Another report on climate communication

The climate change industry appears to remain convinced that there is nothing wrong with climate science, but there is a problem with “climate science communication”. Or at least this is the line they are trying to maintain.

There was the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on climate communication a couple of months back, to which the government responded yesterday.

Today sees the launch of the latest blockbuster in the field, Time for Change? Climate Science Reconsidered. It’s a glossy 156-page tome written by a team of scientists and social scientists mostly from UCL, headed by Chris Rapley, author of “Time to Raft Up“. I wrote to Rapley following that article, explaining his prejudices, false assumptions and lack of self-awareness, but he does not seem to have improved his understanding very much since then.

The main conclusions of the new report are

  • Climate scientists are not well prepared to explain their work to the public
  • A meta-narrative is required (not sure what that means)
  • Policy is complicated, many factors play a role, not just science
  • Values – what sort of world we want – are important
  • New forum for active discussion needed
  • A professional body for climate science should be set up

Despite the talk of ‘change’ and ‘new’, there doesn’t seem to be much new here.

Chapter 1 tries to deal with the complex science/policy interface, citing Hulme, Pielke, but this is an impossible question to deal with.

Chapter 2 is on how people think, cognition, and values, referring to Dan Kahan and others. There is an interesting discussion of alarmism, an aspect of the report picked up by The Times, with a frank statement that this has contributed to loss of trust.

The remaining chapters deal with communication and blogs,  telling stories,  public opinion, and their proposal to set up yet another organisation and forum for public discussion. It ends with a recognition of the need for self-reflection and humility, but as with the authors of the paper discussed in the previous post, it does not appreciate their own groupthink problem and the need to involve and listen to their critics.

Ultimately, the failure of the document is that it does not seem to realise that this focus on presentation and communication will be seen as spin and propaganda.

 Bishop Hill blog – comments on the bias, the navel-gazing and the dullness of the conclusions.

Carbon Brief – says “Academics urge scientists to do more to engage the public on climate change”.

Update 25 June:

Climate scientists do not seem very impressed by the report. They don’t like the jargon or the dictatorial tone.

The misfiring of the report and the apparent failure to anticipate this illustrates again the lack of self-awareness of the authors.

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31 thoughts on “Another report on climate communication

  1. My brief reading is that the chapter on cognitive science is intended to undermine the capacities of individuals, especially the layperson. (We’ve seen lots of this from cog-scis venturing into climate before). Undermining the individual consequently leads to an attack on ‘rationalism’ and debate — the authors prefer what they call ‘dialogue’, which they believe is less ‘polarising’.

    This helps to explain what the authors have in mind in their call for a new ‘social contract’, and what the extent of ‘critical self-reflection’ and ‘humility’ mean.

    The failure of the existing climate ‘metanarrative’ is an odd point from which to start taking apart the individual to look for reasons for communication failure. It shows that the authors have not examined their own motivations — the humility and self reflection that they urge for others.

  2. All these need to do is:
    1. Admit their mistakes, errors and failed predictions
    2. Take action against any who intentionally communicate mistakes, errors or bogus unsubstantiated assertions
    3. Stop trying to communicate their subject to the public, and instead let the public see they are properly debating the subject themselves.
    4. When they do advise government – to do so with the utmost caution – and stop using idiotic phrases like “unequivocal” or “95%” confidence when that has no scientific basis at all.

    The day I see someone within academia tearing apart some sub-standard paper and forcing a retraction will be the day I trust that subject.

  3. Ben Pile: “My brief reading is that the chapter on cognitive science is intended to undermine the capacities of individuals, especially the layperson.”

    I see this as part of a power struggle between those with science degrees in academia and those with science degrees outside.

    In the past, academia was completely in charge of “science” (indeed most people think science means “the work of academic”. This group had total control over what the public was told about science how it was discussed, what was discussed who was trusted (i.e. them).

    Then along came the internet – and suddenly anyone with an interest in science could start blogging. Worse – “anyone” became far more interesting to Jo Public that the dull communications from dry academics.

    And within the last decade, we’ve seen the “mainstream” on climate move from journalists with no science qualification just parroting the work of academics, to very highly qualified bloggers not only publishing, not even just critiquing the work of academics, but often totally ridiculing and contradicting them.

    So when these guys say “we must communicate better” — what they actually mean is “we must return to the good old days when compliant journalists just printed what we told them to print”.

    And so this is why the academics spend so much time as Ben says: “undermin[ing] the capacities of individuals, especially the layperson.”

    The academics are trying to undermine bloggers as the mainstream news source on climate.

    What they just can’t get their head around, is the fact that unless someone uninvents the internet or bans blogging – then there will never be a return to the good old days of “communicate to the public” where academics could just have journalists parroting their work.

  4. I love this:

    A climate science ‘meta-narrative’ is required that delivers the results of climate science in a manner that is accurate, engaging, coherent, relevant, and which – by making clear the limits of certainty and knowledge – is robust against new discoveries and unfolding events. Multiple narrative threads, that are consistent and harmonious with each other, are necessary both to reflect the complex nature of the climate science, and to connect with audiences with different states of knowledge, interests, values and needs.

    Sounds like he’s advising making a movie script. Realistically, now do the get all individual climate scientists to agree to a ‘meta-narrative’ that involves ‘multiple narrative threads’ and so on?

  5. Bishop Hill quotes

    A climate science ‘meta-narrative’ is required that…….is robust against new discoveries and unfolding events.

    In Popper’s terms, communication is about deliberately protecting “climate science” against falsification. In Kuhn’s terms, “climate science” is over-due for a scientific revolution.

  6. The “meta-narrative”-type language is often found in articles and speeches to do with the UN and sustainability, in the sense of a grand, unifying vision that encorporates all the various “narrative threads” to do with resources, economic growth and social change that activists and bureaucrats have been promoting at least since 1972.

    Here’s a fairly typical article which has some good examples of this sort of stuff:
    http://www.eenews.net/special_reports/global_climate_debate/stories/1059964684

    Note the language – phrases like “grand vision”, “big-picture vision”, “the vision thing”, “global vision for sustainability”.

    What Chris Rapley seems to be angling for, I think, is climate science to be a narrative thread amongst others in this wider context – possible related threads might be “planetary limits”, “limits to growth”, “social justice”, “sustainability” of course, “green economy” and probably many others that escape me at the moment.

    Whenever a meta-narrative is evoked, I suppose the question to be asked is: what end-purpose do the narrators have? To pursue Lucia’s movie script analogy, what is the audience meant to be feeling when they emerge from the cinema? What values will have been imparted to them?

    And to that end, what will have been edited, as it were, from the final cut?

  7. Behind all the mind-numbingly incoherent waffle and jargon, it seems to me that the wishes of the authors are clear: they want climate scientists ‘trained’ to become effective spokesmen and women for the climate cause and in turn for the greater good of society which is imperiled by looming environmental catastrophe:

    “Urgent and unprecedented environmental
    and social changes challenge scientists to define
    a new social contract. This contract represents
    a commitment on the part of all scientists to
    devote their energies and talents to the most
    pressing problems of the day in proportion to their
    importance, in exchange for public funding.”

    Cliscis should be subject to a ‘contract’ which involves their effectively communicating the urgency of the ‘problem’ in exchange for funding. To boot the report recommends the establishment of a ‘professional body’ of climate scientists whose leadership will oversee their faltering attempts to engage in the ‘meta- narrative’ – and presumably kick them out if they do not come up to scratch.

    What I find very disturbing is the assault upon pure science research itself; 1. by insisting that cli-scis become advocates and team policy communicators, and 2. by suggesting that scientific research should not be allowed to interfere too much with the formation of policy:

    “Efforts to understand the climate system better are important,
    but they should not be allowed to divert attention and effort from
    decision-making and policy formulation.”

    Similarly, the demand that climate science as communicated via the ‘meta-narrative’ should be ‘robust against new discoveries’.

  8. Thanks for all the interesting comments.

    On twitter John Kennedy notes that the text on the web page has changed and is now more readable (though so far the printed report hasn’t changed). In particular the much-ridiculed term “meta-narrative” has been dropped.

    Old version:
    “There is a need for an operational means for the general public and climate scientists to engage in dialogue, and for the provision of a coherent ‘meta-narrative’ of climate science that conveys the big picture and provides the context for discussion of the results, their uncertainties and their implications. ”

    New version:
    “There is a need for the general public and climate scientists to engage in constructive dialogue, and for climate scientists to convey a big picture that provides a context for the discussion of new scientific results and their consequences. The authentic and personal voice of climate scientists in this process is essential for the general public to establish trust in the findings of climate science.”

  9. Hi Ben: please be careful to assume that you know the intentions for why we wrote Chapter 2: what you mentioned (“undermining individuals”) is certainly not one of them. I see it more as empowering individuals to have more constructive interactions and bridge the gap of “us” vs “them” thinking by showing what we have in common. Happy to have this discussion in the pub over a pint of beer if you’re passing through London some time.

    Hi Jaime: there is no assault on pure science research in our report – just a call for scientists and public to be clear on what roles scientists can and do play at times. On one side, climate scientists are sometimes asked (by media, public and decision makers) to come up with or give their opinions about policy solutions. When they respond to that, they step out of their role of pure scientist – and should be aware when they are doing that, and what role they are taking on then. On the other hand, they are also human beings who have opinions and political ideologies outside of their pure science research. So the chapter on the science/policy interface aims to do 2 things: make scientists aware of the different roles they do/can take – and also make sure that the science community as a whole (not every individual scientist) fulfills the roles that society/decision makers expect from them. If the report doesn’t answer all your questions, then please do read Roger Pielke’s book on the subject, which you may find an interesting read.

  10. Kris, thanks for joining the debate – sorry, the dialogue.

    I think Ben is objecting to, for example, the key point at the start of chapter 2 that says “Disagreement within climate discourse has more to do with differences in values and world-views, and by our propensity for social evaluations than it is about scientific facts”. This attitude reduces the role of the individual because it implies that she is a slave to her worldview and the “values of ones peer group” and is therefore incapable of rational argument. This is simply wrong as far as many of us here are concerned. We did not formulate our views by following what our peer group told us; on the contrary, most of us either don’t have a tribe that we belong to, or actually went against our peer group (and subsequently met up with other like-minded individuals via the internet).

  11. Kris, my argument elsewhere is that the authors haven’t examined their own motivations. I have been arguing for a *long* time that the arguments from proponents of climate policy lack ‘critical self-reflection’, and nowhere is this better epitomised than in the work of researchers from cog-sci venturing into the climate debate. I was careful to explain the problem: that the conception of the individual explains the later eschewing of ‘rationalism’, and of ‘debate’. The point being here that this is obvious when one takes a historical view of the development of claims about the environment (especially climate change) and the attempt to use the environment as a basis for politics — ‘environmentalism’, broadly speaking. That is an approach which is absent — remarkable given its emphasis on ‘rewriting the social contract’ (who by, who for?) — from the paper, and which explains the authors’ failure to develop perspective on themselves and their hostility to debate, and if I may extend the point, democracy. Suffice it to say, here, for now, that I don’t think cog science helps to explain how or why people see the same evidence differently, and may rather be a growing obstacle to understanding or working through such differences, premature science being politically expedient. This, for instance — “The societal division over climate change started from differences in
    values and moral intuitions generated by the suggested solutions for and
    policy implications of climate change” — gets the climate debate upside-down, back-to-front, and inside-out, but has consequences for the debate. I discuss this in depth at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/05/trust-me-i-speak-for-science.html and at length at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/06/why-do-environmentalists-hate-liberty.html

    I live in London and am happy to discuss it in more depth over a pint if Paul can share our email addresses, or you can find me through my blog.

  12. Hi Kris, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    We come at this from two totally different standpoints, I’m afraid. You wish to improve the public understanding and appreciation of ‘climate science’ by seeking to engage ‘climate scientists’ in a collective effort to inform the public via a policy-driven meta-narrative in which results/data/knowledge play only a part apparently and are subjugated to the more pressing concern of insuring the environment against a significant risk, ergo your definition of climate science seems to be almost exclusively AGW research and ‘climate scientists’ those people actively engaged in AGW research. My – and others’ – interpretation of what climate science should be is somewhat wider, i.e. the investigation of past and present climate change in the context of natural causes with an assumption that recent (post industrial revolution) climate changes may have an anthropogenic component but which, in the light of recent findings and observations, looks to be increasingly insignificant when compared to natural fluctuations.

    Your report seems not to appreciate the fact that there are many scientists working in climate, meteorology and related fields who do not consider that AGW is the urgent societal problem (significant risk) which you inherently assume it to be. The major problem with climate science communication is the public perception (not at all unreasonable and in fact scientifically rather justified) that establishment ‘climate science’ (generously funded AGW research) has simply got it wrong. Your report on the other hand seems to feel that the failure to convince a sceptical public of the ‘reality’ of climate change may be partly the fault of AGW convinced climate scientists who have not effectively communicated their research and advocated effectively enough the measures which are needed to avert catastrophe in light of that research. So any attempt by yourself and others to try and ‘improve’ the communication of a message which many perceive to be plain wrong is doomed to failure unless it concentrates almost entirely upon allowing AGW convinced scientists to continue their research unhindered by the demands of a ‘social contract’ and communicate the results of that research directly and coherently, to a sceptical public. Just as important, to allow for the views of AGW unconvinced researchers to be communicated to the public as an essential element of this narrative. All else, in my opinion, is a needless distraction which serves only the interests of those who desire – for whatever reasons – to promote the climate alarmist message.

  13. I appreciate that your motivation for producing this report is partly the perceived failure of the technocratic linear model of policy formulation which basically sees scientists as engaging in pure research to produce the ‘facts’ upon which policy makers act. For various reasons, this model, in the light of so called ‘post normal science’, tailored to meet the perceived modern needs of sustainability, environmentalism and society faced with uber complex issues that seemingly do not reduce easily to simplistic scientific solutions, is no longer preferred. Alas, i am a traditionalist and probably a large section of society as a whole and an even greater proportion of pure science educated sceptics, are too. We are not going to be easily converted to this revolutionary and all-inclusive new ‘vision’ of science and society.

    More to the point, I think Nature herself gazes unblinkingly at such a human-contrived attempt to assimilate her workings into a ‘new and improved’ sphere of human knowledge. Whereas previously she might have been appreciative of the efforts of scientists to understand what made her tick and thereby adapt human society to take advantage of this knowledge, she might now be more than a little cynical of man’s endeavour to partake piecemeal of the secrets which she has revealed and is yet to reveal in order to promulgate a ‘sustainable society’ based upon the supposed aim of protecting her interests, which, in reality, do not need protecting. Rather, it is man that overwhelmingly needs protecting from Mother nature and that can only be achieved by much greater understanding I feel, especially in the area of climate science.

  14. Some may recall the paper by Jonathan Rowson – “A New Agenda on Climate Change, Facing Up to Stealth Denial and Winding Down on Fossil Fuels” – published in December last by the RSA: http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1536844/RSA_climate_change_report_03_14.pdf

    Although coming from a different background from Professor Rapley (Rowson is a social scientist), his paper has much in common with “Time for Change?” – unsurprisingly perhaps as Rapley was one of those providing advice to Rowson. For example, it quotes approvingly from Rapley’s “Time to Raft Up”:

    ‘The climate-dismissive think tanks and organisations have been effective because they have understood and put into practice the insights of social science. They deliver simple messages that are crafted to agree with specific value sets and world views.’

    The paper makes much of the need to change people’s behaviour, but to do so by understanding their values – especially their “latent values”. In other words, patronising stuff that assumes that those who are engaged in what he sees as inappropriate behaviour are, as Paul puts it, slaves to their values and incapable of rational argument.

    Rowson’s paper is also keen on better communication – getting away from “do you believe in climate change?” to “what do you think we should do about climate change?”. He says, “We need this conversation to be led by people we admire and trust, including celebrities and local leaders”. There’s a need, he says, to “create ‘carbon conversations’ throughout the country”. He concludes by assuring his readers that his suggestions “should be viewed as provocations rather than tablets of stone, and are designed to provoke debate”. However, although I wrote to him in early March attaching a detailed critique of his paper and he replied that “this is the kind of level of debate I was looking for”, I’m still awaiting his promised response.

    No wonder “climate communication” is encountering problems.

  15. Hi all, few remarks here: if with “rationality” you mean the capacity to think independently, critically, and analytically then obviously we are not saying in Chapter 2 that people are not capable of that – rather the opposite. The question though is whether that’s enough? To clarify: I see myself as an independent and analytic thinker. So if we disagree about things, and both of us value ourselves as critical/independent/rational thinkers – then how does that help us forward with resolving or explaining our disagreement?

    I do believe that neuro/psy hold valuable insights for self-reflection – as opposed to using them as a tool to explain people you disagree with. That’s how I try to use it myself and If you read the report you will hopefully see that that is how we advocate its use towards the climate science community.

    Values: do you feel that it would be demeaning if it was really so that they coloured how we look at the world? Wouldn’t that just be a part of our humanity? For instance, as Jonathan Haidt points out in his book “The Righteous Mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion”, a concept like “liberty” can have multiple meanings (e.g., freedom of government interference or freedom of oppression by powerful’/rich). Different people may value these different conceptions of liberty differently.and I’m quite doubtful that we could ever find a rational foundation that would give us the one and only “correct” valuation that all would agree with.

  16. Hi all, if with “rationality” you mean the capacity to think independently, critically, and analytically then obviously we are not saying in Chapter 2 that people are not capable of that – rather the opposite. The question though is whether that’s enough? To clarify: I see myself as an independent and analytic thinker. So if we disagree about things, and both of us value ourselves as critical/independent/rational thinkers – then how does that help us forward with resolving or explaining our disagreement?

    I do believe that neuro/psy hold valuable insights for self-reflection – as opposed to using them as a tool to explain people you disagree with. The former is how I try to use it myself and If you read the report you will hopefully see that that is how we advocate its use towards the climate science community.

    Values: do you feel that it would be demeaning if it was really so that they influence how we see the world? Wouldn’t that just be a part of our humanity? For instance, as Jonathan Haidt points out in his book “The Righteous Mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion”, a concept like “liberty” can have multiple meanings (e.g., “freedom of government interference” or “freedom of oppression by powerful’/rich”). Different people may value these different conceptions of liberty differently.and I’m quite doubtful that we could ever find a rational argument that would give us the one and only “correct” valuation that all would agree with.

    Ben, happy to meet – will try before my holiday mid July but if not may be only in August. Will look at your blog.

  17. So if we disagree about things, and both of us value ourselves as critical/independent/rational thinkers – then how does that help us forward with resolving or explaining our disagreement?

    We don’t have to resolve our differences. We should behave civilly about them.

    Conservatives and liberals have opposing political views. Their parties have elections, and abide by the results. The loser strives to put a better case forward next time. They evaluate their policies and change them in light of circumstances.

    Greens have opposing views to most people. The Greens lose elections, time and again, but far too often they don’t abide by the result. They get their desired aims by back-door methods (NGO pressure, inter-governmental organisations, court cases, frank lies in some cases).

    They fret endlessly about how the message needs to be better delivered, but they don’t consider that their policies might actually not meet the needs of anyone very much. And that is why, politically, they remain in the sidelines.

    Of course there are Green parties with a small measure of political power — Germany and New Zealand, for example. In those cases the Green politicians are capable of the sort of compromise that Greenpeace, for example, isn’t. They should be the models of “getting the message across”. Working through the system, and abiding by the results.

  18. Reply to Mooloo (and also to some points made by Jaime)

    Civility: absolutely agree.

    But I think that societal disagreements about issues rooted in science can not be managed through elections and party politics only.

    As far as I know, most climate scientists are not members of the Green party, and most Greens are not climate scientists – so it feels like your reply is answering a question about the place of activism in democracy rather than what the report aims for in Chapter 1: to clarify the science-policy interface.

    Even in the absence of a Green party or environmental NGOs will there be a need for an interface between science and policy (or, as someone said at the launch of the report: the “world of knowledge” and the “world of choice”).

    Scientists (in many different areas) are already called by decision makers and public to provide knowledge, and often they are asked questions that take them out of the world of pure knowledge (or the tiny little corner which is their area of expertise) into the world of choice, or (as human beings with an opinion) are keen to put opinions about choice forward themselves.

    What we call for with the report is to make the science/policy process more clear/deliberate to all parties involved (scientists, decision makers and public): what roles do scientists undertake as scientists and what roles do they undertake as private citizens? We are not saying anything particularly new or surprising here, but are pulling research together from existing sources. As said before, Roger Pielke’s book is a good start, and this is independent of what you believe to be right or wrong in the climate change debate.

    One specific example is the policy committee about the long-term future of the Thames Barrier, which needs input from many different sources: climate scientists need to give projections for sea-level changes, engineers need to inform decision makers on engineering solutions and biologists and conservationists need to inform on consequences of different options for the ecology of the river. All that knowledge needs to go into the continued decision making process that determines if, when and where a new Thames Barrier will need to be build (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thames-estuary-2100-te2100).

  19. Take a look at Chris Rapley twitter feed. Most of it attacking sceptics…. should we believe that he wants to include them…

  20. I asked Dr Adam Corner.. psychologist interested in communucation and scepticism. Whether he had personally reflected on his own motivations worldview, etc.. with some example of his writings..
    he accused me of smearing him.

    given that he was speaking a publicly about motivations and ideologies of conservatives. I thought it entirely approriate to ask him a green party candidate abd active ckimate activist (FoE, transition, stop climate Chaos & COIN) about how he was influenced

  21. Kris

    But I think that societal disagreements about issues rooted in science can not be managed through elections and party politics only.

    Why is”the environment” privileged this way? Economics isn’t. Health policy isn’t.

    Politics is how societal disagreements are managed in a democracy. The environment doesn’t get a free pass.

    The points you make about scientists in general are sound. But when it comes to climate science there is a strong tendency to put the policy cart before the science horse.

    The difference is that no-one much wants the Thames to flood, so disagreement is about money and means. No-one wants disease to spread, so argument is about methods, not values.

    “The environment” is, however, a much disputed arena, where people are prone to assuming that everyone agrees with their sense of values, when clearly they don’t. Too many climate scientists are happy to push policies directly from their science, and are not held to task about it. Whereas activist doctors, for example, are regarded as activists first and doctors second, the likes of Micheal Mann are adamant that they are scientists and that they are only pushing the science.

  22. Mooloo, that sentence didn’t put “environment” into any type of privileged position nor did it suggest that the environment gets a free pass from democratic decision making – the report consistently makes the opposite point.

    I agree with your remark that people assume too easily that others agree with their sense of values – but it is not correct to suggest that other societal discussions are value-free. Of course health discussions are guided by values (e.g., the value of liberty to light up a cigarette in a pub vs the value of someone else’s health). Even the discussion we have here is one that originates from values, e.g., from what we value most in the democratic decision process.

    Btw, we are now quickly moving away from a discussion about the report towards a discussion between 2 private citizens about politics.

    Having said that, I think you may be surprised at how much changes in health policy have been driven by the engagement, values and activism of health professionals. This is not my specialty in the least, but I remember that during the commission meetings we discussed that in the health care and medical community it is actually much, much more accepted that professionals take on the role of issue advocates than it is in the climate science community. If you want I can ask Jack Stilgoe for references.

  23. Btw, the conflation of scientist and advocacy roles that you refer to is addressed in the report as the issue of “stealth advocacy” (can’t bring up the page right now but it’s in Chapter 1).

  24. Dear John Q. Public

    I represent the 97 % of the climate expert community which believes global warming is caused by humanity. Our knowledge is profound (most of us are highly educated) and we spent years looking at the ancient climate record and computers models we have made as large and complex as the largest computer could stand .

    These models all agree that in 100 years we will see sea level rise 60 cm (we are pretty sure about this part), and the world’s temperature will rise a lot, but we can’t give you a good figure. Some of us are pretty sure we will see lots of drought, but also lots of giant hurricanes, and lots of rain, tornadoes, and Greenland ice bergs sailing by. And polar bears will die.

    So it’s really important you follow our prescribed solutions, consider us climatologists as the doctors who offer you chemotherapy after we cut off your legs to cure you from that fever we are pretty sure you have. And please don’t listen to the other guys who are deceiving you and tell you to keep your legs. They are in denial of fever and medicine, and believe in creationism. [snip]

    Thank you for your attention,

    Dr Nein T. Ceven.

  25. I wonder if this is part of Chris Rapley’s plan to “democratise” science? In this case climate science taking “centre stage” in his Theatreland production on ‘climate change’ (TM) and its doubters and the urgent need to protect our offspring from environmental catastrophe. Even theresphysics questions his notion of democracy in climate science which seems to me to hinge paradoxically upon the establishment of a professional body whereby “‘truth’ (to the extent knowable)” can be differentiated from “opinion” which he appears to directly correlate with “chartered insights” from said professional body being differentiated from “broader comment”.

    Correct me if I’m getting the wrong impression but this doesn’t sound like much of a ‘democracy’ to me. As theresphysics points out, it could be perceived as an attempt to further control the narrative – not that that is the intention of course.

    But surely science can never be a democracy anyway. The unbiased dissemination and lucid, transparent reporting of scientific discoveries and collected data is democratic, but science itself is inherently an autocracy – Nature alone gets to decide what insights are available to be ‘discovered’ by scientists. She is the sole arbiter of ‘truth’; not us. At least, that’s how it should be in my opinion. Maybe on the sub-microscopic quantum level, the human mind interacts with scientific ‘reality’ and observations but, as far as we are aware, macroscopic nature functions effectively independently of the observer (us) and ticks along quite nicely irrespective of society’s ‘values’ and requirements.

  26. Apologies, my link doesn’t give the whole conversation on Twitter.

    [ Thanks Jaime, gluttons for punishment can click on the tweets to get the full conversation between the learned gentlemen ]

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