31 July 2010

The Honest Broker

Among a few climate scientists there is a renewed interest in discussing my book The Honest Broker. To be honest I don't really understand their specific critiques but I think they can be summarized as follows:

1. Scientists should not be in the business of giving policy makers choices (that is, the role of the honest broker of policy options is not desirable), because it gives cover to policy makers who might do the wrong thing.

2. Science dictates a specific course of action, thus to present science to policy makers necessarily compels a particular course of action, rendering advocacy and indeed political give and take, unnecessary.

Needless to say I find both of these positions highly problematic -- from practical and democratic perspectives. This post is for any questions or discussions about the book.
UPDATE 7/31: Over at the discussion of my book hosted by climate scientist Michael Tobis, Tobis presents a clear statement of authoritarianism:
On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed. The more complex the matter at hand, the more weight should be given to expertise and the less it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed.
Wow. And scary.

101 comments:

  1. Roger-
    two thoughts on this..
    First, there seems to be an essential conflict in ideas between 1) the idea that Scientists are Experts on a Topic and should be listened to because they know more, and 2)Scientists Who Study the Use of Science in Policy should not be listened to.. because.. ????. Either academic fields are worthy of attention across the board generally, it seems to me, or they are not.

    Second, this question is well trod ground for natural resource scientists. As I've pointed to before, the best I've seen in terms of practical advice is the Ethics Statement of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

    Here's a quote:
    "I recognize that my deeply held, professional convictions may conflict with the interests and
    convictions of others. I am obligated to be clear and honest in distinguishing between reports of results from rigorous study and my professional opinions based on observations or intuition. My professional opinions clearly so identified have value, but must not be put forward as fact. In addition, the temporal, spatial, and contextual limits of my facts and their confidence limits must
    be clearly acknowledged.

    I will distinguish between recommendations based on science and those based on policy, both
    to avoid confusing the public and to better separate political decisions from aquatic science."
    Here's the link:
    http://orafs.org/pdfdocs/codeofethics.pdf

    The AFS sees this as an ethical issue. A question we might discuss is "are science policy ethics different for climate scientists than for fish biologists, and if that is so, why would that be?"

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  2. The flow is quite clear. You criticize Oppenheimer's latest paper. We criticize your book. Tit for tat.

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  3. It's interesting that the first option actually assumes the second -- if you didn't start from the premise that only one of the choices is the right thing to do, then it's meaningless to say that policy makers did the wrong thing.

    So it sounds like the criticism is "how dare he claim that any options other than course I recommend are worthy of consideration".

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  4. I agree with you based in large part on my experience as an activist. It seems to me like part of the problem is that there are various more or less standardized or customary rules for applying scientific results, and that these are sometimes conflated with the scientific results themselves or with procedures for conducting scientific research. The rules for applying science are ultimately value-based, but that fact is obscured by their "obviousness" which is really just habitual thinking.

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  5. If you've accurately summarized the complaints, they are complete and utter nonsense.

    The role of a professional of any kind, not just scientists, is to offer advice on all practicable options regarding possible consequences and likely outcomes together with recommendations relating to the field of expertise.

    Judging what is the right or wrong thing is the job of the professional's employer or client - in this case the public who pay him/her. Such judgements always involve considerations outside the narrow professional expertise.

    It is hard to credit that educated professionals can be so self-delusional.

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  6. I have tried several times to think if I have ever previously experienced the arguments we hear from climate scientists in any other area of technical expertise; hard sciences, soft sciences, all of engineering, any area at all.

    I have not been successful. Can anyone list any others?

    It seems that science policy ethics are different for climate scientists. The group is a singularity in my experience.

    Pleading for special exemption, especially when based solely on appeals to authority, is not a pretty sight. Ugly, petty and frightening are better descriptions.

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  7. That anyone intelligent, especially a scientist, could imagine that "Science dictates a specific course of action.." is very troubling.

    It is getting trite to write this, but it really does smack of the sort of things said during the religious conflicts in 17th century England.

    Very, very worrying.

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  8. -all
    It is worth reading the comments over at the other blog. The host argues (#40) that people with a higher education should have a greater vote than people with a lower education.

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  9. I might add that the idea that a scientist can reveal the only course of action and say it is driven by science will further reduce the science community's credibility in a world where almost every problem can be addressed in different ways, and yes, some of them wrong.

    Roger, I think we are watching institutionalized science commit suicide.

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  10. 'Opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed.'

    If we take the case of war and peace.

    Those most informed will be the military officers. They can advise on the likelihood of battlefield victory and likely costs of the conflict.

    Regardless of the righteousness of the conflict or the likelihood of battlefield victory , if 'the people' are protesting in the streets chanting 'hell no we won't go' the conflict isn't winnable.

    In the final analysis, it is policy makers who have no knowledge of military matters who must judge the 'will of the people' to sustain the burden who must make the final decision as to 'war or peace'.

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  11. Richard,

    That sounds a lot like a bunch of government types who decide they know better than we what's best for us. I know people in a particular US political party whose policies reflect a lot of that kind of thinking right now. And I believe that Roger's personal experience is such that he knows a whole lot of climate scientists who actively work to support said party. Perhaps there might be a common thread.

    As for the basic argument -- a study can tell us that reducing speed limits saves lives. It cannot make a judgment as to what the proper speed limit should be. Such tradeoffs are for the citizens to make.

    A study can tell us that ingestion of substance X provides a 1 in a million chance of death. That tells us nothing about whether the utility of the substance outweighs the risk.

    No one should be able to graduate from college with a degree in science and still require that these tradeoffs be explained. Sounds like some smart folks may suffer a lit of moral retardation.

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  12. Dr Pielke,

    Do you have the impression that mr Tobis didn't actually read your book? Or that if he did read it, he didn't understood it?

    Although I haven't got the chance to read it yet, I believe that you made clear, in your blog, of some of the concept you discussed in your book.

    Like the issue of "stealth advocate". Which I take to be scientist who desire to push a certain policy outcome while stating that they don't wish to influence policy making. Realclimate gives many great example of this phenomenon.

    I also understood that nowhere in the book you suggest that scientist cannot favor or suggest the importance of a policy outcome, as long as they are upfront about it. I don't believe I'm wrong about this.

    On the authoritarianism, this is very scary and I believe this is largely the reason why climate science is losing credibility and fast.

    The claim that science says what should be done is very scary and risk to push humanity back to the dogmatism of the church, which lead life choice for several hundreds of years.

    Most if not all scientific discoveries of the last 600 years were at first considered heretic. If a group gain the right to decide what may or may not be true, how many scientific discoveries will be thrown under the carpet.

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  13. Models-methods-software-

    These attitudes (you must listen to "scientists", but don't pay attention to the field of science policy studies, call people who disagree with you unwilling to accept the "science", jump into others' scientific disciplines in pursuit of policy agendas and get them published in the generalist big name journals), are, sadly, also found in in natural resource and environmental sciences.

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  14. Reading all of this, and especially Schneider's "infamous quotation", I get the sense that many climate scientists believe that they are not just more knowledgeable than most people, but also more ethical and honest to begin with, and that this gives them leeway. They seem to think they can compromise on honesty because that only makes them more like everybody else. To me, this is obviously delusional. There is no "balance between effective and being honest" because any deliberate intent to be less than fully honest destroys trust and therefore effectiveness.

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  15. I might even summarize the attitude as "we are intellectually and morally superior to you, and we expect you to understand and accept that".

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  16. -8 As Roger says, Wow. My take is that the only practical distinction higher education provides is the possibility of being wrong at a more sophisticated level - maybe in a way that fewer people will be able to understand.

    Gee, that looks pretty good, surely I couldn't be the first to think of this.

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  17. It sounds like it fits into the 'any old twisted nonsense as long as it supports the current, perceived orthodoxy which we control' category. It doesn't make a lot of sense, since scientists are employed as sophisticated measuring devices, not political advisors.

    The question is why the slash and burn neanderthals of Realclimate feel themselves to be involved in total war, and against whom ? It has to be assumed from their writing that it is against the forces of international capitalism, like their late 1960s counter culture scientist forebears.

    The problem is that the world has changed in the last 40 years. Here is an excellent recent article from The Times Higher Education Supplement that clearly shows that big business, particularly the banks are deeply involved in climate alarmism. It's worth reading all of it.

    "The European Commission has paid environmental campaigners directly to carry out its political agenda. In 1999, at a cost of about EUR500,000, it set up a new group, the European Environmental Bureau, while also paying both the Friends of the Earth and the WWF EUR250,000 each to set up offices in Brussels. On another occasion, the Climate Action Network was given EUR140,000 for "capacity building". In fact, the Commission funnels about EUR3 million (£2.48 million) a year to environmental groups that it favours.

    But that's a drop of oil in the Gulf of Mexico compared with the amounts that private foundations in the US are estimated to provide each year to environmental causes. The sums involved run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. One green organisation - the Tides Foundation - had net assets of $142,007,356 in 2006. Local green groups may rely on "flapjack and organic-soap fundraising mornings" - but real campaigns are funded by a very different and largely invisible mix."

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=412726&c=2

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  18. I doubt that anyone is surprised that this is Michael's viewpoint. I am sure he has said it many times before. Superciliousness is a syndrome that afflicts many of those who want to tell us what to do.

    Matt Briggs had an interesting piece a week or so ago that was built around rating of movies/movie actors at Rotten Tomatoes. Interestingly there are three sets of ratings: Experts, frequent raters and the general public. Off the top of my head, the ratio of numbers in each category are 1:3:1000 - though it varies significantly by movie as you might suspect. Needless to say there is a distinct pattern in these ratings that reflect the value positions In large measure it is inseparable from his belief that he knows the truth of these three groups. If you are going to the movies, whose ratings would you go by? I would argue that this makes for an interesting "projective test". Thank god movie makers do not listen to self appointed "experts".

    This little experiments ties in nicely with David Freedman's fun book Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Is - An How to Know When Not to Trust Them
    In particular, I liked Freedman's list of characteristics of trustworthy expert advice:
    1. It doesn't trip the other alarms (of untrustworthy advice).
    2. It's a negative finding.
    3. It's heavy on qualifying statements.
    4. It's candid about refutational evidence.
    5. It provides some context for the research.
    6. It provides perspective.
    7. It includes candid, blunt comments.

    What I find interesting in this list is that you can use it to dissect what you read and who you read on a blog. As a result, the substance and communication style at Real Climate ( i.e., markers #3, 4, 5 & 6) do little to suggest that they are trustworthy experts.

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  19. Let's flip that statement around and see what it looks like.

    On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry LESS weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed. The more complex the matter at hand, the LESS weight should be given to expertise and the MORE(?) it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed.

    (Frankly, I don't understand the last phrase.)

    But on the whole, I have to agree with mt that the more complex the matter at hand, the more weight that should be given to experts in the subject. That doesn't mean that you hand the experts the keys to the kingdom. That means that you don't go seek a candle-stick-maker when you want an opinion on whether your brain cancer requires surgery or chemotherapy.

    And that is considered a "wow" opinion on this blog? Wow.

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  20. I read the book and recommend it to anyone interested in this area. Tho of course it does not have enough cartoons.

    I read the criticism linked above but quickly slotted it into the ' mad and life is too short to bother with' category and lost interest.

    Eric made me laugh with his 'slash and burn Neanderthals at Real climate' ( such a great picture )

    The bottom line is that no one is going to vote for politicians who think they are Demi gods, we are merciless in a democracy at pulling down icons and voting in our best interests.

    In the end the honest broker approach is the best way for any science to win support, funding and affect policy.

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  21. Richard at no. 2.

    It seems like you might be getting caught up in the tribalism of which Curry writes. Certainly you and Roger seem to have joined forces in your latest match against Tobis, which is looking increasingly like a sporting match--each side has its nearly uniform fan base, riling each other up in their respective sections of the stadium, while the principals make occasional forays into the opponents' half to score points.

    In any case, I direct your attention to the dates of the postings you refer to in your comment.

    July 26: http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2010/07/roger-at-face-value.html

    versus July 27th: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/07/silly-science.html

    You seem to have gotten the "flow" backwards, although in this case I doubt there was a causal link between the two posts. Perhaps your reasoning is an example of the is-ought problem: Roger wrote something critical about Oppenheimer's work, therefore we expect there will be (there ought to be) retaliation against Roger from the Oppenheimer-Schneider team, of which Tobis is a member. Tobis' piece critical of Roger's book (perhaps you only saw the later Pielke versus Schneider post?) supported this expectation (confirmation bias?), despite the fact that the first criticism predated Roger's Silly Science piece.

    Cheers, M

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  22. -19 Bernie Why #2? Why necessarily negative?

    Unless it's something like "We looked at this, and it doesn't work for the reasons which follow."

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  23. -22- Mazibuko
    I am aware that there is an earlier post by Tobis. I responded to the fact that Tobis thought it necessary to repeat his critique of the Honest Broker in response to Roger's critigue of Oppenheimer's paper -- even though the Oppenheimer paper is just bad research and so unrelated to the Honest Broker.

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  24. Ron Broberg said... 20

    "I have to agree with mt that the more complex the matter at hand, the more weight that should be given to experts in the subject. That doesn't mean that you hand the experts the keys to the kingdom. That means that you don't go seek a candle-stick-maker when you want an opinion on whether your brain cancer requires surgery or chemotherapy."

    If the candlestick maker is going to be source of funds for the treatment, then whether or not he is willing to pay for the treatment is important information.

    In the case of health care, preapproval of procedures by the health insurance company is pretty much standard practice today.

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  25. Tobis' false start finale, "And in the end":
    In the end, the crucial problem is not the sloppy reasoning, nor even the wide celebration of it in various influential communities. This book is hardly the first or the worst example out there of that. The crucial problem is how this analysis is used to squelch critical thought which is values-influenced.

    We are left with a purportedly iron-cast way of thinking that says that reasoned thought about the real world must not be values-influenced, and that thought about values must not be influenced by observations. The idea that this separation is workable is essentially stated without proof. No alternatives are presented or considered. But in the case of sustainability issues, a wide variety of values-based and science based contingencies interact. The world does not guarantee us the clear simplification implied by Pielke's taxonomy. What Pielke's taxonomy does offer is a way to express outrage at anyone trying to grapple with the full specturm of challenges.

    Just because "the honest broker" is a nice turn of phrase (and it is) doesn't mean that the book of that title is authoritative. In fact, it is just a muddle; more useful to prevent progress than to support it.

    To be fair to Roger, in his meanderings he happens upon a quote that seems to me to make a great deal of sense, from Harvey Brooks, "Evolution of US science policy" in Smith and Barfield, eds. "Technology, R&D, and the economy", Brookings Institute, 1995:

    In the process of using science for social purposes is thought of as one of optimally matching scientific opportunity with social need, then the total evaluation process must embody both aspects in an appropriate mix. Experts are generally best qualified to assess the opportunity for scientific progress, while broadly representative laymen, in close consultation with experts, may be best quallfied to assess societal need. The optimal balance between opportunity and need can only be arrived at through a highly interactive mutual education process involving both dimensions.

    Well, though Roger doesn't note it, that's obviously about funding science, not using science, obviously, but most of it applies. The "highly interactive mutual education process" is key. There is no formula for good policy. Bad policy is dramatically easier to achieve than good policy both in enactment and in practice. Trying to bottle the conversation, to constrain people to specific roles, is an extra constraint in a problem that is already, apparently, overconstrained. It just makes achieving good policy all the harder.


    I think Tol nailed it; Tobis set out to do a hack job, and no amount of reason would dissuade him. I'm just disappointed. I thought we were actually going to have an interesting discussion about technical expertise and decision support, should have known better than to expect so much given the track record.

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  26. IMHO, Sharon F @ 1 nails it. If there is to be useful science and an "Honest Broker" there has to be a stake in the ground regarding ethics. When scientists shift from fact to opinion and from policy to politics without even taking a breath to keep their train on an ethical set of rails, a crash follows.

    Those rails bear repeating: "I recognize that my deeply held, professional convictions may conflict with the interests and
    convictions of others. I am obligated to be clear and honest in distinguishing between reports of results from rigorous study and my professional opinions based on observations or intuition. My professional opinions clearly so identified have value, but must not be put forward as fact. In addition, the temporal, spatial, and contextual limits of my facts and their confidence limits must be clearly acknowledged.

    I will distinguish between recommendations based on science and those based on policy, both to avoid confusing the public and to better separate political decisions from aquatic science."

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  27. Harrywr2: "In the case of health care, preapproval of procedures by the health insurance company is pretty much standard practice today."

    Yup. And they rely on a host of subject matter experts to help make those decisions. The insurance company that dismisses expert opinions on complex matters will soon be out of business.

    Granted, the insurance company that pisses off a majority of its policy holders won't be around long either. I can certainly imagine a situation arising in which a section of the market demands and receives insurance payouts for "psychic surgery" because they will abandon their policies without such 'feel-good' action. But just because a bunch of candle-stick-makers demand and receive a 'psychic-surgery' policy doesn't make the treatment physically effective (although the policy holders might be perfectly satisfied with it). For effective treatment, I will still rely on the opinions of medical experts in crafting my policy.

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  28. post-normal science is the problem.
    Not people trying to give honest arms-length advice in a transparent fashion.
    Post-normal science guarantees conflicted advice, self-dealing and self-deception.

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  29. -20-Ron Broberg

    You write, "you don't go seek a candle-stick-maker when you want an opinion on whether your brain cancer requires surgery or chemotherapy"

    Of course, I agree with this. But you have subtly changed the context. An opinion on whether brain cancer requires surgery could be a form of what I call in the book science arbitration (the asking and answering of questions that science can answer) or honest brokering (that is, clarifying or expanding your options). These are both very valuable roles for experts.

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  30. I have tried several times to think if I have ever previously experienced the arguments we hear from climate scientists in any other area of technical expertise; hard sciences, soft sciences, all of engineering, any area at all.

    Economics.

    Many economists will insist that only their model (note that dangerous word) is valid, and advocate a policy based solely on it.

    Many countries have, or have had, their economies run almost entirely by technocrats. Their track record is, to put it mildly, spotty.

    In a few cases the economists have tried to fit the economy into a rigid social policy. Mostly the Marxists, though there are a few other examples such as Franco-ist Spain. Their record in uniformly awful.

    We need to take heed. Technocrats with a social agenda are extremely dangerous people.

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  31. But the question in the thread re the mt quote (the one with which you took exception to, quoted, and used to call out mt as an authoritarian), is: should expert opinions carry more weight in making policy decision in complex matters?

    Put aside the distinction between aribtrators and brokers for a moment. Are you conceding that such expert opinions *should* carry more weight than uninformed opinions? Because that is certainly not the impression you gave while commenting on the Tobis quote. You seem to have described that common sense position as 'authoritarianism.' Such a bizarre statement that I'm sure I'm missing something.

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  32. I must have missed the scary part. In fact what Tobis recommends is usually what happens in business. On important issues I wouldn't like policy makers to seek a random sample of uninformed opinions. This is the voter-led, 'focus group' approach to policy which has lately been in vogue and proven to be very short-sighted and prejudicial.

    But we do need:
    1. Honesty and integrity: Will "experts" still keep supporting provably bad science just because it gives them the answer they prefer? If they do then they have ceased to be reliable.
    2. Proven expertise: Usually experts become experts by having a track record of being correct and this elects them to expert status regardless of their education background. Annoyingly, there are plenty of people with a strong record of being abjectly wrong who are still routinely asked for an opinion.
    3. The minority view: Are the experts in the minority to be listened to? Very often the minority view is correct (eg the Iraq adventure and the credit crisis). Tribalism and partizanship dominate the debate otherwise. This is where the cogency of the arguments is put to the test.
    4. Elimination of conflicts of interest: Very difficult to achieve. You can easily argue that everyone has a conflict of interest in the climate debate, which palpably taints all of these one-sided inquiries.

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  33. Ron Broberg,

    If I believe that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, the WOW statement is just as offensive regardless of which way you choose to flip it. [Which is why "flipping" is such a bizarre way to examine logic.]

    Our court system allows expert opinion testimony, but wisely provides that juries renders the verdicts, not the experts. "Experts" are just as prone to all the human foibles that screw up everyone else and far more prone to some (e.g. hubris).

    Isn't it interesting that climate scientists, perhaps the most incompetent and corrupt group of supposed professionals in history, should be the ones claiming that their supposed 'expertise' gives them the moral authority to make the most breathtakingly wrenching decisions ever. I'm becoming more convinced every day that this bunch is ethically and morally retarded.

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  34. #23 jferguson

    It does sound odd as quoted. Freedman argues that there is a tremendous bias against reporting negative results (think Mann and his low r2 for proxy reconstructions) that those who do report them "probably isn't overly concerned with compromising truth in order to dazzle readers." (p225)

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  35. It ought to be pointed out that towards the end of the Pielke vs Schneider thread Michael Tobis did qualify his experts should have more weight statement as follows:
    "The weighing should happen at the staffer level not at the level of the representatives in an elected body, of course. It turns out that in America at least, manipulating congressional staffers' opinions with polished propaganda is one of the key functions of lobbyists. Consequently the process is not currently working well."
    - August 1, 2010 3:12 PM

    Under pressure he has stopped short of a "dictatorship of the climate alarmists" political programme.

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  36. Continuing the analogy with brain cancer - would you accept surgery if the 'expert' predicted you were going to get brain cancer in 2050, and wanted to operate now? Also, cancer diagnosis is not a highly politicised uncertain computer modelled future scare.

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  37. Ron Broberg- I think you are missing some of the difference between your analogy and climate change science/policy. No one is saying you can't use experts to tell you what to do.

    What I think some of us are saying is that if you want to impose brain surgery on others,you need to take into consideration that they may have other approaches to healing- with their own diverse array of experts.

    Climate change policy is fundamentally about requiring others to change their behavior- which makes it more complicated- as you have to take others' wishes into account. At least in a democracy, you do.

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  38. -32-Rob Broberg

    You are ignoring the part of the Tobis quote where he says that expertise should trump values in decision making. This is indeed authoritarian.

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  39. jgdes

    Kudos on your thoughtful list of 4. May I quote you?

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  40. Typo, sorry Ron (I hit a b rather than n)!

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  41. Roger Pielke, Jr: You are ignoring the part of the Tobis quote where he says that expertise should trump values in decision making. This is indeed authoritarian

    Ignore? Nope. Didn't see it. There aren't very many words in that quote. Perhaps you can point out where expertise trumps values in decision making.

    What I saw is that Tobis suggested that 'expert opinions' should carry more *weight* than ill-informed, value-driven opinions. That doesn't mean that expert opinions should be weighted at '1' and ill-informed opinions should be weighted at '0'. Your quote doesn't support your assertion of authoritarianism.

    In neither science nor in a democractic body-politic are all opinions weighted equally. Veracity is a value worth weighting heavily.

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  42. -42-Ron

    Sure, here it is:

    "The more complex the matter at hand, the more weight should be given to expertise and the less it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed."

    Here are the first two sentences on "authoritarianism" from Wikipedia -- "Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is opposed to individualism and democracy."

    Democracy is about aggregating competing values. To suggest that decisions should account less for considerations that are "values-driven" is anti-democratic and, indeed, authoritarian.

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  43. We are just going to go around in circles on this point, I guess. I find the idea of giving more weight to expert opinion common-sensical. You find it authoritarian. Apparently, you believe that all opinions (including ill-informed opinions) on complex matters carry equal weight. I find that a practical absurdity.

    Democracy is about aggregating competing values. Part of the process of aggregation (in a healthy system) is discounting nonsense and adding weight to productive opinions/suggestions (aka "sound policy").

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  44. -44-Ron

    Indeed, you have not acknowledged any distinction involving normative matters.

    My point is simple -- expertise deserves greater weight on matters that can be adjudicated empirically. Such expertise does not lead to greater weight on normative issues.

    If you disagree with what I just wrote, then lets just agree to disagree. Thanks!

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  45. Just to leave on a point of partial agreement, I believe that the 'experts' weight is higher the closer to the subject matter that the expert is.

    1. What is
    2. What could be
    3. What should be

    To give some specific examples, I value Dr Hansen's and Dr Curry's opinions regarding "what is the state of climate science" pretty highly. I listen to their suggestions about "what could be done" with more interest than most people's opinion. I am less impressed by their suggestions of "what should be." Likewise, I am less impressed by Inhofe/Morano or Gore regarding the state of climate science.

    Note that neither Hansen nor Curry are subject matter experts about 'what could be' or 'what should be.' They can put some useful physical constraints on 'what could be,' but without input from economists and politicians and engineers, the 'what could be' answers are incomplete. The 'what should be' question is almost entirely a 'values' question. Experts play a role in each area, but those are different experts. Scientists are primarily 'what is' experts. Engineers and economists together are needed to find 'what could be.' And social leaders of all stripes try to divine the 'what should be' answer from the values of their various constituencies and their own personal values. As to this last realm, let us not forget that scientists are people too and they have a right to their own values and their own opinions of 'what should be.' However, I am not advocating that their 'what should be' values should be weighted higher than mine or yours. Perhaps it is a conflation of these three different realms (is, could, should) that has led to our obvious communicaiton miss. Be that as it may, I will leave this as my last word.

    Thanks for engaging in the conversation.

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  46. The problem with expertise is that it may be tainted by pathological bias, dishonesty, corruption, greed or a tendency to self publicising hysteria.

    The reign of Margaret Thatcher(MSc)should be a caution to anyone who believes scientists should have more power. Her extreme callous authoritarianism and her Friedmanite economic 'experiments' gave rise to enormous human suffering.

    There is a definite link between an interest in the mathematical sciences and the autism spectrum. Indeed a British expert said

    "that the use of embryo selection during IVF to reject babies with autism genes might have the effect of preventing some individuals with brilliant mathematical abilities from being born".

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/jan/07/autism-test-genius-dirac the country's future economic welfare could be at risk from a lack of scientists.

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  47. Here are some of the the forebears I mentioned above.

    Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the "Great Die-Off."

    Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support...the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution...by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...."

    Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.
    • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

    We have about five more years at the outside to do something.
    • Kenneth Watt, ecologist

    Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.
    • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

    We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.
    • Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

    Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,
    • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

    Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….
    • Life Magazine, January 1970

    At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, its only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.
    • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

    Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
    We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones.
    • Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

    By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there wont be any more crude oil. Youll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy, and hell say, `I am very sorry, there isnt any.
    • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

    Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.
    • Sen. Gaylord Nelson

    The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.
    • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

    http://www.reason.com/news/printer/27702.html

    ReplyDelete
  48. Ron Broberg said... 32

    "should expert opinions carry more weight in making policy decision in complex matters?"

    Only if the phase one portion of policy debate.

    There are always going to be two phases in a policy debate.

    The first phase doesn't include a 'values' analysis. For this experts should be employed.

    I.E. Would the health of the people be better if alcohol were prohibited?

    The 'expert' opinion is yes. In the US we had a constitutional amendment banning alcohol.

    The second question.
    Would a ban on alcohol actually result in lower alcohol consumption and would the people accept the perceived loss of 'happiness' from a ban on alcohol?

    The answer to that question ended up being no. The constitutional ban on alcohol was repealed.

    The question of what to do about climate is in a phase two discussion that has nothing to do with radiative physics.

    The question is whether the people would accept a doubling of their utility bills and halving the size of their cars.

    The answer to that question is no.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Roger,

    "expertise deserves greater weight on matters that can be adjudicated empirically."

    But what if the self-appointed experts won't share their data, won't allow replication of their studies, won't share their code, won't calibrate their instruments, violate the standards of other disciplines when they venture into those other disciplines, and generally act like a priesthood guarding the secrets of their faith?

    Let's face it, the real problem here is even worse than relying on people with expertise. It's that the supposed experts won't let anyone outside the approved priesthood in on their secrets. They tell us they have expertise, but every time we get a peek behind the curtain, it looks a lot more like the results of a kindergarten class which got loose in the high school science lab.

    Even if Tobis and Ron might be able to convince some people that experts have a special place at the table, I hope we would all agree that said experts should have their expertise acknowledged by a wide majority of the populace. And they must be totally transparent, accountable, and subject to intense cross-examination.

    So even if one were to concede the 'experts get more weight' argument, climate scientists still wouldn't qualify.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Dr Pielke Jr
    I read the fascinating exchange between Dr Tol, you, Tobis and the troll-professor Dr Bunny Rabbit, and David Benson.

    As you have pointed out repeatedly, those who argue for authoritarian modes of self-aggrandizement for climate change science, try to throw examples of clearly binary dichotomous situations (baseball bat hitting someone's head, preventable disease epidemiology, hurricane, tornado, vaccines ...the list goes on) to try to squeeze climate science and its policy implications into the same mould - and therefore imply that climate scientists should carry the societal 'authoritarian' roles that has been accorded to doctors, epidemiologists and the like.

    This is simply because, these professions have managed to canvas, demonstrate and therefore accrete societal authority, as it were, by following this route. Our climate advocate friends therefore want to do the same with climate science and so the same analogies keep popping up.

    What Mr Benson, for example forgets, and Eli forgets as well, is that these professions have done so, because their area of expertise allows for binary outcomes in shorter timescales, which make policy and individual action outcomes *appear* relevant (in addition to *being* relevant, as well). This allows the temporary and apparent submersion of mutual agreement between equal parties (for eg doctor and patient), and forms the basis for what Mr Benson perceives as "authoritarianism". These, can break down, very, very easily, as has been clearly demonstrated with the vaccine-autism instance. Vaccination took care of visible infectious disease burden so much, that the visible adverse effect burden was amplified, to an extent that the 'authority' to administer vaccines broke down and we've had epidemics as a result.

    One can be pretty sure, that epidemiologists and practicising clinicians compounded the problem on the ground, by being aghast and flabbergasted that some parents would refuse vaccines to their children at all, just as our climate advocates pretend today.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Ron--
    I think the whole direction is muddled.

    If you have symptoms, you generally consult medical professionals. But the decision on what action to take must be the patients. The patient, not the doctor, decides whether to visit the doctor, take tests, which treatments to undertake (i.e. brain sugery, chemo therapy, nothing). The patient makes this decision based on his own values (not the doctors.)

    The doctor should not force the decision by only describing the splendors of brain surgery vs. chemo therapy or refusing to listen to or answer questions about what happens if the patient does nothing.

    So, with respect to "policy", the decision is not in the hands of the "expert" (i.e. doctor). The decision is in the hands of the patient. If the expert decides to act as a "brain surgery advocate", the patient is ill served.

    ReplyDelete
  52. -51-nigguraths

    I broadly agree. The examples that are cited in the discussion are various forms of what I call "tornado politics" where values are not in dispute. In my book I discuss the tendency to try to characterize issues that have value disputes (abortion politics) as tornado politics in order to try to delegitimize certain policy perspectives. The discussion at Tobis' is a textbook example.

    ReplyDelete
  53. -52-Lucia

    I think that the medical example is perfect for this discussion. There are situations where you'd want authoritarian decisions, such as in the ER. This helps to explain why some experts (and those who invoke expertise) often appeal to fear, imminent danger, and the lack of time -- they may in fact actually believe these things, but they also lead to justifications for authoritarian decision making. The decision to go to war in Iraq (which is a chapter in my book) is a perfect example of these dynamics.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Ok, I've thought of an example of strong advocacy by scientists. Back in the 1980s Edward Teller, who was beyond question a certified scientist, strongly advocated certain esoteric ( hehehe, check the definition ) approaches to weapons for national defense. I think almost all have been rejected by policy makers. Prior to this time, Teller was an especially strong advocate for development of fusion weapons. In a much earlier period, War 2, Teller and other scientists were the driving force behind development of atomic weapons and some strongly advocated applications for the products. The final decision to proceed with development was not solely in the hands of the advocates. The final decisions for applications were not solely in the hands of scientists, either. Values were a very important part of the decision-making discussions.

    It's important to note that Teller and friends very likely did not invoke the Science brand or its supposed characteristics, in any of its forms as invoked by climate scientists, and they did not advocate primarily to the general public. Instead they advocated at the level that was necessary to get funding for the work they strongly supported. Congressional offices, DoD offices, the Office of the President, etc. All very high level in the purse-string management line.

    I have found an article related to the issues, Math whiz tackles the big carbon sink puzzle, here http://www.grist.org/article/2010-07-30-carbon-hunter/. The last paragraph says:

    Quote: "Unfortunately," Fung says, "I don't think we scientists have done very well communicating the issues to the public. We do a lot of talking to one another. But I still haven't seen any of my friends on Oprah yet. I'm afraid we are not broadcasting our findings on the right wavelength." EndQuote

    I suspect one objective for appearing on Oprah, very likely an unprecedented approach by any scientists, is to influence public opinion on the subject. Public opinion that will hopefully provide feedback to actual policymakers.

    The analogy with the example at the top of this comment is as follows. Climate scientists know that the general public will be the funding source for implementation of their plans.

    Scientists do not set public policies. Many see this as a critically necessary feature, not as a bug.

    ps

    http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_3_snd-dietary-guidelines.html

    ReplyDelete
  55. Roger:

    Democracy requires that every voice be given the opportunity to speak, not that every voice be given equal weight in decision-making. I see crazy people speaking at my city council on a regular basis. I fully support their right to get up and talk about aliens and black helicopter conspiracies. But I don't want my city council making decisions based on their testimony.

    Mike

    ReplyDelete
  56. On the medical analogy.

    Lately, in a newspaper in Montreal, we had the story of a newborn with a malformation and was unable to keep what he was eating.

    The mother went to see a first doctor which said that it should be back to normal within a few days. The situation kept going so she went to the emergency where they were still unable to find anything. Not giving she went to a third doctor who found the malformation and the newborn was operated on in emergency.

    There are other example where people were treated for cancer when they had none.

    So when listening to expert, which one do we listen to?

    In climate change no one agree on what to do or how to do it. Why is the solution proposed by Mr Tobis better than those proposed by other, or even inaction?

    ReplyDelete
  57. Mike said... 56

    "I see crazy people speaking at my city council on a regular basis. I fully support their right to get up and talk about aliens and black helicopter conspiracies. But I don't want my city council making decisions based on their testimony."

    What if the matter before the city council is what to do about the crazy people living in cardboard boxes on city property?

    ReplyDelete
  58. Sylvain
    "So when listening to expert, which one do we listen to? "

    We do have a partial answer given to us on this. I believe in climate change, we are to listen to the expert with the most expertise who offers up the scariest predictions. Because then, we would be the safest.

    ReplyDelete
  59. nigguraths said... 59

    "I believe in climate change, we are to listen to the expert with the most expertise who offers up the scariest predictions. Because then, we would be the safest."

    Playing devils advocate -

    We can easily save 50% of vehicle CO2 emissions by reducing the margins for safety in vehicle design. QED - Bamboo frame, body made out of saran wrap, rock hard tires that don't stop very well - 100 MPG for less then $10,000.

    So do I listen to the expert that tells me the scariest prediction on 'climate change' or do I listen to the expert that tells me my 100 MPG 'Climate Saving' car design is a death trap.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Roger
    >>There are situations where you'd want authoritarian decisions, such as in the ER.
    Agreed. But Ron didn't seem to be discussing ER. He seemed to be discussing brain cancer and having choices between brain surgery and chemo therapy. Both are situations where the patient's values matter quite a bit. Other areas include end of life decisions, and all sorts of elective surgeries.

    I do get your point that there are cases where the decision is transferred to subject matter experts and agree that, in some instances, the subject matter experts would like to promote transferring authority to them when this ought not to be done.

    ReplyDelete
  61. It ought to be mentioned that under pressure Michael Tobis did back down from sounding like he supported a "dictatorship of the climate alarmist party" in a follow up comment on the Pielke versus Schneider thread:

    MT:
    "The weighing should happen at the staffer level not at the level of the representatives in an elected body, of course. It turns out that in America at least, manipulating congressional staffers' opinions with polished propaganda is one of the key functions of lobbyists. Consequently the process is not currently working well.

    August 1, 2010 3:12 PM"

    ReplyDelete
  62. I stand by the "wow scary" comment and disagree that it is authoritarian, for the reasons Ron Broberg and a few others explained quite well.

    While I thought this conversation was being shelved for now, I must say several other things.

    1) My blog doesn't number comments, so Richard Tol's #8 "It is worth reading the comments over at the other blog. The host argues (#40) that people with a higher education should have a greater vote than people with a lower education." cannot possibly refer to me. In any case I never said such a thing nor would I, and I object strenuously.

    Nevertheless, democracy doesn't exclude the idea that some people are more influential than others.

    The question is whether competence in the domain discipline is weighted in the discourse, or only competence in manipulating emotions. At present there is plenty of weight placed on competence in the latter.

    The question at hand is how society is to make use of the information it paid for and needs. The constructions of "Honest Broker", to the extent that I can tease sense out of them, seem inclined to weaken the role of domain competence by delegitimizing its role in discourse. If someone would work as hard to delegitimize manipulative emotion-based opinion mongering as if governance was like detergent, I'd deeply appreciate it.

    2) In my reading of THB Roger says "increasing choices" and "reducing choices" are separate roles and that (I gather) nobody should do both. I do not accept this constraint. It is unfair to interpret this objection, as Roger does in the posting, as saying "scientists should not be in the business of giving policy makers choices". Again, something is attributed to me with which I frankly disagree.

    Also, Roger attributes this to me "Science dictates a specific course of action, thus to present science to policy makers necessarily compels a particular course of action, rendering advocacy and indeed political give and take, unnecessary." Again this has nothing at all to do with my opinion and I frankly renounce it.

    What I *am* saying is that science constrains against certain courses of action presuming an entirely reasonable value consensus. (In this case, that the climate system should not be subject to increasing and accelerating destabilization to the extent that it is massively degraded leading to food shortages, and a population collapse probably via a path through war and anarchy.)

    3) The environmentalists quoted in #48 have exactly zero relationship with the climate science community and their opinions are irrelevant to the discussion of how the climate science community behaves or should behave. The cultural origins of climate science are in deeply conservative communities: physics, meteorology, aviation, military, agriculture. The convergence of interest with ecologists is very recent and cannot account for the origins of the climate policy concern.

    4) I have no idea which Oppenheimer paper Roger criticized. I barely know who Oppenheimer is, have never read anything he has written, and have certainly never met him. My review of THB is in response to Roger's request in email that I buckle down and make some serious effort to engage his ideas or else stop snarking at him. I read his latest book in order to be able to respond to him fairly. I mostly didn't like it.

    Whatever Roger said about Oppenheimer is something that, as of this writing, I don't know. For all anybody knows, I will end up agreeing with Roger.

    ReplyDelete
  63. CONTINUED

    5) #57 "So when listening to expert, which one do we listen to?" In general, it is hard to tell. That is why the IPCC process has been set up, and that is why essentially all the world's major scientific bodies have expressed confidence in the physical climatology consensus expressed there.

    6) I absolutely agree with the code of ethics quoted by Sharon A in #1. Most scientists in all fields would.

    7) I also absolutely agree with the principles espoused by jgdes in #33. Though we may differ in how they apply to the climate situation, these are absolutely real concerns, and I have been careful to insist on them for decades now.

    I have my doubts about certain other fields, you see. I believe that physical sciences are far less susceptible to bias than biological or social sciences, because we have objective metrics of success.

    8) Roger in #54 "The examples that are cited in the discussion are various forms of what I call "tornado politics" where values are not in dispute. In my book I discuss the tendency to try to characterize issues that have value disputes (abortion politics) as tornado politics in order to try to delegitimize certain policy perspectives. The discussion at Tobis' is a textbook example."

    This at last is reasonably fair. The trouble with Roger's position is that even the tiniest value disagreement taints the issue at hand in such a way that scientific input seems to be delegitimized. It's like a homeopathic droplet of doubt (e.g., some sophomoric whine that "perhaps it would be better if humanity really were extinct") somehow simply removes the substantive component form the discussion, requiring a hermetic seal, a 500 page report that nobody will read, and an uninformed, emotional debate in the policy sector.

    There needs to be some continuum, not a switch. Because the number of cases where the switch remains untoggled is trivial. If someone in the room says "if we are hit by a tornado it's God's will, so we should not seek shelter" does that automatically devalue the warning siren somehow? There is really no such thing as "tornado politics" and it's not a useful dichotomy. It would be better to examine this as a continuum.

    What the sensitivity of the climate system to CO2 forcing is, is an objective question. What to do about it is values-laden. But discussions of those values which use a scientifically implausible risk spectrum should not carry as much weight as those which are consistent with the evidence.

    9) In the end, we just want to be sure people understand what we are saying and why. We **don't** want to tell people what to do. But we do want people to have a good grasp of the consequences and risks. In a sense, Roger is right that "the job of climate science is done". Further research will not have much impact on the policy time scale, certainly not at the global geopolitical scale that most interests Roger and myself.

    But as long as the discussion is as confused and ill-informed as it is, we have an ethical responsibility to improve the understanding of the stakeholders, which is everybody. So we scientists are not trying to say what to do at all. We're trying to say what NOT to do, in the sense that there are plausible outcomes that will with high probability will be accompanied by huge regret.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Michael-

    Just a few replies on those comments directed at me:

    1. MT: "What I *am* saying is that science constrains against certain courses of action presuming an entirely reasonable value consensus."

    Indeed, this is pretty much what I say in the book, so where is your objection?

    2. MT: "I have no idea which Oppenheimer paper Roger criticized"

    False, you reference it and ask people to read the discussion of it in your post of 7/31, right after suggesting that I am "stupidly incompetent." ;-)

    3. MT: "even the tiniest value disagreement taints the issue at hand"

    As I say in the book, p. 52, those seeking to politicize debates involving science hold the trump card. Sorry.

    4. MT: "We **don't** want to tell people what to do. But we do want people to have a good grasp of the consequences and risks. In a sense, Roger is right that "the job of climate science is done". Further research will not have much impact on the policy time scale, certainly not at the global geopolitical scale that most interests Roger and myself."

    We do seem to agree at this big picture level, and that is a good place to end.

    PS. Do see the latest guest post on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  65. MT says:

    > [S]cience constrains against certain courses of action presuming an entirely reasonable value consensus.

    Roger Pielke, Jr seems to agree with this.

    On the other hand, Roger Pielke, Jr previously commented that:

    > Efforts to reduce the scope of choice or winnow policy options is policy advocacy. However, you choose to phrase it, an effort to limit/reduce/winnow policy choice is advocacy.

    Accepting these two sentences seems to lead to a conflation between science and advocacy. Taxonomists should not like that. In any case, it would interesting to know how not to derive:

    > Science is advocacy.

    from the two previous quoted claims. Perhaps my understanding of winnowing and constraining fails me?

    ReplyDelete
  66. -66-Willard

    First, there is nothing wrong with advocacy.

    Second, here is an example. A tornado is approaching our building. We say that we want to go to the basement before it arrives. The scientist operating a radar says "I advocate that you go to the basement now because it will hit in 5 minutes"

    He is winnowing options (e.g., he is not advocating that we go to the roof), and the decision is values based. Science can appear to dictate decisions where values are broadly shared and not openly disputed. But the values are still there nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
  67. I'm unable to locate MT's post on 07/31. (I can't seem to recall what I was doing that date either.) Could someone provide a link for it.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  68. mt #63 says:

    "(In this case, that the climate system should not be subject to increasing and accelerating destabilization to the extent that it is massively degraded leading to food shortages, and a population collapse probably via a path through war and anarchy.)"

    Statements like this are one of the factors that have led some to conclude that climate scientists should not get a place at the policy-making table. They are purely made-up WA speculations. They have no basis in fact. None whatsoever.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Lucia: "The doctor should not force the decision by only describing the splendors of brain surgery vs. chemo therapy or refusing to listen to or answer questions about what happens if the patient does nothing."

    If the doctor is analogous to the climate scientist, this doesn't make much sense. Scientists remind us frequently the range of outcomes if nothing is done. Even the most optimistic outcome is a net negative.

    On the medical analogy, I knew someone who died of cancer. He saw a doctor with stomach pain symptoms. Instead of doing any real checks, the doctor prescribed over-the-counter medication. The medication masked the problem for awhile. 6 months later, he returned to another doctor with more severe symptoms and then cancer was discovered. The first doctor had been lazy and/or ignorant, not even choosing to conduct some basic observations and dismissing the information provided, reaching a conclusion that had been largely pre-determined. He reminds me the typical climate contrarian.

    There of course are key differences in that analogy. In the doctor-patient relationship, the doctor often has little information to begin with and must start by collecting observations. Climate science already has a huge set of information available for any scientist to examine, brought together by decades of meticulous research. Imagine if that first doctor had all the information pointing towards advanced cancer, and had told the patient that doing nothing would have a low probability of causing much harm, and that going through any treatments would be harmful and catastrophically expensive. Perhaps that would be Pielke's "honest broker". After all, they aren't dictating a specific course of action. They're just giving the patient "information". Perhaps we need the term "dishonest broker" to be complete.

    ReplyDelete
  70. -68-willard

    Sorry was actually 7/30

    link:
    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2010/07/pielke-vs-schneider.html

    ReplyDelete
  71. So, the scientist operating a radar should say "If you value your lives - emphasis on the "if"! - and I am not suggesting that you do, but if you value your lives, I advocate that you go to the basement now because the tornado will hit in 5 minutes".

    I think I am starting to get it. It's powerful.

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  72. NewYork said... 70

    "If the doctor is analogous to the climate scientist, this doesn't make much sense. Scientists remind us frequently the range of outcomes if nothing is done. Even the most optimistic outcome is a net negative."

    By whose value system.

    The scientific consensus on the sustainability of the worlds population growth is also grim.

    Fortunately/Unfortunately 'values' decisions have determined we will do little or nothing about it.

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  73. I'm still unable to locate the comment where MT is supposed to reference the Oppenheimer article, nor the one where he is supposed to suggest that Roger Pielke, Jr. is "stupidly incompetent."

    A quote would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  74. -73-willard

    Here you go:

    "If you cannot acknowledge statements from people who have both value-neutral expertise and culturally connected values, then you cannot evaluate the effectiveness of proposed policies in achieving goals. Then you can proceed to develop politically popular policies which are stupidly incompetent, which I suppose is the point of expertise in political science .

    You can see this approach in full flower over at Roger's right now. Read the comments."

    And the words "in full flower" are linked to this post of mine:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/07/silly-science.html

    And the reference to "political science" is to me, as I have a PhD in political science.

    ReplyDelete
  75. models-methods-software #69

    I agree. You could substitute any imaginary negative scenario into that statement with equal authority. It reminds me of Bill Murray in Ghostbusters: "Dogs and cats lving together! Mass hysteria!"

    And what is a degraded climate system anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  76. mt was trying to "hide the personal insult" by using the "proper grammar trick"! "policies" is clearly code for "roger".

    ReplyDelete
  77. Roger Pielke, Jr.,

    To "proceed to develop politically popular policies which are stupidly incompetent" might seem a bit harsh, but I think the subject of the predicate "stupidly incompetent" are the policies. Maybe a policy might not be properly said incompetent, but to extrapolate that MT attributes incompetence to the policy analyst would entail that competence is transitive, which is very moot.

    To suppose that to allow "is the point of expertise in political science" might again sound harsh, but it does not seem a gratuitious comment. On the contrary, one might easily see that it's what MT was arguing all along.

    According to him, if science does not contrains options to the most sensible ones, it's possible that even the strangest policies get promoted by the honest broker and adopted by the population.

    According to your position, it might not even possible to distinguish what is stupid from what is not. As soon as it's a matter of value, almost anything goes. The customer is always right, it seems to say.

    In fact, I don't see any reason why you cite your Ph. D, as it does not give you any authority whatsoever ;-)

    Finally, I still don't see the connection with Oppenheimer, which is what you see as an insult is supposed to lead. Not that it matters much, as probing intentions is not very objective. Does that mean intentional judgements are normative?

    A reader could easily see that politeness is not enough to hide all the snark and the smugness between you two. Don't tempt me to use quotes.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Michael Tobis (48) said


    "3)The environmentalists quoted in #48 have exactly zero relationship with the climate science community and their opinions are irrelevant to the discussion of how the climate science community behaves or should behave. The cultural origins of climate science are in deeply conservative communities: physics, meteorology, aviation, military, agriculture. The convergence of interest with ecologists is very recent and cannot account for the origins of the climate policy concern."


    That was some very ineffective bluster. These people were mostly scientists as you can see, and their extreme views are extremely similar to many climate scientists today. Fortunately we only have to look at one individual, Dr James Hansen (Gavin Schmidt's boss ).

    Hansen is every bit as mentally unhinged as any 1960's environmentalist (he is of the same generation). However, there is a fundamental difference from those much more liberal times when academics spoke relatively freely. Hansen is a senior manager at NASA, a US government agency with very close connections to the military. They were unable to stop him embarrassing himself and his employers because a Soros* funded organisation 'The Government Accountability Project' miraculously proved stronger than the US government.

    http://www.soros.org/resources/articles_publications/publications/annual_20070731/a_complete.pdf

    Hansen is a committed campaigning environmentalist. Here are some of his hysterical utterances

    Holocaust

    "If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains -- no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species"

    http://www.grist.org/article/global-warming-and-the-holocaust/

    "James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/23/fossilfuels.climatechange

    That is strange since two of the world's biggest oil companies, BP and Shell endorsed the Kyoto Protocol and Enron were responsible for creating article 16 dealing with carbon trading.


    The multinational BP has challenged the Australian Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. BP's South Australia and Australasia president, Greg Bourne, has said that Australia's economy will suffer if the nation doesn't commit to ratifying the protocol which regulates greenhouse gas emissions.
    http://www.abc.net.au/pm/stories/s410744.htm

    The debate about climate change is over and we need to take action," says Ertel, Shell Canada's climate change expert.

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/new-energy-future/story.html?id=2459942#ixzz0fc5gUFKk

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  79. Michael Tobis (cont.)

    Hansen also endorsed an extreme ecofascist book by Keith Farnish


    Farnish writes

    The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization.

    Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine. The process of ecological unloading is an accumulation of many of the things I have already explained in this chapter, along with an (almost certainly necessary) element of sabotage.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100023339/james-hansen-would-you-buy-a-used-temperature-data-set-from-this-man/


    Hansen's endorsement

    Keith Farnish has it right: time has practically run out, and the 'system' is the problem. Governments are under the thumb of fossil fuel special interests - they will not look after our and the planet's well-being until we force them to do so, and that is going to require enormous effort. --Professor James Hansen, GISS, NASA

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Times-Up-Uncivilized-Solution-Global/dp/190032248X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265053838&sr=8-1

    Endorsing a very suspect book could be carelessness or stupidity, however Hansen appeared along with a man of similar extremes, Zac Goldsmith, in a UK court to defend an act of of criminal damage against Kingsnorth power station. that resulted in £30,000 of damage.

    Goldsmith's favourite uncle Edward Goldsmith was accused by George Monbiot of being a 'Black Shirt in Green Trousers' (ecofascist).

    Kingsnorth report in the Guardian

    "Hansen, a Nasa director who advises Al Gore, the former US presidential candidate turned climate change campaigner, told the court that humanity was in "grave peril". "Somebody needs to step forward and say there has to be a moratorium, draw a line in the sand and say no more coal-fired power stations."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/11/activists.kingsnorthclimatecamp


    Unlike 1960s hippies, modern environmental campaigners like EDF have $100m annual budgets and a board of trustees dominated by Wall Street (and one cool Walmart dude). The Tides Foundation had net assets of $142,007,356 in 2006.

    Yes, environmentalism is now corporate. Many NGOs are funded by extreme right wing family funds like The Rockefeller Foundation and the Pew Foundation, even the EU and British government.

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=412726&c=2




    *Soros is an extreme right wing 'liberal', one of the top hedge fund managers on Wall Street, and a man with an incredibly dubious financial history worldwide. He shares that distinction with uber neocon Friedmanite economist Jeffrey Sachs, another very prominent global warming campaigner.

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  80. -78-Willard

    You are right, this is not a useful debate. Let's let the last words be yours.

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  81. On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed. The more complex the matter at hand, the more weight should be given to expertise and the less it should account for value-driven decisions that are likely to be ill-informed.

    Wow. And scary.


    Meanwhile, I have to ask you Roger (and Richard Tol, who expressed similar sentiments) how we as society can even have a discussion about climate change if we discount what people with expertise have to say? How can anyone have a meaningful opinion about climate change or its future prospects without understanding at least a little bit about climate science?

    The big problem with climate change is that it is virtually invisible to the casual observer, and the possible future impacts are totally impossible to understand without some pretty solid expertise. Us "ordinary people" and politicians with values-based opinions can talk all we like but it's just hot air unless there is something to back up those opinions. Science has proven to be a robust method of sorting out empirical "fact" from "fiction". The danger with demonising climate science is that society ends up with no empirical basis for its decision-making.

    Here's another very thoughtful opinion on why a good understanding of climate science is important. Read it.

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  82. -82-William T

    You ask, "Meanwhile, I have to ask you Roger (and Richard Tol, who expressed similar sentiments) how we as society can even have a discussion about climate change if we discount what people with expertise have to say?"

    I'll let Richard speak for himself, but I suspect that he'd agree with me when I say that we should not discount what people with expertise have to say. I have made no such argument.

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  83. -83-Roger

    Good. Perhaps you should listen to them a bit more carefully then.

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  84. Well, I've read all the comments, and now my brain hurts. I am very confused.

    So, RPJr's last comment: "we should not discount what people with expertise have to say. I have made no such argument."

    MT says: "On complex matters which have significant objective and normative components, those opinions which are informed by expertise should carry more weight in decisions than opinions which are not well informed."

    But that's authoritarian. OK. So how does it work? If we don't discount expert opinion, is it the *precise way* in which we give it weight that's the problem? If you're saying we don't discount expert opinion, what does that look like, exactly?

    Is it simply the 'leave the final decision to the jury' approach that was mentioned?' If so, one might expect the jury to give more weight to expert opinion. Is that OK? Is it OK for a judge to direct them to give it more weight?

    Is it OK for me to argue that I think people should give more weight to experts? Am I not allowed to hold that opinion without being authoritarian? I'm having great difficulty in seeing where the line is between "give more weight to" and "not discount" without the latter having no meaning. (E.g. "I'm not going to discount your expert opinion, but I'm not going to pay you any heed either.")

    Very confused.

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  85. We can split the hair and dance on the pin head by assuming that since Roger does not discount expert opinion but believes that giving extra weight to expert opinion, that he therefore believes that exactly equal weight should be given to expert opinions and ill-informed opinions.

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  86. -85, 86-Dan, Ron

    If you've read Michael Tobis' efforts to characterize my views, then I can understand why you are confused.

    If you have questions for me about my views, just ask them.

    Dan, with respect to your question about authoritarianism, it has nothing to do with giving weight to expert opinion in general. Rather, that came up when MT suggested that expertise should confer more weight in normative matters, perhaps even in formal processes of governance.

    If you want to know how many whales are in the ocean you should give great weight to marine biologists, given the science, if you want to know how many whales to allow to be hunted, much less.

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  87. "Rather, that came up when MT suggested that expertise should confer more weight in normative matters..."

    Are you saying that expertise can (and should) *only* confer weight to positive matters / facts? (e.g. number of whales, not how many to hunt?) And that anything else is authoritarianism?

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  88. -88-Dan Olner

    I don't find such either/or questions very useful. The answer is that as a general matter, substantive expertise does not lead to authority in normative matters.

    But it gets tricky in context (which is why I wrote a book about this subject, rather than a simple blog post;-) If I am in a car accident and unconscious, I want the ER doctor to make decisions in authoritative fashion. If however the decision is about an elective surgery, I absolutely do not want an authoritarian decision made on my behalf.

    Context matters.

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  89. I can agree that context matters, and that we could list a whole bunch of examples where one might want to defer to expertise; ER is a good one.

    I'm puzzled, then, why you've been so quick to put MT's quote in a box and call it authoritarian. If context matters, don't you need to know more before using that word? You've just pointed out - very effectively - that there are situations where an experts authority should be deferred to, others where they should not, and that the dividing line isn't cleanly along the fact-value boundary. So why shout 'authoritarian' at MT? I don't see it.

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  90. -90-Dan Olner

    Thanks ... if you understand the context of Tobis' comments on climate change, then the answer to your question should be abundantly obvious. Climate scientists are not, in my opinion, akin to ER doctors. My view of MT's frequent comments on this subject leads me to conclude that he thinks they are. Our different points of view on this have been well aired.

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  91. "If you want to know how many whales are in the ocean you should give great weight to marine biologists, given the science, if you want to know how many whales to allow to be hunted, much less."

    That doesn't even make any sense. What you call "normative" has an objective component: the marine biologist will have to tell you how many whales you can hunt without irreversibly damaging the ability of whale population to keep pace with hunting/mating/food source/natural attrition/territorial factors, etc. Of COURSE it is objective. You are obfuscating the fact that for YOU the question is "Should there even be whales? I'm not that fond of them and frankly they don't impact MY daily life." THAT is normative. But if we all agree that there should BE WHALES, then we need to listen to the marine biologists. And honestly, if you don't believe there should be whales, that's not a "norm" that's being a self involved narcissistic monster. And now you don't need to invent MT calling you names, 'cause I just did.

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  92. -92-Elle

    Indeed, that is why I wrote "given the science" -- this role (to answer the question, "how many whales you can hunt without irreversibly damaging the ability of whale population?") is what I call a science arbiter in my book.

    That is not necessarily a normative question (though the notion of "damage" would need to be explicated, as it may have normative dimensions).

    And I really do like whales, I was just out watching some on Sunday in the Haro Strait;-)

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  93. -82 William T
    We should listen very closely to experts, as long as they talk about their area of expertise.

    Unfortunately, some experts try to project their authority beyond their field; and some people confuse superior knowledge and intellect with moral superiority.

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  94. Re #93:

    Wait a minute... according to the roles flow chart, there is no role for a science arbiter in a value-laden decision.

    So I understood you to say that the science arbiter answers "how many whales can you hunt without irreversible damage?" but has no role in the question "how many whales should we allow to be hunted?"

    Which is why it is all so confusing.

    I am going to guess you will say that it is the job of the honest broker to state that policies A through D are sustainable and E through H are not, according to some set of arbiters of the broker's choice; but the broker offers no opinion as to which should be chosen, merely referrring to some other arbiters' estimates of various other consequences. But that if the expert who makes the "arbiter" decision also weighs in in an honest broker role he or she is being a "stealth advocate" and hence not a proper honest broker. Did I get that right?

    Because nobody who is an expert can ever advocate a decision, right, (because you can always get somebody showing up to ask a vaklues question)?

    Again, imagining this working out in practice is a struggle for me.

    A realistic question is likely to have many dependencies on other questions which will require a complex sequence of transactions between arbiters, brokers, and advocates to be sufficiently honest as each question is broken down into values and expertise components.

    At least I understand that one is allowed different roles on different questions. So do I have to wear a different special colored hat at various points during the conversation, or what?

    I mean, I think I sort of understand what you are trying to do, but nobody has ever actually done it on a real issue of any complexity, have they?

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  95. -95-Michael Tobis

    Thanks for sticking with it.

    Nowhere does it say that there is no role for a science arbiter in decision making. (You can drop the modifier, all decisions are by definition "value-laden"). In fact, in the flow chart that you reference the route to a science arbiter requires a connection to policy.

    I can quickly outline the four roles in the context of this case.

    Pure scientist: Does research, e.g., on whale migration. Has no connection to current decision context.

    Science arbiter: Answers questions posed in decision context, that can be resolve empirically, such as, how many whales are their in the ocean? Nebulous, value-laden terms like "damage" are to be precisely specified or avoided in the process of formulating questions.

    Issue advocate: Recommends a specific decision, e.g., no more than 1,000 whales should be taken per year.

    Honest broker: Provides a set of options and their consequences. E.g., Taking 0 whlaes has these consequences, taking 0-400 these, >400 these, and so forth. Consequences should be defined broadly, to include the set of relevant values at stake, e.g., environmental economic, political, etc.

    Stealth advocate: Says that the science dictates that <150 whales be taken.

    So you are wrong when you say that no expert can advocate a specific decision -- they can, it is the definition of an advocate. No problem there.

    Do these idealized roles exist in practice? Sure, to some degree:

    Pure researcher: university scientists
    Science arbiter: NRC committees
    Issue advocates: NGOs, Japanese government
    Honest broker: international whaling commissions
    Stealth advocates: scientists arguing policy through science (I don't know any by name, but surely there are out there!)

    Can you play multiple roles at once? Not very well.

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  96. Michael- my comments are a bit late in this thread due to being at work; neverthless

    you said

    #63

    "The cultural origins of climate science are in deeply conservative communities: physics, meteorology, aviation, military, agriculture."

    I would say "agriculture, not so much." Climate science as configured today is based on many physical models. Most of it is funded by NOAA. The models have not been tested in terms of predictive capacity.

    Agricultural sciences are quite the opposite. Agriculture is a function of the environment, people, and plants and animals and is ultimately empirical, e.g. no one will buy your wheat varieties based on the absence of field testing. Perhaps that's why agricultural scientists tend to be a bit more humble.

    You also 64 #7 said:
    "I have my doubts about certain other fields, you see. I believe that physical sciences are far less susceptible to bias than biological or social sciences, because we have objective metrics of success."

    You seem to have physical science centrism..a tendency of the Science Establishment I referred to in a previous post. I would like to see what your "objective metrics" are composed of..
    Successful prediction of natural events, design of planes that don't crash, I understand those. But as to climate change, it seems that the humblest plant breeder gets more feedback from Nature on the success of her science than the most sophisticated and expensive climate model. Maybe I'm missing something.

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  97. "Stealth advocate: Says that the science dictates that <150 whales be taken."

    But surely the value judgement there is obvious.

    As is the value judgement of Hansen when he says the long term target for CO2 must be 350ppm or less.

    Somethings need not be said explicitly, they are implied, and I assume that if asked most people would make his value judgement explicit.

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  98. Scruff dan: "Stealth advocate: Says that the science dictates that <150 whales be taken."

    >> But surely the value judgement there is obvious.

    Not really: an expert may need to make a call on the number that can be taken if the population isn't to unravel and collapse. That's an ecology question; it's tricky, there'll be fat error bars, but it's not just a value judgement. Elle argued the same thing: working out a sustainable harvesting level has a large scientific component to it. Getting people to then stick to that is another matter; something Elinor Ostrom writes about.

    Or is the difference that a marine ecologist could say: "if you take more than 150, you run a 50% risk of a population crash."

    At any rate, it's a pretty blurry line, and seems to come down to semantics. MT mentions changing hats: I can't imagine anyone being all that offended if our mythical radar operator shouted "I'm going to the basement! I suggest you do too!"

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  99. It is true that the error bars are high, but if the marine ecologist says that the science dictates that <150 whales be taken, then the implicit value judgement is that whale populations remain sustainable.

    Of course with such a simple statement one doesn't get an idea of the risk tolerance of that particular ecologist, but hopefully the ecologist is prepared to expand the short quote.

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  100. Which climate scientists are heading for the basement?

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