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Climate Hustle

Climate Deniers Employ Predatory Tactics in Fight Against Facts: Scientist

Posted on 9 January 2015 by Guest Author

Climate Deniers Employ Predatory Tactics in Fight Against Facts: Scientist by Deirdre Fulton was originally posted on Common Dreams on Jan 6, 2015.

Michael Mann writes that the strategy 'is similar to what happens when a group of lions on the Serengeti seek out a vulnerable individual zebra at the edge of a herd.'

Serengeti lion and zebras

"The 'Serengeti strategy' is often employed wherever there is a strong and widespread consensus among the world’s scientists about the underlying cold, hard facts of a field, whether the subject be evolution, ozone depletion, the environmental impacts of DDT, the health effects of smoking, or human-caused climate change," Mann writes. (Photo: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists/Brocken Inaglory)

Like lions targeting lone zebras in the Serengeti grasslands, industry-backed climate change deniers prefer to target individual scientists rather than take on an entire scientific field at once, climatologist Michael Mann writes in a paper published this month in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In "The Serengeti Strategy: How Special Interests Try to Intimidate Scientists, and How Best to Fight Back," Mann describes a concerted effort on the part of fossil fuel interests who find themselves facing overwhelming scientific consensus about the threat of human-caused climate change—and, by implication, the necessity to reduce global carbon emissions.

"By singling out a sole scientist, it is possible for the forces of 'anti-science' to bring many more resources to bear on one individual, exerting enormous pressure from multiple directions at once, making defense difficult," writes Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. "It is similar to what happens when a group of lions on the Serengeti seek out a vulnerable individual zebra at the edge of a herd."

Unfortunately, the strategy is effective, he says, which is why similar tactics have been employed by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, big agriculture, and "just about any corporate interest that has found itself on a collision course with scientific research—particularly research that reveals specific potential damages or threats caused by their product."

"It is difficult to take on an entire group of scientists at once," Mann explains. "But bringing down individuals is easier, and it serves the larger effort of dismissing, obscuring, and misrepresenting well-established science and its implications. What’s more, these highly visible tactics create such a negative atmosphere that other scientists are discouraged from conveying their research’s implications to the public."

Mann, one of eight lead authors of the "Observed Climate Variability and Change" chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Scientific Assessment Report published in 2001, found himself the target of such attacks following the publication of his well-known 'hockey stick' graph depicting temperature changes over the past thousand years. The graph emerged as an iconic image of human-caused climate change, conveying a simple, straightforward message about the reality of global warming. 

As a result, "I was subject to what The Washington Post and The New York Times denounced as an 'inquisition' and a 'witch hunt' by politicians in the pay of fossil fuel interests, looking to discredit my work," he writes.

To counter the so-called Serengeti Strategy, Mann says he has become "a passionate believer in the role of the 'scientist-advocate'"—and has become one himself, eager to convey the facts and implications of climate change and to engage with skeptics.

Citing the late Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University climate change scientist who Mann says was one of the earliest victims of such attacks, he adds: "[B]eing a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. If scientists choose not to engage on matters of policy-relevant science, then we leave a void that will be filled by industry-funded disinformation."

Mann concludes on a note of optimism. "We scientists must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the deniers-for-hire," he declares. "We must be honest as we convey the threat posed by climate change to the public. But we must also be effective. The stakes are simply too great for us to fail to communicate the risks of inaction."

 

 

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Comments 1 to 48:

  1. A brilliant, apt metaphor for what is happening. As with bullying, which this Serengeti strategy is, it is vital to shine a light on the behaviour. To identify and name it, as Mann has done. Abuse thrives in unseen, and while these ad hominem attacks are very public, their affects and intentions are cloaked behind a pretend regard for science. This, to extend the metaphor, is the predators' camouflage. Courageous scientists like Dr Mann deserve our full and public support.

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  2. A major part of the real problem is people who are actually aware of the problem but want to be part of the group benefiting most from getting away with creating the problem. They create and support the attacks on climate science and specific scientists.

    I wonder if a coordinated collective action of "scientist-advocates" targetting a single prey among the wealthy and powerful at the top of the denier pyramid would be successful. Relentlessly naming and shaming them seems appropriate. Rolling Stone Magazine is one publication that is clearly trying to do that. But they present a broad variety of trouble makers rather than coordinating a relentless focus on exposing the unacceptability of the actions of a particular target until that target changes their mind. There are so many deserving targets it is almost like the carnival game Whack-a-Mole where a hit counts but it does not stop the critter from trying to re-emerge.

    Better still would be getting coordinated action among lawmakers to one-at-a-time pointedly significantly penalize the 'deliberate decievers among the wealthiest and most powerful who know better'. But that would require people who aren't willing to be part of the problem to be successful at winning leadership roles. Which would require voters who do not wish to benefit from being part of the problem to succeed in electing such people as leaders.

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  3. OPOF - "I wonder if a coordinated collective action of "scientist-advocates" targetting a single prey among the wealthy and powerful at the top of the denier pyramid would be successful."

    Probably not. The really wealthy will continue to contribute via cut-outs (Donors Trust and the like), and front-man spokespeople will continue to be recruited to fill gaps whenever someone with apparent science credentials is revealed to be a shill or simply loses credibility. 

    There are always lobbying paths available. 

    I would much rather show that the arguments used by the deniers are baseless (h/t SkS), and that the science is clear, which gets at the root of the public policy issue.

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  4. KR,

    The Republicans may have made a perfect target for what you suggest.

    They named Senator Inhofe as their most knowledgable and informed member regarding the Environment.

    Approprieate Inhofe quotes, and he has made a few really absurd ones, could be the introduction to every clarification of a denier claim.

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  5. Regarding my suggestion that Senator Inhofe should be mentioned in every clarfication regarding the impacts of CO2 from burning buried hydrocarbons, there is an article at Time (here) providing some Inane Inhofe claims.

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  6. It is incredibly risky to mix up science and advocacy on the same topic because of the temptation to see certainty where there is none, let alone the obvious conflict of interest.

    "If scientists choose not to engage on matters of policy-relevant science, then we leave a void that will be filled by industry-funded disinformation"

    That statement in the article by Stephen Schneider which implies that no one who might opposes a view or policy position will be doing it in a reasonable and unbiased way  shows the risk of such distortion perfectly.

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  7. Peter Lloyd,

    My observations of the 'public discussion' related to this issue indicates there needs to be far more convincing presentations of the best understanding of what is going on. Too much money and communication power is in the hands of those who do not want this subject to be better understood. The proposal would make it more difficult for that group to claim their side has substantial factual justification for their claims. Something needs to change. Scientists speaking out more publicly and assertively sounds like it would help.

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  8. Mann says "We must be honest as we convey the threat posed by climate change to the public. But we must also be effective. The stakes are simply too great for us to fail to communicate the risks of inaction." This carries the implication that action initiated by humans can control climate change. This is not so. The best that can be done is adopt measures that will gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so slow down the rate of global warming.  These mitigation measures should be coupled with major measures to adapt to the irreversible unintended consequences of past usage of fossil fuels. The major challenges of preparing for the impact on cities for sea level rise and society for the impact on seafood availability due to ocean acidification need to be addressed.

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  9. denisaf,

    I am not sure it was your intent, but your message appears to indicate that the reduction of CO2 can be gradual, to suit the pace that interests those among the current generations who want to amximize the benefit they can get from creating a bigger problem.

    The human impacts should have been limited to 1.5 C, but the lack of action by previous generations doing what they were 'willing to do' has now made 2.0 C the expected lowest achievable impact. And further lack of interest in dramatically reducing impacts will make that impact limit impossible to achieve.

    Also, there is much more impact than rising sea levels or ocean acidity changes. There is the difficulty of predicting and adapting agriculture to rapidly changing difficult to predict climate changes. And there are many other difficulties that will only be discovered when they occur. This rapid change of the planet's environment is uncharted territory. A lot has been learned and the concern is valid and significant, but far more is still needing to be understood. Anyone claiming that the future impacts to be planned for are certain is as foolish as those who say there is not enough proof that there is any reason for concern.

    So facing the facts of the need to limit what is done and limit it to the lowest possible impact is now critical. The actions of our predecessors have eliminated the option of going for a target but knowing it was a 'nice to have' target that it is totally OK to exceed. And overcoming the delaying tactics of those with 'the largest amount of potential undeserved benefit to lose' is also critical. Many of those people knew exactly what was going on and have gambled big on getting away with more unacceptable behaviour.

    This truly is a matter of the future of humanity. And it is made worse by people who do not care about anything beyond their personal interest, especially those who have gotten away with becoming wealthy and powerful. And the current socio-economic-political sysetm encourages many people to adopt that attitude and allows them to become wealthy, because having that attitude is a competitive advantage for those who get away with it.

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  10. At the very real risk I run of being moderated to oblivion, Professor Mann conveniently, if understandably, totally ignores the  the actions of the anthropogenic global warming proponents.  Does Professor Mann consider it acceptable for the UK Greens to call for the sacking of "any cabinet Ministers or senior governmental advisors who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change or who won’t take the risks to the UK seriously"?  Does he consider Owen Paterson, the UK Environmental Secretary, should have been sacked from his position as he was less than totally supportive of  AGW?  Should Professor Nicholas Draper have been fired from Oregon State University becasue he gives anti-climate change lectures?  Surely  a University with any credibility should welcome the airing of differing views.  Should Professor BobCarter have had his position of Adjunct Professor at  Macquarie University terminated, arguably because of his "Climate denier" views?  The role of human activity in causing Climate Change is a politically hot topic that has resulted in acres of the printed word and galaxies of electrons poured into emails and the internet in the on-going debate, a debate clearly not yet conclusively settled in the minds of many lay people.

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    Moderator Response:

    [Dikran Marsupial] Taunting moderators is really rather childish behaviour and detracts from the point you are making.  Moderating posts is a pretty tiresome activity, so please don't make it any more tiresome than it really needs to be.  Please also read the comments policy.

    [JH] Excessive white space deleted.

  11. My sincere apologies.  I had absolutely no thought at all of taunting a moderator  my comment was sincere in that I did think  the view I put forward might not be published due to its somehat controversial context.  

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    Moderator Response:

    [Dikran Marsupial] The comments policy only requires that the comment is on-topic, it doesn't specify that comments should agree with the article.  As long as you adhere to the comments policy, posts won't be moderated.

  12. William @10

    Does he consider Owen Paterson, the UK Environmental Secretary, should have been sacked from his position as he was less than totally supportive of AGW?

    Firstly note that "Environment Secretary" is a post that doesn't exist. Paterson was secretary of state for DEFRA. As such he was never in charge of climate change policy, which is the remit of DECC (Minister Ed Davey). The asssertion that Paterson was sacked because of his views on climate change, is one that Paterson has made, but remains unconfirmed by Government. In the UK, that speech was was generally interpretted as "sour grapes" from a minister widely seen as incompetent and out of touch over policies, such as his handling of the 2014 flooding of the Somerset Levels and Badger culling (to handle bovine TB)

    UK Greens to call for the sacking of "any cabinet Ministers or senior governmental advisors who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change or who won’t take the risks to the UK seriously"?

    Do you then you feel it is acceptable for Ministers of State to dismiss any risk without proper investigation ? If not what do you think the word "seriously" means ?

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  13. William @10 skates very quickly through some faux controversies regarding the dissassociation between certain professors known to have contrarian views on climate and their universities.  In every case he mentions, the university has denied the association was dissolved due to the persons views on climate, but William uncritically accepts the views of the contrarian on this, rather than the stated views of those in the know.  Further, he gets the facts wrong in both cases.  Bob Carter was Adjunct Professor at James Cook University (in northern Queensland), not at Macquarie University (in Sydney, New South Wales).  And Nicholas Drapela (not Draper) was informed that his contract would not be renewed, he was not sacked.

    What intrigues me is William's view that, "Surely a University with any credibility should welcome the airing of differing views".  As it happens, Drapela's "differing views" still survive on the internet, in the from of 80 slides from a 2008 talk.  The tone is easilly determined by considering slide 8:

    This is not atypical.  Indeed, the first 77 slides contain an indepth diatribe against climate science as being promoted by scientists and media personalities for notoriety and money, which is provided by government to further its assault on freedom.  He does take the time, however, to swipe at the Oregone State University (his employer) for founding an "Oregon Climate Change Research Institute" for the purposes of garnering more money (slides 11 &12).

    Of course, Drapela does (eventually) get of the conspiracy theories and starts discussing science.  On slide 77 he asks "If not CO2, then what?".  At that stage, however, he has not given one reason why not CO2.  Not a scintilla of science has crossed his path.  But all the science behind climate science is swept away as irrelevant because he wants to spin a conspiracy theory.

    But he does get onto his two slides of "skeptical" science eventually, with the first presenting his theory (solar fluctuations modulated by cosmic rays), and the second presenting the evidence in support of the theory:

    That is right.  His evidence is a graph from a 1991 paper, that was refuted by one of its coauthors in 1999, nine years before Drapela used it as the only scientific "data" in an 80 slide talk on cimate change.

    So in response to William's rhetorical question, I would have to say that Universities should welcome the airing of well presented, scientific views supported by data which the person discussing the topic has taken every effort to ensure is accurate, up to date and germain.  On the other hand they should take a very dim view of staff discussing outside their discipline and teaching by example that conspiracy theories are an adequate substitute for scientific rebutal, and that cherry picked falsified data are permissible means of supporting your "science".

    Perhaps William could clariffy his view?  Does he believe the openness of universities to debate should mean the complete dropping of any intellectual standards to make that debate possible?  Or should they perhaps require of their staff that they conduct scientific debates scientifically?

     

    h/t to Tamino, from whom you can get the link to the slides.

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  14. WIlliam says "Surely a University with any credibility should welcome the airing of differing views." This is nonsense and a quite common fallacy thrown around by pseudo-skeptics. A differing view does not have validity just by virtue of its differing. All universities welcome valid views, regardless how different. Having an open mind does not mean one should clutter it with garbage.

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  15. In rebuttal to William's comment about what Universities should do, and connecting it with the information shared by Tom Curtis (and Tamino):

    Drapela's presentation can be seen to be based on chosing some 'valid' points about this issue and abusing them to present a clearly deceptive and openly disingenuous appeal to people inclined to be impressed by that type of made-up claim.

    There is no doubt that the required action to limit human impacts must apply to all people. All trhe caring people doing everythingtheycan will nt solve this issue because the uncaring being free to do as they please make the problem bigger. So the Power needs to curtail those unacceptable freedoms. However, that isn't quite the way it got presented.

    As for the science part, the target audience would obviously not care about the legitimacy of the presentation on the science.

    Universities are the places for leading the development of the best understanding of what is going on. So it is totally appropriate for a University to not want to support willful efforts to limit or delay or deliberately counteract the development of the better understanding of what is going on.

    Similarly, industry and government is the leadership of society to an advanced better future for all. That clearly needs to be done based on the best understanding of what is going on. Anyone who is unwilling to better understand what is going on, or who deliberetely tries to get away with known to be unacceptable behaviour, or tries to limit or delay the required actions to advance society, or tries to counteract the development of the better understanding among the population should indeed "Not be allowed to hold or pursue a position of leadership".

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  16. Tom Curtis you're correct on Bob Carter at JCU not Macquarie.  Whilewriting I was thnking of Prof Salby but left him out as I didn't think he really fitted. I wrote Drapela but the spell interferer on Word altered it to Draper and I didn't check carefully enoiugh.  Phillippe Chantreau and Tom Curtis, I taught in a University for just over 33 years reaching the position of Professor and certainly at my university contrarian views on many things were put forward.  Universities are of course the places were controversy is or should be  brought up and discussed civilly.  I used to tell my students each year that some of the concepts in Biochemistry might well be proven wrong by next year but at the moment I was presenting the current thinking. And of course one man's garbage may be another man's treasure. And as for ministers being sacked if they don't conform to the thinking to which  the Greens consider they should conform, that is bordering on the sort of society satirised by George Orwell in "1984".  Of course univerities will say they dismissed an academic for whatever reason, it may not always be the real reason and who can prove otherwise?  

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Inflamatory sloganeering snipped. Plesse comply with the SkS Comments Policy in your future posts.

  17. The phrase "human consumption of fossil fuels is the sole reason for AGW"  should read "human consumption of fossil fuels is the sole reason for global warming"

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please cite a specific example of a climate scientist who has asserted, "human consumption of fossil fuels is the sole reason for global warming".

  18. Moderator's Comment

    William: Your "Afterthought" comment was deleted in its entirety because it was nothing more than inflamatory sloganeering.

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  19. Another more general presentation of my previous post:

    Leaders should be striving to better understand what is going on and be striving to develop a sustainable better future for all. That action would include striving to ensure the better understanding of what is going on is better understood by the entire population. Anyone in a leadership role who does not share that ethos needs to be understood by everyone to be a threat to the advancement of society. The observations of what is going and has been going on are well explained by that understanding of what is going on.

    Everyone under the leaders should also share that ethos for the same reasons. And those who are best at understanding and developing further understanding and who work to effectively properly inform and educate the entire population (help everyone understand what is going on), need to be recognized as the best leaders.

    People with an area of specialization that would become the focus of their efforts should still apply the concept of striving to best understand what is going on to everything they think about and do.

    So when a person who 'has no reason not to know better' is discovered to willfully persistently fight deceptively against the development of the better understanding of what is going on they need to be kept from having significant influence, for the good of the future of humanity and all other life on this amazing planet.

    The 'freedom' argument only defends a person's choices. It does not mean they have to be allowed to succeed by being able to be in positions of significant influence. It is very dangerous to try to isolate Freedom from responsible considerate activity. If society did that, chaos would ensue. That is why we have speeding limits rather than letting everyone drive the way they wish and only punishing them after they caused a problem only if we can prove beyond a doubt that they should have known better. I present that case, and drunk driving is another one, because in those cases the one who caused the problem may at least suffer a penalty. This climate change delay game has no such opportunity to penalize he deliberate trouble makers. How do today's generations get compensated from the previous generations who did nothing through these past 25 years? How do we extract the penalty from groups like the previous generatons of Canadians who chose to benefit from increasing CO2 emission 25% from 1990 levels by 2005 as well as increasing the amount of benefit they get from selling stuff that gets burned in other nations. The Canadian position now is they will match the US post 2005 goal of 17% reduction by 2020. For the US that means getting back to 1990 levels by 2020. For Canada that means staying 8% above 1990 levels and selling even more stuff to burn elsewhere. And Canada is very unlikely to even meet the 17% reduction commitment. What should the thoughts be about 'that type of leadership'? They should have the freedom to get away with it if they can?

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  20. John Hart  Point  taken I need to replace  Solely  with pre-dominantly.  As for sloganeering well you're the moderator but the UK Greens are attempting to suppress freedom of speech i much the same way Professor Mann claims ""It is difficult to take on an entire group of scientists at once," Mann explains. "But bringing down individuals is easier, and it serves the larger effort of dismissing, obscuring, and misrepresenting well-established science and its implications. What’s more, these highly visible tactics create such a negative atmosphere that other scientists are discouraged from conveying their research’s implications to the public.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please provide specific examples to back-up your sweeping claims about the UK's Green Party.

    Also, please spell my last name correctly.

  21. And as for ministers being sacked if they don't conform to the thinking to which the Greens consider they should conform, that is bordering on the sort of society satirised by George Orwell in "1984".

    The suggestion that the UK Green Party has any influence over UK government policy shows a woeful ignorance of the current political situation in the UK.

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  22. @William: William, your comment does nothing to weaken Tom's response to you.  You simply don't recognize his primary points in your responses.  

    Tom: "So in response to William's rhetorical question, I would have to say that Universities should welcome the airing of well presented, scientific views supported by data which the person discussing the topic has taken every effort to ensure is accurate, up to date and germain. On the other hand they should take a very dim view of staff discussing outside their discipline and teaching by example that conspiracy theories are an adequate substitute for scientific rebutal, and that cherry picked falsified data are permissible means of supporting your "science"."

    William, what did you teach at university?  I ask so that I can establish a basis for useful illustration of your method.

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  23. Universities should indeed welcome differing views and robust debate certainly goes on in climate circles (eg witness the "climategate" emails which would be robust enough for anyone). Other obvious examples would be the hypothesis that jet streams are influenced by polar melting, causes for Antarctic sea ice expansion, effect of GW on ENSO, effect of GW on hurricanes, on tornados, effect of meltwater of ice sheet dynamics etc.

    What you dont expect in university environment is pulmagation of misinformation and crackpot theories from people with little to no background in climate science who are informed from their political values and not by even textbook physics.

    What would you make of someone who continues to spread false information to an uninformed public when it is clear that they have been shown that the presentation is misleading and/or wrong and do not hold those views when talking to a professional audience? Does that strike you as the actions of a responsible academic?

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  24. John Hartz-apologies a typographical error I will not repeat. See here for UK Greens amazing policy statements (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100259728/are-you-now-or-have-you-ever-been-a-climate-change-sceptic/}

    Phil@21 I live in the UK and really don't need to be told what is and what isn't happening here politically.  DSL@22 I taught biochemistry and endocrinology.  scaddenp@23.  Not sure the climategate emails are the best thing to introduce on this particular forum dealing with freedom of speech, considering the comments made in those emails about how to treat journals and their editors.  As for false information being spread, surely it is just being put out there for discussion.  Isn't it?  Just because the "authorities" claim one thing it isn'rt necessarily always entirely the case.  

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    Moderator Response:

    [PW] No discussion is really needed to address the so-called Climategate emails: no fewer than 7 independent studies have shown there to be NO credible error in their data, or the analysis, thereof. Was there some inappropriate language, used by the *humans* who were involved? Yes. May we steal your private correspondence and peruse it? I think we'd likely find verbiage you'd likely not want made public. 

    To close this comment: When the data shown in all the so-called Climategate emails, *none* were found to have been false, misrepresented, or outright wrong. I hope this ends this discussion about a dead horse that ong ago has been flogged to death.

    [JH] Link activated. 

  25. PW Of course. unfortunately I responded to the introduction of the topic by scaddenp@23 without realising I should not have done so. That said, you are very free to steal any and all of my emails as they are very mundane indeed

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  26. william, I am frankly astonished at your introduction of a statement by the UK Greens to the discussion as something that should not be said, because saying it supresses free speach.  Can you not see the irony in your position?  Apparently, in your opinion, there is a range of political views that cannot be expressed, because expressing them violates the principles of free speech.  And let us be clear on this, the UK Greens is a political party, and who is and is not fit to be a minister is a political issue.

    Regarding teaching, I am of the firm opinion that teaching at universities should always teach the consensus position, and show why it is a reasonable position from the evidence.  Where there is no single consensus position, all major views should be taught, and why they are reasonable positions should also be taught (but this is not relevant in climate science in which their is a clear consensus o attribution if not on more detailed issues).  Having done that, the teacher should be free to point out that they disagree with the consensus position, and why they think their view is also reasonable.  A teacher who portrays a consensus position as not having reasonable epistemic grounds is doing their students a disservice and, prima facie, indulging in indoctrination by evading evidence that has clearly convinced a majority (indeed, a super majority) of their peers.  Drapela, Carter and Salby have all violated this principle either in formal teaching, or in informal teaching.

    By your comments on your own teaching, you appear to have practised this principle and agree with it.  Yet you gloss over Drapela's clear violation of that principle!  Once again, Drapela in his presentation did not present an iota of the very large amount of evidence in favour of the consensus view of climate change.  Rather, he simply charged acceptors of that theory of doing so for some combination of financial gain, notoriety or gain of political influence.  Further, he treated the mere charge of that reason as itself a refutation of the consensus position in a clear non-sequitur.  Finally, in presenting his own opinion, the only evidence he presented was clearly dated, and refuted by later evidence.  Please state clearly why you think that sort of propaganda is acceptable by anyone, least of all a university professor?

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  27. PW inline @24, some of the "inappropriate language" in the CRU hack emails only has the appearance of being inappropriate by being quoted out of context.  As Richlieu purportedly said:

    "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

    It is a tribute to the integrity of the CRU hack victims that, having been furnished with tens of thousands of words spoken in private, the modern day Richlieu's can scarcely find six words altogether on which to build their spurious cases (and have been caught out fraudulently altering graphics* in order to make their case against the CRU hack victims appear stronger)

    *Steve McIntyre may have simply used a low resolution html image rather than the high resolution PDF available.  That being the case, he is simply caught out making bold, libelous accusations based on non-original data, known not to be sufficient to determine the case rather than making fraudulent alterations.  The same defence cannot be made by the Mail on Sunday.

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  28. @21 William, your suggestion that UK DEFRA secretary of state Owen Paterson's sacking was somehow orchestrated by the Green Party is not even supported by Owen Paterson himself. He states

    However, I leave the post with great misgivings about the power and irresponsibility of – to coin a phrase – the Green Blob.

    By this I mean the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape.

    Source. He did, elsewhere, blame this "Green Blob" for his dismissal, but note that his definition does not include political parties.

    Since the UK Green Party has practically no poltical power (1 MP out of 625) and no influence on the current UK Government (a Conservative-Liberal coalition) the idea that they can influence a Ministers career is somewhat fanciful, whatever Paterson may think.

    The Green party, like any party is free to float policy ideas, such the one you mentioned on political advisors, and the populace have the right to vote on those ideas - which doesn't sounds very Orwellian to me. But, for the moment, it seems the idea hasn't made it to their manifesto.

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  29. "As for false information being spread, surely it is just being put out there for discussion. Isn't it?"

    No. Plain and simple. The "misinformation" only seems reasonable to those who would like to believe it and without sufficient domain knowledge to spot it is wrong. Scientific discussion takes place in journals. Tom has given you an example of Drapela. Can you be seriously defending his position? Another example here. If you want an academic discussion on this outside of journals, then you would repeat this type of presentation to your peers at a conference. Happens all the time in genuine scientific debate. Got an example of a climate misinformer repeating their stuff to a room full of climate scientists?

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  30. Phil: The Telegraph article that william links to is strong on rhetoric and light on documentation and quotes. Regardless, I sincerely hope that william does not exclusively rely on the Telegraph for information about politics in the UK.

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  31. John Hartz.  Your sincere hope is realised.  Newspapers of choice are The Independent and Guardian.

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  32. John Hartz  Here is the policy document from the UK Greens as reported by the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26187711)

     A policy document released by the party said: "Get rid of any cabinet ministers or senior governmental advisers who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change or who won't take the risks to the UK seriously."  

    Phil@28   This is also from the BBC report

    Ms Bennett added: "It's an insult to flood victims that we have an Environment Secretary (Owen Paterson) who is a denier of the reality of climate change and we also can't have anyone in the cabinet who is denying the realities that we're facing with climate change.  

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  33. william @32, the fact of the matter is that climate change denial is a sign of incompetence.  It is particularly a sign of incompetence in a minister of state who is, as part of their office, supposed to seek the best advice on a subject and act on that advice.  A minister who is a climate change denier, by the fact that they are a denier, rejects the best advice on the topic, ie, that from the IPCC and therefore is incompetent.

    When you have a minister of defence rejecting defence department advice based on the advise of a medium, people would call for their sacking.  There is no free speach issue involved in that.  We don't want ministers who prefer private, idiosyncratic and crackpot advise over that of relevant experts.  It is the same with climate science.  End of story.

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  34. william @34:

    First, as a matter of logic, the Greens' opinion is only an attempt "to muzzle those that do not agree with their view" if they are quite happy for a minister to be a denier, so long as they do not communicate that fact with anybody.  I think you will find that is not their position, and it is certainly not their stated position.  If, from the Green's point of view, the key issue is belief rather than commentary, it is not an attempt to restrict commentary but to ensure that relevant ministers and advisers are actually aware of what the problem is, and its urgency; and consequently can be counted on to assess the possible impact of, and appropriate response to, global warming as it impacts their portfolio.

    Second, Ministers do not set policy without reference to cabinet, nor cabinet without reference to the party room.  The idea that you can split of some office or ministry and say that the members of that ministery do not have any influence on climate change related policies is absurd.

    Third, I think there are some areas in which you can look at a persons beliefs and deduce from them that if they hold that belief, than any competence or accuracy of belief they may show in other areas is entirely accidental.  Thus, if I discover that somebody genuinely believes in a flat earth, I know that their beliefs are not guided by evidence.  Even on other topics where they appear to be evidence guided, I know that there is some trigger which in them will result in entirely evidence free beliefs.  I don't know what that trigger is, so it is from my perspective, entirely a matter of good fortune that they do not have similarly evidence free beliefs on child care, or AIDS, or immunizations, or whatever - and nor do I know that whatever the significant factor is will not be triggered in the future.

    So, as a rule of thumb, I would be very happy with a requirement that no flat earthers be appointed to ministerial or senior government advisory positions.  This in no way represents an attempt to limit anybodies speach about flat eartherism.  It does represent a desire to have competent, and reliably competent ministers and advisors.  It is on a par with some other desiderata of mine, ie,

    • That ministers be able to follow basic arithmetic (algebra preferably, but I am realistic enough to know that standard would never be enforced);
    • That ministers be able to sting grammatical sentences together;
    • That ministers be able to follow a syllogism (probably also too much to ask given various encumbents around the world);
    • That ministers have a basic understanding of economics.

    The list does extend a bit, but you get the point.

    Given the above, the simple fact is that some forms of climate change denial are on a par with flat earthism in terms of intellectual merit.  Most importantly of these are, any view that denies there is a greenhouse effect, and any view that denies human responsibility for the recent increases in CO2 concentration.  So, IMO, any person believing either of these thereby shows they are incompetent to be either ministers or senior government advisors.  The UK Green's may take a different, more stringent view of this competance test than I do - and if they do, that is their right, and their right to express it.

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  35. It is strange that william tries to make out that the attacks on Mann are equivalent to the attack by Natalie Bennett on denialism in UK politics. The two situations are so very different.

    Mann is expressly discussing attacks on "individual scientists." Bennett attacks "any cabinet ministers or senior governmental advisers." so definitely not just one person.

    And individual scientists do not have any collective responsibility yet cabinet government does. As for the advisors, the point has been made already that government probably shouldn't be taking scientific advice from people who holds fantasy views on climate, or anything else for that matter.

    Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens will be expected to give advice on diseases spread by rising temperatures, now and into the future. Thus his beliefs are directly relevant.

    Unlike scientists, politicians often do their best to be all things to all men. My own MP, Mr Burns, a Tory back-bencher, does a reasonable job sitting on the fence on climate although with significant symptoms to suggest he is actually in deep climate denial. And that is very common within the right-wing of the UK Tory party. Owen Paterson, the then-cabinet minister Bennett was particularly aiming at, addressing the denialist GWPF after he had left cabinet was still speaking with a level of ambiguity.

    "Despite all this, I remain open-minded to the possibility that climate change may one day turn dangerous."

    Without the present coalition partners, that denialist Tory right wing would have far more influence in a Tory UK government. Yet when the UK goes to the polls in May this year, will any of the soon-to-be-elected Tory MPs be telling their electorate "Vote for me. I'm a climate change denier."?

    So the two situations are actually back-to-front. Mann was discussing being attacked surreptitiously for his explicit scientific message. Bennett was explicitly attacking what are political views held surreptitiously.

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  36. Tom Curtis @34 and MA Rodger@35.  Thanks for your comments unfortunately I can't erespond as the post "William @34" mentioned by Tom Curtis (also at 34) has disappeared and I din't keep a record. Of  ourse not having kept a record I have no idea why my comment at 34 was deleted but I'm sure it was for a very good reason or pehaps it was a glitch in the system. However,  I do wonder why it wasn't deleted before both of you replied at the new 34 and 35.  

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  37. William,

    Your position would appear to extend to a belief that there is no need for any Professional certification or Trade Skill certrification. That would be patently absurd, yet it does appear to be what you are arguing to defend, the freedom of people to do important things regardless of any legitimate assessment of their ability to responsibly and competently do those tasks. Professions and Trades workers are constantly monitored regarding how competentaly and responsibly they are doing their work. And anyone found to be lacking is helped to do better. And anyone unable to or reluctant to be helped to do the work well has their certification credentials cancelled.

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  38. William, I forgot to include that Professions and Trades actually have an initial period of training and evaluation that must be successfully completed before a person is considered to be eligible to do the work. All that the Green Party seem to be doing is trying to at least have some minimal assessment of competence of a leader in an important role. The popularity of 'arguments against requiring people in positions of leadership to be legitmately evaluated regarding their competency' needs some serious evaluation. Nothing good can be expected to develop if that type of thinking can be popular.

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  39. One Planet Only Forever@37 and 38.  Not entirely sure why you comment on Professional and Trade Certification.  However if, as it seems, you are applying it to politicians, as far as I know there is no certification saying they are qualifiied politicians.   Certainly many Ministers are not qualified in the areas their Ministry covers.  And as there isn't a special qualification for politicians, the views and likes and dislikes of UK Greens politicians are no more valid and deserve no more attention than those of politicians in any other party except, of course, the party that is in power.

    Moderator  Am I allowed to ask if you are you able and/or willing to advise what happened to my comment at 34?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your comment was deleted by another moderator. He has not yet specified the reason for doing so. I presume he will do so when he sees this exchange. 

  40. Moderator's Comment

    William:

    You have stated your points multiple times on this comment thread. You are therefore skating on the thin ice of excessive repetition which is prohibited the SkS Comments Policy. If you wish to keep this dialogue moving forward. it's time for you to move on to new points. 

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  41. @ William


    The Telegraph blog by Brendan O’Neill that you linked in #24 appears to be little more than a blatant attempt at misdirection. Should anyone care to look, the Green Party has Climate Change located very prominently in their Values Statement. (Near the top RHS of the linked page, if it isn't prominent enough for some. ;))


    As action on Climate Change is so central to their core values, someone reporting the fact that, given the opportunity, the Greens would wish to remove obstacles to this agenda is tantamount to making a statement of the bleedin' obvious. In fact, it would have been seriously noteworthy if the Green Party did NOT have a statement to this effect. (The clue, afterall, is in the name of the party!)


    In his blog, O'Neill correctly states that this understandable wish to remove Climate Change deniers from positions of influence in Government is contained within the Green's 10 point flood response action plan. For whatever reason, O'Neill chooses to characterise this as follows..." at the very top of the plan is the proposal that all senior advisers who do not accept the “findings of climate scientists” should be ditched, thrown out of office, expelled from public life effectively. "


    Some people (no names, no pack drill) will obviously accept anything they read in a blog such as O'Neill's as Holy Scripture, just as long as it agrees with their own prejudices. However, as anyone prepared to exercise a modicum of genuine scepticism can easily see (here), the statement of intent to remove deniers from positions wherein they can block progress is actually number 3 on the 10 point list - not "at the very top". Leaving aside O'Neill's hollow rhetoric, unless the numbering in the action plan has recently been revised, it would appear that he finds counting all the way to 3 somewhat challenging. (Point number 9 is also worth looking at, as it is in a similar vein.) 


    With an unwitting irony that will be apparent to many SkS readers, O'Neill proceeds to make comparisons with McCarthyism. Considering that Michael Mann is central to the OP (and is mentioned by name no fewer than 4 times in William's comments) this presents a serendipitous symmetry. Whilst he was still Attorney General in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli attracted just such a comparison with his politically motivated witch hunt of Michael Mann.


    Perhaps William may care to share his views on Cuccinelli's tactics viz-a-viz Mann's period at the University of Virginia?

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  42. billthefrog.  Unfortunately I may well be banned if I reply to your comment as you can see from the Moderator's conmment at 40.  I'm not sure why my replying to comments is viewed as "skating on thin ice for stating my position multiple times"  as my replies necessitate  a re-statement of what I said previously.  I would however point out to you that I gave a reference to the BBC in my reply at  32. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] This discussion has been exhausted and exhausting for everyone particpating in it. Please move on.

    BTW, moderation complaints are prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Therefore, you are now skating on a new area of thn ice.  

  43. William, I would note that your understanding of the rights to Free speech  and what would constitute a violation seem a little exagerratedbut XKCD says it best.

    Are you still claiming Drapela and Carter (for example) misinformation is "putting it out for discussion"?

    Got examples of deniers expressing their arguments to fellow climate scientists at a conference?

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  44. JH at 43.  I seem to recall you made this point "BTW, moderation complaints are prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Therefore, you are now skating on a new area of thn (sic)  ice". to some one else and later admitted at that time no such prohibition exists.  As a consequence I read the policy and also cannot find the prohibition to which you refer.  Clearly I must be mistaken as no doubt that prohibition is now in place will you assist?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] See Tom Curtis's response to your querry. He saw your post before I did. 

  45. william @44, if you read that you probably also read the related discussion that pointed out that moderation complaints are always off topic and therefore prohibited by the comments policy.  Further, it has been standard practise that moderation complaints have been prohibited at SkS for as long as I have been reading the site.  If I remember correctly, that was explicitly stated in the original comments policy and the failure to explicitly state it in the updated comments policy is simply an oversight.  It think that oversight should be quickly corrected but whether it is or not has no bearing on whether or not the long standing practise of moderation on this site prohibits moderation complaints.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you.

  46. William... One quick nuance of written style that you may not be aware of: The use of "(sic)" normally is not used to correct typos. It's used where confusion might come into play for the reader. It's to indicate that it is reproduced as written. Simple typos (according to the AP style guide, if I remember correctly) can be merely corrected without reference or indication. In fact, it's considered polite to do so.

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  47. Rob Honeycutt @46, for a very long time before I seriously studied at university, I took "sic" from context to mean roughly "look how superior I am".  I think in most usage it still has that implication.  In fact, with the exception of pointing out original typos, which as you point out is neither necessary nor desirable, "sic" is entirely redundant for any word within quotation marks - unless, of course, the quoter is pointing out that they are in the habit of misquotation, but this time restrained themselves.

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  48. William, this is way past petty and tiresome. Just suck it up and stay on topic.

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