Springtime for Roy Spencer: climate sceptic calls scientists “Nazis”

Contrarian scientist Dr. Roy Spencer is loved by sceptics for doubting climate change.  He is also loved by creationists for doubting evolution.

Spener runs a blog where he muses on climate change, and well… how it’s just a big conspiracy. Normally his writing isn’t worth commenting on.

However Spencer has gone off the rails by invoking Godwin’s Law in comparing “believers” in climate change to Nazis.

In a long rambling and barely coherent post Spencer lists all the ways the scientific community are just like (drum roll) the Nazis:

I’m now going to start calling these people “global warming Nazis”. 

The pseudo-scientific ramblings by their leaders have falsely warned of mass starvation, ecological collapse, agricultural collapse, overpopulation…all so that the masses would support their radical policies. Policies that would not voluntarily be supported by a majority of freedom-loving people. 

They are just as guilty as the person who cries “fire!” in a crowded theater when no fire exists. Except they threaten the lives of millions of people in the process. 

Like the Nazis, they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause (in the 1930s, it was superiority of the white race). 

Dissenting scientific views are now jack-booted through tactics like pressuring scientific journals to not publish papers with which they disagree…even getting journal editors to resign. 

Like the Nazis, they are anti-capitalist. They are willing to sacrifice millions of lives of poor people at the altar of radical environmentalism, advocating expensive energy policies that increase poverty.


Did you catch-all that?

Not only is the analogy offensive, it is patently absurd.

Spencer has donea Godwin and invoked the Nazis. He has also engaged in The Law of Denial:

In any online conversation related to climate change the probability of conspiracy theories, political/religious orthodoxy and totalitarian regimes being invoked is 1.

Sure, I call people like Spencer “deniers” not because of some imagined like to Nazis but because they are in denial.

Just like creationists are in denial about evolution.

Or Flat-Earthers are in denial about.. oh you get it.

Please, every one give a round of applause for Dr. Roy Spencer for what has to be this years most unintentionally funny blog posts.

This one is for you Roy:

Stunning NASA images of Victorian fires: why we are choking on smoke

Some stunning images that give you an idea of the scale of the fires we are currently experiencing in Victoria:


Season of purgatory: the “new Australian summer” revealed in Victoria’s current bushfire emergency

Almost five years to the day after Black Saturday, Victoria finds itself in the grip of another bushfire emergency.

Thankfully there are no reported deaths, however at least 20 homes have been destroyed. The fires have caused major disruption, skirting the northern suburbs and putting the Hazelwood power station at risk.

The Age is providing excellent coverage on their website.

We must now come to terms with the fact that each summer is now a season of purgatory.

Summer is not merely the season to catch the Boxing Day test or escape to the beach. It is now a time to anxiously watch the weather and scan the horizon for the tell-tale signs of a fire.

This is the “New Australian Summer”.

Sure, some summers will be less extreme than others.

But as global temperatures continue to rise (in response to increasing quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere) we can expect the fires to come with greater frequency and ferocity.

As I have noted it is time we began discussions adapting to these changed conditions.

Several strategies come to mind:

  • a phased strategic retreat from at risk areas in the state (or country)
  • a greater investment in emergency services and management
  • changes to planning and development
  • changes to infrastructure.

With little doubt, by the middle of this century our hands will be forced.

Now is the time to start the conversation.

[Image source: The Age]

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2013 among top 10 warmest years: a civilisational response is urgently required

WarmingCan you see a pause in the warming of the planet?

The World Meteorological Organisation have just released the following press release:

The year 2013 was among the top ten warmest years since modern records began in 1850, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It tied with 2007 as the sixth warmest year, with a global land and ocean surface temperature that was 0.50°C (0.90°F) above the 1961–1990 average and 0.03°C (0.05°F) higher than the most recent 2001–2010 decadal average. 

Thirteen of the 14 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century. The warmest years on record are 2010 and 2005, with global temperatures about 0.55 °C above the long-term average, followed by 1998, which also had an exceptionally strong El Niño event.

At this point many commentators, scientists and bloggers will say “Well look at that. We told you the planet is warming.” Of course those that deny climate change will mutter about conspiracies, the “pause in warming” and such nonsense.

But let us move well beyond that conversation, cherry picking of facts and the finger-pointing that takes place every time a press release such as this comes out.

When I look at this graph I see a planetary and civilisational emergency. I see a looming catastrophe if we don’t begin advanced planning.

What I see is the urgent need to examine how we adapt to a changed climate.

Many hard decisions are before us.

Time to consider our options.

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


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.

The paranoid tradition and climate change: where crisis, paranoia and politics collide

[See introduction here]

Why is it that people continue to believe Jews, international bankers and socialists are conspiring to destroy Western civilisation? And how is that those beliefs have become entwined with the climate change debate?

Some months ago I was struck by the thought we may be looking at a tradition within our culture that goes back centuries.

That at moments of crisis this tradition can exert a powerful influence on individuals and politics.

Indeed, I will be putting forward the following hypothesis:

Deeply embedded within political and cultural tradition is a parallel tradition of looking at the world in a very specific way. It divides the world into good and evil, and offers a universal explanation for events that satisfies the needs and prejudices of individuals. I call this the paranoid tradition.

It has its own rules of evidence and reasoning, its own rich history and litany of writers and thinkers who have shaped the course of conspiracy culture – and by extension “mainstream” culture.

We have ignored the paranoid tradition in politics, dismissing it because it is irrational to our scientific and “rational” world view. We dismiss the ideas as fringe, and their proponents as cranks. We call followers of the paranoid traditional ignorant and irrational.

But in doing so we have ignored its influence throughout history.

Indeed, look at the climate change debate and ask yourself how central have claims of conspiracies been to the sceptic world view?

So what is the paranoid tradition?

It is the intersection between individual and group psychology, political crisis and culture. These influences create and shape the paranoid tradition. For long periods of time the paranoid tradition it can be safely ignored. However in times of great crisis and profound social, social and political change it can exert an influence on politics and society.

The paranoid tradition within our culture has come alive once again in the climate debate.

The origins of the paranoid tradition

In the late 18th century politicians and ordinary individuals were gripped by the strange fear that the Illuminati and secret societies were behind the revolutions, banking crisis and wars of the period.

They argued there was a pattern behind all these events, and that there were groups looking to profit from the chaos and reshape the world.

Nearly three centuries later we once again find voices arguing that secret societies are behind the wars, banking crisis and climate crisis of today. They also argue there is a grand conspiracy in play, and that there are those working to both create and profit from chaos.

Cycles of paranoia and the shock of the new: climate change made the emergence of the paranoid tradition was inevitable

Looking back we can see the paranoid tradition breaks into the mainstream on 15-20 year cycles, profoundly influencing politics, culture and society.

I would argue the conspiracy laden world view of climate sceptics is merely a recent example of this “cycle of paranoia”.

This is why find it hard to accurately place the sceptics in their proper context.

Are they conservatives who simply fears change, or slaves to ideal of the free market? Do they believe what they say, or are they merely the paid hacks of fossil fuel interests. How did climate change become part of the culture war?

Given the epoch defining nature of climate change, a re-emergence of the paranoid tradition was inevitable.

If we look back we can see the paranoid tradition coming to life at pivotal points of history:

  • the millenarian craze of the 1990s that provoked a rash of apocalyptic conspiracies
  • the McCarthyism of the Cold War
  • the Nazi belief Arians and Jews were locked into a bitter fight for global dominance
  • the infamous Show Trials of the Soviet Union during the 1930s
  • fears of the Illuminati in the 18th and 19th centuries
  • the rich tradition of conspiracy beliefs held in Europe and the US in the 19th century.

As we go in history we see nearly each decade yielding a fresh bout of conspiracy mongering in response to the events of the day.

Consider the ideas being put forward by arch-conspiracy theorist Lord Christopher Monckton:

…the U.N.’s anti-irrigation, anti-pesticide, anti-farming, anti-business, anti-environment, anti-population, anti-human, anti-Western, anti-capitalist, anti-everything Agenda 21 program…

Monckton’s arguments are no different from the same claims put forward over two centuries ago. They’ve been updated to include climate change, but is the same narrative employed by conspiracy theorists for centuries.

I would argue that during moments of crisis that the paranoid tradition flourishes, escaping the political and cultural fringes.

Because of the political and societal crisis climate change is creating, it was inevitable paranoid tradition would once more come to life.

Drivers of the paranoid tradition: the influence of psychology, political crisis and culture

We struggle to find explanations for the strange views of conspiracy theories and the sudden popularity of their ideas.

Are these views the product of a form of psychosis or weird psychological ticks? Does religion play a part?

Do the inbuilt cognitive biases we all possesses somehow shape the world view of a conspiracy theorist?

To all of this, I would say yes.

But it is the intersection between individual and group psychology, political crisis and culture that creates and shapes the paranoid tradition.

It is this fusion of events, human nature and crisis that Age of Paranoia that I’m hoping to explore.

Many thanks for your thoughts and comments on this topic.

Mike @ WtD

Age of paranoia: exploring the paranoid tradition in times of crisis

Regular readers are well aware I was on a much-needed sabbatical for the last few months of 2013.

Both professional and personal obligations precluded me from writing. I also needed time to recharge and give thought to the direction of this blog. So now that I’m back, what can you expect from WtD?

By the end of 2013 I was exhausted (and disgusted) for what passes as “discussion” about climate change in both media and politics. Sharing a beer with a friend last week they said to me “Well you must be raging about what’s happening now with government policy…”

I could be, but I’m  not. A recent editorial in the Canberra Times sums up the conclusion I reached a several years ago:

“Perhaps it is time to acknowledge publicly that the war is over: apathy and self-interest triumphed over the slim hope that the global community would act collectively to prevent runaway climate change. Australia’s belated and extremely modest efforts – a tiny, ineffective tax and a small renewable energy target – were always insufficient, yet the government wants to dilute even those.”

Without doubt we will see a 2c degree increase in average temperatures by mid-century. By the end of the 21st century we may reach (or surpass, four degrees). All but the most obtuse recognise this fact.

Which is why I feel it is no longer worth the time or energy fighting climate sceptics on a daily basis.

Their victory will result in the suffering of a large section of humanity in the very near future.

There are but two course of action before us:

  • understanding the causes of this looming catastrophe
  • preparing for a hotter, harsher and more uncertain world.

Exploring the question of “How did we come to this”?

Humanity will agonise for millenia over the question of how we failed to address climate change, despite the fact the evidence was so certain and the anticipated impacts well understood decades before being felt.

The campaign of deceit funded by the fossil fuel industry explains some of this, but not all of it. The free-market ideology and libertarian “faith” of conservative politicians and mining billionaires explains some of this failure, but not all of it.

Likewise the difficulty of explaining complex scientific concepts to the general public has contributed to the challenge. However we can’t attribute the present situation to this challenge alone.

I have long argued that the idea that fossil fuel companies have prevented action on climate change is simplistic and only tells part of the story.

It is broader than that: culture, economics, historical forces, politics and vested interest have all played a part to greater or lesser degrees.

Which brings me to the research project I’ve committed myself to this year, “Age of Paranoia.

Age of Paranoia: the focus of 2014

Age of Paranoia (AoP) is a long essay (or short book) I’ve committed to write this year.

It will focus the intersection of science, conspiracy culture, psychology, politics, culture and climate change. WtD will reflect my ongoing research and allow readers to critique and discuss the ideas being put forward.

As a reader you will help me test my ideas and shape the content.

Why this topic you ask?

In examining the claims climate sceptic movement I was stunned to see the same claims made again and again in nearly every decade going back to the French Revolution. At times of financial crisis, war and profound societal change the same identical claims about conspiracies have been made.

Most of the tropes and myths used by conspiracy theorists today were established in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was then that claims about secret banking cabals, progressives working to subvert societies from within and fears of “socialist” plots and “reds under the bed” were formulated.

At first I was bemused such theories so heavily laced with quaint 19th century anachronisms still hdld such sway in the early 21st century.

One could simply dismiss this as a few paranoid types recycling old conspiracy theories.

But the question of why such beliefs remain persistent continued to rattle around in the back of my brain.

The paranoid tradition and climate change: where crisis, paranoia and politics collide

Why is it to this day that people continue to believe Jews, international bankers and socialists are conspiring to destroy Western civilisation?

How could it be these same myths continue to hold power decade after decade despite the lack of “evidence” for such conspiracies?

Musing upon this I was struck by the thought we may be looking at a tradition within our culture that goes back centuries. At moments of crisis in history this tradition can exert a strange and powerful influence.

Indeed, I will be putting forward the following hypothesis: deeply embedded within political traditions and society is a parallel tradition of looking at the world in a very specific way. I call this “the paranoid tradition”.

It has its own rules of evidence and reasoning, its own rich history and litany of writers and thinkers who have shaped the course of conspiracy culture – and by extension “mainstream” culture.

We have ignored the paranoid tradition in politics, dismissing it because it seems so irrational. We dismiss proponents of the paranoid tradition as cranks. We call followers of the paranoid tradition irrational. But in doing so we have ignored its importance and its influence on politics and society.

But how could a world view, considered both fringe and inconsequential, have any impact? Consider the climate change debate.

Ask yourself just how central have claims of conspiracies been to arguments put forward by climate sceptics?

It is this paranoid tradition, and how it intersected with the issue of climate change in the mid 1980s, that I will be exploring.

Stepping away from the hype, buzz and daily news cycle

I want to step back from the news cycle and the buzz of social media. WtD will be for those readers hoping to explore issues in-depth, and comment on them in an intelligent way.

Perhaps this change in style will result in fewer hits”, but at this point what is needed (for me at least) is a more contemplative and considered approach.

I will of course continue to post to articles and research of interest, so they’re will be plenty of content on a daily basis. It is my hope it is the unfolding AoP project people come to appreciate.

Coming shortly, more thoughts on the paranoid tradition and what I mean by that phrase.

Mike @ WtD

Back next week!

My much-needed sabbatical is over. I’ll be back writing and blogging next week.

In the first couple of posts I’ll sketch out what to expect from WtD this year.

Shorter version: I’ve decided to pay far less attention to refuting every argument or nonsense claim put forward by the sceptics movement.

Enough time and energy has been spent on the sceptics. I’m hoping to take a much broader view of the issue of climate change, our collective failure to address the challenge and the urgent necessity to start adapting to a much hotter world.

I hope the content will be interesting, challenging and – by necessity – controversial.

Thanks for you patience and the continued visits to the blog.

Mike @ WtD

Back in 2014

Dear all,

I’ve had a small break in writing and blogging during the rush to Christmas, as both work and life can get very busy.

However WtD will be back in 2014 in early January.

Til then, have a safe holiday.


Open thread – November

News, view and (civil) debate.

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