There's a rather long essay written by a chap called Walter Donway. It's on what looks to be a (US style) libertarian website. Walter starts with the question: "What leads an objective non-scientist, examining the arguments, to reject “global warming,” a.k.a., “Big Climate alarmism”?" Many of you would stop reading at that point, expecting it to be a Gish gallop of the usual denier memes written by someone desperately trying to justify his "climate hoax" conspiracy. Not me. Or not this time. I find that there are sometimes clues about why a person rejects science in among their lengthy protests.
Telltale signs of a climate science denier
Even in Walter's question there is much information. Walter Donway thinks he is "objective", yet when it comes to climate he provides no evidence to support his belief. As you'll see he provides ample evidence that he is not objective. He also feels compelled to refer to global warming in quotation marks, as if it isn't real; and to refer to it or climate science (I can't tell) in quotation marks as "Big Climate alarmism", using capital letters. This suggests that he regards 200 years of science as a hoax.
It appears that what prompted Walter to pen his essay was a dinner with a friend of his wife and that friend's current beau. This early section of his essay gives the second clue to why he rejects science. It is quite probably related to his political ideology. Walter's wife explained that this couple was "very Left", because they supported Bernie Sanders and now Hillary Clinton. Neither of these people would be viewed as "very left" anywhere but the USA. In America, if you are to the right of the political spectrum (which in the USA is far to the right of the political spectrum elsewhere in the world), you are more inclined to reject science. A large part of the ideology of the (right wing) Republican Party embraces science denial as if it were something to be proud of.
Walter also seems to think that when someone talks about climate science denial they are also talking about Holocaust denial. Yes, it's illogical, however that's what some science deniers think apparently. What it suggests is that Walter is an old man (that and his use of capital letters). It doesn't explain what leads him to reject science, however polls indicate that older people are more inclined to reject climate science than are younger people. (The other thing that suggests he's elderly is his joke about reading Jane Austen - you'll have to read the article.)
Walter's denial gallop
Walter started out badly in his Gish gallop. (Yes, he did opt for a Gish gallop of fading denier memes rather than explain why he rejects mainstream science.) Here is what he wrote early on:
“I agree that the Earth’s mean global surface temperature was slowly increasing from about 1880 to 1998. I agree that the climate is constantly changing and requires vigilance and preventive measures based upon real threats such as cold snaps, drought or flooding, hurricanes… I agree that carbon dioxide and certain trace gases in the atmosphere contribute to a greenhouse effect, trapping heat from the sun within our atmosphere. I agree that since the Industrial Revolution, around 1740, average mean Earth surface temperatures may have increased as much as .7 of a degree Celsius and this contributes to the greenhouse effect.Going through some of these points, the thing is, as someone pointed out in the comments, that the Earth's mean global surface temperature didn't slowly increase from about 1880 to 1998. What happened was the temperature decreased from 1880 to around 1915 or so. After that there was a spurt of rapid warming. This was followed by a leveling off between the 1940s and the early 1970s, then another rapid spurt that continues to this day.
“Did you know that when they say 97 percent of scientists agree with global warming, they mean only that they responded ‘yes’ to those statements? So do I.”
Below is a chart of global mean surface temperature. Hover over the chart to see the average temperature each year. It also includes a LOESS smooth so you can better see what has happened since 1880. This year so far the average temperature for the 8 months to August is 1.04 C - above the top of the chart. It is expected to end up below that, but above the average for last year.
The chart below is from a paper by Niamh Cahill, Stefan Rahmstorf and Andrew C Parnell, in which they analysed the temperature record to see when changes in trends occurred. (See this HW article, which references other similar research as well.) There was a change around the 1910s, another at 1934-48 and another at 1963-1979. Since then there's not been another trend change, yet.
Walter says he accepts the greenhouse effect and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. However he is stuck almost twenty years ago in the 1990s, and doesn't say what he thinks has happened to surface temperature after 1998. A clue is when he claims that "since the Industrial Revolution, around 1740, average mean Earth surface temperatures may have increased as much as .7 of a degree Celsius". Well he's out by around 0.4 C plus. This supports my contention that Walter is stuck in the 1990s.
Walter doesn't agree with 97% of climate science
The other point Walter raised was the fact that virtually all research on the subject points to humans being the cause of the current global warming. Either Walter hasn't read the 97% research or any research on how much science and how many scientists agree on this or he chose to misrepresent it. He wrote that it just means scientists ticked a "yes" box. He's wrong. Walter doesn't even have to do the research himself. There was an article published earlier this year that discusses all the research on the subject of consensus: Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming.
The odd thing is that Walter claimed that he himself would tick a "yes" box. That was just before he launched into a long screed listing climate science he rejects.
Walter Donway does a James Delingpole
You might remember how James Delingpole, a UK science denier, explained to the then President of the Royal Society how he doesn't read science, he regards himself as an "interpreter of interpreters". Well, Walter Donway is the same. He went on to explain that he doesn't get his understanding of climate science from climate scientists. Instead he goes to the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, a right wing political lobby group posing as a "think tank", which spreads disinformation about climate science. Apparently Walter finds science denial easier to digest than science itself. He wrote:
Time for some disclosure. I had followed the global warming/climate debate, and even written articles about it from the start, but over the summer my study had intensified. In particular, I had been studying a book, Climate Change: The Facts, published by the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia,He was so impressed by the fact that it claims to have brought together "scientists, economists, journalists, and even politicians" to write nonsense for that book that he wrote it twice in consecutive paragraphs. (ICYMI the list of authors includes misinterpreter of disinformation peddlers, James Delingpole, Anthony "it's Russian steampipes" Watts, "Force X and the Notch" promoter Jo Nova, Willie "it's the sun" Soon, and Donna "dustbin" Laframboise.)
As Royal Society President Paul Nurse explained to James Delingpole, "I think sometimes the consensual position can be criticised when in fact it is most likely the correct position".
Money, politics, and fear of nature
Further into the article Walter promised again to tell his readers why he rejects mainstream science. He didn't. Instead he indulged in another Gish gallop of denier memes. That is, he listed what science he doesn't "believe in" rather than why he doesn't believe the facts.
Oh, he gave multiple clues, all related to the fact that he's ideologically conservative, cares greatly about money and doesn't care much for nature. These are typical traits of climate science deniers but they don't explain the "why".
Motivated reasoning and world view can lead some people to embrace "climate hoax" conspiracy theories
Scientists have done research on the "why". It seems to boil down to the fact that we all have created in our own minds a view of the world. That's you, me and Walter Donway. Our world views will differ. For some people, climate science doesn't fit at all well with the view that they have created. My reading is that some world views are so fixed and inflexible that when something comes along that they see as being outside of their particular world view, rather than cogitating on whether their view of the world should be adjusted to allow for facts, they instead find it easier to reject the facts. In this case, going to great lengths to rationalise the rejection of the facts.
Unfortunately for people like Walter, there are unscrupulous people about who have re-written the "facts" so that they appear palatable to the Walters of the world. No further research is necessary. Walter doesn't have to go beyond a denier primer. Scepticism can be put aside because he's found a bunch of other like-minded deniers who he can parrot as if they were a reputable source of "facts".
In other words, the Walters of the world find it easier to believe that all the tens of thousands of scientists of the past several decades, who've devoted their lives to finding out how the world works, are wrong, and a denier blogger is right.
Walter Donway wants to "believe" that climate science is a hoax. He so desperately wants to believe it that he's willing to come out publicly and make a complete and utter fool of himself.
That's commitment to a cause. It's not science.
From the WUWT comments
I found the link to the article at, you guessed it, the climate conspiracy blog wattsupwiththat (archived here). Here are some of the comments, so Walter can see what his fellow "climate hoaxers" think, or how they don't think. Before we go there, I wonder what Walter thinks about having his own particular brand of science denial being praised by a denier of the uber-conspiracy kind. Update: Well, what do you know. Walter singled out this wacky comment saying it was "very interesting". Did he mean that in the British sense (off the planet) or the American sense (I like it)?
Marcus has a wacky conspiracy theory about the sustainability agreement Agenda21
September 19, 2016 at 4:14 pmhanelyp objects to being asked to substantiate his denial, and defends the poverty stricken, powerless oil companies like Exxon:
…Actually, Global warming advocacy is part of the U.N. “Agenda 21” protocol to reduce the Human population….not including them ( liberal elites) , of course…
September 19, 2016 at 2:49 pmForrest Gardener now doubts every word spoken by Professor Brian Cox. He gives no sign that he'll go beyond doubt, like checking to see if the words he speaks are correct. That's called fake scepticism.
The climatists insist we prove our case. But they’re the ones who want to use the muscle of government to force their position on the rest of us. By traditional American jurisprudence they should have to carry the burden of proof. But they deflect that burden by arguing, falsely, that we’re forcing our position on them. They accuse oil companies of “going on the attack” spending money on lobbyists, lawyers, and ads, when what the oil companies are doing is trying to defend themselves from the climatists.
September 19, 2016 at 3:17 pmstas peterson BSME, MSMa, MBA wrote some mumbo jumbo, and ended up in Haiti for some non-reason:
it’s true. I certainly will never listen to Brian Cox again without doubting every single word he says.
September 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm
Ignorant left wingers belieive in the fairies and leprecauns with respect to economic relations. Why do you think these self proclaimed idiot-fools would listen to actual Scientists instead of left wing non-scientific fools? they would much rather agree with Castro and Chavez who took the highest per capita income Latin American societies and turned them into basket cases just like Haiti?
Despite what you might deduce, Pat Frank isn't talking about "climate hoax" conspiracy theorists. It's called projection, Pat. Thing is, not deadly floods nor drought nor wildest storms and crippling heat waves will be enough of an experiential shock for hard-core deniers.
September 19, 2016 at 4:48 pmBruce Cobb also has it right, or would have, if he were referring to his hard core denier brethren:
Such behavior is a sign of trauma. Brains get rewired by angst and experience, so that almost literally, the traumatized person cannot entertain a contradictory thought. Doing so causes too much psychological pain.
The only cure, typically, is some sort of shock therapy — not electrical shock, but some experiential shock that is so strong as to cause the prior traumatic wiring to come undone.
September 19, 2016 at 4:13 pm
Those who Believe can not be reached intellectually. Talking or reasoning with them is pointless and just wasted breath.
I wonder if Bill Illis has ever contemplated that it only took a drop of about 3 C to get a mile of ice above him. I wonder if he's ever wondered what a rise of 3 C will do to the world?
September 19, 2016 at 6:06 pm
I don’t think it is worthwhile arguing global warming with friends or acquaintances that believe in it. You can make your point on discussion boards etc. where you get to present the evidence. But with friends, you just expend too much rapport and they never change their mind anyway.
“13,000 years ago, there was a mile of ice above us (or just north of us)” and that is usually enough to get to think about climate change more critically without giving away your position or losing that rapport.
After all, what you really want is for them to start thinking for themselves or to simply to ask themselves, “maybe this is not true”. You are not going to get them to change their opinion on the spot.
Maybe 6 months from now is what you should be thinking about. “I remember when you said X and I have thought about it a lot more …” would be the absolute best impact that a skeptic can have on a believer. This is the way to approach it.
|Source: Adapted from Jos Hagelaars, based on Shakun et al (2012) and Marcott et al (2013)|
Rex of Wellington doesn't like it that George Bush decided on climate change as a better term than global warming. (Global warming causes climate change.)
September 19, 2016 at 7:11 pm
Odd how “global warming” is now so often coupled with the
philosophically rancid “climate change”. Notwithstanding that
it is doubly incorrect, at least “global warming” has some meaning,
whereas “climate change” is just noise.
References and further reading
Niamh Cahill, Stefan Rahmstorf and Andrew C Parnell. "Change points of global temperature". 2015 Environ. Res. Lett. 10 084002. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/8/084002 (open access)
Cook, John, Dana Nuccitelli, Sarah A. Green, Mark Richardson, Bärbel Winkler, Rob Painting, Robert Way, Peter Jacobs, and Andrew Skuce. "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature." Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 2 (2013): 024024. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024 (Open access)
Lewandowsky, Stephan, and Klaus Oberauer. "Motivated Rejection of Science." Current Directions in Psychological Science 25, no. 4 (2016): 217-222. doi: 10.1177/0963721416654436
From the HotWhopper archives
- Marginalised, alienated and put upon: climate science deniers are not innocent - August 2015
- Settled science: there is a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change - April 2016
- ICYMI - there's no stopping the rise in surface temperature! - August 2015
- Change points in global surface temperature: and by what magic is earth warming? - December 2014
- Force X = Force N + Force D, and a Notch (maybe) - May 2016, with more here
- Denier weirdness: Russian steam pipes are causing global warming, sez Anthony Watts @wattsupwiththat - December 2013
- Donna Laframboise new "book" - Instructions are on the cover - September 2013