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Understanding climate denial

Posted on 28 September 2011 by John Cook

There are a number of areas of science where the evidence has become so overwhelming that a scientific consensus forms. For example, the consensus on the link between smoking and cancer, that HIV causes AIDS or that humans are causing global warming. Where there is a scientific consensus, there are often movements that deny the scientific evidence. All of these denialist movements have been found to share 5 common characteristics, including cherry pickingconspiracy theories and fake experts.

Understanding the denial of scientific evidence is a crucial element to putting the climate controversy into proper context. The first step is recognizing that the process of denial is to be distinguished from cases where the title 'denier' is used derogatorily. Complaining about the word 'denier' can be a form of denial itself, using concern trolling to avoid a serious discussion of the scientific evidence.

Certain defence mechanisms are tell-tale signs of denial. In one experiment, people were asked if they believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Those who answered yes were shown evidence that there was no such link, including a direct quote from President Bush. Despite the overwhelming evidence, only 2% of participants consciously changed their mind (although interestingly, 14% denied they ever believed in the link despite indicating so in the initial survey).

The most common response was attitude bolstering. This involves bringing to mind arguments that support pre-existing views while denying any counter evidence. The process is reflexive and almost sub-conscious. Attitude bolstering has an unexpected and unfortunate consequence. When one encounters threatening evidence, the cognitive process of bringing supporting arguments to the fore results in a strengthening of one's views. This is known as the backfire effect, where debunking a myth can paradoxically end up reinforcing the myth. The effect is strongest among those whose views are already quite strong.

Is it any wonder that so few who deny scientific evidence change their mind? But don't forget that 2%. The rare person who was "skeptical" about climate change but then considered the full body of evidence is the exception that proves the rule. In Confessions of a Climate Change Convert, D.R. Tucker perused all the scientific evidence, became convinced that humans are causing global warming and uttered the famous pronouncement, "I was defeated by facts".

Craig Good from Skeptoid, describes how he came to be convinced of the evidence in I, Global Warming Skeptic:

Since [Peter Gleick's] talk I have spent a lot of time on a site he recommended, skepticalscience.com. There they have taken each of the most common science questions, numbered them, and carefully addressed them with the current science. The answers are even presented in basic, intermediate, and advanced formats so that there’s likely to be one matching the reader’s level of scientific knowledge.

With the caveat that a few of the questions don’t belong on their list (42, 63, 105 and 165, at least) because they are economic and/or political rather than scientific, I highly recommend the site.

So, yes, I am now persuaded that anthropogenic global warming is real. That’s because I’m a skeptic.

I recently received an email from a blogger Nathan McKaskle who informed me:

"You changed my mind about global warming. Up until today I was a big time skeptic for a number of reasons. Great site with a wealth of information that addressed most of my concerns."

Unfortunately Nathan closed his blog down (otherwise I would've linked to his blog post on this subject). Ironically, he closed down his site due to discouragement, not knowing whether he'd changed a single mind through his blogging. It's a sentiment many of us bloggers can relate to, I'm sure.

These examples of minds being changed by the evidence reaffirms Skeptical Science's key mission of presenting the many lines of evidence for man-made global warming. Another key to putting the climate controversy into proper context is understanding the phenomenon of denial. Skeptical Science will continue to examine the 5 characteristics of science denial and how they manifest in many climate myths. It is by understanding how some deny the evidence that we are able to point to the scientific evidence.

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Comments 201 to 250 out of 261:

  1. I'm trying to find the page on this site that compares the number of publications that don't agree with the IPCC's findings with the number of publications that do. I want to provide some context for those who state '900 skeptic papers can't be wrong'
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  2. Tristan, you need to meet The Denominator
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  3. Hurrah! Thanks very much DSL
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  4. Tristan, also see the Interactive history.
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  5. Following on from CBDunkerson, I think the International Agency for Research on Cancer would also be surprised to hear that they aren't a UN group looking at peer-reviewed publications.
    In fact, they obviously don't state :

    IARC's mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer prevention and control. The Agency is involved in both epidemiological and laboratory research and disseminates scientific information through publications, meetings, courses, and fellowships.
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  6. 191, elsa,

    You said:
    We are not given the information by physics that we could then test. What we have is information obtained by measurements about temperature and CO2 which we then fit together in a model.
    This is not the place to discuss it, but this statement is 100% false. Your understanding of how the modeling is done is grossly flawed. You should educate yourself more before speaking on the topic, or making any decisions about your own beliefs in credibility of the current position of climate scientists.

    Climate models emulate the physics and the physics alone. They do not work from simple correlation. When the physical model "coincidentally" parallels real world observations well, the scientists know they got the physics (and the model) right.

    Aside from this site (type "models" into the search box), RealClimate has an excellent synopsis of modeling you might want to look at:

    RealClimate FAQ on climate models
    RealClimate FAQ on climate models Part II

    I also always recommend that anyone and everyone read Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming.
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  7. Elsa,

    You have not been listening to what people said here about the significance of consensus. Of course it is not part of any decision making process in science. It is an outcome of such processes. If the science has settled down and there are explanations that nearly all scientists working in the field accept then there will be a consensus.

    As others have said consensus has only been mentioned because a rebuttal of claims that the science is disputed was necessary. Saying there is a consensus among those working in a field is another way of saying claims of the science being disputed among those working in that field are false.

    How do scientists know if they have got it right? What they rely on is the consilience of evidence. That is, since the Universe runs under a consistent set of natural laws, if a hypothesis is correct then there will be multiple types of observations that are consistent with it. Scientists do not really trust single proofs. There is almost allways an alternative explanation, often a contrived one, for any single piece of evidence. They want lots of different proofs. They want there to be so many types of supporting evidence that to believe that they are all wrong strains credulity. In such a case it becomes difficult to justify alternative explanations.

    We have reached that stage in climate science. While the exact value of the sensitivity to CO2 is not known, we do know in what range it is. And that range is high enough to cause us serious problems.
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  8. 196, Jonathan (ETR),
    You asked two questions, and yes, this is not the thread to get into a lengthy discussion about such.
    Yes, I did. You then proceeded to discuss other questions, not the ones I asked, which were:
    So why do you think there is this consensus argument now?

    ... is there a consensus?
    Now, if your response was meant to (in a round about way) answer these questions by claiming that there is no consensus on the points you highlighted... you are wrong, plain and simple, and you are seeing what you want to see by giving inordinate weight to a small number of denialists that primarily put their message out not through studies but through interviews and blog posts.

    Do you see the differences here? Do you see how you are yourself in desperate need of reading, understanding and digesting the post in question -- understanding your own denial?
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  9. "All things considered, alarmism seems like common sense to me."

    Source: “The Case for Climate-Change Alarmism”, Op-ed by William Pentland, Forbes, Oct 10, 2011

    To access this informative opinion piece, click here
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  10. Elsa, one thing puzzles me. Why are you not more skeptical of the opinions and statements you have thrown in the conversation so far? Even a small amount of cursory search would easily have shown what has been summarized above by other contributors. Why did you not discover that information on your own?
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  11. Sphaerica,

    Do not play dumb. It is insulting to both of us.

    I explicitly removed blogs and focused on scientific papers when formulating a response to your questions, and you then proceeded to include blogs in your followup.

    I see the difference. You seem to deny that which does not fit your own set of beliefs.

    BTW, I answered two of your three questions, but do not know why a consensus argument is occurring on sites like this.
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  12. 211, Jonathan (ETR),

    Hmph. Do not play dumb. Words to live by, eh?

    Okay, let us try again.

    You intimated that the problem is that people are too simplistic in how they see the debate, and that maybe there is a consensus on whether there is warming, but no consensus on the cause or effects.

    Your analysis is also grossly flawed, because the consensus of current science covers not only the warming, but also the cause and effects, so even if your premise were correct, your conclusion is still wrong.

    Next, you threw out the red herring that the blogosphere tries to simplify the issue, but you're sage enough to see through it. That is far from the case. The blogosphere is full of every argument imaginable, trying anything at all to see if it sticks, and the one where they have the greatest chance at traction and so have been hammering it to death is in fact that of climate sensitivity. Your observation completely fails in this regard.

    You finish by claiming that you don't know why there is an argument about the consensus, and then have the gall to intimate that such an argument only exists on this web site (or sites "like" it)!

    I'll give you a hint... when I asked it, it was a rhetorical question. The argument about the consensus exists on this issue, in this day and age, because there is a well funded denial machine, and a legion of foolish deniers, who will grasp at any straw they can to try to make it appear that the science is not thorough, and one of those flimsy straws is the consensus argument.

    Don't play dumb, Jonathan-The-Red, and do not bandy words in an effort to make the denial position look remotely credible.

    I'll say it again... you need to figure out what sort of irrational behaviors deniers exhibit over and over again (read the post above!!!!), look in the mirror, and recognize which of them applies to you in spades.
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    Moderator Response: [Albatross] Can you and Jonathon both please tone down the rhetoric. Thanks.
  13. Jonathon,

    "but do not know why a consensus argument is occurring on sites like this. "

    Actually I think that you do. But in case you really do not recall, it is to address a meme started by "skeptics". I'll provide a link soon to clarify.
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  14. Albatross,

    Actually, I know why the argument is occurring in general; supporters wanted to show that a vast majority agrees with them, while thedetractors wanted to show that a significant minority exists.

    The argument is immaterial. The subject is not up to a vote, therefore, numbers are irrelevant.

    For the record, I do not believe that a large range of values (whether it be climate sensitivity, projected warming, etc.) indicates that there is a consensus on the issue. On the contrary, it argues the opposite.
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    Moderator Response: [Albatross] "Skeptics" claim that their is no consensus, so when consensus (or better yet, consilience) is demonstrated, they then claim that "science is not done by popular vote" or something along those lines, and of course it is not, so they are really arguing a strawman. Remember it is the "skeptics" who are appealing to popularity when they arrange petitions such as the Oregon petition. More here.
  15. CB Dunkerson and Sphaerica and Lloyd Flack

    Trying to keep things very much to this specific topic what I am saying is that it is impossible to prove a theory as right. The best we can do is to demonstarte that it is not false and indeed for me this is the definition of a scientific statement. If is cannot be falsified it is not scientific. This is where the warmist view falls down and why what you call denialism will continue. I have not denied that there is a link between CO2 and temperature. What I would deny is that we know what it is or can test the hypothesis in any meaningful way. We are not given a link by physics we simply do not know the relationship and if you disagree with that tell us what it is. In addition I would say that what you call denialism survives because the warmist view is so often apocalyptic and so full of knowledge (which it does not really possess. The danger here is that the truth which is that there may be a problem) is thrown out with the nonsense that is peddled as science. I am not sure if it was one of you but the reaction to my statement that there are other factors that move sea level apart from temperature was greeted by one participant with the statement that (a) there were no such factors other than eg meteorites and (b) that since warming was the only explanation available it must therefore be right. This is a good example of how "denialism" may win. The first statement merely demonstrates the writer's ignorance and the second is wrong as a matter of logic. Simply because we have only one explanantion for something does not make it right, any more than 14th century doctors were right in their analysis of the plague because bad humours was the only explanation.
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    Response:

    [DB] "I am not sure if it was one of you but the reaction to my statement that there are other factors that move sea level apart from temperature was greeted by one participant with the statement that (a) there were no such factors other than eg meteorites and (b) that since warming was the only explanation available it must therefore be right."

    Actually, I believe it was CBD, here (feel free to correct me if it was a different commenter).  And I believe you mis-quote him.  I suggest you re-read it in its entirety (since you are unsure).  In case of a language barrier, the examples given were ironical/fascetious.

  16. Albatross,

    Remember though, it was not "skeptics" who originally peddled the consensus argument. Neither side of the argument holds much water.
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  17. @elsa #215

    Your understanding of the scientific process is incorrect.

    The report, “Science, Evolution, and Creationism,” issued by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in early 2008, defines scientific theory and scientific fact.

    “Theory: A plausible or scientifically acceptable, well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena and predict the characteristics of as yet unobserved phenomena.”

    “Fact: In science, a ‘fact’ typically refers to an observation, measurement, or other form of evidence that can be expected to occur the same way under similar circumstances. However, scientists also use the term ‘fact’ to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples."
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Additionally, from the NAS publication Advancing the Science of Climate Change (Pp 21-22):

    Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

    [Emphasis added]

  18. elsa, until you broaden your horizons and actually read more about the claims you are making, this will continue to go around in circles, with people here pointing you towards links where you can find the science and evidence, and you just constantly coming back repeating the same things and not getting anywhere. As has already been suggested, you would do well to read Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming.
    Will you read that or not ?
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  19. We should be very grateful to the late Sir Karl Popper for his insight into what constitutes a scientific theory and what does not. A scientific theory is one that can be falsified. The problem with the AGW theory is that there is no set of circumstances that could prove it wrong. That is why I have compared it to Marxian theories of "inevitable" trends and Freudianism, both with their trappings of science but without the capability of being falsified.
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    Response:

    [DB] Perhaps you missed this earlier response:

    Additionally, from the NAS publication Advancing the Science of Climate Change (Pp 21-22):

    Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

    [Emphasis added]

    As for:

    "The problem with the AGW theory is that there is no set of circumstances that could prove it wrong."

    Actually, many things come to mind.  For example, come up with a testable hypothesis showing that the radiative physics of anthropogenically-derived CO2 do not behave similarly to those of CO2 already present in the carbon cycle.

  20. #214 Jonathon, the 'large range of values' does not include zero or anything particularly close to it (for warming rate and sensitivity). We also have both a clear physical mechanism (CO2 scatters longwave IR) plus the supporting observations showing that it is this physical mechanism that is operating, and still further we have no alternative natural mechanism to drive the warming. Since this is the case, we can pretty straightforwardly have a consensus that it is warming and largely due to human activities. If the range of values for warming or sensitivity included sufficiently low values, then there would be some doubt.

    If you are travelling at a speed of between 50 and 200mph towards the base of a cliff 100m away, with no brakes, is there anything other than a consensus as to the outcome for the 100 scientists watching? Does the precision of the reading on the speedometer matter?
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  21. #219,
    1: demonstrate that CO2 does not scatter IR radiation;
    2: demonstrate that IR scattering is not happening in Earth's atmosphere;
    3: demonstrate that we are not increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere significantly;
    4: demonstrate that this IR scattering due to CO2 is not significantly increasing, thus increasing the energy present in the Earth system;
    5: demonstrate that the energy present in the Earth system (most often measured as temperatures) is not increasing over statistically significant timescales;
    6: demonstrate that the extra energy scatterd by CO2 is escaping the Earth system another way.

    There you go, six easy pieces, each of which is falsifiable, and I'm sure there are many more. Elsa, your unsubstantiated musings are wrong, once again.
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  22. elsa#219: "The problem with the AGW theory is that there is no set of circumstances that could prove it wrong."

    Now that's just flat silly, isn't it? Let's suppose the 'natural cycles' people are right and the next 20 years drop off the charts for no apparent reason.

    But on the other hand, how do you 'prove' that the natural cycles theory - or more to the point, how do you falsify it? By your standard, 'it's natural cycles' is not a scientific theory. More like wishful thinking; but that is the very heart of denial: You can only wish away so much evidence before you start looking ridiculous.
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  23. Elsa,

    You have left out other characteristics of scientific theorys, especially parsimony and explanatory power.

    Occam's Razor is the rule of thumb that has scientists seeking theorys that are no more complicated than is necessary to explain phenomena. You do not introduce new entities or processes to explain phenomena if known entities and processes are sufficient.

    For example unspecified 'natural cycles' is a non explanation. What natural cycles precisely? If you look at known natural forcings that could potentially cause temperature changes you find that they could not have cause the observed temperature changes over the past fifty years. If you look at greenhouse gas changes you find that they could have. Now there might be unknown natural forces that caused the changes but why appeal to unknowns when knowns will do? And being unknown of course they are untestable.

    And there is explanatory power. A high greenhouse gas sensitivity explains a lot of phenomena about current and past climate. A low sensitivity struggles to explain near as much. That is part of what I and others were referring to when we talked about consilience.
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  24. elsa,
    ...it is impossible to prove a theory as right.
    Yes, everyone here knows that very well. It is by itself a meaningless statement. Obviously there are lots of things that science "knows" well enough. You're playing games with words and concepts.
    What I would deny is that we know what it is or can test the hypothesis in any meaningful way.
    Then you have not looked at the breadth and depth of knowledge, understanding and measurements that underpin the science. It is quite vast, and any number of observations support it. None refute it. Your position here is thin, and based only on your own ignorance of the science. You presume a lot, trumpet how silly and wrong everyone else is, and you are wrong in doing so.
    We are not given a link by physics we simply do not know the relationship and if you disagree with that tell us what it is.
    Actually, our understanding of the physics is so strong that you would need to completely revolutionize several main aspects of science for it to be wrong. You'd have to explain how warming could not occur. The physics says that things have to warm, and anything else requires that we very much revise our understanding of basic physics.

    As far as actually teaching you the physics, in detail, you have a whole lot of learning to do. Ten thousand comments here would not cover it. But I have already directed you to a start, something that I don't think you have begun to look at (given your attitude), and that is to go read Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming.
    In addition I would say that what you call denialism survives because the warmist view is so often apocalyptic
    I love this sort of argument. You don't like how serious the implications are, so therefore it's not true and not believable.
    ...there are other factors that move sea level apart from temperature
    Of course there are. And we understand a lot of them, and are learning more every day. But there are no major hidden factors that have not been taken into account. It's not magic.

    See, this is the big problem with your entire post. You put a lot of time into telling everyone else what we don't know, when you have no grasp of what we actually do know. You have already demonstrated that your understanding of the models is wildly inaccurate. You demonstrate here that your understanding of the physics is abysmally thin. Your understanding of the observations and how they relate is equally thin.

    Elsa, you are lecturing people who understand all of these things. You are defiantly and adamantly telling us what you think you know, which is close to nothing. To you, the science is magic, and so you argue as if you were arguing against magic.

    Please stop. Please educate yourself. Read Spencer Weart's writings. Start to learn the actual physics. Look through the wealth of information on this site.

    Stop posting from a position of arrogant and dismissive ignorance, and instead learn what it is that you are completely missing.

    One last note. Using the term "warmist" makes you look silly and uneducated. I suggest you drop the term. Unlike deniers, I really don't care if you do. You can use silly labels all you want. It says a lot more about you than it does about me.
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  25. 223, Lloyd,

    Well said, and far more concise than my rambling. Well done.
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  26. Skywatcher,

    If you were trapped in a burning building and had to jump, would it matter if you were on the 1st of 5th floor? I think it might. Just because you are not on the ground floor with an easy egress, does not mean that the outcome will be catastrophic.
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  27. Mark Chu-Caroll over at Good Math/Bad Math often points out that the worst kind of math is no math at all: a lot of math/physics cranks play language games when attempting to advance their position or refute whatever mainstream position opposes theirs and then fail to back their claims up with actual calculations, data, or other evidence.

    I suggest that a lot of climate science denialists are engaged in the same behaviour: playing language games, semantics games, quoting Popper without regard to context or other aspects of scientific thought, and then failing to back it up with actual science.

    The big difference is that your garden-variety math/physics crank has a lot less company.
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  28. Jonathon - "If you were trapped in a burning building and had to jump, would it matter if you were on the 1st of 5th floor?"

    To quote Herman Daly:

    "But as long as we focus on measuring these inherently uncertain empirical consequences, rather than on the certain first principles that cause them, we will overwhelm the consensus to “do something now” with ditherings about what we might someday consider doing if ever the evidence is sufficiently compelling. I am afraid that once the evidence is really compelling then our response will also be compelled, and policy choice will be irrelevant. To make the point more simply, if you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter." (emphasis added)

    If, given the vast quantities of evidence available, you feel that we are not 'falling' at some rate, not suffering a changing climate with consequences to ourselves due to our actions, then you are in denial. Which is the topic of the original post of this thread.
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  29. well said Composer99 - we have an example of word games with Jonathon here. I was refuting his suggestion (in #214) that a large range of values does not equal consensus, Jonathon comes back (in #226) with "ah, but it might not be catastrophic", reframing the question and trying to divert attention from the incorrectness of his original fallacy.

    Jonathon, whether or not it's catastrophic is irrelevant in this context. The point is that, either when heading towards the cliff face, or being on whatever floor in a burning building, there would be a clear consensus that bad things will happen if no action is taken. Consensus can exist with a large range of possible outcome values, you were disputing that in #214. I showed your dispute to be wrong, so you changed the subject. Another view into the world of denial?

    A couple of decades ago we were on the ground floor with an easy exit, now we are well on the way to the second floor, heading up. Nearly everyone's saying the building's on fire. Do you believe the one crank saying all the smoke is an illusion?
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  30. Sphaerica You say I am wrong so tell us what the information is that we have been given by physics. We have no starting point. There is no equation linking CO2 and temperature given to us from physics that we can test. That is why we have to do it the other way round. We assume that there is a link (and incidentally I would not question that there is, it's just that we do not know what it is; there is no "hard physics" contrary to what someone put to me earlier) and then build models that fit the data to the theory. But this is just a circular argument. Of course the data will fit because we made it do so, it does not test the theory at all. Then we come across awkward patches of time when the temperature falls in the face of rising CO2 concentrations. The models get round this by adding in other variables. But in doing this the models are not testing the CO2 theory they are assuming it is correct and giving it a let out. Here any pretence to science really disappears. If we have a theory that fits the facts whatever happens (if temperature goes down it is true just as it must be when the temperature goes up) then we have a theory that is completely beyond testing. That is one of the reasons why denialism will continue and be able to fight back.
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  31. "Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities."

    This is a quite carefully worded statement. I don't think I have questioned that the world is a bit warmer today than say 100 years ago. That is a measurable proposition and while I have seen questioning of the extent of the warming I don't really think anyone denies it. What is interesting is the second part because the certainty is removed from it; it says only that the warming is likely due to human activities. That is rather in contrast to this article and much of the thrust of those who have disagreed with me here. Both seem to take it as proven that human activity has brought about the warming and that anyone who disagrees is either ill informed, stupid or deluded. While that may be true in many cases it is clearly not the situation in all cases and it is really a very arrogant position to take.
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    Response:

    [DB] "What is interesting is the second part because the certainty is removed from it; it says only that the warming is likely due to human activities."

    This is in the scienctific sense.  In this case, it means a greater than 90% likelihood.

    "While that may be true in many cases it is clearly not the situation in all cases and it is really a very arrogant position to take."

    For someone so unacquainted with the field, you continually make similar statements.

  32. I would like to add a short comment on the subject of consensus and peer review. I think a meaningful consensus can only be arrived at after debate and discussion and peer review, not by those that agree with you but rather those that do not. A review of the reasons for the existence of god by ten thousand clergymen is hardly likely to lead to pick up a fault in the logic. Here there has been a remarkable unwillingness on the part of warmist scientists such as Phil Jones to subject their work to review by anyone who disagrees with them, while those that do agree are shown the numbers. It is outrageous that he only releases data to his opponents when forced to do so by FOI Act requests. This sort of attitude is another reason why denialism will continue for if the warmists are so sure of their position it is impossible to understand their need for secrecy.
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    Response:

    [DB] "It is outrageous that he only releases data to his opponents when forced to do so by FOI Act requests."

    Perhaps you are unaware that all of the data is available for download. 

    Given that the data is freely available, perhaps you'll then consider it outrageous that those proclaiming to be skeptics have done little with it other than to confirm the "hockey stick" is replicable using as little as 10% of the data because that is what the data show: a hockey-stick-like rise in global temps.  Yet the anti-science drum beat continues.

  33. "This is in the scienctific sense. In this case, it means a greater than 90% likelihood."

    I think the more normal confidence limit is 95% which I guess the warmist view has been unable to meet.
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  34. While that may be true in many cases it is clearly not the situation in all cases and it is really a very arrogant position to take."

    For someone so unacquainted with the field, you continually make similar statements.

    I don't think I have ever pronounced as to why warmists hold the views that they do. If I were to hazard some guesses I would say (1) that people can get carried away with maths. As Lovelock has put it "We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they're not complete models. They're based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don't take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don't see how they can accurately predict the climate." and (2) that humans seems to have a tendency to prefer an invalid or untestable explanation to no explanation at all (think of the 14th century doctors). However I would also say that for the most part they are concerned people of good intent and actually I can see that there could well be truth in what they say. It's just that their proposition is untestable and their claims are in some cases outrageous and not backed by anything much at all.

    My position is that we do not really know whether or not CO2/humanity is responsible for such warming as has taken place. I fully admit that I do not have a better explanation and I am prepared to face the fact that mankind does not have a detailed knowledge of what drives the climate. But I prefer a modest acceptance of our lack of knowledge to a pretence to extensive knowledge that we cannot possibly have.
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] "It's just that their proposition is untestable and their claims are in some cases outrageous and not backed by anything much at all."

    If you have an actual example to cite, please do so.  In the absence of concrete examples, please refrain from such blandishments.

    "But I prefer a modest acceptance of our lack of knowledge to a pretence to extensive knowledge that we cannot possibly have."

    The modest acknowledgement of a lack of understanding on your part does not preclude the existence of greater knowledge on the part of science.

    I recommend studying more and commenting less.

  35. Skywatcher,

    Diversion, a great tactic. Especially when you attempt to transpose onto someone else what you in fact are doing yourself. Focusing on something new to avoid the original discussion, then claim that it was your opponent, not you, who changed the subject. Very nice, but flawed.

    I guess we will just have to disagree on the definition of consensus. If you think that consensus applies to a wide range, so be it. I prefer to think of consensus as being a general belief in a narrow outcome. Who is the one actually playing word games with Webster here?

    Your attention to catastrophic is, in your own words, a strawman.
    0 0
  36. elsa, it is unfortunately obvious (but, perhaps, not to you yourself) that you are posting about things about which you appear to have very little detailed knowledge. A previous response of yours (I think the more normal confidence limit is 95% which I guess the warmist view has been unable to meet)
    highlights that very well, and shows that you need to read more on this site :


    "Very Likely" - See Box TS1 in the last IPCC Report - "> 90% probability" (Working Group 1 of which you would be well-advised to actually read).

    Confidence Intervals - In common usage, a claim to 95% confidence in something is normally taken as indicating virtual certainty.


    You are not doing yourself any favours by constantly misrepresenting/misusing scientific terms or ideas, and I would still advise you to also read Spencer Weart's History of Global Warming, as has been suggested to you many times already.

    Is there any reason why you are ignoring what others are suggesting you look at ?

    And do you have a definition for "warmist" (even if it's just one you have made up for your own benefit), so we can see who or what it is you are actually arguing against.
    0 0
  37. elsa#234: "My position is that we do not really know whether or not CO2/humanity is responsible for such warming as has taken place."

    Perhaps it is time you substantiated your position, for such is the expected behavior at SkS. Rather than declare, support. On what evidence have you formed these positions? References to literature? Peer-reviewed research? Analytic work?

    Because the critical question really is not over your opinion, but over what facts you have chosen to form your opinion.
    0 0
  38. DB] "It's just that their proposition is untestable and their claims are in some cases outrageous and not backed by anything much at all."

    If you have an actual example to cite, please do so. In the absence of concrete examples, please refrain from such blandishments.

    "But I prefer a modest acceptance of our lack of knowledge to a pretence to extensive knowledge that we cannot possibly have."

    The modest acknowledgement of a lack of understanding on your part does not preclude the existence of greater knowledge on the part of science.

    I recommend studying more and commenting less.

    I think I have studied this subject in some detail and I note that you have not commented on my, admittedly short, critique of models as a "proof" of your own particular point of view and the lack of science in it. Nor do you seek to refute my comment on the lack of data sharing by some of the warmist community, which is the only method by which their views could be properly peer reviewed and a real consensus arrived at.


    JMurphy I guess we can take it that you accept the 95% has not been met so a lower standard needed to be adopted; I will leave it to you to determine the definition of warmist, a term which is at least more attractive than "denier" even if it is one that you dislike or cannot understand.
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] "I note that you have not commented on my, admittedly short, critique of models as a "proof" of your own particular point of view and the lack of science in it."

    That would be because models have far more appropriate threads than this one, so are OT here.  And your "critique" lacks bones as well as meat.  If you wish to focus on models, take that portion of your commentary to one of those threads (Search function).

    "Nor do you seek to refute my comment on the lack of data sharing by some of the warmist community, which is the only method by which their views could be properly peer reviewed and a real consensus arrived at."

    Again, OT here because there are many threads dealing with this, old, issue.  Again, take it there.

    And please note that block quoting, which you do, is considered poor form.  Reserve quoting for a point-by-point dealing with things; otherwise, just referring to the particular comment with a link will do.

  39. Elsa,

    There has been an increase in Greenhouse gases which is quit capable of explaining the warming over the past fifty years. There has not been the sort of solar variation or change in volcanism or orbital and rotational parameters that could give rise to that variation in that time. Greenhouse gases are the only thing known to have changed in a way that could have caused the observed effects.

    Further the pattern in space and time of temperature changes it that expected from greenhouse gas increases not that from solar variation.

    These are the reasons why we know it was us. If you claim it was not then you have to come up with an alternative explanation and explain why it is mimicking the behaviour of a greenhouse gas increase.
    0 0
  40. elsa wrote : "JMurphy I guess we can take it that you accept the 95% has not been met so a lower standard needed to be adopted; I will leave it to you to determine the definition of warmist, a term which is at least more attractive than "denier" even if it is one that you dislike or cannot understand."


    I don't know what more anyone can do to show you where you are going wrong with the first part of your statement, so I will just refer you back to my original response to you, where anyone who is actually interested can see the difference between the use of 'very likely' and 'statistically significant', and when such terms can be used. You also don't seem to realise that not using the 95% confidence level doesn't mean that it could be used. Please look at the links I provided, to find out more.

    As for the definition of "warmist" - you are the one using it, so I presumed that you would have some idea as to what it means : at least to you. If you don't, fair enough : at least I know. And how can I dislike it if I don't know what it means ?!
    0 0
  41. elsa,
    There is no equation linking CO2 and temperature given to us from physics that we can test. That is why we have to do it the other way round. We assume that there is a link (and incidentally I would not question that there is, it's just that we do not know what it is; there is no "hard physics" contrary to what someone put to me earlier) and then build models that fit the data to the theory.


    Please listen carefully. The above statement of yours is 100% wrong. It is full of false statements. You need to study and learn that your entire position is founded upon a lie. Since you clearly haven't studied the actual science I can only assume that you "learned" this tripe from disinformation sites like appinsys, WUWT and other places.

    Whatever the source, your information is wrong. You have an abysmal understanding of the science.

    Physics predicts that CO2 will cause temperatures to rise. This was established more than 100 years ago. That temperatures really are rising is not a mere coincidence.

    Models do not fit the data to the theory. They emulate the physics, and the end result is a system that looks and acts just like the earth's climate, and who's results parallel what we observe in real life.

    Stop spreading falsehoods. And stop believing them yourself.

    The topic of this post is understanding climate denial.

    Have you read it? Do you read anything? You need to stop ranting, open your eyes and learn... not from disinformation sites that tell you what you want to hear, but rather from actual scientific sites where you learn actual science.

    Everything you think you know is wrong.

    You need to stop ranting and lecturing and start learning.
    0 0
  42. elsa wrote: "I think the more normal confidence limit is 95% which I guess the warmist view has been unable to meet."

    The comment to which you were referring described a likelihood, not a hypothesis test, they are not the same thing. The initial comment was analogeous to the statement "it is highly likely that if I roll a ten sided die I will get a score less than two". Obviously there is no hypothesis test implied in that statement either.

    BTW, the 95% significance level has no statistical basis whatsoever, and is merely a (rather lazy) tradition in the sciences. Fisher, one of the fathers of statistical hypothesis testing said that the significance level should depend on the nature of the problem.

    BTW2, most people don't understand hypothesis testing anyway, failing to reach the significance level does not mean that the alternative hypothesis is false, it just means that the available evidence does not allow us to rule out the possibility that the null hypothesis is true. The idea that you shouldn't claim a hypothesis is likely to be true unless you are able to reject the null hypothesis is a safety measure to help prevent people overclaiming on their results, but it has no real rational basis.
    0 0
  43. elsa#238: "I think I have studied this subject in some detail"

    You have yet to provide a single bit of evidence for any of your 'positions.' If you have studied, show what you have studied. If you have some expertise, show it.

    Until such time as you can prove that you know what you're talking about, your comments here are of neither substance nor interest. Of opinions, we have plenty. Of noise, there is no shortage.
    0 0
  44. For the casual reader...

    Please, by all means, read through elsa's posts, and the responses. If you want a textbook case of denial, as evidenced by...

    1) An absurd level of confidence and arrogance in a complete misunderstanding of the science.

    2) An unwillingness to listen.

    3) An unwillingness to follow informative links to learn.

    4) The constant repetition of falsehoods, in the face of all evidence.

    5) An almost fanatical faith in her position.

    6) A complete lack of links and citations : everything is categorically and definitively stated, yet this truth is expected to be taken at face value simply because she says so.

    7) The aggressive and rather comically repeated use (in pretty much every single post) of a term ("warmist") that she hopes will push people's buttons, even though no one actually cares.

    ... and so much more. Elsa provides you with an insight into exactly how emotionally wedded and intellectually detached a denier can become.

    From the original post:
    The most common response was attitude bolstering. This involves bringing to mind arguments that support pre-existing views while denying any counter evidence. The process is reflexive and almost sub-conscious.
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  45. 238, elsa,
    I think I have studied this subject in some detail and I note that you have not commented on my, admittedly short, critique of models as a "proof" of your own particular point of view and the lack of science in it.
    And I note that you have not followed or read the links that I already provided in response to this (-snip-) wrong position, at comment 206 02:17 AM on 12 October, 2011.

    Just to save you the trouble of going back, so this time you can follow it and learn exactly how your statement is grossly flawed:

    RealClimate FAQ on climate models
    RealClimate FAQ on climate models Part II
    Nor do you seek to refute my comment on the lack of data sharing by some of the warmist community, which is the only method by which their views could be properly peer reviewed and a real consensus arrived at.
    Do you even read the responses to your propositions? He did in fact respond to your false assertion in comment 232 21:35 PM on 12 October, 2011. He said:
    Perhaps you are unaware that all of the data is available for download.

    Given that the data is freely available, perhaps you'll then consider it outrageous that those proclaiming to be skeptics have done little with it other than to confirm the "hockey stick" is replicable using as little as 10% of the data because that is what the data show: a hockey-stick-like rise in global temps. Yet the anti-science drum beat continues.
    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Inflammatory snipped.

    Links to raw data, processed data, model outputs, and model code are handily collected on RealClimate's Data Sources page.

  46. I believe the "95% confidence" thing came from a throwaway remark that Fisher made.
    I fought against it throughout my stats courses, to little avail. My lecturers were sympathetic but that's the way they taught stats.
    The best use of a predictive model with substantial error bars is to hit it with an actuarial analysis and determine what level of expended utility gives the best payout.
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  47. Elsa, if you have any integrity toward the science, please watch the first minute of this video and then post your response on this thread. We have to start with the basics, unless you are uninterested in understanding the theory that you are attempting to argue against. If you do have a good understanding of the physical model, then you will be able to engage in a useful discussion of the basics. If you don't have a good understanding, then start asking questions. Otherwise, you're simply a mindless troll (and this doesn't seem to be the case).
    0 0
  48. I came across an interesting historical case of denial - Pellagra. Caveat, my source is "52 loaves" which could hardly be described as an authoritative history text.

    Despite Goldberger's experiments, (which you couldnt do today) giving strong evidence for Pellagra being a diet deficiency, the "infectionists" continued in denial. It is postulated that the roots of denial were again within deeply held political values. In the US, Pellagra was most prevalent in the South. 50 years after the civil war, the message that sounded like "the South cant feed itself properly" (especially when there was obviously a lot of food) was not going to sell.

    I would add a 6th characteristic to denial - accepting the message would challenge deeply held values.
    0 0
  49. I think "warmist" is an attempt to attribute belief that AGW is real to political ideology. Those who use it are ideologically motivated and tend to see and opposition to them as also being ideologically motivated. They find it hard to see that there are people for whom science trumps ideology. They want to win and don't understand those who are more interested in understanding than in beating opponents.
    0 0
  50. Probably true Lloyd.

    Warmist appears similar, but opposite to denier.
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