.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Seeps and SCAMS Part II: Pat'n Chip'n David Fake a Debate.

Sou | 4:45 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment
In Part I of On Seeps and SCAMS, I wrote about the new paper on how denialist talking points can influence climate science. A day or so ago, there was an article at WUWT (archived here), by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger (Pat'n Chip), in which they commented on that paper. Their WUWT article had the title: Lewandowsky’s Competing Theories for Source of Bias in Scientific Research. [This is Part II of a three part series. Click for Part I and Part III.]

The title was misleading. Pat'n Chip's WUWT article was more a promo for another article by David E. Wojick and Patrick J. Michaels. Their's is not a scientific paper, it's a CATO article. It would take a huge stretch of imagination to consider the denier lobby group, CATO, to have any relation to science.

What they wrote about could have been an interesting topic I suppose, though it demonstrates a naive view of the world on the part of the authors. They were ostensibly exploring whether or not government funding can bias research. Their paper had the title:
Is the Government Buying Science or Support?
A Framework Analysis of Federal Funding-induced Biases

They claim:
The research question is clear: does biased funding skew research in a preferred direction, one that supports an agency mission, policy or paradigm?
The reason I say it could have been an interesting topic is that research that is primarily funded by government is subject to the vagaries of government priorities. Not in the results, but in what areas research is undertaken.

What I mean is that if a government of the day regards tackling obesity as a priority, then it is more likely to fund research into the causes of obesity and how best to reduce obesity. A research project on obesity would be more likely to be funded than one investigating something of lower priority (such as tinnitus). If a government regards climate change as being a priority, then it will make sure that research on climate will proceed. What it won't do is tell the scientists that they must come up with particular results. Or most governments won't do that. There have been instances in the USA where state governments have forbidden employees from talking about climate change. And there has been at least one instance of where a government has tried to get scientists to only investigate "natural", not human, causes of climate change.

However the CATO paper, if you could call it that, was an abomination. It was nothing but a bald and long piece of disinformation propaganda. I can't think of any other way to describe it. The authors took no steps to hide their intent. It was a crude attempt to persuade readers that climate science is "biased" - based on nothing but innuendo. There were no facts, no evidence. It was pure disinformation rhetoric from the first page to the last.


Not a senior's moment - "allegations" galore - but no evidence!


I hadn't got very far into Pat and David's  "paper" when I began to wonder if seniority was getting the better of me. I kept reading the words: "In the climate change debate there have been allegations of bias" - or similar and figured the pdf scrolling had stopped working or my computer was playing up.

I discovered it wasn't that there was a problem at my end after all. The problem was that Pat'n Dave's word processor had got stuck in a copy and paste keystroke loop.

This is what I kept reading, without the numbers. I only added the numbers because you might think I'm exaggerating. Nope. It's not me who's exaggerating here. Heck, the following are direct quotes from their CFACT article - which is about 30 pages long:

  1. In the climate change debate there have been allegations of bias
  2. In the climate change debate there have been allegations of bias
  3. In most cases we also provide one or more examples where bias has been alleged, in each case drawing on the climate change debate
  4. In the context of the climate change debate there have been numerous allegations of funding-induced bias.
  5. In the climate debate an example of this sort of bias might be the heavy funding of carbon cycle research compared to sun-climate research in the USGCRP budget. The government's policy on climate change is based on the hypothesis that carbon dioxide emissions are the principal driver. That climate change is driven by solar activity is a competing hypothesis.
  6. A Google search on the terms "climate change funding bias" (without quotation marks) gives the flavor of the debate
  7. Allegations of this sort of bias have been made in the climate change debate
  8. Allegations of this sort of bias have been made in the climate change debate
  9. A Google search on the terms "climate change funding bias" (without quotation marks) gives the flavor of the debate.
  10. Allegations of this sort of bias have been made in the climate change debate.
  11. Allegations of this sort of bias have been made in the climate change debate. A Google search on "climate change peer review bias" (without the quotation marks) gives the flavor of this debate.
  12. Allegations of this sort of bias have been made in the climate change debate. A Google search on "climate change peer review bias" (without the quotation marks) gives the flavor of this debate.
  13. A Google search on the term "IPCC bias" (without the quotation marks) gives an introduction to this widespread debate.
  14. There are a number of prominent cases of allegations to this effect in the climate change debate. An example is the public controversy over NOAA (and NASA) historic temperature data "adjustments."
  15. There are numerous allegations to this effect in the climate change debate. In fact there is a broad general issue that is often phrased as to whether or not the science is settled. A Google search on the term "climate science is settled" (without the quotation marks) provides a good introduction to this debate,
  16. There are numerous allegations to this effect in the climate change debate
  17. Exaggeration is a major issue in the climate change debate. In fact skeptics often refer to their opponents as "alarmists." A Google search on "climate change exaggerated" (without the quotation marks) provides a glimpse of this widespread debate.
  18. A Google search on "climate change exaggerated" (without the quotation marks) provides a glimpse of this widespread debate.
  19. Google searches on "climate change media bias" and "climate change media hype" (without the quotation marks) will give the flavor of this widespread debate topic.
  20. Google searches on "climate change media bias" and "climate change media hype" (without the quotation marks) will give the flavor of this widespread debate topic.
  21. In the climate change debate there have been allegations of bias for each of the stages described above.
  22. In the climate change debate there have been allegations of bias for each of the stages described above.

So many "allegations of bias". In the interest of being truly objective I figured I'd do as David'n Pat suggested and look up some of their references to see if there were any "allegations of bias". Surprise surprise - all Google gave me back was a bunch of tired, half-hearted denier blogs (like WUWT and worse) full of more denier speculation and rhetoric and disinformation!  Yes, there are lots of "allegations of bias" about climate science and the IPCC. But none that are supported by evidence. All the "allegations of bias" come from fake sceptics, deniers and climate disinformers! That won't surprise anyone.  With one of the references Google returned  Pat'n Chips own CATO blog in the top ten or so listings three times!

Seriously, chaps. If you want to manufacture a fake debate, surely you can be a bit more subtle!

It's the same tactic used by all deniers who follow the Denier 101 bible. Evolution deniers and anti-vaxxers and probably flat-earthers, and certainly conspiracy theorists all do the same thing. If they bother to link to any "evidence" of their made up claims, it's to another denier blog, which links to another denier blog and so on - so that the rare person who tries to get to the bottom of things finds themselves in an endless loop of denier blogs - but fails to find any actual hard evidence.


Trying to gain seepage


Pat'n Chip were pitting their fiasco of an unpublished and unpublishable "paper" against a peer-reviewed scientific paper. One that didn't suffer repetition. A paper that had a cogent argument, real evidence to support it, and published in a scholarly journal. The paper I'm talking about is the one by Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues, which I discussed in Part I of this series. Here's a snippet, to give you the flavour if you don't have time to read about it:
We show that even when scientists are rebutting contrarian talking points, they often do so within a framing and within a linguistic landscape created by denial, and often in a manner that reinforces the contrarian claim. This ‘‘seepage’’ has arguably contributed to a widespread tendency to understate the severity of the climate problem.

The "talking point" that CATO want scientists to argue in this case is "bias". They've faked their own talking point using faked "allegations" and want to frame a non-existent "debate".

You'll probably think that not only have they tried to imply a non-existent "bias" in scientific results and reporting, by repeating the words at least 22 times in 30 pages, they are trying to cement in the reader's mind that there is bias in the results. They are skirting very close to the paranoid conspiracy theory that climate science is a hoax and climate scientists are writing to please all the various US governments (Democrat and Republican) that have funded climate science over the past few decades.

That builds on the denier meme that all governments everywhere around the world, no matter their political persuasion, and no matter where they are on the spectrum of democracy to totalitarian authority, want the world to get hotter. As if introducing mitigation policies will help get them elected. This is in complete contrast to another talking point of the denialati, which is that acting on climate change is too expensive and voters won't want want to pay for it. In other words that climate action is unpalatable.


Disinformer talking points


Pat'n Chip argue:
We humbly assert that Lewandowsky, Oreskes, and colleagues have this completely backwards.
When global warming was occurring faster than climate models expected during the 1990s, there was little effort by the mainstream climate science community to look into why, despite plenty of skeptic voices (such as our own) pointing to the influence of natural variability.

More disinformation. Not just wanting to reframe the discussion, Pat'n Chip want to rewrite history. They are wrong about  the effort from "the mainstream climate science community". Here is a quote from the Third Assessment Report (TAR) from the IPCC:
Faster warming of the land-surface temperature than the ocean surface temperature in the last two decades, evident in Figure 2.6, could in part be a signal of anthropogenic warming (see Chapters 9 and 12). However, a component, at least in the Northern Hemisphere north of 40 to 45°N, may result from the sharp increase in the positive phase of the winter half year North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)/Arctic Oscillation (AO) since about 1970 (Section 2.6.5), though this itself might have an anthropogenic component (Chapter 7). There has also been a strong bias to the warm phase of El Niño since about 1976 (Section 2.6.2). In particular, Hurrell and van Loon (1997) and Thompson et al. (2000a) show that the positive phase of the NAO advects additional warm air over extra-tropical Eurasia north of about 45°N. The positive phase of the NAO or AO is therefore likely to be a major cause of the winter half-year warming in Siberia and northern Europe in Figure 2.10, as also quantified by Hurrell (1996).

Pat'n Chip point to one of the older climate disinformation websites on the internet - their own. Which has a very poor record in predicting global temperature. They seemed to think that climate scientists should have taken notice of them and didn't. They wrote: "Science is biased not by the inclusion of skeptical voices, but rather the exclusion of them."

Thing is that Lewandowsky15 isn't about the inclusion or exclusion of "skeptical voices". It's about how scientists can fall into the trap of letting denier memes shape their communication of science, and even their research. That's quite a different thing.

The other thing is, of course, that Pat'n Chip aren't saying that they agree with the scientists who've done a lot of work on determining why the modeled temperatures were a bit higher than the observed over the past few years (they are within the range of probability). That's despite their claim that it's when science excludes "skeptical voices" that it becomes "biased".  They want it both ways. They want to claim science is biased when it panders to "skeptical voices" and they want to claim that science is biased when it ignores "skeptical voices".

So many voices . Well, there aren't many denier voices in reality. Those voices just shout dreadfully loudly. They make such a din, it's enough to give you a headache.

Daylight is the best disinfectant


In another article, Stephan Lewandowsky (and  Michael E. Mann, Linda Bauld, Gerard Hastings, and Elizabeth F. Loftus) once wrote how daylight is the best disinfectant, which is what I've tried to do. Here's some more sunshine for you :)





References and further reading


On Seeps and SCAMS Part I: Lessons for Climate Scientists - HotWhopper article

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Michael E. Mann, Linda Bauld, Gerard Hastings, and Elizabeth F. Loftus. "The Subterranean War on Science.", Observer, Association for Psychological Science

Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell and Michael Smithson. "Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community." Global Environmental Change, 2015 doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.02.013 (open access)

2 comments:

  1. Well put Sou! It's really helpful to have learned voices enunciate ideas that the under-educated lay-person such as myself have thought about and suspected but lacked the tools to formulate into succinct words. Keep broadcasting those memes and demonstrating how a rational truth-seeking mind works.

    Case in point, my favorite (most helpful) paragraph of this post:

    "The reason I say it could have been an interesting topic is that research that is primarily funded by government is subject to the vagaries of government priorities. Not in the results, but in what areas research is undertaken.

    What I mean is that if a government of the day regards tackling obesity as a priority, then it is more likely to fund research into the causes of obesity and how best to reduce obesity. A research project on obesity would be more likely to be funded than one investigating something of lower priority (such as tinnitus). If a government regards climate change as being a priority, then it will make sure that research on climate will proceed. What it won't do is tell the scientists that they must come up with particular results. Or most governments won't do that. There have been instances in the USA where state governments have forbidden employees from talking about climate change. And there has been at least one instance of where a government has tried to get scientists to only investigate "natural", not human, causes of climate change."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here's another good one worth highlighting… repeating:

    "That builds on the denier meme that all governments everywhere around the world, no matter their political persuasion, and no matter where they are on the spectrum of democracy to totalitarian authority, want the world to get hotter. As if introducing mitigation policies will help get them elected. This is in complete contrast to another talking point of the denialati, which is that acting on climate change is too expensive and voters won't want want to pay for it. In other words that climate action is unpalatable."

    ReplyDelete

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.