Category Archives: Jo Nova

Hurricane in a tea cup: Jo Nova misrepresents the science.. again!

One of the most commonly used tactics used by anti-science movements is to misrepresent a complex debate within a scientific discipline. By doing so they hope to invalidate the entire discipline by exploiting gaps in our knowledge or uncertainties.

Creationists have honed this tactic to a fine art, constantly sifting the scientific literature for uncertainties in an attempt to discredit the entire theory of evolution.

Of course the climate change “sceptics” rival the creationists in their attempts to exploit the same tactic.

It goes without saying that the majority of anti-science movements use the same set of basic tactics (see Six Aspects of Denial). Indeed, most of their “arguments” are essentially recycled versions of the same tactics: doubt the science, question the motives of scientists, exploit disagreements and promote the view of contrarians who are out of step with the scientific consensus.

Lacking any arguments with any substance, all they can do is “throw stones” at the science.

Jo Nova – Perth’s resident science mis-communicator – excels in these tactics as a recent post on global warming’s impact on hurricanes illustrates.

However before we go on to expose Nova’s latest error filled post, lets look at how creationists mischaracterize a debate within the scientific community.  

Creationism and climate change denialism: two peas in pod

Within biology there has been some debate on the rate of evolution.

A small minority of scientists have advocated “punctuated equilibrium“: this hypothesis proposes that species will experience long periods of genetic stability and then make rapid evolutionary changes. The mainstream consensus is that evolutionary changes unfold over time in a more gradual process. However – and this is important to understand – the debate in no way invalidates the multiple lines of evidence supporting evolution. Fossils, DNA and other evidence overwhelmingly support the idea that all life has evolved form a common ancestor (or a few ancestors).

Scientists on both “sides” accept evolution. However, creationists continue to mischaracterize the debate in order to invalidate the entire discipline of evolutionary biology:

“It has been common practice for creationists to associate Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monsters” with the theory of punctuated equilibrium, as proposed by Eldredge and Gould.Punctuated equilibrium differs from hopeful monsters in that the former acts on populations rather than individuals, is theoretically more gradual (imagined to take 50,000 to 100,000 years), functions by the evolution of reproductive isolation (through mechanisms such as allopatric speciation), and the latter says nothing of stasis. Creationists such as Luther Sutherland claim that both theories inadvertently appeal to the absence of fossil evidence for evolution and thereby undermining the theory of Darwinian evolution. This predicament is used by creationists to argue that “there are no transitional fossils.”

A perfect example can be found on the pro-creationist “Creation Wiki”:

Despite the acceptance by some evolutionists that macroevolution is simply an extrapolation of the process of microevolution, many hold strong reservations, and assert that large-scale evolutionary phenomena cannot be explained by processes observed at the level of populations.Evolutionists continue to debate whether the Darwinian mechanisms of change, which rests on the tenets of gradualism and natural selection, can explain the discontinuous nature of evolution. Many eminent evolutionists such as Steven Gould, Ivan Schmalhausen, Steven M. Stanley, and C. H. Waddington, hold that microevolution and macroevolution represent fundamentally different processes

Climate change deniers rival creationists in their intellectual dishonesty as Nova’s recent post on hurricanes demonstrates.

What is true of the creationists is also true of the deniers.

Hurricane in a tea-cup: science admits uncertainty while deniers say they are “wrong”

Nova begins her post with a poor attempt at irony:

Will a hotter world lead to more intense storms?

2010 might be on track to be the warmest ever (according to GISS), but right now, we may be about to set a new record of tropical storms — in inactivity. Ryan Maue tracks the global accumulated activity and reports that by the end of July we might break the record low we set last year.”

Hah! LOL Jo, you’re sooooo funny!

Apparently the IPCC and scientists have got things fundamentally wrong.

“They” said a hotter world would cause “more” hurricane and tropical cyclones while reality has proved otherwise. Silly scientists, they got it wrong again!

Of course the posters over at Nova’s blog join in the chorus of denouncing scientists as foolish “alarmists”.

But is this the case?

Scientists acknowledge the uncertainties in linking hurricanes to global warming

Those more familiar with the debate understand this question has not actually been resolved. The IPCC and scientists working on this question acknowledge the link between a hotter world and an increased frequency in the number of hurricanes is a difficult question to answer.

Let’s see what the IPCC has to say on the issue of hurricane intensity and frequency:

“Results from embedded high-resolution models and global models, ranging in grid spacing from 100 km to 9 km, project a likely increase of peak wind intensities and notably, where analysed, increased near-storm precipitation in future tropical cyclones. Most recent published modelling studies investigating tropical storm frequency simulate a decrease in the overall number of storms, though there is less confidence in these projections and in the projected decrease of relatively weak storms in most basins, with an increase in the numbers of the most intense tropical cyclones…”

This neatly summarises our current understanding of the issue. Note: some models predict less hurricanes.

Evidence suggests the frequency of hurricanes/cyclones will not increase dramatically – what may increase is their intensity. There is speculation that they will begin to “pack more power”. As Skeptical Science notes:

“It is unclear whether global warming is increasing hurricane frequency but there is increasing evidence that warming increases hurricane intensity…

…In July 2007, a survey of hurricanes in the North Atlantic over the past century noted an increase in the number of observed hurricanes, concluding “increasing cyclone numbers has lead to a distinct trend in the number of major hurricanes and one that is clearly associated with greenhouse warming” (Holland 2007). However, this was refuted by an analysis of monitoring systems stating “improved monitoring in recent years is responsible for most, if not all, of the observed trend in increasing frequency of tropical cyclones” (Landsea 2007). In other words, the reason more hurricanes are being observed may be due to an improved ability to observe them, thanks to aircraft, radar and satellites…”

Nearly everyone familiar with the science acknowledge their are enormous uncertainties around the science and has done for some time. The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report published in 2001 noted the following:

Climate models currently are unable to project accurately how hurricanes will change in the future. Today, an average of two hurricanes make landfall each year along the coastline of the continental United States (Hebert et al., 1993). There has been considerable interdecadal variability in the number of landfalling hurricanes in the United States (Pielke and Pielke, 1997). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared fewer than 20 natural disasters annually in the 1950s and 1960s but more than 40 yr-1 in the 1990s (Miller et al., 2000).

This understanding is replicated in the popular literature on climate change. My copy of “The rough guide to climate change” – a good popular introduction to the topic – notes the following:

At present, computers aren’t’ of much help in assessing whether we’ll see more tropical cyclones in a warmer world…” [page 134]

It also notes just how hard it is to determine whether or not the frequency of hurricanes and cyclones are increasing:

“The question of whether or not we’ll see more tropical cyclones is problematic for anther reason: most of those cyclones never reach land…” [page 135]

The IPCC, scientific community and popular literature are circumspect on the issue. They clearly articulate the challenges in trying to determine the links and acknowledge the uncertainty.   But does that Nova from misrepresenting the actual science?

Six Aspects of denial: categorising Nova’s error

We can easily identify this tactic listed in our “Six Aspects of Denial“:

Magnify disagreements among scientists and cite gadflies – Again, one of the favourite tactics of the denial movement. The tiny percentage of actual scientists who express scepticism (Plimer, Lindzen) are dwarfed by the thousands of scientists who agree with the consensus that climate change is happening. But the denial movement exploits the media’s tendency to present “both sides” of the argument and thus help perpetrate the myth scientists are still debating climate change, when in fact their is near unanimous agreement.

Put simply, Nova engages in intellectual dishonesty in falsely misrepresents the science.

She knows this.

In fact some of Nova’s readers know this, as one of her regular poster noted:

“Both greater quantity and intensity of storms are predicted.”

I’m not sure that is the case. more intense, yes, but more frequent, I’m pretty sure the jury is still out.

In fact even Wikipedia says this – and since wikipedia is under the control of the warmist cult and lefties then it if anywhere would exaggerate.

Still, it does not stop Nova from posting an obvious falsehood and creating nothing more than a manufactured controversy.

An echo in the echo chamber: Nova spins for spin-doctor Marc Morano and lies about Richard Courtney.. again!

Jo Nova, Perth’s resident science mis-communicator, provides a text book example of how the denial echo chamber works in a recent post.  

Her blog breathlessly announces “another” scientist abandoning the “green scare”:

“Another Green soul declares enough is enough. It’s a question of conscience. Physicist Dr. Denis Rancourt is a former professor and environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa (as green as they come), and has officially bailed out of the man-made global warming movement…”

Really Jo, another scientist declaring loudly their rejection of climate science?

Gosh that AGW theory must really be in trouble!

The reality is that Nova has simply recycled a story created by notorious spin-doctor, Marc Morano.

DeSmogBlog picked this story up already and informs us that Rancourt has not recently abandoned his belief in global warming, but has been loudly proclaiming his scepticism for years:

Took about 3 minutes on Google searching the name Denis Rancourt, who Morano is referring to in his post, to find that this is nothing even remotely new for Rancourt.

Rancourt  has been writing rants against the science of climate change for years.

Morano is trying to spindoctor this into a newsworthy story by making it seem like Rancourt is someone who was completely accepting of the scientific reality of climate change and then just woke up one morning last week and decided to jump ship.

What makes this all the more ridiculous is that Morano himself pushed the exact same story about Rancourt in 2009 when he worked for Senator James Inhofe.

As usual it is the denial machine trying to whip up a story when none exist.  

Indeed, I fully expert other denialists such as Andrew Bolt over at the Herald Sun to start repeating this one in the next day or so.  

Cut and paste denial  

If you go to Senator Inhofe’s US Senate Committe page you’ll note Rancourt is quoted as saying:

Rancourt wrote, “I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized.” “Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middle class,” Rancourt added. 

I can see how a conspiracy theorist like Nova would love this kind of craziness. Nova then cut and pasts the same quote into her post:

“I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized,” Rancourt said.   “Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middleclass,” he stated.

Cut, paste, post and voila!  

Its a perfect example of the denial echo chamber in action.   

Not Richard Courtney again! Nova lies about credentials of so called “expert”  

Later in the same post Nova lists other experts that have apparently “jumped ship”:

UK atmospheric scientist Richard Courtney, a left-of-political center socialist, is another dissenter of man-made climate fears. Courtney, a UN IPCC expert reviewer and a UK-based climate and atmospheric science consultant, is a self-described socialist who also happens to reject man-made climate fears. Courtney declared in 2008 that there is “no correlation between the anthropogenic emissions of GHG (greenhouse gases) and global temperature.”

I had to laugh when I read Courtney being cited as an “atmospheric scientist”.  

The truth is Courtney is not a scientist, though he likes people to think he is.

I caught Courtney passing himself off as a scientist on Jo Nova’s blog early this year. He has a long history of pretending to be a scientist (or letting others make the claim for him).  Eli over at Rabbit Run exposes simular behaviour and even tries to determine his actual qualifications. 

Hint, he lacks expertise in climate science.  

Richard Courtney is one of the founding members of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), a think tank that not has not only published materials on climate denial, but studies attempting to discredit any link between second hand smoke and adverse health effects.

According to DeSmogBlog, Courtney’s career has almost been exclusively in communications and PR.  

Courtney is a PR and think tank hack, working for groups directly funded by companies like Exxon Mobil.  

Expert reviewer for IPCC?  

Its been well established that Courtney is not a scientist. However, what about the claim that he was an “expert reviewer” for the IPCC?  

Only in the sense that he read a draft version of the IPCC report. As DeSmogBlog notes:

A lot of climate change deniers like to tout the fact that they were an “Expert Reviewer” for the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a few DeSmog readers have been asking what exactly if takes to become an “Expert Reviewer.” Well, thanks to our friend Tim Lambert at Deltoid Blog it turns out that an “Expert Reviewer” really isn’t as exciting and not nearly as prestigious as it sounds. Tim writes:  

“Expert reviewer for the IPCC” doesn’t mean that they asked him to review material — all it means is that he asked to see the draft report. The only real requirement to be a reviewer is to sign an agreement not to publicly comment on the draft.”  

I have confirmed this with one of the authors of the updated IPCC report.

The irony of course is that the denial movement works furiously to trash the reputation of the IPCC: however when it suits them they’ll try to claim its authority.  

This is how the echo chamber works. 

Take some half-truths and outright fabrications and spin a story.

Climate scam exposed by Narrogin Observer. Funniest. Article. Ever.

And here I was saying I was on a break from blogging!  I couldn’t let this story pass without commenting…

Jo Nova is reporting on the Anthony Watts tour as it wends its way through Western Australia.

They’ve broken into the big time with a front page story in the Narrogin Observer (circulation 2,523):

“Climate hysteria is a “scam”

..thunders the headline.

The story goes on to quote Watts and Nova at length. Watts is described as a:

“…professional meteorologist man for over 30 years”.

While Nova (a “lecturer and science writer”) is quoted as saying:

“…scientists are starting to have an opinion that was not science.”

Oh those silly scientists, who are they say what science really is!

No, Nova with an undergraduate degree and no published research has a much, much better idea.

As they say on the internet: LMFAO.

Nova shyly admits the Narrogin Observer is “not the New York Times” (no really?), but this is obviously a great propoganda coup for the denial industry.

Let’s be frank: the Watts tour has fallen spectacularly flat.

No disrespect to rural Australia, but it’s  a sad indictment of these “citizen scientists” if this is the best they can do. Talk about operating on the fringes of the debate.

Please, someone call Media Watch.

I can’t reach the phone at the moment, I’m in too much pain from laughing.

Note: see Anarchist606 on Nova.

Rage against the science: Jo Nova calls scientists “witch doctors” in her most venomous post to date

R.I. P. The Scientific Method. Hello totalitarian government, where money buys you authority, and authority passes for reason – Jo Nova

A few blogs have been posting about the recent survey by researchers from Stanford and published in the influential journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on the climate scientists views on climate change. I’ve not blogged about it as they’ve done the job, and I’m focussed on the Australian denial machine.  

For those not familiar with the paper, DeSmogBlog sums up what we’ve known along: there is a strong scientific consensus on climate change, and the views of the “sceptics represent only a tiny percentage:

A study by Stanford University researchers examining expert credibility in climate change has confirmed that climate skeptics and contrarians within the scientific community comprise at best 3% of the field, and are “vastly overshadowed” in expertise by their colleagues who agree that manmade climate change is real. 

The abstract of the paper sums up the careful approach and methodology of the research:

Although preliminary estimates from published literature and expert surveys suggest striking agreement among climate scientists on the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the American public expresses substantial doubt about both the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement underpinning ACC. A broad analysis of the climate scientist community itself, the distribution of credibility of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers, and the level of agreement among top climate experts has not been conducted and would inform future ACC discussions. Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.

How does the Australian denial community respond?  

Not just with denial, but with rage and contempt.  

Today Jo Nova seems to have gone into overdrive with a post that is so excessively venomous, hate filled and nasty that in a few days time she must surely feel embarrassed and ashamed when she calms done.

As a piece of writing, it’s barely comprehensible.  

Here’s the opener:

A shameful day in the history of science. The once esteemed National Academy of Science is reduced to pagan witchcraft: point the bone at the blacklist, count the tea-leaves (I mean papers), put on your funny hat and make a prophesy about the weather…

In one long ad-hominim attack on the National Academy of Science, climate scientists, government, banks – and just about everyone she disagrees with – she accuses them of conspiring to cover up the truth and manufacture a “false religion”:

The science-communication pollution from the PNAS contributes to global confusion, it feeds the dark soul of undirected religious brains who think the Gods of Science are real and have something to say. These “Gods” are fake, and we bow not before them. The lowliest high school science student who searches for truth among the measurements is far more worthy than the Great Pretenders who think their own opinions count for more than radiosonde results…

…Shame on you Schneider, traitor to science. Shame on the NAS editors who allowed this pathetic excuse for research into their publications. And shame on any member of the NAS who doesn’t shout in protest at this denigration of the good name that took decades to build. 

She the goes on to accuses scientists of being “witch doctors”:

Since the dawn of time tribal witchdoctors have been forecasting storms and asking us to pay tribute to their Idols. The NAS has descended into abject farce. Argument by authority is the disguise of the witchdoctor — Trust me, I am the chosen one.

The list of approved “climate scientists” might as well be a list of anointed preachers of the Cult of Climate Science. The esteemed?

In terms of invective, this rates with Monckton accusing young climate activists of being “Nazis”. This surely qualifies as one of the most rabid attacks on scientists this year (and there have been some nasty ones).

But it’s not just what she has written that is embarrassing.

She then takes the front cover of the latest issue of PNAS:

And turns into this:

Reading Jo’s post today I was actually saddened. It may serve as an emotional release for Nova, but ultimately it looks very bad.

Sure, we all say things we regret… but Jo, even by your standards you’ve gone to far. Sometimes when you write in anger you need to save the draft and look at it the next day with a cooler head.

This is just… well… ugly.

But, when faced with facts that contradict her world view what can she do but react with denial and anger?

Six Aspect of Denial

Quite easy to classify Nova’s outburst under the Six Aspects of Denial:

  • Question the motives and integrity of scientists: essentially Nova calls scientists “witch doctors”. As I said, a rather nasty example of her writing.

Jo Nova is about to reveal an even BIGGER conspiracy… the “paper aristocracy”

Jo Nova, Perth’s resident science (mis)communicator has recently signalled a new direction for her blog, expanding it from climate denial to encompass economics:

Before I wrote about climate science I was writing about the markets.

Just to add some background, we’ve been invested in gold and gold related stocks for ten years. We watched money supply figures and “inflation” statistics and saw the gaping discrepancy. I was writing about gold and the coming financial storm in 2008 for news outlets like The Mining Chronicle before Lehman Bros fell, I was buying and selling gold contracts on the Comex futures exchange for a while too.

This is some explanation for regular readers who might wonder “why” non climate stories will begin to appear. The blog is here to expose deceitful reasoning and poor communication and how they are used against us. In the sense that truth is stranger than fiction, I’ve been lucky enough to come across some extraordinary tales.

This is also a primer for people who think that the economics jargon is not worth the effort. Wait til [sic] you hear what’s been going on.

Carbon is the second largest scam in history.

Which makes one ask, what is the biggest scam in history?

Nova is pushing her blog in a new direction, and of course I’m curious. Over the past months I’ve noted Nova’s rabid contempt for the finance industry. In her view it is “they” who are really behind the “climate scam”.

For some time I was puzzled: generally many sceptics are pro-market (viz such as Matt Ridley author of “The Rational Optimist”).

Still, I was puzzled by this apparent disconnect between the more general concerns for economic growth more “moderate” sceptics have than Nova’s disdain for finance?

In this instance it appears both Nova and her husband – David “Rocket Scientist” Evans – are firm followers of an obscure branch of the “Church of Conspiracy Theory”.

I’ve noted in the past that Nova’s blog attracts a large number of conspiracy theorists.

From what I can tell from the writings of both Jo Nova and her husband David Evans, their objections to the science of climate change is driven by a deeper, more ideological view of the world.

Bear with me as I introduce you to the strange, murky world of “fiat money” conspiracy theory.

Fiat money: here comes the real conspiracy on Nova’s blog

The following 2009 post by Nova caught my attention. Since then I’ve trying to fathom why Nova repeatedly makes connections between climate change and the finance industry:

Carbon credits are a form of fiat currency, yet as calls for carbon trading grow, ironically, another fiat currency collapses—destroying life savings, wiping out jobs, and taking down historic institutions overnight.

Meanwhile, global warming alarmists are asking us to create another fiat currency, this time based on hot air. Large multinational conglomerates are already pouring billions into exchanges and derivatives in anticipation of carbon trading. There are ‘options’ to buy credits in the future.

There’s no longer any evidence that carbon matters much to our climate; and in the unlikely event that carbon might matter, the benefits of trading carbon don’t add up. If the US adopted Obama’s strict 80% reduction in emissions tomorrow, thus transforming the main energy source used by Americans since Columbus, the savings in carbon merely delay the claimed warmer-Armageddon by six years.

Nova belongs seems to belong to the “fiat money” conspiracy school. It’s an obscure branch of conspiracy theory family, and it took me some time to recognise it. However, recent posts on her blog are starting to reveal more about her world view.

Fiat money conspiracy theorists say “Watch out, the ‘general economic collapse’ is coming!”

The term fiat money “derives from the Latin fiat, meaning “let it be done”, as the money is established by government decree.” All modern currencies are “fiat monies including “the euro, and all other reserve currencies, and have been since the Nixon Shock of 1971” when the US abandoned the gold standard [1]

There is a large, complex and ongoing debate between economists on the role of central banks, money supply and policy. Since 1971 when most countries abandoned the gold standard there has been a small, but dedicated body of cranks and the occasional academic who have called for the the gold standard to be adopted once again.

“Fiat money conspiracy” theorists take their objections a step further and believe governments are issuing “false” or “useless money” in order to control our society.

In the minds of Evans and Nova there is a small cabal of families who have been manipulating money markets for centuries in order to maintain power of society (see below). It’s a conspiracy theory that get’s a lot of traction with fundamentalist Christians and those who believe the Freemasons/Illuminati/Lizard Overlords are manipulating things.

It’s also echoed by others, particularly in the United States. Ultra-conservative Republican, and former Presidential wannabe, Ron Paul is constantly talking about “fiat money” and how it will be used as a tool to create hyper-inflation:

“Hyperinflation favors the people with a lot of money, depending upon their investments.

You see, the very rich will not have trouble getting by. They have hardened investments and extra money to invest in new things. Like land. Like devalued real estate and homes in the aftermath of a bubble pop. They can afford to buy more. Especially if they know how the cards will fall on the table, in advance…

…Let’s say we go through a three year period of turmoil caused by the Fed’s Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation, and at the end of the cycle, they finally stabilize the currency with gold, so the inflation they generated does not spin completely out of control.

After the hyperinflation wave ends:

— A can of Campbell’s vegetable soup costs $7.

– A new five-bedroom suburban home costs $900,000.

But you just bought a new five bedroom home a couple of years ago for $75,000.

You can sell it, or you can rent it to tenants. Either way, you have achieved massive profits.”

Hyper-inflation will be used to reduce the majority of humanity to poverty, thus leaving “those” in power with the only remaining wealth and the ability to fully control the world.

Says one poster on the thread discussing Paul’s article, the elites want to have “have control over all the resources” and their “…end goal is a world banking system, a world government and a world army that keeps the slaves in line so the privileged few can use and abuse them for their own amusement.”

Amongst the conspiracy “community” there is often talk about the coming “general economic collapse”. According to this theory – and it has many forms – an elite will usher in an age of hyper-inflation to impoverish citizens in the developed world. Having achieved this they be in possession of the only real assets (property, gold) and thus have even greater political power.

Depending on the conspiracy these “elites” are either the Freemasons, Fabians or Bliderberg Group.

The gold connection

Of particular concern to fiat money conspiracy theorists is gold. They work very hard to buy and hoard it in the eventuality that economic “Armageddon” is just around the corner. Which is why Nova admits to being “studying gold markets” for years.

As further prove of this, Nova and Evans has set up a company called “Gold Nerds“:

“…GoldNerds focus on the fundamentals of the North American and Australian listed companies that are producing gold or exploring for gold. We live and breathe numbers! The founding members are scientists and engineers who are also investors and monetary historians. The GoldNerds research team is spread across Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, the US, and Switzerland, and includes ex-stockbrokers, business analysts, accountants, and full time investors.”

Where you can:

  • Make money through gold investments.
  • Spread the word that gold is the only currency not created out of thin air by governments and banks.
  • Meet like-minded people.

But is there really a connection between Nova’s obsession with gold markets and fiat money conspiracies?

Yes, in a 2008 article written by Nova for website “Gold 321” she discusses” just how ominous this is:

This is what the start of hyperinflation would look like.


Because the gold standard was dropped in 1971, money can be effectively created out of thin air. So it is no surprise to find that since September, newly created money has been raining from the sky. (Apparently this rain falls only on banks and a few large financials.)

The scale is unlike anything seen since the US Federal Reserve was formed in 1913. As the weeks progress on, all previous giant distortions shrink to goosebumps as the scale of the graph is redrawn.

What is that Nova fears? Hyper-inflation as a weapon of economic mass destruction. It’s what many subscribers of this particular conspiracy theory fret about. Traditionally gold has been seen as a “defence”:

Representative money and the gold standard protect citizens from hyperinflation and other abuses of monetary policy, as were seen in some countries during the Great Depression. However, they were not without their problems and critics, and so were partially abandoned via the international adoption of the Bretton Woods System. That system eventually collapsed in 1971, at which time nearly all nations had switched to full fiat money.

The darker fringes of those subscribing to fiat money conspiracy usually subscribe to the believe that the “New World Order” is imminent. the site Overlords of Chaos is typical of this school of thought:

Who issues money is perforce both politically and economically a very important question, for control of a nation’s money supply ipso facto brings with it control of that nation’s credit and thus control of that nation.

And the purpose of this?

“…But what is this New World Order Plan? In a nutshell the Plan is this. The Dark Agenda of the secret planners of the New World Order is to reduce the world’s population to a “sustainable” level “in perpetual balance with nature” by a ruthless Population Control Agenda via Population and Reproduction Control. A Mass Culling of the People via Planned Parenthood, toxic adulteration of water and food supplies, release of weaponised man-made viruses, man-made pandemics, mass vaccination campaigns and a planned Third World War. Then, the Dark Agenda will impose upon the drastically reduced world population a global feudal-fascist state with a World Government, World Religion, World Army, World Central Bank, World Currency and a micro-chipped population. In short, to kill 90% of the world’s population and to control all aspects of the human condition and thus rule everyone, everywhere from the cradle to the grave..”

What to make of all this?

I’ve seen the same claims made by posters on Nova’s make similar claims:

  • “The general agenda is to depopulate the US, while some of them enrich themselves at our expense…”
  • “The actual agenda is to destroy the idea and practice of private property, and hence capitalism…”
  • “Australian Nartive Title legislation is part of this diminishment of the concept of private property…”

Comments by regular posters on her recent foray into politics make the same points:

“And agree with you on the world government/fabians etc but one of the things they believe is the world is overpopulated and needs to be reduced to 500 million (from 8 billion plus). I think that they know we are in for a cold time they are just making sure we are not prepared for it and in doing so they will cause the most damage they can. (poster “twawki”)

I’d note not all comments follow that pattern, but the trend towards supporting conspiracy theories is marked.

In the words of Richard Hofstadter who famously characterised this “paranoid style of politics“:

“The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction…”

Nova’s support for the extreme fringes of conspiracy theory

At first I thought Nova’s views on “fiat money” where closer to those of libertarians and those of the “Austrian School” of economics who detest any form of government intervention in the market because it gives it too much power. We can have a robust debate on these questions, they remain in the realm of real policy discussion.

However, in another 2009 post Nova cites a paper by her husband on fiat money:

David Evans has written up a paper that describes just what kind of Octopus we are dealing with, and it’s bigger and more insidious than almost anything you can imagine. It’s a long paper, but if you are not aware of how our currencies are created out of thin air, backed by nothing, and why the Global Financial Crisis was not a surprise to those of us watching the money supply, then stand back, hold onto your hats and take a deep breath.

It’s like living in The Matrix.

Nova cites one of her husband’s papers made available from notorious denial think tank, the “Science and Public Policy Institute” (the home of Lord Monckton). At the end of his paper Evans makes the following claims:

“…There are a small number of families who, over the centuries, have amassed wealth through financial rent seeking. They are leading members of the paper aristocracy. For example, the Rothschild’s are the biggest banking family in Europe, and were reputed to own half of all western industry in 1900. That sort of wealth doesn’t just dissipate, because unless the managers are incompetent the wealth tends to concentrate. The banking families don’t work for a living in the normal sense, like the rest of us. They avoid scrutiny and envy by blending in and make themselves invisible. Since they own or influence all sorts of media organizations, it isn’t too hard. There are unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories, but nobody can really credibly say how much wealth and influence they have…

…Perhaps today’s fiat currencies—the US dollar, pound, yen and so on—will go up in smoke in an inflationary crescendo in the next few years, perhaps as planned by the paper aristocracy. Maybe they will reintroduce an asset backed currency. And guess who has all the gold? Those banking families have been salting it away for years. Possibly a global currency, so one cannot escape the predations of the paper aristocracy. This is not just about money, but about power, of course. Anyway, these are only unsubstantiated rumors. We shall see.

This is full-blown conspiracy theory in its most purist form. Like Ron Paul and the more extreme Overlords of Chaos, Evans make the direct link between “manufactured” money and its role as a weapon.

This is not the harmless and charming “Elvis is still alive and living in Florida” kind, but a kind of David Icke “Lizard-people-are-going-to-eat-our-brains!” level of conspiracy theory making.

Nova and Evans seem to believe that the current powers-that-be are intent on using fiat money to exert political control over the global population and have been working towards this end for centuries. As noted, fiat money is a particular obsession of “New World Order” fantasists who believe a shadowy cabal are trying to create a one world government through the UN, IPCC and international treaties.

This is truly the “paranoid style of politics”.

It clearly explains Nova’s rabid hatred of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which in her eyes is nothing more than a massive scam to create “false wealth” and yet another lever of power to be used by “them”.

Conclusion: we take Evans/Nova seriously why?

It explains a great deal about her and Evans obsessions with banks, money and gold. It also explains why they have to reject climate science.

After all, if it leads to the creation of more fiat money, it therefore must be part of “the conspiracy”.

Which has to prompt one to ask: why do so many people take Nova and Evans seriously?

Why should two extreme conspiracy theorists be given a voice in papers such as The Australian?

I suspect the extent and depth of their conspiracy making is not well understood, as they’ve taken advantage of the “report both sides” of reporting and the conservative press who question climate change for other reasons.


[Edited 9/6/10 for additional comments]

Jo Nova gets something right: pro-AGW article on her blog?

Credit where credit is due.

I know I’ve been critical of many of the things Perth “climate sceptic” Jo Nova has written on her blog, but I do have to pay tribute to the fact that she has given Andrew Glikson, Earth and Paleoclimate scientist from Australian National University a guest post on her blog.

Glikson has been given the opportunity to present the evidence for anthropogenic global warming. It’s highly technical, but well worth reading.

Says Nova:

Dr Andrew Glikson and I have been debating the evidence first through Quadrant, and then here. Kudos to him for following this up in a polite, diligent manner. This kind of open debate is extremely rare, and I am happy to encourage it.

This is encouraging, it punctures the intellectual wall both climate deniers and warmists can build around their communities.

Sure Jo, we are going to disagree on the science. But I will compliment you on presenting arguments that run counter to your own the beliefs. Also, hats off to Glikson who is prepared to engage this community.

Months ago when I conducted my “Dunning-Kruger” experiment I noted that many of the commentators on Nova’s blog where articulate and curious. I stated:

Helping them understand just how fiendishly complicated the science that supports climate change actually is may engender more respect for the work scientist do. I also think those in the denier community might enjoy the opportunity.

Perhaps we should be less concerned with bombarding the deniers with the results of research, but engaging them with how the science works. I actually think many of them would be fascinated.

Otherwise many of these individuals are left to the mercy of the peddlers of conspiracy theories and pseudo-science.

Personally, I believe the sceptics are misguided in discounting the overwhelming evidence for AGW. But I think Glikson should be applauded to engage them in discussion and present the scientific case for AGW.

If you do go over there to join the debate, try to keep it civil. This could be constructive. Some of the posters there are irate that Glikson was allowed to post his material, others are working hard to discredit the evidence.

I’ll be watching this development on Nova’s blog with interest.

The coming denier festival: Watts, Nova headline national tour

Get ready for a fresh storm of misinformation hitting our shores down under! After Christopher “Lord” Monckton’s tour this year, another luminary of the denial movement is coming to Australia for a speaking tour. 

Anthony Watt’s the world’s “leading sceptical climate blogger, is touring down under:

Anthony Watts is a TV weatherman, meterologist and has arguably the worlds best blog site on the climate change debate.

He has been researching the global surface temperatures from around the world and will be speaking in 18 cities across Australia. The conclusions are highly significant to the international debate. This tour will have three or four high quality presentations at each meeting. We hope many of you will attend and brings some friends as well.

The Emissions Trading Scheme is still government policy and these presentations will make you think hard about the gap between the facts, public perception and where our political leaders want to take us

Dates are listed here.

If I’m free, I’m planning to go and report.

Expect a fresh round of misinformation reported in The Australian, on Nova’s blog, Andrew Bolt’s blog and in newspapers.

Question: how can we challenge the distortions and misinformation that is bound to hit the media?

No Mrs Nova, you are not a sceptic.

Perth’s resident science (mis)communicator and climate change denier, Jo Nova, continues to display a complete lack of self-awareness by confusing “denial” with “scepticism”.

Recently she has developed a real dislike for academic Stephan Lewandowksy. In her latest venom filled post, she attacks him by cherry picking facts from his work:

This is too rich. Baa Humbug has found scientific peer-reviewed research that skeptics are more attuned to reality and better able to discount misinformation (!) but, oh the irony, which researcher makes this claim? The man with the fairy dust logic, Stephan Lewandowsky. It’s just a shame he wouldn’t know a skeptic if one sat on him.

I can see why she would find Lewandowsky’s work confronting, as his work looks at the psychological basis of denial and how people commit “misinformation” to memory as facts:

We draw three pragmatic conclusions: First, the repetition of tentative news stories, even if they are subsequently disconfirmed, can assist in the creation of false memories in a substantial proportion of people. Second, once information is published, its subsequent correction does not alter people’s beliefs unless they are suspicious about the motives underlying the events the news stories are about.  Third, when people ignore corrections, they do so irrespective of how certain they are that the corrections occurred.

Lewandowsky called out the denial movement on the ABC’s Drum Unleashed few weeks back, pointing out the paranoid style of their thinking. This prompted Nova to attack Lewandowsky in her usual style of half-truths, barely concealed ad hominem attacks and by reproducing a picture of a submarine. She also attempted to thread the needle of not offending the committed conspiracy theorists that frequent her blog by referring to 9/11 as a “building accident”.

Nova: classic example of quote mining

This week she continues her personal vendetta against Lewandoskwy by quote mining some of Lewandowksy’s writings in an attempt to undermine his credibility (see first link above). First she launches into an ad hominem attack:

Get ready, Lewandowsky has written the Guide to being a Skeptic and it has all the value of any guide written by The Gullible.

Take that pointy headed professor! Zing! What a wit that Nova is!

Nova does not need facts when her repertoire of one liners can easily dismiss her opponents.

Next she fundamentally misrepresents key points in an opinion piece by Lewandowsky on the site Online Opinion, in an article titled “A sceptics guide to politics“.

First, she distorts the point Lewandowky makes by selectively quoting [I’ll mark his text in blue, Nova’s in grey]:

Third, being sceptical means to consider the track record of politicians and specific media outlets. If their record turns out to be patchy, should you continue to trust them? [Lewandowksy]

The first rule in the Good Guide to Get Confused is to mix up the message with the messenger. You can spend hours going through someone’s CV, or their “track record” on unrelated topics, and never learn anything about the actual topic that matters. (This is the point that blows him away as a fake skeptic. This is Argument  from Authority — judge the person not the particulars. The first requirement of any skeptic is surely to look at the evidence, not the character of the messenger.) [Nova]

Actually Jo, he is saying use the media as one means to track their performance as a piece of evidence. Let’s look at the whole passage:

Third, being sceptical means to consider the track record of politicians and specific media outlets. If their record turns out to be patchy, should you continue to trust them? For example; then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Howard thoroughly and rather glibly dismissed the famous 2006 Lancet study which estimated that more than 600,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion.

Yet we now know that Blair’s own scientific advisers had informed him that the Lancet methodology was scientifically sound and the best technique available. Howard received similar advice from prominent Australian physicians. Does this indicate a good track record?

This is not an argument from authority.

I’m not sure Nova actually knows what an argument from authority is: it means do not accept the views of someone based on their position or status alone. She likes to talk about logical fallacies, and yet (a) does not appear to understand what they are and (b) can’t seem to properly identify them.

Logic sounds good doesn’t it Jo, but for fraks sake learn to use it. Please?

Lewandowksy argues that we not simply accept the word of Blair/Howard unless we measure it against other sources of information:

Yet we now know that Blair’s own scientific advisers had informed him that the Lancet methodology was scientifically sound and the best technique available. Howard received similar advice from prominent Australian physicians. Does this indicate a good track record?

Yet more quote mining and framing by the denial movement. A few paragraphs before, Lewandowsky actually says this:

Indeed, if there is anything positive to be rescued from the Iraq fiasco, it is the reaffirmation of the intelligence of common citizens who disbelieved their leaders’ statements and showed more common sense than their governments.

The entire article is about weighing up the track record of politicians against evidence presented in a variety of sources.

I’m not sure *how* Nova arrives at her conclusion, but it is a strange and twisted path.

A denier, is a denier by any other name…

Nova prides herself on being a sceptic, when in fact what she practices is denial.

When called on it she gets rather touchy. As we’ve said before, her thin veneer of light heartedness masks a very brittle personality. It’s worth remembering what Michael Shermer, one of the world’s leading sceptics has to say about Jo’s brand of scepticism:

WHAT is the difference between a sceptic and a denier? When I call myself a sceptic, I mean that I take a scientific approach to the evaluation of claims. A climate sceptic, for example, examines specific claims one by one, carefully considers the evidence for each, and is willing to follow the facts wherever they lead.

A climate denier has a position staked out in advance, and sorts through the data employing “confirmation bias” – the tendency to look for and find confirmatory evidence for pre-existing beliefs and ignore or dismiss the rest.

Let’s be honest Jo, I think this best describes your world view:

What sometimes happens is that people confuse these two types of questions – scientific and ideological. Sometimes the confusion is deliberate. Denial is one outcome. Thus, one practical way to distinguish between a sceptic and a denier is the extent to which they are willing to update their positions in response to new information. Sceptics change their minds. Deniers just keep on denying.

What evidence would change Nova’s mind that AGW is real?

None I suspect, as she repeatedly waves away evidence presented to her.

How do we know Nova is a denier, and not a sceptic: polar bears

We know Nova is a denier, and not a sceptic because she keeps using the same discredited “facts” that circulate in the denial blog-o-sphere and that have been debunked repeatedly. In the same post she peddles the old “polar bear populations are growing” argument:

Polar bears are dying out? (Even though there are five times as many bears as there were 50 years ago.

For the last time Ms. Nova, that is not true. Here’s the Sceptical Science article on the issue:

While there is some uncertainty on current polar bear population trends, one thing is certain. No sea ice means no seals which means no polar bears. With Arctic sea ice retreating at an accelerating rate, the polar bear is at grave risk of extinction…

A study conducted by the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS 2006) studied polar bear populations in 4 Arctic regions. Currently, populations were stable in two of the regions while numbers were declining in the other two regions. The decline was linked to a fall in sea ice. Based on the projections of diminishing Arctic ice, polar habitat is expected to decrease by 42% by 2050.

Studies have shown declining populations of the polar bear. The United States Geologic survey has been monitoring polar bear populations in different areas and notes the following:

“It is very difficult to quantify demographic trends on the basis of only 5 data points (i.e., vital rates for the 5 yearly intervals from 2001-2006), especially for a species with a multiyear reproductive cycle that lives in a complex and dynamic ecosystem. Nonetheless, the intensive capture-recapture study in the SB region from 2001-2006 established a relationship between declining sea ice and decreased survival..”

The article from Wikipedia sums up a range of research:

“The effects of global warming are most profound in the southern part of the polar bear’s range, and this is indeed where significant degradation of local populations has been observed.[115] The Western Hudson Bay subpopulation, in a southern part of the range, also happens to be one of the best-studied polar bear subpopulations. This subpopulation feeds heavily on ringed seals in late spring, when newly weaned and easily hunted seal pups are abundant.[106] The late spring hunting season ends for polar bears when the ice begins to melt and break up, and they fast or eat little during the summer until the sea freezes again.[106]

Due to warming air temperatures, ice-floe breakup in western Hudson Bay is currently occurring three weeks earlier than it did 30 years ago, reducing the duration of the polar bear feeding season.[106] The body condition of polar bears has declined during this period; the average weight of lone (and likely pregnant) female polar bears was approximately 290 kg (640 lb) in 1980 and 230 kg (510 lb) in 2004.[106] Between 1987 and 2004, the Western Hudson Bay population declined by 22%…”

I’d recommend you go to primary resources as well, and not take Wikipedia at face value. However it is an accurate summary of the research.

Polar Bears International, a group dedicated to the study and conservation of polar bears has this to say about their numbers:

In 2006, scientists reported clear signs of stress in the southern Beaufort Sea polar bears compared with 20 years ago, including:

  • A drop in the survival rate of cubs.
  • Lower body weight and smaller skull sizes in adult male polar bears.

The western Hudson Bay population showed the same signs of stress before its numbers crashed, dropping from about 1200 bears in 1987 to about 950 bears in 2004.

But really, what would scientists studying these animals in the wild know?

Polar bear populations are not exploding. If anything this magnificent animal is at risk.

Nova: a critical lack of self-awareness

You’ve heard a fact, an incorrect one at that Ms. Nova, and you’ve continued to believe polar bear numbers are growing despite the most authoritative source stating otherwise.

This is exactly what Lewandowsky was talking about Ms. Nova. That little factoid is lodged in your brain and refuses to budge. You won’t let it budge. You don’t want to let it go.

“But there are more polar bears! I read it once!”

Your’s is a perfect text-book example of Lewandowsky’s research.

It explains why we know you’re a denier, and not a true sceptic.

Jo Nova: claims she is no conspiracy theorist while stating 9/11 was a “building accident”

Inside the world of climage change denial...

..and how the denial movement is “tone deaf” to true knowledge 

 Jo Nova takes umbrage to being labelled a conspiracy theorist in an irony free post  that goes on to indulge in text book conspiracy making. Take her comments on the 9/11 Truthers who posit the Bush Administration orchestrated the September 11 attacks in 2001:  

Is the planet warming from man-made CO2? Lewandowsky “knows” it is. Why? Because the 9/11 truthers are conspiracy theorists (and conspiracies are always wrong). O’ look, a few people ask odd questions about an accident in a building years ago, and sometimes those people are also the species Homo Sapiens Climate Scepticus (!). So it follows (if you are insane) that because some people still doubt the official story of an unrelated past event, man-made global warming will contribute 3.7W/m2 in the year 2079, and we’ll all become souffles in the global Sahara.         

9/11 was a building accident? And 9/11 Truthers are merely asking “odd” questions?     

Oh no Jo, you’re not a conspiracy theorist at all… But Nova knows that many of her core constituents are conspiracy theorists (viz this post in which one of her fans postulates the theory of AGW is being used to depopulate the US and destroy capitalism).      

Indeed, if you mine the comments on Nova’s site you will find pretty every species of conspiracy theory. These are the “angry minds” who see the hand of socialists/greens/liberals behind the science of climate change.     

As a consequence she is an equal opportunity conspiracy theorist: all these theories are given free rain on her site without being challenged. Otherwise she risks putting off side core elements of her “community”.     

But, but… it’s on the Internet!      

Further into her post, Nova makes reference to the thickness of sea ice and an incident with a US submarine in the 1950’s. For Jo, this story it disproves AGW:  

“Lewandowsky tries to casually slide some evidence in there, but nothing much is going his way. He speculates that US Navy submarines must be part of these “conspiracy theories” because they show so much Arctic melting, but if they are in on the Big Scare Campaign, the US Navy got the wrong memo. The USS Skate surfaced at the North Pole in 1959, and the US Navy has photos of it…”      

Here is the photo that “smashes” climate science:   

Yes, I can confirm it is a submarine. With ice.. ergo, no climate change!

She then states:      

The Skate records says: “We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick.”       

Apparently there a many similar examples all over the web.      


One submarine recording local events?         

The Arctic is a very big place. To then draw a connection between one isolated event and assume those conditions apply to the entire Arctic is  sloppy, irrational thinking. In any other field you’d be laughed out of the building. This is what passes for climate “scepticism”?       

To wave away any concerns with such “data” with the claim that there are “many similar examples all over the web” is incredible.     

No references, citations or further evidence is presented. This is “Google research”: plug in some search terms and pick the information that suits your purposes.     

It’s also text book pattern seeking.        

A “beautiful mind” seeks patterns, even when none exist      

There is a powerful scene in the film “A beautiful mind” (depicting the life of John Nash) that perfectly illustrates how conspiracy theorists piece together disparate sources of information and build them into (for them) a coherent world view.        

The wife of Nash and colleges enter his room in order to determine what he has been working feverishly on. As they enter the room they are confronted with thousands of paper clippings and papers pinned to the wall, each one evidence of “communist” plot to rely messages to “sleeper cells” via coded messages in the mainstream press. As we know, Nash – who is a paranoid schizophrenic – is under the influence of his delusions.       

Sure – I get this scene is taken from a heavily fictionalised account of Nash’s life, but it offers a powerful analogy/image for understanding the conspiratorial mindset.       

Pattern seeking is one of the inherent qualities of our species. Normally it a useful tool, its a trait we evolved over millennium:    

“Oh look those antelopes keep coming to this water hole… they are tasty. I will come back tomorrow because there will be more antelopes…”        

However, it means we assign patterns and intentionality to nearly all events. As Michael Shermer, one of the world’s leading sceptics (and I mean a real sceptic) explains:      

Why do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model. UFOlogists see a face on Mars. Religionists see the Virgin Mary on the side of a building. Paranormalists hear dead people speaking to them through a radio receiver. Conspiracy theorists think 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Is there a deeper ultimate cause for why people believe such weird things? There is. I call it “patternicity,” or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.        

When Lewandowsky states the we understand the cognitive basis for conspiracy theories, this is what he is referring too.       

It’s well understood and studied. Simply put, homo sapiens have a host of cognitive biases built into our consciousness and they can result – for some – a conspiratorial world view.       

Climate change sceptics are tone deaf to the “music” of real knowledge  

Like a legion of magpies with a dystopic worldview, the army of angry “climate sceptics” scour the Internet into the wee hours of the night, scanning for factoids and “proofs”. Anything that looks shiny is built into the “nest” of climate change scepticism.  A picture of a submarine, Al Gore’s personal wealth, snippets of scientific papers. It is an ugly, miss-matched collection of data.      

These “bits and bytes” are incorporated into their fantasies of global conspiracies. They are proudly collected and added the collection of other “facts” that is the totality of the deniers world view. That these facts constitute a “nest” that is a ugly, misshapen object lacking elegance or functionality is beside the point.   

For the denial movement, “facts” are trophies they hold aloft:       

“See! See!” they scream “… A submarine, with thin ice!”   

They forget that facts are just that: facts.    

 It is the ability to discern what is essential from the trivia that constitutes the scientific method. Wisdom and knowledge comes from determining the true relationship between facts and robust theoretical models.    

The denial movement is tone deaf: it treats all “noise” as equal.   

They fail to see the true, elegant and beautiful “song” that a robust scientific theory is. Instead they hear white noise, and believe it has meaning.    

What a cramped, limited and yet – paradoxically – overwhelming world view it is. How sad that the “denier” fails to recognise the majestic sounds of true knowledge.  

For the denier, the world is a cacophony of clashing, ringing and terrifying sounds mixed with disparate images and words. No wonder they retreat into the fantasy of climate change denial.    

Yes Jo, the effects are well understood. But then of course, Nova’s posters dismiss the entire field of psychology as well…       

Ask him about the great fraud of the 20th century, in his own area: Freudian psychoanalysis. It’s been totally discredited and is now an embarrassment. Freud was a cocaine addicted ratbag with his crazy theories. But he held them up as “science” and fools followed him for half a century.        

You and your fellow deniers are tone deaf to wisdom, knowledge and insight.  

Your world lacks beauty. 

The paranoid style of American politics: Beck, Limbaugh claim oil spill deliberate sabotage


An inside job?

I’ve already noted how much the denial movement not only tolerates, but positively embraces a conspiratorial world view. The best local example we have is Jo Nova’s blog.  

Recent comments by some of the leading “climate change sceptics” in the United States media provide further evidence of the distorted world view that characterises climate change denial.  

Prominent media personalities on the Right wing of American politics – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck – have advanced the theory that the recent oil leak and fire that cost the lives of 11 people and seen millions of barrels worth of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico  may have been an “inside job”.  

To quote Limbaugh:  

But this bill, the cap-and-trade bill, was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist wackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants, nuclear plant investment. So, since they’re sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they’re sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I’m just noting the timing here.”  

In short, the Obama administration deliberately sabotaged the Deep Horizon oil rig to create a disaster that would allow them to… I’m not sure. Provide an excuse for the cap-and-trade legislation? Blunt efforts for more offshore drilling of the coasts of the US?  

I call this the “I’m just saying…” approach to conspiracy theory making. In short, you don’t need to present evidence.  You simply connect two (or more) unrelated events and hint at a connection.  

Such conspiracy making is almost impossible to refute, as the accuser retreats to the fall back “Yeah, but I’m just saying…”  

The paranoid style of American politics  

In 1964 Richard Hofstadter published one of the seminal essays on American politics in Harper’s titled “The paranoid style of American politics”. It was an examination of how in American politics is it not uncommon for a tiny, but vocal fringe, to derail the public debate. It is worth quoting:  

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind  


“The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction…”  

One hundred years ago the targets of the “angry mind” were the Freemasons, Jews and Socialists. Today they are the Liberals, greens and scientists.  

How much different are the claims of the denial movement from this historical brand of conspiracy driven politics?

Not very I’d suggest. Indeed, the paranoid style is consistent: it is only the “other” who changes shapes. Jews morph into international banks, and socialists into greens. However, all of these groups seem to exert a malign influence who the conspiracy theorist works hard to “unmask”.

Given that the US is the leading political and economic power – and the largest emitter of C02 – what happens in the US is of critical importance. By halting any response to climate change in the US, the denial movement effectively holds the rest of the world to ransom.  

The tragedy is that this long running feature of American political discourse paralysis the debate on climate change globally.

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