Friday, March 30, 2012


cc: David Cromwell <>, Peter Challenor <>,,, "B.E. Launder" <>, Mike Hulme <>, Katy Hill <>, "Quinn, Rachel" <>, Laura Middleton <>
date: Wed, 03 Dec 2003 11:22:10 +0000
from: "Griggs, Dave" <>
subject: RE: to engage or not
to: Asher Minns <>, Stefan Rahmstorf <>, John Shepherd <>

Dear All

Thank you for copying me in on the discussion. To respond on one point:

Asher mentions the recent "Big Chill" programme, and the unfortunate "scare" line the programme took. As you know Hadley Centre scientists (Richard Wood) were involved, and the programme showed his "what if" scenarios with artifically-forced THC collapse. What Richard Wood did say many times to camera (but cut from the programme) and producer was that this scenario, whilst not impossible, was unlikely in the next century or so - he published this in Nature about 3 years ago and of course other modellers find the same sort of result. The programme chose to play up the view of other scientists, especially those from Woods Hole, who had very different views which we think they presented in a rather extreme way - but that's up to them of course - and they just may be right!

"sceptics ask, scientists answer" may sound like a good idea, but there are a whole range of sceptics, a wide range of things to be sceptical about, and good scientists who are also sceptics too. All the people filmed on the Big Cill programme were scientists, but we are sceptical about some of their views. It works both ways!



Dr Dave Griggs, Director Climate Research
>Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research
>Fitzroy Road Exeter Devon EX1 3PB United Kingdom
>Tel: +44 (0)1392 886615 Fax: +44 (0)1392 885681

-----Original Message-----
From: Asher Minns []
Sent: 02 December 2003 18:40
To: Stefan Rahmstorf; John Shepherd
Cc: David Cromwell; Peter Challenor;;; B.E. Launder; Mike Hulme; Katy Hill; Quinn, Rachel; Griggs, Dave; Laura Middleton
Subject: to engage or not

Dear John, Stefan et al,
You have clearly been having an interesting exchange of views about whether scientists should engage with environmental skeptics. From my experience of trying different approaches I pretty-much am in agreement with Stefan about public rebutting of skeptics.
1) we bestow skeptics with scientific credibility and legitimacy
2) we give skeptics a free ride on our reputation and kindly provide them with the oxygen of our publicity
3) we are looking at considerable resources if we are to refute skeptics, do it properly, and do a good job. For example, last week's contribution to my inbox is an 8 page analysis of 55 years of temperature data for eleven small US cities, which, the author claims, shows that there is no evidence of global warming because there is no heat-island effect, and demonstrates regional cooling. Who will volunteer to re-analyse and rebutt this analysis, by tomorrow or earlier? I'd rather I used our resources elsewhere
4) 4.1 million UK viewers watched BBC2 Horizon's 'Big Chill' a couple of weeks ago which included Hadley scientists presenting scenarios of a catastrophic mini ice-age in 20 and 50 years time for the UK. It will soon be syndicated to Discovery and shown worldwide. How do we effectively refute the 'Big Chill' to 4 million people and then worldwide? Broadcast media is the really important audience.
5) we would do better to concentrate our resources on world class research and effectively communicating it to target and influential audiences, including journalists and the media
6) replacing objectivity with ideology (which is how arguments can appear to the public) can damage an organisation's or a scientists credibility

However, I should point-out that I am not entirely negative about engaging with skeptics, but I do think Tyndall should be very selective about when it chooses to engage, with whom, and how. I am also very open to ideas for developing web-initiatives - and will give this web page idea some proper consideration.

Some recent links related to skeptic topics:
All of the BBC climate change message boards

Regards to all,

Mr Asher Minns
Communication Manager
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Mob: 07880 547 843
Tel: +44 0 1603 593906

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Shepherd" <>
To: "Stefan Rahmstorf" <>
Cc: "David Cromwell" <>; "Peter Challenor" <>; <>; <>; "B.E. Launder" <>; "Mike Hulme" <>; "Katy Hill" <>; "Quinn, Rachel" <>; <>; <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 1:11 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Anti Global Warming Petition Project

Hi Stefan

Many thanks for your very helpful comments. Essentially I agree on all counts, and indeed the "sceptics ask, scientists answer" web-page that you have set up is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind as a possible minimal response that we (Tyndall et al, and even maybe the Royal Society if it wants to get involved) might undrertake. Wherever possible this could/should refer to other reputable sites (incl IPCC, Hadley Centre, the ones you mention, etc etc) rather than duplicating the material. I would envisage that such a site could be maintained by a consortium of the willing, in this case involving (say) Tyndall, Hadley & PIK. We could then asked the RS (et al) to mention it and link to it on some sort of "sound science" page on their own web-site(s) (Rachel, do you think that this might fly ?).

We had an interesting debate on this at the Tyndall Advisory Board last week, and the consensus was very much in line with your views, except for the journalist present (Roger Horobin), who wanted something more pro-active. I am more sympathetic to his view than most of you, I think, but the question is what more would be useful, effective, and not too burdensome ? So far I don't think I have identified anything, but I do think that the sort of web-page mentioned above would be a start, and so I am copying this to Asher Minns, for him to consider and discuss with John & Mike at Tyndall Central.


PS for Dave Griggs, I've added you to the circulation of this, as you weren't part of the previous exchanges. You views would be very welcome.

At 12:56 24/11/2003 +0100, Stefan Rahmstorf wrote:
>Dear John,
>my feeling is that it is not the role of scientific institutions to do
>this kind of thing - this is likely going to backfire, in that it
>damages our reputation if we get involved in "dirty" battles with
>climate sceptics on the internet. There is a great danger in being seen
>as one party in a fight. We need to emphasise that we are neutral
>scientists who look at all the evidence and give reasoned and balanced
>information to the public, rather than being advocates for a particular
>cause. The sceptics are exactly trying to push us into that corner:
>they claim we are "believers" and advocates of some ideology. One has
>to be very careful to avoid this impression, by being very careful
>about when and how to respond to sceptics. It is more important to
>present our own work and conclusions than to be responsive (and easily
>perceived as defensive) with respect to sceptics. We should not let
>them set the agenda and the terms of debate. This is not to say we
>should never respond to sceptics - sometimes this is indeed necessary,
>but with caution, and I am still learning how best to do this. To give
>some examples. I have learned (the hard way) that it is completely
>futile and counterproductive to respond to the mass e-mailing by people
>like Timo H�meranta etc. - this is a no-win situation. It only gives
>their e-mail fora an importance that they don't deserve, if reputable
>scientists get involved there. Journalists who are on these lists start
>to believe that this is where the important discourse on global warming
>science takes place - and it's the sceptics who set the agenda there.
>Hence my advice
>is: only write to these people to ask to be taken off their
>A positive example: a group of us has compiled a web site "sceptics
>ask, scientists answer" (in German), this site is hosted bei the German
>government's environment agency (Umweltbundesamt) at
>It has responses to all the favorite sceptics arguments, and whenever
>some journalist or member of public asks about any sceptics arguments,
>we can simply refer them to this site. Thus, at least the scientific
>community cannot be accused of not having answers to the sceptics
>stuff. If Tyndall wants to do something about the sceptics, perhaps
>hosting a similar site in english would be a good idea. Finally a mixed
>example: a group of 14 scientists issued a media release questioning
>the Shaviv&Veizer paper some weeks ago, since this was taking on a life
>of its own in the media, being heralded as disproving global warming.
>You can find this (also in english) at
>Even though this was quite a reaonable response by reputable
>scientists, pointing out the scientific flaws in the paper, the media
>response (even in left-wing papers) was partly rather negative (like:
>the scientific establishment is sulking because they had their favorite
>toy, CO2, taken away from them....) Hence my words of caution - if you
>get too involved with sceptics, you start to be seen as partisan.
>Lastly: what is important, I think, is writing scientific rebuttals for
>journals to the sceptics papers that have recently appeared in
>Stefan Rahmstorf
>Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
>For contact details, reprints, movies & general infos see:

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