While scientists overwhelmingly believe that climate change is a reality, many Americans remain unconvinced by the research and data. Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University who studies both the science and politics of climate change, describes how climate skeptics interpret scientific data to support their particular worldviews.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Dr. Dessler: Alternative Reality of Climate Skepticism
I stumbled onto a recent talk given by Dr. Andrew Dessler that does an excellent job of describing the alternate reality that climate science denialists have so successfully fabricated. It was sad seeing that it's only had 174 views in the three and half months it's been out.
And since I do get tired of the depressing grind of cataloging, researching and trying to wrap my head around Mr. Steele's malicious nonsense, I decided to listen to the fresh air of a serious scientist discussing the world, even if in this case it's the alternate reality of the manmade global warming denial community. As is my habit I took some notes and figure I may as well post it over here and perhaps encourage a few more folks to view it... and think about it.
Dessler's basic message is that we are dealing with an ideological problem and not a scientific one. Successfully confronting the challenges will take something other than getting more and better scientific information out there.
It makes sense to me. Consider my pal Mr. Steele's basic MO is to find flaws in wildlife population counts and uses that to deny the physics of global warming and its impacts - it's insane. But because he's feeding an ideologically entrenched audience, they buy it since they aren't interested in learning, all they want is reassurance.
As for my ideology, I love this planet and it's many wonders and have been attuned to it since early childhood, which is what led me to my love of science, which is the only vehicle to truly appreciating our Earth's wondrous magnificence.
I also love my, now grown, children and am heart broken by the diminished world be are leaving behind for them. Watching us consume and destroy it's marvels one by one has been a profound tragedy to me. Thus I engage in this effort to add my feather weight towards counter-balancing the dishonest politically motivated nonsense being produced by the likes of Mr. Steele, Anthony Watts and the rest of the Climate Science Denial Industry.
Andrew Dessler's The Alternative Reality of Climate Skepticism
Published on Oct 1, 2014
Oct. 01, 2014
4:25 - Andrew Dessler
5:15 - It's really a policy problem, more than a scientific problem
6:00 - The two realities of climate science out there.
The reality that virtually all the actual climate science experts believe in, and there's this alternate reality which you can choose to believe.
I'm going to try to answer the question, what is the alternate reality, and then I'll answer the question of why construct and alternate reality, what's the whole point in doing this.
6:30 - Before I begin I always like to go over the core fundamental things that scientists believe about the climate system:
1) The Earth is warming, it's warmed by about 0.85°C (~1.3°F) over the 1880-2012 period.
2) It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century
3) Likely warming during the 21st century will be 2 to 4°C
(For perspective consider, the difference between our contemporary climate and the ice age was 4-6°C)
12:15 - Luntz memo, early 2000s - To quote:
"Please keep in mind the following communication recommendations as you address global warming in general, particularly as Democrats and opinion leaders attack President Bush over Kyoto.
1) The scientific debated remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field."
~ ~ ~
13:10 - "That's why the consensus among the experts is a big problem for people who don't want action on climate. If you don't want action on climate, you can not admit, you absolutely can not admit that virtually all the experts agree with the mainstream views that I give. If you do you lose the policy debate. According to Frank Luntz"
13:35 - Straight out of the Tobacco companies play book attacking the 1964 Surgeon General's "Smoking and Health" report.
14:30 Confidential memo - such as the January 29, 1964 memo between Cullman and Weissman.
15:10 - From the University of California, San Francisco - Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/wjh13f00/pdf
Memo to Pittman August 21, 1969
"Doubt is our product since it is the best way of competing with the "body of fact" that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the best way of establishing a controversy."
~ ~ ~
And this was 15/20 years after the science was settled regarding the dangers of cigarette smoking.
17:55 - So how do you convince people?
Create an alternative infrastructure.
An example, the "Global Warming Petition Project"
19:25 - Undergraduates don't count as experts. "if you had a health problem you wouldn't go see a biologist with a bachelors degree, you'd see an MD. Yet they've created this and then people can refer to this. It allows you, it's a brick you can use to build this edifice, this idea that climate science isn't that real."
20:00 - Look at Heartland Institute's attack on Professor Abraham and Scott Mandia.
20:55 - "What you see is that we have redefined "expertise"
Ordinarily an expert is somebody that knows a lot about the subject. We all know that, it's common sense. ..."
"The very clever thing that's happened is how they have come to define "expertise" - You are an expert if you agree with me."
22:15 - "The other thing they do is you really have to diminish real expertise, because most people in their heart know that we really should listen to experts. ..."
"The experts are in it for the grant money"
"They won't get tenure if they don't go along"
"They are left wing socialists"
2:55 - Heartland Institute's billboard: "The Unabomber: I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?"
It doesn't say anything about the science, but they are trying to paste bad feelings onto a group of people that you really want to hate. Because if you don't hate them, it's hard to dismiss them.
25:30 - From Cato Institute briefing featuring Dr. Lindzen
Their experts cannot be trusted We should listen to our experts
26:20 - cover of the 2007 IPCC report "The Physical Science Basis"
cover of 2013 IPCC report "The Physical Science Basis"
"... and again, you have to attack this. If you oppose action on climate change, you cannot let these things stand. So you have to attack it as much as possible.
So one of the ways to do this is that you create your own report: "Climate Change Reconsidered, 2011 interim report of the nongovernmental international panel on climate change" (a Heartland Institute production)...
"If you read it, it gives you their view of what the IPCC says. And there are other reports, this one from the Cato Institute and they made the reports look almost identical. This one is a report by the US Climate Change Science Program, and then Cato put out their version of the report, and they made it look identical, now here (the cover) US CCSP graphs the past 150 years" and Cato's cover shows the last ten, fifteen years to imply there is no obvious trend.
27:30 - When you think of these reports it's useful to remember the reason to do this is you're creating reports that people can refer to.
If your Rick Perry and you're running for President and someone asks: What about the IPCC report, you can say: 'Oh, but I have my own NIPCC report.'
"What about this Climate Change program? Well I have my own report right here and it has a lots of reference and it does. If you look it up, it's like a hundred pages of references, but does that actually mean anything in it is right?"
28:10 - The other thing to do is, you can ask, look at the process that produced them, so the IPCC is written by a pretty well defined process:
Authors nominated by member gov'ts, selected by the IPCC
Writers are hundreds of qualified experts
Layers of review: 1) public, 2) expert, 3) gov't
Summarized the peer-reviewed literature
"Were authors are assigned by governments and so it's very hard to imagine that the writers of the IPCC report to be very biased. That would require every government to nominate biased individuals. And believe me there are plenty of governments that want nothing more than climate change to disappear. If they could find legitimate skeptics to nominate, they would do it. But, they don't exist."
28:55 - "If you look at the NIPCC...
writers are O (10) mainly non-climate science skeptics
review? what's that?
infrastructure from the alternate reality
"It has no process. No open peer review. The writers, there's no process for selecting the writers that at least nominally assures that there's no bias.
29:30 - "... point out that there's lots of other authoritative reports, National Academy of Sciences, US Climate Change Science Program, UK Royal Society, this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many of these reports written and they say the exact same thing...
... but then there's this one NIPCC report and a Cato report, so there's something else you can believe, if you don't want to believe the mainstream view.
30:25 - 2009 NIPCC report, two lead authors, Craig Idso, Fred Singer
"... not only are the arguments the same, but a lot of the people are the same. It's actually the same people who are arguing about tobacco who are now arguing about climate change."
So here's something from 1996 from Heartland "Joe Camel Is Innocent!" Joseph Bast,
policy argument vs. scientific argument
31:14 - document "Fred Singer on second-hand smoke (SHS)
31:35 - "Fred doesn't believe in acid rain. Oped from Wall Street Journal 3/6/90 "The answers on acid rain fall on deaf ears"
Fred Singer doesn't believe in nuclear winter
"The big chill? Challenging a nuclear scenario" 2/3/84
Doesn't believe in Ozone Depletion, "Ozone scare generates much hear, little light" 5/16/84
Of course he doesn't believe in climate change, "Global warming doomsday nowhere in sight" 9/28/95
"... every major environmental problem, issue in the past 30 years he hasn't believed the science ..."
fyi: "Siegried Frederick Singer" - http://www.sciencecorruption.com/ATN183/00972.html
"No apology is owed Dr. S. Fred Singer, and none will be forthcoming" - http://www.desmogblog.com/no-apology-is-owed-dr-s-fred-singer-and-none-will-be-forthcoming
"The denial industry" http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2
"GREENPEACE REPORT: Climate Change Denial Machine vs. Scientists" - http://www.polluterwatch.com/category/freetagging/fred-singer
~ ~ ~
32:20 - "Why do this? Why does this work?
The thing is we all know that we should listen to experts. ... why can you have this alternate reality that people glom onto?"
33:15 - "The Cultural Cognition Project, at Yale Law School"
"Explains a lot of why the argument is so bitter and why it's going to be so hard to resolve this problem. ...
The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities.
Public Irrationality Theorem = people don't know enough - educate them.
... the surprise the more people science people knew the more polarized they became.
36:26 - There's a second hypothesis that it has to do with your cognition, how you view the world.
The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks
~ ~ ~
Scientific literacy and polarization on climate change
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
39:45 - "People see the facts they want to see"
graph at 40:40 "Thing is when we look at climate, this is pathological.
I mean this is why we can't get anywhere on climate problem basically. And it's because there are a lot of people out there that view the world in the way that they want to see it. The important thing to realize is that individuals are being rational, this is classical, "tragedy of the commons", individuals are being rational... if you're a member of a group the thing to do is go along with it. ... But, if you do that, that's rational for you, that's bad for society because the net result is that society is not converging, using the best science to get to the best answer.
Tragedy of the science communication commons
*Telling people more facts about climate does not reduce polarization.
*People reach conclusions using cultural cognition: finding solutions that fit with their worldview.
*This is rational behavior for the individual.
*The "alternative reality" infrastructure helps them do this.
*Solutions: change political atmosphere over climate
People reach their conclusion through their world view.
44:55 - "Climate is a stalking horse for big government, so you have to make the argument that climate regulations are actually not a stalking horse for big government. In fact, climate change regulations will probably prevent big government. Cause you think about it, when are the times the government really interferes with our lives? It's after disasters, that's when they send the National Guard in. If there's a food shortage and you need to ration, the government is going to step in, they're going to ration the food. They are not going to allow the free market to decide who starves to death. So if you really want the government out of your life, you need to make sure you don't have big environmental catastrophes. Because that's when the government is going to intervene."
50:00 Question and Answer
Bottom line, it's an ideological battle, not a scientific one.