I’ve still not received any reply from Nature Climate Change editor Rory Howlett to my query about why he allowed the term “deniers” in scientific literature (Bain et al), and neither has Bishop Hill to my knowledge. Lord Leach however, has weighed in, and has sent me his letter for publication here with permission. – Anthony
Dear Dr Howlett,
The use of the term “denier” does your journal a disservice, both for its vagueness and for its insulting overtone.
What does a “denier” deny? Certainly not Climate Change: nor global warming since records began in the late 19th century: nor the likelihood of human influence on temperatures. What, then?
A “denier” denies certainty on a complex and still young scientific subject. A “denier” questions assumptions about the near irrelevance of solar, oceanic and other non-anthropogenic influences on temperature. A “denier” prefers evidence to model projections. A “denier” tests alarming predictions against actual observations. In short, a “denier” exhibits the symptoms of a genuine seeker after scientific truth.
I wish the same could be said of “consensus” writers – or that they showed the same restraint and courtesy towards different opinions shown by sceptics such as Watts Up With That
Lord Leach of Fairford
I was surprised to see WUWT mentioned. I thank Lord Leach for the hat tip.
If you haven’t written a letter, you still can. See the details here:
Some letters to the editor in the UK might also be helpful.
UPDATE: Jo Nova has an excellent letter also:
Dear Dr Phil Bain,
Right now, it’s almost my life’s work to communicate the empirical evidence on anthropogenic climate change.
I can help you with your research on deniers. I have studied the mental condition of denial most carefully. There is a simple key to converting the convictions of people in this debate, and I have seen it work hundreds of times. Indeed, my own convictions that lasted 17 years were turned around in a few days. I can help you. It would be much simpler than you think.
Firstly, to save time and money we must analyze the leaders of the denial movement. I have emailed or spoken to virtually all of them.
They are happy to accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and causes warming, that humans produce CO2, that CO2 levels are rising, and that the earth has warmed in the last century. According to Hansen et al 19841, Bony et al 20062, and the IPCC AR4 report3, the direct effect of doubling the level of CO2 amounts to 1.2°C (i.e. before feedbacks).
All they need are is the paper with the evidence showing that the 1.2°C direct warming is amplified to 3 or 4 degrees as projected by the models. Key leaders in the denial movement have been asking for this data for years. Unfortunately the IPCC assessment reports do not contain any direct observations of the amplification, either by water vapor (the key positive feedback4) or the totality of feedbacks. The IPCC only quotes results from climate simulations.
Since science is based on observations and measurements of the real world, it follows that a denier of science (rather than a denier of propaganda) must be denying real world data. I’d be most grateful if you could explain what “deniers” deny. Deniers repeatedly ask for empirical evidence, yet must be failing badly at communicating that this is the crucial point because none of the esteemed lead authors of IPCC working Group I seem to have realized that this paltry point is all that is needed. All this mess could be cleared up with an email.
The evidence for anthropogenic global warming is overwhelming, so the observations they deny must be written up many times in the peer review literature, right? After five years of study I am still not sure which instrument has made these key observations. Do deniers deny weather balloon results, or satellite data, or ice cores?
When you find this paper and the measurements, it will convince many of the key denier leaders. (But being the exacting personality type that they are, deniers will also expect to see the raw data. So you’ll need to also make sure that the authors of said paper have made all the records and methods available, but of course, all good scientists do that already don’t they?)
As a diligent researcher, I’m sure you would not have described a group with such a unequivocally strong label unless you were certain it applied. It would be disastrous for an esteemed publication like Nature to mistakenly insult Nobel prize winning physicists, NASA astronauts, and thousands of scientists who have asked for empirical evidence, only to find that the Nature authors themselves were unable to name papers (or instruments) with empirical evidence that their subject group called “deniers” denied.
If those papers (God forbid) do not exist, then the true deniers would turn out to be the researchers who denied that empirical evidence is key to scientific confidence in a theory. The true deniers would not be the skeptics who asked for evidence, but the name-calling researchers who did not test their own assumptions.
The fate of the planet rests on your shoulders. If you can find the observations that the IPCC can’t, you could change the path of international action. Should you find the evidence, I will be delighted to redouble my efforts to communicate the empirical evidence related to climate change.
Awaiting your reply keenly,
1 Hansen J., A. Lacis, D. Rind, G. Russell, P. Stone, I. Fung, R. Ruedy and J. Lerner, (1984) Climate sensitivity: Analysis of feedback mechanisms. In Climate Processes and Climate Sensitivity, AGU Geophysical Monograph 29, Maurice Ewing Vol. 5. J.E. Hansen and T. Takahashi, Eds. American Geophysical Union, pp. 130-163 [Abstract]
2 Bony, S., et al., 2006: How well do we understand and evaluate climate change feedback processes? J. Clim., 19, 3445–3482.
3 IPCC, Assessment Report 4, 2007, Working Group 1, The Physical Science Basis, Chapter 184.108.40.206. p630 [PDF].
4 IPCC, Assessment Report 4, 2007, Working Group 1, The Physical Science Basis, Chapter 8. Fig 8.14, p631 [PDF] see also Page 632.