Scroll To Top

Friday, March 28, 2014

Chip Knappenberger is still trying to shove the Overton Window at WUWT

Sou | 9:00 AM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

I first came across the term "Overton Window" when learning about climate science.  The idea is that in a given area of public policy, only a narrow range of policy options will be acceptable and that range is defined by what policy-makers believe they can support and still win re-election.

Climate science deniers keep trying to push the window of policy options to mitigate climate change such that there will be no policy action.  First they wanted to reject climate science altogether, claiming it to be a hoax.  Some of them still do, with conspiracy theories getting wrapped up with older conspiracy theories relating to all sorts of things, often anti-Semitic.  Others used to try to claim that CO2 is plant food as if the fact that some plants respond to CO2 (all other things equal) will outweigh all the downsides of a rapidly warming world.  There are some deniers who don't deny that greenhouse gases exist and that CO2 is one of them, but try to argue that for some reason this time around, greenhouse gases won't behave as they've always done in the past.  From now on, they argue, the warming won't be as great as it was in the past when greenhouse gases increased.

All of the above positions are a rejection of science.  Which is why people who hold these various views are often called "science deniers".  The reasons individuals hold some or all of these views (yes, even contradictory views) are varied, but often are based in their world view.  They cannot reconcile a world view that includes public policy with their own world view of individualism.  These are people who are not comfortable living in harmony with others.

Now there are people who probably understand the science very well who promote disinformation. The reason they do so is to try to push the Overton Window such that it excludes policy options to mitigate climate change. It's their job. It's what they are paid to do.  When the day of reckoning comes they are likely to whine that they were only doing what they were told by their paymasters.

There is an article at WUWT today (archived here) by someone who I suspect is one such person.  He probably understands the science but is trying to position the Overton Window away from policies that promote clean energy.  The person is Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger.  He often pairs up with Pat Michaels, another science disinformer, and are known here as Pat 'n Chip. It's Chip's job as assistant director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute to try to position the Overton Window in a place that suits the people who fund the Cato Institute.

His argument is not logical or coherent or correct.  It is not in accord with the science.  The tack he's taking today is that the AAAS is wrong.  After all, what would this organisation know about science?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest non-government general science membership organization and the executive publisher of Science, a leading scientific journal.

Put the AAAS against a right wing political lobby group and see how the science stacks up. You can read the AAAS science here.  We can sum up Chip's argument as follows (archived here):

  1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and more of it makes the world heat up more.
  2. The world isn't going to heat up as much as most science finds it will because he's found a couple of oddbods who will back him on that assertion - such as a retired financier rather than climate scientists, but what the heck.
  3. Action to mitigate global warming is both inapplicable and will be ineffective. [Sou: Point 3 doesn't follow from point 1 or point 2. Chip isn't strong on logic.]

Chip would never get a job in the insurance industry, which is probably why he's stuck writing nonsense for a right wing lobby group.  As Nicholas Stern pointed out on ABC Lateline last night, these are very high risks.

Whatever we're doing we can't reverse.  The best we can hope for is to stop doing it, but we're stuck with the damage we've already done and the future consequences of the damage we've already done.  That means that we have to be damn sure of ourselves in the action we take.

This is a very high risk path we've taken.  The chance of mild warming is much lower than the chance of high warming and all the other consequences such as irreversible damage to ecosystems on land and in the oceans; irreversible melting of ice sheets and glaciers, meaning irreversible sea level rise.  We still have some choice in how quickly these changes happen and the extent of them.  But we've already put the changes in motion.

Chip is making a judgement call that we'll be able to adapt in time to the incredibly rapid changes.  He's not just a risk-taker, he's foolhardy to the point of being certifiably insane, and wants everyone else to play his high stakes game.

From the WUWT comments

The fact that Chip is agreeing that the greenhouse effect and global warming are real means that the Overton Window he's shoving allows a little bit of science to peep through, even though he wants to shut out most of it.  Let's see how the deniers at WUWT react.  There aren't a lot of comments yet. You can read them here.

Robber is an illiteratum and says:
March 27, 2014 at 1:36 pm
Are they the Association for the Advancement of Science or the Association for Shaming & Scuttling Science?

Chad Wozniak is also a member of the illiterati and says:
March 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm
@Robber -
The American Association for the Adulteration of Science.

wws says people are disinterested and dumb, and America is the entire world:
March 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm
And you wanna know what is the PERFECT counter to this, as far as communicating our message to any average voter? “COLDEST WINTER IN 100 YEARS!!!” And that’s all. If they’re really interested, show them the simple chart, and then stop talking. One simple picture destroys years of studies and thousands of words of explanations.
Who cares if it’s not a perfectly accurate representation of the big picture? Not your average voter, that’s for sure.


  1. Completely off topic but you may have noticed Richard Tol making a big noise about withdrawing from the IPCC WG2 writing team.

    According to an IPCC statement, he notified them back in September 2013.

    What a beatup.

    The BBC even had this nonsense piece of clickbait titled "Dissent among scientists over key climate impact report" where "scientists" turned out to be Richard Tol having his usual whine.

    1. Nicholas Stern says Richard Tol won't be missed, he's an "outlier". (From what I've seen, Richard Tol vacillates between being off his rocker and seeking attention, giving us an occasional glimpse of at least a half-decent academic if he put his mind to it.)

      From Lateline last night:

      TONY JONES: Finally, as scientists meet in Japan to thrash out the final wording on the IPCC's next assessment report on the impact of climate change, British economist Professor Richard Toll who was one of the lead authors, has asked for his name to be taken off the document, claiming it's alarmist and has been changed from talking, as he says, about manageable risk to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. How much damage will his departure do to the credibility of the final report?

      NICHOLAS STERN: Not much. He's always been somebody who as argued that the damages from climate change are there but very small. He's an outlier really and I think his departure won't make much difference.

      TONY JONES: Do you think it's been orchestrated in some way? Is that what you're suggesting?

      NICHOLAS STERN: I don't know whether it's orchestrated or not. He's making his own statements and he's entitled to do that but I think he's seen as a bit of an outlier in terms of someone who thinks the damages are much smaller than the rest of us fear and this is risk management, Tony.

      You have to be very, very confident that the risks are going to be very small because the science tells us the risks could be very big and it is irreversibility here, as the concentrations in the atmosphere ratchet up, the high-carbon capital and infrastructure gets locked in. Delay is very dangerous so one person saying he thinks the risks might be very small is a very marginal part of the argument because most of the science is telling us that the risks are very big and with the irreversibility that we see in this, any kind of common sense or risk analysis says we should act strongly.

  2. "This poster from Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger builds on their previous work in examining climate sensitivity differences between models and reality." [replaced link as per comment policy]

    The facts remain.

    1. Yes, I was going to write about that - it was just too dumb and wrong. Not surprising that out of all the hundreds of fascinating posters at AGU14, all Anthony could come up with was that bit of nonsense. And even then he showed he was incapable of making any comment himself about it.

      Below is a link to the AGU eposters, of which Pat'n Chip's would have to be among the very worst. Will they ever find a journal to publish it in I wonder? The dog astrology journal perhaps?

  3. Pat and Chip, as they are derisively called, have about 50 years experience as climate SCIENTISTS (yes, M.S.and PhD degrees from the University of Virginia).
    Their new book "LUKEWARMERS" is an excellent listing of the scientific faults and ridiculous claims that the religion of global warming is being driven to make. The fact is that THOUSANDS of climate scientists just don't believe all of the claims of the GWT's.

    1. Seneca Speaks (a rather grandiose 'nym, BTW):

      We may be able to check your claim that "THOUSANDS of climate scientists just don't believe all of the claims of the GWT's" if you'll tell us who "the GWT's" are. Otherwise, we'll assume it's a straw man, just like "the religion of global warming".

    2. I've known lots of people who have Masters and PhDs in physical sciences. Some are research scientists. Some are hacks. Some are good solid workers. Some are very good, bordering on world class. Some are top of their field.

      Pat'n Chip are hacks. Rather than having "50 years" experience as climate scientists adding knowledge, they have years of experience trying to dispute climate science but failing. They are currently employed by the Cato Institute, a libertarian (US-Style) lobby group to help them in their campaign against climate change mitigation, probably among other things.

      Their most notable recent contribution was writing a paper saying that people can buy air conditioners to deal with the worsening heat waves. Not that air conditioners provide much relief when the temperature rises above the maximum of the air conditioner (over 43C or 45C if you're lucky), or if there is a power outage or power rationing caused by the heat wave.

      I haven't read their new book. Have you? You didn't get the name right so I suspect not. It's published by the Cato Institute, their employer, so I'd regard it as a piece of Cato political propaganda. The title is enough to tell you that they are not proper climate scientists, but have a libertarian agenda.

      As for your "thousands" - like Mal Adapted I don't believe you. Who? Where? Why haven't they published anything? If they had, why don't your duo cite them? I'll trade your "thousands" for the tens of thousands of climate and earth system scientists who are discovering more and more about how humans are affecting the climate and the oceans.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.