Is “Consensus” in Climate Science Good or Bad? It Depends on What Year It Is

From The Institute for Energy Research

By Robert P. Murphy

November 5, 2019

One of the recurring themes in my commentary on the climate change debate is how those pushing government intervention keep moving the goalposts (see one, two, and three). In the present post, I’ll document this shift in the commentary from the same person—namely, Harvard’s History of Science professor Naomi Oreskes.

Specifically, a decade ago Oreskes vilified scientists who focused on uncertainties in our models of the climate, and trumpeted the sacred “consensus” as the altar upon which all hesitancy about government action should be sacrificed. Yet today, Oreskes is co-authoring articles in the New York Times telling Americans that scientists have been underestimating climate change and that the economic models are full of uncertainties—and that this is why we urgently need government action. Needless to say, Oreskes’ change in perspective about consensus and uncertainty seems to be driven by her commitment to government action, not any principle of science.

In 2010, Consensus Was King and Doubt Was Evil

Back in 2010, Naomi Oreskes co-authored a book titled, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. As if the title alone isn’t enough to tell you her viewpoint, here is a YouTube clip of a campus presentation she gave on the politics of climate change in late 2010.

After she’s introduced, Oreskes begins her PowerPoint presentation. At the 4:22 mark in the video, you can see a picture of her book, next to which Oreskes has put in a text box: “How a small group of scientists exploited scientific uncertainty and promoted doubt about a set of environmental issues.”

Then Oreskes quotes from her then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who had declared in 2005, “I say the debate is over. We know the science. We see the threat, and we know the time for action is now.” Oreskes then explicitly endorses these remarks.

After lauding Schwarzenegger, Oreskes brings up the case of Republican strategist Frank Luntz. She quoted from a 200-page memo he had written for candidates on how to handle the messaging around global warming. Among other tips, Luntz told them to “emphasize the scientific uncertainty” and to insist that “there was no scientific consensus” (note that here I am quoting Oreskes in her spoken remarks, these are not necessarily verbatim quotes from the memo).

I have documented the specific case of Naomi Oreskes just to reassure younger readers—or older ones with a weak memory—that I’m not making this stuff up. A decade ago, the primary cudgel that interventionists used in the global warming/climate change debate was to stress that there was scientific consensus on the topic, and to denounce any dissenting scientists as rogues who were either fringe academics and/or were on the payroll of Big Oil. Anyone bringing up the fact that there were “uncertainties” in our models of the climate system was treated with the same hostility as a doctor saying we didn’t know for sure if smoking caused lung cancer.

In 2019, Consensus Makes Us Afraid to Speak the Truth and Uncertainty Hides the Climate Threats

What a difference a decade makes! It seems Naomi Oreskes’ views on such matters have flipped. In a recent NYT piece she and economist Nicholas Stern explain:

For some time now it has been clear that the effects of climate change are appearing faster than scientists anticipated. Now it turns out that there is another form of underestimation as bad or worse than the scientific one: the underestimating by economists of the costs.

Uh oh! Turns out the scientists didn’t have everything nailed down back in 2005 after all. If only Ahnold could find a time machine…

Things get even more interesting if you click the link to the paper explaining why scientists have been slow on the draw. Here’s one of the reasons:

Among the factors that appear to contribute to underestimation is the perceived need for consensus, or what we label univocality: the felt need to speak in a single voice. Many scientists worry that if disagreement is publicly aired, government officials will conflate differences of opinion with ignorance and use this as justification for inaction. Others worry that even if policy makers want to act, they will find it difficult to do so if scientists fail to send an unambiguous message. Therefore, [scientists] will actively seek to find their common ground and focus on areas of agreement; in some cases, they will only put forward conclusions on which they can all agree. [Bold added.

Aww shucks! It turns out that if you limit the acceptable claims to only things on which there is a scientific consensus, then we can’t hear the warnings from those scientists who disagree with the majority of their colleagues. And apparently, this is now a bad thing, according to Naomi Oreskes.

Turning back to the NYT piece, Oreskes and Stern then explain that there are many possible downsides from climate change that economists simply don’t know how to model, and so they leave them out of their calculations of potential harms. This is how Oreskes and Stern then conclude:

The urgency and potential irreversibility of climate effects mean we cannot wait for the results of research to deepen our understanding and reduce the uncertainty about these risks. This is particularly so because the study suggests that if we are missing something in our assessments, it is likely something that makes the problem worse.

This is yet another reason it’s urgent to pursue a new, greener economic path for growth and development. If we do that, a happy ending is still possible. But if we wait to be more certain, the only certainty is that we will regret it. [Bold added.]


As recently as 2010, Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes told Americans that the science was settled and that only fiends would use uncertainty to justify their desired political goals. Now in 2019, Naomi Oreskes is telling Americans that the scientists have woefully underestimated the pace of climate change, and that the economic models published in UN reports underestimate the potential risks because there are so many uncertainties in our understanding.

However, one element of Naomi Oreskes’ commentary through the years that has been consistent is her certainty that the government needs to intervene aggressively and immediately.

Original post here.

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John Robertson
November 5, 2019 7:02 pm

Well the new state religion does require some consistency.
Carbon Bad.
Heat Doom come.
Carbon Bad.
Cold Doom come.
It has been the one consistency of the Cult of Calamitous Climate…Only giving up the luxury of fossil fuels and gifting all wealth and power to the grey minions of the state can save you.

Roger Knights
Reply to  John Robertson
November 6, 2019 5:11 am

“Well the new state religion does require some consistency.”

How about this one?:
Four legs good, two legs bad.

Reply to  Roger Knights
November 6, 2019 8:02 am

Reading today’s previous post about how trees will make us die of thirst, I think we have reached the point of FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BETTER!.

Reply to  Roger Knights
November 6, 2019 8:03 am

The chickens weren’t too pleased.

nw sage
Reply to  Rocketscientist
November 6, 2019 5:47 pm

The cows WERE pleased though!

Curious George
Reply to  John Robertson
November 6, 2019 7:04 am

Consensus is a great scientific tool. For details, read the book “100 German scientists against Einstein”.

Gary Mount
November 5, 2019 7:02 pm

I have a very ancient book that I purchased 40 years ago that was published in 1976, back in the day before science was done by consensus, called “Electric Circuits for Engineering Technology” , the very first academic book that I ever studied outside of a classroom environment.

In the preface you will find written, “This book supplies the theoretical needs of the engineering technician by its approach through principles, definitions, derivations, and relationships.”
A lot of algebra is involved and some calculus. You won’t find words like “consensus”, though you find that the electrical industry was divided into two factions. One of them preferred the conventional definition of current direction (positive-charge carriers), while the other group adopted a definition involving electron-flow direction (negative-charge carriers).
Spoiler alert, the faction favoring the movement of holes won out.

Although it felt strange, weird and unnatural to be studying outside of a school environment, I went on to study many topics in this new to me environment, and have probably spent an order of magnitude more studying time outside of school rather than in it.
Pushing consensus can’t work on a person like me because I can read and understand “principles, definitions, derivations, and relationships” from first principles, etc.

Climate science needs to be studied by the same principles other sciences are taught, not by consensus.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Gary Mount
November 5, 2019 11:27 pm

There’s a consensus on the principles.

The main principle in Climate Science is that they need more cash….

Joel O'Bryan
November 5, 2019 7:11 pm

Republican US Congress critters who support the climate scam and crawl into bed with Socialist-Democrats on it need to have alternate career plans lined up.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 5, 2019 7:26 pm


Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 5, 2019 10:07 pm

Most notably it’s the faux Republican Mitt Romney, which Don Jr. just called “my favorite Democrat.”

Romney has a long history of obsessing over global warming, er, “climate change.” This Reason article The New Progressive Mitt Romney is the Same as the Old Progressive Mitt Romney puts it like this:

During his first year and a half as governor of Massachusetts, for example, Romney worked on a major climate change proposal, one that, much like President Obama’s recent executive order, would have included measures to power plants relying on coal and ramp up reliance on alternative energy sources.

Whenever the topic came up, Romney insisted that climate change was both real and caused by human activity. “Romney was the radical in the room” on the topic, one aide told the Los Angeles Times.

Romney even picked the nutcase John Holdren (Obama’s Science Czar) as his “Climate Advisor.”

But later .. the “severe conservative” Romney ran the GOP nomination, and *hid* his passion for climate change, but those that paid attention understood that Romney was not telling us the truth about his views.

And now, predictably, Romney is back, as a full-fledged cheerleader for the leftists on climate change:

Reply to  Eric Simpson
November 6, 2019 3:31 am

The last article link says:

Still, Romney said he’s opposed to the Green New Deal economic package intended to fight climate change, calling it “silliness” in part because much of the growth in emissions is coming from developing countries such as India and Brazil rather than the U.S.

Romney represents in the Senate crony capitalist interests that are using the GND as a foil to implement the Super Pollutants Act of 2019 (to regulate methane) via Matt Gaetz in the House. I fully expect Romney to support the SPA at some point. They’ve even got Trump fooled about methane.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Eric Simpson
November 6, 2019 5:49 am

“Romney even picked the nutcase John Holdren (Obama’s Science Czar) as his “Climate Advisor.”

One clueless guy advising another clueless guy. A match made in Heaven.

Romney has really turned into a huge disappointment. I read the other day that his approval rating among fellow Republicans is at an all-time low of about 18 percent, so I guess there are a lot of Repubicans disappointed by Romney.

On a positive note, from Romney’s point of view, is his approval rating among democrats is rising, and he gets invited onto the Leftwing News Media tv programs to do his bit at bashing Trump.

We are stuck with this fool until 2024. That means we need to elect a couple of extra Republicans to the U.S. Senate next time to nullify the kind of stupidity Romney demonstrates.

John Endicott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 6, 2019 7:04 am

Once a RINO always a RINO.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 6, 2019 2:56 am

Matt Gaetz, FL (R) pretends not to be one of those critters, but he is one of the worst. He needs to be exposed and primaried if he doesn’t change his tune.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  icisil
November 6, 2019 7:19 am

Here’s an interesting article on this subject:

Former Trump official says climate change is ‘imaginary threat’ invented by ‘insular and paranoid’ scientists

“In keeping up the fight against the mainstream of climate science, Happer faces opposition among an increasing number of Republicans who fear that the party will not be viable if it does not change to appeal to climate-conscious voters, especially young people.”

end excerpt

Republicans have a real bad habit of accepting the Leftwing premise on just about any issue, and then the Republicans try to Republicanize the Lefty ideas.

I think this all goes back to the perception on Republican’s part that the Leftwing News Media represents the consensus opinion of the nation, so the Republicans try to fit themselves into that narrative as best they can while not alienating their base any more than possible.

Instead of accepting the Leftwing premise, the Republicans should challenge the Leftwing premise, because the Leftwing premise is wrong and Republicans are wrong to try to confrom to what the Leftwing desires.

Some Republicans need to start worrying more about what their constituents think than what the Democrats or the Leftwing Media think.

Mark Broderick
November 5, 2019 7:25 pm

…OMG….Bringing up this persons past comments….ummmm…..How dare you !

November 5, 2019 7:32 pm

Politics and science are heterogeneous.. Although one may support the other neither has anything in common.

CD in Wisconsin
November 5, 2019 7:37 pm

I nominate Naomi Oreskes as the Chief of the Orwellian Climate Thought Police. The First Amendment be damned.

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
November 6, 2019 2:14 am

What boggles my mind is why Harvard has her on payroll. She seems to be the antithesis of intellectual honesty.

Reply to  Michael
November 6, 2019 7:15 am

Why? You’ve just explained why she is on the Harvard payroll, Michael.

Ryan P. Dyches
Reply to  H.R.
November 6, 2019 10:24 am


Mickey Reno
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
November 6, 2019 7:25 am

I’ve always thought of Naomi Oreskes as the epitome of Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, from Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” She needs no mask, no weighted bags of bird shot, no earphones playing piercing tones. She is a truly ugly person, and I’m not talking about the way she looks. I can picture Oreskes with a shotgun, blasting away at inequality and scientific dissent with the only tool in the totalitarian’s toolbox.

It saddens me that Harvard, supposedly one of our finest universities, harbors a little roach nest for Oreskes and promotes Elizabeth Warren as their first American aboriginal professor. In a perfect world with perfect justice, some of those Harvard “elites” would be attending damnation in an eternal afterlife. But I don’t believe in hell, except for the kind we make for ourselves. And listening to Naomi Oreskes, learning how and what she thinks, certainly is hellish for me. I really tried to read “Merchants of Doubt” to see what her central thesis of life is all about, but I just couldn’t go on for very long, it so so stupid. I don’t wish her or Warren, or any of them ill, but I am certainly sick to death of them wishing it on me.

Kurt Vonngut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron, in audio book form, it’s entirety (23 minutes)

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
November 6, 2019 8:16 am

What utter tripe!
“The urgency and potential irreversibility of climate effects mean we cannot wait for the results of research to deepen our understanding and reduce the uncertainty about these risks.”

1) “We have whipped up a frenzy over scary weather, and we need to act before the sham is exposed!”

Who in their right mind advocates; “Leap first, look later!”

When has climate ever been irreversible? It’s only ever swung from ice age to tropical age and back again several times. Seems to me that is the very definition of reversible.

November 5, 2019 7:43 pm

One of the risks of acting before you have complete understanding of the problem is that you exacerbate rather than ameliorate the situation. And we seem to ignore the beast lurking in the bushes: A threatening grand solar minimum.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  JimB
November 5, 2019 9:01 pm


When a problem is acted on before all the evidence is available, there are three possible outcomes: 1) the effort may reduce or eliminate the perceived problem; 2) the effort may have no discernible effect whatsoever; or 3) the effort may make the problem worse.

There is no way of being certain which of the outcomes will happen, or the extent to which it will happen, if the problem is not well characterized and understood. Demands to do something, anything, before there is certainty should only be supported when a problem is so severe and imminent that it is obvious that doing nothing will result in catastrophe. This is what alarmists would like the public to believe is the situation with global warming, climate change, global heating, or whatever the phrase du jour is. However, the case for imminent catastrophe is no stronger than the case for CO2 being the ‘control knob’ for climate changes. They are false prophets that may well guide us to purgatory.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 6, 2019 3:49 am

1) The perceived problem may become reduced or eliminated but no-one knows if it’s due to the effort.
2) The perceived problem may stay the same but no-one knows if it’s due to the effort.
3) The perceived problem may become worse but no-one knows if it’s due to the effort.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Rainer Bensch
November 6, 2019 9:02 am


Your points are well taken. It is the old correlation-causation bugaboo. The so-called Ozone Hole and the Montreal Protocol are a case in point. (I would suggest that the situation was not as well characterized as those who received a Nobel Prize claimed.) However, When a problem is addressed, and there is an abrupt onset, such as turning a fire hose on a burning building, it is usually self-evident that the attempt to put out the fire is having an effect. Continuing with the analogy, usually the application of large volumes of water has the desired effect, and the fire is quickly extinguished. However, in many instances, the building is lost because the water was applied too late or in insufficient volume. Or, if the building happens to be a machine shop producing magnesium parts and turnings, the water makes it worse!

A post-event analysis has high probability of determining the results of the attempted remediation or intervention. The issue is that, as I stated, unless the ‘problem’ is well understood, there is the risk of wasting time and money without the desired results, or in the worst-case scenario, e.g. putting water on a magnesium fire, making the situation worse.

The alarmists assume, without facts in evidence, that the problem is well understood and that the solutions are obvious, with no regard for outcomes 2) and 3) being a possibility.

John Endicott
Reply to  Rainer Bensch
November 6, 2019 9:03 am

4) the perceived problem never was a problem, so the effort didn’t do a dang thing to “fix it” but no-one knows that because they were hoodwinked into believing there was a problem.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John Endicott
November 7, 2019 11:49 am


Pepi Fosdick
November 5, 2019 8:02 pm

‘we cannot wait for the results of research to deepen our understanding and reduce the uncertainty about these risks’.

Oh my gosh!.

November 5, 2019 8:27 pm

Robert (if you’re reading this),

Point very well made. The pathological Professor Oreskes is hardly the queen of consistency.

She can’t even keep her story straight as to her own paper’s results. Executive summary: in her amateurish 2004 survey of 928 climate papers she observed “very little” explicit endorsement of the consensus, a disappointment which (she rationalized) just went to show that scientists obviously took it for granted and didn’t feel the need to agree with it. In other words, and by a bow longer than anyone drew at Agincourt, the lack of endorsement proved the strength of the consensus.

But ten years later she was telling the opposite lie, claiming EVERY SINGLE PAPER endorsed the consensus. That lie is anatomized here.

In 2010—the year her 400-page blood libel The Protocols of the Elders of Doubt was published—she made a hilariously maladroit attempt to deny the phenomenon of anti-skeptical gatekeeping in the literature.

“This thing about the peer-reviewed literature being [closed to skeptics], that’s just false. I studied the scientific literature on climate change, and there’s all kinds of debate going on,” she told ABC Radio’s World Today.

In no other context will you ever hear an alarmist admit the existence of “all kinds of debate” in the climate-scientific literature. Oreskes told the truth on this specific occasion in order to motivate a specific false conclusion: that peer review in clisci isn’t biased.

Her gaffe wasn’t of gamechanging magnitude, perhaps, but it illustrates the precise point you were getting at: that Oreskes is driven only by her conclusions, and will say anything—up to and including, if necessary, the truth!—if it supports the deduction she wants to reach. The fact that she’s on record saying the exact opposite in service to some other conclusion has never given her a split-second’s pause.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Brad Keyes
November 5, 2019 8:52 pm

“Oreskes told the truth on this specific occasion in order to motivate a specific false conclusion: that peer review in clisci isn’t biased.”

Did she? We’ve seen plenty of examples of bias against skeptics in Peer Reviewed Journals.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 5, 2019 9:16 pm

“Did she?”

Yes, and I’m agreeing with you, and vice versa. She told a normally-taboo truth (that there’s plenty of debate going on in the climate-science literature) to achieve a specific, short-term goal: backing up her false claim that the idea of bias against skeptics in the peer-review process is a myth. She’d never be caught dead admitting the truth (that there’s plenty of debate going on in the climate-science literature) otherwise.

CAVEAT: as a reminder, you’re convinced that I’m an alarmist who just takes the mickey out of skeptics (right?) so perhaps this whole comment is disingenuous. 🙂

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Brad Keyes
November 6, 2019 6:51 am

I think you’re a legend in your own mind.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 6, 2019 8:24 am

As long as I exist in YOUR mind, that’s my main concern. PS how did I trick everyone else at into thinking I was one of them? You’re the true legend for seeing through my elaborate, years-long ruse.

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Brad Keyes
November 5, 2019 9:05 pm

Oreskes … will say anything—up to and including, if necessary, the truth!’.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
November 5, 2019 10:49 pm

possibly as a last resort, happily she has been able to avoid doing so so far.

Jeff Alberts
November 5, 2019 8:48 pm

Can we start calling it “Big Consensus”? I mean, we have Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Bertha, Big Sleep, Big Easy, Big Apple. Big Consensus has to fit in there somewhere.

Darren Porter
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 5, 2019 8:55 pm

Big lysenko

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 5, 2019 9:21 pm

“Big Consensus has to fit in there somewhere ”

Definitely. File under die Große Lüge.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 5, 2019 10:19 pm

Naomi Oreskes is a bad joke on those dense enough to listen to her. Maybe the NYT will do a follow up asking about these obvious inconsistencies in the service of her cause. Not exactly science is it.

Reply to  Troe
November 6, 2019 2:41 am

Maybe Harvard will finally follow up on Geoff Chambers’ complaint, filed twelve months ago, proving that Oreskes committed academic misconduct in her 2015 film Merchants of Doubt when she claimed to have found a 928 / 928 consenus-endorsement rate in a 2004 quasi-study. (It was only 232 / 928.)

I mean, anything’s possible, right? Harvard Research Integrity Compliance Officers including Ara Tahmassian, Evelynn Hammonds, Denise Moody, K. Harding and Matthew Fox COULD decide to do what they’re paid to do and defend Harvard’s integrity. But it’s less likely than Ara Tahmassian, Evelynn Hammonds, Denise Moody, K. Harding and Matthew Fox simultaneously seeing a flying pig. Given that Ara Tahmassian, Evelynn Hammonds, Denise Moody, K. Harding and Matthew Fox probably don’t have office windows facing the same direction, and pigs are typically flightless, I doubt the insult to Harvard’s honor will ever be avenged in our lifetimes—not by people like Ara Tahmassian, Evelynn Hammonds, Denise Moody, K. Harding and Matthew Fox at any rate.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 6, 2019 6:10 am

“Can we start calling it “Big Consensus”?”

No. Why? Because no majority consensus has been shown to exist. The “Consensus” studies are all smoke and mirrors. All of them. Typical misrepresentations by the promoters of human-caused climate change. We don’t want to fall into the trap of validating the alarmists false premise by acknowledging it.

John Endicott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 6, 2019 9:07 am

OK, “Big Faux Consensus” then.

Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  John Endicott
November 7, 2019 8:04 am

That goes right along with Fauxcahontas claiming to be Amerindian 🙂

Darren Porter
November 5, 2019 8:54 pm

Only true believers should be required to tithe to the church of climatology

November 5, 2019 9:20 pm

One of the problems with claiming a consensus is that it derails the gravy train. When a new CEO at CSIRO a top scientific body in Australia decided to cut its funding of global warming research all hell broke out as hundreds would be made redundant. The reason for the cut was that as the science was settled we didn’t need to spend more money learning about it. I can’t remember but I have a feeling the government relented and no one lost their jobs but the climate change monster is a hungry beast.

November 5, 2019 9:21 pm

There is an ancient and profitable occupation that should be called something like “doomsayer”. For example, I like to pick and eat wild mushrooms and can’t count the number of times I have encountered people who knew nothing about mushrooms but were only too happy to go on ad nauseum about mushrooms lack of nutritional value and the time they heard of somebody, somewhere who died from eating wild mushrooms. Sometimes doomsayers make a living from generating dire predictions (David Suzuki, Al Gore) but more often they seem content to just gather some sort of personal prestige from being the one who can save you from yourself. The act of forecasting doom seems to have the power to raise a low status individual to the level of star player. When the threatened doom fails to comes true one commonly employed way to hold onto their thralls is to steadily raise the level of threatened risk. We are seeing that escalation now with organizations like the Canadian state broadcaster (CBC), which has raised the level of hysteria to comical levels, with at least one irrational scare story every half hour. We have reached the equivalent of the child in the grocery store screaming and beating their parent with their fists in an attempt to extort a chocolate bar. If the chocolate bar doesn’t arrive soon then the Naomi Oreskes of the world will have to go sullen and start pouting- and learn to live with the sad realization that after all, their role in the divine comedy was just a walk on part.

November 5, 2019 9:32 pm

The science is settled: oh no! It’s worse than we thought! More research is needed to confirm this: send more money.

Chris Hanley
November 5, 2019 9:46 pm

Oreskes ignores the fact that empirical estimates of climate sensitivity have declined over time:
comment image
Contrary to the evidence she is resuscitating the Lewandowsky line: the more uncertainty -> the greater the risk:

November 5, 2019 9:51 pm

“Is “Consensus” in Climate Science Good or Bad?”

The more pertinent question may be whether the need for consensus is good or bad or whether the use of consensus to establish truth is good or bad.

Reply to  Chaamjamal
November 6, 2019 2:46 am

Consensus is a matter of contemptuous indifference in science.

Consensus is a matter of obsessive relevance in climate science.

From which it follows, if one knows how to reason, that climate science is not science.

Alan D. McIntire
Reply to  Brad Keyes
November 6, 2019 4:19 am

+1 Worth quoting, along with

“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual” – Galileo.

“If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary”-Winston Churchill

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane”- Marcus Aurelius

Reply to  Alan D. McIntire
November 6, 2019 4:47 am

“Whenever I find myself in agreement with the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” — Samuel Clements

November 5, 2019 10:16 pm

The left wraps itself in the science flag when it suits their purpose. On the other hand, when the science doesn’t agree with their ideology, they become really nasty. link The left’s war on science is responsible for millions of deaths.

Folks like Naomi insist that they occupy the moral high ground but, based on the effects of their actions, reality says otherwise.

November 5, 2019 10:26 pm

There’s something both pathetic and repulsive about a person who simultaneously pretends to be a defender of science yet has to resort to a “truth-by-consensus” argument to defend their beliefs. The scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer, for example, is itself demonstrated by the data. If a procedurally sound study shows that a group of smokers has a significantly higher percentage of cancer or other adverse health consequences than a control group of non-smokers, or maybe even the general population, then that data speaks for itself. It doesn’t need a “scientist” to feed us an opinion of what the data means. The data conveys all the meaning that is necessary.

This is the essence of science; the whole point of the scientific method lies in objectivity not corrupted by opinion. This is why science and scientists are generally held in such high regard. So when a supposed “climate scientist” – who is truth no more than a mere academic who lacks any ability to demonstrate actual expertise in what they study – has to resort to an argument of “consensus” to defend their position, that fact alone tells you all you need to know about the lack of actual scientific evidence for that position. If the “science” really did support their position, they wouldn’t need to resort to a “consensus” because the evidence would be apparent to everyone.

The ugly truth is that most of these “climate scientists” are just professors with delusions of grandeur.

Reply to  Kurt
November 6, 2019 9:50 am

Devil’s Advocate time here: (for the record I am not a smoker, a grower of tobacco or holder of tobacco stocks – and can’t stand the smell of a cigarette.)

The data you cite is called correlation, it does not give one causation. It does not eliminate an uncontrolled third variable that happens to be related to the other two in some unknown way. This is the fallacy of epidemiology as a field of study. It is great at telling a researcher where to look for a problem, but cannot be used to attribute a cause. To attribute a cause, you then have to research the mechanics of how the potential cause produces the effect under question. If no mechanical pathway can be found, other potential causes must be examined. In smokers, we think we know some of the pathways to trigger the genetic malformation, but there is still some question of the exact nature due to the genetic variations in the population providing confounding factors. Of course whole journals have been populated with studies on this and it is much more complex than this paragraph. This is just to show that the data of the population study does not convey all the meaning that is necessary, but is only the first step of a detailed analysis and experimentation to get to the true answer.

(I recognize that you were likely simplifying to make a point, but too many people misunderstand this point.)

Reply to  OweninGA
November 6, 2019 11:25 am

You’re right that epidemiological studies don’t prove causation, but that wasn’t my point. My point was that even with imperfect data, that imperfect data speaks for itself. We don’t rely on the epidemiologists’ “judgment” or “consensus” to each individually believe that smoking causes cancer, we each look at the studies themselves and form our own conclusion. The fact that, in one study after another, smokers get cancer at a higher rate than nonsmokers is the evidence we each use to make up our own mind.

But with climate scientists, the so-called scientists themselves are using their judgment (or opinion) as a substitute for scientific evidence. They say “believe in CO2-induced disastrous climate change” because we experts have expertly interpreted this hideously complex climate data, which by the way you couldn’t possibly understand yourself so you need to rely on us, and our expert judgment is that CO2 causes disastrous climate change.” All without being able to actually demonstrate that expertise in the real world.

But the truth is that there is no scientific technique that can measure how much warming you get from doubling CO2 because you can’t experiment on the climate system, because there is only one earth, and because the time it would take to even try to measure it by merely watching the natural ups and downs of CO2 versus temperature would take centuries if not millennia. So the climate scientists offer up this useless “consensus” as a decoy to hide the fact that they can’t use the scientific method to study why climate changes. The only thing they can do is use the scientific method to study how it changes.

Reply to  Kurt
November 6, 2019 5:35 pm

I concur with the problem of judgement. The problem is the IPCC is a political rather than a scientific endeavor and asked for the judgement of the researcher on likely outcomes. Once politics enters the fray, science exits never to be seen again.

In climatology we have too much working backward from a conclusion and jumping at correlations that we torture out of the data. It isn’t all dishonesty either. Some of these researchers have been brought up from elementary school indoctrinated in CAGW as a proven, incontrovertible fact, thus they approach all problems from a false ‘given’ premise. They simply assert what should be proven, then conclude that it is worse than they thought.

Reply to  OweninGA
November 6, 2019 9:39 pm

I see this not so much as a problem of politicians corrupting scientists, but a problem of academics exploiting the parasitical instincts of politicians, who crave to be seen as solving a perceived crisis, and who want to consolidate power around themselves.

The politicians didn’t come to the academics out of the blue and ask for their opinions, where the academics just following their civic duty and offered the politicians their judgment in response. The academics approached the politicians and said “Hey, here’s what we can do for you.” I think it’s naive to think that the Jim Hansen’s and the Michael Mann’s of the world aren’t the ones who started and effectively controlled the IPCC process throughout its existence. Hansen’s infamous testimony before Congress (with his air conditioning stunt) was in 1988 and by 1990 the IPCC was producing it’s first report. The academics were willing participants from the get-go; knowing that the scientific method couldn’t get them to where they wanted to be, they colluded with the politicians to create the IPCC as a vehicle to impose their own mere opinions on everyone else, all while disguising their unscientific opinion behind a facade of science.

I’m using the word “academic” here deliberately. Take Michael Mann, for example. From the moment he stepped through his kindergarten door, he’s never once left the protected confines that exist within the ivory towers of academia – a magical world where common sense is slowly sucked out of you. A wondrous place where professors, protected by tenure, never suffer consequences for being wrong and mostly never even have to face a test of being proven right or wrong because they write and talk about theoretical things that are, well, academic – hypotheses unburdened by the vicissitudes of the real world. When your entire professional life is spent within this sheltered academic environment, and you concentrate your research on things that can’t actually be tested, then the pesky little words “theory” and “reality” – what’s the difference?

Academics hate reality, so they simplify it and make all kinds of assumptions about reality, not because the simplifications or assumptions are accurate, or even reasonable, but because they need to do so to be able to PUBLISH. To an academic, being right is irrelevant as they will never know if they are. All that matters to them is that they PUBLISH, because the number of precious peer-reviewed research papers that an academic is able to PUBLISH is a cheap substitute – a proxy if you will – for actual competence.

To an academic, opinions matter. Consensus matters. That’s all they have to determine who sits where on whatever totem pole they live on. To a scientist, however, opinions and consensus are poisonous things that have to be insulated from experiments and studies because the scientist recognizes that confirmation bias corrupts the scientific process.

November 5, 2019 11:16 pm

Naomi Oreskes : Harvard’s History of Science professor ?

Is that true ?

Someone who confuses “consensus” with the scientific methods
and who claims that “the science is settled”,
someone whose speach is so ridiculously self-contradictory
can be prof. of History of Science ? At Harvard ?

If true, this is a tragedy for Harvard and the Science in general.

November 6, 2019 12:15 am

I still can’t get my head round this question. What was the CO2 level before it was converted to fossil fuel?

Ed Zuiderwijk
November 6, 2019 1:01 am

‘reduce the uncertainty about these risks’. ??

Do these people understand what ‘risk’ means?

We have a slang saying in Holland that says that Oreskes’ narrative turns and twists ‘like a turd in a canal lock’.

Stern is a fool. When he was ‘science adviser’ to Blair’s government he oracled that if we did not act quickly then by the end of the century Antarctica would have melted completely.

November 6, 2019 1:37 am

Settled science with Naomi Oreskes…

November 6, 2019 1:53 am
If you are going to list funding why would you only list one part funder ?

David Chappell
Reply to  zemlik
November 6, 2019 6:55 am

Because the Worthy Garden Club is a world renowned and respected organisation and all other funders pale into insignificance in its shadow?

November 6, 2019 4:26 am

If there is any economic factor that’s been completely missed it’s the revolt of the working class to raising the prices of their basic energy needs and loss of competitiveness of their blue collar jobs to developing countries putting downward pressure on wages.

November 6, 2019 5:13 am

Naomi Oreskes used to understand the uncertainties and limitations of climate models Not so much now. Not because the models have overcome her previous criticisms, but because she has an agenda that disagrees with her former and correct understanding.

Tom Abbott
November 6, 2019 6:26 am

“Anyone bringing up the fact that there were “uncertainties” in our models of the climate system was treated with the same hostility as a doctor saying we didn’t know for sure if smoking caused lung cancer.”

That’s not a very good analogy because there is evidence that smoking causes cancer. There is no evidence that human-derived CO2 is affecting the Earth’s climate detrimentally.

Tom Abbott
November 6, 2019 6:36 am

From the article: “For some time now it has been clear that the effects of climate change are appearing faster than scientists anticipated.”

Pure scaremongering. There has been no appearance of human-caused climate change to date, thus there cannot be a situation where it is appearing faster than scientists anticipated since it hasn’t appeared in the first place.

Thunderstorms are not evidence of human-caused climate change, Naomi.

People like Oreskes are either the most deluded people in the world or the most dishonest. I don’t know which category she fits in, but I do know that what she says is wrong, wrong, wrong. She is invited to prove her statements.

Show us an example of human-caused climate change. Just saying things are so doesn’t necessarily make them so. You need some evidence. Which neither Naomi, nor any other alarmist has in their possession. They just claim they have seen such evidence but don’t bother to share the facts with the rest of us. I call BS (Bad Science) on their claims.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 6, 2019 8:28 am

“People like Oreskes are either the most deluded people in the world or the most dishonest. I don’t know which category she fits in”

I think I do.

John Endicott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 6, 2019 9:06 am

People like Oreskes are either the most deluded people in the world or the most dishonest. I don’t know which category she fits in

you are more generous than I, Tom, as it seems blatantly obvious to be that it’s the later of those choices (though I don’t rule out that it’s an “and” instead of an “or”)

Tom Abbott
Reply to  John Endicott
November 6, 2019 7:20 pm

Good point. She could be both at the same time. 🙂

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