists following a scientific ethos”, the other side is described as being immoral, of pursuing not scientific goals, but hidden political agendas - which I believe is the casse. At the same time each side claims to describe the center as being part of their field, or at least significant parts.

Thus the public is told, to perceive “the science” as either the alarmist position, that science is the ultimate and conclusive argument for an aggressive emission reduction policy, associated with a massive transformation of society, or as the skeptical position that the hype of climate catastrophe is a mere rhetorical camouflage of efforts for regulating all aspects of life.

What I suggest is to describe the topology of scientific actors not by two groups of “very pro/less pro” and “very against/less against”, but as a big center of scientists, which know every well that the knowledge, which they construct, is informative for policymaking, but that in the end much broader knowledge and lots of negotiating societal values is needed to arrive at conclusions which can sustainably and successfully be pursued. For doing so, the claims that “the science is settled” for defining policies from the two extreme wings must be overcome. This needs an active role of the “center”, which I tend to see emerging (or is it wishful thinking?)
.

64 comments:

Victor Venema said...

This brings me to the definition of using the term “alarmism” and “skepticism” to approaches, according to which it is dominantly science and its findings, which determines the “right” climate policy.

That does not sound like a definition yet. To distinguish the groups, one would have to add that the alarmists are skeptical towards doing nothing and the skeptics are alarmist about doing something.

More importantly, wouldn't the reverse characterization make more sense? Alarmists and skeptics are the ones for whom science is just cannon fodder in a political fight. Or did I understand you wrong?

Hans von Storch said...

Victor Venema, I like your formulation "Alarmists and skeptics are the ones for whom science is just cannon fodder in a political fight".
And, sure, you can discriminate the two wings by asking in which direction their societal preferences go. For me, the interesting and relevant part is how to discriminate the extremes from the center.

To be sure, what I wrote is just a first suggestion, and I expect that the argument will develop during the discussion here on the Klimazwiebel.

Ben said...

I'm still missing a clear distinction between science (the art of acquiring knowledge) and politics (the art of influencing people).

Science cannot and should not take political positions, because if it does, it will be subject to political spheres of interest and power.

" to perceive “the science” as either the alarmist position,[..] or as the skeptical position

Both tendencies pretend to have scientific justifications. But in fact it is only their perception or interpretation of the state science. And even if both sides were based on exactly the same science and had reached an absolute consensus (like: the earth circles around the sun), this doesn't mean that they come to the same conclusions about the risks and benefits that can be derived from the evidence.

Greg House said...

"Whom do you call Alarmist, whom a Skeptic?"
===============================================

According to my favorite WordWeb dictionary skeptic is "Someone who habitually doubts accepted beliefs". Alarmists are apparently people who either make up a danger or greatly exaggerate an existent danger.

With regard to the climate alarm, I do not understand how someone can be just skeptical about the "greenhouse effect" as presented by the IPCC in their reports, e.g. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-1-1-figure-1.html. It is self-heating of the Earth surface by its own heat (and that with twice as much power the Earth surface itself produces). A clearly impossible process, absolutely absurd.

Logically, people who promote or support any restrictive policy based on this fiction can be rightfully called alarmists.

On the other side, of course, there are people who never read the IPCC reports and therefore do not know how shamelessly they have been fooled. Some of them just follow the alarmists line of the alleged "consensus", others have doubts for whatever reasons.

Günter Heß said...

Dear Mr. von Storch,
in order to clarify it. With science you mean
IPCC AR1, AR2 and AR3 and not only physical sciences.
Best Regards
Günter Heß

Anonymous said...

@Heß

You mean WGI, WGII, WGIII, aren't you? AR = Assessment report. The reports are typically denoted as FAR, SAR, TAR, AR4, and AR5. And of course: science is science. The physical sciences are the "simplest" part of climate science. Well...

@Greg
A classic greenhouse is heated by the sun, but the glass reduces the greenhouse's ability to get rid of the received energy. While the atmospheric greenhouse effect is totally different, it follows quite the same principle: it becomes harder for the earth to loose the energy that has been received by the sun.

@von Storch

I do not see the point of your classification. I could put you into any of the three drawers. You are also trying to save the world. You are also an "alarmist", and you are a "normal scientist". (Honest Broker is just a bumptious term for to be normal). And I could believe that you have a hidden agenda....

At the same time, every of your groups is very heterogeneous. The reasons to be an "alarmist", "skeptic", or "normal scientist" are manifold. I cannot see how you want to find an objective measure to build your groups.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot my name in the last post: Anno Ny. Mouse.

Günter Heß said...

Yes I meant WG1, WG2,WG3

Leo.org. provides an ambiguous translation.
Therefore it is worthwhile to clarify,
But I asked Mr. Storch
Best Regards
Günter Heß

A.Grinsted said...

The median expert is presumably a center honest broker by this definition.

We can look at the median expert from the Horton et al 2013, sea level elicitation who says 50-150 cm SLR by 2100 for rcp8.5:
http://www.glaciology.net/Home/Miscellaneous-Debris/comparisonofsealevelprojections

Or the median ice sheet expert who says 9-90cm from the ice sheets alone by 2100.
http://www.glaciology.net/Home/Miscellaneous-Debris/icesheetcontributionsfrombamberaspinall

Both are substantially greater than AR5 values and with wider uncertainty intervals. I think it would be interesting to understand why AR5 is both more optimistic and more confident in their estimates. Is it a lag between expert knowledge and published literature. Are the reports conservative in rapidly moving areas of research by construction? You could end up being over confident in one side of the opinion distribution simply by chance, if the authors are not fully independent samples from the population of experts. I.e. If authors themselves select other contributing authors. This could partly the reason why sea level projection uncertainties narrowed between FAR and AR4.

klimaathype said...

The alarmists are convinced that the IPCC is understating the issues. The sceptics are convinced that the IPCC is overstating the issues. Both think that the IPCC does not give a comprehensive review of the available peer reviewed scientific literature.

Hans von Storch said...

A. Grindsted, you misunderstand the role of the IPCC - it is not meant to sample the field of experts well - but to assess the published literature. Who determines if somebody is an expert, is not expert?

But we did sample the field of climate scientists in 2008 (see https://www.academia.edu/2365610/A_Survey_of_Climate_Scientists_Concerning_Climate_Science_and_Climate_Change) and asked "The IPCC (AR4) reports tend to under estimate, accurately reflect (a value of 4) or over estimate the magnitude of the impacts resulting from changes in:... sea level rise" (1=underestimate, 7= overestimate): mean 3.75 (thus a tendency towards underestimating, with about 33% less than the neutral 4, and 16 more than the neutral). It is not exactly your question, but it is similar to what you ask. Most scientists (52%) are neutral, more find the estimate too small, fewer too large.

In the 2013 survey (https://www.academia.edu/5191473/A_survey_of_the_perceptions_of_climate_scientists_2013), this question was not repeated.

Hans von Storch said...

klimaathype - in my approach, the key aspect, which makes a scientist an alarmist or a skeptic is related to his/her intention of using scientific results in deciding a political conflict. This may be correlated with a tendency, which you describe - namely of of claiming that the IPCC WG I is underestimating (alarmist) or overestimating (skeptic)negative consequencs of man-made climate change.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

There are several distinctions to be made on the conceptual level which are in danger of being mixed up.

I like klimaathype's definition:

"The alarmists are convinced that the IPCC is understating the issues. The sceptics are convinced that the IPCC is overstating the issues. Both think that the IPCC does not give a comprehensive review of the available peer reviewed scientific literature."

But there is another aspect which HvS wants to bring in, which is about de-politicising the issue of climate change by transforming into a scientific battle.

This perhaps best described as a technocratic model of policy making, to which both alarmists and skeptics seem to be wedded.

However, there may be other reasons for being alarmist (or skeptical) and therefore this additional aspect seems problematic (at least for a basic definition).

The other possible confusion arises when distinguishing alarmists and skeptics from honest brokers. These are not necessarily exclusive roles (a scientist can be an alarmist or skeptic and belong to a scientific organisation which is committed to providing non-partial expertise, laying out all options to policy makers. She would need to make clear when speaking in a private capacity and in the capacity of being a member of a panel. Unfortunately, this does not always happen).

To complicate matters further, there is no agreed definition of honest broker yet much depends on it. If we follow Roger Pielke Jr.'s influential definition, the conceptual pair is Honest Broker-Issue Advocate where the first expands the range of options, whereas the second tries to narrow it (often to one option). Roger does not say the advocate's role is 'worth less' or more suspicious. His criticism applies only to the STEALTH issue advocate, someone who claims to be able to base her (single) recommendation on science alone.

Now it turns out that some alarmists, and some skeptics, are engaged in stealth advocacy. But this does not come with their role qua alarmist or skeptic. It comes from their technocratic view of policy making.

Karl Kuhn said...

But wasn't the post about the audience, most of them laymen? Should they worry about not being honest brokers?

The audiences are not as narrow-minded as they appear. I assume that most of them simply wanted to express that policy decisions should be informed by science, of which climate is just one, albeit pivotal discipline. But hey, this does NOT mean that (climate) science ought to prescribe the policy solutions that should be unconditionally accepted. Acting on climate change can be done on several levels, and each level needs information from specific science disciplines. Educated audiences are aware of that.

Climate science has strengthened its pivotal role by defining the 2C-target. Therefore there is no way to escape discussing its predicions, because this is how the public debate and the policy decision mechanism is now framed. This is why most sceptics feel that they have no other chance than engaging with climate science. Some are also simply motivated by a perceived corruption of climate science, which they strive to unveil.

Anonymous said...

@ HvS

" in my approach, the key aspect, which makes a scientist an alarmist or a skeptic is related to his/her intention of using scientific results in deciding a political conflict."

I would call this scientist an activist. I think, it's rather the connection with klimaathype's approach, that turns him into an alarmist or skeptic.

Both groups share some typical behaviours:

They use cherry-picking in regard to scientific results.
They believe science determines climate policy.

Andreas

Hans von Storch said...

Agree, Andreas - an alarmist/skeptic is an activist scientist, who advocates for the one or the other side. I guess, the property "stealth advocacy" is a joint property.

Anonymous said...

I thinking...

I am a scientist

I know that my discovery shows that a certain action (CFC emissions, ocean dumping, CO2 emissions, nuclear chain reactions could be a bomb) could have a big negative impact to the world (could = with a certain probability, with all scientific uncertainty, etc. etc.)

I personally believe it will be problem and my believe is pretty well or partially backed by science.

And now, von Storch says: I am not allowed to be an activist to be "a honest broker"???

Is this situation?
Anno Ny. Mouse

Anonymous said...

remark: I am not a scientist... just thinking.

Anno Ny. Mouse

Anonymous said...

Our grand-grand children will be those who will know who were the median experts. We don't know and cannot know now, very unfortunately.

What we could analyze now is who were the median experts i.e. w.r.t. those horrifying "Waldsterben" scenarios.

Regards
Heiner

Anonymous said...

@Heiner
"Waldsterben"

we know that the "horror stories" were right. We did the "experiment" in the GDR/CSSR. We did not introduce SO2 reduction systems, etc. The forest died. In Western Germany, actions were taken, the forest is better.

Tell me, which bad things happened in Western Germany? Clean air. No acid rain. No smog. Etc. What a totalitarian dystopia....

It is a better world now. Thanks to the Waldsterben debate.

Anno Ny. Mouse.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a discombobulated harrumphing would be the appropriate reaction for all those so called "scientists" who tried to make us believe that ...

the earth is going to fry
the oceans will be boiling or acidifying
icebears are drowning
Global warming will force up to 150 million "climate refugees

etc. etc.

"Whom to call Alarmist or Skeptic?"
1
What a question!
are you trying to save dead issues?!

Günter Heß said...

@Andreas, HvS

I agree, scientific results do, should and can not determine cimate policy.

I consider many of the WBGU pamphlets and the IPCC SPM Flyers not as scientific results or scientific papers.

As a citizen I regard them as papers of lobbyist groups and part of the public process. of political opinion building, but on the alarmist side .

The corresponding sceptic papers would be the NIPCC papers per example, also papers of lobbyist groups.

Best regards
Günter Heß

Pekka Pirilä said...

Expert groups established by governments are different from regular lobbyist groups. What such expert groups produce may have some similarities with the products of lobbyists, but even so they are different and have a different status - with good justification.

Anonymous said...

Günter,

HvS sketch shows a symmetrie. But there's an important difference:
Alarmists accept climate science, skeptics reject a lot of climate science.

I don't think it's a good idea to compare NIPCC to anything the IPCC has produced.

PS:
I'm missing the discussion of names here. Maybe we can start with ourselves. Do you think you are a skeptic? Do you think I'm an alarmist? If you answer one question with "yes", what is your definition?

Andreas

Hans von Storch said...

Andreas, I would not subscribe to this assertion:
"Alarmists accept climate science, skeptics reject a lot of climate science.. My perception is: both groups accept that part of science, which fits their purpose.

hvw said...

I think the discussion is getting a bit contradictory. HvS' original definition appears to apply only to "scientists", as the "honest broker" category only applies to domain scientists who somehow have the credentials to do policy advisory. This is strongly reinforced by HvS' comment #16. This comment in my view also correctly implies the corollary that any scientist in the "alarmist" or "skeptic" camp must be a "stealth advocate" (because either it is implicitly clear in a scientist's statement that she is talking personal opinion, which is OK, or she needs to be "disinterested" in the political outcome in order not to do "stealth advocacy").

So Andreas, this classification just doesn't apply to you :).

HvS: both groups accept that part of science, which fits their purpose.
But not accepting part of the science is quite a challenge if you are a scientist and want to be taken serious by your peers. I think this definition, if you try to capture it somehow more objectively, will leave you empty handed.

Here is my test for "stealth advocates": Take the climate change related publications of any high-output academic during the last 5 years or so. Classify into "can be used by activists/lobbyists as fodder to argue for a) aggressive mitigation, b) business as usual, c) none of the above/both". Look for one-sided results.

If Nature (including the self-organization of our socio-economical systems) doesn't align itself to our little political and ideological fault-lines, then a strong asymmetry in an academic's output should signal either "stealth-advocacy" or an alarmingly uninspired choice of research questions.

Try with: Hans von Storch, Reto Knutti, Stefan Rahmstorf, Reiner Grundmann, Roger Pielke Jr., Richard Tol.



Günter Heß said...

Andreas,

Your statements seem to be contradictory.

You wrote:
„They believe science determines climate policy.“

I don’t believe that scientific results determine climate policy.
Therefore, according to your definition I should be neither a skeptic nor an alarmist.

You also wrote:
„Alarmists accept climate science, skeptics reject a lot of climate science.“

As a scientist, I rejected a lot of scientific results and disproved them, including some of my own results. It is the nature of scientists that they reject scientific results of others and some of their own results, if necessary. Moreover, you find doubtful scientific results in peer-reviewed literature. That’s why you teach grad students to be skeptical.

According to my experience it is always a minority that rejects results and strives to disprove them. The majority may not bother or seems to believe what is printed. So, in order to separate those groups by your statement seems to be premature to me.

Best regards
Günter

Werner Krauss said...

Here come my definitions:

Alarmists are people who care.

Skeptics don't believe everything.

Honest brokers carefully watch the others in order to get the job.

Günter Heß said...

Dear Werner Krauss,

Excellent. Because we do not know otherwise,
I assume all of us are Alarmists, Skeptics and Honest Brokers All in One. it is called citizen.
The most people I know care, don't believe everything and get the job done, otherwise we wouldn't be a rich country, proving my point.

Best regards
Günter Heß

Quentin Quencher said...

@ Werner Krauss

Alarmists, Skeptics, clima war profiteer? Or clima war opportunist?

Honest Broker is an illusion.

Günter Heß said...

@Pekka Pirilä
„Expert groups established by governments are different from regular lobbyist groups. What such expert groups produce may have some similarities with the products of lobbyists, but even so they are different and have a different status - with good justification.“

But not with respect to the German „Grundgesetz“.
Both groups have no democratic legitimation.
Because they are not elected. Our goverment and our parliament can listen and ask questions and for advice, but need not listen to both of them. Thank god.
So, both oft them are lobbyist groups according to my opinion with the same rights.

Of course every citizen has the same right.

Best regards
Günter

Werner Krauss said...

Günter Heß,

the WBGU is 100% legitimate in a democratic society, because elected governments have the right to establish advisory committees. Only because you don't agree with their suggestions doesn't mean that they are not democratic.

Werner Krauss said...

Hans,

remember Lisbon, when skeptics explained to us that they are NOT a group with shared opinions? They just shared some questions. So why put them in a box now, with a label on top? The same is true for alarmists. Why not simply stop using those categories as an argument?

Günter Heß said...

@ Werner Krauss

I agree, but elected governments have also the right to listen to private lobby groups and even to private citizen and even to the NIPCC. Therefore the status is the same and legitimate, if the government decides so.

But it is not legitimate in the sense that its advice is binding or anything. It voices just an opinion like everybody else in a democratic opinion building process and it is legitimate for all of us to have a different opinion and to object.

The government of course decides for 4 years.

Those lobby groups might have authority in the sense that they can influence the government, but they do not possess legitimacy within our democratic political system.

In my experience private lobby groups have a similar influence and of course I think lobby groups are necessary and important, but I prefer that there are lobby groups from all part of the spectrum.

For the WBGU some of its members lost my respect calling other people denier.

Best regards
Günter Heß

Peter Heller said...

@Pekka Pirilä:

„Expert groups established by governments are different from regular lobbyist groups."

Thats simply not true. Expert groups are established by governments to justify predefined results. I have worked for some of such expert groups in the past and therefore got some insights. Governments seek to underline their planned measures with arguments which can be communicated as "impartial" to the public. Therefore they build their advisory councils out of lobbyists from whom support could be expected.

@ Krauß:

"Skeptics don't believe everything."

As a skeptic I would like to change this into

Skeptics do not believe anything.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

"Skeptics do not believe anything"

This statement cannot be true, as skeptics do believe what they say.

Peter Heller said...

@ Grundmann:

You didn't understand.

There is an important difference between "to believe" and "to know".

In German we say: "Glauben heißt nicht wissen." I would like to say "Glauben heißt Nichtwissen."

Or in other words: If you cannot be certain, you have to believe. And that ist not, what skeptics do. Climate policy is about believing how the future will be. Because it is impossible to know anything about the future, I am skeptic.

Anonymous said...

@ Reiner

"This statement cannot be true, as skeptics do believe what they say."

I don't believe this ;-)


@ P. Heller

In German we say: "Glauben heißt nicht wissen."

"Ich WEISS, dass ich nichts weiß", sagte jemand, der klüger ist als wir.

Andreas

Werner Krauss said...

Never trust in German proverbs! As believers we know (about the existence of God), as scientists we don't know (that's why they have to do research).

Anonymous said...

@Heller
"Because it is impossible to know anything about the future"

your statement is simply wrong because the future is not arbitrary. The future depends on the now and past. And if we understand the "now" and "past" good enough, we can constraint the possible futures a lot.

Of course, aliens could land next week and we can learn to beam and will have warp engines... we never know. But, other things are quite constrained.

Best,
Anno Ny. Mouse.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

"Glauben ist nicht wissen" [believing means not knowing] - interesting German proverb indeed.

Compare this to definition of knowledge as "fixation of belief" by the pragmatists and philosophers like Otto Neurath. In this view knowledge (and science as empirically proven, certain knowledge) is the suspension of doubt.

Peter Heller said...

@ anno:

My grandmother was a child, as emperor Wilhelm II. ruled germany. She died, when Angela Merkel has been chancellor. Do you really think, any of the events during her lifetime have been foreseeable? Think of social, economical and technological changes. And think of how these changes influented the individual life of my grandmother.

During this time, as scientists tell us today, the global mean temperature of the lower atmosphere has risen roughly about 1 degree Celsius. This was never of any relevance. People as my grandmother never noticed it, it was not only not important, it was insignificant.

So, if future depends on the presence and on the past, why should any change of the temperature be relevant in the future?

@ Grundmann:

Since your comment yesterday I thought, if there is anything I "believe". I found nothing. There are things I know, things I hope, things I expect and so on. But "believing"? No, I really do believe nothing. I am a skeptic.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Mr Heller, you are guilty of the same error of extrapolating from the past and present to the future when you ask "So, if future depends on the presence and on the past, why should any change of the temperature be relevant in the future?" Your answer should be, we cannot know. So you cannot exclude a positive answer to that question.

You don't seem to notice that you are believing very strongly in several things. I restrict myself to listing two examples from your own comments here:
- that 1deg temperature change is irrelevant
- that you cannot know things for certain.

Peter Heller said...

@ Grundmann:

"Mr Heller, you are guilty of the same error of extrapolating from the past and present to the future when you ask..."

?????

I have not said, that future could be predicted. Anno did it. I tried to convince him, that even the best prediction he could think of may fail with a high probability. In other words: I gave him an example to rethink, what he wrote. He simply forgot, that most events happen by chance.

"Your answer should be, we cannot know."

But this is my answer. Since years. The alarmists say "we know". But in reality, they believe. That is the difference.

Do I really need to explain it again and again? Because we do not know anything about the future it is wrong to take measures based on only one possible scenario (that global warming will happen and that it will be catastrophic).

"that 1deg temperature change is irrelevant"

I never said that. I said, it has been irrelevant in the past. This is knowledge. Ask your parents, ask your grandparents.

"that you cannot know things for certain"

Sorry, but logical deductions have nothing to do with belief. There are many things we can know for certain.

I think you did not understand me. For me "believing" is linked to religion. Climatism is a religion so this is not the problem. But I am not religious.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Mr Heller

'For me "believing" is linked to religion'

Ah I see where you are coming from. But this is a quite narrow interpretation of the word belief. For a philosophical treatment (by a trained scientist), have a look here:

Charles S. Peirce, 1877. The Fixation of Belief

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Werner

you poked Hans von Storch (without getting a reply ;-)

"remember Lisbon, when skeptics explained to us that they are NOT a group with shared opinions? They just shared some questions. So why put them in a box now, with a label on top? The same is true for alarmists. Why not simply stop using those categories as an argument?"

I would offer the following answer. Labels are useful classifications, also in social and political life, if they are good or adequate.

So if skeptics are a rather heterogenous group (just united by a set of questions) they still could be grouped as such (because they have something in common). And they seem to enjoy the term as it reminds of the scientific ethos. From Lindzen to Bishop Hill to Heller, the label is shown with pride.

The problem lies with the label alarmists. The opposition between alarmists and skeptics is not a logical one; it seems to have been construed in an ad hoc manner.

In the history of thought/philosophy, the antonym of skepticism is dogmatism. Both are seen as two sides of a coin (see Sextus Empiricus).

The term Alarmism has been coined rather recently where some scientists have become fond of apocalyptic or catastrophic statements. The antonym of this would be something like Giving the all-clear (Warnung-Entwarnung).

Cultural theorists who have studied the belief systems of ecologists coined the binary Prometheans/Cornucopians vs Catastrophists.

I guess it would follow that one should get rid of the binary skeptics-alarmists and replace it with skeptics-dogmatists. However, those following the dogma prefer a different term: consensus.

But this is empirically not true and perhaps they should think again. After all, the defence of AGW is made in terms of natural laws, and scientific facts, which is another way of asserting a dogma.

Günter Heß said...

@ Reiner Grundmann

"to believe" , my dictionary Merriam Webster says: "accept or regard as true"

rather than provide a link you could directly give your definition.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Mr Heß

There are many definitions of belief (and of knowledge etc.) and it is vain to search for the 'correct' one. Definitions are conventions and can only be useful, consistent, persuasive, and the like, but not correct. Your dictionary definition equates believing with regarding something as true. This narrows beliefs to true beliefs. There are other types of beliefs, only one type is related to truth.

In the paper to which I linked, Peirce makes the following statement:

"The irritation of doubt is the only immediate motive for the struggle to attain belief. It is certainly best for us that our beliefs should be such as may truly guide our actions so as to satisfy our desires; and this reflection will make us reject every belief which does not seem to have been so formed as to insure this result. But it will only do so by creating a doubt in the place of that belief. With the doubt, therefore, the struggle begins, and with the cessation of doubt it ends. Hence, the sole object of inquiry is the settlement of opinion. We may fancy that this is not enough for us, and that we seek, not merely an opinion, but a true opinion. But put this fancy to the test, and it proves groundless; for as soon as a firm belief is reached we are entirely satisfied, whether the belief be true or false."

Peirce assumes that we strive to achieve belief and overcome doubt, mainly because the latter is paralyzing action. At this level it is not important if belief is true or not. He discusses four methods of achieving belief (tenacity, authority, a priori reasoning, and science) of which only science aims to provide true beliefs. He thinks true beliefs will enhance our capacity of action. But he sees merit and force in the other types of belief as well.

Mr Heller (again):

It is one thing to say we cannot know the future. It is another thing claiming to follow a skeptical way of life, i.e. not believing anything (because of fear of being seen as religious, as you indicate). As Peirce makes clear in his piece, such fear would be irrational, and it would make social action impossible.

You claim
"that 1deg temperature change is irrelevant" – ‘I never said that. I said, it has been irrelevant in the past. ‘

You only give a half truth about your reply. Here is the other:

“So, if future depends on the presence and on the past, why should any change of the temperature be relevant in the future?”

Peter Heller said...

@ Grundmann:

Englisch ist irgendwie nicht meins. Deswegen ein kurzer Zwischenruf auf deutsch:

“So, if future depends on the presence and on the past, why should any change of the temperature be relevant in the future?”

Das war eine eher rhetorisch gemeinte Frage an Anno, um ihm zu zeigen, daß er aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart immer alles mögliche ableiten kann und somit über kein Entscheidungskriterium verfügt. Man kann aus den Szenarien des IPCC ableiten, daß es eine Klimakatastrophe geben könnte, man kann aus den Erfahrungen der jüngeren Vergangenheit aber ebenso gut ableiten, daß es sie nicht geben wird. Es hilft eben einfach nichts: Wir wissen es nicht.

"Glauben" besteht aus meiner Sicht aus zwei Elementen, die zusammengehören:

1. Man ist von etwas überzeugt, für das es keinen Beleg gibt.
2. Man verwirft alle anderen denkbaren Erklärungen.

(Ohne Dogmatismus würde aus "Glaube" eine "Meinung". Der Dogmatismus erst verschafft dem "Glauben" Rechtfertigung und Bedeutung.)

Insoweit ist der Alarmismus, den ich meine, tatsächlich Dogmatismus. Der Gegensatz Skeptizismus/Alarmismus ist in der Tat ein Gegensatz Skeptizismus/Dogmatismus, da haben Sie vollkommen recht. Die meisten Klimaskeptiker, die ich kenne (mich eingeschlossen) kämpfen auch nicht gegen eine Meinung (das kann man auch nicht, denn das würde ja voraussetzen, man hätte ein beweisbares Gegenmodell, ein belegbares "Gegenweltbild"), sondern gegen den Dogmatismus, mit dem diese Meinung zur einzig denkbaren erhoben wird.

Es ist also genau nicht so, daß man als Skeptiker irgendetwas durch bspw. eine alternative physikalische Beschreibung des Klimas zu widerlegen hätte (an die man dann auch wieder mit dogmatischem Anspruch "glaubt").

Dre Hinweis auf Unsicherheiten genügt völlig, um die gegenwärtige Klimapolitik als falsch konstruiert zu entlarven.

Skeptiker wurden und werden ja gelegentlich "merchants of doubt" genannt. Ich halte diese Bezeichnung für nicht ehrenrührig, sondern treffend. Ich bin genau ein solcher "Händler des Zweifels". Aus Zweifel entsteht Fortschritt, Glaube dagegen muß neue Erkenntnisse zwingend verhindern, denn sie könnten ja gegen ihn sprechen.

Glaube und Zweifel schließen sich gegenseitig aus. Wer glaubt, hat aufgehört zu zweifeln.

Anonymous said...

@ Peter Heller

Die Diskussion gleitet ein wenig ab und Sie begehen denselben Fehler, den ich weiter oben schon begangen habe: Es geht bei der Definition um Wissenschaftler, nicht um uns kleinen Leute von der Straße.

Gestatten Sie mir dennoch eine kleine Anmerkung zu ihren salbungsvollen Worten, ein Auszug:
"Die meisten Klimaskeptiker, die ich kenne (mich eingeschlossen) kämpfen auch nicht gegen eine Meinung (das kann man auch nicht, denn das würde ja voraussetzen, man hätte ein beweisbares Gegenmodell, ein belegbares "Gegenweltbild"), sondern gegen den Dogmatismus, mit dem diese Meinung zur einzig denkbaren erhoben wird."

Intern in ihrem Blog reden Sie da schon eher Klartext, ich zitiere:
“Und wir kämpfen doch eigentlich gemeinsam gegen totalitäre und antidemokratische Ideologien”
Prima, das sind doch mal klare Ansagen.

Andreas

Günter Heß said...

Andreas,

da hast Du sicher Recht. Von diesen Wissenschaftlern verstehen wir kleinen Leute nichts.

Grüße
Günter

Peter Heller said...

Ist schon anmaßend, wie wir kleinen Leute immer wieder darauf beharren, uns ein eigenes Bild der Angelegenheiten zu machen. Wie respektlos.

Günter Heß said...

@Mr. Grundmann

You write:
"He thinks true beliefs will enhance our capacity of action."

Peirce is correct, the true believers are not hindered by doubt. They act without remorse.

Whereas, I think that doubt is the foundation to act with responsibility.

But as Andreas said, I am only one of the grunts.

Best regards
Günter Heß

Anonymous said...

Warum so gereizt? Ich habe lediglich wiederholt, was hvw und kuhn schon weiter oben festgestellt haben.

Oder geht es um andere Worte in meinem Beitrag?

PS:
Schöner Beitrag von dir bei ScSk, Günter. Das Thema interessiert mich, werde über Weihnachten mal Nordhaus neues Buch "The climate casino" lesen.

Andreas

Günter Heß said...

Andreas,

ich verstehe einfach deine Unterscheidung nicht.
Wer sind die Wissenschaftler und wer sind die kleinen Leute in der Diskussion? Sind nicht alles nur Staatsbürger? Sind die Wissenschaftler gleicher als die anderen?

Grüße
Günter

Anonymous said...

Günter,

ich verstehe nicht, was dich so gereizt hat. Mein Vorschlag in #24 war ja, die Definition mal auf uns selbst zu beziehen. In #26 antwortete hvw darauf, dass sich das honest broker-Konzept auf Wissenschaftler bezieht. Niemand hat widersprochen, dies schien also Konsens zu sein, und ich betrachtete daraufhin meinen Beitrag als fehlerhaft.

Die beiden Abbildungen HvSs beziehen sich also nicht auf uns. Warum das jetzt plötzlich so empörend ist, entzieht sich meiner Vorstellung. Und was aus meiner Bemerkung dazu von dir gemacht wird, ist mit Verlaub abenteuerlich.

PS:
Deine Antwort auf mein #24 hatte ich übrigens auch nicht verstanden. Widersprüche sehe ich nur, wenn du darauf beharrst, als Skeptiker bezeichnet werden zu wollen.

Und noch etwas aus deinem #27:
„Alarmists accept climate science, skeptics reject a lot of climate science.“
As a scientist, I rejected a lot of scientific results and disproved them, including some of my own results. It is the nature of scientists that they reject scientific results of others and some of their own results, if necessary. Moreover, you find doubtful scientific results in peer-reviewed literature. That’s why you teach grad students to be skeptical.


Dies ließ ich unkommentiert, weil ich nicht glauben kann und will, dass du meinen Satz nicht verstanden hast. Das war früher mal anders. Und du warst früher mal weniger gereizt. Ich lasse auch unkommentiert, wenn man mich glauben machen möchte, in den gängigen Skeptikerblogs seien undogmatische Leute am Werke, die nur daran interessiert seien, mit gesundem wissenschaftlichem Skeptizismus Klimawissenschaft auf die Probe zu stellen. Womöglich lese ich einfach die falschen Skeptikerblogs, ein Hoch auf die Lüdeckes und Watts?

Wenn dich mein Heller-Zitat verärgert hat, dann sag es halt einfach und red nicht um den heißen Brei herum.

Grüße
Andreas

Peter Heller said...

@ Andreas:

"Wenn dich mein Heller-Zitat verärgert hat, dann sag es halt einfach und red nicht um den heißen Brei herum."

Und was genau wollten Sie mit dem Zitat aussagen, das irgendjemanden verärgern könnte?

"Mein Vorschlag in #24 war ja, die Definition mal auf uns selbst zu beziehen. In #26 antwortete hvw darauf, dass sich das honest broker-Konzept auf Wissenschaftler bezieht. Niemand hat widersprochen, dies schien also Konsens zu sein, und ich betrachtete daraufhin meinen Beitrag als fehlerhaft."

Das müssen Sie mit sich selbst ausmachen. Sie fühlen sich hier nicht angesprochen. Ich schon. Ob man zu etwas Stellung beziehen möchte, kann man nur selbst entscheiden.

Mir ging es eigentlich nur um Werner Krauß' Definition in #28:

"Skeptics don't believe everything."

Dies trifft auf mich so nicht zu. Es ist unvollständig. Bzw. es führt auf eine falsche Fährte. Herr Grundmann hat nachgehakt, ich habe versucht, ihm das verständlich zu machen.

Wie Sie das sehen, ist mir gleichgültig.

Günter Heß said...

Andreas,
Wieso sollte mich dein Zitat von Peter ärgern, das tun ja alle Demokraten mehr oder weniger.
Da hast du was selbstverständliches zitiert.
Ich habe lediglich auf die Unterscheidung in Wissenschaftler und kleine Leute geantwortet.
Diese Unterscheidung gibt es meiner Meinung nach in der politischen Klimadebatte nicht .
Man wird eingeordnet so oder so, egal wo man sich selbst
einordnet.
Für mich ist das beste Konzept deshalb auch einen Wissenschaftler der einen Politiker berät als Lobbyist für seine eigene Meinung zu betrachten.. Das ist ja was einen guten Berater ausmacht, dass er seinen Rat nicht als Wahrheit hinstellt, sondern als Meinung. Jemand der bei der Beratung Wahrheiten vermittelt indoktriniert. Das ist dann keine Beratung mehr.
Grüße
Günter

Karl Kuhn said...

Somewhere I got lost ... and I guess I'm not alone.

Sollen wir uns nicht besser wieder darüber streiten, ob es 2050 1,0 oder 1,2 Grad wärmer wird? Das ist viel entspannender ...

Anonymous said...

@ReinerGrundmann

You write:

"There are many definitions of belief (and of knowledge etc.) and it is vain to search for the 'correct' one. Definitions are conventions and can only be useful, consistent, persuasive, and the like, but not correct."

That reminds me of our endless discussions in school about "Bewusstein" etc.... Haven't we grown?

Now we can tell what kiond of definition we use in this special context (I hope this is english...:-)).

This philosofical kind of thinking that everybody has his own definition is imhô nonsense. We can take one of those definitions and discuss about it.

Or we end with the "Konstruktivismus" and that nothing is known and whole life is just belief.

Some people really only try to offend other people. The word "skeptic" has only become a negative connotation with the climate change debate.

That's just silly.

Best Regards
Yeph

Anonymous said...

Hallo Günter,

"Ich habe lediglich auf die Unterscheidung in Wissenschaftler und kleine Leute geantwortet.
Diese Unterscheidung gibt es meiner Meinung nach in der politischen Klimadebatte nicht."


Jetzt bin ich komplett verwirrt. Es geht doch um die Abbildungen von HvS, nicht um die Klimadebatte. Und der honest broker-Ansatz gilt doch für Wissenschaftler und der Art und Weise, wie diese Klimawissenschaft kommunizieren sollen.

Wenn du jetzt eine Definition suchst, wo du dich richtig eingeordnet siehst, dann kann man das wohl probieren, aber ich zweifle, ob uns da die Diagramme weiterhelfen. Wem hilft eine Eingruppierung weiter? Sich zu einer Gruppe zugehörig definieren beinhaltet immer auch Abgrenzung anderen gegenüber. Ist das noch zeitgemäß?

Grüße
Andreas

Anonymous said...

@ HvS, Reiner Grundmann

Habe gerade einen äußerst interessanten Vortrag von Gavin Schmidt angehört zum Thema "Kommunikation von Wissenschaft". Gavin nimmt hierbei für mein Empfinden eine Gegenposition ein zum honest broker-Ansatz oder value free science.

Wenn ich ihn richtig verstehe, sagt er:

Jeder hat Werte, die ihn beeinflussen. Selbst wenn man versucht, seine Motive und seine Werte unsichtbar werden zu lassen (der honest broker), dann werden andere den Job übernehmen, ihm advocacy zu unterstellen (hier erscheint der Name Grundmann auf einer Folie, ich verrate aber nicht, bei welcher Minute ;-). Daher ist es besser, selbst seine Werte darzulegen, die sein Handeln beeinflussen.

Gavin betreibt daher auch keine Unterscheidung wie hier in honest broker vs. Skeptic/Alarmist, sondern unterscheidet zwischen responsible vs. irresponsible advocacy.

Keine Ahnung, ob meine Kurzzusammenfassung gelungen ist, am besten schaut sich jeder Interessierte selbst den Vortrag an: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJC1phPS6IA

Viel Vergnügen,
Andreas

A.Grinsted said...

Dear Hans von Storch

I disagree that I have misunderstood the role of the IPCC because I don't think I said what you appear to think I said. I was wondering what could be the reason for the remarkably large discrepancy between AR5 and the two separate elicitations of ice-sheet and sea-level experts (Bamber & Aspinall 2013; Horton et al. 2013). It appears to be primarily the ice sheet mass loss. This is also an area where there is not very much literature which can be directly taken into a projection. I'd say that quite a bit of expert judgement was needed to come up with the final ice sheet dynamics numbers for AR5 table 13.5. I think it is naive to think that the choice of authors has no impact on the final numbers in this case. Perhaps author selection only has neglible impact in areas that are not progressing quite so fast (=most of the AR5. But this is one area where AR5 is very different from AR4).


Expert elicitations are also sensitive to the chosen set of experts. However, the Horton et al. paper (HEA13) has a very transparent selection criteria with little room for the authors to bias the results either way. The BA13 has probably has a greater potential for a selection bias. However, BA13 has the advantage that it focuses on the key uncertainty (IMO) and so I think that these people are probably the expert community you actually want to ask. Nevetheless I think it gives confidence that the two elicitations are very compatible.

Note that the 5-95% ranges represent slightly different things in HEA13 and BA13. In BA13 this is the distribution of expert estimates. In HEA13 the experts were asked to assess the uncertainty range and the final reported 95th percentile was the median of all the individual 95th percentiles reported. Presumably that makes the HEA13 range robust to inclusion of outlier individuals with extreme positions.


Your 2008 survey results are also really interesting. I think the high frequency of neutral positions means that most climate scientists are not experts on sea level rise.


Aslak

eduardo said...

Nothing obstructs access to the truth like a belief in absolute truthfulness