The role of the citizen scientist

In a recent post I mentioned a fine book by Aaron Wildavsky, and said I would return to it in due course. I knew Wildavsky’s name once I started postgraduate study, because with another young graduate student Wildavsky had written a little book on Australian politics in the 1920s. In those days nothing very much had been published on Australian politics so of course I read Wildavsky’s small piece on the 1926 referendum. He’d gone back to the US by the time I was ready to talk with him, and I didn’t finally meet him until I gave dinner in his honour in the mid 1980s, by which time he had been the President of the American Political Science Association, and was one of the leaders of the profession. My interests in political science by that time were not his, but I now regret that I didn’t read some of his earlier books when they were published.

Wildavsky died in 1993, and But is it TRUE? A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and  Safety Issues was devised and written in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is an extraordinarily good book, and in it he and his colleagues demolish one such issue after another, including DDT, acid rain and global warming (I should make clear that he gave the ozone layer issue his solitary tick, while my own judgment is suspended for lack of evidence). Given that his book is now twenty-five years old, what is staggering to me is that his findings are no less robust now than they were in the early 1990s.

What I want to write about here is the notion of a citizen scientist. Wildavsky argues that the term ‘citizen scientist’ does not mean simply that someone is able to carry out scientific work independently of a university or some other research laboratory. He has in mind the scientifically interested person who, though not someone who goes to the lab bench every day, is nonetheless able to assess scientific work in terms of its utility in guiding public policy.

I agree entirely, and in my own way I have been engaged in that endeavour for a long time. So have many others who have found themselves in similar advisory positions. How should we best do it? Wildavsky argues that the citizen should learn to recognise patterns of representation so as to avoid being controlled by them. Each citizen is his or her own private eye. I like that play on words. All of us would-be risk detectives need experience in being misled and still, in the end, catching the real villain or, as the case may be the false accuser.

How should we do it? Wildavsky says that there is no substitute for reading scientific journals and learning, and I would agree. If you finally don’t understand the point, ask someone who does. These days, with the Internet, finding out about the nature of a scientific issue is probably speedier than it was twenty-five years ago. He goes on:

To be a risk detective the citizen has to be alert to the typical errors and defects in experimental studies. Scientists and government experts are apt to make mistakes in experimental design, measurement and inference… a number of methodological  flaws … appear repeatedly in the scientific justification for regulatory practice. And Wildavsky derives rules  to guide the citizen risk-detective in finding them. There are twenty rules, so that for several there will only be an outline.

Rule 1: Use Appropriate controls

You need control groups for some issues and appropriate baselines for others. In the ozone layer case, we really have little idea of whether or not the hole in the latter had been there before, and/or how long before. In that case and in the global warming one, so many of the effects seem to lie within the range of natural variation. How then can we substantiate claims and policy inferences?

In the case of control groups, it is important to control for age, for sex, for exposure to whatever it is, for pregnancy in some cases, and so on. What are the pre-existing conditions? It was conventional to assume that ‘pure rain’ had a pH of 5.6, and that led regulatory agencies to assume that rain with a notably smaller pH must be a sign of human activity. But then later studies showed a wide range of of pure rain pH, from 4.4 to 5.8. What then?

Rule 2: Establish the baseline

Increases and decreases do not come from nowhere. They are selected partly on the basis of existing data and convenience and partly to make whatever point the user has in mind. By knowing where the base begins, we learn interesting things: How long, for instance, have measurements been made?

Rule 3: Vary the baseline to determine whether the conclusion is robust

Choosing the Cretaceous era as a baseline, the earth today appears starved of carbon; choosing the beginning of the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, the earth appears to be carbon rich or at least richer. If the conclusion is the same no matter what the baseline, it is on firmer ground.

Rule 4: Remember that parts are not necessarily wholes

Trees are not forests, and individual forests are not regional ones. Sydney is not Australia, and Australia is not the world.

Rule 5: Count what counts

If one is measuring the effects of ozone, remember that UV radiation also causes skin cancer, not only ozone loss.

Rule 6: Follow trends

It is frustrating to have to wait, but often we have to. It can take time to determine a trend.

Rule 7: Establish the normal range for the phenomenon 

Rule 8: Use the same types of measurement consistently

Rule 9: Prefer measurements to estimates

And I would add, prefer them to the output of model simulations.

Rule 10: Be aware of recall bias in assessing exposure

Rule 11: Consider the duration of exposure

Rule 12: Evaluate separate effects to determine if there is really something to worry about

Rule 13: Be aware of the extrapolation of effects

It’s easy to establish the results of high doses of something, but we should not assume that bad outcomes coming from a high dose must mean that any dose is harmful.

Rule 14: Seek the mechanism and Rule 15: Establish conditions of applicability and Rule 16: Do not accept residual explanations

All these hang together. The notion that carbon dioxide must be the villain, because current science cannot come up with anything else, is a laughable position to maintain — but it has been argued this way.

Rule 17: Don’t draw final conclusions from one study

One for the ABC and the mainstream media generally.

Rule 18: Be skeptical

Learn to puncture inflated claims.

Rule 19: Keep score

Rule 20: Seek diversity, not uniformity of opinion

Dissent is really important, because it is from disagreement that new knowledge comes. (see my masthead above).

These rules are intended for the citizen scientist, the risk-detective. But surely they should apply to governments and regulatory agencies, not to mention scientific academies. All the above comes from Chapter 14 of this most important, and immensely readable book. Yes, you can buy copies of it online (mine came from Better World Books)


End-note: As I said earlier, I am moving to publishing one essay a week. The next will be in a week’s time. I will still be monitoring the website on a daily basis.

Join the discussion 109 Comments

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “cartoon dioxide” Freudian slip?

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Oh dear! Fixed, thanks. Autocorrect again, and I was tired…

  • Neville says:

    Very interesting number of rules, but there should also be a rule about trying to mitigate a particular problem. If simple maths and science tells us that spending trillions of $ on trying to mitigate a so called problem will make no measureable difference we should set a different course.
    Anyway our climate today is not unusual or unprecedented at all, so we should spend more money on R&D and adaptation. Solar and Wind are a super expensive joke and cannot make a scrap of difference to climate/weather or temp or extreme events, or SLR or Polar bear numbers etc. Let’s forget about wasting endless trillions $ on a non problem and start using our brains instead.

  • Neville says:

    Peter I replied before, I’m using internet explorer and windows 7 . I tried to compare states for example and it didn’t work.

  • Neville says:

    A new study has found that Arctic SLR from 1950 to 2010 was about 1.5mm ( 6 inches/ century) a year , similar to global SLR of about 1.8mm ( 7 inches/century) a year over the same period. So where’s the impact from human increases of Co2 over that period? Here’s the abstract and the link.;jsessionid=86B6201D891F40AB1CFD9C28CB9C96C8.f01t04

    Article has an altmetric score of 10


    Reconstruction of historical Arctic sea level is generally difficult due to the limited coverage and quality of both tide gauge and altimetry data in the area. Here a strategy to achieve a stable and plausible reconstruction of Arctic sea level from 1950 to today is presented. This work is based on the combination of tide gauge records and a new 20-year reprocessed satellite altimetry derived sea level pattern. Hence the study is limited to the area covered by satellite altimetry (68ºN and 82ºN). It is found that timestep cumulative reconstruction as suggested by Church and White (2000) may yield widely variable results and is difficult to stabilize due to the many gaps in both tide gauge and satellite data. A more robust sea level reconstruction approach is to use datum adjustment of the tide gauges in combination with satellite altimetry, as described by (Ray and Douglas, 2011). In this approach, a datum-fit of each tide gauges is used and the method takes into account the entirety of each tide gauge record. This makes the Arctic sea level reconstruction much less prone to drifting.

    From our reconstruction, we found that the Arctic mean sea level trend is around 1.5 mm +/- 0.3 mm/y for the period 1950 to 2010, between 68ºN and 82ºN. This value is in good agreement with the global mean trend of 1.8 +/- 0.3 mm/y over the same period as found by Church and White (2004). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

  • PeterE says:

    Thanks. Eminently sensible rules.

  • David says:

    “In that case and in the global warming one, so many of the effects seem to lie within the range of natural variation.”

    Don I have watched you pedal this line argument in many forms over the years I have been reading you. It has been a specious argument. And still is! To illustrate, the diurnal temperature range in Brisbane yesterday was 9.5 degrees (Max 22.8 and the Min 13.3). This “natural variation” does not undermine the AGW hypothesis in any, way, shape or form, obviously.

    My Rule 1:

    Lean some basic statistics, that way citizen climate scientists will not have to rely on what the climate “seems” to be doing.

    • Ross Handsaker says:

      It is difficult to see the relationship between the AGW hypothesis and one day’s temperature range in Brisbane. The dilemma for climate scientists is to determine which variation is natural and which is not. Currently, there is no direct evidence that the additional carbon dioxide in the troposphere has caused any of the warming over the past 150 years. At issue is the way climate scientists have seized on some change in the natural world and claimed AGW was responsible. There is a web site, , which highlights many of these claims.

      • David says:

        “It is difficult to see the relationship between the AGW hypothesis and one day’s temperature range in Brisbane.”

        That is right Ross Handsaker. That would be why I wrote

        “This “natural variation” does NOT undermine the AGW hypothesis in any, way, shape or form, obviously.”

        Focus on the word NOT! I provided this example to illustrate why Don’s statement is unconvincing. But then it gets worse with this sentence,

        “The dilemma for climate scientists is to determine which variation is natural and which is not”

        The proponents of AGW can point to a 150 year correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature. And you want me to believe the temperature rise is due to some “natural” phenomenon. Come on Mr Skeptic define “natural”. Some sort of vague un-testable concept; factor X. Give me a break!

        Step up to the plate. Give your natural phenomena a name, collect some data and add it as an additional explanatory variable to your climate model. The correlation between CO2 and temperature should disappear. Skeptics have been trying to do that for close to 20 years. So far their only definitive result is a request for more funding.

        • Ross Handsaker says:

          You say ” The proponents of AGW can point to a 150 year correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature”. This is incorrect. Before data were changed there was a fall in global average temperatures between the mid 1940’s and mid 1970’s during which time CO2 levels were rising; in other words there was no correlation for this 30 year period. The IPCC has also stated the rise in temperatures from 1850 to 1950 was mainly “natural”.
          If you would care to examine the ice cores from both Greenland and Antarctica you will observe numerous changes over the past 10,000 years, both warmer and cooler. Over millenia these changes in temperatures always precede changes in CO2 levels, again there is no correlation. It is not necessary to know what these “natural” causes were to notice the lack of correlation.
          My definition of “natural” in respect of climate change – anything other than human induced.
          “So far their only definitive result is a request for more funding”. I am assuming you meant to refer to proponents of AGW rather than sceptics with this remark.

          • David says:

            Ross Handsaker, I think I may have overestimated you.

            Your argument is classic cherry picking. If I was to cherry pick without a valid theoretical rationale, as you do, I could also argue that since every evening, the temperature decreases and every morning the temperature increases, that the AGW hypothesis is valid in the mornings but not in the evenings. i.e CO2 and temperature are correlated in the mornings but not correlated in the afternoons. Silly isn’t it?

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      David, I have a degree in Statistics (admittedly a long time ago now), but I have never seen you display any competence in the discipline, and your present post is simply absurd.

    • spangled drongo says:

      David, Don’s reference to natural climate variation is not about a daily range. It is about global natural variation on a per century basis which we are currently seeing from HADCRUT and NASA as about 0.7c per century [HADCRUT 0.68c, NASA 0.71c] based on actual measurements since they began around the beginning of the industrial era at the end of the LIA.

      As Don rightly points out this is well within natural climate variation for at least the last 8,000 years.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      …and, bye the bye, you do not ‘pedal’ an argument, you pedal a bicycle.

  • Patrick says:

    That’s a good set of rules Don.
    Unfortunately most politicians, journalists & voters are not citizen scientists and are unaware of the rules underpinning the scientific method. Worse, most of those supporting the (C)AGW ideology seem to do so on the basis of placing their trust in the IPCC assuming incorrectly that the people involved in it are objective, impartial and unbiased experts. The Inter Academy Council Review of the IPCC’s processes and procedures (available at revealed that their processes are seriously flawed.
    The other widespread problem is that most people fail to distinguish between the EFFECTS of warming (from ANY cause) and the CAUSE(S) of warming. Warming from any cause will result in temperature increases, ice melting and sea level rising but none of that proves that carbon dioxide is the main underlying cause. In fact there are many factors interacting in complex ways with various time lags resulting in cycles on many different time scales. Natural warming on global scales has occurred many times in the past in the presence of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations much less than we currently experience. Conversely, six major glaciations have commenced when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were much higher than now. Also, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has been an order of magnitude greater in the distant past and yet the Earth retained its oceans and we are here to discuss it (which would not have been the case if there were a ‘tipping point’). Over geological time scales there has been no consistent correlation between temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Indeed, apart from the transient effects of the recent strong El Nino. the last couple of decades have manifested no significant temperature increase notwithstanding the continuing increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over that period.

  • David says:

    My Rule 2:

    When people start using “natural variation” to explain global warming they should be able to define exactly what they mean by pointing to some elements on the Periodic Table.

  • Neville says:

    The BOM page on NINO indices and IOD now shows most NINO indices falling to neutral levels or -5 to +5 on the graph. But the IOD graph now shows one of the strongest negative IODs for years. Just click on the NEXT button above the graph to choose your index. NINO 3.4 is a popular choice.

    Negative IODs usually bring higher rainfall across SE OZ and below a line drawn from Broome to Wollongong . Here is the BOM link. Another good rule for the scientific method is to use real data and forget about the religious dogma.

    Here again is the link for the IOD from the UNSW. I hope using two links will not send me to moderation.

  • Neville says:

    Also here is the BOM page on negative IOD years and you’ll see the years listed below on the page that can be clicked on. The negative years listed range from 1958 to 1996.

  • Ross says:

    Do all ‘citizen scientists’ adhere to these rules? What happens if a citizen scientist flouts these rules? What checks (if any at all) are put on citizen scientists? As far as I can tell, if it’s climate change denial, it gets a run!
    Scientists have to follow rules and protocols. If they don’t, they lose their position.
    Citizen scientists can do as they like. A big difference. A VERY big difference. Never confuse the two.

  • David says:

    My Rule 2:

    When people start using “natural variation” to explain global warming they should be able to define exactly what they mean by pointing to some elements on the Periodic Table.

  • Neville says:

    I think David and Ross must have been asleep for the past few months. I’ve used PR studies to support my case about natural variation that is greater than their so called CAGW.
    Like the Lloyd study that found the average “per century” temp deviation over the past 8,000 years to be 0.98 C. Using ice core data from both Greenland and Antarctica.
    But I also showed that the” IPCC’s preferred HAD 4 temp data” set has warmed by just 0.8 C since 1850. That duration is about 1.66 centuries, so that trend is only about 0.5 C per century since 1850. Here’s the Lloyd study again and the HAD 4 trend again. And I’ve added the HAD 3 trend as well that is under 0.8 C since 1850.

    • David says:

      I understand what “:PR” means in medicine.

    • Ross says:

      Gosh, this is delicate.
      Neville… It’s not about sleep. The truth is I don’t read your links. Honestly, I doubt anyone does. Just too many.
      Honestly, you post anti climate science blog link, after anti climate science blog site link, after anti climate science blog site link into eternity. What could I possibly say that would stop you posting a thousand more? A Gish gallop of information supplied at such a torrent, day in…and day out. If you want to make a point, Less really is more. I’m sorry, but there it is.
      It is often said that people such as myself see Climate Change as a religion. I can assure you I don’t. It certainly isn’t an ‘obsession’.
      Can we all say that?

      • spangled drongo says:

        Yes, Neville, give ’em a break! The last thing the climate convinced want is a few inconvenient facts!

        And when you hear that good ol’ expression “Gish Gallop” you know the blinds are down and the minds are closed.

        The sci is settled, that right Ross?

        BTW, Ross, how do you know that those links are “anti climate science” if you don’t take the trouble to read ’em?

      • Neville says:

        Ross if you really believe the nonsense you’ve just delivered you are either a con merchant or a fool or both. I’ve given you the evidence from per reviewed studies and from the HAD 4 temp data base and from Phil Jones himself.
        BTW I couldn’t care less whether you’re interested in the scientific method or not but you are a non serious person who seems to need to believe in fairy tales and not simple maths and science.

        • Ross says:

          Neville, I do indeed ‘believe’ that your posts are pointless and never ever ending. Not a con. Honest to god. I’m being as sincere as possible. I suspect I am not alone.

          You may very well have ‘given me the evidence’ of something, but that’s my point. With such a non stop barrage, day in day out, who’d know? Do you have some more links for us all to read today? Yup. Will you have several more tomorrow? And next week? Will they be related? Who knows? Who cares?

          Drongo; Good point. Glad you brought it up. Being an avid reader of Neville’s links, perhaps you could point out which of his links is not anti climate science. Just one, will do. Hey are you a betting man?

          • spangled drongo says:

            Well, Ross, it’d be a shame to take your money. Like candy from a baby. FYI they all are [not anti climate] but Neville’s last one will do:


            How could you possibly get 10.0c of global warming in a decade without humans at fault?

            If we could get this problem naturally11,500 years ago could you possibly accept that it is completely within natural boundaries for us to get 0.5% of that rate of warming today?

            Without incurring the assistance of ACO2?

            I really would appreciate it if you could steel yourself to read that NOAA article and then answer that question.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Correction, that should be 5.0%, not 0.5%.

            The ACO2 assisted warming today is one twentieth of what it naturally warmed at then.

            Is that a case for ACO2 cooling or what?

  • Neville says:

    Wind power is even more idiotic than we thought. China is shutting down this energy source because of damage to the grid and the workers. Yet our clueless pollies are doing their best to stuff up the grid and drive our energy costs through the roof.
    Here is the article from the GWPF.

    “China Shuts Down Construction Of New Wind Turbines, Fears Blackouts
    Date: 25/07/16

    Andrew Follett, The Daily Caller

    China’s government announced Thursday the country will shut down the production of new wind turbines in five provinces, as they cause serious damage to the electrical grid.

    China specifically shut down construction in the windiest regions of the country because roughly 26 percent of the country’s wind power was wasted in 2016. Wasted wind power is incredibly problematic, because it damages the power grid and can potentially cause massive blackouts.

    The government stopped approving new wind power projects in the country’s windiest regions in early March, according to China’s National Energy Administration statement. These regions previously installed nearly 71 gigawatts of wind turbines, more than the rest of China combined. A single gigawatt of electricity is enough to power 700,000 homes. Government statistics show that 33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind-power, or about 15 percent of all Chinese wind power, were wasted in 2015 alone.

    “We estimate that over the course of the first six months, 4.2 billion kilowatt hours of wind and solar power has been wasted, which is equivalent to New Zealand’s electricity use in the whole year of 2015,” Peng Peng, an analyst with the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, told Reuters.

    Wind turbines are extremely intermittent and don’t produce much power at the times of day when electricity is most needed. This poses an enormous safety risk to grid operators and makes power grids vastly more fragile.

    Beijing ordered wind operators to stop expanding four times in the last five years, because unreliable wind power was damaging the country’s power grid and costing the government enormous amounts of money.”

  • Neville says:

    For David and Ross. Here is Phil Jones’s 2010 interview with the BBC after the Climategate email revelations. In this Q&A he listed the 3 warming periods since 1850 and added the 1975 to 2009 period as well. You’ll note that all the warming trends are within 0.01 C or no stat significant difference at all. That’s one hundredth of one degree C.

    So where is the impact after 1950? Below I’ve shown all of Jones’s HAD 4 trends and added the 1998 to 2016 trend as well. Here is Phil Jones’s ( head scientist) link and the WFTs data. Note the 1998 to 2016 trend is much lower.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Nev, with David and Ross ya can’t even lead them to water let alone expect them to drink any.

    Here’s something else that would improver their education enormously:

  • margaret says:

    Neville and SD do you have any other interests? For example, I’m a warmist who is non scientific but attempts to not take CAGW on board my bagatelle of concerns about my time on this planet. I went to see a French tenor who is currently being feted, in Melbourne because I’d heard him interviewed and in voice on radio. I’m not an opera buff but … If you can open up to the transporting power of any musical experience, an obsession with the denial of AGW may lessen and a gentler more wondrous you may emerge.

    • margaret says:

      … not the denial of AGW, that’s happening. the denial of its potential for long term harm after we have gone.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Marg, it must be wonderful to feel so detached from a trillion dollar, world-shattering “problem” you warmists have created and thrust upon us all and then go off to an opera party and cynically wonder why we are taking it seriously.

      It’s only because you don’t understand that this “CAGW problem” of the warmist’s own invention has the capacity to wreck the world’s economy and ecology that you can afford the luxury of excluding it from your “bagatelle of concerns”.

      You asked about my other interests, well one of them is twice daily logging native [awa feral] wildlife in my two neighbouring national parks, detailing that and reporting on it to various ecological associations. I have been doing that regularly for the last 26 years.

      I also have other monetary businesses and interests which I am involved in some of which include renewable energy.

      How about you?

      And BTW, I whistle while I work. Sometimes even “The Barber of Seville”.

  • Neville says:

    Margaret and Ross, I’m very interested in the con merchants who are telling the public lies about the mitigation of so called CAGW. Nobody on the planet believes in NATURAL climate change more than I do, because nearly all the PR studies attest to it. I even concede that there might be some AGW since 1950 although it is difficult to find in the data.
    I think Roy Spencer is correct when he says that ocean oscillations like the PDO, clouds, UHIE etc have a lot to do with changes in temp and climate.
    Ross until I’m booted off this blog I’ll continue to post links to PR studies because the MSM refuses to do so. BTW I have many interests that may surprise you, but I’ll finish this by including 2 more links. Here’s the PR Concordia Uni study AGAIN showing just 0.7C warming since 1800. See page 6 for OZ presumed to be blamed for 0.006 C of that warming over the last 216 years. Their total blame for warming is a little over 0.3 C per century. Just dreadful isn’t it?;

    Here’s one of the longest PR instrumental studies from Greenland that shows most of the warming is not forced by CAGW. Note too that Briffa and Phil Jones are part of this study. I hate to disappoint you by referring to PR studies and REAL DATA, but here it is. And remember Davy boy actually asked us for evidence to support our case. DUH.

  • Neville says:

    Davy boy PR is peer review(ed) as if you didn’t know. Btw it looks like Germany’s largest Solar company is at risk of bankruptcy. They may join those taxpayer funded parasites that have gone belly up recently in the US.

    Here’s an oldie but a goody just for Ross. So what caused the super rapid warming from the Younger Dryas in Greenland 11,500 years ago? Also shows up in the Cariaco basin in S America. Certainly not humans, must have been the crazy climate Gods. This is from US govt NOAA site just for you. Gee 10 C in just 10 years makes our puny warming from the LIA look like a super fizzer by comparison.

    • Ross says:

      I’ll give it a look, Neville. (sighhhhh)

    • Ross says:

      Oh okay, Neville. I stand corrected. That was an interesting article.
      10 000 years ago, Greenland warmed by 10 degrees Celsius in decade!!
      Got me beat. What do you think caused such a huge event in such a short time? As you say, it certainly couldn’t be human. A series of major vulcan events? I’m guessing here.
      Whatever it was, it would appear to be a completely different phenomenon to what we have been experiencing since the beginning of the Industrial Age. This DOES involve people. Or so the scientist say.
      ‘Citizen scientists’ tend to disagree .
      But again, mea culpa. That was an interesting post.

  • Neville says:

    Ross the simple answer is I don’t know what forcing( s) brought about the Younger Dryas cooling or the extreme recovery, but they do offer some possibilities. Who knows.

  • margaret says:

    I find that after two glasses of shiraz you guys are really all very delightful…

  • Neville says:

    In this video Lomborg explains why AGW should come last on a list of the world’s biggest problems. It is simply a bloody awful investment and we can make SFA difference to temp or climate etc by 2100. See 6 minutes 10 secs on video. Since this video he has looked at Paris COP 21 and found that these donkeys hope to waste 100 trillion $ by 2100 for PERHAPS 0.05 C to 0,17 C drop in temp.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    But you know where the money goes, don’t you, Neville?
    From the treasuries of the Western nations straight to the coffers of the obscenely rich, and amazingly secretive, international banks.
    What’s not to like?

  • Neville says:

    Bryan it almost beggars belief that we’ve become so stupid since Hansen’s Washington stunt in 1988. This 100 trillion $ mitigation fra-d is so easy to understand, yet we’ve carried this corruption and deception along for decades. And our stupid media have applied the gag.
    Dr Roy Spencer has just written a good article at his blog highlighting the clueless use of Solar energy. He covers most of our stupidity pursuing this idiocy and there are many links to back up his claims. It took Harry Markopolas nearly 10 years to expose the 55 billion $ Madoff Ponzi scheme fra-d and yet he understood it was a con after checking the DATA for 5 minutes. Why doesn’t some media organisation pursue this mitigation fra-d with a vengeance?
    Lomborg has tried for years but it never seems to grab the MSM headlines.
    Here is Dr Spencer’s article.

  • Neville says:

    Einstein was known for delivering some interesting quotes. He is supposed to have said that a definition of madness is to repeat the same experiment and expect a different result. He could’ve been describing the mitigation of so called CAGW since 1990.
    But in his book” Cool It” and the movie Lomborg at least offers some real solutions. If you look at his movie from about 1 hour 8 minutes 30 seconds , he shows how to reduce temps in the world’s largest cities, mainly caused by the UHI effect. He then goes on to show other practical ways to reduce SL problems and looks at the latest geo-engineering technology that could cool the planet.
    In fact he has a price tag of about 250 bn $ a year that his team claims could fix the world’s major problems. Including any future AGW.

  • David says:

    David’s Rule 3: Get a science degree. Just a thought.

    • JimboR says:

      Don Aitkin: “It is a tad or so more sensible than the bizarre interpretation of it given above.”

      Alas Don, if only that were true. Surround yourself by likeminded people for long enough and you convince yourself anything is “sensible”. Sometimes it helps to reflects on how outsiders view you.

      • Don Aitkin says:


        John Quiggin is a believer, and there’s not much I can do about it. He has been offered space here to say what he thinks and why he does so. But no, he smears from a distance, and has done so for years. With all due respect to your own views, I do think that a person has a better chance of discovering what I think and why I think it by reading on this site than by assuming that JQ is a fountain of knowledge.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Yes Don, I used to comment there in the past and he would never restrict my stuff but these days he has become a mindless believer who refuses to even consider the chances of natural variability.

          Most of my comments there are now banished.

          But it is interesting to read all their comments of absolute denial of the real world.

          Oh, wud some power the giftie gie us….

          • David says:

            Spang, I take my hat off to you. You have left quite an impression on Quiggin’s blog. Your rollicking style of “argument”, that we @ know only all too well , flummoxed commentariat, momentarily. Initially they wondered what to make of you, beast or fowl? But once they got the hang of you,…. picked up your line and length so to speak, they pasted your arguments to all corners of the ground.

            It was like watching a Christian being fed to the lions. Very entertaining 🙂


            made quite an impressityou have made quite an i

          • spangled drongo says:

            Green Davey, I would’ve thought you’d understand what happens when half your replies get deleted.

            But anyway…tell me where any of them answered my question that if current warming is only half of climate natural variability then where is the CAGW?

            But you’re right, when they can’t cope with the message they are good at attacking the messenger.

        • JimboR says:

          “John Quiggin is a believer”.

          It reads to me like he’s decided who to believe rather than what to believe, which is an approach I’ve always favoured myself, especially in fields outside my own. In my experience it’s people who have never been particularly expert at anything who undervalue expertise, preferring to rely on “common sense”.

          “I do think that a person has a better chance of discovering what I think and why I think it by reading on this site”

          Absolutely, although I predict 97% of them will agree with JQ’s conclusion (early comments coming in suggest they’re not persuaded by your arguments). As blog commenters go, they seem a pretty intelligent bunch, unlike some of the commenters at this site, but I admire your open-comments policy and am more than capable of applying my own filters.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Clive Hamilton is another who takes that line, as did Ross garnet. With respect to al three, I think this is a cop-out. The CAGW hypothesis is not at all beyond the capacities of these three to work it out for themselves.

            For me, with my own background in science policy and funding, it is very like what I used to do for a living, so to speak. I have now spent more than ten years on it as well.

            And I think you could do the work yourself, too.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Bloody Autocorrect. It was right the first time: ROSS GARNAUT.

          • JimboR says:

            “The CAGW hypothesis is not at all beyond the capacities of these three to work it out for themselves.”

            There you go again…. no respect for expertise. I can’t put it more succinctly than JQ did:

            “Given his background, you’d expect Aitkin to be aware of the years of training required to become an academic expert in any field, and the ease with which amateurs can get things badly wrong.”

            Don, have you ever been say in the top twenty people on the planet researching a field? If not, try to imagine yourself in that position and then consider the likelihood that you’ve been hoodwinked in the manner you propose.

            “science policy… it is very like what I used to do for a living”

            Yes… well… apparently you used to teach statistics for a living too. Science policy is a long way from science. There’s a saying in my field, although I’m sure it’s shared by many…. “those who can do, those who peak early move into management”. I think I’ve mentioned before, your essays are at their best when you stick to policy, but they invariably come off the rails when you get too near the science, as your reviewers over at JQ’s blog are pointing out as we speak.

  • Nga says:

    I doubt that even one of these self-appointed citizen scientists, nearly all of whom happen to be men in the twilight of their lives, would pass a three hour exam on the fundamental science and associated statistics involved in climate science. Every now and again, a bright outsider makes a discovery that overturns received wisdom. But this is very rare and only a very reckless person would bet on it in any particular instance.

    My policy is to accept as provisional fact (all facts in science are provisional) any long established general consensus in science. I also believe public policy should be informed by any such consensus. To my mind, this approach is the most prudent and conservative.

    I will be having back surgery later this year. It will be performed by a professional surgeon who is esteemed among his peers and the procedure will accord with the current state of medical knowledge. I shall not be tempted to seek out a “citizen surgeon” who plies his or trade on the internet.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Nga, your doubt might well apply to many of the so-called real climate scientists, for statistical know-how does not seem to be in great display there, as the IAC observed. Your medical analogy, like all of them in the field of CAGW, is misplaced. There are no climate surgeons playing their trade in our country.

      • David says:


        Why don’t you stump up to JQ’s blog and argue your case? I saw that you did post a couple of comments, but then with the first whiff of grapeshot and you have retreated to the security of your own blog. From the looks of it, seems like there would be plenty of commentators who would only be too be willing to provide you with some feedback.

        • Don Aitkin says:


          I don’t visit many other blogs,and wouldn’t have known about Quiggins’s smear on me had you not brought the link here. All I did there was to suggest that if people want to find to what I think this is right place, not what Quiggin thinks I think. He seemed surprised that I thought he had misrepresented me, which he had, so I showed him an example. He partly corrected what he had said, and I have suggested he get rid of the whole section.

          There is abundant evidence on this website, especially in the Perspective section, about my views on ‘climate change’. I am not a caped crusader, just a former academic and adviser to governments who thinks this issue has been badly handed from the very beginning. Some of my pieces are picked up elsewhere, but i don’t set out to have my point of view circulated around the Internet or the press. Life is too short, and this is not the only issue that interests me.

          • JimboR says:

            “I don’t visit many other blogs”

            Really? I would have characterised your climate change essays as a Reader’s Digest of other blogs. But given your stated position on other blogs, why then do you expect climate scientists to visit your blog and engage with you here? I refer you back to our exchange after this essay:

            It seems JQ’s blog has just given you a perfect opportunity to do some of that engagement you were pining for in that essay. At the very least, some of his contributors appear to be pointing out factual errors in your essays which you may wish to check before you turn them into an e-book.

          • Don Aitkin says:


            I’ll look at the Quiggins comments tonight and see whether what you see warrants a further visit from me (I’m travelling). I didn’t see any obvious climate scientists when I first went there. I subscribe to two websites, WUWT and Climate etc. I visit other blogs when there is an interesting link to one of them. I have in fact debated climate scientists in public, and few turn up on my website. That is true even for Judith Curry, but she occasionally draws one or to in. As I’ve explained before, since climate scientists of the orthodoxy have the authority, they rarely see any need to debate with anyone.

          • Don Aitkin says:


            I went back to the Quiggins site, and read the 100 comments that were there. I couldn’t find one that pointed out my factual errors. There was a lot of dismissal and abuse early on, then silence, really. One long rambling critique but whether of me or someone else I couldn’t work out. Quiggins keeps on inventing things i am supposed to have said. A lot of the comments weren’t about me at all.. One suggested I must be a liar… One asks do I know what the CC means in IPCC, oh dear.

            Do you really think that this level and style of comment is helpful or useful?

          • JimboR says:

            149 comments last count, and still rolling in. You’re certainly getting “engagement” over there. Any PR is good PR I guess. I can’t claim to have read them all, but one of the early critiques of your work there made the claim that there’s nothing original here in your essays, but rather they’re just a rehash of others’ thoughts on the topic. I’m curious as to your thoughts on that criticism. Do you believe you’ve made some some original discoveries in the field, or do you see your essays more as a summary of stuff you’ve read on the topic?

            “I have in fact debated climate scientists in public”

            I think last time we went down that path it turned out that you’d each presented your pre-written spiels at the same gathering. I suspect a real debate on a specific aspect of climate change, with an expert researcher on that aspect would be an embarrassingly ill-matched competition.

          • Don Aitkin says:


            Dear heaven, are you telling me that the next 49 are actually better than the abusive and irrelevant first hundred? I suppose I ought to look.

            Incidentally, you didn’t tell me which of the first hundred showed a factual error on my part. I couldn’t find one.

            And with respect to Karoly, yes, we presented statements and were not able to quiz each other afterwards, though others did of each of us. But in the second case, Glikson and I were able to question each other’s position. He was not able to deal with my objections to his statement, but kept repeating that the situation was much worse than I thought. Karoly likewise said that he agreed with a lot of what i said, but didn’t say what that was, or what he didn’t agree with.

            You need to remember that I have been dealing with scientists’ requests for money for a long time. I am able to ask questions, and sort out wheat from chaff.

          • JimboR says:

            “are you telling me that the next 49 are actually better than the abusive and irrelevant first hundred?”

            I haven’t as yet read them all, so can’t comment.

            “Incidentally, you didn’t tell me which of the first hundred showed a factual error on my part.”

            As I skimmed them I thought several made sense to me, but I don’t plan arguing their case for them here. You of course can take it up with them, or ignore them. It’s your reputation at stake and so long as you are comfortable with the quality of your work that’s all that really matters.

            I note though that you “expect” climate scientists to rock up here and defend your counter-arguments to their work and express disappointment when they don’t (see my essay link earlier). I suspect they feel equally comfortable that nothing you’ve written here puts a dent in their arguments. I think we’ve both always agreed on your “Why would they” assertion, we just differ on the reasons why they wouldn’t.

          • JimboR says:

            Hopefully not quite as embarrassing as our new senator from Qld:


            Although Don, I seem to recall you do share his data manipulation concerns right? Perhaps you both hang out at the same blog sites?

          • JimboR says:

            OK, I’m up to date over at JQ’s site now (192 comments at time of writing). I’d say some are high quality and quite convincing, but that might just be my cognitive bias kicking in. I notice JQ has you thrown you out a challenge Don.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Jimbo, I think my invitation to JQ has priority — that he set out what he ‘believes’ about ‘climate change’ and the basis for that belief.

            I went back to the JQ site because you said there were posts which showed factual errors on my part Now you say you just skimmed… Come on, a factual error should stand out. You are not reliable, Jimbo.

            I have a post tomorrow that is the result of the JQ attack and smear. I think that will do for now. I do have my own website to manage.

            Oh, I have not expected climate scientist to come here, though it would be nice if they did. As I say in tomorrow’s piece, those who have the authority see no need to argue with anyone. It seemed to me that most of those who commented on the JQ site were believers, and they don’t argue either.

            As someone in the USA said somewhere, ‘in God we trust, the rest bring data’. I like data.

          • JimboR says:

            Sorry to disappoint Don, but my decision to retreat to vagueness was a deliberate one. I’ve got no interest in ending up an intermediary between their arguments over there and your blog here, which seemed the inevitable destination if I nominated any posts there as examples of your factual errors. I can see several and you can see none, which just reaffirms my decision. We’ve been down that path before and it always ends the same futile way….

            “When I wrote X, I actually meant insert-crabwalk-here. If you’d read my essays A, B and C, you would have known that”.

            Life’s too short.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Jimbo, you are getting worse and worse. Now you could show me factual errors, but you won’t because doing so would lead nowhere. For heaven’s sake!

          • JimboR says:

            Nice summary. Why spend a week arguing over whether the sky is blue? You’ll jump around all over the place and land on “I never said the sky wasn’t blue, my statement was much more nuanced than that”. I don’t believe for a minute you missed the replies I had in mind, but rather you dismissed them. You’ve reviewed the comments and found them wanting, so no further action required. It’s your reputation on the line so of course you have final say in what you publish.

            “since climate scientists of the orthodoxy have the authority, they rarely see any need to debate with anyone.”

            Science doesn’t respect authority, it respects research, and they’re unlikely to find any of that here. Don, can you point to a single original idea or discovery you’ve made in the field?

          • JimboR says:

            “As someone in the USA said somewhere, ‘in God we trust, the rest bring data’. I like data.”

            And I prefer science.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            What sort of science is it that is not based on data? You are making a distinction without a difference, as you must know. It’s cheapskate stuff, worthy of an early first year tutorial class only.

          • JimboR says:

            Science is a lot more than just data, it’s also what you do with that data, and that’s invariably where you come off the rails:

            “I just shake my head. What are these guys trying to achieve, and why are they trying to achieve it?”

            I think you’d benefit from less head shaking and a lot more study. I was about to go into more detail of the distinctions between science and data, but I see someone has done a pretty good job over at JQ’s site, where review of your work continues without you. Perhaps there’s more space over there than you realised.

            Alas, that’s my 3 posts for the day, so if you want to pursue this angle further, there’s an excellent comment over on JQ’s site directed at you on just this topic.

    • chrisl says:

      Nga Your analogy does not work because climate science is not a hard science. It has swung from global cooling to global warming and now the all encompassing climate change. Climate science is riding on the back of hard science. If you don’t believe in climate science you must be anti-science. Well no
      And medicine is literally a story of experiment of trial and error over hundreds of years to reach our present state of knowledge’. Good luck with your back operation

    • spangled drongo says:

      Good luck with your back surgery, Nga, but bear this in mind:

      When I had a stomach ulcer doctors were all convinced that it was a physiological illness but these Aussie blokes found it was something else entirely.

      And back doctors are notoriously over rated.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Yes, I too had a difficult and dangerous operation to deal with my duodenal problem, which today would be the work of a pill.

  • chrisl says:

    Why is it that economists can have a different theory every day of the week,predict things that never come true, look at the same data and come up with a different analysis and everything is just fine
    Yet climate science may have only one theory!
    Fundamentally they are both about modelling , statistics and prediction.

    • David says:

      Yes except economics is trying to model human behavior, with all its personal agendas, shifting allegiances and strategies. Climate science only has to model a relationship between CO2 and temperature. Climate science is fundamentally less complex than economics.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Oh dear, you have such a lot of reading to do! Start with WG1 of AR5 — and that’s just from the orthodox side. You must have the solution for the cloud problem, too, f you think modelling CO2 is all there is.

        • David says:

          True, my last sentence was a bit a of throw away line. I am not saying that, Climate science is easy or resolved. I am sure there are as yet many unexplained variables that could be added to the climate model.
          But I would argue that the humanities do have an extra level of complexity that the physical sciences do not have contend with because people learn and adapt from their experiences. People who study the humanities, at some level they need to incorporate human behavior into their model. To use Chrisel, example, people will respond differently to a banking crash in 1929 to one in 2006.

          The science itself, behind climate change is fairly well understood by 97% of published papers. A lot better understood than say String Theory, for example. The only reason there is any debate at all, is because the conclusion asks people to change their behavior. And that is where all the contention is derived.

          PS, you and Spang copped a pasting over at JQ’s site.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            With respect to your last other throwaway line in the PS, see my response to Jimbo above.

          • spangled drongo says:

            “PS, you and Spang copped a pasting over at JQ’s site.”

            Funny you should claim that, Davey, when they couldn’t answer any of my questions.

            And, as is usual with brainwashed ignorant alarmists, simply shoot the messenger.

            But maybe you can?

  • Nga says:

    Well, Don, I don’t see how you are any different from the other foot soldiers in the vast army of old men on the internet who wage war against scientific and medical orthodoxies on a wide range of subjects. Now that I have more carefully perused your blog, I see no evidence that you have done anything other than recycle memes from other climate change skeptics. I can’t see any novel and insightful contribution of your own nor any evidence of a sophisticated understanding of the issue. So let me ask you this question and please answer it honestly: if you were to sit a three hour exam on the fundamental science and statistics pertaining to climate science, would you pass?

    Just for the record, I consider myself a Skeptic and as such I occasionally engage in dialogue with those who dismiss mainstream science on matters such as vaccinations, fluoridated water, climate change, biotechnology and so on. I am not a scientist and I do not pretend to be one.

    • spangled drongo says:

      “Just for the record, I consider myself a Skeptic”

      Yes, Nga, you sound like a John Cook “Skeptic”.

      Or a Richard Muller “Skeptic”

      I’m sure, like all good “Skeptics”, you are familiar with them.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Nga, I don’t do hypotheticals of the kind you propose. Who would set the exam, who would mark it, would the questions be open-ended or forced-choice, what would the pass mark be? If you read my stuff seriously (go to the Perspective series) you will see that I must know something about it all. I can be wrong, too. But you don’t show why you think I am wrong, other than that you are a wise and sceptical person. Ok. Fine. I am not trying to persuade you.

      But if you want to persuade me, you need to do what I have done, and go to the data and the argument, and come up with a counter view. I take all such attempts seriously.

      • Nga says:

        Thanks, Don. I do not wish to persuade you. I have in the past tried persuading denialists such as anti-vaxxers, anti-biotechnology activists and and AGW skeptics to change their minds but I never had any success and as far as I could tell, no one else was more successful than myself! It is also worth noting that there is a growing body of literature on anti-science denialism and the evidence suggests that denialists are impervious to reasoned argument and evidence. Moreover, most denialists make demands on there interlocutors that can never be met, such as “proof”, which is a big problem since science is much better at disproving things than proving things.

        May I ask what it would take for you to change your mind and accept that AGW is a serious issue that demands a serious policy response?

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Nga, you might with profit read my essay on how not to argue (

          You start with a self-description as being wise and sceptical, and then call me a denialist! That’s classic ad hominem, and you lose my respect at once. I can accept that you are wise and sceptical. What I want to know is, how do you deal with the objections I raise in 16 data-based essays? Where is your sceptical bent with respect to temperature data, sea-level rises, computer modelling, uncertainty, and all the rest?

          Don’t preach, argue, and with evidence to back up your position!

          • Nga says:

            I apologise for offending you, Don. I meant denialist as a descriptive rather than pejorative term. I failed in not making this clear. I will look more closely at some, or if time permits, all of your 16 data based essays, however I think arguing the nuts and bolts of complex science is generally an unfructuous endeavour when the interlocutors lack the training, skills and knowledge base of a professional scientist. Such discussions are in almost every instance little more than the blind leading the blind.

        • JimboR says:

          “what it would take for you to change your mind and accept that AGW is a serious issue that demands a serious policy response?”

          I think that’s actually an excellent question Nga, and look forward to Don’s answer myself. Although I suspect it might be a bit like asking a person of faith “What will it take to make you abandon your faith?”, in which case I think the only possible answer is “Nothing could do that”. You just need to have faith… either in God, the planet, or future generations being able to sort it out in the end…. preferably without too many species becoming extinct along the way.

        • spangled drongo says:

          “May I ask what it would take for you to change your mind and accept that AGW is a serious issue that demands a serious policy response?”

          Nga, it gets down to who is in denial here.

          When warmists such as yourself [please don’t deny it] get alarmed because the earth has warmed less than 1.0c since the end of the little ice age [which was the coldest extended period in civilisation and the end of which also corresponded with the beginning of the industrial revolution which created enormous development in the middle of which most recording thermometers are housed] and this warming is about 0.4c per century, this represents, at most, only a tiny amount of warming, possibly in the vicinity of 0.1c, that can currently be blamed on ACO2.

          Actual natural climate variability is far greater than this 0.4c per century which poses the possibility that our emissions could just as easily be causing cooling.

          Climate scientists have never been able to actually quantify AGW except through GCMs which have been shown to be at least 95% wrong and must really all be wrong when they understand so little of the forcings and feedbacks of world climate.

          When climate science is demonstrably so ignorant on the subject of AGW, how can it currently be considered a “serious issue”?

          It is just as likely to prove itself to be a net benefit.

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