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Just recently, I coined a ‘neat’ neologism: ‘Potato print sceptic’, on another blog.

As the idea came off the top of my head, no doubt someone else has beaten me to it, so I’m not bothered about claiming true originality; it just struck me as a useful term to describe a certain type of poster on climate blogs.

The phenomenon should be familiar to anyone running a popular or influential climate blog: at almost any opportunity, a regular sceptic poster will send a message into a thread. Sometimes it is relevant, often, it changes the subject.

The assiduous moderator cross-checks the post. It appears, unchanged, in six or seven other blogs, if not more, on threads relating to a diversity of issues. What is going on? Potato print scepticism, that is what.

Who didn’t spend time in junior school cutting funny shapes into a half-potato (with teacher’s help, because the knives were sharp), then joyfully sticking the spud into various poster paint colours, before smearing a piece of sugar paper with the paint, the shape occasionally appearing from the mess? In a burst of creativity, realising that one could make patterns, pictures, mess, without needing to be truly creative or in the slightest bit talented, we proceeded to produce an artwork of such magnitude that even our despairing mothers struggled to call ‘wonderful, darling’.

Somebody, somewhere, makes potato cut-outs for willing posters, designed to spoil and introduce complexity or controversy into a thread. Said Junior then duly flies around the virtual classroom that is the blogosphere and leaves said imprint and side-splatters around the place.

Following on from the suggestion I made a couple of days ago in ‘Never mind the sceptics’, I recommend consigning such play-school vandals to the corner of the room in a dunce’s cap, before they spoil everyone else dreadful artworks. Benefit of the doubt can exist at first, but the experienced eye of the class teacher can always spot the troublemaker getting the trouble going. Here is the object-lesson to the blogger: observe, pre-empt, divert, distract. If all fails, send to the corner of the room. Some kids just don’t seem to be able to play ‘nice’. At the end of the school day, have a talk to mum about Junior’s attitude and hint that a bit of parental control might be in order.

The second shade of the day comes courtesy of tamino, Inel and Stoat: a letter to the editor of a regional newspaper about how global warming is a function of daylight saving time and didn’t the scientists realise this?

Tamino’s blog entertainingly discusses whether or not this is a joke, and whether or not the author really is the lawyer of the name in the town concerned. Yes, it appears it was her.

To me, this illustrates the point being made about addressing the public, not the sceptic, in climate science discussion. If such confused, unscientific, and slightly silly arguments can come from individuals who are, in other ways, undoubtedly intelligent and competent (it takes effort and qualifications to practice Law), it should be clear that the datum point – ground level in the AGW debate is really, really, low. KISS – avoid the scientific jargon at all costs – explain how a thought is wrong – give a better answer – move on.

The path to enlightenment on climate change is beset by difficulties, Pilgrim; hold tight to your sword of Truth and be valiant. The Holy City is at the end of the journey.

Be loved, but also, be patient.


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April 2007