Sceptics, Denial and Disinformation.

I’ve spent the evening mostly reading biographies – over on DeSmogblog. Now, admittedly any blog devoted to exposing climate denial has an agenda, that’s stated up front, but reading the biographies of some of the more prominent professional anthropogenic climate change deniers indicates a very sorry list of intellectual dishonesty, deliberate misinformation and outright lies. Misrepresented qualifications, verbal abuse of anyone with an opinion that doesn’t agree with their own, deliberately falsified papers, smear campaigns….

It’s not pretty. I’m not finding evidence that the most prominent anthropogenic climate change supporters engage in this sort of behaviour but I’ll keep looking. People are people, after all, so there must be some climate change supporters who aren’t saints.

I wanted to stress the “anthropogenic” element of this climate change denial because many people who don’t think that humanity has any part, or a great part, in climate change, still accept that the climate is changing. There are those who say they’re convinced of climate change but waiting to see if the evidence shows it’s human-caused or not.

I’d class these people as true sceptics (or skeptics if you prefer that spelling convention) because they still have an open mind, they’re not fixated on one idea to the exclusion of any consideration of new evidence that may or may not confirm their previous position. Scepticism is a useful, even vital, mindset for anyone interested in intellectual honesty and finding facts, rather than opinions. Any true scientist is also a sceptic, willing to change their opinion if the evidence warrants.

On the other hand, there are a number of people who are utterly fixated on their chosen idea and won’t accept any evidence other than that which supports their position, even if they have to fabricate that evidence. I’m not saying there aren’t AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) supporters who are this fixated (I’ve seen plenty of evidence of them in blog comments!)  but the professional climate change denialists, as they’re commonly known, seem to be utterly fixated on their position and somewhat unethical in their defence of it.

Interestingly I also ran across a study tonight that suggested a statistical link between denying AGW, embracing laissez-faire market economics and believing in conspiracy theories. I’m not qualified to discuss the accuracy or otherwise of the study (it was recently discussed on the Scientific American blog) but from a forum I frequent (which is a prepping forum) I can certainly see a strong correlation between the people who believe that the US government hijacked Malaysian Air MH370 and killed all the passengers, that 9/11 was an inside job by the CIA and that the USA faked the Apollo moon landings, and the people who react violently to any mention of AGW. In fact, the most usual response to any mention of AGW is that the CT crowd will label it a conspiracy theory designed to extort taxes, infringe on their personal rights and liberties, provide lifelong employment for climate scientists and probably further the aims of the New World Order and Agenda 21.

It’s an interesting correlation. No doubt in years to come, psychologists and sociologists will find fertile grounds for research here. Probably a statistician would point out that correlation is not causation (which is perfectly true) but I’m not a statistician and I’m only using my own impressions here.

I’ve also spent most of the last few days watching the same old climate change myths being pumped out when the CT people are challenged on their beliefs. Provide an alternative explanation, was the simple challenge. Prove that humans aren’t reponsible. I’ve been checking the myths against skepticalscience‘s list and so far they’ve all been on the list of mistaken beliefs that have long been refuted.

Amusingly, the list even started with no.1: climate change has happened before. Of course it has, the climate has been changing ever since there was a climate to change! That doesn’t have any relevance to the question of whether or not the current very rapid climate change is manmade, since very few people really believe that the climate has never changed at all, ever.

This was followed by a leap to no.4: there’s no consensus. Curiously, they keep trotting this one out. Research indicates that it’s now harder to find a climate scientist who doesn’t agree with AGW than to be hit by a lightning strike, followed by an asteroid (superb phrasing, coined by Kyle Hill at Scientific American).

After this, an attempt was made with no.16, the “hockey stick” was wrong. Well, it wasn’t. More than 30 separate independant studies, using a variety of methods and data, confirmed that no, Michael Mann was right all along. Current temperatures really are unparalled at any time in the past thousand years.

Having jumped down the list, the next contender was no.6, the models are unreliable. I’m not a mathematician nor a statistician, nor yet a computer whiz, so I’ll leave it to Skeptical Science to refute that one in detail. Suffice it to say, the models don’t appear unreliable at all to me.

Finally, a late double entry; an attempt (off the top of his head – very impressive…. if wrong) to show by calculation that in fact it’s an increase in cosmic radiation and an increase in solar radiation, together, which are causing climate change. That’s number 2 (it’s the sun) – and no.21 (cosmic radiation). Unfortunately for this contender (or is that “these contenders”?) both are incorrect. The sun has been showing a slight tendency to decreased output over the past 3 decades while temperature has been increasing. Cosmic radiation has a net cooling effect by seeding cloud formation, so in fact if (as was claimed) there was an increase in cosmic radiation (which has not been shown to exist) then the world should be getting cooler, not warmer.

Just for added fun, the author of this brave attempt added that he’d submit an article on the subject to a peer-reviewed journal but “of course” it wouldn’t be published because nobody will publish anything that doesn’t agree with AGW and the IPCC. This idea is apparently firmly fixed in the CT sphere, along with the equally strange ideas that you can’t get funding for anything that might disprove AGW (despite the existence of numerous organisations and think-tanks funded for that purpose – one of which even offered $10,000 per paper for contrarian views at one point! What a wonderful opportunity to get-rich-quick I missed there) and that scientists who disprove the accepted paradigm are somehow barred for life and can’t get jobs in the future.

Can you imagine the kudos, the fame, the endless opportunities to bask in glory and a lifelong ticket for untrammelled research that you’d get if you could overturn the AGW hypothesis? Now that would be something to relish, in science! To be another Galileo, another Darwin or Wallace, the next Einstein….

How come none of the contrarian papers ever manage to achieve this? How come they always seem to get picked apart by some climate scientist or other pointing out basic errors and flawed data? Could it be that (gasp) they’re… wrong?

I mean, I’d love to see AGW disproved. I’d be thrilled not to have to worry about the consequences of AGW. To think that my grandchildren will have the chance to live their lives in an ecologically rich, climate-stable world where they can enjoy the same high standard of living that I do.

Does anyone, really, want to think that their grandchildren might be contending with spreading diseases, shortage of food, trouble finding enough clean water, in the middle of a mass extinction (to be fair, the mass extinction is happening anyway – but AGW doesn’t help!) while cities drown, deserts spread, weather becomes more violent and extreme, heatwaves and droughts kill thousands and floods even more? And that’s just in the UK!

You might as well bang your head on a brick wall. All of this is so much water off a duck’s back. It’s all a Conspiracy Theory.




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