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A vivid demonstration of knee-jerk science rejection

Posted on 8 September 2012 by John Cook

This week, I decided to test the hypothesis that the rejection of climate science is an instinctive, knee-jerk reaction. It was inspired in part by recent events. Just before Arctic sea ice fell to record low levels, Steven Mosher predicted five ways that people would avoid the inevitable implications of the precipitous drop in Arctic sea ice. Anthony Watts promptly fulfilled all five predictions. In another ironic twist, the reaction to recent research linking climate denial to conspiracy ideation has been a gush of conspiracy theories.

So I wrote an article for The Conversation listing the various methods employed to reject climate science where I discussed the psychological phenomenon of confirmation bias and how it leads to these specific methods. In the conclusion, I predicted that the tell-tale signs of confirmation bias would appear in the comment threads:

Look for cherry picking, conspiracy theories, comments magnifying the significance of dissenters (or non-experts) and logical fallacies such as non sequiturs.

Now you might think, with prior warning, that those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change would seek to make a liar out of me and thwart my predictions. However, my expectation was they wouldn't be able to help themselves. Ideologically driven science rejection is a knee-jerk, instinctive reaction. How did my prediction pan out? Let's go through the list:

Cherry Picking

I first explained how we identify cherry picking, providing the example of global cooling (with a link to Dana's celebrated Escalator):

The most common manifestation of confirmation bias is cherry picking, where one carefully selects a small piece of data that paints a friendly picture and overlooks any inconvenient evidence. How do we spot cherry picking? It’s important to remember that there is no “their evidence” versus “our evidence”. There is only the full body of evidence. If someone arrives at a conclusion from carefully selected evidence that contradicts the conclusion drawn from the full body of evidence, that’s cherry picking.

Cherry pickers ignore the fact that our planet is currently building up heat at the stunning rate of around 3 Hiroshima bombs per second. Instead, they focus on short periods of the surface temperature record. This record bounces up and down from year to year as the ocean exchanges heat with the atmosphere, meaning that it’s possible to find any short period during a long-term warming trend where temperatures fall briefly. Meanwhile the planet continues to build up heat – around 250 Hiroshima bombs worth since you started reading this article.

Almost immediately, examples of cherry picking began to appear. Amazingly, the same cherry picking example I highlighted in my article appeared frequently (familiarity backfire effect?):

"The atmosphere seems not to have warmed for 15 years... The ocean temperature seems also to have stabilised "

"Its is interesting given that planet has been cooling since 2001, yet a rise in CO2."

"...global temps have not not risen significantly for some years now."

Conspiracy theories

When you disagree with a consensus of scientists based upon a preponderance of evidence, the inevitable destination is conspiracy theory. I discussed different types of conspiracy theories, from one-world goverment plans to scientists who are in it for the money:

So how can ignoring the 97% be justified? Two words: conspiracy theory. There are a range of conspiracy theories out there, from sinister attempts to control the planet with a one world government to claims that virtually every climate scientist on the planet is falsifying their data for financial reasons, a form of global groupthink.

True to form, these exact conspiracy theories were proposed, as well as a number of others:

"On the alleged nuttiness of 'conspiracy theorists', you are on even shakier ground, as Australia's eminence grise of Climate Action Now! advocacy IS a one-world government plotter. His name is Bob Brown."

"Alarmism is great, if you are on the payroll, eh?"

"...peer review is somewhat overrated. All you need is a editor who is an AGW symphatiser and you can get almost anything published."

" There are prominent scientists who are outraged at those scientists manipulating the data and creating the hockey stick."

Magnifying dissenters and non-experts

Another sign of confirmation bias is magnifying the importance of fake experts or the small minority of dissenters whom you agree with:

Confirmation bias also influences which sources of information we put our trust in. People tend to attribute greater expertise to people who share their values and beliefs. We’re drawn to those who tell us what we want to hear. So what happens when 97 out of 100 of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming? Those who reject the scientific consensus lavish their attention on the 3% minority, magnifying their significance and turning a blind eye to the 97% of scientific experts.

Consequently we saw appeals to those handful of dissenting climate scientists and  scientists with no actual published climate research:

"Moreover, the following IPCC recognised panel scientists, all oppose the mainstream accuracy of the IPCC climate projections, namely Freeman Dyson, Professor Emeritus of the School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study; Fellow of the Royal Society, Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the National Academy of Sciences, Nils-Axel Mörner, retired head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University, former Chairman of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (1999–2003), and author of books supporting the validity of dowsing, Garth Paltridge, retired Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research and retired Director of the Institute of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre, Visiting Fellow ANU, Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London, Hendrik Tennekes, retired Director of Research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, among others."

"I think the views of Ian Plimer, John Christie and Richard Linzden should be validated by those who believe in true scientific study."

"Freeman Dyson arguably the world's greatest living scientist"

Logical Fallacies

I discussed logical fallacies, concentrating on the non sequitur fallacy, where the conclusion is not supported by the premise. I used two examples of this fallacy: past climate change and Arctic sea ice:

A common logical fallacy employed by climate contrarians is the “non sequitur”, Latin for “it does not follow”. This applies to arguments where the stated conclusion is not supported by its premise.

The most cited example is “climate has changed naturally in the past therefore current warming must be natural”.

A recent variant argues, in response to this year’s record low in Arctic sea ice, that ice has been low in the past. This is logically equivalent to investigating a corpse with a gunshot wound and ruling out murder because people have died from natural causes before.

What followed were non sequiturs on these very two topics:

"Decreasing Arctic pack ice might indeed be a symptom of AGW, but if this event has regularly occurred in the last 2000 years then until we are certain that we understand what was driving the previous cyclical disappearance of pack ice, how can we rule out that the same factors are not driving it now?"

"In fact the planet has been warming since the mini ice age, and there were no SUVs back then!"

Why bother doing this? Not for fun (that was just a bonus). To effectively reduce the influence of misinformation, you need to provide an alternate explanation. Explaining why and how people reject the science can be an important part of this alternative narrative. To achieve this, we need to understand both the techniques of denial and the psychology of confirmation bias that drives the denial.

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Comments 101 to 149 out of 149:

  1. A point of order here: If Sean Lamb makes any further comments complaining about the moderation he is forcing the moderators to perform on his comments, do not reply to them, as your comment will likely then be excised along with his.

    This pointless exercise in Lets-Violate-The-Comments-Policy-As-Long-As-Possible is now over.

    Please now return the discussion to the OP.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] NOTE: Sean has chosen to pursue other venues rather than comply with this site's Comments Policy.
  2. mikeh1,

    To that end, I am bemused by sites like The Conversation which has a large readership and this charter
    http://theconversation.edu.au/our_charter
    but also allows the climate science denier trolls free rein. They have some great articles from actual climate scientists which are impossible to have a sensible discussion about because of the organised and intensive trolling.


    I appreciated that commenting on the moderation policy of other sites is OT but I'd just like to say how strongly I agree with the above comment. The Conversation is a great idea, but without moderation to keep comments on topic and maintain some sort of standard the posts quickly get swamped by ignorant and generally incorrect claims, logical fallacies, and eventually personal abuse.

    Allowing the readership to contribute meaningfully can have benefits, but allowing mindless drivel by a small number of people to derail the "conversation" and use it as a platform for their oft-repeated and debunked opinions only detracts from the site. What makes The Conversation special is the fact that articles are written by experts, not the comments on those articles by the uninformed. There are plenty of venues for them already.
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  3. Eric wrote "Dikran, my comment in #2 is no different from my first paragraph in #84."

    My comment obviously related to the second paragraph of your post, not the first, so this is just more evasion.

    "But I want more detail behind that number and unfortunately do not have time right now to look for"

    Perhaps you should spend less time posting and more time reading. If you make many posts asking many questions, repeatedly going off on tangents, and not paying much attention to the answers you will learn very little. In science understanding generally requires depth of study.

    Here is two questions for you to consider - what does it matter what the credible interval on S that would satisfy X% of climatologists, isn't it what the science says that matters? Secondly, why do you think the IPCC credible interval is not representative of nainstream opinion on the plausible range of S?
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  4. One more characteristic of denial we could add to the list is the claiming of fake expertise. This happens quite a lot in the Denyosphere, eg, Anthony Watts, a Uni dropout and ex TV weather man who claims to be a meteorologist.

    Over on the sister blog that started all this off:

    http://theconversation.edu.au/how-do-people-reject-climate-science-9065

    We have several examples.

    Firstly, there is an anthropologist who doesn't seem to understand graphs, or at least can't recognise a blatant cherry pick when she sees one. Nor does she seem to be able to distinguish between local and global temperatures. Hard to believe for someone who has (supposedly) been through undergraduate school.

    Then there is an IT Teacher who claims to have read many research papers and to have found unsupported assertion after unsupported assertion after unsupported assertion. (I guess he feels repetition makes his argument stronger);
    thereby implicitly claiming Phd level expertise in climate science. When challenged to give just one example, he could not or would not, give either a reference to a paper or what he found wrong with it. How can you have a discussion, let alone an intelligent discussion with people like these?

    Then there is a 'climate scientist' who appeared not to know a great deal about climate science and turned out to be a Physics major working at the Antwerp patent office on patents for Plasma screens. (Interesting qualifications for climate science). When challenged on this, here is what he said, I kid you not:

    'Depends on your definition of a scientist; I study and analyse data and hypotheses on climate matters, that makes me a climate scientist. Are you one too?'

    Well mate, my definition of a climate scientist is someone with a Phd in climate science (or some associated discipline), who is actively working in the area. Otherwise you are just a bullshit artist!

    It is interesting to ponder why people feel the need to claim this false expertise. Maybe it's because, deep down, they know they are talking rubbish, but can't admit it even to themselves. What is even more interesting is that they naively think they will get away with it.
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  5. I just have a further comment on Fake Expertise. This applies equally to real scientists like Carter and Plimer who claim expertise in a field unrelated to their own.

    Carter, for example, has 50 or so peer reviewed papers to his credit, in Geology (when he obviously didn't have an issue with the peer review process). That however doesn't qualify him to comment on climate science authoritatively. In fact, when he was co-author of a climate related paper in 2009; it failed the review process miserably:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/denialgate-highlighting-bob-carters-selective-science.html

    It really does seem this is a defining characteristic of climate change deniers
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  6. chuck101,

    I have always assumed that the false claims of expertise were a tool to sway others, who don't know any better, that they are just as qualified as the other scientists to hold an opinion and they disagree with those other scientists and thereby create an illusion of "debate", muddying the waters and leading onlookers to think the "science is not settled". The Oregon petition is another example of this.

    (One of the great ironies is how the same people decrying "appeals to authority" when it comes to the IPCC and climate scientists will fawn all over someone they perceive to be an authority who agrees with them or will artificially inflate their own authority to suit.)

    What I always find amazing is how transparently bad their attempts are. I mean, really basic mistakes that I would wish were obvious to anyone who completed high school. They become amusing when they attempt to dress them up with what they apparently believe is technical-sounding language that actually renders it gibberish, but the fact that so many seem to get sucked in by it is a sad indictment of education standards.

    The ones that really annoy me are journalists. Their role in a democracy is pivotal and as a consequence they have a duty to their readers to become informed. If they can't get their head around the science, hire someone who can — the basics are really not that complicated, and the errors made by the misinformers are so obvious there's no excuse for not picking them up on it.
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  7. @JasonB thanks for the graphs (#100): could you post sources? On journalists (#106), scientists are often accused of being poor communicators but journalists are meant to be professional BS detectors. I commented on this at length at my own blog. I'm now at a university in South Africa with a big journalism school so I can work on the problem at source.

    The problem is not just laziness about making sense of science. Superficially, fake balance accepting the logic that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge implies that journalists need to learn more science. But really, it's simpler than that. The mode of argument and the chief sponsors are exactly the same as for a range of other faux debates from tobacco to ozone hole. Failing to spot this is a major fail.
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  8. Andrew Keen's excellent read, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture, details many of the points being made here and in particular his comments have a very real application to internet postings on technical forums

    The internet allows the anonymous an ability to pretend and bloviate far beyond the braggadocio of mere bar talk; at least in the bar you have to physically cover the checks your ego tries to cash. On the internet, no one knows the "real" truth nor can they prove any personal claims proffered, it is a wild-west of fallacious credentials, Wiki-intellectuals, trolling tautologist, lying liars, and one kid in his mom's basement who only wanted to Rick-Roll you, that is until he took an arrow to the knee.

    The book clearly outlines how the cachet of credentials has been turned on its head by the standard-less standards of the internet. If you doubt this, buy my self publish book, visit my website, listen to my podcast or read my blog, I also edit for Wikipedia; after all, along with my MD, there is a law degree and multiple PhD's. And did I mention that I can out-drive any Formula One driver and pull in deeper than any ASP pro, I just choose not to; humble and handsome.

    The parts of the internet that work wonders for artist and musicians by allowing their creations access to a structured market place which they normally would not have has unfortunately impeded reasoned and intellectual discourse with a flood of unqualified noise and finger painted beliefs. As long as any opinion can carve out a position of equality with educated understanding we can expect this noise of the unwashed masses to drown out the reality of peer reviewed insights.
    Thanks to the internet we get talking points in a thread that quote a blog, which links to a cable news video where a fellow from a think tank, who used to be a speech writer, is telling us how it is all natural forcings without detailing what these forces are or the mechanics involved. And these are the days in which we live…
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  9. YubeDude,

    Good point, except that society and social training just need to catch up. The world needs to (slowly) develop Internet street smarts (it is, with new concepts like "flaming" and "trolls", but it still needs more time).

    When I was a kid, my mother told me "don't believe everything you read."

    Not that much has changed, except that today there's a whole lot more not to believe than their used to be.

    People need to get used the fact that there are self-described Galileos out there. People need to learn to recognize and absorb them. More than that, people need to learn how to avoid feeding their egos.

    As a case in point, there is one such person who posts regularly at WUWT with his own outlandish theories of climate change. Like many before him, he cries out for attention. He begs to be noticed, and for him and his theories to be recognizes as the "genius" that they are.

    The travesty there is that moderation at WUWT is limited to deleting comments by people that don't agree with their position. People have no idea how many comments are deleted at WUWT (which is very funny, considering all of the moderation complaints that occur here, where this is a well thought out and explicit comments policy, one which strives to do exactly what we are discussing).

    But at WUWT, these self-described Galileans are given free reign to promote their nonsense. At WUWT it's "let the buyer beware" or, more accurately, "don't believe everything you read."
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  10. YubeDude,

    And I don't mean to recast your comment as being applicable only to those extreme cases, such as weathermen-turned-skeptical-climate-science-expert-journalists.

    People need to learn to read every comment and to recognize that odds are it is being posted by some bored, lonely shmuck (much like myself) who has too much time on his hands and too inflated a view of his own value and the importance of his opinion.

    If it doesn't contain an insight that makes you think, or a fact that leads you to do some researching and fact-checking yourself, then it's little more than noise in the ether.
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  11. jasonB@106: "One of the great ironies is how the same people decrying "appeals to authority" when it comes to the IPCC and climate scientists will fawn all over someone they perceive to be an authority who agrees with them or will artificially inflate their own authority to suit."

    I recently finished reading the book and associated supplements available for free download from the following web site:

    The Authoritarians.

    It is written by a social psychology prof, about his years of research into something he calls "authoritarian followers" (and also the "leaders" that take advantage of them). It makes a very interesting case into the psychology of bowing to authority, and one of the issues is the selectivity of the acceptance of authority. Compartmentalized thinking, hypocritical application of "principles", having an "in group" vs. an "out group" mentality, etc., are also part of the picture.

    The web page I've linked to gives a brief description. The book itself is quite long. Take a look - it's fascinating in a scary kind of way...
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  12. @51 timothyh - Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Bad choice of words. What I meant to say was we should be trying to sway those who could be swayed and not waste too much time trying to convince those who don't listen to evidence (irredeemable fake skeptics). If the rebuttal adds to the case, great, otherwise, the practice of linking to established arguments (as use widely here) provides the way for those seeking truth to find it.

    In reflection, all I meant was DNFTT.
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  13. Blogger's Hall of Amnesia

    As well as McIntyre – the man who chucked around allegations first and then got round to checking his Inbox – it’s:

    Dr Roger Pielke Jr (he replied to the initial contact)
    Mr Marc Morano (of Climatedepot; he replied to the initial contact)
    Dr Roy Spencer (no reply)
    Mr Robert Ferguson (of the Science and Public Policy Institute, no reply)

    It will be noted that all 4 have publically stated during the last few days/weeks that they were not contacted.
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  14. philipm,

    The first graph is used in many posts here (example) and originally comes from Murphy et al 2009.

    The second is also used in many posts here (example) and originally comes from Foster and Rahmstorf 2009.

    The third originally comes from Santer et al 2011, discussed here at SkS and mentioned in many other posts.

    If you right-click on each image you can obtain the URL for the image hosted by SkS.
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  15. philipm,

    The problem is not just laziness about making sense of science. Superficially, fake balance accepting the logic that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge implies that journalists need to learn more science.


    This is a really good example -- on the one hand we have multiple, relevant experts telling us about Arctic sea ice, nicely balanced by another guy at the end telling us what he doesn't know:

    "Climate change is a murky science," [Christy] said. "To some [i.e. those who are experts on Arctic ice] it's an easy answer to say it's due to extra greenhouse gases. To the rest of us [i.e. those who aren't], separating natural variability from human impacts remains a wicked problem." (Editorialising mine. :)

    Perhaps the reporter should have asked himself why he was balancing his report with "expert" opinion from someone who finds the whole problem too difficult to solve? Since when is that news? There are literally billions of unqualified people they could have asked who could have said they find it all a bit complicated as well.

    Why didn't he "balance" it by finding some nutjob willing to say that the oceans were going to boil next week?

    Why is the "balance" always between the mainstream view and only one of the two potential fringe views? Why do they get to paint the mainstream as "alarmists" rather than looking for real alarmists (preferably those who actually are hoping for One World Government (TM)) so that the mainstream can look sensible and conservative in contrast?

    It's not just the problem of false balance, it's that the false balance is biased and always goes only one way. (I've seen a really good graph somewhere (here at SkS?) that visually represents the gamut of views on climate sensitivity and shows the mainstream clustered around 3C with a big bump at low sensitivities representing "skeptics" and a long tail to the right with "extreme warmists" and showing how including just the "skeptics" and not the "extreme warmists" creates the illusion that the "true answer", which "must lie somewhere in the middle", actually lies in the trough between the mainstream and the "skeptics"; whereas if the "extreme warmists" were included, then the "middle" value would actually be the mainstream view (and the "middle ground" fallacy that many people intuitively believe would actually give the right answer).)

    But really, it's simpler than that. The mode of argument and the chief sponsors are exactly the same as for a range of other faux debates from tobacco to ozone hole. Failing to spot this is a major fail.


    Absolutely. Why are their BS detectors so utterly useless that even when it's the same people from the same organisations saying the same things about climate science as they used to say about medical science (re: tobacco) they still don't detect it?
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  16. Bob Loblaw,

    Thanks for the link. I actually downloaded that book some time ago but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Sounds like I'd better!

    bill,

    It will be noted that all 4 have publically stated during the last few days/weeks that they were not contacted.


    It seems that for some people, accusing others of malfeasance requires such a low burden of proof that simply searching for someone's name in their Inbox is enough effort to put in before doing so. Then, when it turns out that their efforts wouldn't have worked anyway, they blame the victim for not making it easier for them to check their own mail before they made the accusations.

    Personally, I'd be searching for words like "survey" and, if need be, checking every single email during the month or so in question before I'd accuse someone of lying. I guess I'm old-fashioned like that.
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  17. The second is also used in many posts here (example) and originally comes from Foster and Rahmstorf 2009.


    Oops — that should be Foster and Rahmstorf 2011, not 2009. Tamino's analysis is excellent, as you would expect. ;-)
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  18. I wrote:

    I've seen a really good graph somewhere...


    I've found it:



    Credit goes to Michael Tobis and Stephen Ban.
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  19. Thank you Bill for that update. We are all anxiously awaiting Foxgoose comments. These stories always end the same way, it's as predictable as a Hollywood movie. Incidentally, the reactions speak volume on the validity of the studies' results. Perhaps the methodology wasn't perfect but the conspiracist ideation is definitely there. This is quite comical.
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  20. I agree that the reaction is more interesting than the original survey. Questions of methodology and the questionable nature of online surveys aside, most of us who've been in the debate for a while were simply unsurprised, because the results aligned with our own experience. 'Who knew?', as Monbiot tweeted sarcastically. And there the matter may have rested...

    But the fake skeptic response has really been the gift that keeps on giving. And an ever more convincing confirmation of the original results.

    The (over)reaction also reminds me of those Fundamentalist groups that apparently cannot stop themselves stridently decrying the perceived 'blasphemy' of some relatively obscure Arthouse cultural production, turning it into an international cause célèbre - and hit! Spreading its message across the globe in the process.

    Not only do some people apparently not get irony, they also cannot seem to grasp the basic wisdom that sometimes the less said really is the better...
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  21. Yes Bill, if you go over to John's original link that started all this,

    http://theconversation.edu.au/how-do-people-reject-climate-science-9065

    The denierati (mainly consisting of 4 or 5 hard core denialists blessed with truly epic stupidity), are too busy making what they imagine to be clever rhetorical debating points, whilst avoiding discussing the actual science intelligently (or at all); totally oblivious to the fact that with every asinine comment, they confirm the original thesis of John's article.

    Their DNA obviously doesn't carry the irony gene!

    On another note, we seem to have lost all the fake skeptics, including Eric (pity, I sort of enjoyed his convoluted attempts to reconcile his mutually contradictory positions), hence we appear to be talking amongst ourselves.... Ah, for the good old days...
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  22. Curious question for a/the Mod(s): My intial view of this thread indicates 128 comments, but what I *see* is 121....what am I missing here?
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  23. Vrooomie,

    See comment 101.

    [Extreme trolling comments have been deleted from the thread.]
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  24. Chuck101 @ 121
    Eric did not inquire of my meaning in comment 66, but since he brought up CATO in #65. Since this topic includes the relationship of anti-science beliefs and {"free market ideology," "laissez faire free market," "free market fundamentalism" or "market fundamentalism," or whatever one wants to call it}, it seemed apropos.

    Although the extreme versions of those are uncommon here in the heart of Silicon Valley, they are wonderful excuses for taking money to do PR & lobbying for companies that "privatize the profits and socialize the losses/risks." The tobacco companies are especially well-documented by virtue of the tobacco archives.

    Hence, Fake science noted the connections of Heartland and Fred Singer to tobacco, especially pp.37-46, including the fact that almost all adult smokers start by age 18, typically around 13-14.

    That wasn't about CATO, but p.39 showed the 1991-2001 $ from Philip Morris alone: of the thinktanks there, CATO was #3 after the Washington Legal Foundation and Americans for Tax Reform. p.40 includes a line on CATO as to the key actions CATO would take for PM:
    Op-eds, media policy briefs, Letters to Editor ...
    CATO was acting as a PR agency, but doubly tax-free.

    But that's just $ from PM, who seemed better organized or turned over the documents. RJR was harder to find, but see CATO President Edward H. Crane, in this 1995 letter to R.J.Reynolds:
    'Just a note to add my thanks to those of Bob Borens for the generous $50,000 contribution from RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in support of the Cato Institute's Regulatory Rollback and Reform project. We are delighted to have RJ Reynolds as a significant corporate supporter of the Institute and look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead .
    For now, I've enclosed a copy of a piece I had in the
    Washington Post last week along with information on our upcoming Benefactor Summit, which we'd be delighted to have you attend. Let's get together for lunch on one of your upcoming trips to Washington . Thank you again for your support and best wishes for the New Year.'

    CATO has taken money, year after year, to help Big Tobacco first steal the personal freedom and eventually the lives of many children by addicting them to nicotine.

    In comment 65 Eric writes "I accept this challenge for the right with the important caveat that I support much of CATO's stand on personal freedom"
    Maybe Eric will return to discuss a possible contradiction with the material above.

    CATO publishes Pat Michaels' books, and spent $$ to run this ad in a bunch of US newspapers. There has been some ExxonMobil money and of course, much from the Kochs, for whom CATO has been a long-term project.

    Thus it is no surprise that extreme free-market ideology correlates well with anti-science: a few people get paid to generate the beliefs. Curiously, many of the thinktank folks who do so don't seem to actually have spent much time in any real, productive, competitive free market, but they surely talk about it a lot. That was similarly true of the 4 scientists at the focus of Merchants of Doubt.
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  25. Meanwhile, over at ArsTechnica, John Timmer's piece on the survey is attracting hordes of deniers, offering the full menu of denier tropes. Input from people who understand climate science is needed.
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  26. Before:
    "The IPCC is directing research results in pursuit of a political agenda therefore global warming is falsified."

    After:
    "I don't like be called a conspiracy theorist therefore global warming is falsified for reasons that have become impossible for me to mention without being laughed at."

    I'm not sure there's any input necessary at ArsTechnica. Once air is admitted into the package the process of decomposition becomes inexorable; people will read the article, then they'll read the comments, then they'll form conclusions.
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  27. For JohnMashey (please note, this first paragraph is only to reply to him), I looked up CATO tobacco on google scholar and most of the articles are about how well-intentioned policy makes bad laws and bad legal precedents. All the articles are misleading in one simple way because they do not have a disclaimer about sources of funding for CATO at the time (most were written around 1997-2000).

    As for the ad that you linked, I believe the first claim of the ad is misleading and detracts from the ad (I have stated in this forum that global warming is ongoing and will restate it now). I agree with the second part that dollar amounts are not increasing and note some hypocrisy here and some reasons dollar amounts may appear to increase here and the post after that. I also agree with the third part of the ad about models. I have not made direct arguments that models fail (the point in the ad), but have made similar arguments here
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  28. Eric, there is no hypocrisy there. Free enetrprise has led to notable "ill effects" in some other industries doesn't mean it will cause ill effects in reinsurance. However, this is essentially an ad-hominem, you are unable to address the evidence provided by the reinsurers, so you question the reliability of the source.

    Besides, there is a big difference between reinsurance and say the tobacco industry. If reinsurer A over estimates the risks of some market, then there is likely to be reinsurer B who offers a lower premium and B is likely to get the contract. Thus it is not in reinsurer A's interest to overstate the risk in a free market. Tobacco is different, manufacturer C cannot argue that his cigarettes do not cause cancer, bit manufacturer D produces cigarettes that does, as any implication that cigarettes are linked with cancer will hurt both their sales. Thus in a free market, the pressure is on all cigarrete manufacturers to downplay the link with cancer, but the pressure on reinsurers is not simply to overplay the risks, as they need to keep the premiums competitive.

    So even if it were hypocrisy, it would be a pretty poor argument anyway.
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  29. re: 128 Dikran
    See pp.523-524 of Golden Holocaust...
    Briefly Liggett invested a lot of money in a technique to make cigarettes "safer," and they came under terrifc pressure from other cigarette vendors not to ever market it. Since the cigarette vendors often acted together, there as a "gentleman's agreement" never to come out and say "safer" and if somebody screwed up, they got pressured. On the other hand, "light" cigarettes could give the impression without ever saying "safety."

    But, the bottom line of this was to assess CATO: it gets paid by tobacco companies to help them stay in business, which they do only by killing children children slowly.
    CATO {along with Heartland, etc} do this by invoking a legitimate general idea, personal freedom, which however gets kneejerk reaction among some people that makes cigarette company's actions just fine. If a thinktank is willing to help such efforts, confusing the public on climate science is child's play by comparison.
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  30. I have a suggestion re "models" for Eric and everyone.

    Let's not lump all models together. Reading Eric's posts earlier in the thread, I think that sometimes he is referring to AOGCM's and sometimes he is referring to other model (eg: paleoclimate).

    Computer models of one sort or another seem to be ubiquitous in science today. Of course at some level every equation and every statistical result is based on a model of the physical phenomena they seek to simplify and explain, and this goes way back. But since computer calculations are so easy today, computer modeling is now very common in everything from analyzing cancer cases to assessing avian biodiversity. Some things can inherently be better modeled than others, and the quality of modeling also varies. They have become essential tools, but can also be inaccurate or misused.

    If one is equally distrustful of all models used by science then one can discount much of what's been published in the last decade in many sciences. I think we need more nuance than that to meaningfully discuss the subject.

    In this context, paleoclimate research may indeed use some kinds of "models" in analyzing the data, but they need not be the same AOGCM's used by the IPCC and thus not subject to the same strengths or weaknesses. Eric wants GCM's to handle square mile grid cells and 100 years in 10 min segments before he (might conceivably) trust them. But what's that got to do with trusting paleoclimate estimates for CS? If the latter analysis uses models which he believes to be inaccurate, Eric needs to make specific critiques of those specific models, not just discount "models" in general.

    So let's all be more specific about which "models" we are referring to. If you mean a GCM, say so. If you mean some particular domain specific model used to analyze ice cores, say so. Let's avoid lumping them all together as simply "models".
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  31. Zeph, I made a general comment about model resolution here It's not an answer to trusting paleo climate models for sensitivity, I have a more direct critique of deriving CS from Paleo data in various threads such as here
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  32. Dikran, your point is valid and i will need to address those reinsurer claims on the appropriate thread.
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  33. My point to Eric was that,

    Given that he says he accepts the 97% scientific consensus, so hence must accept that AGW is happening. Given also, that it appears to be happening faster than most of the estimates. (Nobody predicted that we could have an ice free North Pole by 2020, which we seem to be on course for).

    So given all this evidence, (which he apparently accepts), why does he make it contingent on the future development of computer models which can model to his arbitrary standards, and which may take twenty years to develop?

    This is like sitting inside a burning house and fiddling with the air conditioning. The logical and sensible approach would be, 'yes, I accept the evidence, AGW is happening and we need to do something about it now; and by the way, it would be nice to continue to develop the computer models so we can have some advance notice of what may occur'.

    To continue to insist that the models fit your arbitrary standards before you accept said evidence, (and potentially wait 20 years or so), is just nuts.
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  34. Chuck101, I've tried to explain why I can't answer that in #59. My putting such a paragraph in every thread would be pointless and result in clutter. I can expand on my points here if you want me to.
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  35. Eric,

    Let me try to paraphrase your position:

    Eric believes what 97% of the climate scientists believe, which is that myriad aspects of the science point to dangerous global warming, except he also believes the models are wrong, and therefore concludes from that position that we should ignore everything else that 97% of climate scientists believe.

    Have I got that about right?
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  36. Thanks Sphaerica,

    That's precisely as I took it. Basically, it's a self contradictory position and I can't believe that Eric can't see that.

    I was beginning to believe that I was the one who was going nuts!
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  37. Sphaerica (and chuck101), I answer yes to the following question: ""Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?"" If that is not the "97% question" please link to or repeat the correct question.
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  38. Thanks Eric,

    I really do not wish to rehash all the previous comments, but it seems to me that you also put a caveat on that previously, namely that you accept the 97% scientific consensus except where it is based on models. Further more, you put a further constraint on climate sensitivity namely:

    "all the uncertainty points to lower sensitivity"

    which virtually invalidates most of the models which are based on middle ball park estimates. Though why uncertainty should point in any general direction, I do not know. It is accepted scientific practice that uncertainty is dealt with by saying + or - 5% (or whatever), so equal weighting in both direction. So hence you are loading the dice against the models as well for no good reason, thereby guaranteeing that you won't accept those bits of the scientific consensus.

    Do I have it right so far?
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  39. chuck101, my statement post 2 was much more limited which is that the 97% (or 97.5%) applies to the statement I quoted above. Even if the "significant contributing factor" claim requires models (which I believe it does not), it doesn't require models which estimate sensitivity since those would only be needed for projections into the future.

    Also to clarify the quote I made, "all the uncertainty in paleo evidence points to lower sensitivity". OTOH, there will be new positive feedbacks that are not part of paleo evidence (e.g. melting permafrost) that may tip sensitivity higher.
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  40. Eric @ 139...

    Going against my instinct to follow DNFTT, I just have to ask:

    What kind of model could be used to support a claim of "significant contributing factor", but would not also have an estimate of sensitivity built into it?

    The first part implies that the model can help with estimating what the contribution has been to date. If the model can quantify that warming, then how on earth will it not also have some indication of what the "sensitivity" is?
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  41. Thanks Eric for that clarification, however, I don't think I am any the wiser. I might just leave it to greater intellects than mine to figure it out...
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  42. I don't think any of us are any the wiser! Almost heroic hair-splitting and obfuscation, as far as I can see...
    0 0
  43. Bob Loblaw, my answer is to your first question is here
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  44. Eric: as per the moderator's comment over there, I have posted a reply over in the models thread.
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  45. The ever-reasonable Ms. Nova now has people bombarding Minister for Tertiary Education Senator Chris Evans' office, and has a list of all of Lewandowsky's other recent funding that she seems to think is excessive - note: there's not even a reference to AGW on it - after the crack 'nice work if you can get it' and this classic piece of talkback-radio lumpen-populist nastiness: 'somewhere a cancer researcher was denied funding in order for Lewandowsky to do his work.'

    This isn't just a bit kooky; this is genuinely ugly.
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  46. I hope this is the appropriate thread in which to post this...

    Article on Lewandowsky on Truthout

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/11501-what-motivates-rejection-of-climate-science
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  47. Bill@145: Count on it to get *way*, way uglier, too.

    I think it's because (and know this is based upon my sensing a disturbance in The Force) there is ever so *sliiightly* a slide away from the denialistas' outlandish statements, towards a teensy, tiny bit of sanity beginning to show up in the MSM, viz. reporting much more about the science side of this. See my post at comment 146.
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  48. FWIW, Martin Herzberg is VERY busy spreading disinformation at the site above. Perhaps it would be good for the really brainy folks here to refute some of his nonsense.
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  49. I'd encourage all Australian academics and non-university scientists to contact Chris Evans and ask him to take an explicit stance defending peer-reviewed and institutionally overseen work such as Lewendowsky's.

    Stephan's work is demonstrably compliant with the federal government's HERDC specifications that define what constitutes an acceptable standard of research. These are the standards that set the bar for the highest level of research at Ausatralian universities.

    The paper qualifies as an A1 publication, and it is published in a journal that is recognised by UlrichsWeb and Thomson Reuters Master Journal List as being scholarly and peer-reviewed.

    That Joanne Codling sees fit to interfer with appropriately-conducted tertiary level research, simply for her own political ends, is reprehensible.

    And it should be pointed out that Lewendowsky's work took not a cent from cancer research. If it prevented anything at all, it was possibly the slim chance that a climate change denialist might have tried to scam a publication trying to link climatologists to the conspiracy and fraud that Codling and her ilk perceive under every bed.
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