We speak in facts, they talk about values: denial is not an emotional state but part of ones world view

  
I’ve been arguing this for some time, while Tim over at Moth Incarnate also makes this point:

“…No, denial of ACC is not one of the stages of grief. Denial of this nature comes from employing fear propaganda.

Many of the individuals who deny the science do exactly that – they deny the validity of the evidence regardless what is said about it.

The reason for this denial is because they are scared of the future, but not the end of business as usual, rather a hidden and unrealistic enemy.

Evidence won’t help them.

Reason will not sway them. Even debunking their heroes of denial is merely seen as oppressive.”

Now George Monbiot seems to be getting it as well:

“…The answer, I think, is provided by the most interesting report I have read this year. Common Cause, written by Tom Crompton of the environment group WWF, examines a series of fascinating recent advances in the field of psychology(1). It offers, I believe, a remedy to the blight which now afflicts every good cause from welfare to climate change.

Progressives, he shows, have been suckers for a myth of human cognition he labels the Enlightenment model. This holds that people make rational decisions by assessing facts. All that has to be done to persuade people is to lay out the data: they will then use it to decide which options best support their interests and desires.

A host of psychological experiments demonstrates that it doesn’t work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information which confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.”

The longest campaign

This climate “debate” has always been a debate about values. It is an extension of the culture wars of the 1990s.

My reply to Tim on his blog sums things up my pet hypothesis on why so many reject climate science:

“…I’ve come to view “denial” as reflective of an individual values, rather than an emotional state they pass through. It is a culture war issue, in the same way abortion, stem cells, Sharia law and creationism have become litmus tests for conservative Christians, Muslims etc.

…Creationist reject evolution because it contradicts their literal reading of the bible. Ergo, thus *must* reject the science in order to affirm their tribalism and confirm their membership to the creationist “tribe”. It’s about outward signs of orthodoxy and inwardly managing ones identity.

Free market libertarians, culture warriors and ultra-conservatives see climate change mitigation as deeply threatening to their “choices” within the market and individual “liberty”.

If your committed to small government and limited intervention in the market, then things such as a carbon tax, ETS or regulation are anathema. After all, the “market” will fix this.

Hence why the debate is bogged down and mostly along partisan lines – especially in the US and Australia

Curiously this is not the case in the UK, where the Conservatives hope to be the “greenest” government ever. However I suspect this may have more to do with older traditions of conservatism (ala Edmund Burke) than it’s radical neo-con offshoots in other Anglo-sphere countries.

The denial machine has been very good at fusing people’s values with climate scepticism, making it a litmus test of ones world view and political outlook.

If you attack their scepticism, you also attack their values – in other words, you attack them.

I also view the debate as a prolonged election campaign between competing views of the future. This campaign has been waged since the 1990′s and its prize is the public opinion. Like all election campaigns it is about building your credibility and tearing down your opponents. In this debate the “conservative” side argues for no (or less) action, while the “progressive” side argues for action.

Yes, [it] is a gross oversimplification, but scepticism and acceptance of climate science falls along political lines.

[However] this is not a new debate: it has been waged since the beginning of the enlightenment.

Kant challenged us to “Dare to know!” – he argued that knowledge of the universe could be liberating, and yet often conflicted with the orthodoxies of the power elites.”

I cannot stress this point more strongly.

The denial machine casts its arguments in terms of values, not facts.

Thus they argue:

“Do you value freedom? Why the greenies/UN/IPCC want to take that away from you!”

“Do you value a free market? Why the greenies/UN/IPCC want to take that away from you!”

“Do you want the Australian/US/UK economy to remain strong and grow? Why the greenies/UN/IPCC want to take that away from us!”

The tobacco industry coached their defence in terms of personal liberty:

“Hey, it’s your body and you can do want you want with it! You have rights you know!”

The denier coaches their arguments in positive terms: liberty, free markets, the right to free expression. They wrap their denial up in good-old fashioned patriotism.

The climate change debate taking place in the pubic realm is not about facts: it is about values.

It always has been.

Climate change: dare to know! [1]

Accepting the reality of climate change does not need to be seen as a negative, it can be posited as a value. Try this for size: 

An individual who accepts the science of climate change is someone who has a feel for “the big picture”. They are both pragmatic and informed. It also signals concern for ones community, ones country and fellow human beings. It stems from a deeply humanistic world view, in which compassion is a motivating factor.

Can one argue with such values?  

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapere_aude

 

There is a growing realisation that denial of climate change is less an emotional state (following the Kubler-Ross model) than an aspect of an individuals world view.   

29 thoughts on “We speak in facts, they talk about values: denial is not an emotional state but part of ones world view

  1. Tim Baxter says:

    This is a great post.

    I especially appreciate the final point:

    An individual who accepts the climate change is someone who has a feel for “the big picture”. They are both pragmatic and informed. It also signals concern for ones community, ones country and fellow human beings. It stems from a deeply humanistic world view, in which compassion is a motivating factor.

    Fantastic.

    • klem says:

      How about my situation: I used to be a climate change acceptor with a feel for ‘the big picture’, but my feel came crashing down after reading the IPCC’s Ar4 report back in 2007. I’ve been a denier ever since. What happened to my big picture? After reading the AR4 report, it got a whole lot bigger.

      • DaveB says:

        I’m the same, I pride myself as a sceptic and someone who can see the big picture. I’m also an environmental scientist and quite concerned with threats to the worlds biodiversity. In no way do I agree with unconstrained capitalism and profligate resource use. It is my ability to see the big picture on a longer time scale that makes me a climate sceptic. Yes, I am proud to deny an alarmist hypothesis that is baseds on computer modelling of a poorly understood and highly complex natural system. When the wheels come off this hypothesis (and things are now looking shaky) the credibility of legitimate environmentalism will suffer.

  2. Des Carne says:

    Interestingly free market libertarians’ arguments crystallise around two poles – the second, because it is usually only revealed as a final, implicit rationale for their anti-science obfuscation, a conspiracy theory of a world government or domination through the UN which will deny them ‘free choice’, but the first and more important one, a shrill protest at the climate “alarmism” of scientists and others trying to make the science facts publicly known.

    The desire to stem public alarm fits the model of market confidence their world-view and livelihoods rely upon: don’t panic the public as they’ll do a run on the banks/withdraw participation in the economy. The desire to ‘manage’ public perceptions overcomes their own alarm, FOR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT THE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION LEADS TO AN ALARM RESPONSE SIGNIFIES THAT THE DENIERS THEMSELVES HAVE EXPERIENCED THE ALARM – THEY UNDERSTAND VERY WELL WHAT THE SCIENCE SIGNIFIES BUT CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE TO MISREPRESENT IT, AND THEREBY THEMSELVES.

    The deniers know the science facts and know what they signify, but choose to falsify themselves in order to immobilise rational public response, in order to maintain THEIR world as profiteers in the global ponzi-scheme economy. You are right – it is values (but more, commitment to certain STATUS and POWER conferring social and economic objectives) that drive them, not science, not rationality, not human concern.

    This is the reason for my former quotations about historical crisis: in historical crises whole generations falsify themselves, by affecting belief in what they do not believe, in what they know not to be true. That is the starting point of any psychological and cultural analysis of climate change denial.

    • I’m not sure that the general denier knows the weighty evidence base, but certainly the actual misinformers that are seen as the heroes of the denial campaign do.

      For instance, in Monckton tried to recreate the IPCC projects bands and then dismantles them as being wrong. Why does he recreate them instead of just using the projections? Because the actual projections fit fine – his recreation is hopelessly wrong. He must know this, so I have no doubt that he’s aware that he is wrong, but sees an easy dollar to be made in misinformation.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Actually, I think Monckton is following the same path well trodden by creationists who “lie for Jesus”.

        http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2394

        Creationists are committed to their world view, however will knowingly twist and distort science to further their point. What would be viewed as dishonest practices are seen to further the “greater good”.

        Monckton is “lying for denial”.

        This is a man who thinks he has discovered a cure for HIV, calls himself a “Lord” (when the HoL have told him to stop) and talks up his connection with Thatcher. In her autobiography of over 900 pages he his never mentioned:

        http://www.desmogblog.com/christopher-moncktons-lies-exposed-again-guardian

        Such “lying” involves a great deal of cognitive dissonance and willingness to hold true contradictory information.

        However “fantasy prone” individuals such as the leading creationists and deniers are similar in their approach to truth: it is whatever suits their arguments.

      • stickman says:

        “I have no doubt that he’s aware that he is wrong, but sees an easy dollar to be made in misinformation.”

        I’m not particularly sure that Monckton is aware that he is wrong. At any rate, I think that there’s a more primal driver behind behind his position. Put simply, he’s invested far too much of himself to ever back down now. Perhaps he miscalculated by being so vehement in his criticism of the mainstream view at the outset, but – whatever the case – there is no credible way that he can alter course without causing substantial embarrassment to himself. Better to go down in a blaze of glory than admit defeat.

        This, I feel, is an inherent problem with many hot (ha ha) topics in society: Once someone has taken a position, they are scared of losing face and credibility by changing their opinion. If anything, the ability to remain respectful of those you disagree with at least gives them room to join your side of the debate. Or, as I wrote elsewhere:

        If you don’t offer people a way out that preserves their sense of dignity, you don’t really offer them anything all. I’m always taken aback by how many people don’t seem to grasp this simple rule of human behaviour[…] Calling someone an “idiot” is not the best way to convince them of your position.
        http://stickmanscorral.blogspot.com/2010/11/facts-vs-beliefs.html

  3. John R T says:

    watching say:
    ´Accepting the reality of climate change does not need to be seen as a negative, it can be posited as a value. Try this for size:

    An individual who accepts the science of climate change is someone who has a feel for “the big picture”.´

    You seem confused. Your misspelling and other problems indicate you do not understand your own words. Your summation demonstrates clearly that do not hear yourself: the following two phrases are different.

    1 ¨reality of climate change¨

    2 ¨science of climate change¨

    No alarmist accepts reality.
    Skeptics understand and welcome change and adaptation.
    There is no science of climate change.

  4. Ray says:

    How about this peer reviewed fact.

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n9/full/ngeo932.html

    Perhaps the sceptics are not the ones with the reality problem.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      I’m not sure what your point is?

      • Ray says:

        Your words, “The denial machine casts its arguments in terms of values, not facts.”

        Really Mike you need to sit back and look at your own beliefs. You have been describing traits inherant of those who subscribe to AWG to sceptics who find the science lacking.

        I posted a link from a group of scientist who point out the fraility of the AWG conclusion…. A peer reviewed fact.

        Science has no agenda, scepticism is a noble cause with crutial value and you are stomping all over your own feet.

    • Sundance says:

      Ray excellent point and easily understood by anyone familiar with climate modeling. More problems have arisen as new evidence emerges. You know there’s a problem when the Royal Society throws the climate models under the bus.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        The Royal Society (RS) has done no such thing, a little lie peddled by the denial machine.

        Indeed, the RS is very unhappy at that suggestion:

        http://www.theage.com.au/national/uk-body-says-news-ltd-misrepresented-it-on-climate-20101008-16c20.html

        “Royal Society vice-president John Pethica said the suggestion the science body had revised its position ”was simply not true”.

        In a letter to The Australian seen by The Age, Professor Pethica said nothing had changed – there was no greater uncertainty about future temperature rises now than the society had previously reported. ”The science remains the same, as do the uncertainties – as anyone who reads the document can see.”

        Care to revise your view?

        No?

        The RS VP is very clear.

        Or will you go back to attacking the RS once you’ve discovered they *still* accept AGW?

        Have your read the document, or simply read WUWT and Climate Audit and recycled their talking points? The later I bet…

        A classic tactic used by anti-science movements is to exploit the uncertainties within science. Creationists do this by stating there are “no transitional fossils” or “we don’t know how X feature evolved, therefore evolution is not true”.

        You are asking the impossible of science – let us remember science speaks of probabilities, and theories can change with new facts. At this point, at the RS says the most likely cause of temperature rise is human induced.

        There was nothing new in the RS document. As the RS said themselves, anyone who can read would understand that.

        I’ve read the IPCC reports, and they are very explicit about uncertainties and levels of confidence.

        You guys pull the same stunts as creationists and anti-vaccine nuts: cherry picking facts and misrepresentation. However, I suspect you don’t’ care.

        You’ll see that your wrong, decide that talking point wont work in this forum (you’ll make the same discredited point in another forum until somehow points out your error) and simply recycle some other denier talking points.

        I’ll be frank – it’s intellectually lazy.

        A true sceptic thinks.

        Deniers – I call a spade a spade here boys – pick up sound bites parrot them without thinking.

      • Ray says:

        Thanks Sundance. I expect the RS to back off even furthur soon.

      • Sundance says:

        WtD – I read the RS revision. In the “Concluding Remarks” they summarize:

        58 “It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, but careful estimates of potential changes and associated uncertainties have been made. Scientists continue to work to narrow these areas of uncertainty. Uncertainty can work both ways, since the changes and their impacts may be either smaller or larger than those projected.”

        Consider the day , coming soon, when an attorney asks a climate change “expert”, “Is it possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, yes or no”? The jury will hear, “No” because the “expert” will be under oath. If Phil Jones is asked, ”Has there been any significant global warming in the last 15 years, yes or no?” the answer has to be no because Jones is already on the record for his comment to the UEA panel. In a court of law not possible means not possible! In a court of law, where this is all headed, this will not stand. The models are far from close to being accurate. Even Real Climate’s Gavin Schmidt just last week acknowledged a new paper on the Sun’s new-found impact on warming and that models may have to be revised.

        I don’t read newspaper articles about climate as they are almost always inaccurate. I approach climate considerations from a scientific and a legal perspective only as I am apolitical. What you saw happen in the NZ law suit is just the beginning of the cross-examination process of climate science that will be occurring very shortly in US courts. Wait till these climate scientists get pulled into court and get cross-examined under oath. Heck I could spend hours even days questioning a climate scientist just on uncertainties and discrepancies in front of a jury who will have been instructed by the court that any conclusion must be based on evidence that is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Remember also that when the jury is selected they will have to be people who do not already believe in CAGW. It will all be very exciting as it unfolds and you will have limitless blog material until everybody loses interest and we move on with our lives.

        So now you know why I say the Royal Society has thrown the models under the bus. You may not see it the same way I do but “Viva la difference, mais non”?

      • klem says:

        I think the Royal Society realized that the UN IPCC, the world’s most credible authority on climate change, was caught in a fraud and had lost it’s credibility. The RS has taken over as the world’s most credible authority on climate change. The RS has now replaced the IPCC. The IPCC is now finished.

        [And the RS states AGW is real, therefore as the most credible authority AGW must be real?

        Right Klem?

        Mike @ WtD]

      • klem says:

        “And the RS states AGW is real, therefore as the most credible authority AGW must be real? Right Klem? Mike @ WtD”

        Sorry Mike, because the RS is now the world’s most credible authority on AGW does not make them correct. Cheers!

  5. Watching the Deniers says:

    I went to the article, it argued no such thing. Indeed the article was about mitigation warming by extracting/reducing GHGs.

    I can’t read the full text as it is behind a pay wall, however as best I can tell it is supportive of the science:

    “…Short-lived greenhouse gases and black-carbon aerosols have contributed to past climate warming. Curbing their emissions and quantifying the forcing by all short-lived components could both mitigate climate change in the short term and help to refine projections of global warming.

    Earth’s climate can only be stabilized by bringing carbon dioxide emissions under control in the twenty-first century. But rolling back anthropogenic emissions of several short-lived atmospheric pollutants that lead to warming — such as methane, tropospheric ozone precursors and black-carbon aerosols — could significantly reduce the rate of climate warming over the next few decades…”

    Anyhoo here is the full text of the article I found elsewhere:

    http://xweb.geos.ed.ac.uk/~dstevens/publications/penner_ngeo10.pdf

    I’d note it is commentary, not research – thus not a peer reviewed fact. It argues the next IPCC report (AR5) consider various uncertainties.

    It notes;

    “…Although the precise contribution of short-lived pollutants to climate forcing is uncertain, it is clear that anthropogenic emissions of methane and black carbon, and the precursors of ozone and aerosols, have in part controlled climate change over the past century. With a clear understanding of how large these contributions to radiative forcing are, we can constrain climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.”

    Frailty of the AGW theory?

    It’s a call for action!

  6. Ray says:

    As taken from the article,

    “It is at present impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity (defined as the equilibrium warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations) from past records, partly because carbon dioxide and short-lived species have increased together over the industrial era. Warming over the past 100 years is consistent with high climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide combined with a large cooling effect from short-lived aerosol pollutants, but it could equally be attributed to a low climate sensitivity coupled with a small effect from aerosols. These two possibilities lead to very different projections for future climate change.”

    That sir is a call for inaction without more information.

    • JMurphy says:

      Not so. The following sentence, after the bit you liked and posted, is :

      “We argue that to distinguish between these possibilities, and to provide short-term relief from climate warming, the short-lived compounds that induce warming need to be brought under control within a timescale of a few decades.”

      How would that be possible, do you think ? Inaction ? I don’t think so.

      You might like to read more about it at Skeptical Science :

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/despite-uncertainty-CO2-drives-the-climate.html

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Nicely put JM.

      • Ray says:

        They concede the lack of knowledge carbon sensitivity may have on future climate, they do not know what effect it has had to date but you want to abandon carbon based economy based on that lack of knowledge?

        Would you have your colon removed based upon speculation it may be cancerous if second opinions agreed it was no more than gas?

        Oh wait…laughing, don’t answer that.

  7. crazy bill says:

    Ray – take the big picture here. Even taking what the article says as you interpret it, there’s more than one line of reasoning pointing to larger rather than smaller climate sensitivity (eg ice age cycles). Also, to take a bigger picture, CO2 in the atmosphere leads to more problems than climate (eg ocean acidification and its consequences).

    And taking a bigger slightly different picture. Basing an entire economic system on continued unfettered consumption of fossil fuels, when alternatives are available (albeit in need of encouragement before they can adequately replace said fossil fuels), would seem to be foolishness in the extreme, given that said fossil fuels are limited, polluting in more than one way, and largely sourced from some of the more despotic regimes in the world. Why do so many conservatives want to continue supporting those regimes that seem hell-bent on using their petro-dollars to attack America?

  8. Ray says:

    Crazy Bill, (albeit in need of encouragement before they can adequately replace said fossil fuels) Is that a consession alt energy is currently very expensive and work poorly?

    And its not the conservatives. Cap & Trade failed under a liberal administration and democrat congress.

  9. JMurphy says:

    Ray wrote : “They concede the lack of knowledge carbon sensitivity may have on future climate, they do not know what effect it has had to date but you want to abandon carbon based economy based on that lack of knowledge?”

    Ah, the old strawman is out at last – doesn’t take long for so-called skeptics to start arguing what they want to believe in, does it ?

    ‘Read my lips’ : Neither myself nor any other rational person (i.e. those who accept AGW) wants to “abandon carbon based economy”. That clear enough ?

    • Ray says:

      ‘Read my lips’ : Neither myself nor any other rational person (i.e. those who accept AGW) wants to “abandon carbon based economy”.

      The problem lies in the appearent fact not all of you are rational.

    • klem says:

      Um, sorry but I think that’s exactly what you and your rational (AGW acceptors) want to do. You call it the transition to clean energy; Wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, geothermal. The AGW believers do not include oil and coal as part of the clean energy equation. Hence “abandon carbon based economy” describes it nicely thanks. I think that’s quite clear.

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