Never the twain shall meet

the finger of God

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

from The Ballad of East and West
by Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

Toward a conversation

A reader of the Climate Conversation, Matt Flaherty, has made some intelligent and generous comments after taking yours truly to task for issuing a partially misleading press release last December.

Those comments deserve proper consideration in this separate post, for Matt raises the superb subject of what we ought to call each other in the climate debate. I’d like us to have a go at resolving this.

It would be especially interesting to hear from the ‘pro-AGW’ readers who have commented here lately, like the perspicacious Keith Hunter, David Winter, Matt Flaherty of course, and any others who have been just lurking until now. How would you like to be characterised, if at all?

For simplicity, there are two sides: the ‘warmists’ and the ‘deniers’; those on the one hand compelled to believe that mankind is destroying the planet and those on the other hand who cannot believe it. It’s a simplistic view which ignores the many neutral debaters on all sides and the widely varying and deeply conflicting opinions, from the painfully polite to civil disobedience fanatics, but it’s a convenient fiction for the purpose of discussion.

Egotistical triggers

We need to find names for each other which disengage our egotistical triggers and let us converse reasonably on what matters.

There are deplorable epithets used on both sides which we need not rehearse here. Let’s just talk about the reasonable names. Matt introduced his thoughts with this brief comment:

For what it’s worth, my investigations are revealing to me that there are many more genuine AGW sceptics with valid arguments than I had been led to believe. I will no longer use the term denialist or denier and apologize for any offence I may have caused. In exchange I would ask that people please refrain from using the terms “warmist” or “alarmist”.

This is an important statement. It requires a man of courage and integrity to so calmly acknowledge truth in his antagonist (using ‘antagonist’ in its clinical sense of impersonal opposition) and to make such a generous concession to continue a dialogue. We have an opportunity to bring both sides together here, and removing offensive terms would be a grand beginning.

Not about each other

Of course, we only need names for a few occasions; most of the time we talk about the topic itself. We talk to each other, not so much about each other, or at least we should. But access to descriptive, neutral terms when needed would help a lot.

Matt declares himself willing to make a generous change, giving up ‘denier’ and its variants. What can we suggest for a suitable answer? What terms would we a) like to be known by and b) consider suitable for those on the other side who believe the CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) hypothesis?

What terms adequately describe each side to the other and to themselves while letting them engage intelligently and productively with the subject of global warming and its constituents and derivatives?

I had thought ‘warmist’ to be the least offensive term; perhaps it is, but Matt doesn’t want to hear it, so it must be a little annoying.

Both sides want the best name

In offering to avoid using ‘denier’ and its variants to refer to us, he hasn’t proposed a replacement. I suspect we might like ‘realist’ or ‘climate realist’ best, with ‘sceptic’ a close second.

But what to call him? He hasn’t suggested a name for himself (probably wisely, but he might yet suggest something). I see that another reader, Mike Jowsey, has proposed ‘AGW proponent’, which has merit, but which puts the warmists firmly in an activist kind of camp, not a scientific (and therefore neutral) one. I suppose ‘climate scientist’ fits only the suitably qualified on each side. I certainly oppose reserving that term for one side only.

The term AGW itself is deficient, because few sceptics doubt that there must be some level of human influence on warming (we just haven’t detected it at the global scale). Some think it essential to add the term ‘dangerous’ or ‘catastrophic’ to properly indicate the magnitude of human influence. In other words, if human activity has just a minor effect, there’s nothing to worry about; if it will cause ‘dangerous’ warming then there certainly is something to worry about.

Maybe we should call each other by the very same name, without differentiating between the two sides at all. Would that smack too much of political correctness to work?

Both sides want to be heroes; both want to save the world; both want to be right and proved right.

Both sides want the best name.

What the hell can we do about that?

Visits: 116

44 Thoughts on “Never the twain shall meet

  1. Basically, it is “believers” vs. “everybody else”. But remember, there are at least two different scientific arguments being played out, the first being “For or Against AGW”, and the second, “For or Against the Greenhouse Effect as the Cause of GW”. The latter has already been resolved scientifically, against the greenhouse effect, by discerning scientists like myself (“Venus: No Greenhouse Effect”), Gerlich and Tscheuschner, and Claes Johnson (and countless others, of widely varying ideas and effect upon others), but not of course in the eyes of the believers, who will only chant their own beliefs, regardless of definitive evidence against them, like mine (see my article, just mentioned).

    Since there is no greenhouse effect (warming due to increased co2 in the atmosphere), AGW has no scientific basis whatsoever at the present time. The real debate for scientists should be over how to correct the scientific incompetence into which climate scientists have fallen. Unfortunately, the political debate has overrun science, and that first needs to be corrected. (There is also a third debate, “For or Against the Reality of Continued GW”, which, given the flat temperature record of the last 10 years or so, has also been resolved in the negative, unless and until warming resumes.)

    The world is not faced with runaway climate change, it is faced with runaway dogmatic beliefs — and of course, that is not limited to science, as witness the Islamic terrorist war, or the hysteria of the political “Progressive” Left, and others around the world, for “change we can believe in”, although they know not what that is, nor how to get it peacefully, without force.

    It is, in short, a mess, due solely to dogmatic beliefs both inside and outside of science. Believers vs. everyone else.

    • Bob D on 03/02/2011 at 10:02 am said:

      Interesting read. I have long wondered about the greenhouse effect. I have always just accepted the theory, although I’ve marked it “unproven” in my mind. It seems it was a theory developed from ignorance, in the days when it was difficult to prove or disprove. It seems it fell into disuse in the 1920s, until revived by Hansen (mainly) with his Venusian atmosphere work. But I may be wrong.

      Do you know of any actual modelling done to examine the effect itself, tested against empirical measurements (eg: satellite OLR data)? Is there a paper or set of papers that actually proves it, from a physics point of view? I haven’t found one yet, but I haven’t done an exhaustive search by any means.

    • Bob D on 03/02/2011 at 10:10 am said:

      I mean, to be honest, the system seems simple: short wave radiation enters the system, is converted to heat and some is absorbed as LW radiation on the way out. My contention has always been that the earth is well able to shed its heat very quickly via evaporation and convection, thus by-passing the lower-level radiation block.

      I think the ARGO network results back this up – we’re not seeing any build-up of ocean heat content, which shows us that “heat-shedding”, for want of a better term, is rapid and effective. The Earth is well able to get rid of excess energy despite slightly higher levels or a gas that absorbs some wavelengths of LW radiation, and therefore reports of the overheating of our atmosphere are, well, overheated.

      However, I suppose I haven’t been convinced yet that NO greenhouse gas heating is taking place at all.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 03/02/2011 at 11:45 am said:

      Greenhouse or insulation effect?

      Personally, I’m all in favour of warmth so if some extra CO2 keeps us insulated and stops a return to Dalton or Maunder conditions, all well and good as far as I’m concerned.

      What I struggle with is the notion that the 3% fraction (correct me if I’m wrong) of total additional CO2 levels attributed to human emissions can have any noticeable difference. It will certainly not be causing extreme weather events.

      Then there is the different manifestations of energy – radiation and heat, radiation moves at the speed of light, heat moves more slowly.

      For the radiation, Joseph A. Olson, PE, retired Texan engineer and an internationally respected science writer with over 100 major climate-related articles to his name. also a co-author of the recent book, “Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Theory.” writes in Climate Change Dispatch:-

      “OMG….Maximum CO2 Will Warm Earth for 20 Milliseconds!”

      For the heat Willis Eschenbach writes:-

      “The thunderstorm thermostat hypothesis: How clouds and thunderstorms control the Earth’s temperature ”

      The fastest heat transport upwards is in the tropics and that is where the anthropogenic global warming signature is prescribed to appear, in the troposphere above the tropics. The mechanism is unhindered by CO2 because the currents punch up through the atmosphere, releasing the heat at the top of stratocumulus clouds. how then, does heat accumulate in the climate system?The hot spot at 600 mb or thereabouts has not been observed

      My concern is that any extra insulation we may gain from higher GHG levels will be overridden by external forcings that seem to me to be of astronomical and cosmic origins with the result being a suppression of rising temperatures (fine) but possibly a cold era circa 2020-2040 (bah).

      I also now question the rationale for projecting any more underlying trend upwards, either linear or quadratic, that the cycles oscillate about. What is the mechanism to justify that?

    • QuentinF on 03/02/2011 at 7:38 pm said:

      I agree no greenhouse effect. To say there is is physical nonsense. The atmosphere is not a greenhouse. The AGW proposal is totally a giant geopolitical scam and provable since it started in the seventies. I seriously doubt if the main proponents (propagandists) ever believed it was true from the start. Many scientists who have since become involved with it have taken as cart blanch that there is such a thing as some GH effect since it was proposed over 100 years ago.
      Might be a good idea to get the ‘belivers’ to worship the ‘sun god’ as they should have done from the start. Quote ‘its a cycle stupid’. As with many of these geophysical phenomenon they are best solved by astrophysics.

  2. Andy on 03/02/2011 at 11:29 am said:

    Ben Pile wrote a good piece recently. Though this was specifically about the recent Horizon programme, it has relevance to this discussion

    The mistake Nurse makes in his treatment of the climate debate is to imagine that it is divided over a simple claim that ‘climate change is happening’. It is this polarisation of the debate into simple categories — scientists verses deniers — which obscures the real substance of debate, its context, and its nuances. The reality is that climate change is a matter of degree, not a matter of true versus false. From this question of degree emerge points of disagreement about the likely material consequences of warming, each of which are also questions of degree. And from these consequences emerge debates about how these Nth-order effects of Nth-order effects of global warming are likely to cause problems for humans. There are then yet further debates about how best to respond effectively

    Also, I fully agree with Harry Dale Huffman’s comments above regarding runaway dogmatic beliefs.

    Read Melanie Phillips “The World Turned Upside Down” for a great analysis of the irrational world that we now live in.

  3. Richard C (NZ) on 03/02/2011 at 11:50 am said:

    Natural Climate Change (NCC) vs Anthropogenic Climate Change (ACC)?

  4. Mike Jowsey on 03/02/2011 at 12:01 pm said:

    AGW theorists?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 03/02/2011 at 12:25 pm said:

      If the word “theory” is to be used in conjunction with AGW then it has to be defined e.g.

      “A scientific theory comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.[1]”

      We don’t even have a falsifiable hypothesis to address let alone a theory.

      I still prefer “proponents” as in “advocates of a proposal”.

      I reserve “alarmists” for those who use “deniers” and “warmists” for those that ignore the observed condition in favour of irrational statements.

      Then there’s “idealogues”

    • Mike Jowsey on 03/02/2011 at 1:12 pm said:

      Well said sir.

  5. Andy on 03/02/2011 at 12:05 pm said:

    I take the view that those who use the word “denier” use it for propaganda purposes only.

    It helps them to illegitimise the case for the sceptic, and puts some kind of moral case that those who question the party line are somehow subhuman.

    In my view, anyone who uses the perjorative term “denier” should not be taken seriously at all. Give them no time or attention, even if they are President of the Royal Society.

  6. Richard C (NZ) on 03/02/2011 at 12:12 pm said:

    CC = NCC + factorACC

    Where ACC is a combination of land cover and land use change, pollution e.g. SO2 and atmospheric change due to GHG emissions.

    And factor is between 0 and 1 relative to NCC.

  7. val majkus on 03/02/2011 at 1:55 pm said:

    what about proponents v opponents; promoters v demoters; abstract v realism (taken from an artistic viewpoint); realism v faux realiasm; post normals v pre normals; normals v para normals; I could go on but the correspondence re back radiation is far more interesting; like Richard’s NCC v ACC;

    • Richard C (NZ) on 03/02/2011 at 2:44 pm said:

      Don’t forget luke-warmers.

      It seems inevitable that the MSM in particular will dumb down the debate and characterize it as being one side vs the other in order for them to be able to make a story or even to form their own understanding.

      This over simplification is where the element of degree gets lost as in Andy’s quote:-

      “The reality is that climate change is a matter of degree, not a matter of true versus false”.

      This blog might even fall into the “luke-warmer” category along with WUWT as I suspect there are several different conceptions of what drives the climate and each of those is in a different stage of evolution. I know my view changes constantly with learning and I see Bob D has reservations:-

      “However, I suppose I haven’t been convinced yet that NO greenhouse gas heating is taking place at all.”

      It fascinates me that the hard-core AGW opponent sites are the ones that present the most science e.g. JoNova, Hockey Schtick or C3 Headlines.

      I like to think of myself as a natural cycles proponent with an open mind to competing hypotheses but the open mind part gets very difficult to maintain in the face of a barrage of vitriol from the supporters of one hypothesis in particular in lieu of reasoned and substantiated debate.

  8. Andy on 03/02/2011 at 2:19 pm said:

    Whilst we are on it, the nutters/warmists/kooks/wackos/etc planning on shutting down the economy will be writing to MFE who are after submissions on the 50% reduction in emissions in NZ by 2050 target.

    Remember that 50% of our emissions are accounted for by agriculture.

    Submissions can be made to the Ministry for the Environment at and close on 28 February 2011

    • Richard C (NZ) on 03/02/2011 at 2:49 pm said:

      I propose a 50% increase in emissions by June this year so I can save on heating costs this winter.

    • Mike Jowsey on 04/02/2011 at 9:30 am said:

      Seconded! I will do my best to assist. I have a large bonfire of prunings ready to go. I also use a log burner for heating – this should liberate a bit of carbon. I’ll leave my SUV idling for a few minutes a day. Happy to do my bit.

  9. Australis on 03/02/2011 at 5:41 pm said:

    I believe there is evidence that the world has warmed slightly, and that the activities of mankind may well contribute to that change. Part of that contribution is probably related to the ‘greenhouse effect’.

    But I think the whole thing is trivial, and unlikely to impact on either present or future generations. If there is any discernible impact, it is likely to be benign.

    So, where does this position me? I guess I’m a sceptic and a warmist but not an alamist. A believer in climate change but a denier of CAGW.

    Perhaps the two sides should be “Concerned” and “Cool”

    • QuentinF on 04/02/2011 at 1:11 pm said:

      Australis there isnt any ‘green house effect’ in the planets atmosphere. period.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 04/02/2011 at 8:04 pm said:

      Look away warmists, G&T’s arrived

    • Mike Jowsey on 05/02/2011 at 9:15 am said:

      Thanks for the link Quentin – an interesting read (well, the abstract and table of contents so far…. 100 pages will take a bit more time).

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/02/2011 at 9:40 am said:

      Mike, don’t get too fizzed up over G&T. If you present that paper in debate at Hot Topic, the NZ Herald or any overseas equivalent you will find that it is “discredited”, not published in a “reputable” journal, not approved by RealClimate or scepticalscience and such like. Besides, G&T are not “Climate Scientists”.

      The interesting thing about G&T is that they were unable to address a specific documented AGW hypothesis so they debunked every reference to the greenhouse effect that they could find, about 13 instances I think from memory including Encyclopedia Britannica.

    • Andy on 05/02/2011 at 12:27 pm said:

      Nevertheless, there is a group of scientists who question the basic greenhouse theory, not just G&T. The book “Slaying the Sky Dragon” covers a lot of this, and Claes Johnson is a mathematician who contributed to this book, who is prominent in questioning the basic theory.

      It is interesting that Prof Johnson was prevented from giving lectures in finite element modeling at his university in Sweden because of his views on the greenhouse theory.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/02/2011 at 2:26 pm said:

      I suspect the reason that G&T has not gained a fan base outside of AGW scepticism is to be found in the conclusions:-

      “The point discussed here was to answer the question, whether the supposed atmospheric
      e ffect has a physical basis. This is not the case. In summary, there is no atmospheric
      greenhouse e ffect, in particular CO2-greenhouse eff ect, in theoretical physics and engineering
      thermodynamics. Thus it is illegitimate to deduce predictions which provide a consulting
      solution for economics and intergovernmental policy.”

    • Andy on 05/02/2011 at 5:33 pm said:

      For those interested in Claes Johnson, his blog is

      There’s quite a lot on his blog on the basic radiative physics of CO2.

      Interesting to see that this blog (CCG) is on his blogroll.

  10. Alexander K on 04/02/2011 at 12:14 am said:

    The idea of significantly reducing emissions from farming in New Zealand sounds like a proposal that the country commits economic suicide to me. To propose this target on the back of vague and distinctly unsettled science seems to be evidence that Mad Cow Disease is now rampant in the Boef Wellington, the steaks, the legs of lamb and mutton chops served in Bellamys.

  11. Feelings run high when discussing the opposition. But it is precisely because feelings run high that we should attempt to use terms of address that don’t inflame them.

    I see this discussion (with respect to all involved—and with notable exceptions!) quickly went down the track of “well, this is the scientific situation, and it’s pretty shabby, so you can see just what we have to put up with from the scoundrels in the opposition camp!” and thus neatly sidestepped the need to make any kind of conciliatory move, such as dreaming up a new name.

    However, it also neatly demonstrates the need for a new name. I doubt there will be peace between the two camps if they never converse. I doubt that, without some measure of peaceful conversation, the disputes between them will ever be resolved.

    Some peaceful conversation is surely not too much to hope for. Not here, at least, in the Climate Conversation Group.


  12. (not so) Silent on 05/02/2011 at 8:42 am said:

    I just dont see any use in reaching out to reconcile. I mean reconcile what? Their insults and lies? How those lies have worsened poverty and starvation? How those lies have diverted funds which could have been used to solve vital issues like provision of clean water? How those lies have caused people to die?
    This may sound extreme but you guys know this is true.
    Last year was a tipping point when its comes to public disbelief of AGW proponents (I like that one).
    Politically I think the battle has been lost by them. Oh sure here in NZ we still have this ETS nonsense but NZs policy has been to be a “follower”. So as more countries bail from carbon taxes etc then NZ will follow also, breathing a nice CO2 filled sigh of relief.
    Interesting view of the morality here;

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/02/2011 at 9:28 am said:

      OZ is still gung-ho for a carbon tax so it might be a bit early to hope for a repeal of the ETS.

      One good thing to arise from the climate related disasters there is that climate related science, decisions and policy are coming under scrutiny and being found to be out of kilter with what is happening in the real world.

      Clearly the use of CO2 forced models under the assumption that CO2 is the major climate driver is at the core of the problem along with the blinkered acceptance by govt at state and federal level of anything that anthropogenic climate change touts say will happen climatically.

      It doesn’t help that pragmatic hydrologists with an eye on past records have been ignored in the process. Perhaps they will be listened to now by a broader audience in numbers great enough to sway public opinion. Even now, the OZ govt’s non-scientist climate change adviser Ross Garnaut is being taken to task in The Australian over his spin of the cyclone and monsoon rains. See link:-

  13. Richard C (NZ) on 05/02/2011 at 11:15 am said:

    “Never the twain shall meet”

    And in the case of the Lisbon reconciliation meeting – they didn’t.

    The sceptical scientists showed up but the scientists from the AGW camp were conspicuous by their absence.

    There’s no way the AGW proponents will ever give credence to opponents by being seen in the same vicinity let alone meeting.

    But they can only keep up the charade for so long.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/02/2011 at 9:04 am said:

      Fred Pearce’s headline sums up the oversimplification and misrepresentation of the debate:-

      “Climate sceptics and scientists attempt peace deal”

      It’s more like:-

      “Climate scientists, astrophysicists and related party AGW sceptics attempt peace deal with AGW aligned climate scientists”

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/02/2011 at 9:11 am said:


      “AGW sceptical climate scientists, astrophysicists and related party AGW sceptics attempt peace deal with AGW aligned climate scientists”

    • Andy on 06/02/2011 at 9:49 am said:

      Seems like Fred Pearce has upset a few people.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/02/2011 at 11:28 am said:

      Gavin Schmidt’s objection is telling
      I’m a little confused at what conflict you feel you are going to be addressing? The fundamental conflict is of what (if anything) we should do about greenhouse gas emissions (and other assorted pollutants), not what the weather was like 1000 years ago. Your proposed restriction against policy discussion removes the whole point. None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions. No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position.
      “the scientific community” in his world view being only those that reflect his views.

    • To give Gavin credit, he does sound solidly credible. It’s no wonder that politicians around the world believe him. But in this statement he conveniently conflates CAGW with “other assorted pollutants,” diverts attention by claiming we’re arguing over the weather 1000 years ago, and simply closes his mind to any validity in the sceptics’ arguments, claiming they’re all motivated by “political positions.” Finally, he attempts to close off this point of view by characterising all who agree with him as “the science community” (not only climate scientists), united in their dedication to pure science itself. His opponents are not scientists of any description, but “people” looking to support their views, who obviously cannot be counted on for the truth.

      His position on CAGW will only be unpicked by verified scientific fact, and it will have to be done strand by strand, including real-world climate observations and descriptions of atmospheric phenomena. Does he acknowledge the existence of the UAH temp series? Imagine the effect of Dr Schmidt changing his mind! Who’s familiar with his statements and arguments?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 07/02/2011 at 11:21 am said:

      Seen at JoNova

      Author: Orkneygal
      After reading what’s being typed around the blogosphere, from Dr Curry’s blog, WUWT, Tallbloke’s place, RC, Romm’s house of horrors, etc., it seems that Fred Pearce has found a way to alienate commentators from every part of the spectrum.

      Looks to me like the New Scientist has a major accomplished a major publicity coup.

  14. Richard C (NZ) on 05/02/2011 at 7:50 pm said:

    Weather is climate – apparently.

    “Flat-earthers, it’s time for a cold shower” – Opinion, Mike Carlton, smh.

    “PARDON me for pointing out the bleedin’ obvious but for those who have not been paying attention much of the planet has been devastated by extraordinary weather in the past year.”

    [Blah Blah]

    “Given this catalogue of global disaster, would now be a good time for the climate change flat-earthers to shut up and listen, do you think? Just for a day or two, or even five minutes?”

  15. Andy on 07/02/2011 at 9:02 am said:

    There is a suggestion that “climate sceptics” be referred to as “climate numpties”

    This is the level we have been reduced to, it would appear.

  16. Andy on 07/02/2011 at 2:21 pm said:

    This little email exchange between Simon Singh and Martin Durkin (director: The Great Global Warming Swindle) is interesting (warning: colourful language)

    —-Original Message—– From: Martin Durkin []

    Subject: RE: The Global Warming Swindle To: Simon Singh

    The BBC is now a force for bigotry and intolerance. Most of the temperature rise in the past 150 years happened before 1940. Most of the human CO2 happened in the latter part of the 20 century.

    Since 1940 we have had four decades of cooling, three of warming, and the last decade when temperature has been doing nothing. The IPCC’s own figures show the hottest year in the past ten was 1998, and the temp has been flat-lining now for five years. If it’s greenhouse gas causing the warming the rate of warming should be higher in the troposphere than on the surface. The opposite is the case. The ice core data shows that temperature change causes the level of atmospheric CO2 to change – not the other way round.

    Why have we not heard this in the hours and hours of s*** programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC?

    Never mind an irresponsible bit of film-making. Go and **** yourself.

  17. David White on 10/02/2011 at 10:13 pm said:

    Simplistic answer to the original question:

    IPCC supporters v IPCC sceptics.

    The polarising element, IMHO, is the political implications written by non-scientific policy people, based on the scientific papers accepted by the IPCC.

    While we argue, heatedly, about the scientific papers, it is the political response to the “presented science” that more definitely separates one camp from the other. (I use the term “IPCC” to encapsulate the science+politics of the AGW believers.)

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