Category Archives: Disinformation

Down the memory hole: Heartland disappears fake claim about Chinese Academy of Science

HI_memory_hole

Remember the claim by Heartland Institute about the Chinese Academy of Science’s turning to climate scepticism?

Sceptics across the world crowed this development as an important turning point. Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart breathlessly reported the claim on Breitbart.com:

Lakely said that this could mark the turning point in the climate change debate, and that a global consensus was beginning to form against regulation of emissions. “The latest observable climate data, new studies from scientific academies around the globe, the peer-reviewed studies one can find in Climate Change Reconsidered, and its translation and publication by the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences is making life difficult for those who declare with certainty that man is causing catastrophic global warming,” he explained. “That’s the way it should be. No scientific discipline is ever ‘settled’ — especially a discipline as young, as complicated, and as diffuse as climate science. The Heartland Institute is proud to support and promote the pursuit of the classic scientific method that follows the data and continually asks questions about what is happening to the climate of our planet.

In case people try to claim it was all a simple misunderstanding, let’s have a look at how climate sceptics tried to spin the story:

Bcom

In response the Chinese Academy of Science came out with what is perhaps the most strongly worded rebuttal from a professional body I’ve ever seen.

The not only demanded Heartland apologise, but called them out for their lack of “academic integrity.”

In response, Heartland Institute have tried to disappear their false claim down the memory hole be removing it from their site (see above).

Speaks volumes.

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.

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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Let’s end the pseudo debate: ask your politician if they accept the scientific consensus on climate change

“Belief” is a troubling word when used within the context of the climate debate.

Frequently people will ask me “Do you believe in climate change?” as if it is a matter of personal opinion.

I always answer (politely of course) “I accept the 97% consensus of climate scientists”. My personal views are of no consequence to the reality of climate change – it is simply what the overwhelming evidence has told me.

Facts are independent of opinion. And while every one has a right to accept or reject the evidence of climate change, personal belief does not alter the robust and well-tested scientific theory (not hypothesis) that humanity is changing the planet’s atmosphere.

Within the scientific community this fact is a no longer controversial – nor has it been for decades. The fact that the science is settled has been obscured by the denial movement, sceptical politicians and the Murdoch press. In doing so they have impeded action on climate change.

As we head into Election 2013 climate change will be front and centre once more with Tony Abbott swearing a “blood oath” to axe-the-tax. The Coalition’s attack on the “carbon tax” has been central to undermining the Gillard government’s legitimacy. Their scare campaign – in addition to Labor’s own incompetence and failure to explain their policies to the electorate – has more than likely delivered them office in September.

However, the Coalition’s climate policies are now coming under increasing scrutiny – especially from business who regard their ‘Direct Action Plan” as either inadequate or a bit of a joke. The business community prefers an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change is central to discussions about our nations future; it will impact business, individuals and communities. Thus we should be asking our politicians if they accept or reject the scientific consensus.

It is time for the pseudo debate to end.

Let’s stop talking about whether or not global warming has “paused” for 17 years or if climate change is a Marxist/Rothschild plot to take over the globe.

We should ask our politicians “Do you accept the consensus of 97% of climate scientists?”

Australia’s politicians in the spotlight: uknowispeaksense survey

I highly recommend the research on the acceptance or rejection of climate science of our politicians by Mike from uknowispeaksense. See his work here:

He has represented this a couple of graphs. What is surprising is that most politicians accept the science, as indicated in the following pie charts.

House of Representatives:

all-members-2

And in the Senate:

all-senators

However if you dig into the numbers, far less conservative politicians accept the scientific consensus. Still, it is worth noting both the majority of voters and politicians accept the science.

So why the hold up?

The denial movement has created a powerful aura of invincibility around itself and that we should all pay attention to their arguments. However, the reality is that they are tiny in numbers but extremely vocal. What they lack in numbers they make up for in the vehemence in prosecuting their anti-science campaign.

The article below from The Conversation is also relevant to this discussion and proposes eight questions we should be asking of all our politicians (see below).

———————————————————-

By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; Fiona Armstrong, La Trobe University; Karen Kiang, University of Melbourne, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

As we head into an election, you’d be justified in asking what your local member is basing their climate change decisions on.

If your MP says “I don’t support policies to prevent dangerous climate change” because “I don’t believe climate change is occurring” or “I’m not sure climate change is human caused” is this position justifiable simply because it’s his or her personal opinion?

While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, are our elected leaders being ethically responsible when they justify inaction on climate change based on personal opinions? Sustainability ethicist Donald A. Brown, from Widener University School of Law, emphatically argues, “no” – they are not.

In a recent widely republished blog post on ethicsandclimate.org, Brown argues government officials have an ethical responsibility to understand the state of climate change science. Politicians hold crucial leadership positions where they can enact policies that can prevent or minimise great harm. These policies, to put it bluntly, affect millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Governments and elected officials cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uninformed opinion or ideology instead of the scientific consensus.

The long-standing consensus of climate scientists and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence warn us that constituents and governments are causing great harm through greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Brown says, politicians may not appeal to their personal opinions on climate science. They are not justification for not taking action.

Brown refers to a number of US politicians who hold the position that they don’t support climate policies because they are not convinced by the science. Brown argues that the media has largely failed to hold them accountable.

The same issue afflicts many Australian politicians – and the Australian media. Very rarely have politicians who reject climate science in Australia been asked to explain their justifications on scientific grounds.

According to the Political Leaders and Climate Change Index (PLCCI) published in 2010 by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the number of politicians in the parliament who either don’t or won’t accept the science of climate change in Australia is significant.

Of course, this can change over time. Recently the new Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray renounced his previous position that climate science was “pop science” and a “middle-class conspiracy to frighten schoolchildren”.

However, there are many other politicians who have not changed their opinions as Gray has done. In 2010 around 40% of Liberal/National politicians held the view the world could warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius before the situation became dangerous. The actual scientific consensus is a mere 2 degrees. Another 40% professed not to know what a safe global average temperature increase might be.

The likelihood of a Coalition government winning in 2013 makes the public statement of personal opinions on human induced climate change an issue of national and global importance.

The risks posed to the Australian and international communities by the uninformed opinions of our national leaders are significant. They cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uniformed opinion or ideology instead of science. Because of those risks, the role of responsible and well-informed media is crucial. The media has the civic and moral obligation to be a watchdog on society and its institutions.

Journalists have a duty to question politicians who oppose action based on uninformed opinions. The public has a right to be informed, and to question, a politician’s justification for putting current and future generations at risk.

Following Brown, we propose a series of questions that journalists (and the public) should be asking politicians on global warming, and how governments should respond to it.

  1. Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?
  2. Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  3. Do you accept that the human population is making a substantial contribution to climate change via our greenhouse gas emissions? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify going against the scientific consensus?
  4. Is it your position that Australia and the rest of the world need to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  5. Are you aware that the impacts of climate change in terms of increased risks to human health and climate change related deaths is already being measured by medical and public health professionals worldwide?
  6. Do you accept that anyone who argues that we continue with business as usual and emit greenhouse gases beyond levels that the consensus of climate scientists says is dangerous for humanity (and the ecological system on which humans depend) should bear the burden of proof to show that this is safe?
  7. Do you accept that, in light of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and the long-standing consensus of climate scientists, politicians have a responsibility to immediately implement strategies to prevent dangerous climate change?
  8. Given that climate scientists have been advising the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases for decades, do you accept that politicians who fail to implement policies to prevent dangerous climate change should be held responsible for harm that results from this inaction?

We might ask politicians a few of these ourselves. Have a go yourself – and let us know how you get on. We’d be pleased to write about it.

Karen Kiang is affiliated with Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Brad Farrant, Fiona Armstrong, and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

The continuing Lomborg deception: the “skeptical” environmentalist latest cherry picked wall street journal article

When is a sceptic not a sceptic, but someone denying climate change?

When they’re Bjorn Lomborg writing for the Wall Street Journal. 

Lomborg, for those not familiar with the  name, has made quite a nice career casting doubt on the seriousness of climate change will tentatively agreeing climate change is real. According to Lomborg: “Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world.”

Lomborg embodies what is called the “luke-warm” position””. Luke-warmers such as Lomborg argue the problem is overstated, thus on a cost-benefit analysis there is no need to do anything.

For this reason he’s long been a favorite of politicians and conservative commentators who are dismissive of the science but who still wish to pay lip service to the problem.  Opposition leader Tony Abbott cites Lomborg approvingly in his book Battlelines:

 “It doesn’t make sense, though, to impose certain and substantial costs on the economy now in order to avoid unknown and perhaps even benign changes in the future  As Bjorn Lomborg has said: “Natural science has undeniably shown us that global warming is man made and real. But just as undeniable is the economic science which makes it clear that a narrow focus on reducing carbon emissions could leave future generations with major costs, without major cuts to temperatures.” (Battlelines, pg. 170-171)

The Lomborg Deception

Howard Friel in the book The Lomborg Deception examined the many claims made by Lomborg and found he’d engaged in numerous fabrications and distortions:

In this major assessment of leading climate-change skeptic Bjørn Lomborg, Howard Friel meticulously deconstructs the Danish statistician’s claim that global warming is “no catastrophe” by exposing the systematic misrepresentations and partial accounting that are at the core of climate skepticism.

As Friel discusses in his work, Lomborg’s modus operandi is to cherry pick the scientific literature in order to downplay the risks of climate change.

And yet despite having been caught out misrepresenting the science time-and-time-again, Lomborg persists in cherry picking facts to suit his needs.

Case in point, his latest article in the Wall Street Journal.

Wildfires? No need to worry!

In the article Climate change misdirection (23/1/13) Lomborg makes a number of claims, noting that since the 1950s the wildfire activity has decreased since the middle of last century and will continue to do so:

Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%. Estimates published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that even with global warming proceeding uninterrupted, the level of wildfires will continue to decline until around midcentury and won’t resume on the level of 1950—the worst for fire—before the end of the century.

Therefore in Lomborg’s mind we shouldn’t be worried. Clearly, the problem of global warming has been overstated – right?

However, true to form Lomborg has cherry picked the data, completely misrepresenting the research.

While I can’t say definitively, I suspect Lomborg is referencing the 2010 PNAS paper Driving forces of global wildfires over the past millennium and the forthcoming century.

The paper notes:

Around 1900 there is a sharp downturn in global fire activity, both in the model- and the charcoal-based records, despite increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation.

Oh look, a sceptic money quote! However, the paper also contains the following graph:

PNAS_FIRE

So what’s going on here?

The continuing Lomborg deception

Lomborg is correct – since the 1950s there has been decreased activity in wildfires. However, Lomborg fails to mention what the paper makes explicitly clear in its conclusions – as temperatures increase, so will the incidents of wildfires:

Overall, the model captures historical trends influenced by a variety of natural and anthropogenic factors remarkably well, inspiring some confidence in the model’s projection of future fires. GISS GCM climate simulations (19), like other models, predict a significant warming over the forthcoming century (Fig. 2B). Rapidly rising temperatures and regional drying reverse the recent fire activity decline, driving a rapid increase after ∼2050 in all three scenarios examined here, described in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emissions Scenarios…

The downward trend will (most likely) reverse due to climate change. They very opposite of what Lomborg hopes to imply.

Lomborg has no doubt cherry picked this 2012 paper because wild fires have been in the news – thanks to Australia’s summer of extreme heat and fire. Like all good deniers, he is fishing for factoids that will cast doubt on the obvious links between climate change and present weather extremes.

One should not be surprised by tactics such as these – Lomborg’s article embodies the deceptive manner in which sceptics such as Lomborg seek to deceive.

Scepticism or denial?

I think its easy to spot the difference.

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Of sea ice & Andrew Bolt: freedom of speech under attack?

Pity Andrew Bolt who seems to be under some form of “investigation’ by the dark forces of censorship.

In a November 20 blog post titled Record ice around Antarctica Blot hints that he – and indeed the very notion of freedom of speech – is under attack:  

I am in a dispute with a free-speech regulator which fancies putting out a statement declaring this freezing essentially patchy, small and recent and proposes to find fault in me not quoting warmists who make irrelevant arguments…

All very sinister by the sounds of it. One wonders if Andrew was dragged out of the Herald Sun’s South Bank tower in the middle of the night, and like Galileo shown the instruments of torture. What has our fearless commentator now said that has sent the forces of darkness against him?

Bolt has been pushing the old denier canard that the growth of sea ice in Antarctica somehow disproves climate change. Bolt references an article from that august scientific publication from the UK The Daily Mail. Titled Now there’s more ice at South Pole than ever (So much for global warming thawing Antarctica!):

Ice around the South Pole has expanded to cover a record area, scientists revealed yesterday – a month after saying that the North Pole had lost an unprecedented amount of its ice.

Researchers say – rather confusingly – that both occurrences are down to the ‘complex and surprising’ effects of global warming.

The record Antarctic sea ice cover was revealed in satellite images from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado….

At the end of the southern winter in September, ice covered 7.51million square miles of sea – more than at any time since records began in 1979. For the last 30 years the amount of Antarctic sea ice has been increasing by 1 per cent each decade.

One assumes a complaint was made to Australian Press Council (APC) about of one of Andrew’s many lies misrepresentations concerning climate change.

And no, it wasn’t me – but I’ve often thought about it. Still I have little doubt what conclusions such an investigation would find: Andrew got his facts wrong. Again.

But let’s be clear about one thing: freedom of speech is not under attack.

Andrew Bolt is a privileged member of the media elite; he commands a large audience, gets paid handsomely and seeks to influence the political debate within Australia. Bolt is not an outlier – despite posing as a gadfly or intellectual rebel. He is simply one of the more prominent members of News Limited’s stable of conservative journalists.

Unlike Mr Bolt, most ordinary individuals lack the backing of a global media giant that generates billions in revenue and armies of lawyers to represent you in court when you get basic facts wrong.

Regulators such as the APC and ACMA help provide a level playing field. Checks and balances are essential to limit abuses of power. The APC and ACMA are merely part of a system of checks and balances.

Let’s be honest these aren’t vast, monolithic agents of totalitarian repression. They’re rather toothless really: they’re primary role is help foster standards.

Standards such as getting the facts right.

What Andrew Bolt and many of the other hyper-sensitive climate change sceptics frequently overlook is that criticism and having you claims critically examined by a neutral third-party is not censorship.

It rather simple really: when you fail to play by the rules of evidence, you’re going to get caught out.

And if you’re wrong – as Andrew is so very often on climate change – then it is only reasonable to expect repercussions. If you’re wrong, you are going to be called on it. Indeed, this debate and validation of claims are an essential part this whole “freedom of speech” thing Andrew wishes to make himself the poster boy for.

Freedom of speech is not just shouting at the world your own point of view, which is what Andrew seems to believe. There is the freedom for others to answer back and challenge claims.

Andrew Bolt is free to lie, misrepresent and distort the facts about climate change.

But no amount of chest-pounding and hyperbole is going to change the fact that he is consistently wrong about the science of climate change.

However in a rather grandiose fashion, Bolt conflates criticism of his many factual errors with an attack on free speech, liberty and democracy.

He simply can’t admit error; therefore he turns these episodes into little mini-dramas in which he is the victim of a vast conspiracy of leftists, warmists, socialists and nasty environmentalists.

How else can he explain to both himself and the diminishing ranks of climate sceptics these “attacks”?

Surely HE can’t be wrong… surely it’s the fault of those scheming “warmists” making “irrelevant arguments”.

And the sea ice?

Yes it is true the sea ice has been growing 1 per cent each decade. But Bolt and the denial cheer squad exclude some key facts.

Overall, Antarctica is losing ice: sea ice may be increasing due to the complex interplay of winds, a declining Ozone hole and natural variation.

But Bolt and the deniers overlook – deliberately – the fact that land ice is declining.

As this National Geographic article points out, Antarctica is warming but at a slower pace than the Arctic:

Q. While Arctic sea ice is decreasing, the Antarctic is now slightly increasing. Why is there so much variation between Arctic and Antarctic ice?

Well we have a continent on the South Pole. On the North Pole we have nothing but ocean. In the Arctic you see full-fledged warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, plus increased ice transport [out of the region, which removes cold air and water]. So all of these effects contribute to reduce the sea ice cover in the Arctic.

In the Antarctic, you have to think of it as its own climate system. It’s a big continent isolated from the rest of the world. It has ocean all around it. It has wind regimes that blow clockwise around it and isolate it. It acts differently from the Arctic, which is completely connected to the rest of the North Hemisphere.

Q. Considering we regularly hear about the planet’s stressed climate system, is this good news?

Really, it’s consistent with our understanding of a warming world. Some of the regional details are not something we can easily predict. But the general trends of decay of the sea ice cover and decay of the Greenland ice sheets and ice caps is in line with what we expect.

The Antarctic has not been warming up as fast as the models thought. It’s warming up, but slower. So it’s all consistent with a warming planet.

What I suspect happened is this: Bolt, like most deniers, cherry picked some facts about Antarctica’s sea ice growing, alluding that climate change wasn’t real. Bolt has been called on this, and deeply resents the fact he has been made accountable.

The “irrelevant arguments” by warmists Andrew is desperate to dismiss are no doubt facts that challenge his world view.

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War is over: victory over the deniers

Time for bold claims: the war is over.

The International Herald Tribune picks up on what may be an emerging trend: the decline of climate scepticism:

In a blog entry this summer, famed international correspondent Christiane Amanpour opined that the climate change denial club “is actually now shrinking faster than the polar ice caps.” 

Opinion surveys suggest she’s right. Two factors that may contribute to the changing attitude about the changing climate — and the melting away of many skeptics — are the extreme weather events that have affected the United States recently and the legions of climate activists who make it their business to convince and motivate an increasingly receptive public.

The post referenced above is titled The climate debate is over:

In the fierce and sometimes ugly fight over global climate change, we finally have an answer coming from the earth itself: the weather is telling us climate change is here and we are causing it. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku is among the scientist who say the world is giving us signs that climate change is already happening (to see how he explains it, watch the video above).

This summer, there have been relentless droughts, wildfires, melting glaciers and unprecedented storms – all happening at the same time. And around the world people are demanding something be done about it. Even in the United States, ground zero for climate change denial, six in ten Americans say they believe it is indeed happening. But political leaders are missing in action – cowed by a vociferous climate change denial club, which is actually now shrinking faster than the polar ice caps.

In the video physicist Michio Kaku admits he was a sceptic until he looked at the evidence.

War is over…

Personally, I believe the climate change denial movement will splutter and rage on for a few more years as the most prominent voices and their well funded supporters continue to rage against reality.

But already one gets the sense the voices of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, David Evans, Anthony Watts, Marc Morano et.al are becoming increasingly marginal. Ironically they are becoming even more shrill in their claims of conspiracy theories and “It’s not happening”.

News Corporation and the think tanks will continue their desperate rearguard action against the public’s acceptance of the science: history’s judgement will be no doubt be unkind.

The deniers will achieve a few more Pyrrhic Victories: maybe they’ll find a flaw or two in the next IPCC report (AR5), publish a few hundred more op-ed pieces in major dailies and delay a carbon tax in the US for an electoral cycle or two.

Sure – public acceptance of the science will swing this and that for a few more years, but the trend is towards majority acceptance of the science. At some point public tolerance for the deniers will shift from a bemused indifference to disgust and exasperation.

Will that greater public acceptance of the science translate into voter demand for action?

The denial machine will attempt to arrest that as well – after all, that is their raison d’etre. They’re skilled at halting progress so they’ll continue to block, obstruct and show the seeds of disinformation.

But that’s all the denial movement has to look forward too: small scale, tactical victories in a war that is over. The funding for their activities will soon begin to dry up: they will retreat to the fringes of internet culture with flat Earth fanatics, UFO enthusiasts and other intellectual fringe dwellers.

How the war was “won”

However we must be honest: the victory was not achieved by activists or science communicators. Too late it was realized it was never about the science, but values and world view; ideology was the crucial driver of those rejecting the science.

We – the journalists, activists, bloggers, politicians, scientists fighting to bring climate to the forefront of public perception – fought the good fight. We did all we could have been asked to do: but the denial machine was more organised, better funded and prepared to engage in suspect and unethical behavior. Ruthlessness tipped the battle in their favor for close to three decades.

But at some point physics and chemistry was going to resolve the debate: brute reality was always the final arbiter.

And so 2012 will be regarded as the year the debate “shifted” against the sceptic movement – the extreme weather events of this year and Sandy ensured that.

But something like Hurricane Sandy was inevitable. Whether a storm of Sandy’s kind arrived this year or next, something of Sandy’s scale was always coming – and with it the profound  social and political implications of such a storm.

[Note: upon reflection, I think Tamino is very correct: activists and bloggers fought a valuable holding action, doing their best to hold off the onslaught against science.]

War is over – if you wan’t it

And so – with mock solemnity and virtual trumpets – I declare the end of hostilities in what is merely the opening phases of a longer conflict over containing climate change.

Let’s call it the “First Climate War”, a virtual battle over public perception fought in the opinion pages of newspapers, on blogs and social media and in back rooms across the globe. It was fought in the streets of Copenhagen and influenced the Australian election of 2007.

Participants included global media corporations, NGOs, sovereign nations, transnational bodies such as the UN, the fossil fuel industry, think tanks, scientists, eccentric billionaires, bloggers and politicians.

The First Climate War was a messy and brutal conflict more impenetrable and confusing than the Thirty Years War – and much like the Thirty Years War it was a conflict that drew in major powers, religious fanatics and obscure principalities, off of whom were sucked into its vortex by a mixture of principles and power politics.

But this initial phase of the conflict is coming to a close.

War is over…

Can we can go “home”; can we go back to how things were?

Can we dismantle our blogs; discontinue our Twitter accounts?

Can we can lay down our (metaphorical) arms, and begin to count the cost?

Those of you have been personally involved in this “debate” knows how it can feel: like brutal, bloody trench warfare.

But Like all wars, the cessation of hostilities is merely the prelude to reconstruction and new debates, the emergence of strange new alliances and emergencies.

As the World Bank notes in their recent report:

“A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

And that:

As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.

The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.

Watch out TMZ, “Watts up with that?” is the new celebrity gossip site

In March 2012, the Skeptical Science (SkS)was “hacked” by persons unknown. John Cook provided context in a post shortly after the hack:

Sometime over the last few days, the Skeptical Science website has been hacked. The hacker has taken much or all of the Skeptical Science database, zipped various excerpts into a single file, uploaded the file onto a Russian website then linked to the zip file from various blogs. While we are still attempting to verify the authenticity of the file, initial scans seem to indicate the hacker has included the entire database of Skeptical Science users. Access to the full database (which includes private details) is restricted only to myself and I am the only one with access to all of the raw data – this fact alone indicates that this breach of privacy came in the form of an external hack rather than from within Skeptical Science itself.

While the content was made available on the Internet, Anthony Watts was notable in his refusal to exploit this content stating he respected the privacy of the individual:

Rest assured, we are working hard to upgrade Skeptical Science’s security in order to more robustly protect users’ private details. We are also in the process of soliciting legal advice on these matters and contacting the appropriate authorities. We would like to thank those who have come to us with information about this potential hack and those who have decided against spreading the aforementioned files (e.g. Anthony Watts). We all believe that protecting the privacy of individuals is of the utmost importance and we would hope that all illegally obtained documents and files are removed from uploaded servers and disposed of.

However it would now appear the “gloves are off” for Anthony, as he is now frequently reposting snippets of the SkS forum, disregarding the once principled stand he took back in March:

Skeptical Science gets Romm-Bombed 

Posted on September 25, 2012by Anthony Watts 

Reposted from Popular Technology with permission 

Skeptical Science: Too Inaccurate for Joe Romm 

In March of 2012, the climate alarmist website Skeptical Science had their forums “hacked” and the contents posted online. In these it was revealed that Skeptical Science was found to be even too inaccurate for fellow alarmist Joe Romm of Climate Progress…

And so on.

Perhaps it was the Lewandowsky paper which demonstrated a clear link between conspiracy ideation and climate scepticism that literally enraged sceptic bloggers around the world. Perhaps it was his astonishment at the fact that nearly 20,000 people signed a petition in opposition to his appearance on PBS News Hour.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are clearly seeing Anthony Watts switching strategies: having failed to undermine the science of climate change he is switching to celebrity gossip.

Tales of “warmist” bloggers and climate scientists behaving badly will soon dominate the headlines of WUWT: perhaps we’ll get some grainy shots of topless “warmists” at the beach? Or fussy iPhone pictures of scientists stumbling drunkenly out of night clubs?

Watch out TMZ, there’s a new kid on town.

As a pro-tip Anthony, I’d create a signature tagline – something like “A Watts XOXO”

A house divided, or a clean house? Anthony Watts proscribes what topics can be discussed on WUWT: no more Bigfoot or UFOs. World’s conspiracy theorists disappointed

Climate sceptics, our operators are standing by

While the world’s most prominent climate sceptics have been adamantly denying (tee hee) they’re not conspiracy theorists (“No truly, we’re not!”), over at “Watts up with that?” they’ve announced new they have specified guidelines for what people can – and more importantly – can’t discuss:

“Certain topics are not welcome here and comments concerning them will be deleted. This includes topics on religion, discussions of barycentrism, astrology, aliens, bigfoot, chemtrails, 911 Truthers, Obama’s Birth Certificate, HAARP, UFO’s, mysticism, and other topics not directly related to the thread. A Tips & Notes sections exists for  bringing items of interest to attention…” (Note: see below)

I’m bitterly disappointed.

What am I going to for my morning laughs now that the “We’re not crazy, but….” crowd can no longer post at that venerable institution of science, reason and logic WUWT?

What, a spark of self-awareness? Dare I say it – a belated recognition there is a grain of truth in what Lewandowsky et.al have to say? 

Well, colour me surprised!

The question is when did this policy come into place?

Still – I was just starting to have fun… 

/sigh

UPDATE Some readers have provided a full history of Watts evolving comments policy, and the growing list of cospiracy theories the WUWT have had to exclude:

As it stood in November 2010  :

Certain topics are not welcome here and comments concerning them will be deleted. This includes topics on religion, discussions of barycentrism, astrology, chemtrails, and topics not directly related to the thread.

As it stood in July 2011:

Certain topics are not welcome here and comments concerning them will be deleted. This includes topics on religion, discussions of barycentrism, astrology, chemtrails, 911 Truthers, HAARP, UFO’s, mysticism, and topics not directly related to the thread.

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