The Scientific Baloney Detection Kit

By Jim Steele

published in What’s Natural? column of Pacifica Tribune February 20, 2019


Politicians from all sides manufacture “crises” and “demons” to promote their agendas superficially designed to fight those crises.  In his book “The Demon Haunted World”, Carl Sagan famously published his Scientific Baloney Detection Kit; a “do and don’t” list to guide honest scientific inquiry. Sadly, climate science has been too politicized. But Sagan’s advice can help separate the politics from honest science regards claims of a “climate crisis”.

The very foundation of scientific inquiry demands a vigorous skeptical challenge to every hypothesis. Several different hypotheses can explain the same phenomena. Anyone, scientist or layperson, can make assertions and models. But claims are not reliable science until rigorously tested and well vetted. Based on this understanding, our oldest scientific society, the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge that Sir Isaac Newton once presided over, made “Nullius En Verba” its motto. It means take “no one’s word for it’.

We are all naturally blinded by our beliefs. To overcome our biases and strive for a greater scientific truth, our discussions will be well served if guided by Sagan’s principles. Below I paraphrase the most pertinent points in Sagan’s Scientific Baloney Detection Kit. (I add my comments in parentheses)

1.   Do: Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view. (Saying there’s no more debate triggers the Baloney alert)

2.    Don’t: Avoid arguments from authority. They carry little weight  – “authorities” have made mistakes in the past.

(Unable to refute Einstein’s ideas, his antagonists claimed authority via consensus and published “100 against Einstein”. Evoking the mythical “97% of all scientists agree” is a similar tactic.)

3.    Don’t: Don’t attack the arguer, attack the argument.

(Mud-slinging dominates politics. Dismissing valid arguments by calling the arguer a “denier” muddies the science.)

4.    Do: Spin more than one hypothesis. Think of all the different ways in which something could be explained. Think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives.

(Climate change is extremely complex and governed by many variables. The aim of the What’s Natural column is to delve into all those complexities. Detailing natural climate change is not denying a greenhouse effect.)

5.    Don’t: Don’t get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting your favored hypothesis. If you don’t, others will.

6.    Do: Ask whether a hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified.
(Unfortunately, predictions generated by climate change theory cannot be falsified or verified by simple experiments or short-term weather events.)

7.    Don’t: Don’t argue via adverse consequences.

(Claiming we will be “underwater in 70 years” or the world will be “irreversibly destroyed in 12 years”, are common adverse consequences; scare tactics that set off a Baloney alert)

8.    Don’t: Don’t “appeal to ignorance”. In other words, don’t claim that whatever has not been proved false then must be true.

(The earliest claim that 97% of all scientists agree, was an appeal to ignorance. It was assumed if authors did not explicitly disagree with CO2 driven climate change theory, then they must all agree. In subsequent surveys, only 22 to 32% of scientists ever replied. Of those responding, only 49% believed humans are causing more than 50% of observed climate change. That means only 16% have actually agreed.)

9.    Don’t: Don’t confuse correlation with causation.

(A recent extreme weather event happening when CO2 concentrations are high, may or may not have been worsened by high CO2. Far worse weather events happened over the past thousand years.)

10.  Don’t: Don’t use straw man arguments — caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack.

(A common straw man attack I encounter has been ‘Jim Steele ignores the effect of rising CO2 only pointing out other possible reasons for climate change’. I do indeed point out natural causes to provide a greater climate perspective. But I never ignore the greenhouse effect. Clearly climate has been changing since the 1800s. CO2concentrations are unprecedently high and CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Those are undeniable facts on which we all agree.

But there is absolutely NO scientific consensus regards how “sensitive” the earth is to a doubling of CO2 concentrations. IPCC estimates of how global temperature will respond to a doubling of CO2 range greatly from 1°to 5°C. To accurately determine the earth’s sensitivity to higher levels of CO2, we must accurately assess natural climate change.)

11.  Don’t: Don’t just count the “hits” and forget the “misses” when evaluating a hypothesis.

(There are many hits, yet many misses by both CO2 global warming theory and natural climate change theories.  The science is not settled and the time for rigorous debate has not passed.)

Jim Steele authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s

Journey to Climate Skepticism

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Gerald the Mole
February 21, 2019 2:17 am

Excellent check list

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Gerald the Mole
February 21, 2019 9:11 am

Ah, thanks for the memory. Haven’t re(re-re-re…) read this in a while, will have to do so.

As if we need any more proof that CAWG is a cult, not a science.

Sagan and Crichton: what losses we’ve suffered.

February 21, 2019 2:19 am
Reply to  Christopher Smith
February 21, 2019 4:54 am

The article you link is by someone who mentions Feynman. This link is Feynman’s Cargo Cult speech.

Feynman died in 1988 so people can only guess what he would have said about climate science. Well, science is in a bad place these days. Most published research findings are wrong. Feynman said:

It is often hard for the experimenters there to complete their work as their scientific integrity demands.

Things have become much worse in the 30 years since Feynman’s death. In their desperation to get published, scientists have tossed integrity out the window. There is no reason to think climate science is different than any other specialization. Feynman would be appalled.

M Courtney
February 21, 2019 2:22 am

7. Don’t: Don’t argue via adverse consequences.

Actually, with a consideration of probability, arguing via adverse consequences is a sensible thing to do.

It helps set our priorities.

Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 3:39 am

Complete Rubbish, the problem is you can’t properly quantify the probabilities of things 100 years from now. Your priorities hence may be completely wrong and put you in more risk … you are not god, a time traveller or a fortune teller and you do not know the future risks 100 years from now.

Nigel Goodwin
Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 4:11 am

But surely that is the whole point of probabilities, you quantify uncertainty? Sure, quantifying uncertainty is much harder than quantifying predictions, but:

– we don’t have a clue what the climate will be in 100 years

is a perfectly acceptable quantification of the future, it is a probability. Indeed, often people use ‘we don’t know’ as a prior probability in a Bayesian analysis.

is very worth watching, listen particularly from about 14:00. There is talk about a small world and a large world.

Reply to  Nigel Goodwin
February 21, 2019 7:56 am

Bayesian analysis adjusts over time and allows for your start conclusion to be totally wrong so now try to work out how you set a priority given you are conceede you can be wrong?

Lets give you a classical example, we convert totally to solar energy based (greenies are happy) on the probability that fossil fuel emission will us. A meteorite hits throwing up a plume of ash and we all freeze to death as we have switched to solar energy (had we stayed with fossil fuels we would have survived). Your Bayesian analysis will adapt but at the moment we made the decision there was no way to quantify the risks and make the right decision.

nigel goodwin
Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 8:16 am

So we can’t quantify the risk of the meteorite? We can make some attempt. Same way we can attempt to quantify the probability that ‘alarmists’ or ‘deniers’ are right. Then having quantified those probabilities we can do a risk impact, looking at the consequences of those probabilities, whether they are benign or not.

Following Lindley (the video above is really very educational and amusing at times), we have to compare the probabilities – what is more likely, the meteorite or dramatic global warming?

Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 8:59 am

You aren’t getting the problem .. it isn’t the meteorite risk that is the problem your decision creates it’s own risk, so follow it through

You assess the risk of decision (a) and that risk will involve a whole series of things over time that itself leads to future decision (b) and then decision (c) etc.

So right here and now you use your Bayesian analysis to calculate the probability of (a) based on your assessment on decisions that will be made in the future being (b) and (c) but is does it have believability or credibility?

The answer is actually given here

Coming up with the prediction is one thing but for it to be believed you need to validate it and how do you do that we are a little short on times the human race has had to deal with meteorite strikes.

Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 7:30 pm

One difference is we know that meteorites have hit the earth. We also know that there are still big ones out there. So we do know that the risk is non-zero. We may not be able to calculate it precisely, or even roughly, but we know the risk is real.

Climate change on the other hand, we have no evidence that increasing CO2 is going to cause any problems whatsoever. Much less the catastrophes always being predicted.
What evidence we do have points to CO2 being benign to beneficial in affect.

Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 8:18 pm

That falls into the second part of the answer validation of a prediction.

It is actually the problem I have with Mosher he won’t make a prediction so I can’t do a validate check with what he says.

Nigel Goodwin
Reply to  LdB
February 22, 2019 1:49 am

LdB, can you please read what you post before hitting the button? I have great difficulty understanding what you are trying to say with the garbled language and lac of punctuation. Also please reduce the number of ‘you are wrong’ and ‘complete rubbish’ remarks, it does not induce debate.

Reply to  LdB
February 22, 2019 6:40 am

Sure and you stop making wrong and complete rubbish claims 🙂

Gunga Din
Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 4:01 pm

If I’m not mistaken, M Courtney’s comment drifted a bit from the post.
If the there is sound evidence to back up the probable adverse consequence, then, yes, advocating action to avert those consequences is sound advice.
But in the context of “Climate Science”, there is no sound evidence to back up what is claimed.
In any field of science “what might happen unless we do…” demands sound, verifiable, falsifiable evidence.
Without that, you’re listening to is a used car salesman.
(Apologizes to those honest and ethical used car salesmen out there.)

Alan D. McIntire
Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 4:45 am

I suppose you agree with Pascal’s argument, and are therefore a Christian. Try using that argument to convert people to Islam, Zoroastrianism, or to the Celtic religion, worshipping Lugh, etc.

M Courtney
Reply to  Alan D. McIntire
February 21, 2019 5:30 am

Actually I am a Christian but that doesn’t mean I accept Pascal’s wager or the it’s inverse, Precautionary Principle.

But if you’ve ever done a Pareto then you will understand that we can’t do everything.
Assessing risks and severity is not a sign of baloney.

Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 5:58 am

Assessing risks and severity is not a sign of baloney.

It depends on context.

When somebody tries to stampede you into a course of action by citing risks and ignoring everything else, that is indeed a sign of baloney.

… the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Mencken

My favorite rule of thumb:

… if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them. Coolidge

If we have a clear eyed analysis of risks and benefits and the probabilities thereof, that’s one thing. If we have someone trying to terrify us into believing them, that’s a totally different kettle of fish male bovine excrement.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  commieBob
February 21, 2019 7:21 am

Most European countries have a variant of the UK saying “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it”. Your Coolidge quote is another.

Reply to  Alan D. McIntire
February 22, 2019 4:12 am

Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and co-founder of theory of probability. On Pascal’s Wager, Nietzsche said Christianity destroyed Pascal’s mind. But then Nietzsche is the self-proclaimed Anti-Christ :-0

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  Alan D. McIntire
February 22, 2019 11:25 am

The fallacy of Pascal’s Wager is that it presupposes that you are backing the right horse. Which is not necessarily the case.

A good God would be completely honest, and would offer you genuine rewards for following him. However, an evil God would not have to be honest, and thus could mislead you into thinking you would be rewarded for following him, when in fact he has no intention of rewarding you.

Many of the most evil among human dictators gained power though falsely convincing the public that they were good. Frequently, such a dictator will create a scapegoat to deflect attention away from their own wrongdoings. Usually the scapegoat is innocent, or sometimes might actually be the force for good which the dictator needs to suppress at all costs.

Ostensibly you have no way of determining which applies, and if you find you have been duped into backing an evil being, what consequences might that have for you in an afterlife or reincarnation, consequences that might have been avoided by simply refusing to get involved?

The SG-1 Ori arc (Seasons 9/10) is a good exposition of this principle, and I suggest that all evangelists watch it.

Much of the climate alarmist argument suffers the same problem.

Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 6:09 am

The point is simply a hypothesis should not be considered correct because it suggests the most adverse consequences.

The internet is littered with people who do not argue the climate change evidence. They simply argue if we ignore the catastrophic claims, and the theory is right, the consequences will be dire. Its bad science to accept a hypothesis just because it is scary

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 7:28 am

As someone said in an earlier post on this blog, I’ll start listening to them when they start wearing parachutes on commercial aircraft flights… just in case it might crash.

Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 8:00 am

It is actually worse than that because the changes suggested to avoid the scary story could very well put humanity in more harms way because of the degree of economic upheaval. Making said change is not without it’s own risks.

Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 8:46 am

Exactly….ill advised changes to fix something that may not be broken…

…like burning your food supply to avoid a food shortage that may never happen
(45% of corn is used for biofuel, burning soybeans)

…or creating more poverty to avoid (climate change caused) poverty that may never happen (substantially raising the cost of energy and living now)

…or cutting thousands of acres of (CO2 burning) forests so that we can reduce CO2

…or making our major cities ‘100% reliant on INTERMITTENT energy’ (just in case the worst happens….

There are plenty more….

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  bruce1111
February 21, 2019 1:32 pm

The sad part is, they are doing all of those things you listed. Which is why you listed them of course.

They want to improve resiliency for extreme climate…. by taking money out of our pockets and destroying our energy infrastructure. Making sure that we can’t cope should an event happen.

ferd berple(@ferdberple)
Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 8:16 am

It helps set our priorities.
Nope. A false belief remains false no matter the priority.

The danger is that raising the priority may make a false belief appear true.

Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 9:40 am

Arguing via adverse consequences is a flag in the baloney test, as I read it, regardless of whether some think it is ‘sensible’ …… particularly where the main argument that is being used in the media and the government, and listened to by the public….. is the ‘worst case consequences’.

A flag only, and a good one in this case.

J. Parsons
Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 9:45 am

But setting priorities must take account of many more factors than do we/don’t we tak action to address climate change risks. Society’s resources are not infite. So you must consider, for example, whether spending trillions of dollars now to address the climate change risk is more sensible from a risk/reward standpoint than other issues that could be addressed with that money like poverty, disease, hunger, economic development, etc. Bjorn Lomborg is good on this aspect of the issue

Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 9:54 am

Probability is great. With any large, chaotic system with many variables it is impossible to estimate probabilities over any longer term. The probabilities reach 99 percentile(0% confidence interval) within a few interations of any model. The graphs of outcomes vs. time are meaningless at that point, since almost any outcome is possible.

So, to be consistent we need policies that take both cooling and warming into account. We must not do anything where one choice will eliminate the others.

William Astley
Reply to  M Courtney
February 21, 2019 2:01 pm

The problem is our emotions concerning CAGW are at 11 and we have gone down the wrong path for roughly 20 years. We have become lost in the analysis and the arguments.

It is a fact that there is now unequivocal evidence (with pictures, a super obvious option that changes everything concerning CAGW, creates a new field of science in geology, 50 physical observations to support the assertion that the super obvious option is correct in addition to mathematical and modelling analysis that supports/requires the option to exist) that humans did not cause the majority of the rise in atmospheric CO2.

Parking whether you agree or disagree with that statement, if it is absolutely correct, the increase in CO2 hence logically did not/could not cause the recent increase temperature.

If there is no CAGW then the money that we are spending on green scams that do not work is stupidity^2.

If there is no CAGW/AGW the effort that we have made to model climate temperature and money spent to convince us that CAGW is ‘real’ is also stupidity^2.

February 21, 2019 2:23 am
Reply to  Chaamjamal
February 21, 2019 3:07 am
February 21, 2019 2:42 am

A good article, BUT:
“There are many hits, yet many misses by both CO2 global warming theory..”

Name ONE credible hit in favour of catastrophic global warming theory, with emphasis on “credible”.

February 21, 2019 2:48 am

Very good but “CO2concentrations are unprecedently high…”? Really?

Clive Bond
Reply to  Mardler
February 21, 2019 3:19 am

1700ppm in Cretacious.

John Tillman
Reply to  Clive Bond
February 21, 2019 4:43 am

Don’t even have to go back as far as the Cretaceous Period to find much higher levels of plant food in the air, such as during the Paleocene and Eocene Epochs of the Paleogene Period.

To say nothing of even higher CO2 during the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian Periods.

Also the Triassic and Jurassic. Of the past 540 million years, only parts of the Carboniferous and Permian were at times lower than now, although not by much, until our present glacial Neogene Period.

Reply to  Mardler
February 21, 2019 3:58 am

I noticed that too.
Its quite wrong.

Coach Springer
Reply to  Mardler
February 21, 2019 5:47 am

Maybe the frame of reference was since the 1800s. In that context, the use of “unprecedented”still seems unprecedentedly inaccurate.

Reply to  Mardler
February 21, 2019 6:14 am

Totally agree CO2 has been much higher in the past. Plants are now starving for CO2. But that will be an essay for another time. Most readers are framing CO2 levels since the Little Ice Age.

John Tillman
Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 6:32 am

Four CO2 molecules per 10,000 dry air molecules rather than three, as at the end of the Little Ice Age c. AD 1850, has been a great boon to plants and other living things.

Three times as many molecules would be even better, indeed ideal.

Reply to  John Tillman
February 21, 2019 10:02 am

Correct John – 1200 ppm CO2 would be good – even more would probably be better, say 2000 ppm.

James Schrumpf
February 21, 2019 12:30 pm

We should be happy that plants are happy on such low CO2 concentrations. We wouldn’t do so well with only 0.04% O2 in the air.

February 21, 2019 12:41 pm

They can survive with such low CO2 levels. Evidence from greenhouses and such indicate that the are “happier” with much higher CO2 levels.

John Tillman
February 21, 2019 4:18 pm


Nothing wrong with 2000 ppm, but 1200 or maybe 1300 is ideal. More than that, C3 plants can’t take advantage of.

Commercial greenhouses use 1000 to 1300 ppm.

February 21, 2019 9:07 pm

Thank you John – I don’t disbelieve you, but can you provide a good reference pls?

John Tillman
February 22, 2019 8:06 am


There’s a reason why commercial greenhouses use about 1000 ppm, or maybe a bit more. It’s not cost effective to enrich the air more than that.

Some studies have found rice responding at up to 1800-2000 ppm, but most grasses and all trees top out at lower levels, ie from 600 to 1200 ppm.

The optimal CO2 concentrations for the growth of three perennial grass species

Young, rapidly growing trees benefit more from CO2 enrichment than established, older forests.

February 23, 2019 4:18 am

Thank you John Tillman – your comments appear to be accurate and most helpful.

[excerpts from the referenced paper]

Here, we examined the optimal atmospheric CO2 concentration effect on CO2 fertilization and further on the growth of three perennial grasses in growth chambers with the CO2 concentration at 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1200 ppm, respectively.

We found that the optimal CO2 concentrations occurred at 945, 915, and 1151 ppm for the aboveground biomass of tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass, respectively. Higher CO2 concentrations had diminishing returns of CO2 fertilization effect on plant growth…

From the references:
Nevertheless, the CO2 fertilization effect may sustain up to about 1000 ppm for leaf photosynthesis [46, 49] and 1800 ppm for grain yield of crops [50].

My comments:

A good paper, imo, subject to successful replication.

Note that while above-ground biomass was optimal at about 900ppm for all three perennial grass species, total (below-and-above-ground) biomass was ABOVE 1200ppm for two of the three species tested. 1200ppm CO2 was the maximum tested in this study.

Note also that according to other references, CO2 fertilization was effective up to 1800ppm in grain yield of crops. Grain yields are very important for humanity.

February 23, 2019 4:48 am

Hi again John.

I suggest that the real existential threat to ALL carbon-based terrestrial life is not HIGH atmospheric CO2, it is LOW CO2.


I have written about the vital issue of “CO2 starvation” since 2009 or earlier, and others including Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, have also written on this subject:


1. Atmospheric CO2 is not alarmingly high; in fact, it is dangerously low for the survival of terrestrial carbon-based life on Earth. Most plants evolved with very approximately 4000 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, or about 10 times current CO2 concentrations.

2. In one of the next global Ice Ages, atmospheric CO2 will approach about 150ppm, a concentration at which terrestrial photosynthesis for almost all food plants will slow and cease – and that will be the extinction event for much or all of the terrestrial carbon-based life on this planet.

3. More atmospheric CO2 is highly beneficial to all carbon-based life on Earth. Therefore, CO2 abatement and sequestration schemes are nonsense.

4. As a devoted fan of carbon-based life on this planet, I feel the duty to advocate on our behalf. I should point out that I am not prejudiced against non-carbon-based life forms. They might be very nice, but I do not know any of them well enough to form an opinion. 🙂

Atmospheric CO2 is inexorably declining as it is being sequestered in carbonate rocks. In the last Continental Last Ice Age, atmospheric CO2 declined to about 180 ppm – in the next Ice Age it could drop lower, even closer to the extinction point of C3 plants at about 150-160 ppm.

Virtually ALL food plants use the C3 photosynthetic pathway, so a drop of atmospheric CO2 to 150-160 ppm will be an extinction event for ~all advanced terrestrial life on Earth.

A few food plants (less than 1%) use the C4 photosynthetic pathway, including corn and sugar cane – but I doubt terrestrial life could survive for long on Sugar Frosted Flakes – notwithstanding the persistent rumour that “They’re Great!”

There are also CAM photosynthetic pathway plants, so we can look forward to having pineapple with our Sugar Frosted Flakes.

Regards, Allan

Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 9:44 am

eCO2 is a “stressor” of C3 plants. It has the characteristic of “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Reply to  gringojay
February 21, 2019 12:01 pm

Elevated CO2 (eCO2) in many (I can’t say all) C3 plants leads to reduced % plant nitrogen & higher % carbon “fixed” in the plant. This context favors the production of metabolites.

We see eCO2 plants (C3s) with significantly higher anti-oxidant content. One question is why are so many more of those neccessary metabolites neccessary for eCO2 plants?

As for their benefit consider the anti-oxidant group flavenoids. Roots & shoots grown in their proper light (darkness of ground for roots & light for shoots) naturally have a lot of flavenoids – C3 plants reproduce fine without more.

eCO2 increased flavenoids cause even greater decrease than otherwise naturally occurs (due to flavenoids) of the auxin degrading enzyme (IAA-oxid-ase) which results in higher auxin (IAA form). Plus flavenoids act on signalling (calcium mediated) & alter auxin dynamics.

Flavenoids made (synthesized) in the root elongation zone tip interacts with the auxin there. If there was absolutely no flavenoids there then the plant would not have many root hairs (it’s primary root would grow long & it would also make secondary roots).

eCO2 sustaining local root auxin (due to high flavenoid synthesis) is part of why experiments show more root mass. eCO2 producing more flavenoids also raises auxin in roots (favoring side roots elongating) because they (flavenoids) at the juncture of root with stem shoot reduces the amount of auxin transported out of the root.

In some crops we humans value more root bio-mass. Whether every C3 plant is “better” because eCO2 modified their root mass is, in my mind, anthropomorphic speculation.

Reply to  gringojay
February 22, 2019 8:49 am

It has the characteristic of “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Problem is when it does kill….

Paul r
February 21, 2019 2:49 am

This is a very intelligent set of guide lines on how to debate any subject. Unfortunately humans are emotional creatures and a huge majority will never abide by them.

February 21, 2019 3:01 am

On any issue, always keep some doubt in mind. We are all fallible. Even when we are certain that you are right there is always the possibility that you are wrong. Be pragmatic and prepared to change your mind based on changing evidence or a convincing counter-argument. Being willing to admit to an error is a mark of intelligence.

And most of all, think for yourself. Don’t let other do your thinking for you.

Sorry for the lecture. With all the group think and craziness in today’s world I just couldn’t resist posting.

Reply to  Marty
February 21, 2019 4:14 am

Marty: By listening to you exhorting me to think for myself and obeying you, I’m letting you think for me.

M Courtney
Reply to  Trebla
February 21, 2019 5:31 am

That’s a very considered response.

Reply to  Trebla
February 21, 2019 7:00 am

Trebla: It is only letting him think for you if you blindly accept his idea. If you think through thinking for yourself and then decide to think for yourself or decide to allow him to think for you, you have done the thinking yourself, until you decide to let him think for you, of course.

Reply to  Trebla
February 21, 2019 12:10 pm

Trebla – you’re right! Like the old joke about saying you should do all things in moderation. Does doing all things in moderation include doing moderation in moderation too? Take care.

February 21, 2019 3:11 am

“3. Don’t: Don’t attack the arguer, attack the argument.”

Yes don’t attack, but do question the motivation of the arguer, many of whom have significant financial and political motivations.

Reply to  climanrecon
February 21, 2019 3:42 am

It makes no difference what the motivation is data is data.

Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 4:02 am

But data has quality. Duff data is often the result of motivation.

Reply to  Alasdair
February 21, 2019 7:06 am

Follow the money.
That gives data too…

Reply to  Alasdair
February 21, 2019 8:04 am

Nothing was said about the data quality they simply said motivation was a problem which it isn’t of and by itself. You are conflating a different problem which motivation may possibly feed into but that is by no means a given you can have very motivated honest people.

ferd berple(@ferdberple)
Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 8:26 am

Motivation to find the truth is not the same as motivation to rule the world. You will get two different results from the same truth.

Gary Ashe
February 21, 2019 3:26 am

(Climate change is extremely complex and governed by many variables. The aim of the What’s Natural column is to delve into all those complexities. ………………..Detailing natural climate change is not denying a greenhouse effect.)

8. Don’t: Don’t “appeal to ignorance”. In other words, don’t claim that whatever has not been proved false then must be true.

Nice appeal to ignorance, ….. show us a proof of a Greenhouse effect that isnt just natural energy flow or transfer to deny.

.Detailing natural climate change is not denying a greenhouse effect.)

Graham S
February 21, 2019 3:30 am

I believe that H L Mencken summed it up best in one of his many excellent quotes:

‘The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

Reply to  Graham S
February 21, 2019 9:58 am

I also liked:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” –H. L Mencken

It fits the CO2 drives temperature nonsense to a tee.


February 21, 2019 3:44 am

Any MSM news item that contains the phrase “scientists say” anywhere in it is the purest baloney known in journalism.

Reply to  tom0mason
February 21, 2019 4:00 am

Or any scientific research containing the phrase “due to climate change”.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  tom0mason
February 21, 2019 8:01 am

The Purest baloney is “experts claim”. “Scientists say” is a subset of that.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Jim Whelan
February 21, 2019 1:34 pm

I agree with this one. Every time a news article starts with “experts claim” or “scientists say”, I shut it out. You know it is nonsense.

February 21, 2019 4:10 am

“Politicians from all sides manufacture “crises” and “demons” to promote their agendas superficially designed to fight those crises.”

Why do we let them gt away with it?

michael hart
Reply to  MattS
February 21, 2019 5:47 am

I’ve often read that humans have a natural tendency to over-weight possible negative outcomes, probably because it improves our long term chances of survival and reproduction in a dangerous world. This makes us more susceptible to giving undeserved attention/credence to those bearing messages of doom and despair.

Reply to  MattS
February 21, 2019 4:37 pm

We seem to let governments get away with regulation of greenhouse gas emissions though a scientific basis for this regulation does not exist by dressing up their argument to look like a statistical argument though this argument is not really a statistical argument. This is accomplished by changing the meaning of the term “unit measure” in the midst of the argument. Details on this application of the equivocation fallacy are provided by the late climatologist Vincent Gray in “Spinning the Climate.”

February 21, 2019 4:16 am

Never trust a graph on face value. They are all chock full of statistical manipulations. Therein lies the truth or otherwise. Best delve deep.

Doug Huffman(@doughuffman)
February 21, 2019 4:23 am

Eschew eristic!

Fred Harwood
Reply to  Doug Huffman
February 21, 2019 5:14 am

Good one!!

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Fred Harwood
February 21, 2019 12:33 pm

My favorite is “eschew obfuscation.”

February 21, 2019 4:43 am

Sagan’s baloney detection kit must have been a little stale as he was a true CAGW believer.

Nick Schroeder
Reply to  NavarreAggie
February 21, 2019 7:35 am


NOAA and many other CAGW believers assume that space around the earth is cold, close to absolute zero.

They are mistaken and RGHE goes in the trash.

The baloney detector knows that.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
February 21, 2019 8:26 am

Space is cold by definition because of the crazy way classical physics works 🙂

Temperature is the average speed of particles of the thing being measured … only a few particles in space means by definition it’s cold. The problem I suspect you are trying to make is there is now way to bind Radiative transfer to temperature in classical physics but that still doesn’t make them wrong it is correct.

It is actually the same problem as a microwave oven it’s cold inside unless you happen to be a water molecule in which case it gets warm very quickly. So is a microwave oven hot or cold .. well that depends 🙂

The real answer is temperature is a construct of classical physics it is not a real physical property of the universe, in QM it does not exist except as a bunch of statistics.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  LdB
February 21, 2019 1:42 pm

LdB. I wish I knew enough to understand what you just said.

Space is cold because of lack of particles. But if you put a metal plate facing the sun, it’ll warm up considerably.

I’m guessing this is the crux of your statement. So temperature is once again, the wrong measurement.

Reply to  Greg Cavanagh
February 21, 2019 7:42 pm


The piece of metal is not space .. you have given the piece of metal a new definition of space 🙂

You will be currently in a room and you will have a temperature of 38deg the room probably something else, so again same location different temperatures. So if I asked you for the “room temperature” would you give me 38 degree being your temperature as you are in the room?

The piece of metal is hot in the same point of space that is cold and that is how it is. There is no ambiguity temperature is defined to it’s reference object in classical physics.

February 21, 2019 4:48 am

Good to see some respect for Carl Sagan, rather than attacking him as part of the scientific elite. It would be good if more people used his kit to examine their own arguments. As Sagan says,

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world – not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.

February 21, 2019 4:48 am

Global Warming Travel Warning

The IPCC has issued an urgent travel warning.

Many people are foolishly travelling to countries, which have an average temperature which is more than 2 degrees Celsius warmer than their home country.

This activity is highly dangerous, and could result in the deaths of millions of people.

The IPCC suggests that people limit their travel, to countries which have an average temperature which is less than 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than their home country.

Humans evolved in Africa, many millions of years ago. Climate scientists use the abbreviation “BT”, when they refer to this time (“BT” stands for “Before Thermometers”).

In the early days, early humans never travelled more than a few miles, over their entire lifetime. They never travelled more than a few miles, because kilometres had not yet been invented.

Humans, therefore, became adapted to a very narrow temperature range. Going outside of that narrow temperature range, could be deadly. Many early humans were eaten by lions, because they went outside of their normal temperature range.

But early humans had one advantage, that the other animals didn’t have. Because they never washed, early humans tasted horrible, and they didn’t smell very nice. So the other animals left early humans alone. And humans were able to travel all over the Earth.


Scientists have proved that travel and temperatures, are more dangerous than smoking 60 cigarettes a day, for 50 years.

It is safer to stay at home, and take up smoking, than to go travelling in warmer countries.

Don’t worry. We understand that humans have an “urge” to travel. It comes from our early ancestry, when we had to find large herds of animals to eat.

Here at the IPCC, we want what is best for YOU. And we have had our top scientists work out a “safe” way of travelling.

To ensure your personal temperature safety, the IPCC has emitted the following travel regulations.

Travel will be limited to “safe” country groups. This means that travel may only take place between a country, and the other countries that are in the same temperature safety group.

For further details, please click the following link:

Reply to  Sheldon Walker
February 21, 2019 4:59 am

That’s funny and on point.

Driving in this morning listening to “Mob Boss” an NYC mafioso’s autobiography. He describes the replacing of windows in NYC owned tenements for energy efficiency as one of the most lucrative scams ever. Millions upon millions being skimmed by the mob. Sounds like the Green New Deal.

Geoff Withnell
February 21, 2019 4:57 am

“Unable to refute Einstein’s ideas, his antagonists claimed authority via consensus and published “100 against Einstein”. Evoking the mythical “97% of all scientists agree” is a similar tactic.”

Einstein’s reply was (paraphrased) “If they were right, it would only take one.”

E J Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Geoff Withnell
February 21, 2019 5:40 am

“Why a hundred? One would be enough”

Tom Abbott
Reply to  E J Zuiderwijk
February 21, 2019 8:52 am

I see where Einstein’s theory got another confirmation by observations of a star’s light as the star made a close approach to the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole recently.

February 21, 2019 6:07 am

In Sagan’s time it was nuclear winter climate alarmism, later backpeddled to autumn. Looks like Sagan was one of the first climate modellers building alarmism in as a parameter. Looks like he had a problem with SDI, an initiative to make nuclear weapons obsolete.

Has climate panic its roots in the 1980’s cold war nuclear policies and propaganda?

No wonder some GND warriers talk about war on climate ; some of whom never heard of the Cuba crisis or SDI.

February 21, 2019 6:08 am

From the Dept. of Absolutely Stupid Nitpicking:

“Nullius En Verba”

“Nullius In Verba”

Thanks for a wonderful article!

Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  Yirgach
February 21, 2019 8:33 am

“People called Romans, they go the house?”
(Life of Brian)

Dodgy Geezer
February 21, 2019 6:08 am

“….7. Don’t: Don’t argue via adverse consequences…..”

I see an earlier commenter picked this up, but it bears repeating. Almost ALL argument is via adverse consequences.

If I am considering a purchase, I weigh the advantages of having the item with the disadvantages of losing some money. If I am offered a new job, I weigh the extra pay against the extra responsibility. When I vote in an election, I consider the candidates’ platforms and work out what their policies will mean for me.

In the case of ‘climate change’ there is a big question over whether human CO2 input is a major driver or not. However, if we accept that it is for the purpose of the argument, there is another major question over whether the consequences will be beneficial or not, and if not, how bad they will be.

These are valid arguments which ought to be held – not simply ignored…

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
February 21, 2019 6:58 am

The principle is more rightly applied by considering the following. If the consequences were more or less severe, would we consider the hypothesis more or less correct? That is, we should not stumble into the misapplication of the Precautionary Principle based on potential outcomes. Increasing severity of future outcomes does not make an hypothesis truer (or falser).

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
February 21, 2019 7:05 am

“…That is, we should not stumble into the misapplication of the Precautionary Principle based on potential outcomes. …..”

We should not go anywhere near the ‘Precautionary Principle”, which is logically meaningless. So there is no such thing at the ” misapplication of the Precautionary Principle ” – all applications of it are mindless.

Expected severity of outcome may make you approach a problem with greater thought, But it is usually thought along the lines of “Is this person trying to frighten me into accepting his proposals…?”.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
February 21, 2019 8:10 am

Even if you accept the “precautionary principle”, which makes a statement about possible actions rather than truth, you should examine the cost of the proposed “solution”. Disrupting the entire world economy and likely sending it back to the stone age is less acceptable than the worst, let alone most likely, result of any “global warming”. The “precautionary principle” actually demands that we leave the economy alone and let the unknowable technology of the future handle the problem which may never come.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
February 21, 2019 8:25 am

Forget the Wall.
The Sky might fall on our heads.
We must build a Roof!
Or be heavily taxed to pay for one..

February 21, 2019 6:30 am

…”our oldest scientific society, the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge that Sir Isaac Newton once presided over, made “Nullius En Verba” its motto. It means take “no one’s word for it’.”

Unfortunately for the illustrious subjects Lord Maynard Keynes’ biography of Newton shows him to be a raving alchemist.

But don’t take my word for it – see the bio.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  bonbon
February 21, 2019 7:34 am

Nothing wrong with studying alchemy in the late 1600s. Don’t judge someone from a different age and world-view by modern standards…

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
February 21, 2019 7:43 am

Don’t take my word for it, but Newton is judged in modern times as a a masterfull scientist, an icon, an example to all, a paragon of excellence.

Nothing wrong with that of course, except it’s fake news of fakery itself.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  bonbon
February 21, 2019 10:17 am

There are numerous examples of scientists who have made significant contributions to science. Yet, went off on a tangent and pursued something that we now judge to be wrong. It has been said that a someone who has never made a mistake has never done anything.

If the ONLY thing that Newton had done was to co-invent calculus, his life would have been justified. Can you claim as much?

Caligula Jones
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 21, 2019 10:54 am

Yes, the best math teacher I ever had was a Velikovsky buff. Every June we’d rush through the last week so he could expound on his theories.

His math still works.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 21, 2019 10:58 am

Newton did not co-invent anything, despite the Royal Society Clarke’s claims. We use today Leibniz’s unique calculus. Newton couldn’t even find his “Green Lions”. He plagiarized Kepler as he himself wrote. He was shown to be a kook in his own time by Leibniz. He even admitted to Hooke that “action at a distance” was pure magic.
One look at the papers Keynes bought should make clear the flakiest of fake news ever promulgated Newton. CNN is but an amateur shadow, BBC and Integrity Initiative too.
It’s a long tradition, obviously a lot of practice at that indeed.

Apply Newton’s pair-wise algebra to the solar system and it should disintegrate. Very suspiciously like the diverging climate catastrophe models, and worst of all, when applied to economy the crashes that inevitably follow are bailed out by the same people pushing climate. I put the climate model disaster right at Newton’s doorstep.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 21, 2019 11:25 am

We know that alchemy is wrong because we understand how atoms are put together.
That knowledge was not available at the time of Newton.

Another point is that the experiments that were done by alchemists provided much of the data that was used to create the science of chemistry.
The periodic table was created before we had a solid understanding of atoms and electron shells.

Dan DaSilva
Reply to  bonbon
February 21, 2019 9:05 am

Terrible! This Newton fellow must have been a dim blub.

Nigel Goodwin
Reply to  Dan DaSilva
February 22, 2019 1:54 am

Newton’s rings

Reply to  bonbon
February 21, 2019 12:00 pm

What were Newton’s findings? Let him speak for himself:

“Concerning Magnesia of the green Lion. It is called Prometheus & the Chameleon. Also Androgyne, and virgin verdant earth in which the Sun has never cast its rays although he is its father and the moon its mother. Also common mercury, dew of heaven which makes the earth fertile, nitre of the wise. Instructio de arbore solari. It is the Saturnine stone.”

Alchemy is not a form of “early science”, rather anti-science promulgated by Conti et al. Ashmole’s entire books were Newton’s most read source.

Some more of this mumbo-jumbo alongside the IPCC report is very illuminating – just swap CO2 and the Green Lion.
Be careful what ye defend!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  bonbon
February 21, 2019 3:04 pm

Quoting from Newton’s writings on alchemy is not a convincing argument that he got everything wrong. You have a hard road to hoe to demolish what is so firmly entrenched in history. I realize that Wikipedia is not the last word on science, but it does provide some counterpoints to your raging about someone whose writings have been admired by giants.

Incidentally, I noticed that Newton’s first rule of logic reads very much like Occam’s Razor. Do you have any comments regarding that?

John Tillman
Reply to  bonbon
February 21, 2019 4:16 pm

Newton also thought that God created the universe just thousands of years before AD 1700.

So what?

He’s still the greatest scientist of all time.

John Tillman
Reply to  bonbon
February 22, 2019 7:56 am


Rutherford termed his work “The Newer Alchemy”, in a book published toward the end of his career (1937).

Previously, after the first radioactive transmution of elements, he told his research associates that, “They’ll have us up for alchemy!”

Chemical techniques pioneered and elements discovered by alchemists:

February 21, 2019 6:33 am

Thanks for this article I enjoyed and will try to adopt / use a good portion of the wisdom it contains.

Ironically, to best improve this article I would remove CO2 entirely.

Maybe it is just me, and I do not really know that much, but every time someone tries to “CO2-splain” things to me I hear “CO2 causes warming cuz warming” = detector goes off.

John Tillman
February 21, 2019 6:42 am

And yet the astronomical Dr. Sagan, with his fellow Marxist, anti-American, pro-Soviet co-conspirators, perpetrated the “Nuclear Winter” hoax.

Reply to  John Tillman
February 21, 2019 8:41 am

“And yet the astronomical Dr. Sagan … perpetrated the ‘Nuclear Winter’ ….”.

This is true, he forgot to apply his own Baloney Detection Kit.

On the other, when the experiment was run (Kuwait oil fires after the Persian Gulf war) and it did not live up to his expectations, he admitted that he had been wrong (in the book “The Demon-haunted World”).

Reply to  John Tillman
February 21, 2019 8:51 am

“And yet the astronomical Dr. Sagan … perpetrated the ‘Nuclear Winter’ ….”.

This is true, he forgot to apply his own Baloney Detection Kit.

On the other, when the experiment was run (Kuwait oil fires after the Persian Gulf war) and it did not verify his predictions, he admitted that he had been wrong (in the book “The Demon-haunted World”).

Reply to  John Tillman
February 21, 2019 11:02 am

Correct – Sagan had a problem with SDI, as Andropov had.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
February 21, 2019 3:51 pm

Dr. Dre,

I haven’t read Demon-Haunted World. I’d be pleasantly surprised if Sagan did indeed recant his Nuclear Winter garbage. Would you please be kind enough to quote here the passage from the book in which he admits that his anti-American, pro-Soviet fraud was indeed bogus.


Nick Schroeder
February 21, 2019 6:46 am

Exception: DO NOT DENY RGHE!!!!
You will be “snipped” by the 100% credentialed “experts.”

“Without thermal controls, the temperature of the orbiting Space Station’s Sun-facing side would soar to 250 degrees F (121 C), while thermometers on the dark side would plunge to minus 250 degrees F (-157 C). There might be a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle of the station,
but searching for it wouldn’t be much fun!”

Guess what, space is not cold, it’s HOT!!

Like standing next to a campfire, hot on the fireside, cold on the back side and without the atmosphere’s 0.3 albedo earth gets hotter not colder.

Without the atmosphere the earth will get 20% to 40% more kJ/h depending on its naked albedo. That means an ASR solar wind 20 to 30 C hotter w/o an atmosphere not 33 C colder. The atmosphere is like that reflective panel behind a car’s windshield.

Because of the significant (>60%) non-radiative heat transfer processes of the atmospheric molecules the surface of the earth cannot radiate as a black body and there is no “extra” energy for the greenhouse gasses to “trap”/absorb/radiate/“warm” the earth.

No greenhouse effect, no CO2 warming, no man caused climate change.

No problem.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
February 21, 2019 9:07 am

As per above you argument is stupid it is like arguing if a microwave oven is hot or cold .. it is either depends on how you want to frame the reference. Trying to use it to justify an answer is amusing 🙂

Gary Ashe
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
February 21, 2019 9:33 am

That kind of talk wont make you popular here Nick,
Luke warmers are establishment men, that actually believe they are anti-establishment.
Cognitive dissonance and as long as they believe in the false Greenhouse effect premise they will remain part of the establishments useful idiot machine.

Nick Schroeder
Reply to  Gary Ashe
February 22, 2019 7:56 am


Just like that microwave space, isn’t “hot” until it has something to heat, e.g. ISS, the moon, earth. Less heating w/ atmosphere, more heating w/o.

February 21, 2019 6:47 am

Excellent list.

Should be displayed in every state/government agency and office. It should be showcased in the entrance of every school, college, and courthouse. A granite monument displayed at the entrance of the US capital building and also as a reminder to the occupants of the White House an even bigger monument! Every state legislator should read it while passing into their local chambers. Perhaps a requirement of recitation as part of the swearing in process to taking public office. Maybe then some logic would rub off on them.

Curious George(@moudryj)
February 21, 2019 8:07 am

Regarding the 97% claim, we should cut them to size: How many “97% scientists” are there worldwide? Answer: 75. Always correct the 97% claim to a 75 claim.

Gordon Dressler
February 21, 2019 8:12 am

Jim Steele, your article above was, overall, a very good one. However, your really dropped the ball with three successive sentences:

1) “Clearly climate has been changing since the 1800s.”
— Why choose this particular starting period? Climate has likewise been changing since the 1700s, since the 900s, since 8000 BC, since 1 million ago, since 1 billion years ago . . .

2) “CO2 concentrations are unprecedently high and CO2 is a greenhouse gas.”
— As first pointed out by Mardler above at 2:48 am, this assertion is not consistent with the best scientific reconstructions of Earth’s historic atmospheric CO2 concentrations based on paleoclimatology.

3) “Those are undeniable facts on which we all agree.”
— In reality, there are a great many learned individuals that question if CO2 is a “greenhouse gas” having any significant impact on global warming over a concentration range up to several thousand’s ppm. There arguments are two-fold: (a) changes in atmospheric CO2 levels appears to lag, not lead, changes in global temperatures, and (b) changes in glaciers/ice sheets over millions of years appear to occur generally independent of actual CO2 levels (i.e., whether they are relatively high or low). At the same time, these individuals do not deny that physics that says CO2 is theoretically a greenhouse gas . . . while at the same time offering that its theoretical potential may be overwhelmed/screened out by water vapor being the predominant greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere.

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
February 21, 2019 8:29 am


I am trying to reach readers who are undecided about the causes of climate change. I want them to entertain more than one hypothesis. The most common retortsI get are: but the “97% says” or you are a “greenhouse denier”. This specific article is an attempt to get those people to engage more honest and meaningful discussions and get more critical thinking. Within this article’s framework, talking about high CO2 levels in the Devonian is often perceived as irrelevant or sidestepping the last 150 years of change. I am limited to 800 words for these newspaper columns, so I can’t discuss everything at once. But trust me, there is an article coming discussing the evolution of photosynthesis when there were high levels of CO2. That’s why greenhouse will pump an extra 1000 ppm to enhance growth.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 10:09 am
Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 2:28 pm

Rubisco is an enzyne that must be activated (carbamylated) by CO2, but that CO2 is not involved in what happens with RuBP & CO2. However, only small levels of CO2 are needed for this activation.

After activation an + charged ion (magnesium ++) must become involved to make the enzyme Rubisco have a catalytic site with proper electronic configuration. RuBP must bind to Rubisco or neither CO2 or O2 can bind to Rubisco enzyme.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 2:34 pm

OK, Jim, thank you for your reply. I look forward to your next article.

But one observation: mentioning that many greenhouse growers add CO2 to increase the yields of flowering plants or vegetables or fruits or seedlings therein is sure to invite some of the less-informed to also speculate: “Ah ha, that is one reason that greenhouses become so hot inside . . . the increased CO2 warms the air inside.” As you know, nothing could be further from the truth.

Just reflecting on the problem of educating—WITHOUT accidentally misleading—the public, when using 800 word increments.

February 21, 2019 8:19 am

The RS has long ago left that motto behind (Nullius in Verba)_

Robert Bissett
February 21, 2019 8:35 am

Good list. The majority of humans are ruled by emotion. When gripped by fear, logic flees and all lists.
A needed correction:
“2. Don’t: Avoid arguments from authority.”
Should be: Do: Avoid arguments from authority.

John B
February 21, 2019 8:38 am

Nullius In Verba. ‘In’ not ‘En’. (It is Latin not French.)

I prefer the translation, ‘Trust No-one’. (tm Fox Mulder).

CO2 levels unprecedented: I have read elsewhere they were much higher in past times.

I wonder what is the ‘correct’ CO2 level for the Earth, the ‘correct’ global average temperature, the ‘correct’ climate?

Reply to  John B
February 21, 2019 10:34 am

Yes “In” not “En”. Still the advice is still worth heeding!

James Schrumpf
Reply to  John B
February 21, 2019 12:42 pm

The “correct” temperature is whatever keeps Chicago from under a mile of ice.

ferd berple(@ferdberple)
February 21, 2019 8:55 am

Alchemy became reality by replacing chemical reactions with nuclear reactions.

The error is to assume alchemy is impossible and this somehow made newton less of a scientist.

All inventions have a time at which the circumstances align to permit discovery. The shoulders of giants allowing one to see the path ahead.

A lack of giants results in less discovery, not less scientists.

Tom Abbott
February 21, 2019 8:58 am

Jim, what kind of feedback are you getting from your local readers?

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 21, 2019 10:15 am

Its a mixed bag. Several people I see out and about have thanked me and think it is a great column. From letters to the editor a few positives and a few negatives. One person I have butted heads with acknowledged my wildfire column’s accuracy but based on the 97% argued climate change is all due to humans. A few others invited me to attend their local meeting on wildfires and I got invited to speak to the Rotary club. Most amusing is the notorious WUWT stalker Peter Miesler, who has also stalked me for 5 years, and dedicated part of his website to me, has written in from Colorado and his “friend” here referred to Miesler as proof hthat Im a “pseudo-science denier”. So I expect he’ll be trying t spam the paper. But his nonsenses is easily refuted as done many times or or

Gunga Din
Reply to  Jim Steele
February 21, 2019 4:07 pm

“pseudo-science denier”
If that’s a quote, wouldn’t that be a compliment? Denying the pseudo-science behind all the Global Warming hype?

Reply to  Gunga Din
February 21, 2019 5:01 pm

It would indeed be a compliment in some circles but I am writing to the heart of the blue states in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here good skeptics are bashed as deniers.

Mickey Reno
February 21, 2019 10:38 am

This is long, my story of the evolution of the Cosmos series, and how Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan and Neil Degrasse-Tyson show (showed) their colors.

Carl Sagan knew the rules of baloney detection, having popularized them in his books, and by respecting and living them mostly, in his career as an astronomer and author of accessible science for the public. But late in life, he was corrupted by love, marrying Ann Druyan, one of the assistants who worked on Cosmos with him. I can’t say it was her fault the he violated his own rule near the end of Cosmos, and started flinging BS instead of being a force for reason and dispassion. But it is so ironic and sad to me that at the end of the Cosmos mini-series, Sagan demonstrated how he, the writer and definer of the rules on baloney detection, in the end was corrupted, and granted himself an exemption from the rules. What did he do?

At the end of the original Cosmos series, Sagan first proposed an interesting question. That question was part of the wrap up episodes during which he began speculating about the future, and dealing with some interesting but unknown things, often debated by many people, and badly in need of some Baloney Detection. Some of the questions of great interest are related to the notions of intelligent life on other planets, alien visitation and UFOs.

Of course we don’t know of any other intelligent life on any other planets. As a sort of guess about the possibility, though, Sagan outlined the so-called Drake Equation, and briefly discussed whether there was any reason to conclude what the evolution of intelligent life on Earth was a common event or a rarity. In fact there are many things in our own history that can be used to make a case for rarity. But physics got us here, and those rules occur everywhere. So maybe life and intelligence as an evolutionary phase are common. It’s an open question.

But if intelligence and advanced civilizations are common, isn’t part of the evidence that we haven’t found them, so far? Where are the others, why wouldn’t they already be here to pay a visit? Clearly, Sagan clearly believed other intelligent life must be out there, as he wrote the book Contact to explore the notions of how we might find them. But he also details the problems. Relativistic travel times, and huge time lags that any communication based on radio waves would take is one, living for centuries on long space journeys between stars is another. Clearly some advanced state of travel, bending space time, worm-holes, etc, is necessary to make visiting in person a common event. And these things, as they say in court, are not yet in evidence. So Sagan concluded in Cosmos that any evidence for current visitation by ETs is weak and better explained by human psychology than by physical evidence on the ground, sightings of unknown phenomena in the sky, or abduction stories. And I approve of his very sensible, very Ockham-like approach. This is the modern scientific consensus on this issue.

Then Sagan went on to speculate about the notion of intelligence as an ultimate destroyer of advanced species, as an inevitable phase in their evolutionary development. That is a very interesting question. But in this case, it was no longer and honest, scientific question, but a ploy for Sagan to introduce a wildly speculative pet theory of his. That was the idea of nuclear winter. Clearly, we humans do have the ability to wreak great havoc on our own habitat, perhaps enough so to make it a wasteland, possibly even ending in our extinction. And although we have not (yet) destroyed ourselves with nuclear weapons, the “KNOWN RATIO” of intelligent species which build civilizations and practice science, and then make tools which can destroy themselves, right now stands at 100%. This idea clearly frightens and disturbs Sagan. And it disturbed me, too, when in elementary school, I had to do drills where I sat under my desk with my hands clasped around the back of my head for an hour or more. Duck and cover, anyone?

But the question is still just a question. It has not been answered. It might never be answered. But Sagan is through questioning now, and starts laying down the law, and it is here that Sagan went off the rails. He wants his great educational summary to end on an alarmist rant, a sop to his own fears, concluding the whole brilliant series with an implication that this question of intelligence destroying itself with it’s own immature use of dangerous technology was more than likely true than false. It was subtle, and not stated outright, but he concludes what was otherwise a very good show about the advancements of human knowledge due to science, tacitly implying that his own ideas of nuclear winter had already withstood much scientific scrutiny and were as well accepted as the other scientific notions advance throughout the series. In fact they had NOT yet been exposed to any scrutiny at all. And by now, only 30 short years later, they are almost completely discredited. Before he died, I believe Sagan himself regretted his Cosmos speculations about nuclear winter.

It was so ironic that that the teacher, the scientist, ended the series by showing that he was willing to throw out all the rules as a sop to his own emotional bias. Was his bias bolstered by the beliefs of his new wife, who is very much a leftist, pro-Malthusian, perhaps misanthropic person. She exhibits her true colors later, and so maybe we can conclude that those feelings and beliefs influenced the late episodes of Cosmos, too.
Which spoiled the ending of an otherwise terrific series.

Side bar: I also have problems with the editing of Cosmos, which included far too many pregnant pauses and meaningful looks to the heavens and cheesy music, which I believe were meant to convey Sagan’s sense of awe about the Universe. A little of that went a long way, and some judicious snipping would have resulted in a more crisp presentation.

Well, now Sagan is gone, and we come to the first refresh of Cosmos, by his widow, Ann Druyan. This was the same content, with an UPDATE of this final portion about humans destroying themselves due to immature or premature uses of intelligence to kill ourselves off. And surprise, surprise, the refresh downplays the now, pretty much universally discredited notions of nuclear winter, but then instead goes all-in on Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming as the mechanism of our destruction. She shoe horns in plenty of WAGs and alarmist eco-propaganda, giving that wildly speculative content the blessing of being part of Cosmic and Cosmos canon, implicitly blessed with the credibility of Sagan and all the great scientists throughout history combined to give us the knowledge that show imparts. Bullshit. Sagan had a toe in the water, but was never a high priest of CAGW, and who, I think, if you could have pried him away from Druyan for a while, would have gagged at the pseudo-science being advanced out of academe and federal research today. She was the true believer, and this became her Cosmos cause.

Then, finally, Druyan decides to remake Cosmos altogether. And she hires Neil De Grasse-Tyson to be the spokesman. He, like me, is a huge fan of her late husband. Now, instead of being a last minute, “what if” question that only tacitly suggested an answer in the refreshed series, CAGW has now been advanced to scientific fact, replete with the same old unscientific crap about the 97%, bold assertions that CO2 is going to kill us and we must stop driving and burning fossil fuels. I absolutely hated this remake of Cosmos. It will someday become an embarrassment to Tyson. Druyan, I don’t believe, can be embarrassed. She’s like AOC and Bernie Sanders in that regard. Their feelings are more important than what can be objectively proved.

The point of this long rambling personal history is that the idea of a bullshit detector should always be front and center in all scientific questioning. It was a crucial and central idea to her own late husband. And yet Ann Druyan and her main spokesman, Tyson set that idea completely aside to advance Druyan’s own irrational and emotional prescriptions for human civilization, with regard to the burning of fossil fuels.

Another great, non-fiction book by Sagan was “The Demon Haunted World.” Why do we humans have demons and superstitions? Why and how do these things hurt us and cripple and systematically corrupt various parts of our civilization, knowledge or politics? Why is it so hard to erase certain kinds of superstitions, and why do the same kinds of things keep popping up with a slightly new face? Angels are now becoming Aliens was a question posited by that book. While not in the book, a great question inspired by it is do Spanish Inquisitions, witch burnings, beliefs in anal probing by space aliens and CAGW fears share a common psychological explanation or need? Can populations ever be politically rational, or should they aspire to be? Sagan might have been a positive influence in answering some of those questions, but Druyan is clearly not. Dr. Tyson is deep in muck, but might still be redeemed, if he will once again let pre-Druyan Sagan, and not Druyan herself, guide his thinking on the idea of bullshit detection.

Reply to  Mickey Reno
February 21, 2019 12:13 pm

“Then Sagan went on to speculate about the notion of intelligence as an ultimate destroyer of advanced species, as an inevitable phase in their evolutionary development. ”

Unless there are advanced life forms that rely on minerals and available energy, they will have progressed through life eats life stages.

Unintelligent life is unable to “not eat” in order to protect certain prey.

Life forms survive via luck and opportunity.
e.g., a life form surviving a planet killing meteor strike is lucky that the meteor was not a planet destroying planetoid.

Sagan forgot to consider the multitudes of life ending circumstances in order to focus on his ‘intelligent life’ guilt trip.

While Sagan seemed to lose some marbles during his declining years, I can only hope to retain a similar percentage of mine.

Reply to  Mickey Reno
February 22, 2019 9:16 am

Mickey Reno — thanks, interesting. In “Demon Haunted World” Sagan identified the problems & decline in modern education, but either was unwilling or unable to admit that his own colleagues/culture/friends (liberals) were the ones responsible for it.

Reply to  Mickey Reno
February 22, 2019 10:03 am

Mickey Reno — to add, yes, I agree the latest “Cosmos” version was horrendous, disgustingly PC and even threatened the excellent reputation of the original series. Political Correctiveness destroys everything in its path.

February 21, 2019 11:40 am

From #3 on, there are double negatives!

Which confuses what one is supposed to “not do”.

Typo alert:
Don’ instead of Don’t.
The typo will self correct if you remove the first Don’t.

February 21, 2019 12:24 pm

In what way are current CO2 levels ‘unprecedented’???

February 21, 2019 12:48 pm

This just goes to show how pervasive propaganda can be.

From definitions to the techniques to the data…

Its ALL in dispute.

There is literally nothing of value to see here in the Land of Climate Make-Believe.


Gunga Din
February 21, 2019 3:19 pm

When I was in grade school one of the lunch items was “fried baloney”.
Pity they don’t serve it in schools today.

Reply to  Gunga Din
February 22, 2019 8:57 am

Hmmm. Fried baloney……

Dave Bufalo
February 21, 2019 3:35 pm

Mr. Steele has stated that CO2 levels have never been higher. I have seen documents that note CO2 has been as high as 6,000 ppm in the past.

John Tillman
Reply to  Dave Bufalo
February 21, 2019 3:53 pm

Best estimate for the Cambrian Period is 7000 ppm.

It was even higher at various points during the four billion years of the Precambrian Supereon.

Reply to  Dave Bufalo
February 21, 2019 4:52 pm

Dave, Please do not misrepresent my words. I said unprecedented CO2 levels and in the context of the paragraph it should have been clear I was limiting that too since 1800.

Reply to  Jim Steele
February 23, 2019 6:37 pm

I think most of us understood the context for your CO2 levels. Always gonna be a few outliers.

holly elizabeth Birtwistle
February 21, 2019 4:59 pm


You undermined your argument when you said “we all agree on the greenhouse effect of CO2 – No we don’t.
And, “CO2 is unprecentedly high” – No it isn’t. Water vapour is the important ‘greenhouse gas’, there is no evidence that CO2 plays any part in changing the climate. From 10 years of reading articles on WUWT, I have concluded the main variables in climate CHANGE, that we know of so far, are the Oceans (up-welling cold and down-welling warm water) and currents, the Sun, Water Vapour, and degree of cloud cover, and we don’t understand how these variables influence the climate, or how they interact. Then there are many other variables, even less understood. Ask yourself what changed the climate before we started burning fossil fuels? We have no understanding of that yet, but it wasn’t CO2.

Reply to  holly elizabeth Birtwistle
February 21, 2019 5:15 pm


You and a few others seem oddly hell bent on misrepresenting my words.

I wrote, “Clearly climate has been changing since the 1800s. CO2concentrations are unprecedently high and CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Those are undeniable facts on which we all agree.”

Within the context of “since the 1800s”, CO2 is unprecedentedly high. That is the context my readers are concerned with. As stated in above comments the history of CO2 concentrations will be discussed in the appropriate context in future articles.

You manufacture a few other straw dogs suggesting I argued CO2 is causing today’s climate change. But I very clearly stated, “But there is absolutely NO scientific consensus regards how “sensitive” the earth is to a doubling of CO2 concentrations.”

That said there a greenhouse effect still exists and most scientists alarmist to skeptics accept that. But ask yourself why you are smugly lecturing me on the fact other variables affect climate? You apparently have never read an thing I have written before. Last week I wrote about how ocean oscillation affect climate.

Reply to  Jim Steele
February 23, 2019 6:38 pm

You have far more patience than I .

February 22, 2019 12:55 am

“Detailing natural climate change is not denying a greenhouse effect.”

I explained to some non-scientists the other day about 20 something scientists signing a letter sent to the DOJ asking for racketeering laws to be used against deniers like Willie Soon. He received a pittance to continue working on how natural causes could be behind some of the warming while the lead signatory was allowed to skim off an extra half a million of research money to top up his $300 k a year salary. He wasn’t debunking the greenhouse effect but could have grown huge doubt on the “we don’t know what else it could be” argument. If you make such an argument, you need to set aside some of those million dollar grants for people study, honestly, other possibilities.

Nigel Goodwin
February 22, 2019 2:06 am

If you like the above list you will enoy this book:

You can easily find a partial pdf version on the internet, although they end at page 127 and miss some of my favourite chapters, particularly regarding argument by analogy (it’s almost certainly an incorrect analogy, but it sounds very convincing).

February 26, 2019 10:35 pm

“Don’t get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours.”

Nonsense. It’s mine, so it must be right.

“Compare it fairly with the alternatives.”

Why bother? They’re wrong.

“See if you can find reasons for rejecting your favored hypothesis. If you don’t, others will.”

I know they will. They all hate me because I’m much more intelligent than they are. And they are wrong.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  RoHa
February 27, 2019 6:18 am

“Compare it fairly with the alternatives.”

Why bother? They’re wrong.”

I.e., why should I give you the raw data if you’re only going to try to find out what’s wrong with it gambit.

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