Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cooked Goose: Brandon Shollenberger has a severe case of logic fail (and cherry picking) at WUWT

Sou | 1:52 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

Brandon Shollenberger wrote at WUWT:
Mandatory limits/restrictions on carbon emissions are known as cap and trade. 
Brandon's got that back to front.  Cap and trade is an incentives-based market mechanism to encourage carbon polluters to limit carbon emissions.  It is one form of "mandatory limits/restrictions".  However mandatory limits means a mandatory limit.  In the context of greenhouse gases, it means that a polluter can only emit so much pollution before being penalised.  There are a number of ways to achieve that.  One could give a polluter that exceeded those limits the option of shutting down or dropping below those limits.  There could be a straight tax on carbon emissions above a certain "mandatory limit" to encourage polluters to restrict emissions.  No cap and trade necessary.

Anthony Watts has posted an article by Brandon Shollenberger at WUWT (archived here).  Brandon Shollenberger has graced HotWhopper in the past - here and here, for example.  He's a loose cannon and misses the mark more often than he hits it, when it comes to climate discussions.

Today Brandon Shollenberger has decided, through faulty logic, that James Hansen can be called a "denier".  Why? Well, because Brandon has argued by a chain of logical fallacies, which as far as I can ascertain goes something like this.  The square brackets are what Brandon has implied rather than stated, but are necessary to follow Brandon's "logic" - I've written my comment in bold italics:

  1. [Cap and trade is a form of mandatory limit/restriction] - arguably one form
  2. Therefore all forms of mandatory limit/restriction are cap and trade - Does not follow
  3. Therefore cap and trade is the only form of mandatory limit/restriction - Does not follow
  4. [People who accept the need for restrictions accept climate science] - Not necessarily
  5. [Anyone who opposes restrictions on carbon pollution is a climate science denier]  - Not necessarily plus does not follow
  6. [Only mandatory restrictions on carbon pollution are restrictions] - Not true
  7. [Therefore only cap and trade restrictions are restrictions]  - Does not follow and priors do not follow
  8. [Therefore anyone who opposes cap and trade restrictions is a denier]  - Does not follow
  9. [Therefore anyone who suggests cap and trade is not efficacious is a denier]  - Does not follow and priors do not follow
  10. James Hansen once said that "cap and trade...does little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels"
  11. Therefore James Hansen is a "denier"  - Does not follow and multiple priors do not follow

Anyway, Brandon got all excited using words like "flabbergasted".

What he was writing about was Robert Brulle's recent paper that examined funding to oppose limits on carbon emissions.  As well as deciding that Dr Hansen is a "denier", Brandon got all hot and bothered because Dr Brulle apparently listed the Global Carbon Coalition as opposing restrictions on carbon pollution.  He found a sentence for which he doesn't cite a source, but it's probably Wikipedia or SourceWatch, that the now defunct Global Carbon Coalition declared:
the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions [is] a concept strongly supported by the GCC
which is a cherry-picked segment of this, in Wikipedia:
"The industry voice on climate change has served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming... The Bush administration will soon announce a climate policy that is expected to rely on the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions, a concept strongly supported by the GCC.
Notice how Brandon has altered the meaning by omitting the words "to rely on"?  Not only that but Brandon omitted the fact that, according to Wikipedia sources, the Global Carbon Coalition was opposed to "immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

Not only that, but the bigger logic fail is his premise that opposition to action to restrict carbon emissions necessarily means rejection of climate science.  There are people who understand very well the seriousness of carbon pollution but who nevertheless argue against limiting fossil fuel burning and/or argue against government intervention.

Not only that, but Robert Brulle doesn't himself use the word "denier".  That word only appears in his paper once, in the list of references.  Dr Brulle's paper is an analysis of funding.  It's not an analysis of climate science denial.  Many if not most of the people financing opposition to mitigation of carbon emissions would probably accept the science.  It's just that their other "wants" (eg current personal wealth, no government intervention except for tax breaks and subsidies for their favourite investments etc) outweigh any latent desires they may have for future prosperity and the well-being of society.
This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States.

Now Brandon makes the claim that:
Brulle argues anyone who opposes cap and trade is a denier.
Not at all.  The Brulle study wasn't an examination of opinions on climate science.  It was an analysis of the  "financial resource mobilisation of the organisations that make up the climate change counter-movement".   Dr Brulle defines:
The first question is: What is the climate change counter-movement? Here I argue that an efficacious approach to defining this movement is to view it as a cultural contestation between a social movement advocating restrictions on carbon emissions and a countermovement opposed to such action. Using this perspective, the key organizations of the U.S. CCCM are identified.

There is no suggestion that those funding the countermovement reject the science.  It is clear that many of them foster doubt about the science as one of their tactics, but that does not mean the funders of the counter-movement reject science, nor that rejection of science is a necessary pre-requisite to opposing restrictions on carbon emissions.  After all, look at Anthony Watts himself.  He has said on many occasions that he knows that carbon emissions are causing the world to heat up.  Yet the whole reason for his blog is to get his readers to doubt the science and, more particularly, to oppose government action aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

The gift-wrapped goose,
ready for cooking at HotWhopper.
Brandon makes a habit of getting it all wrong and working up a lather over all the wrong things.  This time it's no different.  All wrapped up in a pretty bow and delivered by by Anthony Watts, ready to be cooked and served up here at HotWhopper.  What a delicious cooked goose.

Of course Anthony Watts wouldn't know a logical fallacy if he tripped over one - he who thinks airports can suddenly catch UHI disease, that global warming is caused by Russian steampipes and who promotes paranoid conspiracy theories of the OneWorldGovernment/NewWorldOrder/Agenda21 kind.

Brulle, Robert J. "Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of US climate change counter-movement organizations." Climatic Change (2013): 1-14.
You can also get the 120 page supplement here. Click here for the related article in Nature News.

From the WUWT comments

There are a lot of vacuous comments like this one from tango who says:
January 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm
don,t worry the gooses are digging them selves a bigger hole the quicker they complete we can all go back to being normal

And utter nutter comments drawing on religion like this one from Ju;lian in Wales who says:
January 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm
An Inquisition against those who question the authority of the self acclaimed high priests of Climate Change. But where is their power to hold the trials and punish the “deniers”? If we do not fear them why should we take any notice of their peculiar court?
This will backfire because having deliberated on who they hate and who they want to crucify to their Gods they will be seen to have no power or authority to carry their divine justice further. They will look like feeble fools who live in a irrelevant bubble world of unreality.

Some of the denialati might have a smidgen of sense, like Steve from Rockwood who says:
January 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm
I need to smarten up because I just don’t get it. Read it twice too.

Someone with more than a smidgen of sense managed to sneak in a comment.  PJF says:
January 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm
This (Brandon Schollenberger’s) piece is a cheap strawman based upon his invention that “mandatory limits/restrictions on carbon emissions are known as cap and trade”. It will be burnt to shreds like all strawmen should. The author may feel it “bullish”, I would suggest a small addition would describe it down to a t.
A WUWT own goal.

Rob Dawg opts for nefarious intent and says:
January 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm
The word denier was specifically chosen to conjure up associations with the holocaust. The acronym CCCM was carefully crafted to harken back to the days of the CCCP soviet era.

Madman2001 doesn't understand the meaning of ad hominem and says:
January 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm
It seems more and more that the alarmists are talking less and less about the science — maybe they think they’ve lost that battles — and are instead choosing to directly attack skeptics in an ad hominem manner. It means that the skeptics are winning.

Followed shortly after by this comment from M Seward who illustrated the meaning of ad hominem by writing:
January 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm
From Brulle’s page at Drexel
BS, Marine Biology, U.S. Coast Guard Academy *
MA, Sociology, New School for Social Research
MS, Natural Resources, University of Michigan
PhD, Sociology, George Washington University, 1995
(* although down the page it says a BS in Marine Engineering )
Research and Teaching Interests
Critical Theory
Social Movements
Social Change
Environmental Sociology
I think the “Research and Teaching Interests ” say it all. Sounds like a man who was not cut out for the real world and scuttled back underground. Must have been tough at the US CG Academy.
And WTF ! He isn’t even a climate scientist!!

That's probably enough to give you an idea of the size and scope of the pool of intellect at WUWT.


  1. It is easy to hassle climate scientists, who want to do climate science.

    It is a very, very bad idea to hassle {historians, cognitive scientists, sociologists, political scientists} who get very interested in studying the hasslers, can write papers and give talks about them, and have the skillsets to do it well and get brownie points for doing it.

    You'd think people might have learned from Merchants of Doubt, which might well not have happened if they'd left Naomi O alone in ~2004/2005.

    Climate scientists don't often do sociology, which makes the one complaint especially amusing.

    1. Yes indeed. In one hilarious example, Brandon Shollenberger leapt to the defense of Foxgoose with much jumping up and down and leaping about.

      Apparently Lewandowsky thought that Foxgoose held one particular conspiracy theory but Foxgoose insisted it was a different conspiracy theory that he held. Brandon was up in arms about the scientists confusing one conspiracy theory for another. It's hard to keep track of all the different conspiracy theories held by science deniers.

  2. Dunning-Kruger rules.

    Now, not everyone is lucky to live in bicycle range of a world-class university, but in the real world, serious people go to seminars like this one today and listen to what actual experts say. Experts don't always agree with each other, but it is nice to hear what people say who actually study these things at the request of government policy makers.

    Of course, one could just get all opinions from blogs.

  3. Dr. Hansen, Dr. Hayhoe and I endorse the Citizens Climate Lobby which believes that a revenue neutral carbon fee will be more predictable (and thus easier for businesses to plan for) than cap and trade. I'm just a dumb physicist, not an economist, so my preference is informed by experts like Dr. Shi-Ling Hsu (third video) who show that a revenue neutral carbon fee is more compatible with my fiscal conservative beliefs. Namely, a revenue neutral carbon fee will require less government intervention and fewer regulations than alternatives like cap and trade.

    1. More to the point, the economic models show that a carbon tax is far more likely to be cost-effective, not just an issue of preference.
      These models are hard ... but any sensible economists seem to agree, although they argue about details. (A lot of the work described in the talk I linked before was done by request from Congressional folks.)

      The challenge is that cap-and-trade has tended to be easier politically, and there are of course some people with a lot of money who don't want either one, and there they helped create a whole social movement that is 100% against *anything* labeled a tax.

      I've talked to Congressional staffers who would love a carbon tax, but jsut can't figure out how to get the votes.

      A bad problem of cap-and-trade is that one has to predict emissions ~5 years in advance to set the caps right, and people have had great difficulty doing that.

      On the other hand, one always has Chruchill on America:

      'You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.'

      But just ask: what's in this for the coal producers or the Kochs?

    2. Carbon taxes will not work. Look at smoking as an example. Taxes on cigarettes are huge but the world still smokes, and that's after introducing lots of really heavy-handed govt intervention.

      If we had introduced carbon taxes 20 years ago maybe we'd have time to ratchet them up and watch the switch. But we don't have time to shilly-shally around the way the WHO did with smoking, spending years slowly turning the screw. That carbon has to stay in the ground, and taxing it now is too little too late. And the longer the delay to implementing them, the more intense they will have to be.

    3. I think Carbon Taxes are the obvious mechanism; the problem, however, has been demonstrated all-too-clearly here in Australia, where a bunch of anti-science dunderheads has run a lumpenpopulist scare campaign against ours - backed by the same interests that didn't want to have to pay any resource taxes, either - and now hold office.

      In a world where the Right is abandoning science because they don't like the cut of its jib, and one, at least in the West, dominated by a sullen and entitled electorate that don't see why they should have to make sacrifices for anyone - even their grandchildren - this problem appears increasingly insoluble, but we have no choice but to assume it can be.

      I'd also argue that a lot of the hysteria about the tax was generated precisely because it wasn't causing any of the predicted chaos, despite the systematic nonsense bruited about by Murdoch's minions. If it wasn't nipped in the bud it might even become accepted that large corporations should be expected to pay for their externalities!... the Horror...

  4. Rob Dawg isn't having any truck with that Cyrillic nonsense I see. Everybody uses 'Murican letters, don't thry?

    I expect anyone using the Cyrillic CCCP (Союз Советских Социалистических Республик) to describe the USSR would see Brulle's CCCM translated to ИKK (Изменение климата контрдвижение). Carefully crafted? Only to a...well...unique mind like Rob Dawg's.


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