Category Archives: deniers

IPCC releases early drafts of reports to counter deniers: will it work?

nitpicking

For those that deny climate change, the work of the IPCC is not merely anathema, but subject to a relentless campaign to discredit it in the eyes of the public.

The sceptic community has made a small industry out of picking over every line of IPCC reports in order to find errors. In their mind a typographical error incorrectly cited article falsifies decades of science.

As the Irish Times reports, it now seems the IPCC is trying to get the jump on sceptics by publishing early drafts and written comments:

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has taken the unprecedented step of publishing earlier drafts of its latest report on global warming and all 54,677 written contributions by expert and government reviewers.

This is seen as a co-ordinated effort by the IPCC to bolster its own credibility and disarm climate change deniers in the wake of controversies over such “mistakes” as a poorly grounded forecast that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.

The report, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, was published last September. It confirmed that warming was “unequivocal”; human influence on the climate system was “clear”; and huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were needed.

The full report, released yesterday as part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment of climate change, runs to more than 1,500 pages, includes 600 diagrams and cites in excess of 9,000 scientific publications since the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment in 2007.

The full report is here:

Will it satisfy the sceptics?

Obviously even the most compelling evidence won’t convince the sceptics.

But personally, I think the move to greater transparency is a good thing. Especially when it comes to assuring the public the process is open and mistakes can and will be fixed early.

Lord Stern’s broadside: climate sceptics “irrational” and distort our understanding of risk

Stern

Fiona Harvey of The Guardian interviews Nicholas Stern (of the Stern Report fame):

Lord Nicolas Stern told the Guardian: “It is astonishing, irrational and unscientific to suggest the risks are small. How can they say they know the risks are small? The clear conclusion from 200 years of climate science and observations show a strong association between carbon dioxide rises and global surface temperature.

He added: “The science is unequivocal and shows there is serious danger. What is coming from [sceptics] is just noise, and should be treated as noise.”

He said some sceptics were in the pay of hostile industries, with a vested interest in contradicting the science, and were being “deliberately naive” in claiming the world could wait decades to deal with rising emissions.

“It (the sceptic response) looks very well-organised,” he said. “They are deliberately distorting the way we understand risk.”

Stern also correctly points out climate change is a risk management issue:

Stern said: “There is the danger of an abrupt change in the whole [climate] mechanism. We need to approach the issue as one of risk management.”

Here here!

WUWT attacks WtD: I learn the only thing to fear from the sceptics is your own fear

Holding the line against the sceptic army

An interesting day in this small, and for some obscure front of the climate change war.

As some readers may have noticed, Mr. Watts of the sceptical blog Watts up with that? and I have been engaged in some friendly debate over the nature of sea-ice graphs.

I believe the matter to be resolved on my part, having replied to Mr. Watts requests.

However I do earnestly hope Mr. Watts responds to my suggestion and ensure his blog presents data in a manner not to confuse the public. A reasonable request one would think.

The experience of being in the sceptic cross-hairs

It was fascinating being the recipient of the full weight of the denial machine for an afternoon. 

How was it  you may ask? Stressful? Hardly.

It was is interesting to see the empty bluster, cheap bravado and vile insults pour into the comments section of WtD (still are by the way).

In fairness, I will note most comments were polite and simply stated their views. I have no issue with that, so my thanks to those who acted with respect. We disagree about the science, but at least you have been respectful. Many of those I’m allowing.

But I was left with a strong impression, and not the one Mr. Watts or others may have intended.

The only thing to fear from the sceptics is our own fear. 

“These are the dreaded climate sceptics, who like He-Who-Cannot-Named we’ve ascribed almost mythical powers and influence?” I thought to myself.

These are the people who so terrified and cowed some in the science community?

How disappointing; how underwhelming.

That the worst I did was make a throw away line in jest, and then saw thousands descend upon my blog with vile and enmity…

And what was their intent?

To force me to stop writing? To shed a tear? Did they force such things?

Hardly.

Longtime readers know I’ve always drawn from the lessons of history, and rightly or wrongly draw analogies with past and present events.

As the day passed an image formed in my mind – that of the 93rd Highland Regiment at the Battle of Balaclava (1854). Between their own rearguard and camp they stood in a ragged line, forcing back thousands of Russian cavalry.

From a distance they looked like a thin red line, standing against enormous odds. 

For me, today was about being that thin red line. 

Not that hard really.

What I learned today, and what you should learn from this

Lesson the first – the only thing to fear from the sceptics, is your own fear.

Lesson the second – don’t stop.

That is all, now carry on.

[Note: thanks John B for helping me hold the line as well]

A note on who tipped off Mr. Watts

Finally, some house keeping.

The WUWT post has been useful in showing me Mr. Watts source:

Erric Worrall writes:

An Australian alarmist blog, Watching The Deniers, has just accused Anthony Watts of photoshopping one of the Sea Ice Graphs.

Eric, I was about to email you this week and release you from the temporary ban.

It was never intended to be permanent, and I believe I treated you with respect. I also gave you enormous latitude when you posted here – to the extent other readers expressed frustration with me.

You were given three chances to modify your behavior, which you ignored. The rules of engagement were clear, and plenty of warning was given.

In light of today (and the great latitude I once gave you) your ban will be extended another three months. Such are the consequences of your actions. We all make choices Eric. And we must live with them.

Actually, that is light punishment considering your actions. But fortunately for you I’m made of stern stuff and remain unfazed by today’s events.

I’m also grateful for the small bump in traffic Mr.Watts links afforded me.

That is all, now carry on.

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Angry badgers: trolls, sceptics and distracting voices in the climate discussion

angry_badger

A lot of energy has been spent by myself and others on comments made by sceptics – both here and across the internet.

There are four things we should remember, established scientific facts beyond dispute: 

  • CO2 is a heat trapping molecule
  • We are emitting CO2 and other Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through our activities
  • This is influencing the planet’s climate system
  • The scientific consensus on this is near universal – 97%

Understanding the science of climate change is about being an informed citizen. The deniers want to deprive you of the right to be informed about an issue of fundamental importance to our civilisation.

Merchants of FUD and their motivations

Skeptics employ a tactic called FUD.

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

Create enough doubt about the science (so it is hoped) and action on climate change will be stalled long enough. Some want to do this for ideological reasons; others because they have a vested interest. Some trolls enjoy being contrary and love the attention.

Here is the thing. You will never know their motivations. But that does not matter.

What matters is your response, to engage or not.

What is happening here mimics the broader climate debate: a tiny minority disturbs the majority

I like to think I’ve gained some experience in the debate having run this blog for three years now.

Form what I see, perhaps 1-5% of the readers of this blog are sceptics. And yet those threads go on for hundreds of posts, consume the energy of many people and confuse, enrage and disrupt the tone of discussion.

This is symptomatic of the broader climate debate, where a tiny minority is distracting the majority.

When you find yourself dealing with troll behavior remember the cardinal rule of the internet “DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.”

Provide counter information, but remember you’ll never convince them. I’ve been a great deal of thought to this issue, especially as it pertains to WtD.

While I don’t believe in silencing dissenting voices (no matter how unpopular) I will be applying the WtD community guidelines with greater rigorAll posters, regardless of their views should take note.

Angry badgers and the Nasty Effect: how online discussions are derailed

Recent research has shown how the comments section of an article can influence the average readers perception:

“In a recent study, a team of researchers from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and several other institutions employed a survey of 1,183 Americans to get at the negative consequences of vituperative online comments for the public understanding of science. Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology (which is already all around us and supports a $91 billion US industry). The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were “civil”—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.”

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it wasn’t a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience: Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.”

See the study here, The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies:

“Uncivil discourse is a growing concern in American rhetoric, and this trend has expanded beyond traditional media to online sources, such as audience comments. Using an experiment given to a sample representative of the U.S. population, we examine the effects online incivility on perceptions toward a particular issue—namely, an emerging technology, nanotechnology. We found that exposure to uncivil blog comments can polarize risk perceptions of nanotechnology along the lines of religiosity and issue support.”

Angry Badgers: a denier tactic

While many of you are familiar with the tactics of think tanks, I thought it worth drawing attention to a recently uncovered Heartland Institute propaganda initiative.

Called “Operation Angry Badger” it was designed to derail a debate in the US over collective bargaining in the education sector:

A Chicago-based free-market think tank has prepared a strategy to sway the recall debate in Wisconsin, including detailing “the shortcomings of public schools,” according to leaked documents that appeared this week on the Internet.

“Operation Angry Badger” purportedly describes a Heartland Institute proposal that would cost about $612,000 and focus on promoting Wisconsin Act 10, which curtailed collective bargaining for most public-sector workers.

Heartland is one of the foremost think tanks behind the campaign to deny the science. The above is SOP, or standard-operating-procedure.

The Angry Badger tactic is one that seeks to inject distracting facts into a conversation.

Picture it this…

Imagine you are having an amazing discussion with someone.

Suddenly, a stranger walks up and shouts “Oh my god look over there an angry badger!!!!!!”

You’re distracted, and stop talking. The flow of the conversation is broken. You have to start all over again, missing some points.

This is exactly what trolls and sceptics want to do. Distract the flow of conversation with a dramatic, yet irrelevant fact (the Angry Badger).

What matters is your response.

Desperately seeking paradigm shifts: sceptics looking for new ways to attack consensus

Lu_paper

Paradigm shift, really?

Anti-science movements evolve: new sceptic lines of attack

The recent paper by John Cook et.al. clearly showing 97% consensus among scientists that the globe has warmed in response to human activities over the last 150 years seems to have rattled large parts of the sceptic movement.

And while they have been bitterly complaining about the paper, their criticisms have failed to spill over into the mainstream media. Their counter arguments remain firmly lodged within the alternative knowledge sphere they have constructed for themselves.

Failing to gain any real traction in undermining the Cook paper, their tactics are now shifting.

The new line of attack is to undermine the idea that a scientific consensus is stable. Drawing on popular notions of the lone scientific genius (aka The Galileo Gambit) and the history of science, they are beginning to stress the instability of scientific consensus.

How effective that is remains to be seen. It may not be enough to dissuade the public from their growing appreciation a scientific consensus exists, but they’re going to give it a good try.

The hullabaloo over Lu

This may explain why of late sceptics and papers such as The Australian have latched onto the deeply flawed paper by Qin Bin Lu claiming CFCs are to blame for global warming, not CO2. Their strategy is simple:

  • Claim the Lu paper has overturned the 97% consensus
  • Suggest that even if the Lu paper has not overturned the 97% consensus, then consensus can be changed at a moments notice
  • Therefore it would be foolish to act on climate change given these scientific uncertainties.

Whether they continue to champion Lu’s paper or not is besides the point. The tactic is designed to achieve two outcomes. Firstly, continue to undermine the public’s understanding a consensus exists. Secondly, undermine the idea of a stable and enduring consensus on any issue.

This in fact may be even more dangerous than previous lines of attack if one considers the implications of such thinking.

If the public understands there is consensus, they’re more ready to accept the science

While the public has mistakenly thought a debate between scientists has existed this is starting to change. That their attitudes can shift matters.

A study published last year in Nature Climate Change demonstrated that if informed a scientific consensus exists, the average member of the public is more likely to accept the science of climate change:

Although most experts agree that CO2 emissions are causing anthropogenic global warming (AGW), public concern has been declining. One reason for this decline is the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest: in particular, it is unknown whether consensus determines people’s beliefs causally. It is also unclear whether perception of consensus can override people’s ‘worldviews’, which are known to foster rejection of AGW. Study 1 shows that acceptance of several scientific propositions—from HIV/AIDS to AGW—is captured by a common factor that is correlated with another factor that captures perceived scientific consensus. Study 2 reveals a causal role of perceived consensus by showing that acceptance of AGW increases when consensus is highlighted. Consensus information also neutralizes the effect of worldview.

Such acceptance cuts across the left-right political spectrum. For obvious reasons, the very idea of a consensus is considered anathema to the sceptics.

But if the average person can be primed to accept the science in response to understanding a consensus exists, what lines of attack can we expect from the sceptics?

Enter Lu and the idea of consensus being inherently unstable.

The would-be paradigm shifter: Lu at Waterloo

For those unfamiliar with this weeks drama in climate science, Qing Bin Lu at the University of Waterloo (NZ) claims to have overturned the scientific consensus on global warming.

It is CFCs, not CO2 to blame. As noted, this theory has long been discredited.

Lu’s paper has been championed by The Australian, other sections of the conservative press and politicians as evidence the scientific paradigm on global warming has been “overturned”.

His claims have been examined and dismissed numerous times, yet Lu persists promoting his discredited theory [for good commentary see Eli Rabett here and here].

I suspect it’s revival and championing by sceptics has something do with the success of the Cook et.al paper and shifting public attitudes. 

Luntz Mark II: desperate attempts to keep the debate going

For those with long memories or an appreciation of the history of the climate debate, maintaining public confusion was one of the central strategies suggested in the notorious Frank Luntz memo.

Luntz, a Republican operative during the Bush years suggested Republican politicians push the idea the scientific debate remained open. In 2002 Frank Luntz instructed Republican politicians to question the scientific consensus:

Luntz

Thus, if the public comes to understand there is a 97% consensus, their views on global warming and the policy options available to them will change. Right? We crack what is the hardest nut in the debate. 

But the merchants of doubt have a new product. With the Lu paper they are attacking the idea of a stable scientific consensus. They are tweaking their long running strategy of claiming scientific issues (not merely the consensus) remains open

It is Luntz Mark II.

Consensus: a stable ground for policy formation, or not?

The climate debate in the public sphere is not about the science: it is about policy formation.

Policies designed to mitigate climate change have been effectively stalled for decades in large parts of the world at the global level.

The sceptic position, unlike that of the IPCC or scientists is not policy neutral. In fact, sceptics and their backers are specific on policy: keep taxes on industry low, constrain or dilute environmental regulations and ensure markets remain “free”.

But if the public, and by extension politicians, accept the consensus then movement within the policy arena shifts from inaction to action.

So what are the sceptics doing in response to this perceived shift in opinion?

Shifting the debate from being about the percentages of scientists accepting a theory to that of a consensus position being insufficiently stable to form the basis of policy formulation. 

It is well-known scientific uncertainty is a problem within the policy making sphere. One just has to look at how delayed the social response and regulation over the risks of tobacco smoking significantly lagged the scientific consensus.

Thus the sceptics are re-formulating their line of attack to influence both public perception and the policy sphere with this new wedge strategy.

Lone-genius-scientific-paradigm-busting-superstar: re-framing the question of scientific uncertainty and consensus 

Rather than suggesting the scientists are at odds over the science, they’ve taken it a step further. They are now re-framing the question of how stable a scientific consensus can ever be

It is the Galileo Gambit, the idea that all it takes is one individual (or one paper) to radically transform our understanding of the world.

Lu is this weeks would-be climate sceptic Galileo. Next week, next month it will be some other obscure scientist with an equally improbable hypothesis.

They’re looking for someone – anyone – to shift the scientific paradigm. Because if the paradigm “shifts’ (or has the possibility of shifting) then climate change is “not real”. Then the sceptics can continue to argue the debate is not over.

This new line of attack needs to be given consideration.

Anti-science movements don’t fade away they evolve: the long debate has barely begun

The_cow_pock

The vaccine debate is 200 years old

I appreciate not everyone will find the following prognosis cheery, but I think there is some validity to it.

Anti-science movements never truly fade away, their popularity ebbs and flows. Their arguments and tactics evolve and adapt.

They are long-lasting, multi-generational movements that sometimes fade into obscurity (as far as official keepers of knowledge are concerned) and re-emerge in periods of crisis.

Take vaccination as but one example.

The above cartoon by James Gillray from 1802 captures the fear that inoculation against cowpox would lead to cow like appendages sprouting from a person’s body. Indeed, it was produced for the anti-vaccination movement of the day.

Two centuries later, despite the obvious benefits and success of mass vaccination, serious doubt has crept into the public’s consciousness. We are now seeing a resurgence of diseases such as measles and whooping-cough once thought under control. As fewer people vaccinate their children, herd immunity decreases and we’re faced with resurgent pathogens. Children die.

Let us consider another example.

The Creationist movement of the 1920s started out with a very primitive set of arguments against evolution derived from criticisms stemming from the mid-to-late 19th century opposition to Darwin. The Scopes Monkey trial of the 1920s saw them suffer a setback.

The movement was dormant for several decades, as it faded into the background, a tenant of a variety of Evangelical churches in the United States. But slowly in the 1950s it began to re-emerge. In the 1970s advocates renamed Creationism “Creation Science” and gained success in promoting it as an alternative theory to the Evolutionary consensus.

Suffering a number of setbacks in a series of court tussles, creationists again reformulated the basic tenants of creationism and labelled it Intelligent Design.

The climate sceptic movement is no different. They will adapt and reformulate their lines of attack.

This broad trend needs to be given consideration.

 

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Denying, not waving: image of the day and the fate of island nations

A wonderful cartoon from yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Source: Fairfax Media

Source: Fairfax Media

Even more important, an article highlighting the plight of small island nations:

The delegation of parliamentarians from four tropical Pacific Islands nations braved the Canberra cold last week, and that wasn’t the only climate shock they suffered. 

They watched the impressive intellectual exchange of question time in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and then moved on. But almost as soon as they left, Parliament started to debate a motion on whether the science of man-made climate change was real. This came as a bit of a jolt to the legislator visiting from Kiribati, a country of about 100,000 people on 33 small, low-lying islands strung along 5000 kilometres of the equator. 

“Climate change is real in our places,” Rimeta Beniamina, a government MP and vice-chairman of his parliament’s climate change committee, told me, expressing surprise at what was going on in the chamber a few metres away. 

“A few years ago it was not taken very seriously. But now quite a few villages are experiencing hardship. Beaches are eroding, houses are falling down, crops are damaged and livelihoods are destroyed. 

“The intrusion of salt water is very evident. The sea level may be rising millimetres a year, but it is still rising. The strong winds and rising tides are the worst part. Once the salt water enters the land, that’s it. Trees are falling along the coast, crops dying, pigs and chickens are affected.” 

A US study published at the weekend in the journal Nature Geoscience found the global sea level had risen by 16.8 millimetres between 2005 and 2011. 

Clark Wilson, a co-author of the study and geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, says: “There was an increase in the melting rate in Greenland starting in 2005 and that is probably the underlying story why,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The academic study was funded by NASA and the US National Science Foundation. 

The rising seas are whipped up by increasingly severe El Nino weather cycles, damaging the coastlines of countries including Kiribati, pronounced kee-ree-bas. 

“Some communities have been forced to move backward from the coast,” Beniamina says. “The problem is, there is not much land to move back to.” 

People are jamming into the overcrowded main island, Tarawa. Its centre has a population density estimated at three times that of Tokyo, says an April report by Australian journalist Bernard Lagan in the Global Mail. Fresh water supplies are at risk and there is not enough land to bury the dead. 

Kiribati President Anote Tong has declared a policy of orderly evacuation that he calls “migration with dignity”. The nation is a proverbial canary in the carbon emission coal mine, and the prognosis is unhappy.  

 

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News Ltd kicking more sand in the public’s face: just why are Murdoch’s papers recycling the old “CFCs not CO2″ zombie climate myth?

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, which controls 70% of the Australian print media, are without doubt doing the Australian public a great disservice with their constant stream of climate disinformation.

It is not enough for News Limited to shape the narrative as “believers versus sceptics”, thus creating a sense of false balance. They take it a step further by willfully distorting the public’s perception about the causes of climate change while simultaneously undermining their trust in the scientific community.

Recent evidence of this can be seen across News Limited publications and websites these past two days.

Nearly every organ of Murdoch’s Australian media empire has been actively pushing the discredited theory that CFCs are to blame for warming (not CO2). Here is the audit trail:

  • The story first appeared in The Australian by Graham Lloyd on Monday 3 June (see here)
  • It then made it onto Andrew Bolt’s blog on 7:27pm the same day (see here)
  • A reference was made on Piers Ackerman’s blog on 4 June at 12:45 am (see at the end of the article)
  • Reference to it was published in the Cut and Paste section of The Australian today.

Note how the same message is weaved into different articles across multiple platforms?

Clearly the intent is to hit the broadest number of readers across all demographics: from the tabloid pages of the Herald Sun to the faux-paper-of-note pretensions of The Australian aimed at a more “elite” audience. Note they all appear within a day of each other.

Note also that in last night’s Q&A program, Senator Cory Bernardi referenced this News Limited generated fiction.

Cause and effect clearly demonstrated on national television.

Based on the uniformity of the message, tone and content it is clear the voice of the independent journalist is irrelevant at News Limited.

What matters is the message and broadcasting it on all frequencies to a mass audience. The resurrection of the “CFCs not CO2″ myth is but a single example of propagating misinformation over a broad spectrum (News Limited papers and web platforms).

And the message is simple.

Climate change isn’t happening, don’t trust the scientists.

I’m not going to address the science, but simply direct readers to the refutation at Climate Science Watch. I also note Crikey have picked up on the errors contained in Graham Lloyd’s article as well (pay wall sorry).

However, upon reflection something has been missing in both my comments and Crikey’s analysis.

And it is not about focussing on the minutia of the debate, which this whole episode is merely another tedious example.

It’s time to consider the bigger picture.

The desperate last phases of the climate debate: throwing sand in our faces

When somebody is losing a fight, and they feel the tide of victory flowing against them they’ll resort to increasingly desperate tactics.

Consider the final moment of many films where the hero and villain square off to fight. Shots, punches and kicks are exchanged as the fortunes of both protagonists ebb and flow.

But there comes a moment when both protagonists and the audience recognise the villain is in the throes of their final and inevitable defeat.

What does the villain do?

They grab a handful of sand or dirt and throw it into the face of their opponent.

It’s a sign of desperation, a feint intended to stem defeat by distracting and irritating their opponent. Sometimes it works, but generally it signals they have nothing left to fight with but dirty tricks. The message to the audience is clear: “They are deceitful, even in their last moments”.

It’s a trope used countless times. In fact, my daughter’s favourite film The Lion King contains it. In the final confrontation between Scar, who has usurped the throne and Simba (the rightful heir to the title of Lion King) the villain scatters burning ash in latter’s eyes in a final act of defiance.

Which is exactly what News Limited is doing, they are throwing sand in the face of the public and scientists in desperation.

Welcome to this new phase in the climate debate.

In raising long discredited “zombie” climate myths News Limited is reaching for sand to throw in all our eyes.

One can see why this would be the case. Public acceptance of the science is overwhelming; most accept humanity has changed the planet. Did we forget to mention 97% of climate scientists accept the science?

Everyone but the climate sceptics recognise their increasing irrelevance and what is clearly the death throes of their movement.

But they have one more trick to play, one last desperate gamble…

They’re clutching for a handful of sand to cast into the faces of their opponents.

Lose the debate and lose the kingdom: for Murdoch the climate debate is about one thing, can you guess?

For the owner of News Limited and his army of minions the trajectory of public opinion must be troubling. So they are throwing everything at it.

Misinformation and zombie climate myths are their sand. But why? That is a question worth asking.

Murdoch is desperate to continue setting the political and social agenda within Australia and the English-speaking world. News Corporation is the agency of his will; they are his legions of flying monkeys.

Here is something we may not have considered in speculating over News Limited’s role in the climate debate.

Why is it that Fox News, The Australian, The Wall Street Journal and all other organs of the Murdoch empire are unanimous in their contempt for the science? Consider this…

The climate debate, from Murdoch’s perspective, is as much about forestalling action as it is about Rupert Murdoch.

It is about Murdoch’s king making and opinion making abilities. It’s about his power. It is about how much he has, and how effectively he can wield it.

It is about how media power shapes the conversations we have in political debates, around the proverbial water cooler and over the BBQ on a Sunday afternoon.

How much does it say about the power of Murdoch and News Limited (which fervently believes it can shape the tone of all political conversation within our nation) that it can no longer control the debate or public perception on climate?

What does it mean when public opinion slips from the control of the opinion makers?

Lose the ability to shape the debate, and you lose the kingdom.

All empires are fictions and all power is perceived.

This is especially the case today with the internet reshaping the media, rendering the traditional gatekeepers less relevant than they once were.

A king-maker who has built his empire on public perception, mass entertainment and sports broadcasting understands this intuitively.

From the Tampa Affair, the denial of the Stolen Generations and the climate debate, Murdoch has sought to shape our nation and values for decades.

Does it come as a surprise that public respect for the media in Australia is at all-time low? This is not a coincidence, nor some chance correlation.

News Limited’s reporting on climate change is at odds with people’s everyday experiences of a changing planet. Should you believe Andrew Bolt or the evidence of your home burning to the ground over Australia’s “Angry Summer”?

Remember how the Carbon Tax was going to be the ruin of us all?

The disconnect between what News Limited wants the public to believe, and what the public experiences is growing further apart. A crisis of credibility is engulfing News Limited, and they’ve failed to recognise it.

And their response to this growing disconnect?

The recycling of this old zombie climate myth (CFCs not CO2), a desperate attempt to throw sand in our faces. The whole CFC meme of the past few days is merely to distract the public with an irrelevant fact, while also enraging activists and scientists with its stupidity.

It is as if Murdoch has thrown sand in our eyes and is screaming in our faces: “See, see! I still set the agenda!”

How much time and energy will we expand on countering the “CFC not CO2″ zombie myth one more time?

Stop focussing on the sand in your eyes, irritating as that may be.

Look at who is throwing the sand.

Advice to the scientific community: well, not that “you” asked

At the heart of scientific practice is error reduction: detecting, and correcting errors. Both your own and that of your peers. It is a valid means to ensure research results support theories; that theories reflect the actual state of the world.

However, in the climate debate a focus on error reduction – for example correcting people or journalists on the “CFCs not CO2″ issue – is counter productive.

We will forever be chasing down errors, and attempting to correct people’s misconceptions. It is a rabbit hole we have spent too much time dwelling  in – chasing down a misconception here and another piece of disinformation there.

We are Red Queens, forever running as fast as we can in a vain attempt to merely stay in the same place.

Yes, we can catch one error and force a correction printed in the pages of The Australian. We can get the Australian Press Council to issue a statement against the likes of Andrew Bolt. But in that time, ten thousand errors have flown from the pages and blogs of News Limited.

We catch an error and declare it victory. Time to consider the bigger picture.

Think of the climate debate like this…

Until recently we thought the universe was the solar system with the Earth at its centre. Then we thought the universe was no more than our home galaxy, The Milky Way.

Our perception was stunted, limited to the local.

Then Hubble took his famous images of red shifted objects…

… and the Universe exploded into view, revealing its immensity and majesty. Our view of the universe and ourselves was profoundly changed.

We need to think about the climate debate in this manner: broader, deeper and more sophisticated.

No more error correction please: turn your big brains to more profound questions.

Back to Murdoch, the King Lear of the Anthropocene.

The King Lear of our time: Murdoch

To return to the film The Lion King (no really!) you may be surprised to learn it is loosely based upon Hamlet. Shakespeare’s tale is a cautionary one about those who usurp thrones and marriage beds, and the tragic consequences of those actions.

But I’m reminded of another of Shakespeare’s plays when I consider Murdoch and his need to control the climate debate in our politics and in our private conversations.

King Lear, the dying king who divides his kingdom among his ambitious children. It is a decision that begins a chain reaction of events ending in ruin.

Murdoch is that monarch whose time is coming to an end; he is the king who divides the state among his children. Like Lear, it is his selfish, ego driven decisions that precipitates the ruin of all.

King Murdoch – the Lear of the early twenty-first century – would rather let our planet burn then admit he no longer sets the agenda on the climate debate, nor countenance being wrong.

Rub the sand from your eyes, ask why it has been thrown.

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[A few errors in first draft got through, fixed]

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Graham Lloyd you’ve done it again! Every article requires a mandatory correction

Pretty much anything written by Lloyd on climate needs a correction

As I’ve noted recently, The Australian’s Environment Editor Graham Lloyd has a habit of misrepresenting the work of scientists. He has also shown a fondness for citing the work of cranks.

A few months back he cited  material from  Principa Scientific International. This crank outfit is so extreme that even Christopher Monckton has distanced himself from them. And yet Lloyd believes they are a source of information worthy of a national daily.

Earlier this year The Australian was forced to issue an embarrassing correction after claiming sea level rise was not linked to warming - which it is.

Lloyd shamelessly cherry picks quotes, as this example clearly shows.

So desperate is Lloyd’s attempts to cast doubt on the science, he is now scraping the bottom of the barrel by citing junk “research” in his latest article:

The peer-reviewed research by Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry at Waterloo University, was published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B.

The findings of Professor Lu’s paper – Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules: Culprits for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change – are at odds with the consensus view that climate change is driven by increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Waterloo University said Professor Lu’s research provided “new fundamental understanding of the ozone hole and global climate change”. Critics said it might be “nothing more than coincidental correlation”, but it warranted further study. 

Chlorofluorocarbons are known to deplete ozone, but conventional thinking is the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide had mainly contributed to global warming.

The claim that CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are the real culprit behind global warming is a tired, old debunked sceptic myth

The journal, International Journal of Modern Physics B is pretty fringe. Climate Science Watch has already addressed Lu’s paper and notes how he recycles discredited claims.

Still, let’s ponder the implication’s of Lu’s claims. If Lu is correct he has just overturned the scientific paradigm and worthy of a Nobel Prize.

That, or he is a crank with an obsession to prove a discredited theory.

How sad and tawdry.

The Australian has become so partisan on the issue they’re willing to give voice to even the silliest claims.

It seems Lloyd has decided facts and journalistic ethics are for those with a sentimental attachment to reality. 

How sad.

How tawdry.

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Debunking the myths of the anti-Fluoridation movement: spread the word

Tim over at New Anthropocene has put together a list of the more common myths pushed by the anti-fluoridation movement.

Like me, Tim is a keen advocate for good science. If you don’t know his blog, check it out. He has been doing some remarkable work on the anti-fluoridation movement in Australia.

It is a terrific resource that needs to be shared more widely. It is stunning just how familiar all these arguments are.

From creationists, to climate sceptics and those that doubt the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine, there is a common thread linking them - the use of cherry picked facts, anecdotal evidence and confusion over basic science.

This one is my favorite as it is very familiar: Anecdotal evidence is UNSUBSTANTIATED evidence against fluoridated water

Typically the individual states that they (or someone who they know) experienced some symptoms when they were exposed to fluoride and were able to test this but eliminating fluoride exposure to “prove” the case. 

Merilyn Haines, President of the Queenslanders for Safe Water, Food and Air inc. provides anecdotal evidence to support her claims regarding fluoridation of drinking water with the case of her sister moving to Townsville. Her claim hinges on a complete disregard for potential co-founders that could arise from the 800 km move to a different city and the fact that her sister had clearly been exposed to fluoride over her entire life through toothpaste and foods without experiencing symptoms. 

Anecdotal evidence is the crux of the claims for many positions, such as anti-vaccination, whereby the MMR vaccine is supposed to cause autism, anti-wind farm, whereby exposure to wind farms has supposedly caused everything from irritability and low libido, to herpes, cataracts and accelerated aging! 

With fluoridated drinking water, Lamberg et al (1997) looked at the symptoms people stated they experienced due to exposure while they were exposed to fluoridated water and after fluoridation stopped (with the subjects unaware of this). The rates of symptoms did not significantly change until after the expected end of fluoridation, not with the actual event itself, leading the researchers to conclude that the supposed symptoms were psychologically based and not related to actual exposure to fluoridated water. 

Anecdotal evidence for this reason is not sufficient and when others rely on it as evidence, the alarm bells should ring.

 

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Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: Plimer’s book sold 40k copies, ergo climate change not true (part 4 of 11)

200px-DaVinciCode

More convincing then Plimer’s Heaven+Earth (if you go by sales)

[Part 4 of 11]

Summary of Bolt’s argument: Climate sceptic Ian Plimer sold lots of copies of his book Heaven+Earth. Ergo climate change is not real.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt commits a classic logical fallacy – the argument from popularity. If truth was based solely on the sales of a book, then the Da Vinci code must be extra true for selling 80 million copies.

Logical fallacies present: Argumentum ad populum (x1)

I’m going to jump ahead to Andrew’s 10th sign as it is the easiest to dispel – and perhaps the most farcical.

Bolt’s claim: “That wall is now breaking. Dissent is being heard, with Professor Ian Plimer’s sceptical Heaven and Earth alone selling more than 40,000 copies here. Yes, the world may start warming again. Yes, our emissions may be partly to blame. But, no, this great scare is unforgivable. It’s robbed us of cash and, worse, our reason. Thank God for the 10 signs that this madness is over.”

Response: We can easily dispatch Bolt’s last claim as an example of a logical fallacy: argumentum ad populum. To translate form the Latin, “appeal to the people”.

By claiming the popularity of a belief Andrew argues it must be true.

Dan Brown’s conspiracy tome the Da Vinci Code sold 80 million copies and was made into a film. Compared to Plimer’s paltry sales of 40,000 the Da Vinci Code must be extra, extra-true. After all, how could 80 million Dan Brown fans be wrong?

Putting aside Andrew’s argument it is worth noting that Plimer’s book is riddled with errors. Scientists who have reviewed it have dismissed it as case study in “how not to be objective”.

Ian Enting, a mathematical physicist from the University of Melbourne reviewed Plimer’s book and found over 100 errors.

In a review published in The Australian, astrophysicist Michael Ashely stated Heaven+Earth contained “no science” and noted Plimer drew upon some ludicrous examples of pseudo-science:

Plimer probably didn’t expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn’t help noticing on page 120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.

It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Selling 40,000 copies of Heaven+Earth must make Plimer’s claim about the sun true.

One million people visit Andrew Bolt’s blog: that makes everything Bolt says true. 

Justin Bieber has sold over 15 million albums: this makes him the greatest artist in the history of the world.

I mean, who can argue with 15 million Bieber fans?

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