Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Calling scientists frauds and fakers just pisses them off!

Sou | 2:17 AM Go to the first of 71 comments. Add a comment

There's an article at WUWT (archived here, latest here) about a new paper in Nature Climate Change. The paper is another one of those that looks at the differences between people who accept climate science and those who reject it. It's about the social dynamics of denial. (I was really interested in the paper and got a bit carried away. That means that this article is another one that's too long.)

WUWT gets it wrong, as usual

The way Eric Worrall at WUWT describes it suggests his comprehension skills are flawed at best. He wrote under a headline and sub-head and sandwiched around some quotes from the Toronto Star and the paper's abstract. The WUWT article states:
Shock study results: Calling climate skeptics ‘deniers’ just pisses them off
Academics discover civlity – (sic)
A study into why skeptics are not persuaded by the apocalyptic predictions of broken climate models has concluded that the solution is better communication....
This isn’t the first time researchers have blamed “communication” for climate skepticism.
Given that the abstract bases its rather imprecisely defined assumption of climate consensus on the heavily discredited Cook study I suspect there may be problems other than communication which need to be addressed, before a common understanding can be achieved.

The headline is evident. The rest is spin. It's not true. It's not just the part about the 97% that Eric got wrong. (At least 97% of science papers that attribute a cause to global warming, show it's human activity.) Given the last paragraph of the abstract, which also appeared at WUWT, the above demonstrates once again that deniers suffer from a cognitive deficit. Here's the part I'm referring to (my emphasis):
The key implication is that the divisions between sceptics and believers are unlikely to be overcome solely through communication and education strategies, and that interventions that increase angry opposition to action on climate change are especially problematic. Thus, strategies for building support for mitigation policies should go beyond attempts to improve the public’s understanding of science, to include approaches that transform intergroup relations.

It's almost the opposite of what Eric claims. The paper doesn't suggest that communication is the problem. It goes further and suggests that communication and education won't overcome the divide.

About those conflicting socio-political identities

But I'm putting the cart before the horse. You can read the complete abstract of Bliuc15 on Nature Climate Change. Or the full paper if you can get access to it. You can also read about it at the Washington Post, and there's a press release on Science Daily.

Before I begin, it's worth pointing out that the research, while done by Australian researchers, was based on a study of people living in the USA. The authors point out that the USA is different from many other countries when it comes to the politicisation of climate denial.

A self-defining inter-group conflict

What is different about this paper is probably the way it describes science deniers ("skeptics") vs normal people (who Bliuc15 refers to as "believers"). What they hypothesise is that "believers" and "skeptics" can be seen as "conflicting opinion-based groups". The paper goes on to argue that:
...people come to see climate change beliefs and scepticism not just as an opinion on an issue, but as an aspect of self that defines who they are, what they stand for, and who they stand with (and against). In doing so, opinion-based identities provide a basis for collective action as a coordinated, collective attempt to bring about, or thwart social change.

I don't think that notion will be foreign to most people. Anyone who reads climate blogs will be nodding their heads in recognition. The authors say that what is novel is regarding this as an inter-group conflict, They may well be correct. You know that and I know that, but it may be the first time it's been described in the literature in those terms. I'm not across all the literature that examines the psychology of science denial vs rationally looking at science :D.

Predictors of collective action

The paper refers to contemporary models of collective action integrating psychological and social perspectives. That is, subjective and structural perspectives. It describes predictors of collective action as follows:
  • social identification with or commitment to a relevant group (most important)
  • a sense of grievance or perceived injustice expressed as anger at opponents
  • beliefs that a group can achieve its goals (group efficacy).

It goes on to say there is a distinct group consciousness that can be represented by a cluster of variables. And that if all these can be represented by a factor, it provides a predictor of collective action. Or something like that.

Characterising deniers and "believers"

To test their ideas, the authors conducted a survey of "believers" and deniers in the USA. (All respondents fell into one or other grouping.) I won't go into all the findings. However there were a few things to which people will probably relate.

"Believers" were more likely commit to "environmental behaviours" (I think that means responsible environmental behaviours) than deniers. And they had more fear and guilt, and less hope, about the future of the planet. Deniers were more likely to have higher levels of national identification, but identified less with humanity than "believers". The "moral values" of deniers were more aligned with those of conservatives - whatever those may be.

Another interesting finding was that political stance was a predictor of the "believer" group but not of the "skeptic" group. I think that is born out in surveys like the NYTimes one I refer to further down. That is, if one picks a Republican, there's roughly a 50% chance they'll accept climate science. If one picks a Democrat, the chances are much higher that they will accept scientific knowledge - or the science of climate at any rate.

They also suggest that "believers" are more likely to focus on solutions to global warming, whereas deniers tend to focus on, well, on denial. Or in the words of the authors, on "the definition of the problem (the debate)".

Suggested "guidance" from the authors

The authors say that their findings suggest some guidance for "advocates of action on climate change". (There are no suggestions for advocates of inaction on climate change.)  They suggest that because deniers are angry at people who accept science (my words, not the authors), it doesn't help to antagonise them. It only makes them more committed in their denial. They suggest a more rewarding approach would be to undermine group efficacy by demonstrating that denier actions are unlikely to prevent action to mitigate global warming.

A clash of cultures

Chris Mooney wrote about the paper as well as a news and views article on the paper, at Washington Post. He describes it as a clash of cultures.

I wonder what sort of culture it takes to reject scientific findings so persistently over time. And so vehemently, despite all the evidence that has been accumulated over decades. Chris talks about the "them" and "us" which is as clear as anything to people who've read different climate blogs. I don't think it's anywhere near as clear in real life though. Or not in my experience. In real life I meet deniers and we agree on many things, just not climate science. So the "them" and "us" is specific to climate - or that's how it seems to me. Though I have to acknowledge that it's more likely for people I know to be deniers if they are ideologically conservative.

Yet by no means do the majority of people who have conservative leanings reject climate science. Or not in most of the world. See this recent NYTimes poll for evidence that conservatives as a whole don't necessarily reject climate science (or action to mitigate global warming). 54% of Republican respondents think global warming will be somewhat serious or very serious for the USA if nothing is done to reduce it. (In contrast, 99% of Democrat respondents indicated it would be somewhat or very serious.)

About that anger and commitment to action

I don't think too many people would disagree with the characterisations relating to anger and commitment to action. Both are evident not only on the internet (for both "groups"), but in community action (from climate hawks, not so much from deniers). For example the People for Climate demonstrations that were held around the world recently. Deniers are less committed to public street displays and less organised, as demonstrated by the pathetic buses to Canberra to protest the carbon pricing scheme. I've not seen any denier demonstrations of "People for Global Warming" or "People against Climate".

As regards anger, maybe it's my confirmation bias or maybe it's that climate hawks don't let their anger show as much. I see a lot more anger on denier blogs than on climate blogs. (I don't often feel anger these days. I can't say I felt that emotion a great deal in relation to climate or the denial of climate science. Nevertheless, as is obvious by this blog, I do feel strongly about the importance of taking action to mitigate global warming. And about getting a better understanding of the science. And about figuring out what's the best thing to do to mitigate global warming.)

The wrong tactic, the wrong target

Chris Mooney's article also refers to a "News and Views" paper by Tom Postmes. This is the part that gets me. Chris wrote:
He particularly targets those on the side of the scientific consensus, noting that the “improvement of relations between groups partly depends on believers being willing and able to engage with climate sceptics and to jointly move towards pro-environmental action.”
I know that the good guys have to be the ones beyond reproach. It seems it's always the way. I can see the benefits in reaching out to normal people, who might not understand that they are rejecting science. I've yet to see any evidence that "reaching out" to disinformers and hard-core deniers has any benefit. On the contrary. I see a lot of damage can be done. Bending over backwards sometimes does nothing for the bender other than causing a back injury. It only benefits the person with whom you've bent over backwards to engage.

Think about Nic Lewis' dinner party which resulted in Anthony Watts posting an article that likened climate science to Hitler's "big lie". And followed this up with another one just as bad a couple of days later. Think what happened when co-diners Richard Betts and Tamsin Edwards "bent over backwards" to try to engage with deniers. They got nothing but abuse and flack from WUWT. Some people might be able to persuade themselves that good comes out of "bridging the gap" or supping with deniers. I don't see it.

Look at Judith Curry. She faked a "bridging of gaps" and instead shifted from being a scientist to being someone who writes to disinform her readers and the US Government, and argues that nothing be done to mitigate global warming until it's all less "uncertain". (Her inconsistent application of the precautionary principle.)

Playing into the hands of climate disinformers

For it to be the climate hawks reaching out is what climate disinformers want. The disinformers don't want to reach out themselves. What they want is for people to cross over the line of facts into the world of denial. Disinformers want to be "reached out" to. The reason? To shift the Overton Window. To get the mainstream media to write pieces that play down the problems caused by global warming.

Disinformers would love it for climate scientists and climate communicators to give an inch or a mile. That would allow disinformers to shift even further away from the science, without (they think) looking like the extremist anti-environmentalists that they are.

So in my view, when people talk about "engaging with climate skeptics" they are misguided at best. That's assuming that by "climate skeptics" they are referring to the people who, for ideological reasons or because it's their job, spread disinformation about climate science.

I've chosen ridicule plus science to combat disinformation. Others go for straight science.  Others, where they can, go for finding common values. The last probably has the biggest payoff of all. It only works with normal people though. Not with hard-core deniers.

Finally, the thing that you may have noticed is how Anthony Watts chose an inflammatory headline. Not that it will inflame climate hawks. No. What it will do is get deniers all worked up. They love the "poor little us being called nasty names by normal people" meme. Anthony Watts trades on the culture clash. Deniers are happy to accuse scientists of massive fraud and fakery, but they object when it's pointed out that they are deniers. That they reject climate science.

Committed deniers aren't the least bit interested in coming to any agreement with how best to mitigate climate change. Their actions show that they are still trying hard to shove the Overton Window into denial, despite the fact that global warming is becoming more and more evident as each decade passes. Science deniers won't or can't accept this:

Data source: NASA GISS

From the WUWT comments

People who habitually choose to get their "science" from blogs like WUWT are beyond hope of having any type of rational exchange of views with normal people. I'm not talking about the stray who stumbles upon WUWT by accident. I'm talking about the WUWT fans. Most people who comment at WUWT have decided they don't want to participate in public discussion about how to best address environmental issues, let alone climate mitigation. They see environmental concern as a communist plot (or a Nazi plot, depending on the day of the week).

And in that paragraph you can see fairly strong evidence of my affiliation with the climate hawk group, and demonisation of climate science deniers. That's just the way it is. Group efficacy in action.

The WUWT comments range from extreme denial based on delusion and conspiracy ideation, to the normal protest at anything published in a science journal. It's interesting to also consider the WUWT comments in the light of the paper. What it illustrates is that deniers will rebel against any attempts to be "reached out" to. What they intuitively realise is that deniers cannot maintain group cohesion if they let normal people engage with them.

Jack is one of the motivated deluded:
February 2, 2015 at 11:15 pm
They are masters of delusion.They are trying to convince themselves the 97% figure is correct when we know that it is less than1% in the true figures.
They are also good at beating up scares that the media love to sell papers. Except for politicians who want the carbon tax/ trading rights and the media, the majority of people have worked out it is a scam.
We have a retired politician here that said recently, it might take a while but eventually the people will work you out. That is what they have done with CAGW.
Which is a shame because and awful lot of good science has been done on climate but it will take decades to sift out the politics.

Gary in Erko gets it about right :)
February 2, 2015 at 11:16 pm
Here we demonstrate that US believers and sceptics have distinct social identities, beliefs and emotional reactions that systematically predict their support for action to advance their respective positions.
We’re not capable of independent rational analysis of trumped up statistics of inconsistent quality data. We need to be spoken to as creatures bound by the predictable limits of our “social identity”.
Stereotypes – that’s what we are. …… Uuummmm – they can speak for themselves.

Louis provides a neat illustration of what the paper found. He'd rather be called a denier than accept science:
February 2, 2015 at 11:20 pm (excerpt from a longer comment)
A new study from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is careful to use the term “skeptic” instead of harsher names, but it will still piss you off. I don’t know about you, but I would rather they call me vile names than have them throw such shoddy science in my face. This study makes the ridiculous claims that climate model simulations actually agree with observations and that “Climatologists have been fairly correct with their predictions.”
Peter Jones doesn't like being labeled by the term that fake sceptics co-opted to describe themselves. It comes across as an attempt to disparage the paper so he can show group solidarity with his fellow deniers:
February 2, 2015 at 11:24 pm
Sorry, when you define ‘sceptics’ as those whose views are in disagreement with those of the scientific community, it is just another insult to the large number of scientists that are skeptical of various aspects of climate change “theory” one degree or another. Maybe not as insideous of a comment as calling one a “denier,” but certainly calling a scientist, basically, a non-scientist is only slightly more civil.

It's interesting the number of deniers who object to being referred to as "sceptics". It's only used because it was chosen by fake sceptics. Here's another one - Ian W wrote:
February 3, 2015 at 1:29 am
If you want to persuade someone do:
* Not insult their intelligence by parroting debunked papers
* Not insult them personally by calling them names – always a sign that you have an extremely weak case
* Show real evidence for what you are claiming
These are three very simple steps but the Gruber academics who author this paper proceed to break those three rules. Disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, Nature publishes these papers insulting the intelligence of many of their reducing readership 
It's as though if deniers can't find something to be offended by, then they'll manufacture it in order to prevent being "reached out" to.

aussie pete has been made angry by the paper, which probably helps fuel his denial and sense of belonging with the denier group. He has no intention of reaching out to "believers" or accepting any attempt to reach out to him.
February 3, 2015 at 1:54 am
This made me very angry. I am one of the non scientific dumb arse public. “You know”,the kind of person called upon to sit on juries and make up our minds about the veracity of opposing arguments. Ana-Maria Bliuc et al are patronising in the extreme to both, the likes of myself and many learned skeptical scientists.
The use of that stupid 97% reveals their closed minds. i suspect, btw that skepticism among scientists is actually higher than among the dumb arse public.(which i understand exceeds 50%). I for one am not swayed by pseudo expressions of reconciliation. 

George Lawson is a conspiracy theorist. This study didn't test for conspiracy ideation. I can't see any value (group efficacy) in trying to engage with people having such weird views.
February 3, 2015 at 2:15 am
“This isn’t the first time researchers have blamed “communication” for climate scepticism”
It isn’t communication that is the problem, it is the communication of the truth that is the problem with all AGW scientists. The moment they and the media give a platform to an alternative viewpoint then their so called communication problems will be resolved, which of course they know will be against their own twisted and self serving view point. 

gregory demonstrates what values and ideology motivate his denial. (I'd like to see a similar survey testing to see if there is a correlation between money worship and climate science denial.)
February 3, 2015 at 2:54 am
Ah, the progressive way. Let’s focus on messaging not on actual truth And then we can get our way to empose crushing taxes and end capitalism. Fascism with a smile. 

Ana-Maria Bliuc, Craig McGarty, Emma F. Thomas, Girish Lala, Mariette Berndsen, RoseAnne Misajon. "Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities." Nature Climate Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2507

Tom Postmes. "Psychology: Climate change and group dynamics" Nature Climate Change, 2015; doi:10.1038/nclimate2537


  1. @-" It describes predictors of collective action as follows:
    )-social identification with or commitment to a relevant group (most important)

    )-a sense of grievance or perceived injustice expressed as anger at opponents

    )-beliefs that a group can achieve its goals (group efficacy)."

    This does all apply to believers just as much as skeptics of course. Once such group identities form and people are motivated to join the group, not in a formal way, "..but as an aspect of self that defines who they are, what they stand for, and who they stand with (and against)."
    That carries the risk of selection bias and ignoring the facts that don't fit just as much for believers as skeptics. And believers can be just as dogmatic about the need for any opponent to repent their errors and admit the absolute TRUTH of AGW as the fundamentalists among their opponents. The problem with these sort of social groups is the ratchet effect on acceptable in-group opinion, a side-effect of Poe's paradox.
    ”In any fundamentalist group, a paradox exists where any new person (or idea) sufficiently fundamentalist to be accepted by the group is likely to be so ridiculous that they risk being rejected as a parodist (or parody)."

    But there is a major asymmetry. Believers are a group that derive support from 97% of the science. Or whatever arbitrary measure you want to make of our historically evolved understanding of the terrestrial climate. Believers are also backed by the statements of every major scientific institution that has taken a position.
    Then there is the massive amount of observational data from a multitude of fields showing that something exceptional is happening to surface temperatures, sea level and ice mass since we started increasing atmospheric CO2 levels.

    While believers can feel persecuted by Kochspiracies and angry at government inaction, skeptics have the more difficult task of rejecting most of the science and much of the international political rhetoric. They are reduced to defending a few science fringe cranks (Monckton et al?!) and a branch of the GOP.
    No wonder the skeptics seem more angry and complain of persecution and conspiracies so much more than the believers, they got the whole world against them. Not just the scientific evidence, but literally, the World...climate.

    @-"They suggest a more rewarding approach would be to undermine group efficacy by demonstrating that denier actions are unlikely to prevent action to mitigate global warming."

    Recent attempts by some 'Lukewarm' activists suggest that the 'skeptics' might be employing this tactic in reverse, claiming low sensitivity and the economic cost/benefit from the small climate effect favours inaction. That and the claim that a global agreement on mitigation is impossible without the full cooperation of CHINA, INDIA or all the 3rd world...

    @-"I've chosen ridicule plus science to combat disinformation. Others go for straight science."

    And some of us just go for ridicule...
    see my latest karaoke post on Monckton with the models! -GRIN-


  2. Methinks those Aussies should, perhaps, look into the history of the USA.

    Deniers, didn't give women the right to vote, or abolish slavery, or abolish childhood labor, or overturn discrimination, or give us the clean air/water acts, etceteras, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

    Regressive types around the world are what is stopping humanity from reaching its true potentials. Of that I am certain.

    1. Deniers did make alarming predictions of the immediate collapse of civilised life if any of those policies were enacted. That never changes (which must be very gratifying for conservatives, I suppose).

    2. That's about as succinct distillation of that particular irony as I've ever seen.

  3. Who said you can't have a coherent, useful discussion on Twitter? Here are the views of ThingsBreak, storified, as tweeted.

    Some interesting comments, including about the sampling of survey respondents.

  4. The authors also wrote an article for The Conversation.

    I thought the paper was poor. Its use of the term "believer" for people who accept the science based on fairly clear evidence for AGW was just one of the aspects that was off putting.

    There has been a number of papers presumably derivative of Daniel Kahan's work that point out that political affiliation is a good predictor of attitudes to climate science. But that is often then extrapolated into a crude apolitical and ahistorical determinism. In the real world, there is substantial ebb and flow of attitudes under the shock of events. That is partly because there is a large centre of people who are not "bolted on". And young people are also still forming their political views. It is no accident that historically, major progressive campaigns were driven by young people.

    After reading this paper and the others like it, you could happily conclude that the Greek election result where large numbers of conservatives voted for a radical left party did not happen. Or the Queensland election results did not happen. Or that 18 months after Tony "climate change is crap" Abbott was elected, he is now under severe threat of being deposed.

    The other problem with papers like this is they give support to the "appeasers" who believe that being nice to the deniers will make the debate go away. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but they have now shifted to aggressively attacking people who do not share their benign view of the cranks. Stockholm syndrome perhaps?

    I much prefer Robert Brulle's analysis. I cannot find the paper that I am thinking of at the moment but he points out that people's attitudes to climate can also be affected by social movements. It is not surprising that the USA is the centre of climate denialism - it is also the birthplace of the activist (and astroturf) Tea Party movement. In Australia, the far right of the L/NP led by Abbott has provided the pole of attraction.

    The solution is not to spare the sensibilities of the climate deniers - but to take them on wherever they appear and build a climate movement that can counter the think tanks, the Murdochracy and the Koch brothers financed Tea Party and look alikes.

    1. It's the "giving support to appeasers" that I most object to, Mike. I get thoroughly sick and tired of people who blame scientists and science communicators for attacks from denialists. Its rubbish and plays right into the hands of the professionals who are paid to disinform, and their backers. As well as playing into the hands of the drone denialati. (I consider WUWT a "drone denialati" blog, doing work that supports the professionals but not drawing quite the same salary. Like the junior clerk in an office.)

      As an example, look at the mileage Anthony tried to get out of this paper, thinking he was going to get support for not using the term "denier". He did get mileage, but not the sort you'd have expected from the WUWT article. WUWT-ers in the main ignored all that and rejected the paper. It was habit I suppose. Any paper published in a science journal is rejected by WUWT-ers automatically.

      I see progress a bit like the dog on a leash used to demonstrate long and short term temperature changes. The pendulum swings left to right, but as far as progress goes, the direction has been forward in the main. Like the changes Everett documented above. The risk is the world will start going backwards - not forgetting the two world wars, the depression and going further back in time, the dark ages etc.

      The future will be in the hands of young people as always. We oldies (speaking for myself only) can only do what we can to make their path forward a bit easier.

    2. The only way is to rub the deniers collective noses in their own excrement! This also goes for the appeasers.

      If they then cannot sense that the crap they defecate and vomit after endless ingestion and regurgitation smells awful as far as the rest of real scientists are concerned. They only deserve our well founded derision. Bert

    3. MikeH, perhaps you are thinking of Brulle, Carmicheal and Jenkins "Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010"?

      The use of terms like 'believer' in Bliuc et al reflects the strong tradition in social disciplines of treating questions of knowledge as really being questions of culture -among other things, this excuses the researcher from having to weigh in on which side might be 'true'.

    4. That's the one Mark.

      It ends with
      "Therefore, any communications strategy that holds out the promise of effectiveness must be linked to a broader political strategy. Political conflicts are ultimately resolved through political mobilization and activism. Further efforts to address the issue of climate change need to take this into account."

      You can point to any number of historical events where mass social movements have won the day. We give them names and celebrate then.

      I cannot recall too many where appeasement and compromise have been successful. I can recall a lot where that strategy has led to demoralisation and ultimately defeat.

    5. MikeH,

      "I thought the paper was poor."

      I only read the abstract. I'd like to read the whole thing out of general interest, but it's paywalled. I came off thinking that it's wishful thinking, and said as much in my comments -- basically telling two people that I didn't believe for an instant that getting Al Gore to stop flying around in private jets or changing the tone of the political messaging against their position would change their actual beliefs one iota. So basically, just drop the sappy everyman moralizing, accept that we live in an imperfect world, and stop insulting my fucking intelligence with stupidly disingenuous arguments.

      I was slightly more diplomatic about it because half the point of my participation in that thread was to keep as much of snark out of my responses as possible as an illustration that no, tone really doesn't make a difference when one's opinion and attitude are already entrenched.

      A scarce few matched my deliberately more neutral tone. Most did not.

      Cue the reminder that generalizing from anecdote is doubleplus ungood. But the WUTTers hardly ever fail to defy dismal prediction which does make it quite difficult to give a charitable benefit of the doubt on any consistent basis.

  5. Well, I'm just going to say it ...

    The Conversation converses in conversation with The Conversation!

    Some of us ... do have a brain ... checks for brain ... still there ... sort of ... able to figure things out ... for ourselves ... without the need ... of others ... to do ... our thinking ... for us.

    Now, it's time to read The Conversation ... to see ... if it can ... warp my fragile little mind. :-(

  6. For my conversation with The Conversation ...

    "For example, the civil rights movement in the US, created a sharp division in American society, but in the long term has led to major advances."

    What would MLK, Jr. do?

    What would JFK (eventually) do?

    What would LBJ do?

    I'm pretty sure they would all say "You don't know your own ass from a hole in the ground!"

    One effin' sentence. Seriously? One effin' sentence.

    Oh, and in case anyone's wondering, I've lived in Mississippi since December 8, 1983, and currently live next to a shotgun house in a place called "The Bottom" you effin' Clueless Crackers at The Conversation.

    Effin' slavery. Effin' Civil War. Effin' century of segregation and discrimination. And it ain't over, even today, as I speak.

  7. In his article, http://clivehamilton.com/why-we-resist-the-truth-about-climate-change/ I think the philosopher Clive Hamilton does a great job of explaining how a concerted political campaign in the USA has largely succeeded in equating one's political allegiances with one's beliefs about climate change.

    As far as I can tell from my own research, around the early 1980s US conservative think tanks spread their focus from the traditional social and economic domains to develop their own alternative natural science. This was a response to a major problem: if you concede it is a fact that certain commercially profitable products lead to widespread harm (think tobacco, CFCs, pesticides, chemical spills, mines etc), you have a really, really tough job making the case that these things should not be regulated or even banned. It is far easier to contest or cast doubt on the facts themselves.

    It was inevitable that these organisations, and the leading political figures associated with them, would develop a rhetoric about "their facts" versus "our facts". They are tapping into a simple, everyday mechanism of social life, that is quite rational for most people to play along with.

    This in turn means that counter-science only needs to sound superficially convincing to let people justify siding with "their" scientists against the "politicised" others. And when we are talking about a complex statistical science like climatology, the naive appeal to empirical commonsense seems true enough that people who are predisposed to agree will find it 'obvious'.

    But where I think we should be cautious about papers like Bliuc et al, and Dan Kahan's work for example, is that they are best describing what I think of as the 'ineducable 10%' at either pole of this issue -the people who are just not open to new evidence. Of course, these are the people who are most vocal on blogs like WUWT.

    Those people in the middle ground, who do not have overwhelming ideological or political predispositions against reason, are the ones who should be the focus of science education -specifically the skill of discerning reliable science from unreliable counter-science. These folks are the reason I think the so-called 'linear model' still has a place, however out fashion it seems to be at the moment.

    1. Good points, Mark. I thought of adding something along those lines to the article, but it was already too long. I agree wholeheartedly that it is the uncommitted/uninformed (like the swing voter) who will shift momentum.

      It's happened before on many socially important issues, like recycling, anti-smoking, anti-cancer (slip-slop-slap in Australia), seat-belts, bike helmets, safe sex, and anti-litter campaigns. Most of these were led by advocacy groups in the first instance, then got the backing of governments. Children were important in campaigns like recycling and wise water use. (How many parents have been chastised for smoking tobacco or not putting the tin can in the recycling bin?)

      Eventually the momentum builds and the denier equivalents, who protest their freedoms are being extinguished, are drowned out. Even ostracised for what becomes considered anti-social behaviour.

      The same will happen here but will it happen quickly enough? Climate change and ocean acidification are bigger issues than any of the ones I listed and the solutions appear to be more difficult and complex. I see business and industry leading the way to some extent (eg with technology), helped by individual actions, despite what governments do.

    2. The makers of the modern right first made dog-whistles out of "environmentalist" and "sustainable" and from there on in it's easy. Whatever the issue just throw in those, maybe add Al Gore or Soros for garnish, and the job's done. No need for a custom build.

    3. Since we've had mention of dog-whistles, I should surely refer to Vladimir Lenin here :) He had a great metaphor for the role of agitation in society: "Bending the Stick".

      Say you have a stick in the 12 o'clock position and want to bend it to 3 o'clock; Lenin's argument was that you need to bend it all the way to 5 o'clock, then let it spring back to where you really want it to end up. In this way, he argued, agitation and propaganda creates a pole that people will not accept completely, but will nonetheless compromise a little with. This is how extremism moves the 'middle ground'.

      This is precisely what we see in scores of studies that show, even though the majority of people believe AGW is happening, they also believe scientists themselves are not in agreement. The anything-but-AGW movement, which looks pretty much like science to a casual observer, has shifted the middle ground enough for most people to think they are a legitimate part of the actual science. Christopher Monckton, the neo-Leninist...!

    4. I like that. Bending the stick.

      It works both ways, doesn't it. I remember in my first job after graduating (with a state agricultural agency), we were looking to employ another person. I was asked to look over the CVs and help shortlist. One of the applicants listed her membership of the Australian Conservation Foundation, pretty well the flagship general environmental NGO in Australia. The boss was uneasy, thinking it meant she would be too radical. (I managed to dissuade him of that idea and she ended up getting the job. She was far from being a radical lefty.) What help get the ACF to seen as centrist were more radical environmental groups. (At the time forest-clearing and wood-chips were hot issues, as well as dam-building in environmentally sensitive areas. People were chaining themselves to trees and bulldozers etc. These actions were also "bending the stick" and helped get wider public support for conserving more wilderness areas.)

      Times have changed somewhat, but I suppose not all that much. Farmer organisations and the ACF have partnered on a number of programs since then, such as land clearing and water issues. It's probably fair to say that the ACF would rarely be bypassed in consultations with peak bodies on any environmental issue today.

      The save the whale efforts were initially seen as the domain of radicals too. Now it's got wide public support.

    5. Yes, the ACF is a good example (I'm from Melbourne and have had many conversations like the one you describe, too). I can't remember when I first heard the 'bending the stick' metaphor, but I'm pretty sure it came from a Trotskyist selling a newspaper at a street corner, sometime in the 80s or 90s!

      There is no doubt polarisation is a deliberate strategy for activists on all sides of politics -even, clearly, Rupert Murdoch.

      My concern is that the AGW issue has become an argument of one pole against another -like two countries firing missiles at each other, but with a third, neutral country in the middle saying "I don't want to piss off either of my neighbours, so I'm gonna say they're both right".

      The campaign to say 'if you believe in these values, then you should believe in these facts" is certainly more explicit from the political right at the moment, I think partly because the political left is just less clear what it stands for. In any case, we must accept that most people don't find the idea of accepting facts based on politics all that problematic. The truth is you have to be trained to see allegiance to the most rational explanation as an ethical matter -it doesn't come naturally.

      I think one of the ways forward is to articulate what makes scientific research communities unique...and reliable. If we can do that clearly enough, then the question of denial can be re-framed the way it should be: "why should we reasonable people believe you, when there is already reliable science to believe?"

      You are at one of the frontlines, and deserve support - I feel I should finish by saying that 'hotwhopper' is one of my 'check-in daily' blogs, and I'm one of the many who appreciates your work

    6. The modern term for "bending the stick" is the "Overton Window".

      And it works both ways.

      The Tracker uses it here in this excellent post to describe how the "lukewarmers" exploit the shift in the "Overton Window" created by the deniers.

      "The real contrast here is not between "activists" and "skeptics" but between deniers and everybody else – between the science and the right-wing lunacy. But lukewarmers are exploiting the shift in the Overton window brought about by voluble climate deniers to position their radical views as a sane middle ground."


    7. Thanks, Mark. Back-pats are always welcome :)

    8. Thanks MikeH -that is an interesting link, and a new take on the 'lukewarmer' meme, that I hadn't considered.

      A complicated issue, this Overton Window...particularly when we think about the idea of deliberate extreme arguments to shift the window just a bit.

      Do we say then, that a social movement is winning when weak forms of its agenda start appearing inside the Overton Window?

      What does that mean for an engagement with the 'middle ground'?

      Is it true that society changes because of battles between the radical, 'unreasonable' poles of debates?

      In the end, is the Overton Window's position determined by the battle of the intractable blogs?

      History suggests the voices of compromise never rise above the din until after a side has decisively won...

    9. Speaking of children, I think one thing that often happens is that a new generation has it own ideas and as they grow older their beliefs displace the older generation. I think this ia already happening with issues like homosexuality here in the US and I think the next generation will probably be much more sensitive to environmental issues than this one.

  8. I can see some relationship between this paper's findings and the recent shift of the US Repubs to anti-vax. I think anti-vax got into "mainstream" republican politics in the US after the HPV vax was added to teh schedule. Opposition to that vax started from sexual/"moral" perspectives rather than scientific, but because science is the language of public debate in the modern world the anti-vax mob soon started alighting on dubious science to "back up" their stupid "moral" concerns. Libertard Repubs then saw a political alliance on an issue they agreed with, and now we have a conga line of suckholes coming forward to put their clownish views on all forms of vaccination.

    It's a combination of pre-existing politics and perception of group power.

    If there is any takeaway from this paper I would guess it is not that we should undermine deniers' sense of power as a group; rather it is that we should undermine the shared political and economic values that drive their denialism. This means a general push back against the stupid individualistic and neo-liberal values that have begun to infect the environment debate generally, and robust defense of the success of past collective actions on e.g. acid rain, clean air, ozone.

    Hopefully the rise of Syriza in Europe and hte impending total collapse of Aussie conservatism will offer some space in those two polities for a revision of the underlying political-economic landscape, which will slowly bring the deniers with it ...

    1. I noticed in the survey that deniers didn't connect much to their fellow human beings, but were strong on national identity - whatever that means.

      If making sure the nation is safe and secure and "successful" is a priority, then combating global warming has to also be a priority.

      Or shifting the national identity to one that is also concerned about people through the ups and downs of their lives - like with universal health care, access to education etc. (My impression of far right extremists is that they seem to enjoy kicking people when they are down, and having a beer with those same people when they are flush with "success". That figures if they have less regard for people as people. So maybe focusing on the well-being of the national identity is the way in.)

    2. I guess it's important to remember the strange politics of the US. Australian conservatism has a strong sub-strand that is not denialist, as witnessed by Abbott's very close margin of victory in his leadership poll. Many Australian conservatives seem to see it simply as an economic risk issue and, because Australian conservatives generally retain some sense of the importance of community action, they can be convinced to respond, though they are heavily compromised by their political allegiances to big business.

      This doesn't seem to be so in America, where the Repubs have abandoned any concept of community action for any purpose except war. Undermining that political commitment to individualism even where it is clearly detrimental (e.g. anti-vax, anti-ACA) is essential before they'll agree to political programs like mitigation that depend on shared action.

      In short: we're screwed.

    3. You can also point to Angela Merkel or David Cameron.

      In the US, Mitt Romney indicated that he would include climate change in his platform for the Republican nomination before his candidacy was vetoed by Rupert Murdoch.

      In short: we are not screwed yet! :-)

  9. Sou this is in 2 parts. Here's part 1

    There’s a big difference between those who frequent denier blogs and the general public who disbelieve science. The value of Hot Whopper is that it applies a (small) cost to the online proselytization of stupidity, but in reality, no science or denier blog will significantly influence the US electorate.

    I presume that the authors of this paper limited their research to the US because it is culturally and geopolitically the most influential nation on the planet - by a very big margin.

    The causes of America’s sizable denial of science are complex and can’t be completely explained by its low info population or that population’s very peculiar relationship/disconnect to and from politics and government.

    In April 2009 whilst watching my son’s school soccer trials, I met a ‘new parent’ on the sideline. He was from New York and had just taken up the post of Head of Risk at one of the four big Australian banks in Sydney. Needless to say, being 2009, we discussed the GFC.
    He agreed with President Obama’s Keynesian approach to the crisis and spoke with great clarity and intelligence. He was able to gently correct me on a number of mistaken economic and regulatory matters. Then I mentioned climate change. In the same measured and assured tone he responded with this:

    “I’m not worried because I’ve consulted my bible and God’s got that covered.”

    How do you reconcile the risk exec’s 30 minutes of intelligent and well informed discussion with his five second gob smacker?

    2015 has revealed a very new, very swift and strong trend toward the acknowledgement of science by the US public. I have no data to support this but I believe it’s got more to do with decisions made by the main stream media (or legacy media as the interwebs like to call it) than anything else including personal observation.

    In the last 10 years US network TV and newspapers got lazy on climate. When they bothered to deal with at all they sought to “balance’ science with dumb denial. On the highly influential Sunday morning shows ("This Week," "Face The Nation," "Meet The Press," "Fox News Sunday," and "State Of The Nation") climate was almost completely ignored and when it wasn’t it inevitably gave equal weight to denierville via the “he said /she said” crap or worse – it was “Fox News Sunday’.

    In 2007 Murdoch bought America’s largest selling newspaper, The Wall Street Journal and by 2011 had pretty much dedicated its front page to science denial.
    Even the NYT ditched its specialist Environmental Reporter’s Pod in early 2013 and 3 months later its Green Blog followed it down the drain.

    That year Media Matters for America started a campaign against the absence of climate science reporting on the major TV networks and has rigorously maintained it. Climate Change remained largely ignored by the U.S. MSM in 2013 and for most of 2014.

    In April 2014 Show Time’s climate blockbuster “Years of Living Dangerously” premiered to a miniscule audience which then decreased after the first episode.

    It seemed impossible to break through to the American public.

    Leading up to the 2014 mid term elections somebody somewhere bumped the switch to professional-ish journalism. TV and print media rediscovered the most pressing issue of our times.

    The turnaround was swift but not deft. There were still too many Lindsey Grahams on the Sunday shows and too few Katharine Hayhoes but climate was at last being dealt with.

    Murdoch is old. He will soon be replaced by his son Lachlan who acknowledges science.

    Fox News’ high rating Shepard Smith has gone in very hard against the lies of his employer. He has been loud and consistent. Here’s his tweet following the SOTU address.

    Pres Obama: "The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it." ‪#SOTU

    1. Here's part #2

      Pope Francis has displayed his enormous displeasure with his rightwing cardinals particularly those in the US. Cardinal Dolan has pulled his fucking head in and Cardinal Bourke has been sacked from the Vatican and replaced with the liberal Cardinal Donald Wuerl from DC

      That New York risk manager chose to send his son to a Jesuit high school in Sydney. I’m hopeful that this year he would have listened to his Pope and ditched his dumb biblical ‘science’.

      These new US polling numbers are an extraordinarily fast turnaround.
      n 2013 Pew research Centre found that only 24% of likely Republican voters believed that Climate Change was a threat.

      In January 2015 the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future found that 54% of likely Republican Voters believe that Climate Change is a threat.

      This explosive increase in US rationality happened because the MSM dealt with it in an OK-ish sort of way. What would happen if they started dealing with it in a deserving way?

      If the US goes rational, we all will.

    2. Let's hope the shift is real this time, PG. I'd agree that the media and influential figures like Pope Francis and President Obama talking climate could have marked a significant shift in the landscape.

      The People's Climate Marches helped. It would be good if those took place again before Paris. There's nothing like seeing people who look just like your coworkers and neighbours and friends on television, urging action on climate.

      The efforts of climate scientists themselves can't be overstated either - not just the high profile people who are willing to stick their neck out with the media, attend speaking engagements, have discussions with politicians etc but initiatives like the Climate Science Rapid Response Team.

      And then there's all the work that goes into the IPCC reports, and the manner that the reports and their findings are promoted.Would I be right in thinking that promotion of new science is being handled better these days? The now ubiquitous internet probably makes a big difference.

    3. I'm of the opinion that 2014-15 will be seen in future as a watershed in the climate debate, a conclusion I reached by half-way through last year. It's not just the warmest month after warmest month and predictable warmest year, it's things like US Republican pols starting to play a dead-bat "I'm not a scientist" when faced with the subject. Deniers are becoming increasingly hysterical (in more than one sense), which is another sign - even they're picking up on the zeitgeist. The issue of false balance got some profile, and the BBC has definitely reigned it back and are asking "But surely ..." style questions of deniers who used to be given a free ride. A sense of urgency is at last creeping into the international debate; we'll see how that holds up in Paris.

      Personally, I credit Sou and HotWhopper with almost all of this :) The timing can hardly be coincidental, after all.

    4. Can I quote you on that Cugel? Your last para in particular :D

    5. Hot Whopper is my home page.

  10. I don't agree at all Sou. There has been no vast changes in the coverage of science on the web since 2013 that could possibly sway GOP voters. The average Republican voter has never heard of the IPCC and would if they had, would automatically distrust it anyway.

    The only major change has been that TV networks and local affiliates have formed the view that facts no longer need lies in reply.

    1. I'm confused. Which bit don't you agree with, PG?

      I thought I was agreeing with you :(

  11. My point is that Republicans voters (as opposed to legislators) are moving back to their rational position a la 1990s because the main stream media have ditched climate liars.
    Media Matters for America has won.

    Suddenly (and I mean very suddenly) Chuck Todd and the equally appalling George Stephanopoulos and every other Sunday Morning US network host are dealing in climate and whilst doing so are no longer no equating facts with lies.
    Even Fox News via Shep Smith refuses to deal in lies. This change has been recent and it has been vast and has very little to do with the web.

    1. Thanks, PG. I get what you are saying now. I wasn't aware that the shift in television reporting was so marked. That's excellent news.

    2. Yes thanks, PG I wasn't aware of this either. I'd rather pull my fingernails out with pliers than watch 'murkin tee-vee news, so I haven't been tracking.

    3. I wonder if they are doing this because they don't want another unelectable candidate for 2016. It's due to the (inadvertent) assistance of the Kochs et al that a black man got into the Whitehouse in the first place.

    4. I don't think so Millicent. Congressional Republicans are phase locked into playing to their base (which to all intents and purposes is The Tea Party).

      The broader conservative electorate however has evolved and is leaving the legislators in its dust, much the same way it did with marriage equality.

      Here's Dana on that very subject

  12. Sou,

    So glad you covered this one because I need some decompression. I was early in on that thread with a firm, but I thought reasonably respectful explanation of what I thought was strong and weak about the paper in question, and why I personally get frustrated discussing climate with those who hold the non-consensus view of it. The backlash was swift, harsh and utterly predictable. Capping it off was this one:

    carbon bigfoot February 3, 2015 at 6:15 am "Its clear to me that Brandon Gates is an intellectual moron and should be banned from this scientific website. Anthony– comments should be limited to no more than two with one defense of lunacy."

    So ridicule and "censorship". The very things "they" constantly bitch about. Chalk me up as one for whom appeasement is not an option. You can't fix this sort of stupid, and you can't negotiate with it. I hope PG is right about the US media turnaround, and that the Whutters are by far the minority.

    1. Mr G,

      You cannot have a no-censorship olicy and then cry about labels you don't like. Pick one or the other.

    2. Looks like Mogumbo FINALLY finished that shower. Any more third-hand diagnoses of mental illness to announce, Mr. G?

    3. Mr. G,

      WUWT posters often complain about being "censored" at AGW-consensus blogs whilst simultaneously touting Anthony's "open comment policy". It's fairly liberal, but no, they do ban people from posting over there. Which is fine, blog owners controlling traffic to their site is not censorship.

      They say nasty stuff about other people, but complain about being called deniers. I say nasty stuff about their stupid arguments and take personal responsibility for what I say. I've crossed the comment policy line in their view before, and apologized for it. Do you see the difference?

  13. Hi Sue,

    Of topic somewhat here but is veery much related to climate scince denial.

    I am Tony Banton - retired UKMO meteorologist and I post regularly on Phys.org trying to rebut the AGW deniers that frequent the site.

    There is an ongoing thread ...


    which primarily concerns the concerns of one Doug Bell in respect of differences between the original FAR graph ECS assessment and that transfered to the AR% graph of all AR's overlain. I have pointed out a quote from SkS in this post.....


    "The IPCC FAR ran simulations using models with climate sensitivities (the total amount of global surface warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2, including amplifying and dampening feedbacks) of 1.5°C (low), 2.5°C (best), and 4.5°C (high) for doubled CO2 (Figure 1). However, because climate scientists at the time believed a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would cause a larger global heat imbalance than is currently believed, the actual climate sensitivities were approximatly 18% lower (for example, the 'Best' model sensitivity was actually closer to 2.1°C for doubled CO2)."

    I read it, that AFTER FAR the ECS was taken as 18% lower than the figure used then.
    The AR5 graph has the ECS ranges "rebased" to that figure.
    In the original FAR document, which you get your sensitivity figures from they are as was thought originally.

    The "missing" 0.4C ? "

    Are you/anyone able to shed light on the matter?
    And if what I say above is correct surely the IPCC must say so somewhere near the AR5 graph?


    Tony Banton

    BTW: I have posted on WUWT, and really made an effort to not rise to their spittle, but when it comes down to it they are really "away with the Fairies", and it's like talking to Aliens. Even had one chap "Bill from Texas", or some such, who reckoned that he'd "figured out the weather by the time he was 13". When I pointed out some home-truths (read common-sense and knowledge of the subject) - he eventually physically threatened me - and in return and Anthony stepped in to ban him with a "you are just a Slayer..." comment. See, even he draws a line. Mind, that was ~18 months back. Maybe he's more extreme now.

    1. From a response to your identical post at SkS:

      Runrig - In the 1990 FAR report the radiative forcing from a doubling of CO2 was estimated by the equation:

      ΔF = 6.3 * ln(C/C )

      In 1998 a far more extensive examination of radiative models and forcing was done (Myhre 1998), and the simplified equation (curve-fit to the radiative model results) was updated to a more accurate constant:

      ΔF = 5.35 * ln(C/C )

      Constants for CH , N O, and CFC direct forcings were also updated in that paper. And later IPCC documents rescaled the FAR model results accordingly - entirely appropriately.

    2. Yes thanks - this is what I thought and told him ... however there is still the accusation of "deception" that is not assuaged.
      I was hoping the IPCC said as much somewhere near the AR5 graph.
      I cannot find it though.
      Thanks again

    3. Tony, I'll see what I can glean about your question re FAR and AR5, which I see Anon has answered, in the main. However you've another part of your question outstanding. It may take a little while before I get onto it.

      As for Anthony becoming more extreme. He has become more extreme from the early days, but in some ways less so than he was a year or two back. In particular, he doesn't indulge quite as much in personal attacks on individuals (yours truly and a couple of others excepted). I put it down to a couple of prominent scientists fighting back against allegations of fraud and worse. (It's really big of them to do that. Taking on these allegations in the courts must entail huge personal sacrifice. The benefits are shared among all climate scientists.)

      With regard to the slayers, Anthony is inconsistent. He regularly posts articles by an author of the Sky Dragon book, Tim Ball, who writes about his fantastic (and anti-semitic) conspiracy theories. Anthony bans some people from commenting using the excuse that they are "slayers", but not everyone.

      BTW - Sorry for the late reply. You're comment appeared while I was sleeping.

  14. Further to the above...
    It maybe because Anthony is a "Meteorologist" ..... allegedly.
    That he stepped in a banned him, as I did, slyly, say that he (Bill from wherever) was also insulting his host.
    Highly amusing - and illuminating.

    1. When one considers how many incompatible beliefs come together under the denier banner it really should be possible to get them at each other's throats. As times get harder for them and frustrations build that'll probably develop anyway.

  15. Sou, you are just amazing. This is a wonderful summary. I've stolen some of it but agree in the many years since I joined the argument (being shocked and surprised by the level of vituperation directed at anyone who points out the facts) I have never gotten anywhere by being polite and friendly, but I do try to keep my arguments logical and avoid insults. Blowback will often distort what one has said; one tactic might be to point out the difference between what was said and how it is reinterpreted. Accusations of using insults (well, maybe I do get personal at times ...) are one tactic to distract from the substance of the matter.

    1. I agree that insults are a mistake. Long-distance diagnoses of mental illness are a mistake. Predictions of what the other is going to say are a mistake - wait until they say it. Allowing people to change the subject is a mistake - make one point at keep at it. These are my rules of thumb.

      Oh, and I never forget : the Delete key is my friend :) If I really feel the need I can vent then edit.

      One problem I have is that some people feel I'm talking down to them but far too many simply don't notice.

    2. Cugel, I'm particularly bad at allowing myself to be dragged off point. Comes from my very first days online before I learned that it was a dishonest tactic being used against my position, and I haven't yet been able to shake it.

      I use the delete key a lot, yet still am more verbose than I'd like. And past several days much angrier than I care for and letting it show. [sigh] Tomorrow is another day.

    3. Brandon,
      I have read some of your posts "there" and I applaud your efforts - but I had to retreat for the sake of my sanity. they make up their own facts and are "experts" in everything.
      NOTHING gets through to them and the chief "whip" dbstealey come in for the "kill".
      Amazing illumination on psychology.

    4. I don't know but I suspect that there aren't as many people posting as WUWT would like you think. We know dbstealey has used socks and I wonder sometimes how many others there are sock puppets, especially when the bullying starts. It's like a bunch f 12 year old all sneering at a classmate who has just got the right answer and the restof the class didn't.

    5. Cugel, Brandon,Tony & Cat.

      Anders has this terrific post on the matter

    6. Thanks, PG, you had me with 'hostilities' :)

      ATTP hits the note when he say "I didn't hide my disdain". Disdain is much more satisfying than invective, I find.

    7. "...one tactic might be to point out the difference between what was said and how it is reinterpreted."

      Maybe. I do that quite a bit on other sites. A reasonably common denialist tactic is to try and claim you're "just quibbling about semantics" or "going on about you said, I said" or some thing similar. You can point out that establishing the semantics is necessary to communicate, but they tend to refuse to acknowledge the implications of that point.

      I suspect that pointing out that trying to change the topic when a reinterpretation is challenged is useful to illuminate their dishonesty to some lurkers though.

    8. Tony, thanks for the compliment. Your pain points are about the same as mine. Add to that the dull monotony. Even the longer than one-liner "thoughts" contain the same mishmash of recycled myths and logical fallacies smothered with conspiracy sauce. It's so bad, I'm starting to get bored and repetitive besmirching them!

      PG, indeed an excellent article. I'm in touch his evident weariness at the moment, ever more appreciative that he's kept it going even after flirting with retiring.

      Cugel, ahh disdain. So much better than, say, scorn which entails a quality of perhaps caring a little too much.

      Lotharsson, I think it's pretty much got to be about the lurkers or personal satisfaction. So I try to indulge the latter in a way that at the very least won't put the former too far off their feed.

    9. "It's so bad, I'm starting to get bored and repetitive besmirching them!"

      Yep, reached that stage several times (on other forums) in the last decade or more, and found myself taking a break - sometimes for a year or two.

      "Lotharsson, I think it's pretty much got to be about the lurkers or personal satisfaction. So I try to indulge the latter in a way that at the very least won't put the former too far off their feed."

      +1, although I don't always succeed in balancing the twin goals.

    10. Lotharsson, I go in fits and spurts. I've been on this particular binge since the AR5 draft reports started getting released, which is a rather long stint. You're not alone on that balance thingy either ... I'm downright wobbly.

  16. PG, over the years there have been ups and downs in U.S. media coverage, but it's all been variations on a theme of execrable. I'm just not seeing the trend. The larger problem IMO isn't even the quality of the coverage itself but rather the absence of it. A fair-minded person trying to construct a view of climate change based on media coverage might be able to come to the correct general conclusion on the issue, but why would they give it a higher priority that the media do? TBC about that, look at a few months of NYT front page above-the-fold articles, divide them up into issue areas and see where climate change stands. That implicit prioritization sends a very strong message, which then combined with the sense of most that they're not yet personally affected by climate change.

    "...people come to see climate change beliefs and scepticism not just as an opinion on an issue, but as an aspect of self that defines who they are, what they stand for, and who they stand with (and against). In doing so, opinion-based identities provide a basis for collective action as a coordinated, collective attempt to bring about, or thwart social change."

    I haven't read the paper, but this paragraph seems to miss that there's a huge difference between left and right when it comes to belief formation. Lefties broadly speaking start out with a general willingness to accept what scientists say and righties don't (although the general sense that the U.S. has gotten to where it is today in part because of science complicates things for the latter). Righties for the most part didn't start out that way, going back to the '50s/'60s, but developed their anti-science beliefs as a result of a conscious campaign to construct a right-wing electoral majority in the face of some pretty strong opposite trends. So we see today that issues like anti-abortion and climate denial are packaged with a number of other often quite disparate issues to make up a world view. The campaign started out relatively subtle, but finally got to the point in the late '80s where all righties had to do was tune in to Limbaugh and he would happily tell them exactly what belief set they needed in order to be in good righty odor. (Those who aren't familiar with how that worked might want to search on "dittohead," which bizarrely became a badge of pride.) But that effort clearly needed a TV presence, thus Fox News, regarding which it is no coincidence that Roger Ailes, who had a central role in managing the strategy, was picked to be its head.

    I won't go into in on them detail but should note that considering just sets of positions on issues gives an incomplete picture, and that we also need to consider the 1968 Nixon Southern strategy (aligning corporate interests with traditional reactionary ones) and the fact that the fertile ground for the "Tea Party" business was the racist reaction to Obama.

    (As an aside, someone above noted hopefully that Murdoch would be departing soon due to age. Maybe, but Aussies will know that his mother lived to over 100 with her marbles more or less intact.)


    1. Yes but his mother had decency as her fountain of youth. Murdoch relies on things Faustian to keep him alive. I give him till next Tuesday.

    2. Steve Bloom
      Mainstream reporting of climate science in the US had never been worse than it was between 2009 and 2014. And nor had climate politics for that matter.


      Climate science had more frequent and factual coverage under Bush41, Clinton and Bush43 than under President Obama. There was also Congressional bipartisanship in the acknowledgement of science and climate risk in those years.

      Remember, just 1 month after President Obama took office Waxman-Markey was brought to the House floor. It was supported (without amendments) by Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) and it passed the House with the help eight Republican votes. That was the last we ever saw of it because the Blue Dog Dems in the Senate voted it down despite the Democrats having a filibuster-proof majority (Al Franken having been allowed to take his Senate seat as junior Senator from Minnesota)

      Can you imagine any House Republicans supporting a carbon pricing bill in 2015?

      President Clinton’s nemesis GOP Speaker Newt Gringrich was an advocate for action to reduce CO2 emissions during the 90’s. He even made a PSA with
      Speaker Pelosi (D) in support of reducing emissions.

      Gringrich stood in the 2012 Presidential Primaries and before he went to Iowa he had to unload his pro-science baggage. He chose to do it on Fox News. He said that his decision to appear in the emissions PSA was “The biggest mistake of my life” (and this from a serial philanderer onto his 4th marriage).

      The confession didn’t save him. His campaign went nowhere but he didn’t come last. That place went to the recent US ambassador to China, John Huntsman.
      A classy guy who, like Mitt, is a Mormon. He didn’t come last because he was a Mormon (remember who came 1st) he came last because he was the only primary candidate who acknowledged climate science (and failed to mention that it was the biggest mistake of his life).

      All GOP presidential candidates must deny climate science to get past the Iowa Caucus but it’s getting harder. Mitt used the ‘natural variability’ ploy to win endorsement in 2012. Two weeks ago he ditched that in favor of climate science and then pulled the plug on his nascent campaign for ’16.

      Steve do not confuse the Republican base with the US conservative electorate.

      Recent polling has shown a vast improvement amongst conservative voters who have been moved by recently improved press coverage. Suddenly the 2016 presidential primaries have become a much harder row to hoe for the right. The GOP candidate will have had to pretzel himself over climate to get through the primaries and then straighten himself in the debates to attract the conservatives who acknowledge the science. Clinton will have a fun time.

    3. Steve, Coral Davenport from the NYT explains to NBC's Luke Russet why the GOP have painted itself into a corner.


    4. The GOP v Science (non climate edition) from Frank Rich in The New Yorker

  17. Excuse me for the self-promotion Sou,
    But it has been a topic near and dear to my heart for quite some time.
    Might I suggest the following for those interesting in a case study of contrasting styles.

    Dear Mr. Steele, regarding your 1/7/15 WUWT post - an open letter...
    ~ ~ ~
    Mr. Jim Steele, Can you clarify your argument?
    ~ ~ ~
    possessed by the idea of catastrophic climate change?

  18. Krugman recently highlighted an article by Corey Robin, who has a book I still need to read ("The Reactionary Mind"). Based on my own experience (grew up Republican in a small town in northern Iowa, followed by ~40 years of lefty activism, mainly environmental, in northern California; IOW I've personally experienced a lot of the changes under discussion), he seems to have the big picture of US society and politics very nearly nailed. His blog, with plenty of other interesting stuff, is here.

    But do not abandon hope all ye that enter into consideration of USian climate politics and policy. Just consider California, from whence I write, larger than most countries in terms of both population and economy and with a history of great cultural influence over the U.S. and the world. While we are not unaffected by what goes on in the rest of the country, and policy responses could be (and need to be) much better, here climate is taken seriously and we are moving in the right direction. Not coincidentally, the Republican Party has been reduced to a nearly ineffectual rump (with the result e.g. that fossil fuel lobbying largesse now goes to Democrats who are happy to act as a brake on progress; so it goes, but arguably a sort of progress in itself).

    1. TBC, that last was the TBC. Also to correct typos in the first:

      "combine(s) with" and "tha(n) the media" in graf 1

      "in on them" s/b "them in" in graf 4

      Self-proofreading, the bane of my existence.

  19. I wanted to highlight this interesting fact (in 2000, 41% of Alabama voters opposed removing the state constitutional prohibition on inter-racial marriage; a symbolic vote, true, but a reflection of real attitudes nonetheless), which I had forgotten about until I saw it noted just now. It sheds perfect light on the consequences of the Republican Party having established itself as the party of the former Confederacy.

    1. More from the "But you can't take Alabama out of the man" department.

      Alabama's chief law officer has been defying federal courts re same sex marriage and has instructed his probate judges to do the same. But that's nuthin'

      Today he is defying SCOTUS.



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