Showing posts with label denier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label denier. Show all posts

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Self proclaimed climate agnostic

"I'm a climate agnostic", he said smoothly. It sounded so reasonable. Who is this guy, I wondered. Then I looked at his blogroll.  It featured Bishop Hill, Watts Up With That, Jo Nova, Jennifer Marohasy, Climate Audit and a few other stalwarts from the AGW denier echo chamber.

That didn't add up, so I pointed out that a genuine agnostic would have a few reputable science blogs on his blogroll. His response was to round it out with credible blogs like SkepticalScience, Real Climate and Tamino, and write a blog post showing that he has read them.

Of course this window dressing doesn't actually MAKE him agnostic on the topic.

The only people who can honestly claim to be agnostic on the topic of global warming are those who aren't familiar with the subject and don't give it much thought. You know the ones - they're the people who are busy juggling work and study and family, caring for loved ones, or deeply interested in other things. Maybe they can tell you the history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the breeding line for Crufts champions, but they don't pay much attention to climate change.

Anyone who looks honestly at the evidence will accept the basic facts:
  • The temperature record (land, sea and satellite) shows that the planet is warming - it was up 0.7C in the twentieth century. (What credible scientist claims that this isn't true?)
  • Physics shows the mechanism by which greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere. (Is anyone out there denying the fundamental physics?)
  • Evidence that a doubling of greenhouse gases will result in estimated 3C warming (estimated range is 1.5-4.0C). (The range is widely accepted.)
  • The data shows that atmospheric CO2 levels have risen dramatically since the industrial revolution - from 280 ppm to 392 ppm. (Who questions these straightforward measurements?)
  • The predicted consequences of global warming are unfolding as expected: sea levels are rising, oceans are more acidic, glaciers and ice sheets are melting, Arctic sea ice is thawing, summers are longer, biological and physical systems are changing, and weather extremes are more frequent.

An honest agnostic will quickly conclude that human activity is lifting CO2 levels and causing global warming. When they have decided this, they aren't agnostic any more.

When people who are familiar with the wide range of evidence  for AGW call themselves 'agnostic', they are claiming to be flying pigs - a logical impossibility. Perhaps they have an agenda and are wolves in sheep's clothing. Or perhaps their personal vanity simply enjoys the noble and expansive domain of 'agnostic' and they can't allow themselves to make a decision because they don't want to give up being so high-minded.

Agnostics are fence-sitters. They say they can't make up their minds. They tick the DON'T KNOW box on surveys. The words of Churchill before WWII apply to climate change agnostics,
They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. 

Climate change deniers who adopt the agnostic position are often militant agnostics who say that NO ONE knows.

Being genuinely agnostic is an open-minded position, but it is very different from good faith scepticism. Good faith scepticism includes a readiness to engage with the data, whereas agnostics seem to stand back from meaningful engagement - maybe they are simply more interested in the pedigrees of spaniels.

A persistent agnostic or militant agnostic adopts a determinedly static position. It's a do-nothing stance taken by those who don't want to see action.

Some long-time climage change agnostics and sceptics do move on, but, like children who are late for school, they never seem to catch up properly. They seem to become 'luke-warmists' who accept that the globe is warming but claim that it's not happening quickly and we don't need to inconvenience ourselves by reducing carbon emissions.

Late for school

People may like to call themselves agnostic because it gives them a noble respectability, but if they continue to spread misinformation under the heading "I'm a climate agnostic" it is a sly deceit.

Let's call a spade a spade. If it walks like a denier and talks like a denier, it is not an agnostic.


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here is a recent snippet.

Private investors are putting almost $1 trillion annually into green businesses and technologies, bringing the total invested worldwide since 2007 to $3.6 trillion as of July 2012. Germany, Japan and the US lead in private green investments and China, Brazil and India lead among emerging nations. R&D investments are strongest in the automotive, semiconductor, and electrical components and equipment sectors. Source: SustainableBusiness.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trapped in a bubble

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a bubble. Actually, we all live in our own custom-made bubbles that are shaped by our life experience and our education.

The world in my bubble is different from the world in your bubble. The TV show Madmen makes good dramatic use of this.

In an early episode, Betty comes home with her drycleaning. After a few minutes, the kids come running out of the bedroom playing at being spacemen. Sally has the thin plastic dry-cleaning bag over her head and body.  Betty gets mad, as any mother would at this shocking sight. She chides Sally,
If the clothes from that dry-cleaning bag are on the floor of my closet, you're going to be a very sorry, young lady.

How times have changed! Betty is oblivious to our concerns about suffocation, and we're blind to her focus on well-pressed clothing.

When it comes to climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy, there are some very strong bubbles built largely on the capacity of the internet to foster colonies of like-minds.

There's a whole anti-AGW blogosphere bubble promoting the notion that climate science is not settled and 'do nothing' is the best course of action. There are virtually no practising climate scientists in this bubble, though there are related professionals like weathermen and engineers along with lots of backyard 'thinkers'.

There's also a pro-AGW bubble that posts evidence, debunks fallacies and corrects errors. This bubble has quite a number of practising climate scientists, along with science communicators, news media, business interests, enthusiasts and various interest groups.

Meanwhile, the usual practice of science continues through peer reviewed papers in academic journals.

How do we speak to each other across these bubbles? As a first step, we need to spend more time hanging out with people who live in different bubbles from ours. Natually, this is not as comfortable as hanging out with like minds. You have to make an effort and be prepared for some abrasion.

We can also make efforts to see the world from someone else's point of view. Why does Betty Draper ignore the suffocation risk when Sally puts the plastic bag over her head?

To see the world from someone else's point of view we need to listen with respect, as Katharine Hayhoe says,
If we approach this issue with mutual respect, with a desire for identifying what we most have in common rather than where we differ, and if we are prepared to listen and have two-way communication, rather than just coming in there to instruct, then we can make some progress.
Without these efforts, we remain trapped in our bubble, our echo chamber. That makes us lousy communicators. More like Betty Draper than Katharine Hayhoe. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Houses on flimsy foundations

Lobby groups that deny the planet is warming have built their structures in vulnerable locations. Their positions are being eroded by every new piece of evidence.

As their foundations wash away, their time runs out and they become unsteady and more strident. Witness the recent own-goal by the Heartland Institute with its offensive Unabomber billboard. The billboard marked a dramtic shift to the extreme right. It lasted less than 24 hours, but it washed away a sizeable chunk of Heartland's foundations – 11 sponsors worth more than $800,000, board members, all the staff in their Washington DC office, several speakers at a forthcoming conference and a number of notable experts.

If we are patient, we can wait for the evidence of rising temperatures, rising sea levels and ocean acidification to wash away more of these noxious pests. This is the expensive option. Economists warn that the longer we leave it to reduce greenhouse emissions, the more expensive it will be to make the necessary reductions and to cope with the damage.

So, any time you get a chance to chip away at their flimsy foundations, go ahead and do it. You'll be speeding up the inevitable and doing everyone a favour.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Linedancers avoid false balance

Responsible journalists try to present a range of views on a topic. Called 'balance', this has become accepted practice in mainstream media.

And a good thing too. Without balanced reporting, we would get only single-sided world views. Unfortunately, the principle of balance comes unstuck when lobbyists and extremists dominate the field of available commenters. We have seen anti-vaccination campaigners offering alternate views on vaccination, and we often see deniers offering alternate views on climate change.

This might not matter if the alternate view was clearly labelled 'unsubstantiated personal opinion' or 'industry spokesperson', but that is not usually the case. Most alternative views are presented as having some credibility.

Programs like I can change your mind on Australia's ABC that give equal time to climate change contrarians are accused of false balance because they give unrealistic prominence to discredited views. America's PBS Newshour attracted the same criticism after allowing the extreme right lobby group Heartland to give its point of view in a report.

The phenomenon of media "Balance as Bias" has been thoroughly documented by Max & Jules Boykoff, and others.

So, how should the media address topics like vaccination and climate change where there is, in effect, no credible and informed alternative to the basic science?

Nicole Hashem found a way in this Sydney Morning Herald article, Climate sceptics and sympathisers put heat on Flannery. For the climate contrarian view, she quoted a linedance teacher as saying,
I try not to believe [in climate change] because I don't like to believe the worst.
That works for me. Climate change contrarians who engage in denialism rather than good faith scepticism have as much credibility on the subject as linedancers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank God the alarm worked, it saved our lives.

Are you an 'alarmist' and a 'warmist'? That's what climate change deniers call scientists, politicians, activists and anyone in the general public who accepts the evidence for climate change.

When they call everyone who accepts the science an 'alarmist', they try to say that we're like the boy who cried wolf. They want to discredit the warnings made by responsible people who recognise the evidence.

Where they are wrong is that the wolf is very real. Multiple strands of evidence point to the warming planet and the role of greenhouse gas emissions. There is abundant evidence for:

Alarms do much more than wake you up in the morning, though that is useful. Burglar alarms and car alarms protect property and many alarms save lives. Smoke detectors; tsunami warning systems; heart attack alarmsshark alarms; patient monitoring alarms all save lives by warning against imminent danger.

So next time you're called an 'alarmist', stand tall, point to all the evidence that says climate change is a real threat, and mention that alarms are good things – they save lives.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tennessee fireman solution to denial

Climate change deniers are worse than householders who refuse to pay their annual $75 fire protection fee because not only do they not pay the fee,  they advocate strenuously that no one else should pay it either.

Fire services in Tennessee have taken to standing back and watching non-subscribers' houses burn, while ready to protect neighbours' properties. City officials hope that householders get the message and pay the fee.

Steve Zwick, here and here, says that climate change deniers should be asked to pay a penalty for advocacy that blocks and delays action to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

He's getting a lot of heat for it! From the denier commetariat of course.

In June, you can attend or follow to conferences like the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, or the Florida Summit on Sea Level Rise where responsible parties (governments, scientists, citizens) are acknowledging climate change problems and working together to mitigate and adapt. Or you can hang out at the Heartland denier conference where those who acknowledge global warming are called "murderers, tyrants and madmen".

I'm with Steve Zwick as he says –
... the ideal solution is to get our collective act together and prevent [climate change] from happening, but we need a fall-back – a mechanism that puts responsibility for damages on the shoulders of the shirkers and deniers who cause it and profit from it, and we need to build that mechanism before the damages materialize.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Serengeti Strategy

Lions hunting on the Serengeti stand at the edge of a herd and pick out a single individual, then they hunt as a group to separate the individual and bring it down.

In his book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Michael E. Mann says that climate change deniers use the same tactic. There are thousands of climate scientists working in a range of fields including meteorology, atmospheric physics, oceanography, geobiology, cryospherics, paleoclimate, geology, etc, etc. It's impossible to attack the whole herd, there are too many of them and they are too strong. So deniers have focused on a handful of scientists and thrown everything at them.

Michael Mann and James Hansen are two prominent climate scientists who have been targeted by climate change deniers in attacks ranging from political enquiries and media scorn through to death threats to their families.

Luckily for us, they don't take it lying down. They continue to conduct research and communicate their findings. Fortunately, the wider science community is beginning to recognise the Serengeti Strategy and it is gathering forces to protect individual scientists who are singled out by the denier camp.  Two of these initiatives are the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund and the Climate Science Rapid Response Team.

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund helps cover the legal costs incurred in defending mischievous legal attacks.

The Climate Science Rapid Response Team locates relevant climate science specialists to answer questions or give informed interviews. This initiative puts journalists, politicians and citizens in touch with hundreds of credible scientists who know their stuff and can give timely responses.

The Serengeti Strategy doesn't work when it is recognised for what it is and when the herd acts decisively to protect those who are singled out for attack.