When climate scientists criticise each other

One of the complaints regularly made by climate sceptics is that climate scientists do not speak up and publicly criticise exaggerated or alarmist claims from within their own community. This post discusses a recent example where this did happen, leading to a complaint and a dispute.  As well as being of interest to the climate debate, the incident also raises questions about the use of social media such as twitter by scientists. Ex-climate scientist William Connolley has a blog post on this, which I largely agree with.

The Royal Society held a meeting on Sept 22-23 on Arctic sea ice reduction.  During the meeting, tweets were sent out using the hashtag #RSArctic14.  Many of these came from Mark Brandon (@icey_mark), one of the organisers of the meeting, but other participants including Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) and Ed Hawkins (@Ed_Hawkins) also joined the twitter discussion, as did some journalists (Jonathan Amos and Jonathan Leake), along with the official Royal Society twitter account, and others who were not at the meeting. All of this indicates that the use of twitter provided an effective outreach mechanism for the conference.

One talk was given by Prof Peter Wadhams, who is known for his statements that the Arctic ice will disappear completely around 2015, often promoted unquestioningly by irresponsible journalists. When Wadhams gave his talk, a number of climate scientists sent out critical tweets, as noted at the time by Bishop Hill. Here are a few of these:

@icey_mark: Wadhams uses photos and anecdote to imply state of sea ice across the Arctic.

@icey_mark: Wadhams: uses UK submarine data to look at thickness but very very data poor. Not credible plots

@ClimateOfGavin:  Wadhams still using graphs with ridiculous projections with no basis in physics.

@ClimateOfGavin:  Wadhams clearly states that there is no physics behind his extrapolations.

@Ed_Hawkins: Good to see Wadhams extreme views challenged by other climate scientists. Disappointed he didn’t agree to bet on 2015 sea-ice!

@ClimateOfGavin: In case there was any ambiguity, statements by Wadhams on arctic sea ice/CH4 trends are *not* widely agreed with by scientists

@nathanaelmelia:  Entertaining break with Wadhams. Back to science now

@jamesannan: Hasn’t Wadhams already predicted 4 of the last 0 ice-free summers?

Wadhams (who does not tweet) heard of this, and wrote a number of letters of complaint (I have extracted these from a potentially confusing longer document produced by Mark Brandon). The first complaint letter is addressed to the Royal Society and is aimed mainly at Brandon.  It  was also sent to the head of Brandon’s university and the head of co-organiser Sheldon Bacon’s institute.  Wadhams claims that Brandon and Bacon “actively ridiculed” his presentation, and referred to “sarcasm” and “snickering”.  The letter is followed by a list of Brandon’s tweets, which show that Wadhams’s complaint is without foundation.  A second complaint letter from Wadhams is addressed to NASA, where Gavin Schmidt has recently been appointed Director of GISS.  Schmidt’s tweets are more critical than Brandon’s, and some could be regarded as sarcastic in tone, but he is well known for his outspoken style, so his comments are not surprising or unusual.  Wadhams makes no attempt to address the scientific content of the criticisms.

In response, Bacon, Brandon and Schmidt wrote a six-page memorandum, where they note, among other things, the informal nature of twitter, and also point out they did defend Wadhams when someone (in fact another climate scientist) asked why he had been invited to speak. They also say that they regard Wadhams’s actions – writing to the heads of their institutions – as intimidation and bullying. They also wrote a much longer supplementary document (the one I referred to as potentially confusing, as it does not say it is written by them) where they go through each of the controversial tweets, explaining the context, and in some cases “in jokes”, behind them.  This must have been a great deal of work for them.  In this documents they twice make the point that I started with:
‘Climate scientists are often accused of not being critical of work presented by “their own”.’
‘we re-iterate that climate scientists have long been criticized for not speaking against those who some may consider “extremists” within our community.’

 Update 17th Oct

Mark Brandon has been saying for a few days that he has received a further complaint from Peter Wadhams, and he has now made this public, together with annotations in response by him (Brandon).  Again Wadhams sent his complaint to the President of the Royal Society and other senior figures, which seems excessive. This complaint includes the suggestion  of a legal threat: “These may well be defamatory, a question on which legal counsel may be taken”.  He also includes the tweets that he finds most offensive, which are mostly from Gavin Schmidt. Some of Wadhams’s comments are absurd, as pointed out in Brandon’s annotations:  for example he says that an apology would have been appropriate and then we could have moved on, but his original complaint did not make a request for an apology. He claims that twitter is “not open to all”, and suggests that tweets should have been sent to him by email or regular mail!

In case anyone cares or is wondering exactly where I stand, I’m 80% in support of Brandon, Bacon & Schmidt. Wadhams’s complaint is ridiculously over-the-top. But I do think that some of Gavin’s tweets were a bit too rude and he probably should avoid this tone when tweeting from conference talks in future.

Also, there is more discussion at the blogs of Doug McNeall, Victor Venema and Bishop Hill.

Update 27th Oct

On twitter, Mark Brandon reports that the Royal Society has responded. The whole response has not been made public but here are some quotes:

“The Royal Society believes that there is benefit in making the proceedings of our meetings widely available, including publishing audio recordings and through the use of social media. This helps to ensure that debate is more possible and engages not only those at the meeting but also others who are not able to attend…”

“it is clear that the vast majority of the tweets from the meeting were written to help keep people informed … this is to be welcome.  A small number [of tweets] were lacking in courtesy and could easily be perceived as being inappropriate for scientific debate. We are looking at our guidelines concerning tweets in discussion meetings … to see if they need to be modified”.

Their view seems to agree with what I said above.

Advertisements

43 thoughts on “When climate scientists criticise each other

  1. Thanks for taking the time to explain just wtf this whole thing is about Paul, for those of us scratching our heads and wondering.

    I think I more or less side with Wadhams on this, based on the immaturity of those tweets. About the ice issue, I have no idea.

  2. The idea that writing a complaint letter to the tweeters’ institutions is bullying or intimidation is just ridiculous. Tell that to the single mother of four with bars on her windows who’s afraid to go out at night in Detroit or Memphis.

  3. And also yeah, they’re willing to challenge Wadhams, OK fine, whatever. Where’s the willingness to challenge the field of dendroclimatology, or paleoclimatology more generally (and particular scientists and/or studies therein)? Or John Cook’s nonsense? If you’re going to criticize, criticize across the board.

    I think these people are picking Wadhams because they think he’s an easy target. The more difficult ones, like Mann, they won’t touch that with a 100 foot pole, I guarantee you.

  4. Jim,
    It may well be that ‘these people’ won’t touch Mann out of fear. But Wadhams is being ridiculous. If you’ve been known to show ridiculous graphs in professional society meetings and do so again, people are going to observe that. If you keep predicting things that don’t happen, people are going to notice that too.

    Wadhams may be accustomed to the time when the snide remarks were made in pubs where he and (horror of horrors) ‘the public’ might not hear them and in consequence neither he nor the public would learn people’s real opinion of the presentation. Afterwards, journalists could introduce him as having given a prestigious lecture … blah… blah… blah… He could go on and talk and puff up the same graphs with no-one aware of the reservations held by other scientists whose opinions were somehow restricted to discussions in pubs.

    I get that some people who might benefit from the past system might not like the more open communication that has been facilitated by technology. But the technology exists. Moreover, the fact that people opinions are more public than they would have been when material was discussed in pubs after the meeting doesn’t mean the past method was the “right” way. Now Wadhams knows that people are wondering whether ha hasn’t predicted the last 4 out of 0 ice -free winters. Maybe he’ll be more circumspect about what he predicts (or possibly how he phrases what he predicts) in the future. (https://twitter.com/jamesannan/status/514076936147337217)

    As for the notion that tweets of this sort are “sarcastic”. Are they? Or are they just an utterly non-ironic (i.e. truthful) observations that can be made in less than 140 characters? I might suggest that it is the lack of irony that stings. The fact that the issue can be conveyed in less than 140 characters? That just makes the sting hurt more.

    As for the issue of “official” twitter site for the meeting: Well.. it’s not a “twitter site”. It’s a twitter hashtag.

    It’s true the Roy Soc suggested that hashtag. But Twitter exists. We all know that had the Roy Soc not suggested a hashtag, another would have been informally communicated and used. Moreover, if the Roy Soc starts trying to create “rules” for what can be tweeted on “their” #theofficialmeetinghashtag, everyone will create #theunofficialmeetinghashtag. So it’s utterly pointless for the Roy Soc to try to ‘make rules’.

    Beyond that: With respect to Wadhams claim that something about the tweets amounts to “defamation”. I’m unsure about UK law, but it certainly does not amount to defamation in the US. Including ridiculous claims in a complaint about others behavior is a good way to make oneself look utterly foolish. In this case, it gives those in the peanut gallery the impression that Wadhams is trying to resort to rhetoric to cover for the strong likelihood that his “science” is– in fact– very weak.

    Of course, that his “science” is weak is the impression conveyed by tweets like https://twitter.com/jamesannan/status/514076936147337217 convey. Whether the opinion is justified is– of course– a matter of opinion. It’s certainly not defamation.

  5. Jim, thanks for your thoughts. I feel obliged to support Brandon et al since they are doing what I’ve long been asking for.

    There is a vast amount of nonsense on all sides of the climate debate, so it’s impossible to challenge all of it. Two simple reasons to pick on Wadhams-
    (a) He was speaking at the same meeting as them
    (b) Tactics – next year when the Arctic ice does not disappear the sceptics will have a lot of fun quoting Wadhams’s 2015 prediction. Mainstream climate scientists will look better if they can say they dismissed him as “extreme”.

  6. Fair enough Paul, I can see that POV, and it’s consistent.

    The fact that we have to guess at peoples’ motives

    I’ll add one more thing. As far as I can tell, Wadhams appears to be older. I don’t much care for younger scientists showing blatant disrespect for senior scientists. I’ve seen this same sort of thing towards E.O. Wilson, and even though his critics had valid points, the way they went about it made me pretty angry.

  7. Should be:
    “The fact that we even have to guess at peoples’ motives in these kinds of incidents is a big drag, and indicates real problems exist”

  8. “Writing a complaint letter to the tweeters’ institutions” is very much “bullying or intimidation”. There is a long history of climate scientists doing precisely this in an attempt to silence their critics or even get them fired. Take a look at http://di2.nu/foia/foia2011/mail/1812.txt for just one example.

    The only irony here is that people are suddenly upset about being on the receiving end of bad behaviour which they must have known has been going on for years.

  9. Jonathan Jones,
    I agree writing letters making ridiculous complaints about employees behavior to employers is bullying. Wadhams complains of Defamation? Really? Defamation?

  10. I feel sympathy for Wadhams’ point of view. Criticism in science should be in the open and not used as in-jokes behind peoples’ backs. Is Wadhams the only Arctic alarmist? Even if he is, what right does Gavin have to criticize?

    Where was criticism from the climate science community when a high-school drop-out like Leonardo DiCaprio was allowed to makes speeches at a UN summit?

  11. Paul, it would appear that Brandon pushed you and Tom Nelson under the bus if he had any hand writing that so-called supplementary document. Not too much of a bother though, I would say.

    I agree that Mark Brandon’s tweets have absolutely no trace of sarcasm or ill-will. Wadhams is over-interpreting retweets as though they meant something.

  12. Shub,

    Criticism in science should be in the open

    Twitter is certainly “in the open”.

    in-jokes behind peoples’ back

    Jokes behind people’s backs may not be nice, but they are as old as time. Yes– and in science and academia too.

    Is Wadhams the only Arctic alarmist?

    No. So what? That doesn’t mean people can’t criticize him or his presentation.

    Even if he is, what right does Gavin have to criticize?

    Gavin has the same right to criticize Wadhams’ as anyone. People can decide to pay attention to that criticism or not.

    As it happens, Wadhams’s complaint has made Gavin’s criticism more visible and is resulting in Ed Hawkin’s posting graphs Wadhams has been presenting since back to… oh … 2009. More people understand why those in the audience were sort of like “Will he do it again?”

    Where was criticism from the climate science community when a high-school drop-out like Leonardo DiCaprio was allowed to makes speeches at a UN summit?

    Oh. Heavens. Gavin and others don’t lose the right to criticize people presenting drivel at society meetings merely because they don’t waste time criticizing every movie star who might say something stupid. I get that you wish Gavin would spend time criticizing Leonardo Di Caprio. But your position that Gavin somehow is obligated to criticize Di Caprio is a bit like Barry Bickmore pestering me to spend “more” time criticizing Monckton. Gavin is allowed to ignore Di Caprio without losing the right to criticize a speaker who presents deeply misleading graphs at a professional society meeting.

  13. Lucia
    Nice fisking but unfortunately neither I nor what I am trying to convey are as stupid or simplistic as you make it out to be.

    Gavin’s criticisms are not ‘in the open’. In the ‘open’ in the context of the meeting would be to put the same questions to Wadhams as he makes them live, in person. I am not sure Gavin or the others did that. Sure, Twitter is an open medium but if that is the case Wadhams’ deserved to be alerted about criticism floated out in the medium so he could respond, instead of him stumbling on to it as he appears to have done.

    “Gavin has the same right to criticize Wadhams’ as anyone.”

    I don’t think so. When you condone, support and prop up the practice of bad science on a consistent basis, over a long period of time, for your favoured insider clique and use such maneuvers in advancement of personal goals, you forfeit the right to participate in open criticism of bad science in other domains. It smacks of hypocrisy and it is unconvincing.

    Gavin Schmidt or any of the Team players do not have to criticize every public alarmist climbing on the climate bandwagon at the sagging end of their careers. They don’t have to prove anything.

    But the key point is, even they have no obligation to criticize or not, what happens in the real world is that they *don’t criticize*. If you examine carefully, the people who go scot-free are those who promote the financial or public image interests of the enterprise of climate.

    If Gavin wants to criticize a speaker for displaying deeply misleading graphs in a professional society meeting, he should have done so. Did he do it?

    It is my impression the two-faced nature of the tweeting is what pissed off Wadhams.

  14. Update:
    From Josh’s cartoon: It is evident Schmidt asked questions of Wadham. If true, my criticism is correspondingly curtailed.

    From BH comments: We can learn from Dave Holland of Wadhams’ comments about Dick Lindzen. If so, Wadhams comes across as a ‘can dish it out but cannot take it’ type of person. There are many like that.

    Further context: My comments come as someone in the medical field – a discipline that is deeply conservative and hierarchical. People would be scared shit of open criticism for fear of harm to their careers. Open criticism does break out but is usually between the big fish. Everyone is deeply critical/skeptical of ideas but people generally maintain a cordial outwardly facade. (‘generally’).

  15. Shub,
    I’m not saying what you wrote was stupid. But Twitter is “in the open”. It’s just as open as asking something in a meeting. Like it or not a finite number of people can ask and answer questions in a meeting and most people prefer to reserve questions for things of some substance, not mere eyerolling. Beyond that, the notion that all questions need to be posed in the presentation itself is artificial. People make side remarks after meetings, between themselves, in emails and so on all the time. This includes scientists.

    Sure, Twitter is an open medium but if that is the case Wadhams’ deserved to be alerted about criticism floated out in the medium so he could respond, instead of him stumbling on to it as he appears to have done.

    The meeting organizers had set up the hashtag and informed speakers that it existed. Wadhams may not have paid any attention to this information, but it had been provided. Had Wadhams wished to run a live twitter stream by the podium, he could have. (It would be a weird thing to want to do– but he could if he wished.) But it’s hardly the fault of those in the audience if there was no “twitter bell” to alert Wadham of each tweet as it appeared on Twitter. As for whether Wadhams was alerted: Well clearly he was after the meeting. Had he not been, he would not have written his (silly and illconsidered ) complaint to people’s bosses.

    I don’t think so.

    Well, then, you think wrongly. 🙂

    When you condone, support and prop up the practice of bad science on a consistent basis, over a long period of time, for your favoured insider clique and use such maneuvers in advancement of personal goals, you forfeit the right to participate in open criticism of bad science in other domains. It smacks of hypocrisy and it is unconvincing.

    Wait a minute: your previous complaint was that Gavin didn’t criticize Leanardo Di Caprio. Beyond that: While you man thing Gavin has been supporting and propping up bad science I suspect it’s Gavin’s point of view that he doesn’t criticize people for saying things Gavin thinks have a sound basis in science.

    Quite frankly, I don’t think you get to decree he loses the right to criticize Wadhams merely because Gavin and you disagree on what constitutes good science nor do you get to decree Gavin a hypocrite on that basis. (That is not to say he is clear of it–it’s hard to prove lack of hypocracy. But really… Gavin gets to express his opinion. He doesn’t lose the right to speak merely because he doesn’t express yours when you wish he might agree with you.

    Gavin Schmidt or any of the Team players do not have to criticize every public alarmist climbing on the climate bandwagon at the sagging end of their careers. They don’t have to prove anything.

    No one has said they “have to” criticize anyway. But I should think Gavin may criticize whoever he thinks is worthy of criticizing. Listeners can decide if they agree or disagree with him. In this case: I think Gavin’s criticism of Wadhams presentation is just and sound. This is true whether Gavin is on “the Team” or not.

    If Gavin wants to criticize a speaker for displaying deeply misleading graphs in a professional society meeting, he should have done so. Did he do it?

    Yes. He did so. On Twitter. Using the hashtag set up by the Royal Society itself to permit members of the audience to communicate impressions real time.

    If you mean did he stand up and ask whether the figures have a physical basis during the meeting: It seems not. So. Freakin’ What? There is no rule and there has never been any rule that says people are required to express any and every little comment that pops into their heads by waving their hand standing up and questioning the speaker during the meeting.

    It is my impression the two-faced nature of the tweeting is what pissed off Wadhams.

    I’ve read Wadhams complaint and I can’t begin to see how you developed this impression of what pissed him off. My impression is he was pissed off because scientists in the audience criticized his work. He thinks they should not be allowed to do that while he is basking in the glory of presenting at the Royal Society. That’s my impression.

  16. Interesting discussion. I think Jim and Shub have a point about different generations and different cultural backgrounds. Wadhams is not used to the ‘rough and tumble’ of the climate blogosphere that Gavin has been fighting in for a decade, nor the level playing field of twitter that is rapidly changing the interaction between scientists and each other and the public. So I can see how this might be a bit of a shock to him, but this in no way justifies his over-the-top reaction.

  17. Lucia, you say

    “I’ve read Wadhams complaint and I can’t begin to see how you developed this impression of what pissed him off.”

    I gained this impression from Wadhams’ own words (my emphasis):

    Yes, but the open and lively forum, the properly functioning discussion meeting involving the presentation of scientific results which were discussed openly, was accompanied by a hidden undertow. This comprised sarcastic and offensive tweets, composed in considerable quantities during an actual talk (so that the perpetrators were tweeting rather than listen), unknown to the lecturerand to most other members of the audience who were not involved in that rather infantile social network system. I too would have thought that meeting a positive experience had I not discovered afterwards what was going on behind my back. This was a most unpleasant experience, and the very obvious absence of ethics on the part of the perpetrators makes it perfectly reasonable that I should have felt forced to make a formal complaint to the Society

  18. “My impression is he was pissed off because scientists in the audience criticized his work.”

    Wadhams stresses he is complaining that points of scientific disagreement were not put forth in open discussion but instead broadcast via a different medium which he as the speaker had no means of responding to.

    Tweets that are pure mockery:

  19. Barry Woods points out Live-tweeting at academic conferences: 10 rules of thumb in The Guardian. Although these guidelines are quite helpful, they miss what appears to be the problem in this case – the “behind my back” argument used by non-tweeter Wadhams, highlighted by Shub above.

    That article links to a blog post The Academic Twitterazzi which discusses some of the issues related to live-tweeting at conferences and is followed by an interesting comment thread.

    And that blog links to another one, Advice on Academic Blogging, Tweeting, Whatever, which offers the following advice: “Do not let dust-ups such as these stop you from blogging/tweeting/whatever”.

  20. Instead on fighting over the views, we should better discuss the real issue. It is obvious that climate change is a real problem that should be taken in consideration. We should first see what caused the climate change to be so dramatic.
    Ithink about what Arnd Bernaerts said, that it seems we are too dumb to preent climate change. Here are some facts, if you want to read more: http://www.1ocean-1climate.com/archive.php#TOO_DUMB_TO_PREVENT_CLIMATE_CHANGE_AND_WWII?

  21. Shub,
    I see you highlighed words, but I don’t see how that text permits anyone to develop the specific impression you developed. That is: ” It is my impression the two-faced nature of the tweeting is what pissed off Wadhams.”

    Nothing in that complaints indicates anything about being “two faced”. Hidden undertows aren’t “two faced”. “Unknown to the lecturand” aren’t “two faced”. “Discovered afterwards” is not two faced. And “behind my back” is specifically not two faced.

    Two faced would be if Gavin stood up, told Wadhams he thought the talk and figures were swell while simultaneously saying the opposite. Gavin did no such thing– nor did anyone else. They just did things Wadhams didn’t like and which he happened to not be specifically aware of. That’s not “two faced”.

  22. My thoughts:
    1) I don’t engage in Twitter myself. I feel like the medium kind of encourages this type of kerfuffle: there are real-time reactions, limited to 140 characters, expressed in a permanent public place. I either prefer longer blog-critiques, which can allow for more context and explanation, or sitting around with friends watching a webcast where we can make these kind of comments out loud without them being permanent memorialized.

    2) I would certainly consider writing a formal complaint letter to an employer as intimidating and “academic bullying”. I’m not sure why the existence of single mothers of four in Detroit is pertinent. With regards to the climategate link by Jonathan Jones, my understanding is that the complaint letter was a response to a letter from a climate skeptic to a funding agency accusing CRU of fraud: that’s a much higher bar than some tweets suggesting curve fitting to predict an ice free Arctic before 2020 is not the best science.

    3) Shub has quoted some mockery tweets. Of course, the 3rd tweet was actually from a completely different session. The first tweet was apparently in response to a crying baby, so not as harsh as it might seem out of context.

  23. Lucia, you write as though I ought to convince you of something. The involved party Wadhams is upset, regardless of whether you chose to accept its legitimacy. That is how personal slights work. He has every right to defend his person and I support his right to do so.

    Duplicitousness does not have to involve polar opposites.

    Schmidt’s abrasive tweets have to be understood in the context of power-play between competing hypotheses vis a vis arctic methane release. Nick Breeze’s article provides the context.

    There is enough independent confirmation that Gavin Schmidt was not terribly constructive in his criticism of Wadhams and Schmidt and Bacon were mocking and derisive in their tweets. Nick Breeze has written a fairly detailed account of the conference. Doug McNeall gathered the exact same impression as the tweets appeared. The individuals should stand behind their own words. If they leave their words in a lurch, the cowardice involved is only doubled.

  24. Shub

    Lucia, you write as though I ought to convince you of something.

    I have no idea why you perceive this. My intention is to express my opinion and communicate it to you and others. I assume that’s yours too. I”m content to leave you unconvinced– but I will express my opinion about this regardless.

    The involved party Wadhams is upset, regardless of whether you chose to accept its legitimacy.

    Yes. We all agree he is upset. I think he ought to get some big boy pants. But beyond that: I am not criticizing him for being upset. I am criticizing him for writing a letter of complaint. His merely being upset doesn’t mean others did anything wrong. People can be upset because it rained: that is not the fault of the earth.

    That is how personal slights work. He has every right to defend his person and I support his right to do so.

    In some sense, he has every right to write letters of complaint– and have them ignored by those who receive them. Those he complains about also have every right to complain about his complaints. And those who observe the kerfuffle have every right to observe that — though he is not to be jailed or hanged for writing his letters– his complaints are meritless. Moreover, his writing the letters makes him look foolish. Which. It. Does.

    That said: Wadhams has just as much a right to behave foolishly as anyone else. And in fact we all have this right.

    Schmidt’s abrasive tweets have to be understood in the context of power-play between competing hypotheses vis a vis arctic methane release. Nick Breeze’s article provides the context.

    Ok… Well: Power-play between competing hypotheses == Scientific debate. So characterized this way, Schmidt’s tweets fit into scientific debate. If so, that’s what one hopes Twitter will assist.

    There is enough independent confirmation that Gavin Schmidt was not terribly constructive in his criticism of Wadhams and Schmidt and Bacon were mocking and derisive in their tweets.

    First: Could you specifically point to the independent confirmation? IN some way other than just saying “Nick Breeze”. Perhaps you could mention tweets that you think were “abrasive” and we can engage them specifically.

    Second: Even if there is, so what? Schmidt is not required to be “constructive”. If Wadhams graphs were nonesense, I think Schmidt saying so is constructive. It permits people who otherwise would not know that the graphs are considered nonsense by some and then those people can either decide for themselves or at least not take them at face value for the time. This is constructive to science even if it is not what Wadham’s would like to occur.

    The individuals should stand behind their own words. If they leave their words in a lurch, the cowardice involved is only doubled.

    Who isn’t standing behind their words? I don’t see any cowardice in the first place or now. Doubling means 0*2 =0, so doubling isn’t very meaningful.

  25. ” I am criticizing him for writing a letter of complaint. “

    The organizers of the meeting send out invitations for speakers, arrange for airport/train station pick-ups, accommodation, welcome them on stage and arrange the venue.

    Why would you go through the trouble if you lack respect for the speaker? This is the message one gets from the tweets – not all of them but some of them.

    Like this one:

    I am 100% sure none of them meant insult. But the immediacy of twitter can be harmful.

    I cannot explain personal insults. You would have to understand them yourself.

    In the epic tale Mahabharata the king Duryodhan, whose father was a blind man, visits his hosts’ new palace house-warming as a guest. The visitors are dazzled by the brilliantly reflective walls and floor-tiles and Duryodhan falls into a shallow water pool by accident mistaking it for the floor. The hostess Draupadi laughs out aloud and either she or someone makes a comment: ‘as blind as a blind man’s son’. This sticks in his mind and he plots revenge.

    As far at the arctic methane hypothesis point, you misunderstood. If Schmidt and Wadhams discussed the hypothesis as proponents of opposing views, that is fine. But, what we have is one of them, Schmidt, making remarks about crying audience members about a different topic from his opponent.

    Wadhams can wear big boy pants or the kids of his next generation could grow up a bit. Either would work fine.

  26. Shub, sorry, I don’t know what happened there. Comments with 0 or 1 link should go straight through, and those with more than 1 go to moderation. I think that is the standard wordpress setting.

  27. On twitter, Mark Brandon reports that he has received more detailed complaints and legal threats:

    ‘Another “legal” threat about Arctic Sea Ice Discussion meeting received in response’
    ‘From complainant’s new mail: “These [tweets] may well be defamatory, a question on which legal counsel may be taken”. Use of “may” ‘

    He’s getting some support:

    Martin O’Leary ‏@mewo2
    @icey_mark Totally understand where you’re coming from, but would be a great shame if this bullying prevented more excellent tweet coverage
    Doug Clow ‏@dougclow
    @icey_mark Sorry to hear about this – sounds pretty grim. Count me among your fans and defenders!
    Tamsin Edwards ‏@flimsin
    I fully support @icey_mark & @ClimateOfGavin against Prof Wadham’s unsubstantiated claims of defamation. They merely tweeted his talk…

  28. Thanks Paul, and sorry too! My posts kept going into moderation and I couldn’t figure out why.

    I agree with you that Brandon should be simply spared of this stuff.

  29. “The idea that writing a complaint letter to the tweeters’ institutions is bullying or intimidation is just ridiculous. Tell that to the single mother of four with bars on her windows who’s afraid to go out at night in Detroit or Memphis.”

    You seem unaware that this is a logical fallacy.

    [PM: Two more comments in this style from deminthon were submitted but not accepted.]

  30. This contretemps was brought to my attention via twitter, and I appreciate this blog post laying it all out clearly. I also read the Bacon Brandon Schmidt rebuttal. As ever, it’s the comment thread that’s most fascinating.
    1: scientists and old ppl (>50) are one of the most rapidly growing groups on twitter. My mum is 78 & enjoys both twitter & facebook. So, Wadhams’s age is immaterial here.
    http://www.nature.com/news/online-collaboration-scientists-and-the-social-network-1.15711

    2. Twitter is very public and out in the open, and there’s a learning curve. I use it as an undergraduate teaching tool in getting students to write concisely. Those tweets weren’t anything out of the ordinary and if you’re offended by them, understand and respect the cultural norms of this medium. Most of my social sciences colleagues and collaborators hold the opinion that STEM academics lack any kind of social graces – that’s their cultural norm.

    3. Wadhams was warned in advance about what was going on. The ability to follow international conferences through live tweeting is turning out to be an amazing way to dial in from a distance. Scientists should be embracing social media in a time when some governments, like the Canadian federal gov’t are all about muzzling and firing scientists: btw, paywall for this recent article in Trends in Cell Biology on social media and science comms, is down for a few weeks:
    http://www.cell.com/article/S0962-8924(14)00134-2/abstract

  31. Thanks Dawn, nice comment. Yes, age should not matter. Yes, twitter is good training for concise writing and yes, people need to adapt to it, though it’s understandable that if you hadn’t looked into it before it might be a bit of a shock.

    My social science colleagues may well think that I lack social graces or that I’m a total nutter, but they are very nice polite people who would never say so.

  32. No one seems to have pointed out that Gavin’s talk, near the end of the meeting, was also about methane in the Arctic. He argued that because there was no record of methane being associated with abrupt climate change in the past then it will not happen in the future. This is thesame argument that the sceptics use. Man dis not cause the abrupt changes in the past so we do not need to worry that he could cause one in the future.

    The problem is that Earth Science has a long tradition of Uniformitarianism where change only happens on geological time scales. Only in the last fifity years have we discoverd that the LGM and the Younger Dryas both ended abruptly in the NH, in as little as three years in the case of the YD (Alley, “The two Mile Time machine”, 2002). The sea ice is mainly under the control of the ice albedo positive feedback. If that runs away then we could easily lose all the Arctic sea ice next year. Don’t forget 2007 and 2012.

  33. Interesting article. From what I feel after following the whole Twitter annex of Wadhams complaint letter, there was a “tipping point” when he talked of the “scenario where the Arctic sea ice survives to the end of the century based on likely physically unobtainable RCP2.6″…. next the Twits escalated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s