49 Cliff Clavins Walk into a Bar and Talk Climate Change

This is a guest post from Dr. John Abraham

You could almost set your watch by it.  It has become a regular absurdity that a bunch of non-scientists try to tell the world that they know something the experts don’t. 

Those of us who watched that iconic television show called Cheers remember Cliff, the mailman.  He considered himself the expert on everything even though it was painfully obvious he knew very little about anything. 

Well we got our latest batch of Cliff Clavin wisdom this past week when 49 former staff members from NASA wrote a letter to NASA administrators decrying the work that the organization does on climate.  It makes one wonder what the thousands of current NASA employees think of their former colleagues. 

It is important to point out that the leader of this gang is none other than Harrison Schmitt, a well-known, and self-described “denier” of human-caused climate change.  While he trumpets his scientific expertise, none of it relates to climate. 

For those who follow the more extreme fringes of climate denialism, Harrison’s participation is not a surprise.  Approximately one year ago he claimed the arctic sea ice had recovered from its dramatic declines in preceding years.  That claim was false and it attracted the attention of the National Snow and Ice Data Center who had to tell us what we already knew… Harrison Schmitt didn’t know what he was talking about. 
Also not surprising to real climate scientists is that the other person who apparently spearheaded this letter, Walter Cunningham, has zero climate experience.

But there must be someone in the group who knows of what they speak, right?  Probably not.  I performed a scientific literature search on over half the signers and found, you guessed it, zero experience.  So, this is a group that might be able to build spacecraft, but they certainly aren’t a group with notable climate backgrounds.

So why the charade?  While I cannot be certain, I can only guess.  Perhaps, in the era of tight science budgets, this group bemoans the money spent on Earth sciences when it could be spent on manned spaceflight.  I am also guessing that the denialists have run out of real scientists to speak for their cause.  The small and decreasing cadre of denialist climate scientists have had a few bad years.  We have had continued increases in the Earth’s temperature, extraordinary weather that has made people in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota wonder what was happening, and increasing costs of severe weather including droughts and massive, repeated flooding. 

The few second-rate scientists who used to tell us “don’t worry, this is all natural” have now mainly had their work shown to be faulty or have seemingly given up on publishing altogether.  Now over 97% of experts in this field agree, humans are changing the climate.  So, the denialist camp has now turned to their third-string lineup. 

I’m just glad that I know some of the hard working scientists at NASA who spend long hours studying our Earth, helping us make wise decisions to protect this beautiful and bountiful planet for our future generations.  It is those people and the uncountable real scientists and engineers who are working every day to solidify our understanding of the climate and help bring clean technologies to market that will not only save our environment but also create jobs, improve national security and truly diversify our energy supply.

Dr. John Abraham
Associate Professor
University of St. Thomas


What can the signatories mean by “considering thousands of years of empirical data” ? That must surely be a reference to proxies, the reliability of which climate contrarians largely dispute .

I’ve asked this question of a ‘skeptic’ blog which covered the story, but I havent had a satisfactory reply, just the usual they grew grapes in Britain during Roman times you know Hengist.

But it’s a serious question and Im thinking of emailing Dr Schmitt myself, if he really has thousands of years of empirical data to back up his claims, let’s see it.


You will never get a reply.

If you do, it will be a Monckton Maneuver.

“So why the charade?  While I cannot be certain, I can only guess.”

I will be more blunt. I’m willing to lay money on it that every one of those 49 signatories are Republican partisans and this is all about them listening to their ideology before the science and the facts. 

As Nasa spokesman Waleed Abdalati told Huffo:

““NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate,” the agency’s chief scientist, Dr. Waleed Abdalati, told The Huffington Post in an email. “As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue ‘claims’ about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion…If the authors of this letter disagree with specific scientific conclusions made public by NASA scientists, we encourage them to join the debate in the scientific literature or public forums rather than restrict any discourse.

We have seen them in neither. Their comment is effectively the same as the Oregon petition. Full of professionals, barely any in the relevant field.

As Hengist pointed out, they supplied no “evidence”, to show us what they thought was the killer blow, or the cause for pause. Just opinion. 

In one of those jaw dropping moments only the denialiti and their legion of kool aid lovers could see the sense in, denier hill have a new post alleging it is the climate realists that lack  scientific evidence and whom rely on non experts for opinion instead of fact.


It requires several slaps of ones face in disbelief, considering the recent NASA letter that they themselves reported on. You can just see them gathering their torches & pitchforks now.

“Get em!! Dey know learnin!”.


Had to go & get a couple of rounds of popcorn to watch  Jan P. Perlwitz take on a full horde of angry orcs solo over at WTFUWDeniers. Jan is an actual publishing scientist from NASA with more published science than the owners & commenters of WTFUWDeniers.com combined.


Some memorable moments as the hordes of orcs and the occasional troll desperately fight off facts and logic.


Jan P. Perlwitz says:

April 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Babsy, you wrote:

“How about you show us how you added CO2 to a volume of air and increased its
temperature.That is your premise, isn’t it?”

What are you asking? That I prove to you the validity of a scientific theory in the comment section of an opinion blog like this one here?

You asked A. Lacis to provide evidence for what he said. Do you even know who you are asking? As if he hadn’t already delivered his share of evidence in his publications.

If you want to know the scientific evidence for a scientific theory (do you really?) then you will have to rely on the peer reviewed scientific literature. That’s the place where the evidence is provided and where the scientific debate takes place. Not in opinion blogs like this one here, not in Forbes, WSJ, or opinion letters authored by former NASA astronauts and program analysts. Or an alleged meteorologist who apparently hasn’t published anything in climate science. Or in any field of science, for the matter of fact. At least I haven’t found anything by him indexed in Thomson Reuter’s Web of Knowledge. So, in addition to that the letter is just opinion disseminated by laymen (whose education may be above average and who have expertise in their fields, but they are still laymen in the special field about which they are talking in the letter), the press statement which is quoted in the posting above is also based on deception of the public, since it is sold as a letter by people who allegedly have expertise, although there is none on their side in the field of climate science.

Ouch!! Killer blow.

And this:

Jan P. Perlwitz says:

April 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Smokey, you wrote:

“1) We are not discussing a scientific “theory”. This article is about corruption surrounding the catastrophic AGW conjecture.”

You are not entitled to impose on me what I’m discussing. I discuss what I find appropriate. I replied to the request directed at A. Lacis to provide evidence for the statements on the physics behind the role of CO2 in the climate system.

“Proper terminology is important at the internet’s Best Science site,”

And what makes this the “Best Science” site? I ask this because you seem to believe this is of some importance for what is said here, or why are you pointing to this? Majority opinion of some anonymous voters? It’s still just an opinion blog, and not a science site. And you yourself just negated one sentence before that this was about science here.

And where you see an article and discussion about “corruption” and “conjecture” I see name calling, smearing, inciting, hateful statements, and fantasies of punishment and violence against climate scientists in an opinion blog from people who don’t have the arguments on their side to refute findings of science on scientific grounds.

“2) Your appeal to authority [“You asked A. Lacis to provide evidence for what he said. Do you even know who you are asking?”] is ridiculous.”

I point to the fact that A. Lacis has published many peer reviewed articles in the field. Thus, the suggestion that he first would have to provide evidence for his statements is baseless, since he has already provided his share. What does this have to do with “appeal to authority”? Nothing. Instead it’s an appeal to get informed.

If you want to read a quote where appeal to authority is used, here is one:

“Some very prominent NASA voices speak out in a scathing letter to current NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr.. When Chris Kraft, the man who presided over NASA’s finest hour, and the engineering miracle of saving Apollo 13 speaks, people listen.” (Anthony Watts)

“Lacis is just another tax sponge IMO, nothing more.”

Well, at least you are aware that this is just an opinion, not a factual statement, nothing more.

“The onus is on the one proposing a conjecture or hypothesis. The fact that you’re being an apologist for someone who will not show valid support for his paper”…

“His paper”? To what paper of the many do you refer here? And your claim that his papers are not based on “valid support” is based on what, except on your wishful thinking grounded in your preconceived views? If you have more to offer than your scientifically irrelevant assertions just point me to your scientific publications where you have refuted on scientific grounds the findings A. Lacis has presented in his scientific papers.

I also don’t know what “apologist” is supposed to mean in the context here.

…”is typical of the tap dancing that the alarmist crowd is constantly engaged in.”

As I said. Just point me to your scientific publications where you have refuted A. Lacis’s papers, so you can back up your bold claims, you expert. Or are you just pounding the table?

“They have lost all credibility, and they still hide out from open debate. They’re not stupid, they know they get slaughtered in scientific debates, where facts rule. So they hide out.”

That must be it. That is why they are published in the specialist journals where the scientific debate takes place, whereas you mostly have to resort to opinion blogs like this one.

Do you know what the difference is between this blog here, or any opinion blog, and a peer reviewed scientific publication in a specialist journal?

“Finally, when you were asked, “How about you show us how you added CO2 to a volume of air and increased its temperature. That is your premise, isn’t it?” …you set up your strawman arguments and appeals to authority. Because if you tried to answer that question, you would be in way over your head in short order.”

If it makes yourself feel better to believe that. And now it’s about science after all? So what is it? How it is convenient for you at the moment? Even if you contradict yourself in one and the same comment?

We salute you Jan the orc slayer. 


Jan is back with avengeance and is merciless with the orcs.

Jan P. Perlwitz says:

April 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Robert E. Phelan wrote:

“Jan … works as a modeler at GISS and has even been published…

Seems to “know” everything about aerosols and nothing about science.”

That is the funniest statement what I have read here so far, coming from the fake skeptic parallel universe where the facts that someone works in science and “has even been published” are criteria for being disqualified from knowing something about science. The utter absurdity of your “argument” is stunning.

Thanks for your services Jan.


Jan is back with a bit of banter between coal executive & philospher Richard Courtney:


Richard suffers from Dunning Kruger:


Some highlights:

Richard: “Anybody can see that I deconstructed your comments.”

Jan: Sure, the majority here will “see” and applaud you. It’s the same majority that very likely will applaud to anything, no matter how illogical or contrary to the data and published finding of science it is, as long as it confirms the preconceived views of the fake skeptic crowd.


Richard: The “mechanism” you were asked to show was how the entire climate system would respond such as to cause the atmosphere to warm up. You have not done that, and so it seems Babsy was right to claim “you cannot”.”

Jan: Let’s be clear what you are asking me. You are asking me to write an essay here, in which I explain the working of the whole Earth system in it’s total complexity, taking into account all essential aspects of this system, all essential interactions between its components, all positive and negative feedback relationships, and name all the evidence from measurements and observations for that it really works like this, referencing all the scientific publications where this evidence has been presented, and then, taking into consideration all of this, to explain how an increase in carbon dioxide leads to a warming of the surface and troposphere, and again, present all the evidence needed to show that it really works like this and reference all the scientific publications where the evidence has been presented.

All this in a comment in a thread of this opinion blog.

And you are faulting me that I haven’t delivered.

You are asking me to write here in a comment an essay of book length with many hundred pages that reviews and assesses the current knowledge about Earth’s climate.

Oh, wait. There is such a book with a comprehensive review and assessment. It’s called IPCC Report 2007, Volume 1, “The Physical Science Basis”.

Richards statements pass as inteligence for deniers.


If these people are 49 Cliff Clavins, then here is their theme song:

Denying the world is a warmer place

takes everything you’ve got

Getting a note from non-climate scientists

sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to disprove AGW claims?

Sometimes you want to go…

Where nobody knows your name

And they’re all without any shame

You wanna be, an armchair PhD

The critiques are all so lame

You wanna be, where nobody knows your name

You don’t wanna know, what the data show

You ‘skeptics’ are all the same

You wanna go, where nobody knows your name




Forty-nine retired white males (likely with a Libertarian bent) write a letter disparaging climate science.  No news here.  Move along.

JSC is the NASA center with the least to do with climate science or earth science in general. These guys built shuttles. They must figure if Schmidt says so, it’s true. 

This NASA retiree is appalled at their letter.