science of doom – denial


Do you have an example where someone who questioned the equations and their function was called the d-word?
Because what you describe sounds like skepticism; I would be surprised if they were labelled a D, for that.

on February 4, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Reply stevefitzpatrick

Well there is this little gem frm MikeH above:
“I try not to use the term “denier” because it just gives the pseudo-skeptics the opportunity to play the victim card. But in the years of following this debate, the only people who I have read associating the term climate denier with the holocaust is you above and the psuedo-skeptics themselves when they have run out of other arguments.”

See, it’s obvious no one could ever be honestly skeptical. The starting assumption is that all who doubt do so in bad faith. This is a losing argument when your opponent is actually acting in good faith… I can’t think of a better way to piss people off and make them doubt you even more.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:48 pm Nathan
That’s not an example of what you claimed

on February 4, 2015 at 10:34 pm stevefitzpatrick
It is an example of the thinking which leads to the ‘de..ier’ name calling. In this case he simply substitutes pseudo-skeptic for ‘de..ier’. The problem is the same.

on February 4, 2015 at 2:29 pm | Reply omnologos
Nathan – the N word is just the name of a color in Spanish. If peopleask not to use it I din waste time arguing the dictionary, I’ll just try to be civil and avoid offending.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:48 pm Nathan
That’s a poor example, as the word is spanish, not a common everyday English word.

on February 5, 2015 at 12:31 am omnologos
Nathan – why would common Spanish have to adapt following the evolution of the N word in English? (same in Italian). Because…if you want to talk to people, there is absolutely no reason to insult them. And the fact that a word sounds insulting in a communication is established by both parties in the communication.

on February 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Reply omnologos
If anybody wants to know what happens to skeptics just pretend to be one for a week. The vultures will find you 8)

on February 4, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Reply David Young
It happened to me. None other thanBBD who can be very nasty and dead wrong. He said I was a coal industry Lobbyist and a deni##. Of course that was a lie. However stupidity should not automatically be attributed to malice, especially for layman activists who think Hadrians wall is a boundary value.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:56 pm BBD
Now, now, David. Let’s not get carried away. IIRC you were making big claims about your publication record which strangely doesn’t seem to exist. I only asked you *if* you were the same David Young who is a coal industry lobbyist and you said you weren’t. And that was the end of the matter. I’m very disappointed to see you misrepresenting our previous conversations here at SoD.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:04 pm David Young
My record is public. If you missed it you aren’t trying. You have been too lazy to find it. I won’t go back to Keith’s thread as it is nasty to quote it as you know full well you are either lying about it or have whitewashed it in your own small mind. What I said is true.

on February 4, 2015 at 10:05 pm BBD
If what you said was true, David, there wouldn’t have been any problems in the first place.

I’d be disinclined to push that door any harder, were I you.

on February 4, 2015 at 10:55 pm stevefitzpatrick
David clearly has published in his field, yet you continue to suggest otherwise. Do you believe that David is lying about publications, or are you simply unwilling to admit you are wrong?

BTW BBD, do you have a publication record in any technical field?

on February 5, 2015 at 2:59 am David Young
Just for the record, one could try AIAA Journal, Vol 52, Issue 8, pg.1699, 2014. That one refers to numerous earlier works. Why are some particularly nasty climate activists so quick to assume incompetence when they disagree with someone? Especially poignant when the activist is largely ignorant of the scientific details despite having “read” some papers. Doubly poignant when the nasty activist is too lazy to do any effective research.

on February 4, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Reply Climate Weenie
Well, there are a lot of ways to peel this potato:

The most important peel, the equations in the NCAR model reference depict not the simple concept of radiative forcing but of atmospheric motion. This serves as a great reminder that the amount of energy emitted to space is a function not only of the well mixed constituents but also of unpredictable fluid flow. The simple concept is incorrect at least by being incomplete.

The difficulty lies not with the number or complexity of the equations of motion, but with the non-linearity – we know going into this exercise that linear numerical solutions to non-linear problems are incorrect.

The failings of the applied atmospheric dynamics is is borne out by the missing tropical upper tropospheric hot spot. The hot spot is predicted by gcms for heating, not just heating from CO2 increase. The hot spot is not observed. This represents a failing in the models regarding how energy is convected and so, radiated to space.

The holocaust, of course, is a past event, not a prediction of a future event.

Juxtaposing genocide with carbon dioxide is an appeal to emotion of a false moral equivalence. Even if one can demonstrate ‘inevitable’ temperature rise, demonstrating greater harm than good ( which tends to be removed from the conversation ) is even more tenuous.

“Once people have seen the unprecedented rise in temperature this century, how could they not align themselves with the forces of good?” – Hah! Beyond the further appeal to emotion ‘forces of good’ – the temperature trend displayed indicates a temperature trend from 1910-1945 quite similar to the 1979-present.
To be sure, CO2 forcing was positive during that period, but much less than recent trend. The recent trend is very much precedented. Evidently, also precedented was Arctic sea ice loss as evidenced by the Arctic temperature finger print ( winter warming, summer stasis ) that occurred in the early twentieth century.

Finally, the Nazi analogy is a reminder that bad things can happen when people acquiesce to central governments crusading for good. The Nazis were crusading for the glory of the Reich and justified genocide for the cause. After all, it was simple and obvious to them that aryans were superior and the Reich would last a thousand years. To be sure, genocide and property rights are not equivalent. But should citizens have property confiscated simply because a government declares that they are saving the planet?

on February 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Reply Arthur Smith
I do find it amusing that Richard Tol is incapable of detecting the sarcastic tone SoD is applying in this post.

It does take some experience with scientific analysis to understand either the theoretical or observational evidence for the greenhouse effect and other aspects of climate change. It’s not something that can be made bleedingly obvious to the lay person, and for most people that means accepting the science requires some form of belief, trust, faith, rather than personal knowledge. I think that’s SoD’s point here. But the same is true of much of science and even technology – evolutionary biology, relativity, elementary particles, atoms, lasers, electronic circuits, etc. Do we have a right to be disparaging towards those who don’t trust scientists on one or more of these things? What would actually work?

on February 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Reply verytallguy

I have much respect for your blog, enjoy reading your reviews of the science, whether or not it seems in line with the mainstream, and have on occasion referred to you as a great demonstration of what true scepticism entails.

But on this post I feel you are terribly, horribly, wrong when you say:

On the other hand, those who ascribe the word ‘d*nier’ to people not in agreement with consensus climate science are trivializing the suffering and deaths of millions of people. Everyone knows what this word means. It means people who are apologists for those evil jackbooted thugs who carried the swastika and cheered as they sent six million people to their execution.
Denial has long, common and respectable usage not at all associated with the holocaust in any way (at least in the UK, perhaps it is different elsewhere?).

It is used in describing grief, and the same language and model is also used in business change:

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
The Kubler-Ross model was published in 1969. No-one accused Elizabeth Kubler Ross of comparing people in grief to N*zis.

The term was supposedly originated by Freud as:

a psychological defense mechanism postulated by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.
(quotes from Wiki)

Personally, I feel to accuse anyone using the term “d*nier” in its general usage as conflating their target with Holocaust perpetrators is in very poor taste.

Many of those who challenge the science of global warming are truly in denial, in the sense put forward by Freud, being unable to reconcile their own political and economic values with the simple facts of a world warming by human hand.

Personally, I feel to accuse anyone using the term “d*nier” in its normal usage as conflating their target with Holocaust perpetrators is in very poor taste.

Some advice if I may? Just stop.

on February 4, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Reply DeWitt Payne

You should rethink your position. Saying that someone is in denial about climate change is not the same as saying that anyone who does not agree that any climate change is going to be catastrophic and that (sarc) we should all go back to being hunter-gatherers (/sarc) is a climate change d****r. Words and phrases often have semantic connotations beyond the dictionary definitions. I find it difficult to believe that many of those who use that phrase are not aware of that particular connotation and intend it to be taken exactly that way.

Being in denial in the Kubler-Ross sense also implies that you are actually aware on some level that you’re wrong. I doubt that’s true of most of the people who have been labeled as d….rs.

on February 4, 2015 at 4:03 pm Richard Drake
Yes, getting a tad more linguistic about it, we’re not looking for denial on its own or the interesting phrase “in denial” but terms of the form “[abstract noun] denial” and “[abstract noun] denier”. That form began with Holocaust denial and denier in the English-speaking world. Here’s a useful summary from Bishop Hill contributor in 2010:

I am a psychologist, and the term “denier” is not a psychological term. It first came into use in the late 1960’s in relation to the WWII Holocaust. As hro001 demonstrated above, it is an emotion-packed term. And as he points out, it generally means “politically motivated falsifaction [sic] of history”

All the references you give come from the 1990’s and later, and clearly derived from the earlier use, typically for the emotional impact.

The term “denial” as in “he is in denial” is a psychological term. I have no idea who used it first, but it is very, very old. I think Freud used it, but I read the English translations of his work so I don’t know the German word he used. It is typically used in the sense of refusing to accept reality.
So SoD’s right to take climate denier and its cognates the way he does. Some of the blindness on this is I fear willful but, much worse, entails a significant insult to the memory the victims of the real thing. Surely much better, on this of all aspects of the climate debate, to play it safe.

on February 4, 2015 at 4:11 pm verytallguy

I find it difficult to believe that many of those who use that phrase are not aware of that particular connotation and intend it to be taken exactly that way.
I disagree. Completely.

This is phraseology commonly used with no connotation whatsoever for the holocaust

recent examples in from a simple google news search:

The Guardian on Rotherham Council

Instead, I found a council in denial. They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said. If there was a problem they certainly were not told – it was someone else’s job. They were no worse than anyone else. They had won awards. The media were out to get them.
WSJ on Thailand

Thailand’s Dictators in Denial
The junta takes a harder line against popular politicians.


Valley doctor worries people are in denial about measles vaccine
Are all these people making connotations to the holocaust? Seriously?

on February 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm Richard Drake
Are all these people making connotations to the holocaust? Seriously?
No, none of them are and none of us are saying that. We’re looking for something of the form “[abstract noun] d****l”. Plus explicit references to the Holocaust as people do, which are many in this case. Please see my comment preceding yours.

on February 4, 2015 at 5:48 pm verytallguy
Richard Drake,

whilst your demand for abstract nouns is rather pedantic and misses the point, I’m happy to oblige:

Noting that Ed Miliband is Jewish and no-one accused Osborne of anything at the time.

There really is nothing to conflate the word “denier” specifically with the Holocaust.   In my opinion, for what it’s worth, it’s distasteful to do so.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:30 pm Richard Drake
There’s no doubt the pattern I’ve described has begun to be used elsewhere. I also spotted deficit d****rs, indeed I made it an entry in my personal wiki on 20th August 2010. I’m that much of a word nerd. Most of the time that stuff us simply fun. The case of Climate D***** sadly isn’t.

Because if you think that this later one-off usage (people have also mentioned AIDS d*****) is enough to wipe off the map all the examples of explicit comparison with Holocaust D****l, starting with Deborah Tannen on Jim Lehrer’s Newshour in 1998, and the fact that when Climate D***** and its variants became really trendy, around 2007, the Holocaust variant of the meme was the only other game in town and thus obviously intended as an allusion, you are clutching at anachronistic straws. Why this great felt need to be defensive? Do those that deploy this phrase not care that if they are wrong their usage has among other things served to trivialise and minimise one of the most heinous crimes in history?

on February 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm Tom Scharf

Since we all agree the word can be used innocently and interpreted not so innocently, can those using the word innocently not find a better method to communicate their true intent? It’s hard to believe that people don’t understand this word is loaded.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:45 pm David Young
Toms point is telling. You should use terminology that is not loaded unless your purpose is to denigrate and insult. Those who use the d word do so knowing it will intimidate some into silence and is insulting to many.

on February 4, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Reply BBD
(Re-post. This got caught in moderation upthread because I forgot to edit the d- word in the quoted text.)


Count me with the others here who suggest that you have been conned by the re-definers of language who describe themselves as ‘sceptics’.

On the other hand, those who ascribe the word ‘d_nier’ to people not in agreement with consensus climate science are trivializing the suffering and deaths of millions of people. Everyone knows what this word means. It means people who are apologists for those evil jackbooted thugs who carried the swastika and cheered as they sent six million people to their execution.
That interpretation was created by language re-definers (self-describing as ‘sceptics’, remember) who are highly adept at playing the victim for tactical advantage.

It is THEY who are guilty of what you write, not someone using the word d_nier to mean exactly what is says: someone in d_nial.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Reply Tom Scharf
The victim card is mostly poking the left with their own stick for entertainment purposes and nothing more. The left is hyper-sensitive to terminology when it comes to issues such as race relations, so the use of this term doesn’t live up to their own moral standards. I don’t think too many tears are really shed here.

on February 4, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Reply Joshua
==> “I’ve been a student of history for a long time and have read quite a bit about Nazi Germany and WWII. …It’s heartbreaking to read about the war and to read about the Holocaust. Words fail me to describe the awfulness of that regime and what they did.”

What is the point of this rhetorical flourish? To suggest that knowledge about, and sadness about, mass murder somehow reflects an inherently causal explanation for “concern” about the use of the D word in the climate wars?

Would the same logic apply for the ubiquitous comparisons of “realists” to Lysenko or Stalin or Pol Pot or McCarthy or Eugenicists or Mao or N*zis or eugenicists of my newest favorite Genghis Kahn?

In fact, I think that the overly-dramatic “outrage, outrage I say” about the use of the D word amounts to exploitation of a serious issue – holocaust D..ial – to score points in the climate wars.

None of this “concern” about the D word has anything to do with the science and, IMO, is no better than the similarly exploitative arguments that I often see from “realists”: That the D word has an authoritative and objective definition (that doesn’t include a connotation holocaust D..ial). No one actually knows the intent of someone using the D word unless the labeler stated their intent, and no one actually knows the interpreted meaning by those so labeled, except the person doing the interpretation. And from both sides, the chances are the labeler and labelee will filter their impressions through the partisan screen of the climate Jell-O fight.

IMO, the drama-queening from “skeptics” about the use of the term is pretty much equally matched from “realists” that if they don’t use the term their letting the Ders “define language.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that these discussions exchanging the same opinions happen over and over in thread after thread, with no meaningful or measurable outcome (that I can see, at least) except that perhaps people on both sides (and the same characters that bicker about this issue in blog thread after blog thread) might just be a smidgen more entrenched in their own sense of victimhoood

on February 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Reply Richard Drake
There are category errors all over this. SoD is objecting to d****r and its cognates as totally inappropriate to the science of atmospheric physics. Climate policy as currently conceived can hand significant powers to government – unelected power in the case of the EPA in the USA, from what I’ve read here in the olde country, for example. Or it can lead to crony capitalism as wealthy landowners in Britain get zero-risk handouts for allowing wind turbines to despoil our shared environment. If one has concerns about unelected power or crony capitalism one is perfectly entitled to reach into history and spot some warnings there. Politicised science is another legitimate issue and those of us concerned about it are bound to head for Lysenko or the eugenicists up to 1945. These can never be proofs of what’s happening now but they are legitimate places to go for warnings. What SoD is rightly objecting to is the Holocaust d****l analogy being applied to the science, as it so often is. Why can’t we agree on this most obvious of points?

on February 4, 2015 at 8:45 pm Joshua
Richard –

Let’s take your comment from above:

90% of my disgust is about the fact that anyone using this rhetorical device clearly doesn’t give a damn about the real victims of the Holocaust.


No, we are the ones that care about those victims so much that we cannot stand for language to be abused in this way.
I think that is a very obvious overstatement, founded on fallacious reasoning. In fact, you have no logical basis on which to assert that: (1) anyone using the term “doesn’t give a damn about the real victims of the holocaust,” and (2) “skeptics” as a group “care more about those victims” than “realists” as a group.

But what’s further is that you add these elements:

10% is about its incredibly harmful effect on decent, intelligent public debate of climate, science and policy.
First, you have no way of determining the impact on “intelligent public debate” of the use of that term. None. For example, how could you possibly distinguish it from the impact of so many other pejoratives sprinkled around liberally from “skeptics?” How could you distinguish he impact of that term from the polarizing politicization related to the policy implications of climate change policy? Do you really think that someone pimarily interested in “decent, intelligence public debate” would be unable to get past the use of the D-word, and to be rendered thus incapable of reasoned exchange of view?

And then you will go on to try to legitimize the comparisons to Lysenkoism (where people were imprisoned and executed) or eugenicists (whose racism laid the groundwork for the racism of Nazism), even as you decry the massive hard resulting from hyperbolic rhetoric on the part of “realists?”

Sorry, but IMO, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:54 pm Joshua
And to be clear.

I don’t defend the use of the term. I think that it’s in balance counterproductive, and I think that the argument that somehow the term is necessary in order to make progress, or that in not using the term a “realist” would be relinquishing ground and handing “skeptics” some kind of language-definition victory, are also fallacious. I see no advantage to be gained from using the term.

The term, even if used as some “realists” say that they intend it’s meaning – to suggest that “skeptics” are “in d..ial” – is basically, IMO, based on fallacious reasoning.

In my interpretation, the term essentially means that someone won’t admit openly something that they know at a deeper level to be true – perhaps because of inability to face their true feelings or perhaps because they are “motivated” by self-interest or some other goal they won’t own up to in good faith.

My sense is that most “skeptics” fully believe their arguments to be true, just as do “realists.” I think that calling them the D-word is making an argument without evidence (judging someone’s psychology or motivations without actually knowing enough about them).

And BTW – I see “skeptics” using the D-word quite a bit these days in the “skept-o-sphere” to refer to “realists,” and I have yet to see one “skeptic” jumping up to express their outrage, outrage I say.

on February 4, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Reply BBD
IMO, the drama-queening from “skeptics” about the use of the term is pretty much equally matched from “realists” that if they don’t use the term their letting the Ders “define language.”
But they do, Joshua. They insist on being called ‘sceptics’. Or are you d*nying that this is a key re-definition of language to their advantage? 🙂

on February 4, 2015 at 5:29 pm Richard Drake
Sceptic is just a label, one that Richard Lindzen dislikes because he thinks it implies the ‘consensus position’ we are deemed to doubt is so muddled as to not deserve this level of credence! But he’s surely talking there about dubious claimed consensus across atmospheric science, particularly high-sensitivity enhanced greenhouse, posited impacts and the appropriate policy responses. We’ll never find a label that everyone thinks is strictly correct etymologically. What this thread is about is a wholly inappropriate analogy coming in on the back of climate change d****r. If everyone agreed to eliminating that usage we’d be behaving more like compassionate human beings and that cannot but affect all aspects of a very important debate.

on February 4, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Reply Joshua
And SoD –

Just to be clear…your rhetoric looks to me like a gambit that is saying that your view on the use of the term “denier” is a direct outgrowth of knowledge of and concern about the holocaust. I don’t doubt the sincerity of your views on the holocaust, but obviously it is quite possible to know and be concerned about the holocaust and still not be concerned about the use of “denier” in the climate wars.

on February 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Reply Joshua
And SoD –

Just to be clear…your rhetoric looks to me like a gambit that is saying that your view on the use of the term “d..ier” is a direct outgrowth of knowledge of and concern about the holocaust. I don’t doubt the sincerity of your views on the holocaust, but obviously it is quite possible to know and be concerned about the holocaust and still not be concerned about the use of “d..ier” in the climate wars. Suggesting otherwise looks exploitative to me.

on February 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm | Reply afeman
Now I feel like anybody who asks where I work is invoking the NSDAP.

on February 4, 2015 at 4:17 pm | Reply Joshua
DeWitt –

While I agree with you here:

==> “Words and phrases often have semantic connotations beyond the dictionary definitions.”

I think that you carry that too far here:

==> “I find it difficult to believe that many of those who use that phrase are not aware of that particular connotation and intend it to be taken exactly that way.”

An argument from incredulity?

You don’t know their intent. Why would you find it hard to believe that they might not intend the the use of the term to be any way other than your interpretation? You are turning your own statement upside down – you don’t know their intended semantic connotation.

IMO, is is clear that term is generally viewed as a pejorative and not as a descriptive term, but the connotation of “holocaust d..ial” is far from clear, and the interpretation as a pejorative is no different than the use of “alarmist” or “Lysenkoist” from many of the same players who claim concern about the putative “holocaust” connotation of the D word.

Sorry – but IMO, when someone who claims concern about the D-word then turns around and uses pejorative labels with similar connotations, and like the “realists” then says in defense that they only use the term because it is accurately descriptive – I am not particularly moved.

on February 4, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Reply David Young
The d word is clearly a term meant to insult and draw on the associations with Holocaust denial. A scientific term? Perhaps a pseudo scientific term used by shameless activists to try to get people to censor themselves. Activists who don’t hesitate to misrepresent their own motivations and actions. You know psychological science is particularly subject to cultural prejudice.

on February 4, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Reply BBD
Argument from assertion, David. Wrong-o.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm DeWitt Payne

Don’t go on a college campus in the US today thinking that the labelled one isn’t allowed to define the meaning of the label, take offense and file a formal complaint. Current campus speech codes, which I think are atrocious, do exactly that.

And it wasn’t an argument from incredulity. It was an opinion. I’m not trying to prove anything.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm JCH
There’s this category. They’ll say anything to win.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:10 pm Tom Scharf

Stop it with your micro-aggressions.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:52 pm | Reply Nathan
Rubbish, this is a claim you cannot prove.
English is an evolving language.

People are using the Holocaust here as a weapon, it’s revolting.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Reply Windchasers
SOD: great post. But I think you’re half-hitting, half-missing the point.

I’ve been in quite a few arguments about AGW lately with friends and groups on Facebook. Some of these are old debate partners, so I know where they stand on the issue, and I know I have no hope of convincing them, so I’ve moved on to better understanding their epistemology, their reasoning behind why they believe what they believe. There’s more going on than just not understanding the science.

Here’s the point: most of us don’t understand the science of most fields. Why doubt this field? Why doubt the scientific result of *any* field, for that matter, if you lack expertise there?

The “skeptics” tend to have a few traits in common:
1a) Fiercely independent. Their default is to distrust and view suspiciously subjects they don’t understand for themselves.
1b) They tend to have more belief in their own competence, rather than doubting their own competence/knowledge and giving the scientists the benefit of the doubt.
2) They tend to be ideologically opposed to the perceived consequences of AGW: more government involvement.

1b is a reason I see a lot fewer full-time scientists who reject AGW. If you’ve gotten a PhD, you usually realize just how little you actually knew about your own field before hand, and by analogy, how little you know about other fields. You realize the depth of your incompetence. So you know that you can’t critically analyze the claims of those fields without a helluva lot of work – unless, of course, that most of the scientists in that field are just idiots, which would be a rather bold stance to take. More likely, if a result looks obviously bad, you don’t actually understand it well. In my experience, when I dig into the subject, this tends to be verified.

This attitude is not what I normally see from the AGW skeptics. Rather, it’s the precise opposite: “the scientists are idiots, and I’m easily able to pick apart the flaws in their work”.

The point is that *none* of us are able to actually fully study and critically analyze all of the sub-fields of climate science. We lack the time and expertise. So the question becomes “what’s your default stance?” Is it one of incredulity, or that the scientists know what they’re talking about?

I’m an “alarmist”, not because I believe that climate scientists have exhaustively explored every single possibility that could refute AGW, but because I can grasp the basic science, and because most of the “debunkings” that I see from skeptics don’t look very solid. Which tells you that my default stance is somewhere between agnosticism and trusting the scientists.

TL;DR: When it’s too hard to show people “proof” that they can really grok, they tend to fall back to some sort of default stance, predicated by other positions.

on February 4, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Reply scienceofdoom

I’m fully hitting my own point. But not hitting your point at all.

Most of this blog is dealing with people confused about the basics. Many of them are fully convinced they have a firm grasp of the subject. I agree with you. I find it hilarious.

Still, many people want to understand the strength of a position. I think that’s why the IPCC reports exist – instead of a 1 page press release, saying “we know what we are doing” they wrote quite a lot (must be a few thousand pages in WG1). And that’s a good thing.

If you take any field, the experts are going to understand the subject way better than you and me. Of course.

But – and here’s the small fly in the ointment – if they are extremely convinced of something, does it mean it is true?

I could take economics as an example. Nate Silver does a great job in his book, The Signal and the Noise, which I recommend, of comparing economists forecasts with reality (among other topics). The forecasts, and the uncertainty around the forecast provided by economists, do not compare well with reality.

How can Nate Silver be so arrogant – he’s not an economist – to compare economists predictions and uncertainty calculations with reality? What does he know about economics?

But many people are interested in the result. Economics and climate are both important in our future. And it’s not just “skeptics” who are over-confident in their ability.

That doesn’t mean I believe climate scientists are “wrong” or that “skeptics” are right. I refer you to all the other articles in this blog for demonstration of this. I’m very impressed with most climate science work.

When I look at something like say paleoclimate they are truly (literally and figuratively) digging under every rock looking for new evidence and looking for ways to check previous calculations and estimates.

I started this blog because I’m interested in climate, because I have questions that I wanted to research, and because so many people have legitimate* questions – but are insulted instead of answered on blogs where people do know physics.

Although to be fair it’s only after they commit the cardinal sin of questioning the answer, or of generally not accepting the “right” answer at face value first time when they get insulted.

Oh sorry, I thought this was the climate blog.
No, this is the insulting room, down the hall, 3rd left.
– Monty Python allusion.. for fans.

[* legitimate = it’s a reasonable question to ask even if the answer is already published in a journal and not in doubt, even if the answer is already clear for 100 years in textbooks and not in doubt].

on February 4, 2015 at 8:10 pm Windchasers
I’m fully hitting my own point. But not hitting your point at all.
+1. I’ve had the issues of epistemology on my mind a lot lately, so I read your post in light of that, and ignored all the d-word stuff (which I personally don’t really care about).

But – and here’s the small fly in the ointment – if they are extremely convinced of something, does it mean it is true?
Of course the answer is “it depends”. If I want to judge the results in another field, I look to how rigorous the methodologies are that underlie the expert’s opinions, and I see how well they can falsify alternative hypotheses and remove the effects of confounding factors. Fields where these are harder to do tend to progress more slowly (e.g., economics or medicine).

Repeatibility is another aspect of trust, of course. I might trust a verified study of the effect of some drug on rats, more than a non-verified study of the drug’s effect on humans.

But ideally, all of these issues should factor into the experts’ confidence, too, if they’re objective and if they’re any good. Good scientists recognize the limits of their work’s significance and certainty.

I started this blog because I’m interested in climate, because I have questions that I wanted to research, and because so many people have legitimate* questions – but are insulted instead of answered on blogs where people do know physics.
I appreciate this blog. Just wanted to let you know.

About 15 years ago, I was working through my views on evolution vs creationism, and similar blogs like Panda’s Thumb really helped me. There were some insults thrown my way, sure, but it was mostly fair insults, saying “do your DD. Here are some links”.

There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, but at the same time, I can understand frustration with those who form strong opinions before they get educated, and particularly so if they’re resistant to changing those opinions when new data comes along. But that’s another subject.

In any case, it’s important to have somewhere where the data is laid out in a way that people can easily understand it, and (hopefully) in a neutral, friendly, not-emotionally-charged setting.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:43 pm | Reply Tom Scharf
“They tend to have more belief in their own competence”

Not really. What they believe is that if the communicator is not able to deliver what they believe to be a convincing argument, then possibly the argument needs further investigation and the benefit of the doubt is not given. When the primary thrust for a conclusion is an argument from authority it doesn’t help.

When the subject in question is environmental science which has a very checkered history on the reliability of their conclusions and an overly zealous activist movement, it doesn’t help.

When the first deep dive you take is an investigation into the mathematics of the Hockey Stick which made the IPCC cover, it doesn’t help.

When the further down you look into items such as extreme events, extinctions, and sea level rise, and you find that the science is being overstated by the media, it doesn’t help.

When the science allegedly has a high risk to society, but nuclear, fracking, and hydro are taken off the table by those most alarmed, it doesn’t help.

Most of the science is reasonable, much of how it is interpreted and reported by politicians, activists, and the media is not.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Reply Roddy
verytallguy, I looked up on Wikipedia examples of ‘something denial’ as a phrase. Only found three in common usage, Climate d, AIDS/HIV d, and Genocide/Holocaust d, so the objections to its use can’t just be waved away by saying it is an ordinary word.

see the ‘See also’ section at the bottom of the entry.

on February 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Reply scienceofdoom
In an earlier comment I’ve responded on how the d term is used or not.

It’s a completely different subject (from the main point of this article) to discuss more general use of insulting terms, but seeing as I have opened up the article for more general debate..

There is a huge range of opinion that is tarred with the ‘d..r’ insult. I’m sure we can all agree that it is not meant as a compliment. Perhaps those applying it are calmly thinking it’s just a statement of fact (leaving aside the issue of its relationship – or not – to the Holocaust).

Leaving aside another completely different point about whether insulting people is a good overall strategy in a large political debate (obviously it has pros and cons from the point of view of “winning” when we are not concerned about good taste and etiquette)..

There is an interesting point about the range of ideas that are tarred with being from ‘’ – everything from not knowing the absolute basics of radiation through to much more complex topics. This is picking up the comment from stevefitzpatrick earlier.

A lot of people, including myself, actually worked in environments which used finite element analysis (models) to solve engineering and physics problems. In my case it was a long time ago and semiconductor physics but the principles are the same.

From the very small pool of people I know, those who have a good, or excellent, understanding of models are more skeptical of GCM outputs than those who have no understanding of how models work.

How can this be?

From the many comments on this blog and other blogs that I have read, many people who question the % likelihood of GCM outputs being correct are doing so from the experience of working with real models. Not from being in denial of basic science. (Of course, there is a huge volume of comments from people questioning GCMs because they have no idea about the absolute basics – see this blog for evidence).

Questioning the reliability of a complex model is not denying basic science. Unless – and I only realized this just now – GCMs have solved the problems that beset other modeling endeavors.

In my very out of date case, back in the dark ages, the model would predict, for example, if we etch this shape on the edge of the silicon, and cover it with this much oxide, the p-n junction will break down at this voltage. They break down at the edge – so edge effects are the most important, and there the slope, overall shape and thickness of dieletric are all important. Then we wait a few weeks while we, or others, make samples (doping junctions at high temperatures in furnaces, acid etching, growing oxides in furnaces, wearing ‘bunny suits’).

The voltage breakdown of the new samples turns out to be quite a bit lower than predicted, which is bad. The modeling guys play around with the parameters in the model. Now the model matches reality. Great, next prediction with our revised model is – we etch this shape, use this much oxide and voila!

Except voila never came.

The model was never great at predicting what to do next. And we were just using electric field theory in a 3-d grid and whatever equations related to how the p-n junction worked (none of which I would have any recollection of now). That’s pretty simple stuff.

By comparison, fluid mechanics, necessary in climate models, is proven to be a much harder problem (for reasons clear to those who understand non-linear equations and modeling).

One of the key problems was obtaining knowledge of parameters. Papers in the field gave ranges of empirical parameters but using those never gave the right future values. On the other hand, finding parameter values so that recent experiments lined up with model results was pretty much a breeze. Predicting the future was harder.

The people who had to produce the results didn’t have a lot of confidence in the models. The people who worked on the models believed in the value of the models.

We gradually improved products really through trial and error, with knowledge of the basic physics of electric field breakdown at a boundary as the guide to what to try next.

Of course, none of this has any relevance to climate science so I don’t know why I brought it up (Richard T – satire alert).

None of this means climate models are a waste of time, or can’t tell us anything. GCMs are invaluable.

Unfortunately, in the excitement of the polarized, invective-laden atmosphere of climate science debate, everyone not 100% in agreement with “the right camp” is labeled with the same terms as those who hilariously believe the last 100 years of physics is “all wrong”, or can’t do basic maths and “use” this skill to “prove something” about climate.

But none of that was the reason for writing the article. It was probably listening to my history book – The Coming of the Third Reich.

on February 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Reply Windchasers
I’m in materials modeling, actually, so I also have some experience with non-chaotic modeling.

On the one hand, I can say that modeling has come a long way in the last 20 years. On the other hand, we still frequently push out too far, with too little understanding of the accuracy of the parameters or the model. In materials we have a long way to go in bridging lengthscales from top to bottom, and that seems to also hold in climate modeling.

But the efficacy of modeling is extremely problem-dependent. If the problem is well-formulated and the results primarily depend on well-understood subparts, then the modeling can produce amazing insights. As the quality of the parameters and their interactions decreases, so does the quality of the results.

Remember “all models are wrong, but some are useful.”

So of course the models are imperfect, and have problems. The question is whether these problems affect the results that we’re looking for. (Also, would we know if the problems did, and furthermore, can we quantify these problems’ effects on our result?)

But many of the “skeptics” I talk to don’t care about that question. They see a problem in the models’ results, any problem, and they assume that it’s deadly for the results, without actually thinking through whether it matters and how much.

I’m not happy with the climate models right now. I’m far from satisfied. But I don’t yet see any evidence that they’re missing something extra and important, something that would change the main results.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:32 pm stevefitzpatrick
“From the very small pool of people I know, those who have a good, or excellent, understanding of models are more skeptical of GCM outputs than those who have no understanding of how models work.

How can this be?”

As you note, part of the skepticism is due to experience with modeling, but part is due to experience working on difficult and not fully understood problems in a ‘noisy’ (in an informational sense) environment. The final part is that the models have pretty consistently predicted far more warming than observed. Taken together, these things tell me that the models are very unlikely able to make accurate long term predictions. I find empirical estimates of sensitivity far more convincing.

on February 4, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Reply Richard Drake
Profoundly useful reminiscence and reflection SoD. One of the many things most deployers of the D-word won’t do is say who definitely lies outside its mocking scope.

“Of course I don’t include Lindzen…”
“McIntyre is annoying but he’s not denying basic physics…”
“Richard Tol is bad at spotting irony but…”

It a catch-all, for anyone who disagrees with Climate Central and their issue-de-jour. At that point it really becomes rather ridiculous. Oh, apart from those who had to go through the real Holocaust. They’ve been trivialised once again but do we care? Nope, we having too much fun winding up anyone who doubts the output of a GCM or anything downstream from there.

On a scale of 1 to 10 of impressing the ‘other side’ by the quality of your argument mark me down as number unobtainable.

on February 4, 2015 at 7:39 pm | Reply Gator
GCMs are not the reason people believe the earth is warming. If your friends are using their previous experiences with bad models as an excuse to ignore basic science, then yes, they are d’s. CO2 absorbs IR. CO2 is increasing. That increase is caused by human activities. We have observed a temperature increase that cannot be explained except as a response to increasing CO2. Where do the models fit in?

There is a question of how much temperature will increase in the coming years; there is a question of what affect that increase will have. If only the discussion were focused on these questions!

D’s are people that d**y the basic science, usually for some BS reason like “well, my models never worked” but really because “don’t raise my taxes!”

on February 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm scienceofdoom

The point is a bit more subtle. My friends and acquaintances who understand models are very scientifically literate and none of them doubt CO2 as a GHG, or that the earth is warming, or that CO2 is a principal cause.

Where do models come in?

If you read chapter 11 of IPCC AR5 you will see that models are necessary for attribution.

The comparison is of model simulations with GHG increases vs model simulation without GHG increases. I wrote two articles about this, referenced in this article. Here is the later one.

This is how the determination is made of, as you describe “..a temperature increase that cannot be explained except as a response to increasing CO2..”

You are free to attribute motives or political agendas to people who ask questions or claim something different from consensus climate science in this [non-standard] article – but in the rest of the blog we stay away from it, as described in the Etiquette.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:24 pm Climate Weenie
“If you read chapter 11 of IPCC AR5 you will see that models are necessary for attribution. ”

Not just attribution.

Manabe-Strickler demonstrated that without convection, the atmosphere radiates less effectively than with convection. The non-radiative transfer of heat in part determines the resulting radiative transfer to space.

on February 5, 2015 at 1:12 am Gator
SOD, if what you say is true, then the people you are talking about are not d*n*rs. But if they are really so involved and so interested, I would hope they are actually reading the papers and questioning results. In my experience, that is not common. Many people will go straight from “I know models” to “global warming is crap.”

So your friends really have in-depth discussions about attribution and technical issues in modeling? Or do they just say — attribution requires modeling, I know modeling, it’s hard — I don’t believe it.

on February 5, 2015 at 1:49 am steven
“We have observed a temperature increase that cannot be explained except as a response to increasing CO2.”

Unless of course there was a change in poleward ocean heat transport according to this literature:

So tell me, is the Gulf Stream an indicator of poleward ocean heat transport or an anomaly and how do you know?

on February 4, 2015 at 9:54 pm | Reply David Young
SOD, This is my situation too. I’m actively working in CFD and mathematics used to solve PDE’s. That’s why my experience with being called a denie was so insulting. It was simply a lie and an insult.

I have learned a lot from climate blogs especially yours!! CFD can learn from atmospheric sciences too.

on February 4, 2015 at 11:06 pm scienceofdoom
David Young,

I would be very interested in a poll of researchers who are actively involved in modeling in fluid dynamics (outside climate science). There must be a lot – it’s a big field with aeronautics, heat exchangers and lots of high value research.

“How reliable do you believe climate model predictions of future temperature are, assuming the various scenarios for GHG emissions are correct – at 20 years, 50 years and 100 years?”

There’s probably a few more questions that could usefully be added.

I have no idea what the results would be but I wonder if there would be less confidence in the reliability of climate model predictions than the generally scientifically literate population. (Whatever that means, maybe I have to downgrade my wish to the general population).

Maybe someone has already done this?

And a note for concerned heretic watchers new to this blog – I have no doubts about the greenhouse effect, or the fact that increasing anthropogenic GHGs has been a significant contribution to rising temperatures of the last 100 years.

on February 5, 2015 at 12:16 am omnologos
Sad isn’t it when both SoD and Kloor find it necessary to go for brownie points, and clarify, clarify and clarify again that they ARE part of the Good Guys Brigade indeed, and have NO DOUBTS about the greenhouse effect, or the fact that increasing anthropogenic GHGs has been a significant contribution to rising temperatures of the last 100 years.

You are missing a very important point.

I have been labelled a D many many times. I have even collected all the insults received during a brief period in the Greenfyre blog

The insults haven’t gone away…they just resurface whenever I say anything in “warmist” blogs.

What’s the issue? The issue is that in my About page there is a text from 2007 where I clearly state that I have no doubts about the greenhouse effect, or the fact that increasing anthropogenic GHGs has been a significant contribution to rising temperatures of the last 100 years.

It’s from eight years ago. Yet the “concerned heretic watchers” would not and will not accept my membership of the Good Guys Brigade.

And who wrote that text? Why, Willis Eschenbach of WUWT fame. This should obviously and clearly and definitely destroy Kloor’s defense. WUWT is not the Very Bad Place he tried to describe in order to get brownie points.

Know what, the vituperated Bishop Hill has a blog owner who I suspect would subscribe to the same – that is, he has no doubts about the greenhouse effect, or the fact that increasing anthropogenic GHGs has been a significant contribution to rising temperatures of the last 100 years. There is a category of self-style Lukewarmers: Ridley, Lomborg, Lawson among them.

However, as seen countless times and for at least seven years and again in this thread, and about Ridley and Lomborg and Lawson, this does not matter. The people who utter the D word do not care about what the objects of their ires actually think: because the issue is not one’s opinion on the GHG properties of CO2, and not even what the temperature record says, or what the equations may indicate, or how good the numerical solutions we call Models are.

The issue for those who want/need to use the D word has been indicated by the Guardian some time ago: a skeptic is somebody who thinks at least some of the alarming claims made about climate change are exaggerated.

Conversely, a Believer is somebody who thinks no alarming claim is exaggerated.

In other words, a Believer does see the world as destined to a fiery and burning death. With the catastrophe approaching, anybody who doesn’t agree we’re a few years away from total collapse of civilization and more, is put in the D category.

You guys, (SoD and Kloor) are hovering about, almost ready to fall in the B camp. Maybe you should make it clear to yourselves and to your readers.

Are some claims of what is going to happen about global warming and climate change, exaggerated?

on February 5, 2015 at 3:16 am David Young
Yes, SOD, such a survey would be interesting. What I’ve found in my decade long journey into uncertainty in fluid dynamics is that there are 2 distinct classes of scientists.

The first class is not too familiar with the technical details but perhaps uses the codes or perhaps sells the codes. There is a strong positive results bias in the CFD literature that I instinctively knew was there 35 years ago. In the last decade, we’ve documented it carefully and will have a new statistical analysis coming out this year sometime. Basically, the CFD literature is very misleading. There is a large class of people who believe the literature is representative of actual code performance, especially outsiders and non-scientists. They are mistaken.

The second class is those who actually write the codes and the engineers who are actually accountable for the performance of real products. This class includes virtually all turbulence modelers, who are as a group quite clever and rather honest. They know all about the problems and issues, but I’ve found that even in this class there is a bias that the codes and methods are better than they really are. I’ve made at least a score of converts in this camp in the last decade though. These people are generally honest and have high integrity.

The real question is will I be able to complete this program of work before I face my inevitable departure from this interesting and fun world.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:58 pm | Reply Nathan
So please, give an example where someone who was genuinely skeptical was called a ‘D’

on February 5, 2015 at 12:40 am David Young
Did you read the responses, Nathan? I am an example. It was at Keithe Kloor’s a year or so ago. It was pretty nasty and unpleasant.

on February 4, 2015 at 10:15 pm | Reply Tom Scharf
I think everyone agrees that this is probably one of the most difficult modeling problems around. How much we can trust these predictions is a big question.

I think models this complex require an iterative process of code – test – analyze results to become significantly better.

I know it is against the rules to bring up weather modeling, but I have watched with great interest the evolution of hurricane tracking models over the last 20 years. I live in Florida. 20 years ago they were pretty poor, and their tracks were only useful up to a 24 hour threshold. Today they give reliable cones 3 days out.

How do I know I can trust these models? Because they perform against observations over and over and over. (Note: Hurricane strength predictions are still poor).

How did they get better? They examine every track against observations and determine where the model went wrong and what the most important parameters are. They do it iteratively, they didn’t just lock themselves in a room for 20 years thinking great math thoughts. I’d feel a lot better about climate predictions if they had 500 years of detailed observations in the bank.

In this view, we are on climate model v1.0. Unfortunately the iteration loop time is probably 50 years. How good is v1.0? I have no idea and I don’t sense other people do either. Good enough to say more CO2 = higher temperatures? Very likely. Good enough to say it will be +3C instead of +1.5C by 2100? Doubtful. Good enough to tell the Audubon Society that 50% of North American birds will go extinct? Very unlikely.

on February 4, 2015 at 10:42 pm scienceofdoom
Tom Scharf,

I know it is against the rules to bring up weather modeling..
Really? No, it’s not.

In fact we looked at weather forecasting in Ensemble Forecasting.

One of the most interesting points is that weather forecasts for some time now have been run as ensemble forecasts (with slightly different initial conditions and also slightly different parameters) – then the % likelihood of events are recorded. Later the % forecast of events is compared with the % of events that took place.

So, if we run 100 ensembles and get 5 with the chance of a severe storm, the severe storm is forecast at 5% probability. Then there is a plot of % forecast vs % actual – which should result in a straight line: 5% probability events happen 5% of the time, 20% probability events happen 20% of the time and so on.

The “under-confidence” or “over-confidence” of the models is then identified and the work of resolving the problems takes place.

What is important is that running 1 model simulation with the “best observations” as starting points and the “best estimate of parameters” does definitely a worse job than an ensemble forecast.

For one thing, it can’t identify the probability of an extreme event (because there is only 1 outcome in the simulation). But also, it doesn’t get such good results even in the more normal cases.

Weather forecasting is much easier than climate modeling because we can test the results.

Climate modeling is intended to produce statistics of weather. I question the length of time necessary for the statistics to converge – as explained in Natural Variability and Chaos – Four – The Thirty Year Myth.

I believe asking questions about these kind of things is a good idea.

And a lot of these kinds of questions are articulated by climate scientists in their papers – although I haven’t seen this one expressed like this.

on February 5, 2015 at 12:16 am Tom Scharf
I’m only joking, if you make analogies between how chaos limits weather modeling and how this might also limit climate models you typically get shouted down in a lot of forums. I have read all your modeling post and learned quite a lot. The statistics of chaotic systems with the pendulum was very interesting.

I think they do much the same thing with ensembles and hurricane forecasts. The spaghetti plots of predicted hurricane tracks for different models is one of the most useful things they do. It is so useful that they routinely show it on local television weather forecasts. You can intuitively quickly determine if the models are in tight agreement and that usually indicates higher reliability.

The 7 day out models are actually pretty reliable for if a hurricane will make landfall or be a fish storm. This would have been hopeless 20 years ago. They are still terrible at hurricane season prediction.

This is actually one of the reasons I started looking into this subject. After Katrina Florida insurance rates spiked immediately when they stopped using historical disaster costs and instead relied on climate models which predicted more frequent and stronger storms. That hasn’t been a successful prediction so far.

on February 4, 2015 at 7:14 pm | Reply toby52
I have “debated” with both climate science deniers and Holocaust deniers, and there are many traits spookily in common.

Mostly, there is a pronounced to seize on a small corner of the evidence and thrash it to death (growth of Antarctic sea ice, or differences in eyewitness accounts of Treblinka)

Another is to talk about large myths, especially conspiracy theories – green scientists are conspiring to introduce Communism by the back door, or the Jews own all the newspapers and media so control the news etc.

To be “in denial” is an accepted term – like the alcoholic who won’t admit a drinking problem, or the spouse who won’t face the obvious fact that their partner is a cheat. These are the ones who cannot face the consequences of accepting unpleasant facts – Holocaust deniers cannot face the fact that anti-Semitism can have and had genocidal consequences. The evasion of climate change deniers has already been mentioned.

There are vaccine deniers, Moon landing hoaxers and Kennedy assassination obsessives who are in a similar boat. Call a spade a spade, and a denier a denier.

on February 4, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Reply Richard Drake
You may see common traits, that’s your prerogative. But has it never occured to you that you may be trivialising the Holocaust if you use Climate D****r? Conspiracist is a useful word. Crazy conspiracist sometimes fits the bill. But as SoD put it:

On the other hand, those who ascribe the word ‘denier’ to people not in agreement with consensus climate science are trivializing the suffering and deaths of millions of people. Everyone knows what this word means. It means people who are apologists for those evil jackbooted thugs who carried the swastika and cheered as they sent six million people to their execution.
Despite your obvious and principled contempt for those you have run into who express doubt on aspects of climate science and policy that you feel you understand much better than they do, did not this paragraph give you any pause for thought?

on February 4, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Reply roddycampbell
This is the first blog I’ve read on SoD, and the entertainment value was high, the points quite subtle, and the author’s comments in this section really good. Bookmarked!

on February 4, 2015 at 8:10 pm | Reply scienceofdoom

Unfortunately, you might find the rest of the blog to be very dull. Full of science and no discussion of motives. Let’s see.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:12 pm | Reply Climate Weenie
It’s funny to blacklist d-e-n-i-e-r when invoking the holocaust at all is an indirect way of dropping the d word.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:15 pm | Reply scienceofdoom
I found that Keith Kloor has written a Collide-a-Scape article and referenced this.

I always appreciate his work and this one is (thank goodness) no exception.

I also saw in the comments that someone has referenced a page of cherry-picked quotations that helpfully backs my original claim so, of course, I’m highlighting it.

Thank goodness, rescued.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Reply Richard Drake
The same list of quotations republished by Watts Up With That, SoD, of which I said earlier:

Seeking to squirm out by saying you mean less than Holocaust denial is less than convincing given the extent of this history and the dearth of examples of people like yourself calling out those in your own camp who have made the analogy absolutely explicit. See WUWT last year for some useful examples if you want to make a start in putting this right.
May I reiterate this point. The claim from many here is that when they use the D-word it has nothing to do with the Holocaust. But why not? Presumably because they agree with you that such a comparison between two such different categories of error would be repugnant. And, if so, surely they can at once point to the times and places where they publicly complained about the many explicit comparisons listed by Popular Technology.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:46 pm | Reply Shub Niggurath
I find the article highly biased and lacking in depth.

This is Kloor’s characterization of WUWT/BH/JN:

consistent ideological bias
skepticism that runs in only one direction
slanted criticism,
marred by conspicuous omissions
selective use of facts.
overall tone is hostile
not true skepticism
confirmation bias masquerading as skepticism
No skepticism whatsoever,
no critical thinking skills
“climate skeptics”
not true skeptics
don’t think skeptically
captive to their ideologically-driven biases

In support of this characterization, Kloor offers a topic he researched but they did not but linked to in passing.

on February 5, 2015 at 12:16 am Joshua
I think Shub gets some stuff right in this comment (although certainly not all)..but what Shub doesn’t get is that Keith has a special magic that makes his name-calling effective while everyone else’s is counterproductive.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:03 am | Reply Nathan
Those quotes are where people have linked the two; something I think is pointless and stupid. But the fact that they had to spell it out undermines the idea that simply using the D word means you are linking it to Holocaust D.

Claiming that using the D-word implies you are linking it to Holocaust D appears to be a syllogism; and that’s a pretty weak (if not the weakest) form of logic.

on February 4, 2015 at 8:41 pm | Reply eli
The last holocaust survivor in Elis family died a few months ago, so forgive Eli for not taking the beats of those trying to rule out using a perfectly good and accurate label for their ostrich act.

However, how about rejectionist. Perfectly accurate for those who reject science including the anticancer and those who reject climate science

on February 4, 2015 at 8:48 pm | Reply Brandon Shollenberger
The people defending the use of “denier” in the global warming debate generally won’t be open about how the word has been used in said debate. They’ll often divert the discussion into uses of “denial,” a different word or find other ways to say there is no reason to make an association with the Holocaust.

There are two central problems to this. First, it is abundantly clear the association exists given people’s reactions. Even if people don’t think “denier” should be associated with the Holocaust, it is clear it is in the minds of at least some people. People defending the use of the word never seem to recognize this. When confronted with it, they often say it is nothing but a dishonest ploy to trick people. You can see such in a number of responses to this post.

The second problem is people have intentionally associated global warming “deniers” with Holocaust deniers. I remember back in 2007 people complaining when Ellen Goodman said:

I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.
That was in the Boston Globe. Just last year, we had the Guardian publish an article which said:

And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can’t call us “global warming deniers ” because “denier” makes us sound like “Holocaust deniers”, and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.
And people like Chris Mooney lament the lack of cooperation from journalists in pushing the “right” scientific messages, saying:

Rather, in each and every story, journalists have to make a judgment about how credible their sources are. The obvious reductio ad absurdum is Holocaust deniers: Should their perspective be provided, for “balance,” any time someone writes about the Holocaust? Of course not.
George Monbiot once said:

Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial.
DeSmogBlog, a favorite resource of some of the very people we’ve seen respond to this post denying any association between “denier” and Holocaust once said:

These are not debunkers, testing outrageous claims with scientific rigor. They are deniers – like Holocaust deniers.
Jim Powell, whose work on studying the global warming “conensus” helped spark the infamouse Skeptical Science paper on the subject published a book which said:

Those who abjure global warming are not skeptics; they are deniers. To call them skeptics is to debase language as much as to call the Ku Klux Klan “prejudiced,” Holocaust deniers “biased,” or Flat-Earthers “mistaken.
There are many more examples, and I limited myself to people creating explicit associations. I didn’t even touch on the constant references to Nazis/World War II. Distasteful ones like the Skeptical Science Hiroshima app may be excused, but we have people like the head of the IPCC, Richard Pachuri, demonizing people by saying things like:

If you were to accept Lomborg’s way of thinking, then maybe what Hitler did was the right thing.
People intentionally associated global warming “deniers” with Holocaust deniers. It’s been explicitly done in popular media and by science communicators in the global warming arena. It’s accepted enough they are willing to put it in books. Even the head of the IPCC compares people he dislikes to Hitler.

The association is real. The association was intentional. The association is disgusting, and it disgusting people continue to defend it.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:05 am | Reply Nathan
Sure, where people make the link it’s pretty revolting, but to claim that the D-Word IMPLIES an association with Holocaust D is poor logic.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Reply Climate Weenie
There are others that deny that temperature trends are less than Hansen testimony:

The IPCC quickly changed its tune in AR5 ( by adjusting scenarios ) so they would have to deny that temperature trends were less than the 1.8C per century low end trend of AR4.

Others deny that hot spot is a failure of the model dynamics.

Others deny that carbon dioxide enhances plant growth and crop yields.

Others deny that globally, drought appears to be declining:

There is plenty of denial

on February 4, 2015 at 10:08 pm | Reply Nathan
So what?

on February 5, 2015 at 2:03 am Climate Weenie

on February 4, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Reply Keith Klor
Joshua writes:
“What is the point of this rhetorical flourish? To suggest that knowledge about, and sadness about, mass murder somehow reflects an inherently causal explanation for “concern” about the use of the D word in the climate wars?”

Just when I think your trolling can’t reach greater heights, you always surprise me, Joshua.

SoD: Great post. Spurred me to write about something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:47 pm | Reply Shub Niggurath
Your article contains a barrage of ad hominem shots at skeptical blogs. The thrust of your conclusion is that people need to re-consider calling climate skeptics names because they – the name-callers – would not look good to ‘fence-sitters and lurkers’, i.e., argument from consequence.

Knowing the history of the term and knowing how it came into use in the climate, as Shollenberger recounts above, how did you find yourself hesitating to come up with an unequivocal condemnation?

on February 4, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Reply Joshua
Glad I can still impress you, Keith.

I remember back when you highlighted one of my comments from Judith’s over at your bog – when you were similarly impressed. In fact, called you it “brilliant’ (or something like that).

In fact, you felt so positive about my views that you sent me a personal email(s?) telling me how much you respected my views.

Of course, that’s before I disagreed with you on some issues – most specifically your use of name-calling in your posts about GMOs, and in response you started in with name-calling toward me, and calling me a “troll.”

The message I conveyed in that comment at Judith’s – the one that you wrote a post about – was actually very similar to the one I just expressed w/r/t to SoD’s post.

Look at Richard Drake’s comment from above:

90% of my disgust is about the fact that anyone using this rhetorical device clearly doesn’t give a damn about the real victims of the Holocaust.
I think that there was a similar tone to SoD’s original post – as if somehow calling someone a “denier” meant that they didn’t understand or appreciate the history of the holocaust. I disagree with the implication.

If it wasn’t the implication of his rhetorical flourish – where he started by describing his interest in the topic – and I was wrong, then he’ll get over it. I made it clear that I have no reason to believe that his views about the holocaust are anything but sincere.

It reminds me of when Ridley began an article where he accused environmental researchers as a class of being corrupt, by a discussion about how he’s always been a champion of science (as if those who disagree with his views aren’t).

What cracks me up about you, Keith, is that you often hand-wring about the impact of name-calling even as you regularly name-call yourself. Nice way of showing your concern about the use of the D-word – by using the T-word.

on February 4, 2015 at 11:43 pm | Reply Joshua
Also interesting that here:

This T-word makes an argument very similar to the one that you highlighted on your blog post.

on February 4, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Reply cgs
I really, really enjoyed this post, because many times I run through the same process in my mind. “Start with the GHG theory, and etc.” I typically mull over a few more steps, such as “We have data that shows CO2 is increasing; we know this CO2 is ours because of the relative abundances of isotopes; part of the attribution analysis must consider the apparent cooling of the stratosphere and the warming of the troposphere, and etc.”

A big thumbs-up to your entire blog! I very much like the tone you set.

on February 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm | Reply SmallChange
On a BAU emissions path (i.e., RCP8.5), by the end of the 21st century… which is going to have been worse? The holocaust of WW2? Or the global climate holocaust?

The challenge is with those who seem to think the latter isn’t possible, when the overwhelming body of research tells us there is a very high likelihood of it occurring.

on February 4, 2015 at 11:58 pm | Reply billovitch
Here’s another recent example of a noun in apposition with “denial”, of the type Richard Darke claims is a trend with its origins in the term “holocaust denial (on the somewhat dubious evidence of some dude sounding off on the Bishop Hill blog) :

So the Jewish Business News is calling Dawkins a God – denier. Hmm, are they trivialising the holocaust here?

Maybe out of kindness to those who feel that whether of not people are actually making a comparison with holocaust denial when they use the word or its cognates in other contexts we should seek to regard the term as POLITICALLY INCORRECT. Funny, though, that those who are hostile to the idea of AGW being a significant problem for mankind tend to have a strong hostility towards “political correctness”.

on February 4, 2015 at 11:59 pm | Reply billovitch
Oops, that should be “Richard Drake”

on February 5, 2015 at 12:16 am | Reply Eamon
Looking at Google Ngram for the years 1980-2008 I find that the word “denier” is referenced at least 200 times more than “holocaust denier”.

This does not indicate that the two words are synonymous.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:14 am | Reply Climate Weenie
How about ‘hysteric’?

That’s what I think about the emotional reaction many have global warming – hysteria.

on February 5, 2015 at 3:49 am Eamon
On NGram hysteric has a general lead over denier, but then again hysteric can be an adjective as well as an identifier.

on February 5, 2015 at 12:22 am | Reply billovitch
Here’s an idea. How about using the term AGW-dismisser or climate change-dismisser. It would cover all those who think that, on the basis of what we know, AGW can be dismissed as a significant problem, This would include the various contributors to this discussion who certainly don’t d**y that there has been some warming but claim that we know too little to justify any action on the matter.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:13 am | Reply Climate Weenie

Recent decades warming is at around 1.5K per century – a rate which also occurred from 1910-1945.

But what of it?

Most disaster scenarios are NOT scientific and along the lines of children worried about monsters under the bed ( since we’re invoking Nazis here ).

No matter how many times one shines the light under the bed, the child reverts to the monster when left to their thoughts.

on February 5, 2015 at 12:24 am | Reply About the Holocaust and Climate Change skepticism | Omnologos
[…] comment posted at the SoD and Keith Kloor‘s […]

on February 5, 2015 at 12:42 am | Reply Frank
SOD: Many consensus climate scientists refuse to publicly debate skeptical scientists. They claim that this spreads misinformation to many (especially reflexive right-wingers, rebels, simple-minded contrarians, etc.) and provides skeptics with undeserved attention and status. I don’t accept these arguments. However, if I substitute “Holocaust den1al” for “climate change den1al”, I these arguments may have some validity. If a few crackpots try to get publicity for the former, are they entitled to the same kind of full public debate that climate skeptics would like to see? If not, who decides whether public debate is warranted? It appears as if the CAGW consensus has succeeded in equating these two positions and suppressing debate.

on February 5, 2015 at 1:35 am | Reply SmallChange
Your use of (C)AGW reveals your position here. The “catastrophic” aspect of AGW is a function of the emissions path we choose.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:16 am Climate Weenie
So if there were some level of warming, and no adverse impact, would you care?

on February 5, 2015 at 2:18 am | Reply Climate Weenie
So, warming rates are less than the low end projections.
Findings of harm don’t seem to hold up to scrutiny.
These are things that need to be part of the discussion.

on February 5, 2015 at 5:00 am | Reply Tom Scharf
I suppose the question is whether they believe a public debate would improve one side’s position or not. The fact that team science appears to believe a public debate would not strengthen their position is a bit curious. I think they are comfortable with their current appeal to authority and debating themselves through the normal academic channels. That’s fine, but one shouldn’t gripe about what the public’s view is if you are not willing to engage critics.

on February 5, 2015 at 1:21 am | Reply Sou
Why is it that a perfectly good word which is defined by the flagship English language dictionary, the Oxford Dictionary, as follows:

D…r – noun
A person who denies something, especially someone who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence:
a prominent d…r of global warming
a climate change d…r

…is purloined by people for whatever purpose.

I probably can’t even post a link to the definition as it seems the word is so reviled here that it disallows it being printed. Just Google the word + Oxford Dictionary and select definition 2.

This article is most unfortunate. It is wrong in so many ways. Not just in the abuse of the English language (a wrong definition of the word “d…r”) but in a mistaken appreciation of what it *means* to reject climate science, and a mistaken understanding of what it *takes* to accept or reject climate science.

One doesn’t have to know how to work out equations to accept climate science any more than one has to understand the intricacies of biology to accept evolution, or the details of geology to appreciate the age of the world, or the ins and outs of modern physics to accept that there are tiny particles, or an in-depth understanding of the immune system to accept or reject the value of vaccines.

People reject climate science for all sorts of reasons, but only very, very rarely would it be because they find equations too complex. Social science tells us that it is much more likely to be because it is incompatible with a person’s world view and/or their ideology. Many people pretend to reject climate science because they have a vested interest in doing so (and/or because it is part of their job description) – such as the professional disinformers (who feed off science d…rs).

This article seriously detracts from the blog, which is a shame, because otherwise you have some very good articles here, SoD, for people who *are* interested in the mathematics of climate science.

There are already way too many apologists for people who wilfully reject climate science to the detriment of society. It is dismaying that you seek to fan the flames now, SoD, just when the US tide could be starting to turn in favour of science.

Why did you do it?

on February 5, 2015 at 3:28 am | Reply David Young
Good grief, Sou, what a litany of superficial and unscientific nonsense. Did you read Brandon Schollenberter’s comment about the association and how it has become established by common usage in the press?

Who is apologizing for anyone? Some people are wrong on a whole host of issues. Some people sympathized with the enemy during the civil war. Abraham Lincoln’s approach was far more effective and humane than the approach of the radicals. Why do you feel that name calling is going to help change their minds or do anything other make you feel virtuous in some strange way. Name calling is for children, not adults.

on February 5, 2015 at 3:28 am | Reply scienceofdoom

..There are already way too many apologists for people who wilfully reject climate science to the detriment of society. It is dismaying that you seek to fan the flames now, SoD, just when the US tide could be starting to turn in favour of science.

Why did you do it?
Because I am part of an evil empire of disinformation. I have worked carefully for over five years to allay suspicion – and now, [cackle] I have fooled everyone and can move to the next phase of our masterplan to destroy the world!!

Oh, you have unmasked me, damn you.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:05 am | Reply Climate Weenie
This post appears to illuminate your biases SOD.

on February 5, 2015 at 2:30 am | Reply Nathan

“On the other hand, those who ascribe the word ‘d…r’ to people not in agreement with consensus climate science are trivializing the suffering and deaths of millions of people. Everyone knows what this word means. It means people who are apologists for those evil jackbooted thugs who carried the swastika and cheered as they sent six million people to their execution.”

This is the problematic part of your post.
There’s a use of absolutes here that is simply not true. Nor have you adequately made the case for this claim.

It’s the kind of claim that ATTP criticised in his post “2+2=4, therefore Einstein is wrong”. The two parts of your claim do not equate.

To claim that the use of the d word trivializes the Holocaust is… well… wrong. Perhaps in your head it does, and everyone will respect your choice not to allow the term because you find it offensive, but that is very different from claiming that is what the d-word does.

on February 5, 2015 at 3:30 am scienceofdoom

I have already responded to this point above:

From the many comments, not just this one by MikeH, it looks like I was wrong..
on February 5, 2015 at 3:39 am | Reply scienceofdoom
Climate Weenie,

I would like my biases to be out there in the spotlight, whatever they are.

I am frequently accused of bias on this blog (and other blogs where I nowadays rarely comment). When you start a blog you expect criticism and there are no surprises for me.

Well, one surprise has been the very low level of name-calling and “motive-attribution” towards people with different viewpoints.

Hopefully the bias you are talking about is the concern about trivializing the Holocaust and I agree I am probably biased there.

Oh you meant that it is now clear that I am part of the evil empire of disinformation..

I’ll let everyone else throw bias claims out there.

I’m interested in understanding climate science and if I don’t understand it very well, people can claim nasty motives, bias or anything else.

I’ll let the posts I have written, and the comments I have made over the last five or more years be my statement and my defence.

on February 5, 2015 at 3:47 am Nathan
Sorry SoD must have missed that.

Really appreciate your blog and work.
Just want you to know that.

on February 5, 2015 at 4:53 am | Reply Rob Ellison
What a very small blogoshere it is. The very same commentators – most of whom I blithely ignore – making the very same comments on the very same trivial points.

The physics are relatively simple conceptually. Greenhouse gas molecules resonate with IR emissions in certain frequencies. Excited greenhouse gas molecules collide with nitrogen and oxygen such there a local thermal equilibrium evolves. Greenhouse gas molecules may also gain kinetic energy from adjacent molecules and emit in IR. Add more greenhouse gas molecules and the number of interactions with IR photons increases. IR photons are absorbed and subsequently emitted in all directions – both the surface and the atmosphere warm tending to a new conditional equilibrium at TOA.

Physics is not about equations as such – these are merely another way of conceptualising process. And probably not the way exceptional physicists – or exceptional anything – primarily work.

The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be ‘voluntarily’ reproduced and combined. …. This combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others.
Albert Einstein

The simple fact is that increased greenhouse gs concentrations in the atmosphere increase temperatures – all other things being equal. Nothing more can be reasonably said. It can be shown by experiment and observation at laboratory and planetary scales.


Differences would exist even in a warmer equilibrium state due to deflection of photon paths in a greenhouse gas enriched atmosphere. By the nature of the observing instruments.

All other things are never equal – in the complexity of the Earth system. Complexity science suggests that the system is pushed by such things as solar intensity and Earth orbital eccentricities – past a threshold at which stage the components start to interact chaotically in multiple and changing negative and positive feedbacks – as tremendous energies cascade through powerful subsystems. Some of these changes have a regularity within broad limits and the planet responds with a broad regularity in changes of ice, cloud, Atlantic thermohaline circulation and ocean and atmospheric circulation. Complexity involving abrupt and unpredictable changes in system state evolves from interactions of simple components.

The bottom line is that we are making changes to a complex system with unknowable consequences – that may include warming or cooling surprises. Global warming is by no means guaranteed. The knowable future includes more or less extreme climate shifts every 20 to 30 years. The policy basis can’t therefore be defined by sensitivity or any other simplistic prognostication. It can only be characterised as decision making in uncertainty. Climate shifts are unmistakably evident in climate data and unmissable by the apocryphal 10 year old. It seems the epitome of climate ignorance to even talk global warming and not abrupt climate change.

One thing seems pretty certain – the future will look pretty much like the past – extreme. For comparison – red intensity for the 97/98 El Nino was 99.

Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed. For example, roughly half the north Atlantic warming since the last ice age was achieved in only a decade, and it was accompanied by significant climatic changes across most of the globe. Similar events, including local warmings as large as 16°C, occurred repeatedly during the slide into and climb out of the last ice age. Human civilizations arose after those extreme, global ice-age climate jumps. Severe droughts and other regional climate events during the current warm period have shown similar tendencies of abrupt onset and great persistence, often with adverse effects on societies.

Abrupt climate changes were especially common when the climate system was being forced to change most rapidly. Thus, greenhouse warming and other human alterations of the earth system may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome regional or global climatic events. The abrupt changes of the past are not fully explained yet, and climate models typically underestimate the size, speed, and extent of those changes. Hence, future abrupt changes cannot be predicted with confidence, and climate surprises are to be expected.

The new paradigm of an abruptly changing climatic system has been well established by research over the last decade, but this new thinking is little known and scarcely appreciated in the wider community of natural and social scientists and policy-makers.

It suggests that emissions are potentially problematic – but that a rational response begins by accurately defining the problem. Electricity generations plays a relatively small part in the bigger emissions picture – that include contributions to forcing from black carbon.

To build an effective policy response to uncertainty, complexity and instability in the climate system – and addressing the broad range of emissions – requires a far more broad ranging policy framework. Sadly not pointless point scoring by climate warriors who mostly seem not to understand all that much.

on February 5, 2015 at 5:08 am | Reply puckerclust
I’m puzzled by this entire discussion. According to Webster, the word-that-shall-not-be-uttered dates back to the 15th century. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Holocaust, but (not being a Holocaust “skeptic”) I do know that it took place in the 20th century. So you-know-what had been in use for 5 centuries before there was a Nazi party. It seems to me that that the faux outrage over the use of that-which-shall-not-be-named is a transparent attempt to shame those who are using a perfectly good and legitimate descriptive term. Or maybe it’s just a sign of remarkable lack of etymological literacy combined with thin-skinned readiness to take offense, like those who have gotten the word “niggardly” banned from college campuses.

That said, I am glad that (for the most part) the word “skeptic” has been put in quotes by commenters on this blog. As it turns out, most of the world’s most prominent skeptics agree with the scientific consensus (see . So if we are going to ban a word that is being used improperly and out of context, perhaps it should be the “s-word”).

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