Why Tea Party Members Believe Global Warming Is A Hoax

climate-change-opinion

Christopher Flavell, in an article about climate denialism, interviews Harvard professor Vanessa Williamson:

Williamson attributed the receptiveness of Tea Party supporters to two widespread views: First, the coastal elite looks down on people in Middle America; second, the government wants to exert ever-more control, and will use any pretext to do it.

“There’s a general perception that the government wants to expand its power,” Williamson told me. “That discussion felt sincere to me.”

That sincere fear, Williamson said, has convinced Tea Party supporters that the coastal elites (a group that includes scientists) is manufacturing evidence around climate change. The aim, in their view, is to undo the American way of life — big cars, big homes, suburban sprawl — and make the heartland look more like the coasts.

This seems accurate to me; in conversation with climate deniers, they’ve often brought up those two themes. What do y’all think?

And is there any way of persuading someone with these beliefs that the scientific consensus is in fact true?

P.S. Hi Sydney!

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62 Responses to Why Tea Party Members Believe Global Warming Is A Hoax

  1. 1
    JutGory says:

    This is probably pretty accurate.

    Climate science is not as easily understood, as compared to, say, physics, biology, or chemistry. They do not trust the people who are claiming there is this consensus (and what they claim to be the truth).

    It may be hard to persuade them, when the discussion is almost always linked to a policy discussion. You do not see that with relativity theory or quantum mechanics. And, as controversial as it may be in some respects, whether evolution is true or not has little impact on public policy.

    As long as there is a publi policy agenda that is attached to the climate change debate, there will be skepticism as to whether the policy is driving the science.

    -Jut

  2. 2
    Mark Draughn says:

    Jut’s theory sounds about right to me.

    Before global warming became a serious public concern, certain groups within the ecological left had been raising a number of dubious issues, all of which supposedly had the same solution: Dial back industrial civilization to save the planet. And usually it turned out that the problems either weren’t as dire as the eco-left said, or they could be addressed by less drastic means.

    So when global warming came along, it was pretty natural response to say, “Oh, look, the lefties are again saying that we’re destroying the planet! And the bad guys turn out to be evil oil companies. And they say the solution is doing the same things they’ve always wanted us to do.” Who wouldn’t be a little suspicious of that?

    Of course, there are also less honestly skeptical people who encourage that kind of thinking for personal benefits: The oil and coal industries that stand to lose a lot of money, and the politicians who hope to gain attention and votes by denouncing global warning as a fraud.

    I think part of the solution is just to keep at it. As Jut says, stick to the science and leave out some of the policy. And when the policy question does come up, be open to alternatives besides a drastic reduction in carbon output.

  3. 3
    Kevin Carson says:

    I don’t know about convincing them scientifically, because so much of their denial — like creationism — is based on grabbing onto or misusing anything remotely “scientific” that sounds plausible. It’s basically a grab-bag of misused or misunderstood science, like the creationist misuse of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. So if you shoot down their misuse or misunderstanding of one statistic, they’ll just latch onto something else to wilfully misunderstand.

    Perhaps it’s mean-spirited of me, but I prefer to attack head-on their assumption that the Middle American lifestyle of SUVs, split-level ranches in cul-de-sacs, strip malls and Big Box stores is some sort of spontaneously emergent behavior in the free market. I love pointing out that that whole lifestyle was created by massive government intervention, only survives because of massive ongoing government intervention, and lives, moves and has its being in big government.

    Subsidies to freeways from general revenues; the use of eminent domain to build freeways; building codes that mandate giant golf-course front lawns; zoning laws that criminalize mixed-use development, corner groceries and downtown walk-up apartments; murderous wars and a costly military establishment to keep fuel cheap…

    Not to mention the Red States are mostly net tax consumers. So their whole Amurrican way of life is nothing but fucking WELFARE, funded by the people on the coasts they so despise.

  4. 4
    JutGory says:

    Kevin Carson:

    So if you shoot down their misuse or misunderstanding of one statistic, they’ll just latch onto something else to wilfully misunderstand.

    The same could be said about climate change advocates who remain unconvinced when their own dire predictions do not materialize. Their hypothesis is unfalsifiable, no matter how often their predictions turn out to be wrong.

    But, here may be an elaboration on my earlier point. What makes relativity such a powerful theory is that Einstein could say, “if this is correct, here are some things we should be able to observe.” “Tests” were devised and his predictions were confirmed.

    Evolution is a bit trickier. (For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Earth is more than 10,000 years old.) Inter-species evolution can’t be “tested.” It can only be observed in the fossil record. Thus, it is only as good as the fossil record. The existence of “missing links” was supposed to be a way to confirm it. But, a complete record over millions of years is going to be hard to come by. Another problem with it is that we don’t have a “mechanism” for understanding it. Even if we know that it happens (because we see it in the past), we can’t predict where it will go.

    Climate change is even more problematic because it involves actual predictions about the future. Relativity and evolution don’t. The one science that has pretty much cornered the market on predicting the future is astronomy (and related sciences). So, I cast a suspicious eye at anyone who tells me they know what is going to happen in the future (maybe the local meteorlogist, but not for anything more than a few days out). And, when you are dealing with a complex system, like climate, or weather, my skepticism is higher. Plus, if the prediction made extends beyond the reasonable life of the person making the prediction, that almost defeats the whole notion of falsifiability. “A 3-degree global temperature increase by 2100?” Nice prediction, but, like the person making money off of the prediction, I will never know if it is proven true or false.

    -Jut

  5. 5
    Mike says:

    Ok, I’ll give you a “short term” prediction.

    In the next 20 years, there will be more cargo ships that make the northwest passage than have made the trip in the last 500 years.

    I tend to offer this as a bet to my global warming denying friends.
    So far I have not had any takers, even after I point out that I am effectively offering them 25-to-1 odds.

  6. 6
    JutGory says:

    Mike:
    I would not take that bet either, for several reasons:

    I am not sure how you come up with 25-1 odds. I get that it is 500 years to 20 years, but that is deceptive. It has not been navigated for a large % of that 500 years. You should tell your friends that you will up it to the last 1000 years and give them 50-1 odds. I still doubt they will take it. Using your calculation, it is more like 5-1 odds.

    It does not account for population distribution. The population in North America has grown significantly over the last 500 years. It is safe to say that it is more populated now than it was 500 years ago. A higher population makes the likelihood of travel by that route more likely. You could devise similar bets regarding Trans-Atlantic flights, just by playing with the numbers. If your bet controlled for population growth, it might be more honest.

    It does not account for technological advances. You are not honestly suggesting that 16th century ice-breaker technology is comparable to 21st Century technology, are you? No, more people will travel it because more people have the equipment capable of navigating it.

    And, yes, there is the climate itself. A great portion of your 500 year time-frame is swallowed up by the little ice age. So, I have little problem believing that, 500 years ago, the place where I live was much colder than it is now. Hell, you go back to the last ice age and where I am sitting right now was covered with a sheet of ice a mile thick.

    So, even if AGW is not true, its a bad bet.

    -Jut

  7. 7
    Harlequin says:

    The problem with comparing climate change science to general relativity is that general relativity, in most cases, is simple from a mathematical point of view. (Understanding how to construct and manipulate its equations takes a lot of time and training and ability for abstract thought; it’s hard for the human brain to understand. But mathematically it’s pretty straightforward if you’re talking about standard systems.) On the other hand, just describing the motion of air–not even an entire climate system–is fluid dynamics, which is far more complicated. There’s a lot of subtlety in general relativity, and there are certainly areas where the math is hard even for those with the right training. But the simplest realistic general relativity computation is much, much simpler than the simplest realistic fluid dynamics computation, and when you’re talking about tests of general relativity, you’re mostly talking about the simplest realistic cases.

    Also, climate scientists have been making predictions for a long time–and at least some of the earliest of those predictions have been borne out by the climate data since then. Yes, it’s hard to predict the temperature in a specific location at a specific time more than a couple of days out; that doesn’t mean you can’t predict average temperatures in larger regions accurately, since those predictions rely on larger, less volatile systems. Climate scientists have been predicting for years that average temperatures would get warmer, extreme temperatures would happen proportionally more often, droughts would increase in frequency…and all those things are happening.

  8. 8
    Harlequin says:

    Somewhat more related to the original post: I found this article about an Evangelical Christian climate scientist and her strategies for appealing to Evangelicals very interesting. Evangelicals != Tea Partiers, I know, but there’s enough overlap this might be useful for the last question posed by the post: not necessarily convincing people that climate change is real, but that the steps we take to combat it can be useful whether or not it is, and removing some of the coastal-elite stereotype from the equation.

  9. 9
    Lee1 says:

    This is a bit tangential, so I won’t follow up on it any more in this thread without go-ahead from Amp. But as an evolutionary biologist I can’t resist.

    Inter-species evolution can’t be “tested.” It can only be observed in the fossil record.

    This is completely false. We have a ton of information about evolution (in the sense of descent from a common ancestor) outside the fossil record, from comparative anatomy, comparative physiology, comparative cell biology, etc. etc. etc. – and probably most importantly these days, comparative genetics and genomics (to say nothing of work on experimental and contemporary evolution, including contemporary documentation of speciation events). There are some pretty straightforward predictions that follow from the notion of common descent, where we can say “if this is correct, here are some things we should be able to observe” – there’s no shortage of “tests” in this regard. The most obvious one is that if descent from a common ancestor were true we would expect to see a nested hierarchy of relationships in which more closely related organisms are more similar to each other at multiple levels of biological organization; and as it turns out that’s exactly what we see.

    ETA: The start of my comment above sounds pretty snitty; rather than edit it now I’ll just say sorry, JutGory, for my tone. I guess I’ve taken enough crap from delusional anti-evolutionists (not that I’m suggesting at all that you fall in that category) that I’m overly touchy on it, even when that isn’t justified.

  10. 10
    Charles S says:

    The same could be said about climate change advocates who remain unconvinced when their own dire predictions do not materialize. Their hypothesis is unfalsifiable, no matter how often their predictions turn out to be wrong.

    Jut,

    As Harlequin says, climate scientists have been predicting increasing global average temperature for 40 years, and observed global average temperatures have fallen within the confidence bounds of those predictions. Predicting the future, particularly when your prediction is not stationary or cyclic, is the gold standard of numerical modeling.

    The claim that the science is always attached to policy positions is just wrong. The researchers developing the predictions and making the observations are overwhelmingly uninvolved in advocacy and policy. However, I can understand where the error comes from, as non-scientists don’t read the primary literature, and are probably only going to hear about the problem from advocates for specific policies (and the Tea Party supporters will probably only hear about the advocates from Fox News and other denialist outlets).

    There are policies that have been proposed that don’t involve decreasing gross CO2 output, but they mostly involve colossal scale geo-engineering projects that are far less technologically or economically viable than massive investment in wind, solar, or even nuclear power. There is also the policy of adaptation, which is the one we are pursuing by default, but it isn’t a good policy over the long term.

    I assume that the Tea Partiers who answer “No” are adherents to the idea that because 1998 was the third hottest year on record (beaten by 2005 and 2010), that therefore the world hasn’t been getting hotter for the past 16 years. This is wrong, but it also is, interestingly, a specific strong claim about the global climate, so the idea that Tea Partiers don’t accept climate science ’cause its just too darn complicated doesn’t hold up to inspection. If you don’t accept climate science, the correct answer is “I don’t know”, not “No”.

    In the US, the only people it matters to convince are rich people and corporations, so I’m not sure how much the tribal agnosis of Tea Partiers matters.

  11. 11
    Kevin Carson says:

    By far the most cost-effective public policy measure to reduce CO2 output would be eliminating the current government interventions that subsidize consumption of energy and transportation inputs. Stop using eminent domain to build pipelines, stop regulatory preemption of vigorous and robust tort liability action against polluters, stop subsidizing highways and airports, stop fighting wars to keep fossil fuels cheap, let fuel tankers pay the full cost of keeping the sea lanes open (the U.S. Navy’s main job), stop local govt policies to subsidize sprawl and real estate appreciation…

  12. 12
    NancyP says:

    The super-rich people, Koch brothers and others, care only about their tax rate in the next few years, and believe that their money will shield them and their heirs from all unpleasant consequences. They are also not rooted in a community, by and large, and can easily decamp to more pleasant locations if their beach homes get washed out to sea. The Tea Party contingent listen to their pastors more than to secular experts. They also don’t want to think about long-term consequences if the short term means of mitigating the consequences requires a change in their behavior. It is a lot easier to deny climate change than to say that you, Mr/Ms Suburbanite, want your 8 cylinder SUV and don’t give a damn about the world your grandchildren will live in. Note, I think that the suburbanites are the main problem. How to address the rural conservatives? Discuss climate change effects on farming (eg talking about the severe droughts that have afflicted the midwest and other areas) or on deer, fish, and turkey habitats. Rural people, at least in Missouri, love to hunt, and pay attention to information coming from the MO department of conservation, which manages a lot of hunting and fishing public lands.

  13. 13
    JutGory says:

    Lee1:

    The start of my comment above sounds pretty snitty; rather than edit it now I’ll just say sorry, JutGory, for my tone.

    No worries. And, your main point is well-taken. My characterization was simplistic, but, overall, I think my point was accurate. That point being that evoulution looks backwards (or at the present) for confirmation of the theory. But, it can’t predict forward very well because: 1) if the mutations are random, it is hard to predict when they will occur and what they will be; and 2) the time-frame for species to develop is long. Physics, however, can interpret the past and put a date on the Big Bang and the formation of the Earth, and it can predict the future, including the life-span of the sun, and whether the asteroid, Apophis, is going to hit the Earth on April 13, 2029. Physics or relativity are stronger “theories” than evolutionary theory in that respect.

    But, I think climate science is weaker still. Yes, as Charles S says, they have been predicting a warming phase for the last 40 years. And, for all I know, they may be right. But, when I see specific predictions that were made that have not come to pass. First off, there were all those predictions in the 1970′s about a coming ice age. All of those scientists were flat out proven wrong. Now, they are predicting similar things about global warming. I will just refer to one (since I need to get back to work): the prediction about 50 million climate refugees by 2010. That did not happen. Now, that is a bad prediction to start with because you are essentially predicting human behavior.

    But, to the larger point: how is global warming falsifiable? If we have a cool period (some have recently suggested we are in a “pause” but there is controversy around that interpretation), does that disprove global warming? No. We have seen those things in the past (e.g. the little ice age). We also know that other things affect that (e.g. Krakatoa). If there were an event like that and temperatures dropped, how would that affect the theory (because it would certainly disrupt the trend)?

    In contrast, relativity theory had great “bright-line” falsifiability tests that the theory could hang on. And, the theory was borne out by the evidence.

    I don’t have the same confidence in climate theory.

    -Jut

  14. 14
    Harlequin says:

    First off, there were all those predictions in the 1970′s about a coming ice age.

    The majority of scientists at the time were predicting warming, not cooling: here’s a breakdown of the literature. But the consensus was nowhere near where it is now: almost 30% made no stance on future climate, and 10% were predicting cooling. (Also, of course, their data was not as good. They mostly had Northern Hemisphere land data, where air pollution was causing local cooling.)

    But, to the larger point: how is global warming falsifiable? If we have a cool period (some have recently suggested we are in a “pause” but there is controversy around that interpretation), does that disprove global warming? No. We have seen those things in the past (e.g. the little ice age). We also know that other things affect that (e.g. Krakatoa). If there were an event like that and temperatures dropped, how would that affect the theory (because it would certainly disrupt the trend)?

    A year of cooling/steady temperatures, or two years of cooling/steady temps, wouldn’t disprove global warming, no. But we wouldn’t want it to–these are measurements and predictions based on decades of data. If the cool/steady period lasted long enough, then yes, it could disprove global warming by being sufficiently far out of whack with the climate predictions that have been made so far. When your model no longer fits the data (to a sufficient level of not-fitting), you have to revise your model; that’s pretty basic science. As for other, one-time events–such as Krakatoa, or Tambora–those are things you can stick into a climate model to revise your predictions. And again, if it didn’t fit, we would have to revise the concept of global climate change.

    Not quite on the topic of global warming:

    That point being that evoulution looks backwards (or at the present) for confirmation of the theory. But, it can’t predict forward very well because: 1) if the mutations are random, it is hard to predict when they will occur and what they will be; and 2) the time-frame for species to develop is long. Physics, however, can interpret the past and put a date on the Big Bang and the formation of the Earth, and it can predict the future, including the life-span of the sun, and whether the asteroid, Apophis, is going to hit the Earth on April 13, 2029. Physics or relativity are stronger “theories” than evolutionary theory in that respect.

    Well, the date of the Big Bang and the formation of the Earth are backward-looking measurements, not forward-looking predictions, so the successes of backward-looking measurements of evolution should count just as well, right? And anyway, “predictions” can be “of as-yet unobserved phenomena” just as well as they can be “of what will happen in the future”: for example, the recent inflation discovery was a measurement of features in the data that existed at the time the prediction of them was made, but were so faint no one had seen them yet due to instrumental limitations. Does that not count as a real prediction in your mind? If not, why not? And if it does, why does the same not apply to evolution?

  15. 15
    JutGory says:

    Amp: sorry if this is getting off-topic.

    Harlequin, you are right. My language regarding predictions is confusing because I have used the word in two senses.

    Einstein’s “predictions” were “as yet unobserved phenomena.” Basically, I am thinking of the curving of light (which was observed during an eclipse) and clocks running at different speeds when one is accelerated (which has also been observed). Those predictions could have falsified relativity; instead, the accuracy of the prediction gave the theory credence.

    And, yes, all three examples (physics (which is termed broadly here to encompass things like relativity), evolution, and climate) look backward and interpret data and tell stories about what happened in the past. So, I don’t mean to bad-mouth evolution, but it seems I have given that impression.

    However, as far as making predictions about what will happen in the future (the different way in which I was using the word), evolution, as far as I know, does very little of that. It may get into it a bit with respect to antibiotics and adaptation, but it primarily looks backward. And, that’s fine. Physics has the ability to look forward pretty well, because we understand a great deal about the forces at work. My problem with climate science is that, it, too, tries to make predictions about the future; I just do not trust it to do it as well. And, if the prediction is something along the lines of: “sea levels will rise 3 feet by the year 2100,” I have two problems: 1) I likely won’t be around to see if it is accurate; and 2) the failure of that to occur would likely not be viewed as a falsification of the theory.

    It seems as if the only way to falsify global warming is for there to be a cooling period. The problem is that we are pretty sure there is going to be a cooling period, because the climate has always been changing.

    But, as far as I can tell, there is nothing that can disprove (falsify) the theory, except waiting to see if it stops.

    -Jut

    -Jut

  16. 17
    Ampersand says:

    By the way, we already had the “falsifiability” discussion on this thread. At the time, a couple of people explained to Jut 1) that global warming is obviously falsifiable, and 2) global warming predictions from 1, 2 and 3 decades ago have come true. Charles wrote:

    Jut,

    30 years ago, climate modelers predicted that global temperatures would be higher now than they were then. They are.

    20 years ago, climate modelers predicted that global temperatures would be higher now than they were then. They are.

    10 years ago… same story.

    Can you predict the future in an uncontrolled, unrepeatable environment? This is the hardest test of predictions you can get. This is the gold standard of model validation. Even the shoddy climate models of 30 years ago were able to meet this test and successfully predicted what would happen in the uncontrolled environment substantially into the future. The climate models have improved vastly. There is really no excuse for doubting them on the basics (on the details, there is more potential for error, but the basic predictions are really all you need to know that the world is getting hotter, and that it is caused by increased CO2 from human sources).

    Jut, in contrast, explained that he’s skeptical that climate change can be a science at all, and admitted that he couldn’t think of any evidence which would cause him to change his views.

    Jut, have you thought of any evidence that would cause you to change your mind?

  17. 18
    JutGory says:

    Amp,
    Thanks for that link.
    I will have to check it out.

    Reviewing my earlier comments, I would probably amend the one you mentioned.

    I would agree that there are scientific aspects to climate change. However, in many ways, “climatology,” is an intersection of many different disciplines. But, whether it is a discipline unto itself is a matter of labels (and, thus, not very interesting).

    But, if geology is a science unto itself, and archaeology is a science unto itself, and meteorology, and oceanology and anthropology, etc., then, yeah, I don’t have a problem calling it a science. (At the same time, as I hopefully have conveyed by my earlier comments, I do not believe that all sciences are equal.)

    -Jut

  18. 19
    Jane Doh says:

    On Science:
    There is a difference between falsifiable hypotheses (central to the scientific method) and predictions (central to successful models, but not to science). I think an important failing in the way science is generally taught to people who don’t aspire to be scientists is in not making this distinction more clear. Climate science definitely involves falsifiable hypotheses in experiments. The results of these experiments are then used to improve models designed to make predictions in the long term and short term. As climate science makes progress, the models (and therefore the predictions) get better and better. Models with fewer and/or better understood parts do a better job with prediction. This is why orbital mechanics is pretty much a solved problem and can be used to look for exoplanets, while climate prediction is not.

    As an aside, evolutionary biologists also make falsifiable hypothesis using things other than the fossil record. Just because higher organism life cycles are too long to really observe evolution doesn’t mean we can’t observe evolving organisms in real time. One of the coolest experiments in this area is the E. Coli Long Term Experimental Evolution Project (http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/index.html) run by Richard Lenski out of Michigan State, which has followed the evolution of strains of E. coli since 1988, and has the stored stocks for sequencing to map out genomic changes over the past 26 years. They’ve seen close to 60,000 generations. For comparison, there have been on the order of 80,000 generations since the first evidence of a Homo species, and on the order of 10,000 generations since modern humans appeared.

    On Science and policy:
    There are many thoughtful and logical people who do not understand the scientific method because they were never really taught the basics of science well. There are also lots of people who consider science to be something that happens in the lab with no impact on their lives (particularly non-medical science). People with no understanding and/or interest in science are much more likely to see things like climate change through the lens of policy rather than through the lens of science (true for Tea Party members and progressives alike), since policy discussions seem relevant to their lives, while science does not.

    It is kind of unfair to pick on Tea Party members for this, when many people fall into the same boat on one issue or another (consider how scientifically illiterate the debate on GMO food is). In my experience, it is not possible to really use science to debate climate change, vaccine policy, GMO food, or any other really strongly emotionally charged issue unless the person you are debating is scientifically inclined. Otherwise, science is just one argument among many, all with equal merit.

  19. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Mark:

    Before global warming became a serious public concern, certain groups within the ecological left had been raising a number of dubious issues, all of which supposedly had the same solution: Dial back industrial civilization to save the planet. And usually it turned out that the problems either weren’t as dire as the eco-left said, or they could be addressed by less drastic means.

    So when global warming came along, it was pretty natural response to say, “Oh, look, the lefties are again saying that we’re destroying the planet! And the bad guys turn out to be evil oil companies. And they say the solution is doing the same things they’ve always wanted us to do.” Who wouldn’t be a little suspicious of that?

    This is ludicrous. For two reasons.

    First of all, the stereotype of leftists as anti-civilization luddites who want everyone to live in the stone age is just that – a stereotype. That’s not reality. Most lefties live in highly urban areas and like our smartphones and our high-speed internet a heck of a lot.

    Probably there are some unrepresentative liberals out there who want to do away with tech – just as there are probably some unrepresentative conservatives who still want to throw all gay people in jail and force everyone to attend church at gunpoint. That is not the norm for either party. Period.

    If your view of politics is dependent on believing that people who disagree with you are incomprehensibly evil and stupid and want things that no one who isn’t a villain in a 1950s sci-fi movie would possibly want, then you really need to rethink your view.

    Second of all, conservatives are not fucking children, so why are you making excuses that would only work for children? Global warming has been an issue for longer than many current voters have been alive. Maybe something was a natural response “when global warming came along,” but that was DECADES AGO, and cannot possibly still be a good excuse. Are conservatives really that incapable of taking any responsibility? “We can’t believe in science because we don’t like what liberals say” is not an excuse that any party capable of responsible governing would use. And it’s no excuse for refusing to believe what 97% of climatologists believe. It’s no excuse for ignoring evidence.

  20. 21
    Ampersand says:

    In the US, the only people it matters to convince are rich people and corporations, so I’m not sure how much the tribal agnosis of Tea Partiers matters.

    I suspect that a political influential group of 1-percenters are (ideologically if not literally) members of the Tea Party.

  21. 22
    Ampersand says:

    It is kind of unfair to pick on Tea Party members for this, when many people fall into the same boat on one issue or another (consider how scientifically illiterate the debate on GMO food is).

    I disagree – it’s absolutely fair to pick on the Tea Party for this. Just as, if you can identify a similar issue in which (say) liberals were refusing to believe a 97% scientific consensus, it would be fair to pick on the liberals for that.

    I’m not convinced that GMO is actually such an issue – my guess is that virtually all plausible candidates for a position like “Democratic nominee for President” would take fairly mainstream views on GMO. I’m not denying that some Democrats deny science on issues they feel passionate about, but it’s not the norm for Democrats, nor is it a requirement in order to have a shot as a national Democratic candidate. In contrast, in order to be a plausible Republican candidate for national office, you nearly have to be a global warming denialist (only recent exception is Huntsman). No other position is acceptable within the Republican party.

    I think a “both sides are just as bad” viewpoint is, on this issue, inaccurate. Republicans – even extremely smart Republicans – are genuinely worse when it comes to denying scientific reality. And the long-term damages to the world, and to human beings, will be genuinely awful.

  22. 23
    Lee1 says:

    I’m not convinced that GMO is actually such an issue – my guess is that virtually all plausible candidates for a position like “Democratic nominee for President” would take fairly mainstream views on GMO.

    I agree with your point about Democratic presidential candidates (and I’d add the large majority of Democratic congress members), and certainly the overall point that mainstream Republican politicians are more anti-science than mainstream Democratic politicians, broadly speaking.

    However, I’m continually disappointed with how many Democratic/liberal people I know (or read/hear about in the media) are anti-GMO for completely non-sensical reasons. Their arguments seem to generally boil down to some version of 1) Monsanto is a big evil corporation, therefore GMOs are also evil; and/or 2) a really poor understanding of the genetic and ecological issues associated with GMOs. If we’re talking about self-identified liberals or conservatives in the general population as opposed to national-level politicians, I think Jane Doh’s comparison of global warming and GMOs is somewhat overstated but not completely off.

  23. 24
    Jane Doh says:

    I realize that GMO food (and vaccination policy) are not headline grabbers today, mostly because BigAg has given up on getting public support and has switched to quiet mode, and there are no wealthy interests pushing on vaccines in the US right now. That said, I don’t think global warming is a one-issue vote generator either, but I could be wrong there. I would say that while human-induced climate change is the most important of all these issues in the long term, the effects are small enough to be ignored in the short term, which is why people can keep their heads in the sand. A couple of climate scientists I know think it is already too late to prevent catastrophe, so we might as well start looking at mitigation rather than prevention at this point.

    I picked on GMO food as an example, since that is an area where there was some scientific uncertainty, but the science is ignored anyway. In the case of vaccines, there was never any doubt in medical circles about vaccination and its risks. I would say that the anti-vaccine crowd is easily as stubbornly anti-science as the Tea Party on global climate change, and primarily lefty. Anti-vaxers are having a direct, measurable, and significant effect on US health right now, as people are being hospitalized (and dying) from vaccine-preventable diseases in record numbers since the advent of the vaccine era. In a logical world, vaccine exemption laws would be tightened and/or quarantines more strongly enforced to protect the public health from the choices of anti-vaxers, but this is a non-starter. I acknowledge that this is currently much more of a local issue than global warming policy, but there certainly are places where this is a hot button issue.

    I don’t think I was making a “just as bad argument”, just an observation that many people find it really to ignore scientific evidence, and the Tea Party is not an outlier here. You originally asked if there is anyway to convince such people to pay attention to scientific evidence, and my answer was unfortunately no (with some additional non-Tea Party examples).

  24. 25
    Jake Squid says:

    Anti-vaxxers and Tea Partiers have considerable overlap. As do anti-vaxxers and anti-fluoridationists. Both anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation pull from both the left and the right. Climate change denial, however, seems to pull only from the right and, whereas anti-vax and anti-fluoridation seem to get support mostly from the fringes, climate change denial gets a lot of support from the mainstream right. I don’t find anti-vax to be at all analogous to climate change denial. Anti-GMO doesn’t seem to get much support from the right, but neither does it seem to get much support from the mainstream left.

  25. 26
    Charles S says:

    If you look up the polling on anti-vax views, you’ll find that it is a little more common on the right than the left, and rare on both sides (I’m assuming we’re talking about the US- the folks in the CIA/mil. int. who ran the fake polio vaccinations in Pakistan should be extradited to Pakistan for trial, and Britain has a long-standing huge anti-vax crowd).

    Measles was only eradicated in the US in 2000, and although there have been more years with high measles outbreaks in the last 6 years than in the first 8 years after eradication, it is not clear that the number of cases is rising (14 is a small number of years to evaluate), and outbreaks are primarily caused by people in their early twenties, whose vaccinations would have been influenced by vaccination ideas 20 years ago, not recent trends.

    Whooping cough has seen a substantial rise in cases since the early oo’s, but this is primarily due to a change in vaccines to a less effective vaccine (one which is less reliable and also may allow some vaccinated people to be carriers). The people effected by whooping cough are overwhelmingly anti-vaxers (and people who can’t take vaccine or have compromised immune systems), but the cause in the rise in cases is the vaccine, not an increase in the number of unvaccinated people. Vaccination rates in the US have remained more or less steady for the past decade plus, and remain above the 90% goal established by the CDC. Between 2004 and 2008, vaccination refusal rates rose from 0.8 % to 1.2%, so there is an increase in anti-vaxer sentiment, but it is still a small fraction of the total vaccination failure rate.

    Failure to vaccinate in the US is strongly negatively correlated with income. 87% of under-vaccinations in children 1-2 yrs old (among insured people) are caused people who aren’t vaccinated because of difficulty accessing health care rather than anti-vax beliefs. The rate is probably higher among uninsured people. If we want to decrease the number of unvaccinated people, attacking the problem of health care access is far more important than attacking the problem of anti-vaxer sentiment.

    There is a strong culture of anti-vax hatred currently, and certainly anti-vax beliefs are anti-science and harmful, but a lot of the information employed by anti-anti-vaxers is overblown and inaccurate, and leads to targeting the wrong problems.

  26. 27
    Ampersand says:

    To add to what Charles and others have said, here are a few numbers on anti-Vax attitudes, from an article on a vaccine industry website:

    The latest data comes from a survey of 2,316 U.S. adults by a researcher who works at the universities of Yale and Harvard. While questions about human-caused climate change divided along political lines–with liberals believing it is happening and conservatives denying it–there was no such correlation with anti-vaccine views. The vast majority of people believe the benefits of childhood vaccinations outweigh the risks, regardless of their politics. And the survey found anti-vaccine views are more common among Republicans.

    Although the data clashes with some peoples’ perception of the typical vaccine skeptic, it chimes with previous surveys. In 2009 the Pew Research Center found almost 50% more Democrats than Republicans said they would take the swine flu vaccine. More detailed data emerged last year from a Public Policy Polling survey of 1,247 U.S. voters. PPP found 12% of people who described themselves as very liberal believe vaccines cause autism, compared with 22% of hardline conservatives.

    So with all respect to Jane – and I do appreciate your reponse! – I’m not convinced that anti-vax beliefs are the left’s equivalent of climate change denial among the Tea Party. There simply is no equivalent, that I can see, either in scale (most lefties are not anti-vaxxers or anti-GMO) or in prevalence among high elected political officials. (Thank goodness!)

    With regard to GMO food, I see no reason to think it’s unsafe. But I have to admit, I don’t see any strong reason to oppose GMO labeling if large portions of the public want it. I’m a bit libertarian on this – people’s irrational preferences are nonetheless their preferences, and they have a right to them. I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to buy GMO-free food if they want to. Also, I suspect that if food starts being labeled, that will cause big Ag to get a LOT more pro-active about persuading the public that GMO food is safe.

  27. 28
    Charles S says:

    I don’t think I was making a “just as bad argument”, just an observation that many people find it really [easy] to ignore scientific evidence, and the Tea Party is not an outlier here. You originally asked if there is anyway to convince such people to pay attention to scientific evidence, and my answer was unfortunately no (with some additional non-Tea Party examples).

    I do more or less agree with this (although I think the Tea Party is pretty clearly somewhat an outlier, I don’t think anti-vaxer and anti-GMO attitudes are as prevalent as 90% (edited from 70% as “natural variability” folks are still denialists, and fixed an accidental double negative) among any large groups I know of).

    A couple of climate scientists I know think it is already too late to prevent catastrophe, so we might as well start looking at mitigation rather than prevention at this point.

    I do somewhat disagree with this. I think we do need to work on mitigation at this point, because it is clear we are not going to avoid catastrophe, but we still need to push as hard as possible on prevention, because while 4 F is pretty much locked in at this point, 8-10 F is not locked in (but highly likely if we continue with business as usual), and 10-12 F is still definitely avoidable.

  28. 29
    Lee1 says:

    With regard to GMO food, I see no reason to think it’s unsafe. But I have to admit, I don’t see any strong reason to oppose GMO labeling if large portions of the public want it.

    I also don’t have a big problem with requiring labeling, although it’s not clear to me why something comparable couldn’t be accomplished via products that don’t contain GMOs being labeled as such (assuming that in each case there’s some enforcement mechanism to make sure claims are accurate), so that people who want to avoid GMOs and pay the premium to do so can buy those products. But with regard to your statement about GMO food not being unsafe, I agree with you but I still see a lot of liberals make the opposite claim for completely goofy non-scientific reasons, which is where I think the comparison to climate change comes in.

  29. 30
    Kevin Carson says:

    I’m glad you raised that question. Monsanto and other agribusiness companies have a long and ugly history of sending their lawyers after producers and grocers that voluntarily label stuff GMO, or otherwise advertise that they meet quality standards more stringent than required by the USDA. They have sued grocers for labeling milk non-GMO on the grounds that it constituted product disparagement. Likewise major meat industry players have sued small meat-packers for advertising that they test for mad cow disease more frequently than required by the USDA on the grounds that it implied that products that simply met the bare standard were inadequate. And then there are food libel laws, anti-whistleblowing laws… Simply put, US agribusiness is terrified that it couldn’t survive in the face of commercial free speech.

    On top of all that, Monsanto has sent out Pinkerton thugs (yes, those Pinkertons) to harass small organic farmers for “stealing” their proprietary GMO genetic material when pollen from Monsanto’s GMO plants blows over and contaminates the organic crops.

    I wish it were possible to label non-GMO stuff without fear, or to publicly expose the operations of factory farms. But the fact is, we’re dealing with pigs.

  30. 31
    Hydrazine says:

    Ampersand,

    There are too many examples of Global Warming science being falsified. This is how the environmental movement operates. From Hollywood actors to politicians and even the politically/$$$ motivated scientists. They lie to you with their scare propaganda. They tell you the earth is melting. They fudge the data and statistics to fit a predetermined conclusion for deeply political purposes.

    Top scientist resigns over ‘Climate Hoax’ scandal – http://youtu.be/o83XMMl9Yzc

    Professor Bob Carter torpedoes the “scientific consensus” on the climate HOAX – http://youtu.be/JpfMM3bVbhQ

    Former NASA Scientists… Global Warming Hoax – http://youtu.be/JpfMM3bVbhQ

    Climate Scientists Laugh at Global Warming Hysteria – http://youtu.be/C35pasCr6KI

    Hollywood Progressives admitting to propaganda – http://youtu.be/KOX5ehfFF7I

    Hacked Emails & Climategate: The Backstory – http://youtu.be/Y8CVh2deXTI

  31. 32
    Ampersand says:

    I’m not going to watch a dump truck of videos. Pick the one argument or example you consider strongest, and make it here on this blog, in words, with links to supporting evidence, in text, please.

  32. 33
    Lee1 says:

    Based on the first of those youtube videos, I wouldn’t waste any time on the remainder. It’s about “Climategate,” in which a bunch of emails and other computer files were stolen from researchers at University of East Anglia, and they allegedly indicated scientific fraud. At least half a dozen (probably quite a few more) scientific committees in the USA and Europe completely independent from University of East Anglia reviewed _all_ of the information contained in those emails and files (as opposed to single sentences or phrases taken out of context, which was what the initial uproar was pretty much entirely focused on), and every single one of them reached the conclusion that there was no scientific fraud. If Hydrazine really considers Climategate to be evidence of “scare propaganda,” “fudg[ing] the data and statistics,” etc., he or she is deeply misinformed on this subject.

  33. 34
    Jake Squid says:

    From Hollywood actors to politicians and even the politically/$$$ motivated scientists.

    I always wonder why people believe that it’s scientists who, at the upper end, may make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, who are falsifying info rather than energy billionaires who are doing so. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around it.

  34. 35
    ballgame says:

    OK, out of idle curiosity I watched the “Climate Scientists Laugh at Global Warming Hysteria” link (http://youtu.be/C35pasCr6KI) from Hydrazine’s comment. It featured a panel of three scientists moderated by climate skeptic Andrew Bolt as part of his “The Bolt Report.” I used SourceWatch to check on the backgrounds of the panelists:

    Bob Carter:

    … is on the payroll of the Heartland Institute, which itself is funded by polluting industries (Exxon, Scaife Foundations and Koch Family Foundations, etc).

    According to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, Carter was “on the research committee at the Institute of Public Affairs, a think tank that has received funding from oil and tobacco companies, and whose directors sit on the boards of companies in the fossil fuel sector” and believed, SMH said, that “the role of peer review in scientific literature was overstressed.”

    Peter Ridd is the Science Coordinator for the Australian Environment Foundation, which SourceWatch says is “is a front group founded by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a conservative Melbourne-based think tank.” He’s also a part of the Gallileo Movement, said to be “a climate skeptic lobby group set up to oppose carbon pricing.”

    Garth Paltridge is also linked to the Gallileo Movement (as an independent advisor), and has associations of various kinds with a number of conservative and/or energy industry groups.

    Now, to my mind, these associations don’t automatically invalidate what they’re saying, but they do suggest you should be skeptical about their claims.

    But the content of their arguments tends to confirm their lack of objectivity. For example, in discussing the threatened Great Barrier Reef (from around the 6:00 mark to the 7:30 mark), Peter Ridd claims the corals have been hurt over the last 5,000 years by a reduction in the sea level (which leaves the coral exposed at low tide), so they will “definitely” be helped by a rising sea level. Peter says the corals like it “warmer” and this will be healthier for them. (But wait, if there’s no global warming, why is the sea getting warmer and the sea level rising?) Bob Carter basically echoes Peter’s claimed future good fortunes for the Barrier Reef, though he’s more careful about differentiating between ‘natural’ global warming and “human-accentuated” global warming, which he’s skeptical of.

    So, gosh, those climate change alarmists sure do look like Chicken Littles, don’t they?

    The only problem here is that these scientists completely omit the biggest factor spelling the impending doom of the coral reefs: the acidification of the oceans caused by the absorption of the atmospheric overload of carbon dioxide. According to a 2009 article from the Guardian:

    Remember the carbon dioxide that we left dissolving in the oceans? Billions and billions of tonnes of it over the last 150 years or so since the industrial revolution? … [T]hat dissolved pollution has been steadily turning the oceans more acidic. There is no dispute, no denial, about this one. Chemistry is chemistry, and carbon dioxide plus water has made carbonic acid since the dawn of time.

    As a result, the surface waters of the world’s oceans have dropped by about 0.1 pH unit … a truly jaw-dropping change for coral reefs.

    For reefs to rebuild their stony skeletons, they rely on the seawater washing over them to be rich in the calcium mineral aragonite. Put simply, the more acid the seawater, the less aragonite it can hold, and the less corals can rebuild their structure. Earlier this year, a paper in the journal Science reported that calcification rates across the Great Barrier Reefs have dropped 14% since 1990. The researchers said more acidic seas were the most likely culprit, and ended their sober write-up of the study with the extraordinary warning that it showed “precipitous changes in the biodiversity and productivity of the world’s oceans may be imminent”.

    A later article in the NY Times is even more bleak:

    Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion. Each of those forces alone is fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together, they assure it. The scientific evidence for this is compelling and unequivocal …

    It took just a few minutes of googling to find this out, so one can hardly claim that is some kind of arcane data that the Bolt panelists were simply unaware of. I’m left with fact that in researching one claim from one link left by Hydrazine, his sources are shown to be at best completely incompetent or at worst blatantly disingenuous propagandists. I don’t have the time or interest to run down the rest of Hydrazine’s links — which consist of three links to Bob Carter and three links falsely claiming there to have been a climate “hoax” (as Lee1 points out). Hydrazine is clearly just trying to provide the illusion of quality to obscure his argument’s complete lack of substance.

  35. 36
    Hydrazine says:

    I have a question for all of you who replied after my post above…

    Did you vote for Obama?
    Do you consider yourself a Democrat, progressive, some variation of a collectivist or a liberal?

    Answer honestly if you want to continue a discussion.

  36. 37
    Ampersand says:

    Does anyone really call themselves a “collectivist”? Can’t be many, if they exist at all.

    Anyhow, I’ll bite. I call myself a progressive, and I voted for Obama, albeit in a “holding my nose and voting for the lesser evil” fashion.

  37. 38
    Lee1 says:

    Hydrazine,

    In the interest of “honest discussion,” it seems odd you didn’t answer those questions about yourself before expecting others to answer them. I’d be happy to once you do, since you’re the one who brought it up as somehow relevant to the (lack of) scientific rigor in the links you provided.

  38. 39
    Charles S says:

    Hydrazine,

    Do you acknowledge ballgame’s debunking of your claim that your spam of links demonstrated any sort of falsification of anthropogenic global warming? Do you have any coherent argument countering his debunking? Arguing that we are all a bunch of collectivist Obama voters is not actually a counter to his response to your videos.

    If you are just going to jump from specious claim to specious claim without ever acknowledging when your bullshit is exposed for what it is, I’m not really sure why anyone would wish to continue a “discussion” with you. You spouting lies and other people debunking them and then you spouting new lies is not really a discussion in any worthwhile sense. It would be pretty much par for the course for denialists commenting on Alas, however.

  39. 40
    Hydrazine says:

    The hostility of your responses says volumes about your scientific objectivity.

    GLOBAL WARMING IS A POLITICALLY MOTIVATED FRAUD.

    The progenitor of your hocky stick data admits he doesn’t have the data.
    It was all a lie.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250872/Climategate-U-turn-Astonishment-scientist-centre-global-warming-email-row-admits-data-organised.html

    Newsweek in 1975: “Tornado outbreak blamed on global cooling”

    Time in 1977: “How to Survive the Coming Ice Age”

    First Global cooling, then Global warming, then Global climate change (which of course has been occurring for 4 billion years), and now Global climate disruption . . . LOL

    Those that control and enforce all aspects of energy, control the world.

    Follow the money, cap & trade, carbon tax and Progressive Socialist redistribution of wealth.

    According to your Global Warming Guru “There has been no global warming for the past ~20 years. ”

    Like most reasonable folks. I am a firm believer in keeping our planet, air, water, environment clean. However, I am also a firm believer in truth and honesty. Many have used Global cooling/warming/change to frame their argument as opposed to “Clean” it became overwhelmingly obvious their agenda is strictly about control and power.

    The Socialist Jihadists and political activists have been fudging the data from the beginning.

    You can collectively brainwash yourselves with your lies…
    but I’m not buying your POLITICALLY MOTIVATED GLOBAL WARMING FRAUD.

  40. 41
    Jake Squid says:

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaand he’s out! A boneheaded play by Hydrazine gets him thrown out of the game. His fans are going to go home disappointed. I wouldn’t be surprised if this earns him a suspension, Bill.

  41. 42
    ballgame says:

    It was Hydrazine’s own fault, using all capitals in his last comment like he did, Jake Squid. He had to have known he was dealing with a bunch of … anti-capitalists.

  42. 43
    Chris says:

    Well, at least Hydrazine was able to answer the question in the title. Global warming must be a hoax because SOCIALIST JIHADISTS, that’s why.

  43. 44
    Lee1 says:

    I for one am completely convinced by Hydrazine’s wildly implausible* conspiracy theories. I think it was probably the ALL CAPS – and the Bizarre Use of Capitalization more generally – that did it for me.

    *Seriously, Hydrazine, do you have the slightest hint of a clue how academic science actually works, and what the real motivations of the people involved might be? If a scientist had _solid_ evidence contradicting the huge amount of data supporting anthropogenic climate change, do you know how much that would be worth in “academic currency”? (Hint: a lot)

  44. 45
    Jane Doh says:

    Oooooooooookay then, Hydrazine.

    I strongly agree with Lee1 and the others who pointed out that scientific fraud is mostly carried out with scientific career goals in mind, which means getting papers and citations for the academics involved. High profile fraud (like the human clone guy, or the Lancet anti-vaccine guy) is almost always caught pretty quickly because the more interesting and important the claim, the faster other scientists will try to verify it to extend the science further. Climate change is certainly high profile enough now that novel results are quickly checked by other research groups. Scientists have no skin in the economic game here (unlike energy magnates and other 1%-ers). Research science will make you a nice upper middle class living, but nothing worth a widespread conspiracy like the one proposed. Besides, large conspiracies like the one proposed are exceedingly unlikely, since 1) people suck at keeping secrets in general, and 2) in this case, with economic interests opposing current scientific understanding, a smoking gun demonstrating conclusively that such a conspiracy exists would be worth millions to the one who provides the evidence.

    As an aside, when I was thinking of Tea Partiers (and other science-ignorers), it was not at the level of Hydrazine. I do have some relatives with Tea Party-like leanings, and none of them are as irrational as this. They just ignore what they don’t want to believe, as if scientific data and political opinion were of equal value in making policy decisions.

    More dangerous than irrational fanatics in my mind are the large number of mainstream Republicans who do understand that scientists are pretty sure about anthropogenic effects on climate, and either just don’t care (because they will be long gone before the worst hits) or assume that technology will provide a way to have their cake and eat it too.

  45. 46
    JutGory says:

    Lee1:

    If a scientist had _solid_ evidence contradicting the huge amount of data supporting anthropogenic climate change, do you know how much that would be worth in “academic currency”? (Hint: a lot)

    I seem to recall, but I can’t find a link, that certain scientists (or maybe institutions) called upon academia NOT to peer-review any articles skeptical of AGW (or climate change, or global warming, or whatever it was being called at that time).

    Does that ring a bell with anyone? Because, if my memory serves, that would counter your position. Solid evidence means nothing if your ideas are taboo.

    Then, there is this little bit of extremism:

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/sean-long/2014/05/21/after-years-threats-prominent-climate-alarmists-still-seek-jail-climate-d

    Sadly, I don’t think this is an example of Poe’s Law. It is like Galileo all over again.

    So, circling back to the original question, it is the intimate link between “what is true” and “what we must do about it” that makes me question whether I am being told the truth.

    -Jut

  46. 47
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Jut, you’re thinking about the stuff below.

    Climate skeptic accusation:
    http://climateaudit.org/2014/05/16/iop-expecting-consistency-between-models-and-observations-is-an-error/

    Publisher response:
    http://ioppublishing.org/newsDetails/statement-from-iop-publishing-on-story-in-the-times

    As for the OP: I don’t think it is possible to persuade those folks until you can sever the variables:

    1) Is the Earth getting warmer over time? (Yes.)

    2) Are human actions contributing AT ALL, i.e. “more than zero?” (I think you could get agreement on this one if you differentiated it from #3 below.) We have strong consensus on this one.

    3) How much are human actions contributing? AFAIK, we don’t actually have very strong consensus on this one: we’re doing something, but it is not entirely clear precisely what it is.

    4) What will happen in the future? (We have almost no consensus on specifics. We can’t have a really good consensus on specifics until we have a model which can predict future temp rise with a good degree of accuracy. I don’t think we have that yet.)

    5) Based on what we can predict, what should we do now? (This answer changes a LOT between “assuming the lowest possible predicted rise” to “assuming the highest possible predicted rise.” Again, it’s not entirely clear what will happen because the predictions are not perfect, so it is difficult to come to a fixed conclusion on #5.)

    I think you could probably get a lot of Tea Partiers to agree about historical data (#1) and on the fact that we have some sort of non-zero effect (#2.) What you can’t get them to agree on is #3-5. That’s because Tea Partiers read folks like this:
    http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/tag/global-warming
    who call themselves “LUKEWARMERS.”

    “Lukewarmers” agree that there’s warming; they disagree on how MUCH warming.

  47. 48
    Ampersand says:

    Jut, again, is there any evidence that could convince you that the position “anthropomorphic anthropogenic global warming is real” is correct?

    (Edited to correct wrong word. Heh.)

  48. 49
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I think I may inaccurately have come off as a lukewarmer. I’m not, just trying to answer the “why don’t they believe?” question.

    I really, REALLY, recommend reading the two links I posted. It is incredibly helpful to see the accusations (“climate denial censoring!”) held up against the actual reviewer comments, which were released for publication in an unusual response to the critics.

  49. 50
    JutGory says:

    g&w:
    No, it was not that. It was something a few years back. It was almost a call for an industry-wide (meaning academia) policy that papers skeptical of AGW would not be peer-reviewed (thus, jeopardizing their credibility). That is a lot of vague terminology for Google to handle.

    Amp, I am going to plead Meno’s Paradox on that one. I do not know what evidence would persuade me. So many of the predictions are 30 or 40 years out. Many predictions with a shorter timeline have not come to be. And, what was number one on that list was a “wait-and-see” scenario (i.e. we will know it is false if we have 50 years of cooling). That does not seem to be a good basis for proof. I mean, if the next 30 years, show increasing temperatures, that is not a very effective way of proving anything to me NOW. I don’t like that method of proof, because it is kind of like watching a football game (“I will prove that the Packers will win the Super Bowl next year, and all the evidence I need will be in by mid-February”). So, even if time would convince me, I don’t like it as a method of proof.

    However, I will follow that up with: my primary interest is what is true. If something is true, I want to believe it (that is, I am open to persuasion, but not completely unskeptical). If something is true, I hope that I can understand that it is true (one of the more difficult hurdles). But, even for things I don’t understand (bio-chemistry for example), I am willing to believe things I do not understand (aspirin is good for this or that, or this drug will treat this condition). But, that trust or belief is completely on my own terms, because it is a decision to believe.

    -Jut

  50. 51
    Charles S says:

    “I seem to recall, but can’t find a link” is not a convincing argument. I also seem to recall that somewhere in the stolen emails, someone wrote someone else an email about how journals really ought to stop providing a platform for denialists, but that is not the policy of of the journals. So, no, the fact that some scientists wish that journals would stop publishing shoddy research is not evidence of Hydrazine’s conspiracy theories, nor does it contradict lee1. Being the first scientist to publish on some unrecognized force that eventually proved to be the actual cause of the global warming of the last century, the global warming that all evidence currently suggests is the direct and indirect result of anthropogenic CO2, an explanation that would also need to explain how doubling atmospheric CO2 does not have the obvious effect predicted by basic physics, would be a huge source of prestige. And as long as your data was good, your reasoning sound and your initial claims not too overblown, getting it wrong is not all that detrimental to your prestige.

    People publishing articles trying to demonstrate that global warming has stopped by cherry-picking the starting year and making statistically unsupportable claims about 12 data points don’t actually earn huge scientific prestige, but they still get published. Articles claiming that chloroflorocarbons were a major driver of global warming in the later 20th century get published (I doubt it, but I’m not really qualified to judge). Etc.

    There is no intimate link between “what is true” and “what we must do about it”. There are thousands of research articles about climate change, the overwhelming majority of which make no arguments about what we must do. There are thousands of researchers working on climate change research, the overwhelming majority of whom take no public position on what we must do. While many researchers take no public position because they don’t want to be subjected to the paid campaign of harassment and abuse that comes with being an advocate for preventing 4-10 degrees Fahrenheit global warming by 2100, most actually take no public position because they aren’t public policy experts, nor are they energy technologists or economists, so they don’t feel qualified to say what must be done. Indeed, most of them aren’t even working on the modeled prediction side of the science, so they don’t necessary feel qualified to take a public position on that. They are busy working out the paleoclimate of Indonesia or disentangling the effects on the Great Barrier Reef of warming, ocean acidification and nitrification from agriculture. All of that research builds together to produce the solid backing of “what is true”, but almost all of it says nothing about “what we must do”.

    On the other hand, since what is true is that we are pushing towards 4-10 degrees Fahrenheit global warming, and that the effects of that will be catastrophic, anyone who is willing to take a position on “what we must do” is likely to take a position of “something, quick!”

    But actually, you can find prominent people who take the “mitigation only” position, and others who take the position that money spent on preventing global warming would be better spent on making the global poor richer, as global warming will hit poor people much harder than rich people. You will also find that huge numbers of long-standing environmentalists have switched from anti-nuke to pro-nuke or nuke-neutral out of a recognition/belief that the threats from nuclear power are much less than the threat from fossil fuel power. You’ll find plenty of people advocating for geo-engineering solutions, for seeding the oceans with iron, for giant carbon sequestration programs, etc.

    The idea that everyone (or even a majority) who does take a position on what we must do is taking a de-industrialization or an anti-capitalist position is simply false.

  51. 52
    Jake Squid says:

    The Tea Partiers I know believe that human activity has had zero effect on global average temps. They say it’s all part of the 100 (or 200 or 500 or 1000 or 5000) year cycle of global temperature. Therefore, they say, it’s all a vast conspiracy of scientists to pad their own pockets. It’s an impossible conversation, IME.

  52. 53
    JutGory says:

    CharlesS:

    “I seem to recall, but can’t find a link” is not a convincing argument.

    I never said it was. In fact, I asked if it rang a bell to anyone. Just as if I had said, “you know, I think the Beatles wrote some song about Strawberry Fields, but I can’t find remember the name. Does anyone know what that song may have been called?” The fact that I can’t remember the name of the song has no bearing on whether the song was actually written. Your response, however, is akin to saying, “if you can’t seem to recall that the name of the song, I am not convinced the Beatles ever sang a song about Strawberry Fields.”

    (I know this is a little inside baseball, but the Beatles did write a song called Strawberry Fields Forever.)

    But, let’s assume that what I seem to recall was, in fact, true. That YOU are not convinced by it is irrelevant to the truth of the matter. That I am not able to find the link is irrelevant to the truth of the matter.

    But, yes, it is relevant to Lee1′s point. If scholarship is manipulated in such a way than it is decidedly unscientific and entirely worthy of scketicism.

    And, yes, what is true is linked to what we must do. You have scientists weighing in on public policy and you have politicians weighing in on the science. If there were no intimate connection, we would not have the IPCC.

    -Jut

  53. 54
    Lee1 says:

    JutGory @46 and 50,

    I’d be very interested to see that link if you did find it, and in particular I’d be very interested to see 1) who was making that call, and 2) exactly how it was worded. I’m extremely skeptical that a significant number of scientists would argue against peer review of well-supported research (or peer review of research to determine if it’s well supported). There are obviously goofballs out there in every field who will say stupid things (as your newsbusters link in 46 illustrates), but I would be shocked and disturbed if a significant number of scientists or prominent institutions were advocating what you say.

    my primary interest is what is true.

    I’m not saying you implied this, but just so we’re on the same page: do you think this isn’t the case for a significant number of scientists who argue that AGW is real – that their primary interest is not truth (or if you prefer scientific accuracy)?

  54. 55
    Lee1 says:

    There is no intimate link between “what is true” and “what we must do about it”.

    And, yes, what is true is linked to what we must do. You have scientists weighing in on public policy and you have politicians weighing in on the science.

    I agree with Charles S that the vast majority of climate scientists take no public position on policy advocacy. Obviously some do, but I think you overstate that connection, JutGory (for a number of reasons Charles S lays out well).

    And FWIW, as far as I’m concerned when scientists start making statements about what should be done in terms of policy, they can safely be ignored (meaning as scientists, although of course as members of the public generally they have as much right as anyone else to advocate for specific policy positions). In their role as scientists they are justified in saying “the scientific evidence indicates that X is happening, and in the absence of Y policy action Z will happen within Q years, with J margin of error.” When they say “X is happening so Y policy action should be implemented,” they’re no longer acting as scientists, but as advocates. Still well within their rights, but there shouldn’t be undo weight put on their policy opinions because of their scientific expertise – unless they also have some particular expertise in the social, economic, etc. implications of policy Y.

  55. 56
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I will point out that although the journal rejected the article, the reviewers were VERY interested in an actual article which actually demonstrated a problem with the science. Go read the editorial comments if you don’t believe me. The article was rejected because it was a bad article, not because it was anti-temp-rise.

    If you have trouble remembering what some other person may or not have said about some other situation, perhaps you’ll consider that less relevant in light of what current people are actually saying.

  56. 57
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for those links, G&W – the full reviewer responses were indeed very interesting.

  57. 58
    Charles S says:

    Jut, the reason you can’t remember it and failed to google it is because it was a nothing-burger. Yes, someone wrote an email to someone else saying something close to “journals ought to quit publishing this crap,” and then someone stole and published their email. No, a scientist complaining about crappy confusionist papers getting published does not constitute a conspiracy to suppress publications. It is very clear that no such conspiracy exists, as evinced by the continued publication of crappy confusionist papers (and plenty of perfectly good contradictory papers- it is important to understand that the locations of actual scientific dispute are determined by where people are getting contradictory results: what is the maximum temperature rise by 2100 (9 F or 11 F or 15 F or something even higher)? How fast will Antarctica and Greenland melt? How resilient to temperature change are various ecosystems? etc. If people were getting contradictory results for the historical temperature results or for modelling the future temperature path, they’d publish them, and journals would be happy to publish them if their methods made any sense.

    The IPCC does not do any scientific research. The IPCC just summarizes scientific research. The people in the IPCC are divided into 3 working groups, one works on summarizing the physical science, one works on describing mitigation options, and one works on describing adaptation options and the effects of global warming, so even within the IPCC there isn’t that much overlap between the people who are knowledgeable on what is happening in the atmosphere and what will be happening on the ground and what we could try to do about it. This is not surprising, since those are three big areas of research and very few people are going to cross over between them.

    But hte exzistance of the IPCC is in no way an argument that science and policy are linked and therefore the science might be being created to serve the policy.

    Look at an imaginary example: If astronomers discovered that an 1 km asteroid had a 50% chance of hitting the earth in 2100, it would be absurd to argue that when an international organization was formed to try to figure out how to avert disaster, that the existence of that organization was evidence that when the astronomers did their orbital calculations that they were motivated by whatever policy the international organization eventually proposed. Arguing that the existence of the IPCC shows that scientists are motivated by policy is exactly the same. The IPCC came into being in 1988 after decades of growing scientific awareness that anthropogenic global warming was no longer just a prediction of basic physics (first made in the 19th century), but was a thing that was happening now and was going to keep happening, and that it was going to have a substantial destabilizing effect on ecosystems and human environments.

  58. 59
    Charles S says:

    Jut: “Many predictions with a shorter timeline have not come to be. ”

    Could you be specific please? When you are justifying your doubt on the science, these should be predictions that come from the scientific literature. If some advocate somewhere told you that there would be palm trees growing in Nome by now, and that hasn’t happened, that gives you good reason to think that advocate is a fool, but not a good reason to doubt the basic science.

    A lot of people have told me stupid things that weren’t true about quantum mechanics. That is a good reason to be suspicious of things random people tell me about quantum mechanics, but it isn’t a good reason to doubt that quantum mechanics works.

    The core prediction of numerical models from the late 1980′s predicted global temperatures over the last decade to within the expected accuracy of the models. The same is true of the predictions of numerical models from the 1990′s.

  59. 60
    Charles S says:

    g&w,

    On your list of 5 steps, I’d agree that we don’t have a lot of certainty at step 4, but I think we actually do well at step 3 (at least at a global scale), and the results at step 4 range from “bad things will happen” to “astonishingly bad things will happen”. “Not all that much will happen” can be excluded with a reasonable degree of confidence.

  60. 61
    ballgame says:

    Many predictions with a shorter timeline have not come to be.

    It’s my understanding that the reverse has been true; that, for example, glacial melting outcomes are now believed to exceed the worst case scenarios from a decade ago.

  61. 62
    Charles S says:

    A discussion of accurate predictions from the 1970s.

    The end of that article links to a discussion of accurate predictions from a very early modeling prediction and a slightly later modeling prediction.

    (and G&W: I do appreciate your links upthread about the journal rejecting an article, that was interesting).

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