The Golden Age of the Climate Conversation

It wasn’t really that long ago that a day with substantial posts from Steve McIntyre, Real Climate and Judith Curry would not have been unusual.

Now it is. McIntyre and Real Climate have become occasional bloggers, although Curry still posts frequently. The truancy of McIntyre and Real Climate has not improved the climate debate.

In today’s climate blogosphere, we have sort of a ‘post-panic’ crew of bloggers, myself included, who (on good days) post relevant commentary on the politics, policy and media antics surrounding climate change. People like Brad Keyes of Climate Nuremberg, Fabius Maximus, And Then There’s Physics and Michael Tobis and myself–what we’re doing is often interesting (or hilarious, in Climate Nuremberg’s case)–however, we’re focusing on WG2 and WG3 issues.

As today’s posts by the big 3 mentioned above show, WG1 still needs attention.

Real Climate has one of the best posts from that venue in a couple of years, writing about the consensus reaction to recent papers hinting at lower sensitivity. It’s Gavin Schmidt at his best–clear, reasonable and, well, scientific. He’s co-author of a paper challenging these skeptic upstarts regarding sensitivity, and regardless of your opinion on the subject, those upstarts will have to respond. As Schmidt notes over at RC, this is the way it’s supposed to work in science.

Judith Curry has an extremely well-organized and clear response to an essay by Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan). Taleb argued that our response to climate model output should be a strong effort to lower emissions, no matter how uncertain those models actually are. His argument amounts to Pascal’s Wager, as pointed out by a commenter on the post, and Curry (IMO) more or less demolishes Taleb’s assertions.

It’s McIntyre who pretty much steals the day, however, with another concisely argued and clearly presented view of the disparity between model projections of temperature and actual observations.

But it’s not just the coincidence of these three posts from the big 3 happening at the same time that is getting rarer.There was a time when conversation about all of this would have ranged from boisterous to merely lively at places like Bart Verheggen’s or Keith Kloor’s. Both of those venues hosted regular commentary from all sides of the climate issue. But Bart’s site has gone fairly quiet and Keith’s is simply gone. Other venues such as WUWT, Bishop Hill, Deltoid, Open Mind, etc. seem to be getting staler, as their posts and commenters are becoming less about the debate than about pushing a point of view.

What saddens me about the current crop of climate blogs, including this one, is how little migration there is of readers between them. Lucia Liljegren’s Blackboard seems to be the only holdout, where both skeptics and the climate concerned get together. We have created two (or more) echo chambers and our utility is vastly diminished as a result.

Reminiscing about the Golden Age of the Climate Blogosphere is not a bad thing–I occasionally page through old posts on all of the sites mentioned here, and there’s a lot of good stuff there. And what’s happening now isn’t bad at all–it’s just different.

But what I’d rather be doing is contributing to the next golden age of the climate conversation.

GoldenAge beer label


22 responses to “The Golden Age of the Climate Conversation

  1. It isn’t really that surprising that the blogosphere is moribund. All the opinion polls show concerns about AGW barely register in the public perception. Despite claims to the contrary, I would suspect that the crying “wolf” all the time has turned the populace off caring about it. As the alarmist stories get more and more absurd, the voters don’t care.
    The blog comments on both sides have got more and more poisonous, with name calling almost the standard first response. No one debates the “science”, they just play to the crowd.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a way back. The internet age get their kicks elsewhere.

  2. Another factor in the decline of the climate blogs is the rise of twitter. The advantage of twitter is that there is more direct interaction between the different viewpoints. It’s one big, level playing field – less of an echo chamber than the blogosphere. Of course there are many disadvantages too, like the 140 character restriction.

  3. Things have gone stale because everyone is waiting for more input. The warmists have been waiting for an El Gordo El Nino because without a series of them the global temperature is just going to keep parting company with the models. There have been no serious bits of climate science to chew on, partly because they have become more cautious but mostly because it’s gone very quiet on that front too. Maybe they’re feeling the heat?

    Once you’ve worked out that peer review is pointless but unlikely to be replaced, what is there to say beyond the odd jeer? Sceptics can’t make massive breakthroughs on the science front because most of us are not climate scientists and since there’s no money in it, but considerable risk, there won’t be a flood of sceptical scientists in the near future either.

    The political view is religiously wedded to the issue, but is also bored stiff and politicians hope that if they ignore it long enough, it will go away. All the fun went out of it the moment they realised they couldn’t reduce CO2 with a few speeches and a couple of billion. It turns out that reinventing energy supply and human behaviour is quite hard. Who’d have guessed? Eye roll.

    We’re at stalemate. Because there will be some warming due to CO2, the issue is unlikely to be downgraded but it will be allowed to slide back into obscurity. Unless something unexpected happens.

  4. Re: Modulation of Ice Ages via Precession and Dust-Albedo Feedbacks

    A new paper proving that CO2 is a minor player in the drama that is the Earth’s climate.


    We present here a simple and novel proposal for the modulation and rhythm of ice ages and interglacials during the late Pleistocene. While the standard Milankovitch-precession theory fails to explain the long intervals between interglacials, these can be accounted for by a novel forcing and feedback system involving CO2, dust and albedo. During the glacial period, the high albedo of the northern ice sheets drives down global temperatures and CO2 concentrations, despite subsequent precessional forcing maxima. Over the following millennia CO2 is sequestered in the oceans and atmospheric concentrations eventually reach a critical minima of about 200 ppm, which causes a die-back of temperate and boreal forests and grasslands, especially at high altitude. The ensuing soil erosion generates dust storms, resulting in increased dust deposition and lower albedo on the northern ice sheets. As northern hemisphere insolation increases during the next Milankovitch cycle, the dust-laden ice-sheets absorb considerably more insolation and undergo rapid melting, which forces the climate into an interglacial period. The proposed mechanism is simple, robust, and comprehensive in its scope, and its key elements are well supported by empirical evidence.

    Ralph Ellis

  5. Tom,
    CO2 fear monger blogs do not allow open discussion of the issues.
    Climate extremists, when posting on skeptic blogs, nearly always act like, at best, fundamentalists visiting either heretic or pagan villages, or more typically like trolls.
    The public square is corrupted since the gate keepers nearly completely seek to ignore or silence skeptics.
    Your praise for apparatchiks like Schmidt or Hansen is uncalled for, by the way.

  6. Richard Mallett

    I think that everybody is just waiting to see if natural cooling will take over in the next few decades, or if AGW will still have an effect, even if diminished.

  7. The inactivity at Climate Audit is a big loss as SteveM does very good work and it’s always civil there too.

  8. Tom,

    You-know-who sighting at 1:50 p.m.

    Is this helpful, or redundant?

  9. Tom,
    You and I disagree often. Yet I can sincerely say that your willingness to engage in a civil and open, not to mention humorous and creative manner, is always a pleasure. Let a thousand Fullers bloom…

  10. The climate blogosphere just gets more and more boring as it focuses on the endless discussion and analysis of the why and how of the problem rather than participation in the solution to the problem. Unfortunately, Tom, you and all the other climate bloggers remain trapped in the doomed information deficit communication model.

    • Kelly, the solution is to reject the alarmist claptrap and their failed rent seeking ideas. A good start would be a thorough audit and critical review of the organizations and the influence peddling of climate fear hype.

    • Paul Kelly,

      It is pointless to try to solve a problem if we don’t know just what the problem is, or even if there is a problem.

      I probably shouldn’t ask, but curiosity gets the better of me. What the heck is a “doomed information deficit communication model”?

    • Richard Mallett

      In 40 years time, the problem may be seen as something entirely different, just like it was 40 years ago.

  11. The deficit model is basically “If you just had more correct information, you’d agree with me.”. It is the modus operandi of the climate concerned. Through now 21 climate COPs and how many IPCC reports and all the tribal warfare, the discussion of what to do has moved less than an inch.

    The model has failed because it asks the wrong question. The proper question is “Do you think ( for whatever reasons ) that it is a good idea to, as rapidly as possible over the next thirty to seventy-five years, replace fossil fuels with non carbon based sources of energy?”. There are any number or good reasons – some more compelling than climate – to answer yes to that question. This is the focus on the goal communication model. Notice that it provides common ground for those who are climate concerned and those who are not. Whether your reason is energy independence, national security, environment, economics, climate or the march of human development, the goal of energy transformation is the same. The focus model makes the entire climate debate unnecessary.

    • Paul,
      Your assumption, while certainly popular, is actually unexplained.
      Please tell us some reasons why it is helpful for the world to move away from fossil fuel based energy rapidly over the next 30 to 75 years.

    • Paul Kelly,

      It sounds like you are saying that if we just focused on the argument that you find convincing then we would all come to the same conclusion as you and all would be well.

      You wrote: “The proper question is “Do you think ( for whatever reasons ) that it is a good idea to, as rapidly as possible over the next thirty to seventy-five years, replace fossil fuels with non carbon based sources of energy?”.”

      And why is that the proper question? In fact it is a logically improper question since there is a huge difference between transitioning in 30 years (likely not even possible), or 75 years (possible, but perhaps not necessary), or 150 years (even Hunter might agree with that).

      “There are any number or good reasons – some more compelling than climate – to answer yes to that question.”

      There are many good reasons why have to transition eventually. I know of no good reasons why we have to transition as rapidly as possible. So where does that get us?

      “Notice that it provides common ground for those who are climate concerned and those who are not.”

      But no meaningful common ground.

      “Whether your reason is energy independence, national security, environment, economics, climate or the march of human development, the goal of energy transformation is the same.”

      Trivially true. But the means and time scales are completely different. For energy independence and national security, it might make sense to develop kerogen; but that would be exactly the wrong thing to do if the concern is environment or climate. And if the concern is economics or the march of human development, then the logical course of action is to let the market do its thing.

      By the way, if you haven’t been sloppy, then you have pulled a bait-and-switch. Is the goal “energy transformation” or “energy transformation as rapidly as possible”? Very different things.

      “The focus model makes the entire climate debate unnecessary.”

      I think you are implicitly making the assumption that if the rest of us just had more correct information, we’d agree with you.

  12. Paul,
    Also, if the climate consensus is so correct, why the unwillingness to defend it?

    • Hunter, just as a guess, even if Fernando is really, really wrong about fossil fuels running out, at the outside we might have about 150 years left of supply. Wouldn’t it be wiser to switch a bit ahead of time?

      Paul Kelly may think I’m pushing the information deficit model, which is a surprise to me. I think Paul is more or less correct in his diagnosis and prescription.

      • Switching ahead of time is not the same as funding a series of useless renewables.

      • Actually I think the consensus view is the information deficit model. And the consensus tactics are designed to enforce ignorance, suppress free thinking and silence criticism. When and if we run out of fossil fuels worth burning for energy is actually unknown. Ignoring, as the consensus opinion leaders do, the amazing good accountable to the widespread use of fossil fuels is beyond merely a corrupt practice. To deliberately choose to stop using them when the consensus seeks to force people to accept the lousy, unreliable, expensive land cluttering that just happens to line their pockets is obscene.

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