“Sceptical” politics: responses to the non-scientific arguments made by the deniers

John Cook’s Skeptical Science is perhaps one of the best tools combating the misinformation campaign by providing counters to the denial movement’s false claims about climate science.

For some time I’ve been musing on producing a similar resource that provides short, snappy responses to the denier’s non-scientific claims. Very much a small, modest compliment to the Skeptical Science communities wonderful work.

While the deniers may use arguments such as “the climate has always changed” and “it’s the sun”, more often than not what they rely upon are arguments such as “it’s a conspiracy” and “climate change is a religion”.

So far I’ve come up with a short list of these most commonly used arguments.

I’m writing short counter arguments to these – indeed I welcome feedback, contributions and suggestions.

The conspiracy arguments

  • It’s a conspiracy or gigantic fraud
  • Scientists are conspiring to silence sceptics/critics 
  • Its an attempt to introduce a “one world government”
  • The “water melon” theory: socialists using climate change to impose left wing tyrannies 
  • Climate change is being used a means to forcibly reduce the worlds population 
  • Climate change is being used as a means to de-industrialise the “West” 
  • Scientists are hiding something by not releasing their data to the public

The financial and economic arguments 

  • Governments are using this as a ploy to tax/revenue raising 
  • The “follow the money” argument: scientists are making up climate change to receive “billions” in funding 
  • Scientists, politicians and others stand to personally gain from promoting climate change 
  • The “left” sees it as a chance to redistribute wealth
  • Bankers and financial interests wish to profit from carbon trading
  • Action on climate change will destroy the economy and way of life

The world view arguments

  •  Climate change is a religion 
  • The science of climate change is a product of left wing/socialist ideology 
  • The science of climate change is a product of left wing bias in universities and academia 
  • Climate change is being used to “scare” the population into submission (for many of the above purposes)

Arguments based on sociology, psychology etc.

  • Climate change is just one more in a long list of “false alarms” (DDT, global cooling)
  • Climate change is a form of popular delusion or group think among scientists

Most are variations on two simple arguments:

  • It’s a conspiracy 
  • The conspiracy is perpetrated by those with an either ideological agendas or stand to personally gain

Reader assistance

I’d like to ask readers to contribute any I’ve missed. I don’t have a title yet, so “sceptical politics” is the working one.

If anyone has any good ideas, feel free to suggest!

I don’t want to sully the good name of John’s Skeptical Science!

Cheers Mike @ WtD

56 thoughts on ““Sceptical” politics: responses to the non-scientific arguments made by the deniers

  1. Geoff Brown says:

    Here’s some Mike – the Alarmists list of Everyplace to be hit by climate change harder than everyplace else,-
    http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2011/12/20/the-worst-hit-by-climate-change-contest/

    Read and enjoy…..

  2. sailrick says:

    “The “water melon” theory: socialists using climate change to impose left wing tyrannies ”

    As Naomi Oreskes points out in her book, Merchants of Doubt, this meme has a lot to do with cold war scientists like Frederick Seitz, strong proponents of the Strategic Defense Inititative or Star Wars. When the vast majority of scientists disagreed with SDI, Seitz and others branded them as soft on communism. From there, these same few scientists went on consider anything to do with the environment as also being pink or Marxist and a general mistrust of everyone else in science.

    Fred Singer is another one of these cold war ideologues. And we all know how many environmental and public health issues he’s been an ‘expert’ for industry’s point of view on.

  3. sailrick says:

    Under the heading: ‘It’s a Conspiracy Theory’

    Among Ron Paul followers, there is much talk about the Bilderberger group, and that climate change is just a ploy to divide us left/right in their world domination. They also speak of the HARP program and chemtrails, impying that someone is messing with the climate.

  4. john byatt says:

    At least read what you post GB,

    “Australia has been”

    “south east asia will be”

    “Among the worst affected’

    More gish gallop from mr //nofrackingidea.com

  5. […] “Sceptical” politics: responses to the non-scientific arguments made by the deniers « Watching … […]

  6. klem says:

    “If anyone has any good ideas, feel free to suggest!”

    How about “Climate change, its just dumb”.

    Or how about “Just say No to climate change”.

    They’re just about at your level. Lol!

    Pwned!

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      …Just say to no to climate change.

      A revealing statement I think.

      Despite evidence, just reject the idea.

      But thanks Klem, that actually helps.

    • saskboy says:

      You’re a misleading person/troll, Klem. You leave junk comments anywhere someone is talking about climate change. So I’m using 5 minutes to make your MO known to more people.

  7. Steve says:

    The deniers here just aren’t trying. They really put their feet in their mouths, don’t they?

  8. john byatt says:

    They only open their mouth to change feet,
    take this latest, apparently to prove that the IPCC models are not confirmed by Huntsville

    “This is at the lower end of computer model projections of how much the atmosphere should have warmed due to the effects of extra greenhouse gases since the first Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) went into service in Earth orbit in late November 1978,”

    No comment required..

  9. john byatt says:

    mike

    Don Hartly was the Yandina farmer that the son was working with, I am sure that he would have been well known to your parents,

    rgds

  10. Mekhong Kurt says:

    Mike, I find the argument that a belief in climate change/warming is nothing more than a religious fantasy especially intriguing — in that the deniers making the argument themselves exhibit every single trait of inspired evangelicals caught up in the fever-pitch of a successful revival meeting.

    They remind me of an elderly widow in the small rural Texas community where I grew up decades ago, when I was maybe 15 or 16. I had been raised in the Episcopal Church, and my family was the only one in town was the only one in that denomination — which was suspicious to the other townsfolk (mostly Methodist, Southern Baptist, Pentacostal, Assembly of God, etc.), because back then, Episcopalians had to eat fish on Fridays — just like those papists in the Catholic Church.

    Anyway, at the time I was an acolyte, and the lady was asking me what I had learned about some passage in the Bible. She mentioned a passage from one section of the Bible on which my parish priest happened to be a scholarly expert. He had seen original or surviving manuscripts (and could fluently read Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew, Yiddish, classical Greek, and Latin — and Sanskrit, just for fun). She mentioned a very traditional interpretation of the passage, one widely held in several churches. My priest had said there was some controversy among Biblical scholars as to which of a few surviving versions, including some in the Vatican Library (to which he had the great honor of being granted admission, despite not being Catholic). I didn’t want to be rude, so I mentioned what I assumed everyone knew — that the people in Biblical days spoke other languages so maybe there was some wiggle room on interpretation, but without challenging her take.

    She drew herself up and demanded to know just what I meant. I replied that Jesus, for instance, most likely spoke Aramaic, at least as his primary, day-to-day language. She looked shocked, and practically shouted (drawing the unwelcome attention of all the other people in the small grocery story in which we were conversing), “Well, since Jesus spoke ENGLISH, not whatever you said, that’s good enough for ME!” Puzzled but careful, I asked her what she meant — I thought she might be joking. But she elucidated: “The KING JAME’S BIBLE is in ENGLISH, so Jesus spoke ENGLISH!!”

    I think deniers are spiritual descendants of that lady. Or Jonathan Edwards, or Cotton or Increase Mather. Maybe Elmer Gantry?

    Sigh . . .

    • john byatt says:

      please , i know of evangelicals that are very active in getting the science out there, i believe that you may be referring to young earth creationist types, fundamentalism

      such as this blog comment,
      I have come to view AGW alarmism as but another ‘religious’ cult, with its hallmark sign of promotion of fear and bondage. Its devotees, in their religious fervour, wish to enslave us all in their ‘worship’ of the false god of the environment.
      It is the subversive agenda of this false religion that distinguishes it from true environmentalism. False religion engenders fear. Jesus asks us to have faith, including faith in God to oversee the natural realm. I am privileged to have experienced God’s miraculous, supernatural deliverance in times of crisis, in ways that, on occasion, have defied scientific explanation. Hence I have absolutely no doubt that He who created the natural laws can act outside those laws if He should choose to do so. Therefore I have complete faith that God in His omniscience and omnipotence is more than able to ‘save the planet’ if the need should arise. What we as Christians should guard against, however, is any complicity in the evil agenda of global domination, which the Holy Scriptures actually long ago foretold” ..

      rgds

      • Mekhong Kurt says:

        I wasn’t damning all evangelicals, and don’t. I wasn’t even damning the lady, really,n or implying it for others. But since she apparently completely believed that Jesus spoke English, I knew that meaningful conversation along those lines was not only fruitless, but likely fractious.

        In fairness to other evangelical and other conservative Christians I’ve known, I will add a detail I didn’t mention before: in my 60 years, that lady was and remains the ONLY person ever to have made such a claim. And yes, I used to know a respected physicist who also was Pentacostal (a combination he openly said frequently caused him intellectual, emotional, and religious grief when the two came into conflict, as they often did, at least for him). Similarly, but on the other hand, I have known and do know avowed atheists who are among the strongest deniers I know (and who get enraged when I point out they are behaving with blind religious-like fervor).

        I hope this clarifies matters.

      • klem says:

        “I wasn’t damning all evangelicals, and don’t. I wasn’t even damning the lady, really,n or implying it for others. ”

        Sorry Mekhong pal, that’s exactly what you were saying and Father Johnny Byatt was right to thoroughly admonish you. You should repent and give Johnny a kiss.

    • klem says:

      You know, you might be on to something here. Every denier I know, every one of them is atheist. As am I.

      Perhaps if we all reverted to Christianity we would become climate alarmist eco-nazis?

      …Um.. sorry no…

      • Mekhong Kurt says:

        Most deniers I know are conservative Christians, or, if they aren’t Christian — I live abroad in a very mixed-in-every-conceivable-way community — are conservatives in their own faiths. Odd difference between your experience and mine.

      • klem says:

        Its because every denier I know is a scientist.

      • Steve says:

        “Its because every denier I know is a scientist.”

        I doubt that Klem, but I’ll bite.

        In what disciplines?

        Would you take medical advice from a doctor……………………..
        ……………………………………………………………………………………..
        ………………………………………………………………………………………
        ……………………………………………………………………………………..
        …………………………………of French Literature?

      • Abbott doesn’t have any science degrees. You need to get out more Klem

  11. john byatt says:

    Geoff brown’s challenge,

    Geoff Brown said…
    You can not show any evidence in IPCC4AR that shows runaway global warming is being caused by CO2 – in fact you can not show one source showing that the world has warmed in over a decade – rather all show cooling whilst CO2 has been rising.

    note that now have to redefine AGW as runaway global warming, that is not scepticism that is pure disinformation

    ,

    • john byatt says:

      NASA 2010 ” All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880, Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970’s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years even though the 2000’s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum 2007-2009, surface temperatures continued to increase. The warmest 12-month period in the GISS analysis was reached in mid-2010, as shown in the Rev Geophys. preprint”

      • klem says:

        “All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880”

        Yup, so much blind faith in the analysis of tree rings and swamp sludge. I love it.

      • Mekhong Kurt says:

        @klem, in his/her reply to @john bryant, wrote “Yup, so much blind faith in the analysis of tree rings and swamp sludge. I love it.”

        Um, klem — not blind faith. It’s called “the scientific method,” repeatable analysis demonstrably true in the lab. The blind faith is entirely yours — that the scientific method is wrong.

        Sorry. Give it another go. This time ou made one big, fat, fail.

  12. john byatt says:

    And then there is Foster and Rahmstorf 2011

    We analyze five prominent time series of global temperature (over land and ocean) for their common time interval since 1979: three surface temperature records (from NASA/GISS, NOAA/NCDC and HadCRU) and two lower-troposphere (LT) temperature records based on satellite microwave sensors (from RSS and UAH). All five series show consistent global warming trends ranging from 0.014 to 0.018 K yr−1. When the data are adjusted to remove the estimated impact of known factors on short-term temperature variations (El Niño/southern oscillation, volcanic aerosols and solar variability), the global warming signal becomes even more evident as noise is reduced. Lower-troposphere temperature responds more strongly to El Niño/southern oscillation and to volcanic forcing than surface temperature data. The adjusted data show warming at very similar rates to the unadjusted data, with smaller probable errors, and the warming rate is steady over the whole time interval. In all adjusted series, the two hottest years are 2009 and 2010.

  13. john byatt says:

    Brown “in fact you can not show one source showing that the world has warmed in over a decade ”

    I see that you only have 38 members of the Climate sceptics group left geoff, rats deserting the sinking ship of denial. where did they all go? mass resignations?

    • klem says:

      “where did they all go? mass resignations?”

      You’re right, I’ve noticed alot fewer deniers posting on alarmist and climastrology blogs over the last year. I think I know where they went, they are onto new subject matter now. The climate war is over, the deniers won so they are focusing on new targets. Its an election year in the USA, perhaps that’s where they went.

      Now that Durban was so bad that even AL Gore did not attend, fighting climate lunacy is not so interesting to me anymore. I have been considering picking up a new subject to deny.

      • Steve says:

        Like with creationists debating with climate change deniers is like playing chess with pigeons; they don’t know the rules, they knock the pieces over, they crap all over the board, then fly back to the nest claiming victory

        This is just so true to form, it has to be a joke.

      • Klem and company aren’t interested in the science, they’ve clearly never bothered trying to understand it, instead they deputise themselves as instant experts on the matter and dismiss the valid concerns by those who are actually qualified on the subject.

        No doubt Klem and his brethren think lead in petrol, acid rain, ozone depletion, DDT in the food chain, tobacco causing cancer etc are all scientific fantasies as well.

      • Merchants of Doubt, written by Naomi Oreskes And Erik M Conway
        http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

  14. john byatt says:

    Then geoff claims that you cannot show that warming is caused by CO2

    Huber and Knutti 2011

    The Earth’s energy balance is key to understanding climate
    and climate variations that are caused by natural and an-
    thropogenic changes in the atmospheric composition. Despite
    abundant observational evidence for changes in the energy
    balance over the past decades1–3 , the formal detection of cli-
    mate warming and its attribution to human influence has so
    far relied mostly on the difference between spatio-temporal
    warming patterns of natural and anthropogenic origin4–6 . Here
    we present an alternative attribution method that relies on the
    principle of conservation of energy, without assumptions about
    spatial warming patterns. Based on a massive ensemble of
    simulations with an intermediate-complexity climate model we
    demonstrate that known changes in the global energy balance
    and in radiative forcing tightly constrain the magnitude of
    anthropogenic warming. We find that since the mid-twentieth
    century, greenhouse gases contributed 0.85 ◦ C of warming
    (5–95% uncertainty: 0.6–1.1 ◦ C), about half of which was off-
    set by the cooling effects of aerosols, with a total observed
    change in global temperature of about 0.56 ◦ C. The observed
    trends are extremely unlikely (<5%) to be caused by internal
    variability, even if current models were found to strongly
    underestimate it. Our method is complementary to optimal
    fingerprinting attribution and produces fully consistent results,
    thus suggesting an even higher confidence that human-induced
    causes dominate the observed warming.

    • klem says:

      Actually Geoff said “You can not show any evidence in IPCC 4AR that shows runaway global warming is being caused by CO2 –”

      The abstract you provided above was not in the AR4 report. Geoff’s challenge still stands.

  15. john byatt says:

    Tom sorts them out on spencer’s blog, then answers a few deniers before they have to move the goalposts,

    Tom Curtis says:
    December 21, 2011 at 7:34 PM
    CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere, while water vapour varies significantly with both altitude and latitude due to temperature variations. This means that, contrary Spencer’s claim it is perfectly possible to distinguish between warming caused by increases in CO2 (along with a water vapour feedback) and warming caused water vapour alone. Most obviously, CO2 related warming in the troposphere is associated with stratospheric cooling, while water vapour driven warming does not effect stratospheric temperatures.

    Spencer has long been driven to deny the obvious, but it serves his cause not good to make such obviously false statements, and to accuse of fraud those who point out the truth.

  16. Mekhong Kurt says:

    Not sure in anyone cares, but this piece inspired me to write a piece over at Open Salon; I wouldn’t mention it here except I mentioned this particular story and recommended it — and the comments:

    http://open.salon.com/blog/mekhong_kurt/2011/12/22/the_climate_crusades

  17. john byatt says:

    The science has left the deniers behind, still claiming that there is no link between increased atmospheric CO2 and temperature rise,

    wonder where they think that the warning to keep atmospheric levels below 450ppm comes from to have a chance at keeping global temp below 2DegC

    ScienceDaily (June 10, 2009) — Damon Matthews, a professor in Concordia University’s Department of Geography, Planning and the Environment has found a direct relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Matthews, together with colleagues from Victoria and the U.K., used a combination of global climate models and historical climate data to show that there is a simple linear relationship between total cumulative emissions and global temperature change.

    have a good xmas all

  18. @Klem, “You know, you might be on to something here. Every denier I know, every one of them is atheist. As am I.”

    What does atheism is to do with climate change denial?

    I consider myself to be a skeptic and atheist but not a denialist as you are. If anything, the majority of climate change denialists I know are also conspiracy theorists.

    My opinions on any matter are guided by the available science rather than talking heads on radio stations and unqualified journalists in Murdoch rags.

    • klem says:

      “If anything, the majority of climate change denialists I know are also conspiracy theorists.”

      Yea, that’s right, you’ve made an intriguing connection. Perhaps there is a conspiracy there, as you suggest.

      • saskboy says:

        Is there any value in letting Deniers like Klem speak so much on our blogs? Sure, he doesn’t do anything to shore-up the intellectual image of Deniers, but his volume of comments could visually suggest there is actual debate around science. He’s currently the top commenter on my blog, for instance, and I don’t write exclusively about climate change, his only subject of interest for comment.

        • @Saskboy, klem probably enjoys seeing his name in print, helps him feel important – let’s face it, he’s not offering anything that is constructive, relevant or informative, certainly nothing authoritative.

          Like most empty vessels, he can only offer volume and confuses ignorance for wit.

          Can’t say I’d be too sorry to see him removed but of course you run the risk of feeding his persecution complex.

  19. Mekhong Kurt says:

    Deniers often remind me of the hapless bureaucrats in Tom Wolfe’s brilliant 1970 novel “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.”

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