Monday, March 7, 2016

Denier weirdness: unraveling the climate cabal

It seems to me there is a direct correlation between the weirdness level of science deniers and the release of new evidence that shows just how much climate is changing. For example, three years ago there was a pandemic of Marcott madness. Then in January last year, there were people trying to argue that 2014 wasn't really the hottest year on record. Then there was the almost hysterical reaction to the new NOAA dataset, which even infected prominent members of the Republican Party. That's despite the fact that all it did was bring NOAA data a bit closer to the other datasets (but still showing the lowest trend.)  This year deniers were desperate to deny the hottest year 2015. And when the very favourite pristine unchallengeable satellite dataset was changed this week, there was much scurrying and scampering searching for a "fatal flaw". That's just since HW started.

What I haven't worked out yet, is whether the correlation arises from:
  • an increase in the madness of deniers - that is, individuals become more weird as their world heats up; or
  • a reduction in the number of deniers - that is, as each new piece of evidence emerges, the least irrational science deniers begin to question their assumptions. That would increase the "craziness quotient" of the pool as a whole. Fewer of them, with the least crazy having left the pool.

The golden days of science denial are in the past, if you go by the number of comments at WUWT. Back when fake sceptics were rummaging around in stolen emails, there were a lot more comments. So maybe it's a bit of both.

Unraveling the climate cabal

What got me thinking along these lines was a comment I saw at WUWT yesterday. One person seemed to think that there are only a very small number of climate scientists in the world, and they are led by three dozen or so key influencers. This is the comment:
March 6, 2016 at 7:50 am
It seems this climate cabal is not so large to achieve “too big to fail” status. While it has some powerful support, it is at best 30-40 key influencers that pop up throughout the “science is settled” peer reviewed mis-information

If the truth can get some executive support, this could unravel quickly. Of course, it has to be a POTUS willing to lay bare the duplicity of our government and its Faustian deal with the one government promoters at the U.N., IMF and the rest of the socialists (wolf) cloaked in “save the world” (sheep’s) clothing.

People don’t realize how critical Ted Cruz can be in some important government role (Pres or AG come to mind)

Yes, it reeks of right wing authoritarianism, as if individual scientists blindly follow the key influencers. It also shows a very high level of ignorance about climate science research.

As with many wacky notions, there is a wisp of reality. I mean there are people who are very highly regarded in their respective fields. I think of William Ruddiman, Kevin Trenberth, James Hansen, Wallace C Broecker, Keith Briffa, Richard Alley, Ben Santer and if I keep going I'll just offend scores of people by not mentioning their names. I offer an unconditional apology to any and all scientists I've offended by not mentioning you.

When you think about it, people achieve public prominence because of the value of their work plus the extent to which they are featured in mainstream media. There are also the quieter players who achieve scientific prominence without necessarily being widely known by the general public. It can take time for a scientist to be regarded as being at the top of the heap, crème de la crème, a giant among giants. There will be rising stars who are quite young, prominent scientists who are mid-career, and giants who have forged their place through an accumulation of innovative, insightful and solid work over time.  Even with giants, scientists are competitive as well as collaborative and will not hesitate (or not too much) to criticise their work. So if deniers could get rid of 30 or 40 prominent scientists, there would be another 30 or 40 to take their place, from among the thousands of climate scientists.

One often gets the impression that science deniers think there are only a few dozen climate scientists in the world. To me that is really very odd. The IPCC AR5 WG1 report, which doesn't reference every paper published in a seven year period, cited 9,200 papers. It didn't indicate how many scientists were authors of those papers, but I'd say it was probably at least that number. (Most papers have multiple authors, and many would have been authors of more than one cited paper.) That's not counting scientists working in other fields, such as oceanography, agriculture, forest science, geology, ecology etc., though there'd be some overlap.

What would happen if deniers successfully got the GoP to stop funding the top 30 or 40 climate scientists in the USA? Who would decide who are the top 30 or 40 climate scientists in the USA? Given that each year around the world there are probably several hundred or more scientists who retire, and given that one might surmise that many of the "top 40" would be older, surely all deniers have to do is wait for their "key influencers" to retire.

What would happen if Lamar Smith used what influence he has to shut down all climate science done by NOAA? (Apart from the NOAA suddenly not being able to deliver weather forecasts, monitor by satellite or do any number of things that depend directly or indirectly on climate science. Which in turn would put a lot of people out of business - the privately run weather businesses for a start.)

I'm thinking that misconception might be what's behind the Serengeti Strategy, and behind the FOIA fishing expeditions (which are such a waste of time, money and effort), and behind the Republican Party's antics. Science deniers might think that if they shut down one research unit, or get rid of a few prominent scientists, then global warming will go away and there'll be no more science published. Problem solved.

Are they that deluded I wonder? Not only will global warming not stop if the science stops, it will probably happen faster. If only some research units are shut down, or only some scientists sacked, the work of other researchers will continue. There'll be big knowledge gaps, like is about to happen in Australia. However, there will also be tens of thousands of scientists around the world publishing hundreds of thousands of papers each year.

There have been quite a few surveys asking people about what they think the scientific consensus on global warming is. I'm not aware of any survey asking people how many scientists they think contribute to that consensus. The answers to such a question could be illuminating.

Anyway, while there's been a weekend lull in denierisms (and a late summer/autumn heat wave, a fortnight of temperatures in the very high 30s - 100 °F plus, with little sign of a letup) that's one of the things that occupied my mind. A bit of a ramble, isn't it.


  1. personally I think that as the data/evidence moves away from them they will get ever more conspiratorial in their "beliefs"

    and will end up like these rather sad people

    a very interesting video about the 9/11 Truth advocates that congregate and proselytize around the World Trade Center in New York City; presenting their experience as an often-maligned group in their own words

  2. I don't know how much Canada can serve as an analogy for the rest of the world, however it was the very act of physically shutting down science--including quite literally muzzling scientists from talking about their work (famously including one study that appeared on the cover of Science), throwing painfully won archives into dumpsters, and closing whole, world class research sites--that finally made science into a central voting issue that brought down a government.

    They also tried to kill pure research by the same strategy we are now seeing in Australia of making science more controlled by industry needs and this too was an issue that actually got to person-in-the-street levels.

    1. Science-muzzling was a secondary issue in the campaign; it mostly turned on the issues of one woman winning the right to wear the niqab during her citizenship ceremony (and by extension islamaphobia), and on Alan Kurdi's photo (and by extension islamaphobia).

      Where the muzzling of science mattered was that the government went in with a 60% or so disapproval rating, but even then, recession was a more potent issue than science.

    2. There were many issues. But science was front and centre. Many candidate reported being surprised by this during canvassing. The disapproval rating was not 60% and in truth Harper won majority governments in the past with a 40% vote

      The following shows some of the fall polling. Science is subsumed under "environmental issues" which were actually the 2nd most important to voters.

      Note, BTW, scrolling down that Harper's disapproval rating was pretty constant at 60% since 2009 through a couple of elections.

    3. The 60% disapproval was not the important issue, I was trying to say. Harper was always 60% disapproved.

  3. The high IQ end of the denier spectrum is largely made up of people with emeritus status. So their numbers are diminishing rapidly due to natural wastage. That leaves you with the mindless dupes who, with fewer intellectuals to guide them, can only look sillier and sillier as time goes by.

    1. Good point, although even their 'best' are a pretty shoddy lot. Roy Spencer remarked something along those lines after Bob Carter died, namely that he and John Christy had no-one to take over their UAH-affiliated program when they retired.

      To that demographic factor add the unknown percentage of bright(ish) others who gradually walk away from the issue without bothering to sign off with a final "BTW, changed my mind and AGW actually makes a lot of sense."

    2. There is seems to be a common meme about retired physics professors seemingly embracing their “contrarian” side as they get older

      Maybe it is a natural reaction to young eager scientist coming up through the ranks – trying to make a name for themselves

      I have seen it expressed in cartoon form

      and here

      and interestingly I was watching a Lindzen lecture on youtube the other day and noticed he spent the first 30 mins talking about “in the old days the climate guy simply collated temperature data” yada yada

      the implication being that have got to beig for their boots

    3. For those interested in other work from the same cartoonist, here's a direct link to the first one.

      SMBC cartoon: aging pet physicist

    4. "and interestingly I was watching a Lindzen lecture on youtube the other day and noticed he spent the first 30 mins talking about “in the old days the climate guy simply collated temperature data” yada yada"

      According to Lindzen's Bulletin of the AMS piece from 1987, the old days (1960's) were much like the social media scientific forums of today -- places where people worked on science in their spare time and made incredible breakthroughs:

      btw, LH is Lindzen-Holton and Lindzen is describing his formulation of the theory of QBO.

    5. I think that the 'pet physicist' is a bit like the 'whisky priest', both stand out as outliers amongst their peers.

      I can understand how someone who has been so long involved with their field and are considered world experts can forget how long it took to master it. They then foolishly think they can apply their very limited deep insight into totally new unrelated fields where they do not even think about what assumptions they bring with them that are totally inappropriate or worse useless.

      I spent thirty years as someone who studied Physics working in the biological and medical sciences. The main reason for our success was having a multidisciplinary team. The total breadth of knowledge that other people in the team had, never ceased to amaze me. Without their advice I would have been groping in the dark even more than I usually was. The leader of our team always said at group meetings that we should tell him if we considered if even he was wrong on anything.

      No one is the suppository of all wisdom! :) Bert

    6. "No one is the suppository of all wisdom! :) Bert"

      And so that explains why scientists like Lindzen have been talking out of their ass all these years.

    7. It was first uttered by Tony Abbott. It has a beautiful circular ring about it.

      It is something a quantum computer would utter when faced with a conundrum. Bert

    8. "No one is the suppository of all wisdom! :) Bert

      Gotta hand it to our Bert. While we all knew what he meant, one of the best Freudian slips evah!

    9. An added bonus is the truncation of the surname of the Liberal [sic] member for Deakin, Michael Sukkar, hovering behind Abbott's shoulder.

      Abbott seems to have a penchant for standing in front of unfortunate signs, and I'm sure that at some point his minders were probably watching out for potential embarrassment, but there was really no way to avoid this one given that Sukkar was the member for the electorate in which Abbott was speaking.

      I do wonder if the cameraman deliberately framed it as he did.

    10. Bert wrote, "No one is the suppository of all wisdom! :) Bert"

      You may find this of interest:

      Although it was born of creationist debate, it also examines the issue of conspiratorial views of science, and thus may also be pertinent to the topic of this post.

    11. Bert wrote, "The main reason for our success was having a multidisciplinary team. The total breadth of knowledge that other people in the team had, never ceased to amaze me. Without their advice I would have been groping in the dark even more than I usually was. The leader of our team always said at group meetings that we should tell him if we considered if even he was wrong on anything."

      Bert, I probably should have said what it was that you may have found of interest in my piece. Basically, it is the issue of dialogue, the point that a group of individuals engaged in deep dialogue can be far brighter than any one individual in isolation.

      Here is something that is closely related, namely the empirical nature of scientific consensus and how it is built upon a cognitive division of labor that exists in the sciences, something which you are also dealing with in what I just quoted:

      With the first "link" don't forget the "e" at the end...

    12. "largely made up of people with emeritus status." Who are merely tools selected by certain PR companies. Who, for some reason, never get the FLAK.

    13. "Who, for some reason, never get the FLAK. "

      Some of us try to keep the pressure on scientists such as Lindzen & Curry, but the backlash is that those who criticize the contrarians are themselves considered too obsessive.

      My own current focus on Lindzen is based on progress I am making on modeling the physics behind QBO. Lindzen is in the way because of his incorrect interpretation of the science, and improvements will only be considered when the dead weight is removed.

      At one time Lindzen was considered too imposing because of his intellectual bullying skills, but I think that is fading fast as the emeritus effect takes its toll.

    14. He can be supplanted by the PR that finds those types.
      I'll give you that it's getting harder for 'them' (the PR) to find such shills. They might even pull away from this third party tactic to operate behind scenes of e.g. governments.


    15. Reggie may have found a cause to support when he returns March 19… finding a cure for the deadly disease afflicting the world renowned psudo-scientist and brave keyboard warrior…

      Willard A Watts, is suffering from terminal self-induced CRS.


  4. Who controls the satellites? If it is NOAA and they get shut down then RSS can't get their data to produce their "best we have", "gold standard" temperature series. Oh, I forgot. Those things are so last week.

  5. Thinking the best of human nature, I'm inclined to agree with option 2: " each new piece of evidence emerges, the least irrational science deniers begin to question their assumptions."

    Certainly the "craziness quotient" of the remaining posters and bloggers I've encountered has increased over the past 18 months.

    For instance, I've noticed that Paul Hudson of the BBC seems to have packed blogging in last year. Paul wrote a controversial article 2009 that, perhaps inadvertently, turned his blog into a magnet for fake climate change sceptics.

    It concerned predictions about the direction of future near term temperatures, with the usual suspect (Denier Don, etc) featured. Paul's a qualified meteorologist (as opposed to an unqualified one, a-hem) and must have realised that the only prediction he featured on that article that met observations was that of the UK Met Office (i.e. that strong warming would resume shortly).

    Paul, who I don't believe was ever a fully-fledged fake sceptic, seems to have bowed out of the debate now; though without acknowledging the Met Office's correct prediction.

    Speaking of the craziness quotient though, if you want a laugh, have a look at the blog of Christopher Booker's go-to fake climate expert, Paul Homewood, who features here on HW from time to time.

    Homewood has a page dedicated to 'global temperature updates'. Despite several posts on that page, he hasn't actually updated any surface data set for months, RSS updates stopped in November and UAH stopped in December last year. Note also that WUWT hasn't updated its UAH chart in the 'reference section' since December 2015 either.

    And these guys object to being called 'deniers'. Heh.

  6. There's a denier I frequently argue with, who is convinced there are a few people Running Things, and all other climate scientists simply toe the party line in order to get work. He doesn't like it when I accuse him of believing in a vast global conspiracy -- he says it's more a matter of groupthink and paychecks.

    I've been curious to see how Chris Monckton is going to handle the double whammy of RSS having changed its algorithms, and his fake "pause" going away for good. It should be fun to watch.

    From what I've seen of my denier friend, the most likely set of talking points we're about to see entails step changes wherein the Earth warms with each major el Nino. See, the western Pacific is warmed by the Sun during la Nina years, and that heat is released into the atmosphere during el Ninos when the hot water sloshes over to the eastern Pacific. Then there is a temporary pause" as the Earth remains stable on the next higher stop for a while. No greenhouse gasses are involved. It's all entirely natural, and humans have no effect on it. Or so Bob Tisdale says. I'm virtually certain that will be the next explanation.

    1. I suspect Chris Monckton will declare the data so polluted now that the Pause calculation is no longer meaningful - just as They intended, of course. The Pause was such a threat to Them that it had to go the way of the Little Ice Age ...

      We'll hear no more of the Pause from Monckton but we may well from people who post here. I have a feeling myself that there's a Surge already under way.

    2. Let us name this surge the Memorial Surge, in memory of the late, unlamented and entirely non-existent pause.

      (Iwould have included the name Monckton in there but it would be poor taste and cause lots of hassle for Sou as she laughed at the threats of legal,action and split her sides.)

  7. As someone who mostly participates in "debates" in the Daily Telegraph comment threads, it's been noticeable that the number of denialists actively pressing their position has dropped off significantly of late. Some of this can no doubt be ascribed to the departure of the not-missed-at-all Delingpole to Breitbart, but I think some of it has to be down to the increasingly unsupportable nature of denialism per se. All that seems to be left are a motley crew of scientifically-illiterate ideologues and the genuinely insane (q.v. AlecM, aka mydogsgotnonose, aka tournedoutnice). Which is nice.

    1. Agree that AlecM is nuts, he also had the handle SpartacusIsFree over at Curry's bog.

      But a whole gang of nutters inhabit Tallbloke's Talkshop. From the looks of it, they are trying to generate a Mentaculus of climate. The Mentaculus is a fictional theory from the Coen Bros film A Serious Man. The diagrams that they are drawing are starting to look just like what are depicted in the movie

      For laughs check out the talkshop thread called "Why Phi?". The ringleader is Vaughan, who is so over-the-top that he could actually be a Poe.

    2. If it goes anything like the 911 twoofers - the simply mildly deluded will start arguing with the totally bat sh1t crazy

      So you have the proponents of controlled demolition struggling to be heard over the "no planers" who simply think the whole shooting match was faked to the point that there were no planes and no fatalities

      It is simply beyond parody - but great fun all the same

    3. AlecM is hilarious. He's been at it for years as well. His posts make no sense (scientifically) at all, and he always does that crank thing about how all modern science is all wrong. He then finishes off his nonsense with the assertion that global warming is not happening and loads of other people recommend it. Which says a lot about the knowledge of the deniers.

      You're right though. I had noticed that recently, the "debate" has been more balanced over there. The deniers are not out in such great force and there are frequent refutations, rather than the tsunami of wrong that was hithero the case.

    4. maybe this goes some way to explaining why the dedicated contrarian climate blogs seem to attract the lunatic fringe these days, the are simply migrating from the more mainstream media outlets

  8. " increase in the madness of deniers - that is, individuals become more weird as their world heats up."

    Another hockey stick

  9. A bit off topic, but many of the commenters at WUWT are busy now trying to deny the Big Bang.

    I think that says a lot about the denialst mindset and acceptance of science.

  10. Just a quick heads up on today's senate enquiry on CSIRO cutbacks in Hobart today.

    Private email addresses used to discuss cut backs? BTW no sign of Larry Marshall there. I believe there are further hearings later this week or next week in Melbourne. Word is that LM might be legally required to front up.

    R the Anon

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. R the Anon.

      You've pre-empted everything that I was going to type last night after a little bird told me about the meeting yesterday afternoon, but which I couldn't post due to ongoing conversations...

      It bears repeating though...

      Larry Marshall did not deign to attend the hearing - he has minions to do that sort of menial work, apparently.

      There was not a Liberal or National senator to be seen - apparently the gutting of the national capacity to do climatology and oceanography is not of concern to the conservative political parties of Australia.

      Private email was used to orchestrate the gutting of CSIRO's climatology and oceanography. In future years this may become a part of the hindsight acknowledgement of a scandal involving right-wing and vested-interest moves to silence the voices of urgency and scientific reason for the sake of a small cabal's self-interest and profit.

      The Federal government is planning to "offshore" the research, so it's still going to cost - it's just that it won't involve inconvenient Australian voices, Australian jobs, or top-quality Australian expertise that understands the Southern Hemisphere better than anyone else.

      Any impartial, informed and rational scrutiny will understand the Marshall/LNP plan to be one that is a last-ditch effort to silence the evidence that would otherwise spell the doom of the fossil fuel industry, if only that evidence can be given the attention that it deserves. Oh, with the side benefit of raiding the nation's science budget to line the pockets of business entrepreneurs in a fashion that does not result in maximum benefit to the public, nor in optimal response to the issue of climate change.

      I've said it before and I'll say it again. Marshall and the LNP are treasonously shooting the messenger so that they can profit from the actions of the enemy's agents. They're happy for their country to lose the war, and for their population to suffer and even die prematurely, because they'll be alright mate...

      Australians should be out in the streets deploring this cynical move to destroy their futures, but it seems that the country is simply going to drop their collective trousers and allow Marshall and the LNP to bugger them and the planet senseless.

  11. I posted a version of this comment last week but this is a more relevant thread.

    Anthony's conspiratorial standards only rise as far as banning chemtrail discussions but pretty soon he will be accepting those comments too. Here's why

    There seems to be a new and very gullible commentariat at WUWT (epitomised by newly won Anthony Watts fan Aphan)

    There has been no shortage of illiterate deniers to replace the literate ones who (I presume), have either moved on through embarrassment or have died.

    Anthony's got a nice little business plan.

    As the physical effects of AGW now regularly slap us in the face it's become a very hard row to hoe running an automatic gainsay anti-science" blog unless it's reliant on Judy's numb blanket uncertainty.

    So it makes complete sense for Anthony to devote his site to conspiracy theorists. There are millions of them out there and not enough Tim Balls and Alex Joneses to keep them happy-angry. It's a Trumpian business plan:

    I love the poorly educated! They are the smartest people, the most loyal people.

    No surprise if Rud Istvan pulls up stumps and and makes CE his home page soon.

  12. @@ PG

    yes I agree - you will always get people believing in conspiracy theories and internet bunk - chemtrails is a good one, easily debunked using simple physics, yet it "persists" (pardon the in joke!!).

    so with something as complicated as AGW theory you can never hope to convince the committed conspiracy theorist that it is not a scam / hoax etc.

    imo the best we can hope for is that the data and general science behind AGW passes the “diner party / BBQ” test.

    what I mean by that, is whether it would be socially unacceptable to spout on about AGW being a hoax in the same way that it would to openly express daft theories on chemtrails and WTC/controlled demolition during a dinner party, BBQ or evening in the pub.

    Yes talk about the “economics” the cost of mitigation, the effects on developing countries, how best to give developing countries access to new technology etc – but not the validity of the data or the science behind it.

  13. We see the effects of Dark MoneyTM in deliberately espousing "balance" for those whose want a government that only exists to protect their property and profit and keep the "others" down for cheap labor without benefits or safety net.

    We are entering a new phase, I think, with the success in defunding research and education. One of our vultures mentioned the latest about Yale (a friend tells me this will not include the Yale communications effort).

    After a University decision to cut all its funding, Yale's Climate & Energy Institutewill close by the end of June."

    Other prongs of this campaign are Rep. Lamar Smith, Sen. Cruz in the US, Osborne and Cameron in the UK are not immune.

    (html refused to allow link)


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