Climate scientists’ motivated reasoning

Reposted from Dr. Curry’s Climate Etc.

Posted on June 19, 2019 by curryja

by Judith Curry

Insights into the motivated reasoning of climate scientists, including my own efforts to sort out my own biases and motivated reasoning following publication of the Webster et al. (2005) paper

A recent twitter thread by Moshe Hoffman (h/t Larry Kummer) reminded me of a very insightful paper by Lee Jussim, Joe Duarte and others entitled Interpretations and methods: Towards a more self-correcting social psychology

Apart from the rather innocuous title, the paper provides massively important insights into scientific research in general, with substantial implications for climate science.

The Jussim et al. paper is the motivation for this blog post that addresses the motivated reasoning of individual climate scientists. And also for my next post that will address the broader ‘masking’ biases in climate science.

<begin quote>

“Getting it right” is the sine qua non of science. Science can tolerate individual mistakes and flawed theories, but only if it has reliable mechanisms for efficient self-correction. Unfortunately, science is not always self-correcting. Indeed, a series of threats to the integrity of scientific research has recently come to the fore across the sciences, including questionable research practices, failures to replicate, publication biases, and political biases.

Motivated reasoning refers to biased information processing that is driven by goals unrelated to accurate belief formation. A specific type of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, occurs when people seek out and evaluate information in ways that confirm their pre-existing views while downplaying, ignoring, or discrediting information of equal or greater quality that opposes their views. People intensely scrutinize counter-attitudinal evidence while easily accepting information supporting their views. People generate convincing arguments to justify their automatic evaluations, producing an illusion of objectivity.

Scientists are not immune to confirmation biases and motivated reasoning. Values influence each phase of the research process, including how people interpret research findings. Reviewers’ theoretical and ideological views can influence their evaluation of research reports, leading them to judge studies that oppose their beliefs more critically than studies supporting their views. Consequently, they are then less likely to recommend publication of studies with undesired findings or funding for studies based on undesirable theories or hypotheses.

There are powerful incentives to present a strong, compelling story when describing their research. Most of us are motivated to get the science right, but we are also motivated to get the studies published and our grants funded. We want our colleagues to find our research sufficiently interesting and important to support publishing it, and then to cite it, preferably a lot. We want jobs, promotions, and tenure. We want popular media to publicize our research and to disseminate our findings beyond the confines of our lab. We might even hope to tell a story so compelling we can produce a bestselling popular book and receive lucrative consulting and speaking engagements, or have our findings influence policy decisions.

In brief, powerful incentives exist that motivate us to achieve — or, at least, appear to achieve — a “Wow Effect”. A “Wow Effect” is some novel result that comes to be seen as having far- reaching theoretical, methodological, or practical implications. It is the type of work likely to be emulated, massively cited, and highly funded.

Compelling, persuasive narratives are amply rewarded by promotions, grants, named chairs, etc., but the relationship of “compellingness of narrative” to validity (effect size, replicability, generalizability, etc.) is currently unknown. This raises the possibility that for some unknown and possibly substantial portion of the time, we are rewarding research practices that produce Wow Effects that are false, distorted, or exaggerated. We next demonstrate how mundane explanations for the same data remain hidden in the depths of the theorizing, methodology, statistics, and conclusions of some major areas of psychological science.

A checklist for increasing confidence that our research is relatively free of motivated biases:

  1. What do I want to happen and why? An honest and explicit self- assessment is a good first step towards recognizing our own tendencies towards bias, and is, therefore, a first step to building in checks and balances in our research to reduce them.

JC comment: This one is the most subjective, but in many ways the most telling. Are careerist objectives paramount in publishing this paper (for yourself, or to support a student or postdoc’s career objectives)? Are you looking to support your preconceived scientific notions or ideology, or are you looking to advance the science? If your answer to any of the following questions indicate bias, then you should come back and think harder about #1.

  1. Am I shooting for a “Wow Effect!”? Am I painting a weak and inconsistent result as dramatic in order to tell a compelling story? Scientific ambition is not inherently problematic, and may be a powerful constructive force for scientific advancement. But we want our literature to have true, valid, Wow Effects, not ones that cannot be replicated or ones promoted as powerful and pervasive, which upon further reflection (or evidence-gathering) are, in fact, weak, fragile, and fleeting, or which can be easily called into question under critical scrutiny.

JC comment: A litmus test of this is whether you are planning the press release for your paper before it is even accepted for publication.
 Do you care more about whether your paper will stand the test of time, or are you more interested in short-term publicity and publication in a high impact journal that looks for ‘wow’ papers?  Part of this is exacerbated by the high impact journals such as Nature and Science, with press embargoes, that are clearly going for the ‘wow’ factor.  A big problem is that many of these papers (particularly in Nature Climate Change) do not survive the first week of their press release without massive flaws having been uncovered.

  1. Do I have a long track record of research that systematically validates a particular political or social narrative or agenda? This is not about one’s intentions but rather one’s results. If one’s results consistently validate a particular set of beliefs, values or ideology, one has failed this check, and suggests that attempts at falsification may be in order.

JC comment: Falsification is maybe not the right word here; rather ‘refutation’ should be attempted. This should be attempted as a regular practice.   A scientist should always ask “how might I be wrong?” at every step of their research.  When the conclusions of your research are always predictable to outsiders, then your research will appear biased.

  1. Am I receiving remuneration (e.g., speaking or consulting fees) for reaching a particular conclusion? Conflicts of interest, though they do not invalidate one’s conclusions, plausibly place one at greater risk of dubious research and interpretation practices more generally.

JC comment: Also consider biases that may be introduced from ideas you submitted in a federally funded grant proposal, that you are seeking to confirm. Did you submit ideas supporting the consensus on climate change, that you thought would give your proposal a better chance of funding?  See this previous post

  1. Have I generated theoretical arguments for competing and alternative hypotheses and designed studies to incorporate and test them?* Honest tests of alternatives can go a long way to reducing personal bias.

JC recommendation: if you are unaware of competing and alternative hypotheses, check out the papers listed in my Week in Review posts , and also my posts on attribution  – the topic that is the source of most of the debate.

  1. Have I read some of the literature highlighting the invidious ways our motivated biases, morals, and politics can creep into our scientific scholarship? Doing so can alert one to ways in which our preferences might distort our science. After having done so, have I made a good faith attempt to eliminate such biases from my scholarship?

JC recommendation: check out my collection of blog posts related to this topic, discussing relevant papers in the literature [link]

  1. Have I sought feedback from colleagues with very different preferences and perspectives than mine or with track records of scholarship that often contest my preferred narratives?

JC comment: If you are active on twitter and block other publishing climate scientists, that is a hint that you deserve an ‘F’ on this one. I get that there are morons in the twitosphere, by all means mute or block them. But don’t wear your bias on your sleeve by blocking other climate scientists! Take note, Michael Mann and Katherine Hayhoe. For the latest drama in this regards, see this from Ross McKitrick. UNbelievable.

“It may not always be possible for researchers to meet all of these checks. However, as a starting heuristic, meeting six of the seven probably justifies confidence that the research has kept bias mostly in check. What to do if one cannot meet at least six (or, alternatively, one fails too many of one’s own such questions?). Although that, too, is a matter of judgment, one possibility will be to start over.”

<end quotes>

JC’s struggle with ‘motivated bias’ – Webster et al. (2005)

The saga of my own fight against motivated bias begins with publication of  Webster, Holland, Curry, Chang (2005): Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration and intensity in a warming environment.

Webster’s motivation for investigating this topic was that he was disturbed by Kevin Trenberth’s Science paper and public pronouncements about increasing intensity of hurricanes while he was a lead author of the IPCC AR4 (which was in the ‘discussion’ phase at the time), which Webster regarded as unsupported. He supported Chris Landsea’s decision to resign from the IPCC over Kevin Trenberth’s statement.

Webster was surprised when the result of his investigations actually supported Trenberth’s assertions.

Prior to publication of the Webster et al. (2005) paper on hurricanes, I was blissfully well outside of the scientific or public debate on climate change. As an established, tenured Professor, my main objectives in publishing papers were to produce seminal papers that would stand the test of time, and hopefully change the way scientists think about the topic I was publishing on. I was also motivated to help my students and postdocs get established in their scientific careers.

That all changed in September 2005, following publication of the Webster et al. paper, several weeks following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. The story behind all that was recounted in an interview with Keith Kloor at the now defunct Collide-a-scape.

The relevant issue here is that I became enmeshed in a scientific and public debate that was rife with minefields that would contribute to motivated bias. The first front in the ‘war’ surrounding the Webster et al. paper was the hurricane researchers, notably Bill Gray and Chris Landsea. The attacks on us, particularly by Bill Gray, were ugly. Then we were attacked by the professional climate ‘skeptics’,from the think tanks. The ‘hurricane wars’ was a huge story in the media. (see also Chris Mooney’s book Storm World).

We were being attacked publicly; this was WAR on science. In our beleaguered state, we were ‘adopted’ by the enviro advocacy groups and the activist scientists (including RealClimate bloggers and Joe Romm). I became a ‘partisan’ on this topic; not so much the broader issue of AGW (but I decided at that time to generally accept the consensus), but on the specific issue of hurricanes and global warming.

Publication of the Webster et al. paper (also Emanuel, 2005) stimulated hundreds of publications on this topic. In the following year I was asked to review many many papers on this topic. My first reaction to receiving such a paper was to quickly figure out what ‘side’ of the debate the paper fell on. I was very hard on papers that were generally critical. I was also very hard on papers that supported our paper; after all, it wasn’t going to help ‘our side’ if weak papers got published.

I became a ‘partisan’ on this subject, and more broadly the issue of AGW. I was a soldier in the noble fight against the war on climate science.  I started paying attention to social media and blogs, and I became intrigued by RealClimate.

At the same time, I was most definitely paying attention to the criticisms from Gray, Landsea and others related to the quality of hurricane intensity data. I became increasingly intrigued by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and was puzzled by the mid-century warming ‘hiatus’.

The personal and professional shock of entering the public debate on climate change was deeply unwanted, surprising, and disturbing.   I could have stayed out of all this, but I was deeply disturbed by the ‘war on science.’ Why couldn’t scientific disagreement play out in the usual way (conferences, publications), with the media acknowledging uncertainty and disagreement? Well, the answer to that question was that urgent policy decisions were at stake, including rebuilding New Orleans. With regards to AGW, for the first time the public realized that even 1 degree warming could actually matter, if it caused more intense hurricanes. This was seized on by climate change activists, with an equal but opposite response by the libertarian/conservative advocacy groups.

I was concerned about bias being introduced into the science by this partisan ‘war.’ My reflections on all this were published in the  2006 paper by Curry, Webster and Holland Mixing politics and science in testing the hypothesis that greenhouse warming is causing a global increase in hurricane intensity that was submitted in November 2005.   Upon rereading this paper 13 years later, I still really like it. You can already see evidence of my readings from philosophy and social science in trying to grapple with what was going on.

Upon publication, our 2006 paper saw extensive discussion in the blogosphere. I used google to identify the blogs that were discussing this, and I stopped by each, leaving a comment stating my willingness to answer any comments. On one blog, I entered into a particularly interesting discussion, where people wanted to look at the data, asked questions about the statistical methodology, etc.   A few days later I realized I was at the nemesis blog of RealClimate (ClimateAudit). I continued to engage at CA (see the Collide-a-scape interview for further details.) During the period 2006-2010, the main blogs I participated in were ClimateAudit and Collide-a-scape.

Up until 2009, I was still considered as an ‘ally’ by the AGW advocate community. (Although there were early hints from the Climategate emails of Mann’s ‘displeasure’ re my comments in a NRC committee to review a doc on temperature trends.)

Of course, this all changed in Nov 2009 with the Climategate emails, you can read my perspective on this in the Collide-a-scape interview.  I was still fighting against the ‘war on science,’ but I was reconsidering who the ‘bad guys’ were. Over the next few years, the reception of the activist wing of climate science to my response to Climategate and Climate Etc. clarified all this, with serious implications for the integrity of climate science.

In August 2010, I started Climate Etc., the blog was seeded with material from my draft ‘uncertainty monster’ paper. Apart from scientific topics, my motivation was to grapple not only with any personal bias that I might have, but to understand bias in climate science caused by the politicization of the topic.  Almost 9 years later , I think some things have improved, but the climate scientist activists have further entrenched their biases, to the great detriment of  climate science and the climate policy debate.

So, how did I end up taking a different path and ending up in a different place than say Michael Mann, Katherine Hayhoe, or whoever?

First, as a female scientist of my generation, I wasn’t really entrained into the ‘power’ community surrounding climate science, although in the 2000’s I was named to some National Academy and other advisory committees. So my career path wasn’t invested in this kind of ‘power’ climb to influence climate science or public policy. I wasn’t editor of any journals, a lead author for the IPCC, etc. I was more interested in doing my own research. When I went to Georgia Tech in 2002, my main objective was in building a faculty and mentoring them and developing a good educational, professional and personal environment for students. So my career objectives were not really tied up in the ‘AGW enterprise.’

My generation of scientists (60+) have mostly identified as atmospheric scientists (meteorologists), oceanographers, geologists, geographers. By contrast, younger scientists (particularly those receiving Ph.D. since 2000) studying any topic related to climate pretty much have their careers defined by the AGW enterprise. As a percentage, I suspect that a far lower number of 60+ climate scientists are activists (and are more ‘skeptical’), relative to a large percentage of under 50’s (who don’t seem skeptical at all). Somebody outa do a survey.

Second, politically I’m an independent with libertarian leanings, and I have never been particularly aligned with environmental movement (while I highly value clean air and water and species diversity, the environmental movement seems motivated by other issues). I simply don’t have the soul of an ‘activist.’

Third, since my days as a graduate student I have had an abiding interest in philosophy and the social sciences, particularly as related to science.

Fourth, I care more about whether my publications will stand the test of time and contribute to deep understanding, than I care about the ‘wow’ factor, which I regard as transient and leading to nothing but trouble (e.g. Webster et al. 2005).

Fifth, at this stage of my life I can afford to buck the ‘system.’ 20 years ago, when I had a mortgage payment and college tuition to pay, there is no way I would have put myself out on such a controversial limb. There is only so much personal and professional integrity that you can afford, if your job might be at stake.

So that summarizes my personal journey, over the past 14 years, to fight against my own personal biases. Through Climate Etc. I provide resources that I hope others can use to think about, understand and challenge their own biases. Apparently trying to fight against bias in climate science gets you labeled as a ‘denier’, ‘anti-science,’ ‘serial climate disinformer.’ There seems to be no end to the perversions of ‘motivated’ climate science.

What’s next: If you are a true believer in AGW and the urgent need to act, you will think this is all irrelevant, e.g. settled science, 97% and all that. The bigger problem than motivated bias in individual scientists is when this bias gets institutionalized. The Jussim et al. paper also provides insights into this that are relevant to climate science, which will be the topic of my next post.

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June 19, 2019 2:25 pm

Money = Motivative Reasoning

Reply to  TDoyle
June 20, 2019 4:24 am

That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! Upton Sinclair

Dan Sudlik
Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2019 6:10 am

Thank you Bob and thank you Upton Sinclair 👌👏

June 19, 2019 2:37 pm

In the GWPF Briefing 24 Executive Summary Curry says:
“Climate models are useful tools for conducting scientific research to understand the climate system. However, the above points support the conclusion that current GCMs are not fit for the purpose of attributing the causes of 20th century warming or for predicting global or regional climate change on timescales of decades to centuries,with any high level of confidence. By extension, GCMs are not fit for the purpose of justifying political policies to fundamentally alter world social, economic and energy
systems. It is this application of climate model results that fuels the vociferousness of the debate surrounding climate models.”
This is entirely right . Bottom up GCMs are not fit for forecasting purposes but this does not mean that reasonably plausible projections of future climate cannot be made from the emergent properties of the complex climate system.
When analyzing complex systems with multiple interacting variables it is essential to note the advice of Enrico Fermi who reportedly said “never make something more accurate than absolutely necessary”. In 2017 I proposed the adoption of a simple heuristic approach to climate science which plausibly proposes that a Millennial Turning Point (MTP) and peak in solar activity was reached in 1991, that this turning point correlates with a temperature MTP in 2003/4, and that a general cooling trend will now follow until approximately 2650. See “The coming cooling: usefully accurate climate forecasting for policy makers.”
and an earlier accessible blog version at
See also the discussion with Professor William Happer at
The establishment’s dangerous global warming meme, the associated IPCC series of reports, the entire UNFCCC circus, the recent hysterical IPCC SR1.5 proposals and Nordhaus’ recent Nobel prize are thus founded on two basic errors in scientific judgement. First – the sample size is too small. Most IPCC model studies retrofit from the present back for only 100 – 150 years when the currently most important climate controlling, largest amplitude, solar activity cycle is millennial. This means that all climate model temperature outcomes are too hot and likely fall outside of the real future world. (See Kahneman -. Thinking Fast and Slow p 118) Second – the models make the fundamental scientific error of forecasting straight ahead beyond the Millennial Turning Point (MTP) and peak in solar activity which was reached in 1991. All this is reasonably obvious using basic common sense and Occam’s razor.
The establishment academic science community exhibit an almost total inability to recognize the most obvious Millennial and 60 year emergent patterns which are trivially obvious in solar activity and global temperature data. The delusionary world inhabited by the eco-left establishment activist elite is epitomized by Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes science-based fiction, ” The Collapse of Western-Civilization: A View from the Future” Oreskes and Conway imagine a world devastated by climate change. Intellectual hubris, confirmation bias, group think and a need to feel at once powerful and at the same time morally self-righteous caused the academic establishment to delude themselves, teenage students, politicians, governments, the politically correct chattering classes and almost the entire UK and US media that anthropogenic CO2 was the main and most dangerous climate driver. The certainty with which this proposition has been advanced led governments to introduce policies which have wasted trillions of dollars in a quixotic and inherently futile attempt to control earth’s temperature by reducing CO2 emissions.

Reply to  Dr Norman Page
June 19, 2019 3:54 pm

Totally agree, but this also brings to mind the response of the ex-NVA Colonel to the US Colonel when he noted that the NVA never won a battle against the US Army: “That’s true, but also irrelevant.” The Alarmists care not about the validity of their data nor their conclusions, because this issue is really not about science. It’s about control. Clear back to “Limits to Growth” by Club of Rome in early ’70s, it’s been about global control of behavior. If you could choose one element from the periodic table – excepting oxygen – that you could have substantial control over in terms of human consumption, to give you power over populations it would be Carbon.

Reply to  John
June 20, 2019 4:31 am

The comment about the colonels makes no sense unless you know that the NVA is The People’s Army of Vietnam.

Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2019 9:10 am

The NVA is short for “Nationale Volksarmee” (National people’s Army) of the GDR (german democratic republic).

Hunter Paalman
Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2019 9:28 am


Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2019 6:38 pm

True. I’m old…and remember the Vietnam war. Came from Harry Summer’s book “On Strategy”.

Reply to  Dr Norman Page
June 19, 2019 4:19 pm

“Dr Norman Page June 19, 2019 at 2:37 pm

This is entirely right . Bottom up GCMs are not fit for forecasting purposes but this does not mean that reasonably plausible projections of future climate cannot be made from the emergent properties of the complex climate system.”

Patently absurd.
Nor is your claim about accuracy of any merit for using unfit unvalidated uncertified models for forecasting future climates.

Reply to  Dr Norman Page
June 19, 2019 5:02 pm

Thank you

Reply to  Dr Norman Page
June 19, 2019 5:25 pm

Elucidating quote: “Plain Language Summary: Observationally based metrics are essential for the standardized evaluation of climate and earth system models, and for reducing the uncertainty associated with future projections by those models.” Published May 2018 by JGR: Oceans (publishes original research articles on the physics, chemistry, biology and geology to the oceans and their interaction with other components of the Earth system.} Source link:
Paper titled: Metrics for the evaluation of the Southern Ocean in coupled climate models and earth system models

June 19, 2019 3:04 pm

Terrific post thank-you. Re McKitrick experience “UNbelievable” – not at all. I live in Canada. The federal government here is simply nuts – maybe waiting for their brains to migrate back from the winter breeding grounds. What a circus.

June 19, 2019 3:44 pm

“motivated reasoning” Is this the left’s new term for” money grubbing liars”?

Tom in Florida
June 19, 2019 3:46 pm

“Why couldn’t scientific disagreement play out in the usual way (conferences, publications), with the media acknowledging uncertainty and disagreement? Well, the answer to that question was that urgent policy decisions were at stake, including rebuilding New Orleans”

I will add that those urgent policy decisions end up with the policy makers hands in our wallets. We are all at the mercy of taxes imposed on us by our governments, our bank accounts and life styles are the ones affected by those decisions. So when we perceive that the real end game of the shutdown of scientific debate is to take our money and dictate how we live, we resist. Prove to me that the money and a change in our lives will actually make a difference and it becomes less of a problem. We also know that there will then be another “crisis” pushed on us by a different group and of course their answer is to also have the government do the same thing to address that crisis. We know it will never end so we stiffen our resistance.

June 19, 2019 4:04 pm

“If you are active on twitter and block other publishing climate scientists, that is a hint that you deserve an ‘F’ on this one. I get that there are morons in the twitosphere, by all means mute or block them. But don’t wear your bias on your sleeve by blocking other climate scientists! Take note, Michael Mann and Katherine Hayhoe.”

I have read that there is a community block list employed by climate scientists/activists that includes blocks added by any member of that group. So if someone subscribes to, or uses, that block list, people who they don’t even know about will be blocked.

Rud Istvan
June 19, 2019 4:16 pm

I normally reply to Judith directly on her blog, to whom I owe much thanks to her publishing many draft essays and providing the Foreword to my Blowing Smoke ebook. A limited exception here at ‘second home’ WUWT.

JC is apparently still rationalizing what happened to her professionally at GT after she started Climate Etc. This post brings more clarity, from rigorous academic pursuits outside her own—Duarte being a past frequent ‘intelligent’ guest poster at CE whose ideas I found insightful, since his expertise is very different from mine.

dodgy geezer
June 19, 2019 4:49 pm

Now, it’s not so much that love of money and a glittering career will bias your results – rather that if you want to stay in the career that you have with the money that you have, you’d better not disagree with AGW theory…

Curious George
June 19, 2019 4:59 pm

It is not about a scientific disagreement. It is an aggression against truth, plain and simple. Nonexistent data are being homogenized into existence. Carefully selected 75 individuals are representing 97% of all scientists ( Can you propose something more arrogant than “The science is settled”?

June 19, 2019 5:03 pm

Came across this, that speaks to weakness of current scientific “MODELS” and need for better data & data gathering “METRICS”. :
Metrics for the evaluation of the Southern Ocean in coupled climate models and earth system models
Published online May 2018

The Southern Ocean is central to the global climate and the global carbon cycle, and to the climate’s response to increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, as it ventilates a large fraction of the global ocean volume. Global coupled climate models and earth system models, however, vary widely in their simulations of the Southern Ocean and its role in, and response to, the ongoing anthropogenic trend. Due to the region’s complex water‐mass structure and dynamics, Southern Ocean carbon and heat uptake depend on a combination of winds, eddies, mixing, buoyancy fluxes, and topography. Observationally based metrics are critical for discerning processes and mechanisms, and for validating and comparing climate and earth system models. New observations and understanding have allowed for progress in the creation of observationally based data/model metrics for the Southern Ocean. Metrics presented here provide a means to assess multiple simulations relative to the best available observations and observational products. Climate models that perform better according to these metrics also better simulate the uptake of heat and carbon by the Southern Ocean.

This report is not strictly an intercomparison, but rather a distillation of key metrics that can reliably quantify the “accuracy” of a simulation against observed, or at least observable, quantities.

One overall goal is to recommend standardization of observationally based benchmarks that the modeling community should aspire to meet in order to reduce uncertainties in climate projections, and especially uncertainties related to oceanic heat and carbon uptake.
From Page 2 of pdf:
The inference that reducing model error in simulations of today will ensure that model simulations of the future are less uncertain, while intuitive, is hard to quantify. Dalmonech et al. (2014) attribute one of the causes of model uncertainty to uncertainties related to the observations and the performance metrics, implying that better observations and metrics should provide information needed to reduce model uncertainty. Shiogama et al. (2016) found that much of the uncertainty associated with model projection stemmed from uncertainty in the observations, and comparing the models to longer observational records led to significantly reduced simulation uncertainty. Knutti et al. (2010) cast doubt on the idea that better simulations today imply better simulations in the future, but nevertheless emphasized that more quantitative metrics are essential. We note that if a simulation is ‘‘right for the wrong reasons,’’ this would suggest that good agreement between historical model metrics and observations is no guarantee of useful future projections.
From page 19
Several models are shedding heat through the Southern Ocean, rather than taking in heat as is seen in the observations. This is not inconsistent with Frolicher et al. (2015), however, who noted that the increased € uptake of heat by the Southern Ocean since the Industrial Revolution is often expressed as a dramatic reduction in the heat loss, rather than actual uptake (and this is similar to the carbon uptake assessment).

Assessing the mechanisms and causes of these biases will be essential in our effort to reduce the uncertainty associated with future climate projections.

More from page 19
As is seen with heat uptake, carbon uptake is also highly correlated in the models with both the width of the Southern Hemisphere westerly band (gray line in Figure 9b, r 5 20.936, significant at 99.4%) and also with the net heat uptake south of 308S but with slightly lower correlation and significance (gray line in Figure 9c, r 5 0.779, significant at >93%). The representation of the latitudinal structure (and strength) of the Southern Hemisphere westerlies is thus critical to the overall uptake of both heat and carbon across simulations. Although heat uptake in B-SOSE exhibits the expected relationship with the winds, the carbon uptake is significantly lower than expected. This difference in carbon uptake may be due, in part, to the later time period over which the state estimate is determined (2008–2012). Future work will expand this study to include other models and other forcing scenarios to assess the reliability of these relationships.

From page 20
Here we focused on the role of large-scale observations in assessing the fidelity of climate simulations in the Southern Ocean. We also must emphasize that observationally based metrics play another key role by quantifying the smaller-scale physics that must be parameterized in climate models. For example, the recent Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES) has provided the first direct estimates of lateral and vertical diffusivities: parameters that play a key role in setting the ACC zonal transport and the meridional overturning circulation (Tulloch et al., 2014; Watson et al., 2013). It is important that the modeling community adopt the results of these process studies to reduce uncertainty in parameterized physics. At this point, our way forward requires two essential tracks: first, we, collectively, must carry out rigorous assessments of all model simulations against these and potentially all observationally based metrics in order to evaluate the biases in the models, reduce our intermodel differences, and reduce the uncertainty in our projections of the future. Second, we need to encourage and bring about the continued expansion of the available accurate observations: we are excited by the increasing availability of biogeochemical data from the nascent BGC-Argo efforts as well as the prospect of new data generated as part of the SOOS efforts. In order to ensure their inclusion in the various model intercomparison projects that are part of the upcoming CMIP6, we encourage all modeling centers to make their simulations available in standard, orthogonal grids (latitude versus longitude versus depth) and to calculate and report quantities with significant covariance (e.g., lateral heat fluxes) for better budget calculations.

Toward this goal, the Earth System Model Evaluation Tool (ESMValTool;, Eyring et al., 2016) is an invaluable resource for the climate modeling and assessment community that allows for routine comparison of single or multiple models against observations. Several of us are working on developing packages for the metrics discussed in this study to be included in the ESMValTool, and we strongly encourage other modeling groups to do the same .

HD Hoese
June 19, 2019 5:22 pm

One of the pernicious symptoms of this is the widespread journal impact factor. One of the most difficult jobs in teaching is judgement of talent, in research judgement of its viability, as noted long-term. WOW is OK for the curious, but experience and discipline brings on the judgement that science represents. That is the only way to keep our credibility which is diminishing. I have seen a lot and experienced some discrimination from political incorrectness and failure to follow the grant syndrome properly. It is basically an expression of a form of bigotry which some of us learned from our janitor who first pointed it out.

Several coincidental events probably brought this on, the environmental revolution, which was or became political, ease in handling statistics, government grant systems that allowed for cronyism, and others. I have read lots of scientific literature, well over a centuries worth, and the tone and flavor of it has changed in the last few decades, and the scientific societies have become too much into advertisement. In the scientific literature negativity in places is rampant which is a form of a non-scientific value judgement.

Solving problems, getting it right, seeing such success in students and colleagues, should be the main satisfaction in academia. Maybe too many have failed. That should supplant super salaries and awards but that is difficult when debates degrade into arguments. There is also the form of censorship by ignoring contrary ideas.

Nevertheless, it is heartening though that lots of good stuff still gets published, despite more difficulty in the process which discourages much of it. As there is lots of WOWWW with the new technologies.

June 19, 2019 5:41 pm

Internally, externally, and mutually consistent, within a limited (human) frame of reference.

Pa Wi
June 19, 2019 5:44 pm

On a sad, but realistic note: In 1891, a British judge was attributed by a Mr. Gainsford as having generated a comment regarding the lack of accountability for factual testimony of “expert opinion” testimony given in British courts. In light of modern times, I think of so called “expert” climate “scientists” when reading the lack of accountability, except if you don’t sing the “97%” lyrics, your career in research or academia may be ruined.

Published Source:
In Notes and Queries
(7th Ser. xii) (1891 Nov. 21),
p. 413,

[Begin quote]

DEGREES OF FALSEHOOD (7th S. xii. 288). – There used to be a somewhat better version of this saying current in Lincoln’s Inn years ago, of a judge who recognized three degrees in liars:

“the liar simple, the d—d liar, and the expert witness. The point lies in the fact that expert witnesses are allowed to give evidence as to what is their opinion, and hence are out of the reach of an indictment for perjury, which always hangs over the head of the ordinary witness, who can testify to fact only. ”

To whom the saying was attributed I am sorry to say I forget—probably to any one whom it fitted. In those days it probably would have fitted Sir George Jessel.
W.D. GAINSFORD. {end quote}

Kevin kilty
June 19, 2019 5:51 pm

Irving Langmuir published a list of characteristics of pathological science. It might serve as a useful sanity test to keep one from engaging in dodgy research, but outside of a review of Langmuir’s lectures to GE in the 1950s in Physics Today about 30 years ago, the only times I have seen it cited is to bash it. This new list of questions defining a sort of sanity test for bias will likely meet the same fate. The people most in need won’t take it seriously, and may just lie to themselves. People are people after all, and we all have mental processes that work to hide unpleasant things from ourselves.

John Adams
June 19, 2019 6:24 pm

Thank you. I was disappointed when you left. Ga Tech but it was their loss. I am an alum and I thought you fought prestige to the Institute.

Smart Rock
June 19, 2019 6:32 pm

Another thoughtful, balanced, meticulously documented, understated, deeply self-analytical, thought-provoking post from the inimitable Dr. Curry. A scientist in the tradition that evolved in the the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – which is now being superseded by self-advertisement that uses the form and language of science but often lacks the substance.

Unfortunately, in the public arena, thoughtful, balanced and understated don’t do well against the glibly articulate promoters of climate change weather-event attribution. Mann, Schmidt, Hayhoe et al have no problem in throwing out factoids that vary from debatable to dubious to shamelessly fabricated. And it’s done with such supreme confidence that they are convincing to an undecided audience.

In the war on science, the first campaign was called “global warming”. It didn’t get a lot of traction because it posited a future that was a bit warmer than today. The response of the general public can be summarized as “big deal, so what?”. The second campaign was called “climate change” and it also predicted a future, this time one where bad weather happens. More “big deal”. The third campaign is well under way now and it’s called “attribution”. It uses every present-day bad weather event as “proof” that “Climate Change Is Happening Now – And It’s Only Going To Get Worse”. And there are cameras ready to capture every weather event on video, and content-hungry media to repeat those videos endlessly and reinforce the message. Yes, the third campaign is gaining ground among the general public (and don’t forget the children!).

We need to bring the fight to the enemy’s door. Easier said than done, eh?

Joel O’Bryan
June 19, 2019 6:45 pm

The War on Science has shifted.
This profound shift ocurred during the early years of the 21st Century.
The Mann hickey stick was decisively refuted by M&M yet amazingly it was acknowledged by the journals.
This hockey stick drama was occurring contemporaneous with Judith’s and Dr Gray’s hurricane ACE travails

What was the reason?
My take: 8 years of VP Al Gore’s behind the scenes work to put key people in places like AAAS Science Mag was “bearing fruit.” It started in 1995 with Ben Santer’s Chapter 8 attribution dishonesty. Continued to 1999 Hockey sticks.

We’ve been paying a heavy price with the destruction of science ever since.
The shift was that the climate charaltans captured the castle (the journals), ejected dissenting skeptics, and the skeptics became the renegade resistance.

The Climate War rages on, and into unconventional battlespaces.

June 19, 2019 7:09 pm

Those who PAY for the research, get to SAY what the conclusion is.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Johor
June 19, 2019 7:58 pm

A fascinating and sobering read, and a great lesson focus all. How much of our personal security are we willing to put on the line in the name of truth and honour?

I see yesterday the Clean Power Plan was overthrown and the objectors were raising fears about the (modelled and attributed and estimated) death and illness they assure will result from this tragedy.

There is in the world of air pollution a malignancy of intellect that is every bit as dangerous to science as exists in the climate catastrophe crowd. It is easier to debunk the “health impact” crowd because the replicability issue is already broadly recognised. “PM2.5 is toxic…” whereas it is a size, a diameter, not a toxin.

The CO2 crowd are trying, hoping, to have the public imagine that CO2 is a toxin causing death(s) using word-association. This is not science at all, just motivated reasoning, or just motivation without reasoning.

Malcolm Chapman
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Johor
June 20, 2019 1:32 am

You raise an important issue. In the UK (which you might know about if you are sometimes in Waterloo – of the sunset, that is, not the battle), we had some years ago an environmentally motivated political push to get people to buy and use diesel-engined cars. I did (Ford Galaxy, great for piling in kids and kit, died a natural death at 160,000 miles). Then increased public awareness of particulate pollution came along (I don’t know the history of this increasing awareness – that would no doubt be an interesting story in itself), which turned politics and the public against diesel engines. The emissions testing scandals coming out of the automotive industry gave this extra traction.

Now, it has become common for journalists, politicians, commentators (etc., etc.,) to speak of ‘carbon pollution’, when referring to anything they care to dislike about the use of fossil fuels. Perhaps this sometimes happened in earlier days, in relation to discussion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; I am not sure. Now, however, it has become normal for people to use ‘carbon pollution’ to mean anything from any kind of particulate pollution through to normal atmospheric carbon dioxide. The fact that the term can have some reasonable usage in relation to particulate pollution from diesel engines, is allowed to expand into the condemnation of carbon dioxide, as if having carbon dioxide in the atmosphere meant that we were all breathing soot into our lungs. The insanity of thinking of CO2 as a ‘pollutant’ has often been discussed here at WUWT. What is new, I think, is the ready and credible use of ‘carbon pollution’, as a term which allows alarmists and the credulous to talk of industrial smog, lung-damaging particulates, and climate-catastrophe CO2, as if they were all essentially the same thing.

Examples can be found every day in the national newspapers. I pause to lament the almost total abdication of responsibility, by journalists (whether ‘environmental correspondents’, ‘energy analysts’, or whatever) for thoughtful and critical commentary on these issues, and these usages. They do not consider the usage of ‘carbon pollution’; they just use it. I wish I knew how to stop them, or at least make them ask themselves the obvious questions.

June 19, 2019 9:20 pm

Kinda the same as having FU money ?

Johann Wundersamer
June 19, 2019 10:26 pm

Somebody outa do a survey:

Counting the casualties is preparation for the next battles.

John Dutton
June 19, 2019 10:41 pm

Judith Curry, since she “switched camps” has suddenly become famous and sought after by the right wing side of politics. She seems to be asserting some sort of moral high ground that, due to her integrity, she has over come her biases and the lure of being a climate change conformist.

Yet, what about her biases and her motivations now? Why is she so sure that what she has gained since, is not motivating her and biasing her and her views. And why is she not fighting what she claims is bias from the inside, doing science, rather than having taken the clearly political path in this debate?

Sorry, I don’t find Curry’s claims believable at all.

Reply to  John Dutton
June 20, 2019 5:34 am

And what are your biases that lead you to make this claim?

Read her CE posts some time and see she has been doing science both at Georgia and her own company.

Reply to  John Dutton
June 20, 2019 7:48 am

Hi John,

Sooooo entertaining to see you commenting on my posts. For your own entertainment, you might want to read two of my other posts, let me know if you recognize yourself

I take no political ‘side’ in the debate on climate change, I work to bring the debate back to some sanity and rationality. I spend most of my time growing my company and helping real decision makers grapple with their weather and climate risks. My company conducts both fundamental and applied research in this endeavor, much of which remains unpublished (‘secret sauce’ and all that), other than what I choose to publish on my blog.

I engage with policy makers on a regular basis, I will be testifying before Congress again next week

You can find a full list/links of my congressional testimonies at

In my testimonies, I do not advocate for or against specific climate related policies. I don’t make any ‘asks’, beyond protecting the integrity of climate research.

My fight against bias in climate science occurs via my blog and to a lesser extent on twitter. I rarely bother with playing the game to get something published in a journal, 21st century and all that.

Overall, much more rewarding than my faculty position circa 1990.

Eric H.
Reply to  Judith Curry
June 20, 2019 12:48 pm

Dr. Curry,
As I have said before; “Thanks for all that you do”. Since I am not a climate sage myself, I rely on you and a few others to keep me informed and objective on this over-politicized debate on CAGW. So from one Independent/Libertarian leaning INTJ to another, please keep doing what you are doing. This self educated, knuckle dragging grease monkey appreciates your honesty.

Reply to  John Dutton
June 20, 2019 9:47 am

John Dutton sez:
Yet, what about her biases and her motivations now?

Well John, obviously Dr Curry has come under the influence & payment of Big Oil and right-wing conspiriters…

/sarc for the clueless

Michael H Anderson
Reply to  John Dutton
June 20, 2019 10:12 am

You forgot “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal privileged patriarchalist melanin-deprived Fascist.” You’re welcome!

Oh, and that’s DOCTOR Curry – you screamingly obvious leftist dolt.

To Dr. Curry: what a pleasure to read you here in person. Please keep up the good fight.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Michael H Anderson
June 20, 2019 11:02 pm

“Oh, and that’s DOCTOR Curry ”

Too bad that honorific isn’t used in WUWT’s sidebar. (I’ve complained about this twice before, once in an email to Anthony.)

Mark Pawelek
June 19, 2019 11:29 pm

Scientists has biases for publication in prestigious journals, getting research grants, traveling and conferencing, stopping criticism of their work, promoting their career, fitting into the left-wing ethos in academia. That’s is all we need to explain the present state of much climate science.

This is generally why they can’t see the difference between validated, tested, observed science, and failed climate models.

June 20, 2019 3:17 am

A man much wiser than myself once told me “The most basic desire of human nature is to feel important.”

How’s that for motivation?

Roger Knights
Reply to  Slywolfe
June 20, 2019 10:57 pm

“The most basic desire of human nature is to feel important.”

Agree, especially among males. And among our simian ancestors. Baboon males spend most of their social lives trying to be top banana; to a lesser extent so do chimps and gorillas. It’s common among Brits too: see Stephen Potter’s classic works, One-Upsmanship, Gamesmanship and Lifesmanship. What’s called “virtue-signaling” is a subset of this drive.

Mark Pawelek
June 20, 2019 4:56 am

Motivated reasoning does not necessarily make one wrong. I admit to motivated reasoning. I would like to dispel myths about evil humans destroying the environment, and human-made climate change wrecking earth.

This does not mean I’m blind to catastrophe. If you point your telescope to the sky and see bid asteroid heading our way, I’ll believe you. If you do your science and discover human-made climate change wrecking earth, then I’ll believe you too.

Tell me lies, or non-tested models, then I won’t believe you.

Steve O
June 20, 2019 9:27 am

There’s one more important dynamic among scientists and it acts to retard progress.

The status of scientists who are sitting at the pinnacle of their fields stand to lose a lot if the theories that put them there are shown to be wrong. It certainly will reinforce your belief that your lifetime of work is correct if being wrong means that you lose your professional standing, and suffer the humiliation that your only contribution to your scientific field was misleading it for a long time.

Those who have ideas that would upset the status quo are often not treated politely. John Yudkin was a leading British nutritionist who showed that sugar and not dietary fat was the problem in our diets. He was professionally destroyed by those who held sway in the scientific community. It’s been almost half a century and only recently have the “self-correcting” mechanisms of science moved us away from false conclusions.

Unfortunately, I don’t see how this is a dynamic that we’ll ever get away from.

Jim in TN
June 20, 2019 9:41 am

Remember when NASA was publicly sporting that Tang and Teflon were great benefits that came from space exploration? We live in a world that often says about science, that is nice, but what good is that to me? And scientists need to load up grant proposals with everything, including the kitchen sink.

‘Research into this laser will lead to particle accelerators for treating cancer’. And after writing that, they will do little side line experiments to demonstrate and publish proof of concept, and lock down any patent claims. But that is all it ever was. A sideline to help justify the funds needed for the real science.

Rarely, a scientist will leave research to attempt to develop such a sideline. Those who don’t, end up trafficking in the sidelines to get the resources needed for research. And with all such claims they must publish that they followed through and demonstrated proof of concept.

Just more Tang and Teflon.

But military research doesn’t need the promised sidelines. All sorts of good things have come out of military research that we use every day. Existential fear works wonders to get funds. It even helped generate funds for non-military science. Like building colliders and racing to the moon.

Other scientists have learned this lesson too. So many diseases are hyped as catastrophes. And of course environmentalism is built on catastrophe. Save the Planet. The Ohio river really did catch fire, but not all catastrophes have been real. Despite what Carson said, the robins were not disappearing.

All the above opens up yet more avenues for bias. What do we need to do to get funds? And once funding systems are established, entire communities are reliant on this continuing. Will we publish the truth if it may threaten the community?

As we look back at climate gate, there was blatant fraud and abuse. Yet inquiries served to whitewash and permit continuation. But beyond the blatant bias there will be biases hidden within. Who will suggest a topic if it is likely to be turned down? Who will publish a result that may get them blacklisted or even fired? There are so many ways one can be quietly put out.

And then you see that your fears are real. They are actively working to destroy any who contradict or challenge their claims.

This is the type of bias and self censoring that all of us suffer. Can I say that, or will it sick HR on me? If I tweet that, will it come back to bite me?

The topic of mastering one’s biases is very broad and very deep. We are all human, thus we are all have biases. Hidden and overt. Conscious and subconscious. Influenced, and influencing. Including scientists.

But the malicious behaviors evidenced by climate gate, and those that have happened since, show a complete abandonment of science in an attempt to abuse it to control people and governments. Big difference.

kristi silber
June 20, 2019 5:13 pm

I’ve always been interested in Dr. Curry. I admire much of the research she has done. We need people within scientific fields to assess uncertainty and discuss things like bias and cognitive errors.

However, I think it’s important to point out that biases, cognitive errors, political partisanship, etc. can affect any side of a scientific debate. It would itself be a bias to suppose that only one side or another suffers from such issues.

There is also an important difference between climate science and the social sciences: in the former case, there are 1000s of scientists all over the world acting independently as well as in cooperation to collect and analyze climate data, build models, do attribution studies, etc., all focused on the topic of climate change and its various interconnected facets. There is no comparable effort in the social sciences. In addition, the social sciences are plagued by the problem that they research humans, which itself has all kinds of methodological issues to contend with. It is also known to be hugely dominated by liberal academics; has anybody seen data supporting the same within climate science, on a global scale? It is not news that the social sciences have had trouble with improperly executed and published science, but I have not seen any data that justifies extending that assertion to the field of climate science. If anyone can provide such data, please do. (Of course, there will always be poorly done research in every field, and climate science is no exception, on either “side” of the debate).

Compared to the number of scientists working on AGW, it doesn’t seem to me that there are an extraordinary number of scientist activists out there on the “pro-AGW policy” side, while it seems to me that there is quite a large proportion of climate scientists who are vocal about their opposition to policies to mitigate climate change relative to the number who lean this way. This is just an observation based on no hard data, but it brings me back to my original point: bias can happen no matter where one stands on the issue. Dr. Curry’s awareness of bias may help her avoid it in her own work, but I wonder whether she might have biases relating to her view of climate science as a field; it would be understandable after her experiences. (I make no accusations, I’m only speculating.)

I have to admit that although I respect Dr. Curry as a scientist, I’m biased against her activism. This happened after reading her congressional testimony discussing cognitive errors potentially common in climate science. While she made no specific accusations and provided no data, the clear implication was that the field was rife with such errors – at least among those who think AGW is a significant problem. Such rhetoric without supporting evidence is liable to cause/increase bias among those disposed to it.

(To me it’s significant that “climate gate” and the players involved come up again and again when this kind of thing is discussed. One would think that if the field were rife with problems, there would be plenty of other scandals to talk about by now apart from the ubiquitous conspiracy theories and unsupported accusations. Interpretation of the climategate emails is itself a minefield for bias, e.g., were Mann et al. trying to expose systemic problems in editing and publication by particular journals, or were they trying to silence opposition? Is there good reason to assume bias in any investigation into the affair that found no scientific misconduct, even when they pointed out lack of professionalism and poor data handling?)

Reply to  kristi silber
June 20, 2019 6:31 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I have to say, it is an ‘interesting’ state of affairs when raising concerns about cognitive errors in scientific research is ‘activism.’

People have accused me of activism. My so-called activism is pretty passive; I provide my opinion and analysis of something if requested (such as congressional testimony). I am not signing petitions, participating in marches, lobbying or advocating for specific policies. In fact my only ‘advocacy’ has been related to promoting ethics and integrity in scientific research.

The state of affairs in climate science is such that any discussion of nuance and uncertainty prompts the epithet of ‘denier.’

John Adams
Reply to  Judith Curry
June 22, 2019 4:45 pm

Thank you for your work.

kristi silber
Reply to  Judith Curry
June 23, 2019 8:41 pm

Dr. Curry,

I hesitated to use the word “activism,” and nearly added in parentheses, “broadly speaking.”

You provide more than opinions “if requested.” You have your own blog. If one’s blog is anything but completely balanced or completely factual, it can be a form of grassroots activism.

It seems to me that in the process of promoting ethics and integrity in science, you also convince people that it is lacking. When you apply criticisms of social science to call into question the integrity of climate science, it implies a lack of integrity. Have you demonstrated that the criticisms are similarly justified? Showing bias in the media, in the IPCC reports, in politicians’ and activists’ rhetoric is not enough. Climategate and the comments of individual scientists are not enough. Only evidence of systemic or widespread bias that affects the quality of the research would suffice. Promoting integrity in science is a laudable goal, but a blog, WUWT and congressional hearings aren’t appropriate venues.

“The state of affairs in climate science is such that any discussion of nuance and uncertainty prompts the epithet of ‘denier.’”

This is a sweeping generalization. As a scientist, you should know to be logical in your statements: “The state of affairs in climate science is such that discussion of nuance and uncertainty often prompts the epithet of ‘denier.’” Plenty of people use the term “skeptic” or “contrarian”; making statements like yours can actually promote bias.

Every participant in this debate is a victim of prejudice. The insults casually thrown around on this site can be downright vile. I got sick of it, and sick of the endless unfounded assertions about the science, scientists, and those who believe something should be done to mitigate AGW. “Denier” doesn’t sound so bad next to “Marxist totalitarian enviro-freaks.”

Roger Knights
Reply to  kristi silber
June 21, 2019 12:17 am

@Kristi Silber

“There is also an important difference between climate science and the social sciences: in the former case, there are 1000s of scientists all over the world acting independently as well as in cooperation to collect and analyze climate data, build models, do attribution studies, etc., all focused on the topic of climate change and its various interconnected facets. There is no comparable effort in the social sciences.”

But is there an important difference between climate science and (failed) nutrition science? The latter is as focused as the former.

“In addition, the social sciences are plagued by the problem that they research humans, which itself has all kinds of methodological issues to contend with.”

But climatology has even worse methodological issues to contend with, because it isn’t lab science and must often grapple with trying to measure something enormous (hard to “grasp”) and/or hard-to-measure (e.g., clouds, sea ice coverage) or impossible to measure (interactions) or difficult to tease out from noise, etc., etc. Plus something that may be “chaotic” and thus may not be really understandable for centuries.

“It is also known to be hugely dominated by liberal academics; has anybody seen data supporting the same within climate science, on a global scale?”

It’s odd—or is it?—that no surveys of climatologists’ political leanings have been conducted—or, if they were, published, AFAIK. More interesting to know would be their commitment to the ecological, or green, movement. I suspect that it is high and is the basic motive behind warmism, not leftist politics. Here’s something I posted elsewhere a month or two ago:

“Donna Laframbois documented the high number of IGPOCC bigshots affiliated with green organizations in her “The Juvenile Delinquent …” book. Similar documentation of the membership of climate change committees of scientific societies and the authors-list of documents like the recent National Climate Assessment should be attempted. It is noble cause corruption—IOW, do-gooderism run rampant. Can’t some foundation fund such examinations? Can’t the NSF or some organization of government conduct a survey of climatologists? Ideally it would be a condition of receiving research funding for recipients to declare their membership in such organizations, or their subscription to their publications or websites. At a minimum, politicians on climate change related committees should ask alarmist witnesses about their memberships, past and present.

“The argument above should be linked to the polar bear alarmists as an exemplary case. All are ultra-greenies with a two-legs-bad, four-legs-good attitude.”

Resume Kristi Silber:

“Compared to the number of scientists working on AGW, it doesn’t seem to me that there are an extraordinary number of scientist activists out there on the “pro-AGW policy” side, while it seems to me that there is quite a large proportion of climate scientists who are vocal about their opposition to policies to mitigate climate change relative to the number who lean this way.”

But the warmist rank-and-file can afford to be laid back, because their side: 1) is winning; 2) has professional PR-specialists and communications experts promoting its message to the media; 3) has the media and most politicians on its side; 4) has large numbers, so “let George do it” thinking takes over; 5) has 100 times the money (from green NGOs and foundations, plus government. grants); 6) is “settled science” and needs no advocacy; 7) etc.

Contrarians can’t be similarly complacent. Thus the “large proportion of [contrarian] climate scientists who are vocal about their opposition to policies to mitigate climate change.” It may also be that their focus on this aspect of the debate (i.e., mitigation rather than attribution) stems from mitigation being: 1) the weakest aspect of the warmist case; 2) the easiest for the public to understand; 3) the easiest to arouse the public about (lost jobs and higher taxes)—all pain for no gain, IOW. Another reason may be that the higher proportion of engineers relative to scientists in contrarian ranks finds the engineering-oriented aspect of the debate more congenial to engage in.

June 20, 2019 6:00 pm

Here’s an interesting take on bias:

kristi silber
June 20, 2019 6:30 pm

” If you are a true believer in AGW and the urgent need to act, you will think this is all irrelevant, e.g. settled science, 97% and all that. ”

This is an unfounded, biased assertion. Sounds like propagandist rhetoric. And speaking for myself, it’s wrong. Ironic end to an article about bias.

“As a percentage, I suspect that a far lower number of 60+ climate scientists are activists (and are more ‘skeptical’), relative to a large percentage of under 50’s (who don’t seem skeptical at all). Somebody outa do a survey.”

Scientific skepticism does not necessarily lead to a rejection of the need to mitigate against AGW – one can be a skeptic and decide that the weight of the evidence lies with either side of the issue. But assuming that “skeptics” means those who are unconvinced by the evidence of AGW, and that number of publications about climate science correlates roughly with age, there is at least one study that does not support Curry’s hypothesis: – here, though, number of publications is associated with level of expertise in the subject. I recognize, though, that regarding either expertise or age, number of publications is a dubious proxy. William Happer, for example, has relatively few publications about climate change, he’s pretty old, and some regard him as an expert. Whether that’s merited is another question.

Roger Knights
Reply to  kristi silber
June 21, 2019 2:07 am

J. Curry: ”If you are a true believer in AGW and the urgent need to act, you will think this is all irrelevant, e.g. settled science, 97% and all that. ”

Kristi Silber: “This is an unfounded, biased assertion. Sounds like propagandist rhetoric. And speaking for myself, it’s wrong.”

“True believer” connotes a fanatic/extremist, as described in Eric Hoffer’s book of that title.

kristi silber
Reply to  Roger Knights
June 22, 2019 2:04 pm

Thanks, Roger. I didn’t know.

Part of Hoffer’s definition of “true believer” is “the man of fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for the holy cause.” I’d be surprised if this applies to many who accept the evidence for AGW and believe there’s an urgent need to act, at least compared to some of the mass movements he discusses, such as Communism and Nationalism .

JP Miller
June 20, 2019 7:40 pm

Dr. Curry, thanks for your ongoing efforts to bring attention to the questionable science being done on how our climate operates.

I’ve followed your interest evolution since you began to wonder about climate science. Climate science is an extreme example of Kuhn meets Eisenhower and then caricatured by Oliphant. It’s beyond bizarre.

Keep working to help people who want to understand what they can believe about climate science to understand the limits of knowledge in this field of research.

Those who say “we can’t take a risk that CO2 may be harmless to our environment” need to understand the economic consequences of taking that stance (albeit, sadly, many actually want those consequences) and that there are better approaches instead of wind/ solar (viz., nuclear).

Sigh. So many are so hoodwinked. I only hope I live long enough to see this chapter in science fully debunked and held up as the uber-example of how smart people can be so wrong.

June 21, 2019 9:45 am

When I was a graduate student (eons ago) in an Econometrics course my Professor (who had been teaching the course since the Punic Wars) started the course by stating “All models are wrong, but some may be useful.” I have never forgotten that pearl of wisdom. I always temper the dire warnings of doom from the IPCC or my new Freshman about the coming end of life as we know it with that insight from my old Professor. I also recall growing up in Montana and my summers in Glacier National Park. I have picture of a 3 year old version of me on the Grinnell Glacier some 150 feet further away from where it is today and I laughed so hard at the National Park Service removing the sign about how the Glacier would be gone by 2020 ( On my Faculty Office door I have a picture of the Forest Service sign in Montana that marks the National Continental Cold Spot by Rogers Pass in Montana (-70 degrees F) and when my Freshman student invoke the fear of Global Warming, I ask them if -68 F will be survivable? Dr. Curry’s comments are a breath of fresh air! Yes I am now 66 and have been in the college classroom for almost 40 years and as a tenured full professor in another discipline I do not worry about these exact issues-but I share a deep sense of empathy & sympathy as I have seen the erosion of campus free speech & collegiality! I recall a time when even if we disagreed we did it in a manner that was much more respectful and decent. I fear that time has gone forever! Dr. Curry keep up the great work!

Rhys Jaggar
June 21, 2019 11:38 am

There still seems a delusion in the blogosphere that scientists are dispassionate saintly people who serve God and humanity rather better than the Pope.

Here are a few examples of things showing that scientists are unprincipled, over verging on criminal:

1. HEIs carrying out unconsented electronic surveillance on those interacting with the organisation.

Without need for any discussion, any Professor engaged in such criminality should be immediately defrocked, their pension should be confiscated and handed over to those they were illegally spying on and their behaviour should top of the outrage news for at least a month.

Problem is, they take their orders from the Dean/VC and many HEIs are in bed with CIA/MI5+6 etc. Just ask Stanford, Oxbridge and Yale about all that…

So ask next time directly: ‘Are you engaged in surveillance activities and where is my signed consent for you doing that?’

2. Try using logical and realistic arguments to justify not continuing to fund a non-performing patent and see how quickly political threats come your way. You have evaluated a situation commercially and recommended that discontinuation be approved. The ego of the academic is more important than the P+L account of the IP department.

This is always worse when those in bed with the security services are those being challenged.

3. Science is not a forum for free flowing debate, it is an environment for sycophantic admiration and courting of powermongers.

One reason why correction does not occur is because juniors raising doubts get sidelined by egotistical seniors. The poor juniors could only get to that stage by having made a commitment not so easy to back out of, you will never know as an undergrad, because undergraduate science is storytelling, not research life.

4. What makes a great pioneer does not necessarily make a great evaluator.

Hypercompetitiveness usually does not cosegregate with dispassionate evaluation, but promotion is through hypercompetitive success, so the powermongers may have to learn self-evaluation many years later than the rest of us.

It takes great patience to have to tolerate someone on five times your salary needing basic lessons about which you were competent aged 23…..

One of the interesting realities of the UK Brexit debate is that apparently the EU is the sole saviour of science.

What the scientists actually mean is that they have got used to FP funding streams and are too lazy to reinvent themselves with alternative sources.

I mean: particle physicists work at CERN, which is not in the EU. They might toddle off to Fermilab, which happens to be Stateside. Somehow they get funded….

How on earth does Russia manage?

But all the rest of us get told we are idiots because scientists think they are all Remainers and they are all superior.

Having worked with scientists outside their academic comfort zones, that last contention has a considerable body of counter-evidence stacked up….

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