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Chris Mooney: Does refuting Deniers only strengthen and empower them?

By Joe Romm on March 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm

"Chris Mooney: Does refuting Deniers only strengthen and empower them?"

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Science journalist Chris Mooney, author of the must-read Republican War on Science, has a post at Science Progress titled, “Enablers: Sometimes Refuting Unscientific Nonsense Reinforces It.” This is a provocative and timely post, given the recent tussles I’ve been having with deniers and delayers.

I’ve talked to Chris, and his occasional co-blogger, Matthew Nisbet (who has a related post here), many times. And while we are probably 95% in agreement on most things climate, I don’t quite buy their argument here:

So we’ve reached a point where we may well be wasting our energies if we continue to battle climate skeptics. Indeed, we run the risk of propping them up far more than they deserve.

For that’s the other problem with constantly rebutting anti-science forces–not only does it waste our time, but it may play right into their hands. Consider: Over at his blog Framing Science, Matthew Nisbet makes a very strong case that the rhetorical strategy of the Heartland Institute is exceedingly similar to that of the anti-evolutionist think tank the Discovery Institute. If so, it follows that the defenders of climate science ought to be at least as leery of outright engagement with Heartland as the defenders of evolutionary science are when it comes to engaging with Discovery.

The reason is that if you actually bother to rebut the Heartlands and Discoverys of the world, you instantly enter into a discourse on their own terms. The strategic framing these groups employ to attack mainstream science heavily features the rhetoric of scientific uncertainty….

The key issue is what Chris means by “battle climate skeptics.” I tend to agree it is pointless to debate them one on one, as the listening audience can hardly be expected to adjudicate scientific arguments, so it is a losing proposition, and I rarely waste my time doing it any more. And as I’ve recently blogged, I think it is also a waste of time (for me) to keep rebutting long-debunked denier talking points that someone posts in the comments of this blog.

But I do a lot of radio shows, and conservatives and libertarians (most, but not all, well-meaning people) inevitably call in, repeating old and new denier talking points. The same for lectures I give. I must rebut those points clearly and succinctly, or I will convince nobody. All progressives need to have that ability, even if they don’t give talks on the subject, but merely argue with a non-progressive friend or relative. So I feel some obligation on this blog to rebut new denier talking points — like the “Earth is cooling” crap. Indeed, that was one of the reasons this blog was created.

The other advantage of doing it on a blog is that one can build up an entire database of links about the problem and the solution, so I (and others) don’t have to keep rebutting the same points — you can just refer people to the relevant posts, either here or at the few other sites that do this.

That said, I am a big believer in strategic framing, which is why I use the word “delayer” more than “denier” [I still use the term denier occasionally, in headlines for instance, since it is better known]. Delayer or delayer-1000 focuses the debate on the need for action and makes clear that the goal of the deniers is to delay action. And that’s why I insist people who want to engage in a debate answer the question: “If you were running national and global climate policy, what level of global CO2 concentrations would be your goal and how would you achieve it?”

Because if we go to 1000 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, then all debate and uncertainty in the science disappears — the planet’s livability will be destroyed for hundreds if not thousands of years.

I do not believe the climate issue has much analogy to the evolution issue. The creationists/intelligent-designers are mainly arguing over science in the public arena primarily because they don’t want evolution taught. The stakes are very low — at best you end up with some poorly educated kids and the country falls behind in bio-tech research that someone else will do.

The deniers/delayers are mainly arguing over science in the public arena because they don’t want action on climate. The stakes are enormous. If they succeed in delaying action much longer, we will be condemning the next 10 billion people who walk the earth to untold misery and strife. The public (and hence the media) needs to get the facts on climate science and climate solutions, much more than they need to get the facts about evolution (don’t get me wrong, though — scientists need to vigorously defend evolution).

And that means everybody needs to be educated about the science. Matt writes:

In this case, just like with evolution, sometimes the best way to respond is to not focus on the science. Instead, shift the train of thought for the public. Reaffirm the overwhelming scientific agreement from US organizations such as the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and now even the Bush White House. But then quickly shift frames of reference, discussing the moral and religious duty to take action, the missed opportunity for economic growth and technological development if we don’t act now, and the public health threat to children, elderly, and the most vulnerable in our cities from increased rates of asthma, allergies, and deaths from heat stroke.

Yes, well that’s fine. But if there’s a denier or delayer or just someone who is uninformed or a member of the media present, they will inevitably grill you on the science and the latest denier talking point — after all, anyone can see how absurd it would be for government to require an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if we weren’t quite sure that failure to do so would have devastating consequences.

Put another way, I spent 15 years pushing the clean-tech opportunity story — along with the co-benefits of cleaner air, lower oil imports, new hi-tech jobs, etc — and all I can say is that nobody cares much about that stuff by itself, certainly not the media, the cognoscenti, and the powers that be in Congress. Frankly, I wouldn’t care one iota about carbon dioxide reductions if I didn’t understand how overwhelming the scientific case against inaction is.

Also, the deniers/delayers attack the solutions, too — and that must be rebutted (see here and here, for instance).”

Mooney writes on his blog about his article:

A great example occurred recently with the Heartland Institute’s climate skeptic conference in New York. Climate skepticism is totally passe–this event should have been completely ignored. Instead, many of my intellectual allies were screaming their heads off denouncing it, and thereby drawing greater attention to it.

No. Most of the media hardly covered this. And many of us only discussed the conference to dis the media for covering them or to reframe their purpose.

Indeed, the other reason one must take on the deniers nonsense is that the media continues to cover them, albeit less seriously than before (since it is obvious to just about anybody who follows this issue that they have been dead wrong and spreading disinformation for over a decade). The media ran with the “Earth is cooling” story, and that means everybody who needs to know how to rebut it

If anyone are the denier/delayer enablers (other, than, of course, the ExxonMobils and conservative think tanks and Rush Limbaughs of the world), it is the mainstream media. That’s why I do as much media criticism on this blog as denier/delayer refutation.

But Mooney and Nisbett do offer important cautionary notes to anyone who engages in this area. Always remember the debate isn’t about science minutia, it’s about whether we are are prepared to act now to ensure a livable planet for future generations.

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36 Responses to Chris Mooney: Does refuting Deniers only strengthen and empower them?

  1. Ken Levenson says:

    It is absolutely critical to correct the deniers/delayers. You may not ever change their minds but it’s most important for all the spectators. Not to make this political, but an apt analogy is the – much analyzed – Democratic resistance to taking head-on Republican talking points and the deleterious effect it’s had in the recent past of the publics’ opinion of Democratic ideas. The denial industry is too fortified, and too much is at stake for us to wait for their collapse.

    While a comparison to political parties or the creationists is useful I think what really should be examined is the perfectly parallel deny and delay tactics of the tobacco industry. And as luck would have it – as I discuss in this post
    http://checklisttowardzerocarbon.wordpress.com/2008/03/07/denier-frederick-seitz-dead-at-96/ – the tobacco industry really gave birth to the whole climate change denial “industry”.

    Bottom line – the Democrats should have very high profile congressional hearings (Senate and House jointly coordinated) on climate science and have expert testimony under oath of the deniers/delayers and make them explain themselves. Of course all the leading lights of the real climate science community must also testify – siting elbow-to-elbow with the deniers. We need high drama, theater and science to hit these lying bastards in broad daylight for all to see.

    Then we might shut a few up – but more importantly, impressionable minds will have direct access to the “real stuff”.

  2. Anna Haynes says:

    The evolutionists went through a ‘phase’ of trying to ignore the creationists. It didn’t work. The conclusion was that fighting back against the encroaching forces of ignorance was just something you had to do, on an ongoing basis – it’s the equivalent of garbage collection, and if you neglect the task, the consequences pile up.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t smarter and less smart ways of going about it, just that ignoring it isn’t wise.

    I still think it’d be good to channel it to a single website (which some org needs to fund!), where their points will be refuted ad infinitum. Anytime there’s a denialist or delayer comment, just respond with a link to the site, plus some inducement to go there that’d work, if they were honest.

    (I’ve offered to donate $50 to my community’s Hospice if one of our local denialists will meet me to engage in intellectually honest discussion of global warming. Not surprisingly, no takers…)

  3. Kristy W says:

    Joe,

    I don’t know what is larger, your arrogance or your ego. I don’t see much in your educational background relating to the earth sciences, but you spout off like you’re the Oppenheimer of climate science. You give true scientists a bad name. Einstein is probably rolling in his grave.

    And in your discussions, you continue to use the term “deniers” for those who do not happen to hold to your opinion. That is an unfortunate term with Holocaust connotations. There are outstanding persons in the scientific community with impeccable credentials that do not hold to your position, and all you do is slander them by using this derogatory term. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    I am not going to bother arguing with you because it’s pointless. AGW has become a religion to you, almost cultic in nature. You are not a scientist, you are a social scientist. There are some very respectable scientists that firmly believe in AGW and act in a professional manner, and I respect them. But you are not one of them. You belong to a segment of the AGW crowd that has some uncanny resemblances to the fascist movements of the 30’s and 40’s. A fascist movement almost always asserts that a nation faces a profound crisis. Fascists claim that the nation has entered a dangerous age of mediocrity, weakness, and decline. They are convinced that through their timely action they can save the nation from itself. Fascists may assert the need to take drastic action against a nation’s ‘inner’ enemies. Repression of the opposition is their mode of operation. Sound familiar?

    In all your discussions, you are just trying to score ego points to make up for some other area you are short on.

    Kristy

  4. Tom says:

    Fascists?
    Don’t they wear jackboots?
    Might come in handy dealing with rising water and BS.

  5. Zane Selvans says:

    The delayers and the creationists need to be dealt with, but I think there needs to be more creativity in how they are dealt with. The problem in both cases is that the people refuting them are generally scientists, and scientists generally deal in well reasoned arguments and evidence. That may work well with other scientists, but it’s a lousy way to communicate with the public.

    Marketing firms have known this for most of the last hundred years. When was the last time you saw an advertisement that was based on empirical data, or a chain of logical statements? Successful ad campaigns are good propaganda, and good propaganda can convince most people to believe something that isn’t true. We need to use it to convince people of something that IS true. It seems like it should be easier.

    But first we have to admit that what we are engaged in is not a debate, it is a propaganda war.

  6. Paul K says:

    Please do not conflate those who incorrectly read biblical scripture with those who have doubts about the application of general anthropomorphic global warming theory. Arguments over the science are irrelevant. No one should comment here without answering the prime question. What is your plan for the future?

  7. PGosselin says:

    I began reading this post, but found myself getting bored with the constant denier/delayer whiney name-calling drivel.
    If you AGW True Believers wish to get anywhere, then you’lll have to move up a couple dozen leagues above the debating level you can’t seem to get past. I find you are more effective when you put forth real substansitive arguments. SOME ADVICE:

    1. Parading each weather anomaly as a sign doom convinces no one.
    2. Name-calling says: “You beat us, and now we’re throwing a tantrum”
    It’s a sure sign of defeat, The more you do it, the more us deniers
    get a kick out of it. That is truly playing into our hands.
    3. So does the use of phoney fraudulent methodology and
    censorship. e.g. TAR, Mann curve, etc. How often do we bring that up?
    4. You have to accept what the scientific data say. If they say there’s a lot
    more to be learned, then you have to accept that. Science has nothing
    to do with favouring an ideology. It’s all about getting down to the truth.
    5. Cut tthe venom. Hate is difficult to hide.
    6. Finally, if you find that “achieving victory” is frustrating and hopeless,
    then it probably means you’re on the losing team. How about just being
    neutral.

    I would be careful about calling people like McIntyre, Singer, Lindzen,
    Ipso, Watts, Allegre, Christy, etc., etc, etc. deniers. Believe me, you look awfully stupid and partial doing so. That’s not being neutral.

    Just trying to help you all out!

  8. Ronald says:

    Joe,
    So you are just trying to score ego points to make up for some other area you are short on.

    How big a car do you drive anyway?

  9. Pangolin says:

    What delayers, deniers, creationists, flat-earthers, and the abiotic oil crew deserve is ridicule rather than arguement. They are the very same people with the same funding channels that denied the tobacco-cancer connection.

    This fool circus:

    “I would be careful about calling people like McIntyre, Singer, Lindzen,
    Ipso, Watts, Allegre, Christy, etc., etc, etc. deniers. Believe me, you look awfully stupid and partial doing so. That’s not being neutral.”

    Is not worth arguing with. No amount of evidence will ever convince them or change their basic premise because at the heart of it they’ve got “turtles all the way down.” Arguing with them about the existence of any one turtle that holds up their flat-earth world view is a futile waste of keystrokes.

    When they show up call them out as the dunces that they are and tell them to go away until they can get a body of work that passes peer review that agrees with them. That is, multiple papers where the conclusion of the paper, the author and the fully accredited peer-review committee gives a pass on a refutation of AGW.

    What they want to do is get you involved in an arguement on the lack of shine on turtle 321 that invalidates your whole arguement. The point is to demonstrate that they have any standing in the real world at all. They’re up there on the stage with the big boys.

    In particular I find reference to Anthony Watts as a truly laughable joke as he was a local TV weather-walrus and promoter of bizzare christian fundie philosophy. I’m pretty sure he read in the bible that the world is flat and has four corners and therefore “global” anything just can’t be so.

    So bug off you deniers and take your flat-earth theories and your stack of turtles with you.

  10. PGosselin says:

    @Dear Kristy,
    Don’t be too hard on Joe and similar people. I must say that Joe at least tolerates other opinions, unlike Real Censorship, errr I mean RealClimate.
    I can’t stand blogs where there’s only one collective opinion. At least democratic principles still seem to apply here, though there have been some deletions
    To me it seems AGW True Belivers haven’t learned that science is not about name-calling, spraying venom and about who can scream the loudest. IT’S ABOUT PUTTING ALL THE FACTS ON THE TABLE A LETTING THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY, WITHOUT TAKING ONE SIDE OR ANOTHER.
    Us “deniers” don’t take any side. Our side is simply refusing the alarmist, state-of-emergency side, which they are trying to drive down people’s throats.
    I myself feel very optimistic about the days ahead. As a recent poll in Britain has shown, people are getting fed up with the phoney doom and gloom spewed by Gore, and there’s a shift taking place among leading interllectuals on the subject of climate change. We’ve seen the lists of 100 scientists, 400 scientists etc. speaking out. There’s an avalanche off scientific documents coming out daily. Every day the media comes out with new reports that cast AGW into serious doubt.
    The desparate reaction (a call for Stalinist censorhip?) that we detect in these posts and Al Gore’s rants are proof of our progress.
    The saying goes: “The louder they scream, the better things are going for us”. It’s barometer of our progress.
    I think they find themselves in the position they are because they are finding out that they are on the wrong end. Nothing is harder to accept than the truth.

  11. PGosselin says:

    Yes, you want us to bug off. But we are not going to.

  12. Ronald says:

    A good short book on this subject is one by Eric Hoffer ‘The true believer.’ It goes into the motivations of the true believer, as a philosopher would comment on.

    Some of this comes down to what would the world look like if the proposition were true and what would it look like it was false.

    Someone commented to a professor of how dumb those people were before Copernicus and Galileo who thought that the Sun, moon, all the planets and all stars revolved around the earth. The professor said, yah, I wonder what they would have believed if it had looked that way.

    The point being, that’s the way things looked. Being on the earth, to the human, that was how it looked like, the Earth was at the center and everything revolved around it.

    So how would global warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being put into our atmosphere, look like?

    I think the AGW theory is true so what I write will be thru that bias. But here’s my attempt.

    The discovery and use of fossil fuels gave a great advantage to people to solve all sorts of problems that they had from transportation, heating, industrial processes and power needs. Many people make huge amounts of money from it and it has undeniable benefits.

    But the use of fossil fuels/Carbon fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and some say that the accumulation of the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will warm the planet that will have terrible consequences in the future. Others say that that is nonsense; carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases won’t do any such thing.

    That’s as much as everybody agrees with.

    To those who think that AGW is a problem, the world will pretty much look the way it is. (I have the bias that AGW is true) Scientists close to the climatology will study it. Some will give warnings years before most others recognize the problem. Billions of dollars will be spent studying it and scientific panels will over many years of study come to the conclusion that AGW is true and will be a problem in the future and for many generations.

    But other groups will also be formed by those who will lose money if fossil fuel/carbon fuel use is reduced or are against reducing fossil fuel/carbon fuel for other reasons.

    Some of these groups will come from other industries that have had public relations problems in the past such as the tobacco industries.

    Some of the people who will try to convince others that we need action will be called fascists. All fascists want action so anybody who wants action to solve a desperate problem must be a fascist.

    Some will use the variance’s in scientific data as proof that AGW can’t be true, but miss the larger amount of evidence that it is true.

    Some will argue that if you can’t convince someone of something that means it must not be true. Except they fail to see that if they can’t convince people of the reverse, then what they claim must also not be true.

    Some, because of political fears, can’t resolve it that global warming is true. They claim that anybody who thinks that AGW is a problem must want to institute a nanny state around the world.

    Some think it is all about winning and losing. The true believer doesn’t really care about what is being argued only that they have the need to believe in their cause.

    Some would form conferences that claimed to be scientific really had no scientific purpose, but was just a meeting and political organization against AGW action.

    If AGW was true, we wouldn’t expect there to be no opposition to it. Somebody is going to be against reducing fossil fuel/carbon fuels whether it’s those who benefit from it or those who are against any political organization that advocates a regulation.

    If AGW wasn’t true this is what would happen.

    We would find scientific papers published in peer reviewed scientific journals that show it not to be true.

    Support for doing something would go away.

  13. Ronald says:

    PGosselin,

    Doesn’t surprise me a bit that you’d call getting cut off at Real Climate as censorship. It’s editing. Every newspaper and other publications have to do it.

    Censorship is if the government passes a law against your publishing or somebody comes by to break up you printing press.

    You’re consistently wrong about everything.

  14. Joe says:

    Because of the nature of this post, I won’t edit the comments.

    Kristy: I am trying to make up for an area I’m short on — I’m short on patience for people who continued to ignore science and real-world observations, who, wittingly or unwittingly, want CO2 levels to reach 1000 ppm, creating misery for billions for centuries.

    In response to your claim, “I don’t see much in your educational background relating to the earth sciences,” I will point out that while an MIT physics graduate student, I studied physical oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and did my thesis on the physical oceanography of the Greenland Sea. I am not a practicing scientist (and I’m certainly no Oppenheimer), but I do understand earth science.

  15. PGosselin says:

    Ronald
    Call it what you want…censorship, editing, ignoring, space saving, intolerance – whatever. I suspect it has more to do with me being consistently in disagreement with you.

    Can someone tell me, spewing hate and intolerance, what are the 2,3 or 4 whatever arguments that convince you humans are causing, or about to cause, catastrophic global warming?

    I keep hearing it’s settled. But no one can tell me without what convincing scientific facts prove it.
    Is it Al Gore’s movie ?
    Is it consensus?
    Is it the temperature trend?

  16. Joe says:

    PG — Read the IPCC Synthesis Report and stop wasting everyone’s time! You’ll find all the scientific facts there.

  17. PGosselin says:

    No Joe!
    I want to know, from you, the few simple arguments / facts that have you so convinced. Surely the IPCC does not think for you?
    Is that too difficult for an MIT grad? Just 3 or so facts. That’s it! It’s a just a 5-point question on a test for crying out loud…

  18. Joe says:

    Climate Change is about hundreds of facts, not three.

    But this is a good summary of my view:
    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/02/27/global_warming_deniers/

    Also, if we listen to folks like you and do nothing (or even delay for another decade or so), then we end up with 1000 ppm. No way to paint that as anything other other than centuries of misery.

    I will say that when I first started following climate science closely, around the late 1980s, I didn’t think that the predictions of climate scientists would be obviously proven correct until 2010. The fact that they were several years earlier — across the board — was very persuasive to me. Back then the Deniers were insisting, much as you are now, that the warming wasn’t real, the predictions wouldn’t come true, we would soon enter a cooling phase, blah, blah, blah.

    You are just repeating the same old stuff that has been disproven. You can repeat it in a decade after we get even warmer in the Arctic is perhaps ice free. So I know that you aren’t open to the obvious facts and real-world observations in a well tested theory. So what is the point of continuing this discussion?

  19. PGosselin says:

    Before I depart,
    Ken Levenson
    That’s a good idea – but it is exactly what your name-calling side doesn’t want – AN OPEN DEBATE. There was such a debate on NPR, and ya’ll got clobbered.

    JOE:
    That’s it?
    Well you’ve shown why you are not a practicing scientist. You can’t even hang against an old off-the-shelf BSME graduate from the U of AZ. I think you’ll have to spend the rest of your life running a blog that gets an average of 5 comments for each post, and never gets mentioned in the press.
    Like Kristy, all you’re doing is turning people off.
    I tried to help you out boy…I really did.

  20. exusian says:

    PGosselin Said: “1. Parading each weather anomaly as a sign doom convinces no one.”

    Correct, but neither does parading a weather anomaly as a sign that all is well.

    “2. Name-calling says: “You beat us, and now we’re throwing a tantrum”

    Ah, so that’s why deniers use names and descriptors like warmers, tree-huggers, moonbats, etc.

    “3. So does the use of phoney fraudulent methodology and
    censorship. e.g. TAR, Mann curve, etc. How often do we bring that up?”

    As often as you make it up.

    “4. You have to accept what the scientific data say. If they say there’s a lot
    more to be learned, then you have to accept that. Science has nothing
    to do with favouring an ideology. It’s all about getting down to the truth.”

    Sound advice, you might want to take it. And if the data tells us there are some things that we know, you have to accept that.

    “5. Cut tthe venom. Hate is difficult to hide.”

    More sound advice.

    “6. Finally, if you find that “achieving victory” is frustrating and hopeless,
    then it probably means you’re on the losing team. How about just being
    neutral.”

    It’s not about victory, it’s about preventing harm in the face of clear and present danger.

  21. exusian says:

    PGosselin Said: “what are the 2,3 or 4 whatever arguments that convince you humans are causing, or about to cause, catastrophic global warming?”

    1. The known and experimentally demonstrated physics of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses
    2. The known and increasing rate at which humans are injecting CO2 into the atmosphere
    3. The known rate at which CO2 (and methane and nitrous oxides and CFCs) is accumulating in the atmosphere
    4. The falling ratio of C14 in the atmosphere, which is a clear fingerprint of adding fossil carbon
    5. The divergence of all solar proxies from the temperature record after 1980

  22. Ed Davies says:

    PGosselin:

    When the whole AGW thing started to become really prominent about a decade ago I thought it didn’t make sense because the human produced CO₂ was such a small part of the total flux into and out of the atmosphere. When it was pointed out to me that it is the total amount of CO₂ in the biosphere that matters, not just that in the atmosphere and that the rate at which it is taken out by sinking in the oceans is quite low I started to take the whole thing a lot more seriously and started to read around the subject. There were a couple of things which lead me to the conclusion that it’s a real problem.

    A. At a sort of meta-level, I found most arguments for AGW were well constructed and cited sources whereas those against tended to not make so much sense and seemed to cherry-pick the data used. Arguments against, in a few cases, were such a mixed up load of nonsense that it was clear that there really were ulterior motives involved to such an extent that people were blinded to simple logic.

    B. A basic understanding of the science:

    1. The quantity of CO₂ in the atmosphere is increasing. It is doing so at a rate reasonably commensurate with the amount humans are introducing to the biosphere (i.e., about half the CO₂ with throw up there seems to stick – something that seems fairly plausible).

    2. That CO₂ contributes to the “greenhouse” effect – something I already knew was well established.

    3. That the feedback effects would amplify the effect of the CO₂ – something that’s not intuitively obvious but which seems to be supported by the climate records. At the simple level, the quick end to the last glaciation resulting from the relatively slow changes in solar radiation are very indicative.

    4. That the temperature record of the 20th century is well understood (give or take a few tiny nit-picks which seem, to me, to have been blown out of proportion) and the only explanations of it I’ve seen are based on AGW.

    I read blogs like this for two reasons: 1) to continue to fill in gaps in my understanding and 2) to keep up with the thinking on the effects of AGW. I therefore am pleased to read arguments for and against AGW but I do get rather fed up with repeated statements which are obvious nonsense.

    There are some largish gaps in my understanding of AGW. For the moment I’m willing to take those matters on trust (see the meta-reason A, above) but I would like to ask on this blog and in other places. The problem is that the whole discussion has become so polarized that there is a risk of even simple questions being taken the wrong way. Maybe I ought to read Joe’s book, first.

  23. Tom says:

    Ed
    You should read Joe’s book. I’m half way through and it has gone a long way toward closing some of the gaps of my own understanding of the AGW problem.
    One of the things pointed out in the book is that the denier/delayer side will constantly accuse the other side of doing the very things that only they themselves are actually doing. Repeating tripe, name calling etc, etc…

  24. Dano says:

    PGosslein is just trying to spam comments. Enable your ignorage buttons, folks.

    IMHO, playing whack-a-mole with denialists is a waste of time. Better to address them by stating that “their” “arguments” were refuted long ago and move on. That’s it.

    For example: “Mr x, your arguments were refuted long ago and we’ll waste no more time on them”. If your consitution is such that you can throw in some ridicule – subtle or no, so much the better.

    Best,

    D

  25. Mike says:

    P Gosselin,
    You appear to be trying to make up for deficits in the attention paid you as a child or your ability to pay attention to more than one fact at a time. Read the G*d D*mn IPCC report… you don’t need this read to you like a bedtime story….or are you a child?

  26. Anna Haynes says:

    Question for Pangolin, who said
    > “I find reference to Anthony Watts as a truly laughable joke as he was a local TV weather-walrus and promoter of bizzare christian fundie philosophy.”

    Do you have a link for the fundamentalist philosophy part of that?

  27. Andy Bauer says:

    PGosselin, believe me, as a AGW subscriber, I’d love to hear we’re not in as much trouble as it looks like we are. You asked Joe for a few facts supporting AGW, and I believe exusian (March 20th, 2008 at 11:18 am)had a response that qualifies.

    I’d appreciate direct rebuttals to those points, with links to the peer reviewed studies that support those rebuttals.

    Thanks.

  28. Pangolin says:

    Oops. My bad, can’t find a link to support my statements that I attribute to local lore. (cough, uniiversityfaculty, cough) Please accept my revised statement.

    “I find reference to Anthony Watts as a truly laughable joke as he was a local TV weather-walrus and promoter of bizzare christian fundie philosophy.”

    Browsing his website (retch, choke) I noticed several odd things. He seems to think the size of the earth in relation to the size of sunspots has something to do with the climate. He thinks the tiny variablility in solar output may control the amount of nuts local oaks drop. Despite his claim to scientific credentials he continues to use the word “theory” when he means “hypothesis,” or even “wild ass guess.” He also has an obsession with temperature moniters near air conditioners as if the entirity of Global Warming theory rested on local temperature measurements.

    In short he’s a nutcase. He also appears to censor out any comments that disagree with him as there are none that I could find on his blog. (hint, hint)

  29. Ronald says:

    3 studies, open minded, empty headed.

    There is a difference in being open-minded and empty headed. I don’t want to spend time explaining it, but most can figure it out.

    3 subjects of scientific (and other) study.

    First)
    Hypothesis 1) Everything revolves around the earth (geocentric.)

    Hypothesis 2) Everything in solar system revolves around the sun (heliocentric)

    Second)
    Hypothesis 1) The 9/11/ 2001 attacks were aided by explosive charges put into the world trade center, into world trade center building 7 and a different smaller plane hit the pentagon, and explosive charges aided the pentagon damage instead of one of the hijacked airliners. Include all the other hypotheses from the ‘9/11 Search for Truthers.’

    Hypothesis 2) 4 airliners hijacked by people from the middle east, mostly from Saudi Arabia, flew the airliners into buildings and the ground and damage unaided by explosives set by the U.S. government.

    Third)
    Hypothesis 1) Global warming (AGW) caused by accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    Hypothesis 2) Huge mistakes and conspiracies by major scientific organizations about AGW. People who haven’t studied it much and come from political views on the subject know more than people who have spent their lives in science.

    Most can see where this is going.

    How many people have actually seen the science of First study, Hypothesis 1) and 2.) Very few. I see the sun rise in the morning, it goes across the sky and the sun sets. The sun goes around the earth. The stars go around the earth. The moon goes around the earth, just takes more time. The planets go around the earth, just wander a little and back up once in a while, but they eventually find their way and continue on their way around the earth.

    Copernicus had a hypothesis about heliocentric. Galileo had observations about Jupiter and the moons going around it, but didn’t prove heliocentric. It was left to the mathematician Kepler to prove heliocentric. But how many have studied Kepler and the math on heliocentric. I haven’t. But the scientists have.

    Now the ‘9/11 Search for Truthers’ are just weird. I’ll leave that for later.

    Now I haven’t gone thru all the AGW data, charts and information about it. But other scientists have. Heliocentric and AGW are both true using the scientific method. Each I don’t have direct data study, but other scientists in the peer review process have.

    So having an open mind and not an empty head, I have concluded that First Study, Hypothesis 2) Heliocentric is true is closer to Third Study, Hypothesis 1) AGW is true.

    Then I will say that First Study, Hypothesis 1) Geocentric, just taking things by how they look and insufficient study is like Third Study 2) Hypothesis 2) Huge mistakes and conspiracies in science on the global warming problem.

    My other conclusion is that those who continue to claim that all skeptical thought has to be open minded thought and never empty headed thought I give to a third category.

    That being the Second Study, Hypothesis 1) conspiracy of government in the 9/11 tragedy to be related to the Third Study, Hypothesis 2) Huge mistakes and conspiracies in sciences of global warming.

    So the ‘9/11 Search for Truthers’ I put into the same category as the skeptical AGW or I just call the skeptical AGWer’s as ‘Climate Search for Truthers.’ Or even shorter, ‘Climate Truthers.’

    Summary,
    Heliocentric solar system like AGW.

    Geocentric solar system like AGW huge mistake.

    ‘9/11 Search for Truthers’ like ‘Climate Search for Truther.’

    It’s Saturday night and I was out drinking. I hope it’s not all screwed up, but that’s my take on things.

  30. Steve Bloom says:

    Anna, a quick google finds this from when AW was running for re-election to the Chico school board:

    Q: “There has recently been a surge in people running for school boards in order to influence the teaching (or non-teaching) of evolution or creationism. What are your thoughts on the teaching of these two subjects in public schools?”

    A: “I have no designs on either issue, as neither is part of my platform. But I do believe in balance, and if one subject is taught, the opposing view should also get attention. Ultimately, parents should discuss religion with their children, as it is a personal choice. The debate over creationism versus evolution goes back decades, and is now part of our American History. A student needs to know that history to make an intelligent choice about how they view religion.”

    That seems clear enough.

  31. Joe says:

    Ronald — I deleted your other (unintelligible) comments as a favor to you.

  32. Paul K says:

    Ronald,
    I’ll take that you thought last night was Saturday into consideration in commenting. You ask: “How many people have actually seen the science of heliocentricism? I would think just about everybody. It is in textbooks from fifth grade to PhD. Planetariums are major tourist attractions. In the AGW study area you combine rather than distinguish between those who have a problem with the science and those who have a problem with the policy. There are overlaps, but they are separate groups with many divisions within each.

  33. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    Ed Davies said…

    “There are some largish gaps in my understanding of AGW. For the moment I’m willing to take those matters on trust (see the meta-reason A, above) but I would like to ask on this blog and in other places. The problem is that the whole discussion has become so polarized that there is a risk of even simple questions being taken the wrong way. Maybe I ought to read Joe’s book, first.”

    Ed,

    Not meaning to be jumping to conclusions about your own education and extent of scientific study, but most people will have to accept that they will always have large gaps in their understanding of climate science. There is a reason climate science is done by full-time professionals that have gotten graduate degrees in the field.

    I believe a fairly major part of the problem resulting in lack of action on climate change is that the general public expects to be personally convinced that the science is correct with each new development. Unfortunately most peoples’ concept of what that means is probably along the lines of a court of law rather than science. They feel that they must be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that humans are guilty. Without a heck of a lot of study in climate science, one would unlikely have the knowledge to make a truly valid scientific judgment. As such, the deniers seem to have an easy time sowing seeds of “doubt” and framing the public policy debate within the erroneous context that the general population is capable of making a scientific assessment between “reasonable doubt” on the one hand verse “definitive proof” on the other.

    Though annoying forum participants too recently out of high school debate club will shout “appeal to authority”, the only truly valid defense of one’s belief in AGW and current predictions of problems is to cite the very extensive body of peer reviewed research that has stood the scrutiny of the scientific community.

  34. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    Ken Levenson…

    Imagining your congressional hearing with the impressionable minds watching… what happens when the Republican members of congress repeatedly ask the question “Dr. Climatescience, you state in your paper that thusinsuch is likely… can you in fact PROVE that thusinsuch is true?” To which Dr. Climatescience would try to explain statistical analysis, confidence intervals and the nuances of science, putting said impressionable, yet attention deficitted, mind into a stupor only to be reengaged when Congressman Bloviate interrupts loudly and forces the scientist to admit that no absolute proof is available.

    Then when Mailorder-Dr. Denier is testifying, he gets pummeled with similar questions, but has the luxury of replying quite calmly and politely… “No, I’m not at all claiming that this proves AGW isn’t happening, but it does raise doubts. Even Dr. Climatescience admits that his models are incomplete. At this point we can’t PROVE the science one way or the other. That’s precisely the problem and why it would be dangerous to harm the economy until we have done more research.”

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there is going to be a smoking gun as there has been in other situations such as tobacco that totally discredit the unscientific biased side. After all, with only one earth, we don’t have any smoking gun statistics about outcomes when societies increase atmospheric CO2 faster than has ever happened naturally.

  35. Ronald says:

    Paul K,

    nah, you’ve just seen demonstations and models of what happens. You haven’t actually been in an observatory and saw the numbers of where the sun is and then the planet being observed and how relates to the planet and then to where we are on the earth.

    Models are easy, but that’s not actual science. I could put a globe of jupiter in the middle of the solar system. Would you know that jupiter wasn’t in the middle of the solar system from any actual numbers of angle and distance that you’ve taken? Or have you seen saturn in a telescope and checked out that it should really be where astronomers said it would be if the sun was at the center of the solar system?

    Models isn’t the same as a raw data of what is happening. It’s like having a statue of somebody. You might claim that that person did great things and is worthy of having a statue. that does not prove they actually did any of the good things they were supposed to have done.

    That’s the resistance of getting people to spend billions of dollars on something that is so remote from them. If people have never taken a carbon dioxide reading and really measured that it’s 385 ppm or have never actually seen an ice core of 500 thousand years ago and have
    a carbon dioxide reading taken from it.

    We would be nuts to think that someone would spend billions of dollars and have others be willing to forgo billions of dollars of lost income without some more hands on to what the science is all about.

    All we’ve got is words. (pictures and movies)

    All the science museums, schools and state fairs should amybe have a carbon dioxide meter so people can actually see the numbers. It’s to remote from their lives.

    What does the alarmist climatologist have that the indifferent reguluar person does not have? The regular person has never had a carbon dioxide meter in their hands. The regular person has never seen a core sample up close. A regular person has never been to a climate conference. A regular person has never seen the discussion on what wording should be used to be more effective in writing a paper.

    And then billions of dollars should be spent and billions of dollars of potentical income given up from something that they have not even had the measuring device of in their hands?