Category Archives: Cliamte debate

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

nitpicking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is here:

Will it satisfy the sceptics?

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

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

Climate change denial in decline? SciAm study points to that possibility

A recent survey conducted by Scientific American on a range of issues notes that climate change scepticism may be in decline:

“…Numerous polls show a decline in the percentage of Americans who believe humans affect climate, but our survey suggests the nation is not among the worst deniers. (Those are France, Japan and Australia.) Attitudes, however, may be shifting the other way. Among those respondents who have changed their opinions in the past year, three times more said they are more certain than less certain that humans are changing the climate.”

 Are things swinging towards a greater acceptance of climate change?  

The survey asked the following question: “Over the past year, have your views on climate altered in any way?”  

The figures for Australia are as follows:  

  • My views have not changed – 49%
  • I am more doubtful that human activity is changing the climate – 37%
  • I am more certain humans are changing the climate – 14%  

Of those changing their minds, more people are accepting the science.  

Which indicates, that despite all the sound-and-fury of the denial movement they are losing.

However, the survey conducted polled SciAm readers, as science friendly sample as you are going to get:

“…Scientific American partnered with our sister publication, Nature, the international journal of science, to poll readers online. More than 21,000 people responded via the Web sites of Nature and of Scientific American and its international editions. As expected, it was a supportive and science-literate crowd—19 percent identified themselves as Ph.Ds. But attitudes differed widely depending on particular issues—climate, evolution, technology—and on whether respondents live in the U.S., Europe or Asia.”

Still, interesting.  

I’ve been saying that climate change denial is entering it’s own death spiral in response to real world events.  

Time will tell.  

[Hat tip: Pharyngula]

Must see TV: Have we been conned? Flannery, Garnaut, Hamilton and McKibben

Hat tip Big Buck Hunter.

An interesting conversation at the Sydney Writers Festival between Tim Flannery, Ross Garnaut, Clive Hamilton and Bill McKibben:

At this Sydney Writers’ Festival event highlight, ‘Have we been conned on climate change? An emergency Town Hall meeting’, four leading climate change thinkers address the devastating lack of political leadership on the issue of climate change in Australia.

Environmentalist Tim Flannery (The Weather Makers), economist and author of the Garnaut Report Ross Garnaut, academic/writer/public intellectual Clive Hamilton (Requiem for a Species) and US journalist and activist Bill McKibben (Eaarth) speak frankly and passionately about what needs to be done and where the political system has failed.

Well worth watching.

When two tribes go to war: Bolt v Hamilton

Round one… let the blog war begin!

It’s no secret that Andrew Bolt’s blog is a perhaps the premier source of climate change denial in the Australia media. Bolt frequently publishes posts from well-known sceptic blogs such as “Watt’s up with that” and other prominent denialist web sites.

The forums – where the general public get to post their own comments – can be nothing less than a toxic waste land. It would seem the anonymity of the internet allow posters to not only make outrageous claims, but post some of the most venomous comments I’ve seen in a public forum. I’m happy to admit I’ll jump in there and make a few comments, but I try to keep my remarks civil.

In a recent article on the ABC website (more specifically, JJJ’s Drum) academic Clive Hamilton points our attention to this fact:

“…Andrew Bolt’s blog deserves special mention both because it has become the most popular meeting place for deniers in Australia and because it is sponsored by a mainstream media outlet, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, a Murdoch tabloid….”

Hamilton’s article was  addressing how many scientists and journalists have experienced “cyber bullying” by climate change sceptics and whether or not this was part of an orchestrated campaign. His suggestion: some of it could be orchastrated by sceptic groups, while some of it is angry individuals feeding off the deabte. Hamilton then suggests the anger of so many of these cyber-bullies is driven by prominent blogs in the Australian media. In his estimation they often provide the “fuel for the fire” for “angry sceptics”.

Hamilton made reference to the fact that Bolt’s blog as virtual meeting place for conspiracy theorists and the general nastiness of many of the comments.

Bolt’s glass jaw, while Hamilton’s point is proved by the quality of the comments

Andrew Bolt quickly responded on his own blog:

“The ABC’s home site seems to me to be not just stupid but defamatory in implying with this graphic that I organise the cyber-bullying of warmist scientists…”

His post was accompanied images of Nazi’s burning books . Bolt also snipped the article to make it appear Hamilton was stating he was behind the disinformation campaign. What’ s interesting is how Bolt presented Hamilton’s text:

“The floods of offensive and threatening emails aimed at intimidating climate scientists have all the signs of an orchestrated campaign by sceptics groups. The links are well-hidden because mobilizing people to send abuse and threats is well outside the accepted bounds of democratic participation; indeed, some of it is illegal…

The posts on these sites often provoke an outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and vilification of individuals. There is no restraining influence and, in the middle of one of these frenzies, it would be a brave sceptic who called for caution and moderation in the ideas expressed or the language used.

In Australia, a handful of denialist websites stand out. They include the blog of Herald-Sun commentator Andrew Bolt…

Andrew Bolt’s blog deserves special mention both because it has become the most popular meeting place for deniers in Australia and because it is sponsored by a mainstream media outlet, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, a Murdoch tabloid.

Clearly we get the impression that Hamilton is accusing Bolt personally of orchestrating these attacks. However, when one compares the original we see large parts of Hamilton’s article have been “snipped”. I’ve highlighted the text Bolt did not include:

“The floods of offensive and threatening emails aimed at intimidating climate scientists have all the signs of an orchestrated campaign by sceptics groups. The links are well-hidden because mobilizing people to send abuse and threats is well outside the accepted bounds of democratic participation; indeed, some of it is illegal. And an apparently spontaneous expression of citizen concern carries more weight than an organised operation by a zealous group.

Without access to ISP logs, it is difficult to trace the emails to a source. However, it is clear that hard-line denialists congregate electronically at a number of internet nodes where they engage in mutual reinforcement of their opinions and stoke the rage that lies behind them.

Those who operate these sites retail the “information” that reinforces the assertions made by their followers. They often post highly personal attacks on individuals who speak in favour of mainstream science and measures to combat global warming, knowing from experience that they will stimulate a stream of vituperation from their supporters.

The posts on these sites often provoke an outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and vilification of individuals. There is no restraining influence and, in the middle of one of these frenzies, it would be a brave sceptic who called for caution and moderation in the ideas expressed or the language used.

Recently, this stew of paranoia has been given a boost by the media exposure granted to Christopher Monckton in his recent Australian tour. Monckton propounded his extraordinary theory about climate change being a conspiracy by communists – assisted by the Hitler Youth and a craven scientific establishment – to seize power through a world government hidden in a climate treaty. A few months ago a fantasist like Monckton would have attracted only eye-rolling from news editors.

I am not suggesting that the individuals and organisations I have mentioned are responsible for organising the cyber-bullying attacks on scientists and others. However, they do create an environment that encourages them. The effect of these sites is three-fold.

1. They supply the ammunition that confirms and elaborates on climate deniers’ beliefs.
2. They provide a forum in which deniers can participate in a like-minded community that reinforces their views.
3. And they identify the individuals responsible for promoting climate lies, stimulating participants to make direct contacts with “warmists”.

Andrew Bolt’s blog deserves special mention both because it has become the most popular meeting place for deniers in Australia and because it is sponsored by a mainstream media outlet, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, a Murdoch tabloid.

Bolt specialises in posts of angry ridicule directed at climate scientists and any others who publicly accept the science. Recent targets have included Ove Hoegh-Guldburg, Andy Pitman, and the CSIRO as a whole.

Bolt has admitted that his posts bad-mouthing climate scientists have incited his readers to send abusive emails to them…”

I’ve highlighted the text Bolt chose not to include.

 So what’s going here? Bolt is engaging in one of his favourite techniques: framing the issue. Indeed this is one of the favourite tactics of sceptics. Take the original text, cut and shape it to imply something else. 

However, what escapes Bolt’s attention is the quality of the comments made by anonymous posters supportive of his position back up Hamilton’s points:

Trouble is abc we were right you are backing a fraud ,you are now the skeptics of the truth ,and you did it yourselves with lies and deception ,hows your super money going in the green investments? you see that’s the thing abc, you are after the bucks yourselves and we are paying for the propaganda with taxes ,you have an interest in the loot” where as Andrew Bolt just wants the truth just like we do ,big difference ,there should be a lot more on here now ,you should know Australians never do what they are told especially by communist whacko’s who lie.

thanksforthefreeprdingdongs

Its almost impossible to reason with arguments like the above. Claims of conspiracies, vested interests and claims that Hamilton is a “communist whacko” who  lies.

Frankly, in my opinion this clash proves too things:

  • Andrew Bolt happily dishes it out, but is sensitive to criticism.
  • Clive Hamilton’s point that the forum on Bolt’s blog is a place where all kinds of conspiracy theories and vindictiveness take place is correct.

I’m sure we’ll see a a round two. Watch this space.

About Watching the Deniers

It’s time to bring civility, reason and perspective to the debate on climate change. Ironically as the debate gets uglier and we become more polarised, the science becomes more worrying. Climate change is perhaps the greatest public policy issue of the coming decades.  It’s implications for national security, politics, public health and economics are profound.

Watching the Deniers is about testing the claims of climate change sceptics. Not only do they claim the sceince is “wrong”, but scientists, governments and “greens” are involved in a global conspiracy to defraud the general publc.

It’s an extrondinary claim.

As such it deserves to be critically examined.

This blog will focus on the claims regular made by commentators in the Australian media – printed, television and on radio. Much of what I will do will be fact checking with some analysis. I’ll also post on other climate related news as appropriate.

Ground rules for this blog and discussions

This blog will attempt to engage people on both sides of the debate in a civil manner. Debate can still be robust, but there are some ground rules for discussion:

  • I don’t debate the science – I defer to credible experts. I trust the scientific method, the peer review process and that there is genuine scientific consensus on the issue. I may report on research and science related news stories of interest but I have neither the time nor the qualifications to engage in armchair scientific research and debate. If you have developed your own calculations disproving climate change, I encourage you to submit your research to a recognised science journal utilising the peer review process.
  • Throwing a spotlight on sceptics – I confess: one of my main motivations for starting this site is to monitor the techniques used by “climate change sceptics”. Over the years I’ve noted how closely their attacks model those of over “anti-science” movements such as creationism, intelligent design and the anti-vaccination movement. This is a serious debate with far ranging consequences: thus their claims need to withstand close scrutiny.
  • Bringing back Civility, reason and perspective to the debate – I enjoy robust debate – within reason. Ad hominim attacks, personal insults, appeals to conspiracy theories and threats will simply not be tolerated. I’m more than happy to engage in debate with self proclaimed climate change sceptics. However, I sincerely believe it is time to engage in a more productive and civil conversation. The debate has now reached the point where prominent scientists regularly receive death threats. It’s time to step back, treat other people with respect and focus on the facts.
  • How I handle internet trolls and drive-by posters – Simply spamming this site with links to “Watts up with that?”, YouTube videos etc. is counterproductive and to be frank somewhat annoying. I’ve spent years debating creationists and conspiracy theorists and have enough insight to know that I’ll never change their minds. It may sound harsh, but if I judge content to be “spam” I won’t post it to the comments section. That’s not a discussion, that’s an information dump.

And so, let’s jump into the deep waters of the climate change debate.

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