Monday, February 24, 2014

A look at the world of climate change denial

I came across an article at The Conversation that fits right into my little virtual dialogue.  It gives a good overview of the cord of disingenuous manipulation that runs through the economic/politically motivated attacks on climate science.  

Since, the following essay doesn't attempt to look at the root causes for the crazy-making they describe, I'll venture some thoughts.

The underhanded attacks on climate science's credibility started within the Reaganomics machine/mindset.  The people that inhabit that machine were/are addicted to a notion that too much is never enough (for example).  It embraces a notion of maximizing profits, minimizing liabilities.  It openly rejects responsibility for environmental stewardship,  abhors the notion of limits or regulation, and behaves as if resources are endless and tomorrow doesn't matter.  

Worse they possess outright contempt for the "environment" and can't seem to fathom the difference between the 60s planet of three billion people and today's world of over seven billion hungry souls and a warming global climate system.

Their disregard for the lessons of history and seeming contempt for the future can be seen in everything from their rejection of responsibility for externalities such as clean (read healthy) soil, water and air, to the way our nation's proudly built infrastructure has been allowed to degenerate.

It's like a nation invited a charismatic Hollywood pretty boy into the halls of power and the halls of power started to believe their own Hollywood fairytale of endless milk and honey and no responsibility (read taxes) maintaining infrastructure nor preparing for our children's future.

Yes, these are generalities - perhaps a starting point for further discussion.

With thanks to The Conversation and their generous sharing policy here is their full article - I have highlighted some paragraphs.


A journey into the weird and wacky world of climate change denial

By Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol and Michael Ashley

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Professors Stephan Lewandowsky and Michael Ashley step into the twilight zone of climate change scepticism: where the sun is made of iron and the royals are out to get you.

Science, like much human endeavour, thrives on debate.

Climate deniers want to participate in this debate as equal partners, and feel that they are entitled to be heard and to be taken seriously. This is quite understandable, but by itself does not create an entitlement.

In science, to actually contribute at the forefront of a field one has to earn credibility, not demand it. Being taken seriously is a privilege, not a right.

In science, this privilege is earned by not only following conventional norms of honesty and transparency but by supporting one’s opinions with evidence and reasoned argument in the peer-reviewed literature.

This is what makes science self-correcting. If arguments turn out to be wrong, in time they are caught and corrected by other scientists. It is virtually impossible to publish long-refuted nonsense in good peer-reviewed journals.

Climate deniers, by contrast, seem to avoid the peer-reviewed literature or publish by sometimes abusing the system. Nor do the deniers turn up and present their ideas at any of the many international scientific conferences, open to anyone, where these issues have been explored for decades.

Deniers simply keep restating nonsensical arguments that the scientific community has known to be wrong for a long time.

The illusion of debate

So why do deniers continue to make their loud, and egregiously mistaken, claims? And what explains the tiny handful of deniers with verifiable academic credentials?
Many are (generally former) Professors, albeit usually with tenuous unpaid Adjunct or Emeritus associations with universities.

Are these individuals indicative of a scientific debate, after all? And if not, what motivates them?
Today, denial of the link between HIV and AIDS would be laughable, if the consequences of that denial hadn’t been so serious.

It is thus important to remember that twenty years ago a tiny handful of people in the medical community, including senior academics at reputable universities, rejected the consensus that HIV causes AIDS.

It is illuminating that just as in climate science, the contrarian publications on HIV were accompanied by an unusual context that made headlines and raised eyebrows for the same ethical reasons that arise from climate deniers’ subversion of peer review.

An example from astronomy is also prescient. The consensus of astronomers is that the sun consists largely of hydrogen and helium, and is powered by fusion at its core.

The evidence for this is overwhelming, and supported by multiple independent lines of investigation.

Like climate change, there are contrarian academics who argue against the consensus. O. Manuel, unpaid Emeritus of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, has claimed for decades that the sun is mostly composed of iron.

Manuel has recently published his bizarre theories in the bottom-tier journal Energy & Environment, also a favorite of climate deniers due to its, to put it mildly, unusual review processes.

There is an important lesson here: an overwhelming scientific consensus does not imply the absence of contrarian voices even within the scientific community.

Over time, those contrarian voices simply fade away because no one takes them seriously, despite their shouts of “censorship” and accusations of bias.

This is not to say that a scientific consensus is never overturned.

There are well-known examples such as the Helicobacter pylori discovery in medicine, and continental drift in geology. But in both cases the arguments were won and lost in the peer-reviewed literature, not by contrarians sitting on the side-lines writing opinion pieces about how they were being oppressed.

Manipulating the media

Normally the underbelly of obsessed contrarians that strangely afflicts many areas of science would go unnoticed.

With climate change, however, we are in the extraordinary situation where the deniers have had almost free reign in media outlets such as The Australian, while scientists are given short shrift.

The editors there claim to be providing balanced commentary for their readers to make informed decisions. In reality they are doing a great disservice to the community by publishing junk science.

Providing a platform for deniers, thereby enabling political leaders to mistake contrarian cranks for real science, can have horrendous consequences, as we have seen in the case of HIV, where perhaps hundreds of thousands of people have needlessly died.

There is an ethical imperative to hold deniers accountable for their actions.

But the question remains: what motivates deniers?

With very few exceptions, academic climate deniers are male and either retired or close to retirement.

The climate deniers’ champion, MIT’s 71-year old Richard Lindzen, has had a distinguished career, but 30 years after his major contributions, he appears to struggle to respond to devastating peer reviews when he attempts to publish his contrarian views in a major journal.

More commonly, the academic climate denier will have had a mediocre career that escaped public notice and left little imprint on science. Some haven’t been able to keep up with the rapid advances in science coming from its increasing complexity and the impact of computers and new technologies. Once respected, these scientists find themselves “out of the loop” and being ignored, which sometimes makes them quite grumpy.

There is much truth in the eminent physicist Max Planck’s observation, “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up,” sometimes paraphrased as, “science advances one funeral at a time.”

A strong motivation for contrarians appears to be the attention that they can gain or re-gain in the public arena.

Any scientist, no matter how out of touch, can become the darling of talk shows by simply disagreeing with the consensus on climate.

89-year-old Vincent Gray was introduced recently by shock jock Alan Jones as “world acknowledged and acclaimed,” and among “some of the most eminent people in the world”.

Gray’s most recent peer-reviewed publication appears to be an article on the chemical properties of coal, from 17 years ago. Nothing at all on climate.

Jones also recently interviewed 72-year-old Tim Ball, describing him as “one of the world’s most eminent climate scientists, and acknowledged as such.” This is in contrast to Ball’s CV, in which he reveals he got his PhD at the age of 44 and retired from academia at the age of 57 with a very thin list of publications, most frequently in The Beaver and the Manitoba Social Science Teachers Journal.

Jones’ listeners and The Australian’s readers are being misled.

David Attenborough is watching you…

Another necessary element of denial is conspiratorial thinking. Any denier sooner or later, whether an academic or not, must resort to a global conspiracy theory to negate the overwhelming evidence arrayed against them.

One self-proclaimed “rocket scientist” who has published junk science in the opinion pages of The Australian has been quoted on a New Zealand website as saying:

“To win the political aspect of the climate debate, we have to lower the western climate establishment’s credibility with the lay person. And this paper [an accompanying picture book of thermometers] shows how you do it. It simply assembles the most easily understood points that show they are not to be entirely trusted, with lots of pictures and a minimum of text and details. It omits lots of relevant facts and is excruciatingly economical with words simply because the lay person has a very short attention span for climate arguments. The strategy of the paper is to undermine the credibility of the establishment climate scientists. That’s all. There is nothing special science-wise.”

Undermine credibility.

That’s all.

Nothing science-wise.

Are these the people one should entrust with the welfare of future generations?

Lest one think this is an isolated case, conspiracy theories are an essential ingredient in writings of deniers.

According to a recent (not peer-reviewed) book by Bob Carter, who has an unpaid Adjunct position at James Cook University, it is “simply professional suicide for a scientist to put a questioning head above the parapet” when faced with opposition from “the BBC, commercial television, all major newspapers, the Royal Society, the Chief Scientist, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, David Attenborough, countless haloed-image organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and even Prince Charles himself.”

Just imagine the devastating rebuttal of climate change that Bob Carter could submit for peer-review if he wasn’t being oppressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prince Charles.

But seriously, why doesn’t Carter, or any of the deniers, simply write a coherent outline of their best arguments against the expert consensus and publish it in the peer-reviewed literature?

Why don’t they turn up to the relevant scientific conferences and give a talk on their theories?
The answer is simple: they don’t have any arguments that have any scientific merit.

Which is why Carter publishes in The Australian. Again, and again, and again and again.

Returning to our discussion of conspiracy theorists, O. Manuel, whose imaginative theories on the sun we discussed earlier, avidly posts to blogs and often mentions President Eisenhower’s 1961 warning against a government-funded “scientific-technological elite”.

Manuel claims that this “tax-feeding ‘elite’ has distorted experimental data to give tax-payers misinformation about the sun’s origin.”

The peer-reviewed literature on conspiratorial thinking cites several identifying attributes that are replete in the statements of climate deniers.

For example, the imaginary conspirators are at once small in number but also all powerful.
They claim on the one hand that science is based on the strength of argument, not on the consensus of experts, but on the other hand they desperately manufacture petitions and lists of “scientists” on their side.

There’s a laughable list circulating on the internet of 31,000 “scientists” — including at one point Dr. Pierce and Dr. Hunnicutt of M*A*S*H fame — who allegedly oppose the consensus on climate change. But on the other hand there’s the simultaneous claim that opposition is squashed by the world’s science academies and Prince Charles.

Deniers yelp about being oppressed, while at the same time claiming to number 31,000.
And just to be sure, Prince Phillip runs the world’s drug trade and climate change is a means by which the Royal family is culling the population for a forthcoming genocide. Or something like that, maybe you can figure it out.

Time to close the phony debate on climate science

At a time when the oceans are accumulating heat at the rate of five Hiroshima bombs per second, are conspiracy theorists the people whom a nation should entrust with the future of our children?

The so-called “debate” on climate change has been over for decades in the peer-reviewed literature. It is time to accept the scientific consensus and move on, and to stop giving air-time to the cranks.

It is time for accountability.

This is the ninth part of our series Clearing up the Climate Debate. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Stephan Lewandowsky receives funding from the Australian Research Council and the Swiss National Science Foundation. As is standard around the world, the funding agencies expect the grant holder to produce high-quality peer-reviewed research but do not dictate or expect any particular outcome. The funds also do not affect the grant holder's personal income or financial circumstances. Merit-based public funding is essential to ensure that science can be conducted in the public's interest without regard to potential commercial interests.

Michael Ashley receives funding from the Australian Research Council, and other Australian government grant bodies, for his research in astrophysics.
The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you've got the cajones to publish this link to the TERRIBLE denier Professor Pierre Darriulat and his submission to House of Commons Energy & Climate Change Committee (Link here:

Maybe you will use this as a "Hopefully a resource for the busy, yet discerning student ;-)"

Or, you could be a denier and refuse to publish this post - and that would be my bet - maybe the good professor is not smart enough to form the opinions that he has but I reckon he's a whole lot smarter than ANYBODY here (including me :-)


citizenschallenge said...

I looked at Darriulat's document and it's actually a pretty silly repetition of the usual talking points - another example of doing science by rhetoric rather than science by evidence and reasoning.

Pierre Darriulat is a seventy-five year old one time astrophysics who's philosophizing. He has nothing that addresses any actual climate issues. He doesn't present any relevant science, nor does he even seem to be aware of the current state of climatology.

But he does have issues with the "precautionary principle" and believes we must have 99% certainty before any sort of proactive efforts to reduce CO2 output are undertaken. Correct me if I'm mistaken.

Anonymous 2/24/2014, let's see if you can following up with some relevant quotes from that document.

Then explain what you think we learn from Darriulat's quotes.

For the record I welcome anything a "climate science skeptic" cares to share, if it's rational and civil. I've had much experience researching your various claims - so I know from first hand experience that not much stands up to the full spectrum of available information - and I welcome your challenges... I INVITE YOUR CHALLENGES !

But, in my experience, first comes the grand entrance and big bold claims. Then I come back after doing some research and a better understanding of all that "skeptics" have left out of their story. And it crumbles. Then when the time comes for the "skeptics" to respond with their own thoughtful counter-arguments, and evidence - youz folks always seem to disappear back into the woodwork, and it's back to talking into a vacuum.

Prove yourself different.

Take the time to explain what you find persuasive in Darriulat's document.

Anonymous said...

citizen'schallenge says "I looked at Darriulat's document and it's actually a pretty silly repetition of the usual talking points - another example of doing science by rhetoric rather than science by evidence and reasoning."

What usual talking points are you referring to? & you obviously think doing science by models is better than empirical evidence!!!

While we're at it - show me JUST ONE peer reviewed paper that PROVES CAGW WITHOUTR any doubt. Looking forward to this reply - you could earn yourself a Nobel Prize - oh - that's already been done by the warmist Nazi Al Gore.

I don't need to provide ANY further detail of what I personally think of the good Professor - that is meaningless - all I KNOW is that he's STREETS ahead of you in good old logic and grey matter.

You stoop to ad hominems immediately "Pierre Darriulat is a seventy-five year old one time astrophysics who's philosophizing. He has nothing that addresses any actual climate issues" - what's his age got to do with it?

Is ONLY an astrophysicist - hahaha

Sincerely - YOU NEED HELP!!


citizenschallenge said...

OK now are descending into pure stupidity.

PROVE to me the sun will rise tomorrow morning WITHOUT ANY DOUBT !

Also you seem to have no appreciation for this planet or the geophysical processes we depend on.

Of course you don't "need to supply me with further information" but it's you that make the big brag about your good professor. The fact that you got nothing to offer shows that there isn't anything intelligent to offer. Why am I not surpised.
~ ~ ~

Unless you fix your game and actually say something rational next time your rant won't be posted.

citizenschallenge said...

Anonymous came back, here are some highlights:

"JUST ONE peer reviewed paper that PROVES CAGW WITHOUTR any doubt. ..."
"... warmist Nazi Al Gore ..."
"I don't need to provide ANY further detail of what I personally think of the good Professor - that is meaningless - all I KNOW is that he's STREETS ahead of you in good old logic and grey matter."

"You stoop to ad hominems immediately "Pierre Darriulat is a seventy-five year old one time astrophysics who's philosophizing. He has nothing that addresses any actual climate issues" - what's his age got to do with it? …"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Age is a descriptive not an ad hominem.

It is also a descriptive that the good professor's contribution had no serious science in it, it was a "philosophizing" about his convictions, including his resentment towards the "precautionary principle".

Just like your ranting here is only about how much you dislike me. Got nothing to do with understanding anything about our planet.

Prove me wrong: lay down a rational thoughtful line of argument, offer some evidence to support your world-view.

I'd love to see that and promise to post it in full. But, if it's just more repetitious drivel like this or past comments, all bets are off.

Anonymous said...

citizenschallenge says:

"Also you seem to have no appreciation for this planet or the geophysical processes we depend on."

CLOUDS???? NOT included in any of the models and one the MOST significant factors in determining climate & temperature!!

Maybe I do know more than you ASSUME!!

Observations TRUMP models 100% of the time. (CO2 UP/UP/UP - temperatures stable or falling)??

Oh - and you've forgotten-neglected to answer this "While we're at it - show me JUST ONE peer reviewed paper that PROVES CAGW WITHOUTR any doubt."

Still waiting for you to do so.

BTW - you say "I'd love to see that and promise to post it in full. But, if it's just more repetitious drivel like this or past comments, all bets are off."

Of course - your blog - your prerogative to post/not post whatever you like (I understand that). Just because you have the power to close me down doesn't mean you're correct in your argument & assumptions.

Clouds young man, CLOUDS!!


citizenschallenge said...

Guess I should give you credit for effort. OK I posted your complete comment and below I've boiled it down to it's basic points... near as I can tell

Anon 2/24: "CLOUDS???? NOT included in any of the models and one the MOST significant factors in determining climate & temperature!!"
~ ~ ~

Either you don't know what you are talking about, or you are trying to sell me a lie. This is only scratching the surface.

Cloud Climatology

The Role of Clouds in Climate
System of Climate Feedbacks Involving Clouds
Net Effect on Energy and Water Balances
Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change
How Clouds Form and Travel
Computer Climate Models
Simple Early Views of Clouds
How Clouds Might Change with Global Warming
Global Distribution and Character of Clouds
Simulating Clouds with Global Climate Models: A Comparison of CMIP5 Results with CMIP3 and Satellite Data

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anon 2/24: "Observations TRUMP models 100% of the time. (CO2 UP/UP/UP - temperatures stable or falling)??"
~ ~ ~

Come on, stop ignoring the heat that is accumulating in the oceans.

There are a lot of reasons why temperatures don't track CO2.
Here you can learn about it

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anon 2/24: "show me JUST ONE peer reviewed paper that PROVES CAGW WITHOUTR any doubt."
~ ~ ~

A) Nothing is "without any doubt"

B) That's not a thing you can wrap a scientific study around.

C) There have been authoritative studies, such as

D) We have rising sea levels and most of the worlds cities and people live near the coast. Rising water, more intense storms, you don't think that's a recipe for catastrophes?

E) California drought you don't think we got the makings of a serious "catastrophe" there?

F) Speaking of farm land, why so unconcerned about what extreme heat waves and torrential rain and wind events do to crops?

and so on and so forth.

Garhighway said...

The use of the term "CAGW" is a tell. Since the "C" is never defined, it is an impossible thing to prove or disprove. The people who chatter about CAGW are invariably deniers seeking to set up straw men.

citizenschallenge said...

Anon 2/24 submitted a comment last night that starts with: "Since you've stopped posting my thoughts (and as I said before you have every right not to)"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Anon 2/24 - take a look at those comments again - see there at "February 25, 2014 at 4:52 PM" - that is your comment posted in full !

I'm deleting this most recent comment because you begin with a lie . . . Maybe it's unintentional because you were too lazy to really look at the comments or maybe you have a different spin on reality.

In any event, please trying another comment - I've got a busy schedule and it will sit in moderation a while, please be patience.

This time keep it to the topic at hand and don't lie about my actions. OK

citizenschallenge said...

"Anon 2/24"

Resending that identical post isn't going to cut it. If you start with a clear lie - SNIP!
~ ~ ~

As for your Professor of Physics Emeritus Hayden -
Another Emeritus Professor with yet more rhetorical "proof" that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas.
~ ~ ~

You silly, science should not be done by rhetorical fancy dancing and contrived arguments in a vacuum. The old fart should be ashamed of his "one letter proof" that global warming science is a hoax.*

You'll have to excuse me for not having much deference for a scientist who tries to transfer their expertise in one field to another field they have no deep understanding of. And then writes a letter that a high school science class could rip to shreds.

Accepting that letter as proof of anything other than a man out of his depth and it shows that you are no rational skeptic. A contrarian perhaps, but no skeptic.

His letter will make an interesting future project.
Thanks for the tip. Right now I have a busy day.

Looking forward to your next comment. Keep it civil, (insults are OK - irrational raging is not), and don't lie about my actions.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you read this submission to the EPA by Howard C. Hayden Professor Emeritus of Physics, UConn. (Now I wonder what will be wrong with Professor Hayden? Will HE be too old or too young or ONLY a physics professor? See how silly your screams of deniers end up being!! Who are the ONLY deniers? hehehe Sort of says it all - hope you post it - know you won't - BUT what I DO know is that you'll READ IT. That is all I aim to do - my last post here - goodbye & Cheers, on A look at the world of climate change denial

citizenschallenge said...

OK, so the above post has actually been floating in 'moderation' since 2/27/2014, it's from Mr. Anonymous, who keeps insisting I'm afraid of looking at his science.

I couldn't abide his first sentence that again accused me of not printing a previous comment, though I did, so I never hit publish.

But, now that I'm back to looking at Hayden's silly letter again, I figure it's time to get that comment out of 'moderation' . . . slightly moderated.


citizenschallenge said...

As for that closer look at Howard C. Hayden's (Professor Emeritus of Physics, UConn) letter to the EPA visit: "Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims - examined"
Saturday, March 8, 2014