Chief sceptics explain everything about climate denialRichard Treadgold | June 22, 2012
h/t – Mike Jowsey
Here is Jo’s delicious letter to Bain, wherein she takes a rational machete to tangled thickets of climate denial and produces an irrefutable exculpation of climate sceptics:
Dear Dr Paul Bain,
Right now, it’s almost my life’s work to communicate the empirical evidence on anthropogenic climate change.
I can help you with your research on deniers. I have studied the mental condition of denial most carefully. There is a simple key to converting the convictions of people in this debate, and I have seen it work hundreds of times. Indeed, my own convictions that lasted 17 years were turned around in a few days. I can help you. It would be much simpler than you think.
Firstly, to save time and money we must analyze the leaders of the denial movement. I have emailed or spoken to virtually all of them.
They are happy to accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and causes warming, that humans produce CO2, that CO2 levels are rising, and that the earth has warmed in the last century. According to Hansen et al 1984, Bony et al 2006, and the IPCC AR4 report, the direct effect of doubling the level of CO2 amounts to 1.2°C (i.e. before feedbacks).
All they need is the paper with the evidence showing that the 1.2°C direct warming is amplified to 3 or 4 degrees as projected by the models. Key leaders in the denial movement have been asking for this data for years. Unfortunately the IPCC assessment reports do not contain any direct observations of the amplification, either by water vapor (the key positive feedback) or the totality of feedbacks. The IPCC only quotes results from climate simulations.
Since science is based on observations and measurements of the real world, it follows that a denier of science (rather than a denier of propaganda) must be denying real world data. I’d be most grateful if you could explain what “deniers” deny. Deniers repeatedly ask for empirical evidence, yet must be failing badly at communicating that this is the crucial point because none of the esteemed lead authors of IPCC working Group I seem to have realized that this paltry point is all that is needed. All this mess could be cleared up with an email.
The evidence for anthropogenic global warming is overwhelming, so the observations they deny must be written up many times in the peer review literature, right? After five years of study I am still not sure which instrument has made these key observations. Do deniers deny weather balloon results, or satellite data, or ice cores?
When you find this paper and the measurements, it will convince many of the key denier leaders. (But being the exacting personality type that they are, deniers will also expect to see the raw data. So you’ll need to also make sure that the authors of said paper have made all the records and methods available, but of course, all good scientists do that already don’t they?)
As a diligent researcher, I’m sure you would not have described a group with such an unequivocally strong label unless you were certain it applied. It would be disastrous for an esteemed publication like Nature to mistakenly insult Nobel prize winning physicists, NASA astronauts, and thousands of scientists who have asked for empirical evidence, only to find that the Nature authors themselves were unable to name papers (or instruments) with empirical evidence that their subject group called “deniers” denied.
If those papers (God forbid) do not exist, then the true deniers would turn out to be the researchers who denied that empirical evidence is key to scientific confidence in a theory. The true deniers would not be the skeptics who asked for evidence, but the name-calling researchers who did not test their own assumptions.
The fate of the planet rests on your shoulders. If you can find the observations that the IPCC can’t, you could change the path of international action. Should you find the evidence, I will be delighted to redouble my efforts to communicate the empirical evidence related to climate change.
Awaiting your reply keenly,
Dr Bain responded with an apology of sorts at Jo Nova’s place and several others. He says: “Comments about the use of the “denier” label are a fair criticism.” And:
“Actually, the paper is not about changing anyone’s mind on whether anthropogenic climate change is real.” Heh, as if THAT was important.
Then E.M.Smith, blogger at Musings from the Chiefio, took aim at Bain. This essay is worthy of global distribution. It explains a great deal of what’s important to climate sceptics and describes what stands between them and the “warmists”. So many believers in AGW deliberately mistake and mischaracterise sceptical viewpoints because it’s easier than confronting our real arguments.
Here, the “Chiefio sceptic” sets it out plainly.
June 22, 2012 at 8:10 am · Reply
Dear Paul Bain:
First off, thank you for responding.
I am a hard-core skeptic – I’m the “target” of your analysis. As such, what folks like me think ought to be particularly important to you. So a bit of history on me and climate change.
I first came to the AGW issue thinking: “Gee, this looks important, I ought to learn more about it.” At the skeptical sites (like WUWT) I had generally kind acceptance and explanation of where I had parts missing from my understanding of the “issues” about AGW and where it had “gone wrong”. At “believer” sites (a curiously appropriate term as it has all the hallmarks of a religious belief) I would ask simple and innocent questions and largely get derision in return. Simply asking: “But doesn’t CO2 have a log limit on absorption effects that we have passed?” or worse, saying: “But this article (on a skeptical site) seems to have a valid issue” would bring “attack the messenger” responses. That, for me, was the first and largest clue about which side was indulging in propaganda more than dispassionate examination of facts and data.
So I set about a long path of learning for myself.
At believer sites, I’d have a load of links shoved down my throat with, effectively: “You idiot, read all this first or shut up”… At skeptical sites I’d get: “Well, here are some links, and the message is that the data are lousy and the models do not predict well. But check it out yourself.” Nothing to make one feel that believers were engaged in unbiased examination of the facts.
But I read a lot of the links anyway. Most were of the form: “Assuming that AGW is real, what bad thing happens?” Many more were of the form: “Assuming the theory is correct, what does our model show?” While all of that is interesting speculation, none of it is really what I’d call science. Where are the data, the analysis, the testable hypothesis, etc.? In short, where is the SCIENCE in “Climate Science”? (For the most part it really ought to be called “Climate Model Storytelling” once you get to the end of the papers.)
At the core of it, I found the general truth that there is Agenda Driven Politics. What published papers could be brought to support a pre-designed agenda for political change. (Only much later did I find the Agenda 21 site at the UN and found the source of The Agenda… but it was nice to learn that my earlier conclusion was supported by the facts.) The more I looked at the AGW “science” claims, the more I found flawed and politically-driven papers being written with little in the way of an unbiased search for truth.
On the skeptical side I found a lot of folks who had no agenda. Often, like me, they just needed everything to “fit”. And that “fit” must also accord with the scientific method we learned so long ago. (No ‘new age’ science here, no “moral relativism” – and there IS an objective reality.) So when we find things like the GHCN temperature history being continually re-written to create a warming trend, it doesn’t “fit”. History is fixed. Temperatures were recorded once, by a known person, and written down. They do not change. And a big buzzer goes off… (One of the earliest users of thermometers was Newton. Another was Galileo. Do we really think folks of that quality could not read the instruments that they, themselves, created?)
We get folks looking at the statistical methods used and finding them badly designed and poorly used, even “broken”. I took it on myself to look into GISTEMP as I am a computer programmer who knows FORTRAN and after saying for six months “someone ought to look at it” decided “I am someone”. What I found was a nightmare of crummy code and questionable methods. A complete lack of any kind of ‘test suite’ or ‘benchmark testing’ code. A level of amateurish code and testing methodology that in my shops would have caused me to stop the product from shipping. (I have managed software production commercially including software that got four patents and was used in production.) Eventually that lead to examination of the GHCN data set directly where even worse issues were found.
The result from the believer side has largely been “We are right, shut up.” Occasionally “We are right, our friends tell us so and we tell them so.”
Then ClimateGate broke. In the emails was direct evidence in their own words of exactly those faults. Producing science for effect and manicuring the data and code to produce desired warming results.
Along the way, the term “denier” was coined (as noted in the links) directly to tie skeptics to the Holocaust and as a political term. Please read that twice and think about it.
Now, to your response.
Your first paragraph amounts (or reduces) to an argument that “everyone is doing it”. So, it is OK to use the N word because all your friends in the KKK use it? Is it OK to use ANY insulting or degrading term “because all your friends” use it? Really?
Ignorance of where a term came from, or what its propaganda purpose was and is, is not an excuse. It is an even worse excuse in what is supposed to be a peer-reviewed or carefully objective scientific context. Is it acceptable to just plead ignorance of, say, Einstein and relativity in a paper on physics? Just say “Oops, didn’t know that, but I’m going to keep on ignoring it anyway”? In ANY paper on the sociology of “denier” one would reasonably expect the very first step to be looking at where the term originated, for what purpose and to what effect.
So here’s one free clue for you: I, like others, will now use the term “denier” from time to time for ourselves. This is EXACTLY like blacks using the N word with each other to blunt the effect of it. Someone outside the group uses it, it is a red flag of bigotry. Similar to an Italian calling himself a “Wop” or any of a dozen other bad terms being used inside or outside the insulted group. So WHEN you use the term denier, and you are not a skeptic, you are waving a large “I Am A Bigot” flag. Got it?
Keep using it, and you are saying “I am HAPPY to be waving a large I Am A Bigot flag.”
Saying “all my friends use it” means “I’m happy that all my friends are waving large I Am A Bigot flags”.
Just ask yourself when the N word is acceptable and you will have a decent guide to the proper usage and context of the term, and an accessible touchstone for the sociology of the term.
Now, ask yourself this: If you wish to convince skeptics to join the believer side, do you think calling them “the D word” will be helpful?
Your second paragraph, as others have pointed out, is mostly a ‘dodge’. “We don’t care to figure out if it is real, just how to convince folks to act on it.” If it isn’t real, acting on it is incredibly stupid. At the core of the “Skeptic Problem” you face is simply that we do not agree that “action” is needed and never will as long as the science is dodgy, the data are mutating before our eyes, and the “science” is politically Agenda (21)-driven and of the form “Given these conclusions what assumptions can we draw?”
So dodging the issue of “truth” is to simply ignore the basic problem. Skeptics are all hung up on that truth and accuracy thing. We are not so interested in “truthyness” and “feeling good”, but in what is actually true and correct. ANY proposed “solution” that does not recognize that will fail. What I like and what I want and what makes me feel good is entirely irrelevant. My ‘belief’ or ‘skepticism’ is entirely a function of the analytical side of the brain, of hard-core real science, based in data and analysis. No amount of “feel good” or “peer pressure” or “desired outcomes” will have any effect. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Got it?
Your third paragraph says, in essence: “Some believers think we have to convince them. That hasn’t worked, so maybe if we focus on other presumed ‘benefits’ of the actions we propose then they will get on board anyway.” See my last paragraph.
But it is even worse than that. The Agenda 21 stuff comes directly from efforts by The Club Of Rome to foster panic and fear about “running out” as a means of social control. They have been at this at least since the ’70s (when I studied “The Limits To Growth” by Meadows et al. Yes, studied. I had an entire three-unit class at University focused just on that book, promoted by The Club Of Rome). They have now updated The Big Scare (since Limits predicted Doom In Our Time for the ’80s and ’90s and those have, well, kind of passed by without incident…) to be the AGW Scare (and with an ongoing ‘resource shortage’ scare sprinkled in for good measure). Now I’ve devoted several years of my life to looking at resource issues. The bottom line is, we are not running out, we never run out, and the Big Scare is a political tool.
So, you see, attempting to convince me that we need to destroy Western Industrial Economies to support a political agenda that is based on misdirection and error is not going to be a very productive path either.
Make no mistake about it. Cutting CO2 emissions to 1990 levels means little things like no iron production (coal is used as coke in reducing iron ore from the oxide, and putting out CO2 in the process), no steel (that depends on iron), no aluminum (that uses massive amounts of electricity of a sort not available from solar panels. It needs cheap and concentrated electricy, not expensive and diffuse). It means no shipping of goods by trucks, ships, or airplanes. (You can make a marginal electric car, but not an effective electric truck or ship. They need energy dense fuels.) It also means a dramatic reduction in food production and the attendant deaths. (Modern agriculture largely turns fossil carbon sources into fertilizers, ploughing and harvesting, processing and delivery. It is not possible to change that and produce the food needed by the world.) BTW, my degree is in Economics and from an Ag School in Ag country. I’ve helped raise cows, grow corn, pick fruit and nuts. This isn’t hypothetical.
So while the believers have what looks like a “Fuzzy Bunnies and Fluffy Slippers” view of the economy, where it’s always simple, easy, and there are no consequences to things like substituting solar cells for nuclear and coal; ask the engineers and farmers who have to make it work. Ask the business owners who have to make a profit to keep folks employed and fed. They can tell you that it isn’t all Fluffy Bunnies and Fuzzy Slippers. It’s hard work, often just barely worth it at the margins.
That means that your “maybe we can convince them it’s just a good idea anyway, even if it’s wrong” approach is going to run headlong into reality. The only question, really, is “before or after the economic collapse is realized in the economy?” That is going to be a very hard sell. Especially to folks trained and experienced in avoiding The Bums Rush and The Fairy Tale Story and Yet Another Bright Idea That Implodes. In essence, the skeptics tend to come from the group that is expected to make things work, and they can see that the proposed “solutions” just don’t work.
A specific note on oil
The Peak Oil Theory is only a theory. Right now oil prices are in freefall as supply is well ahead of demand. Even if Peak Oil is true, it’s a bell curve. We’ve taken 200 years to get here, so even if this is the peak (and that has certainly not been demonstrated, what with Brazil finding oil faster than they can produce it and with at least a trillion barrels in shale oil in the USA coming into production) but even if this is the peak, it will take 200 years to slide down the back side of the bell curve. So given that we have a few hundred years of coal, and at least 200 years to the last of the oil, exactly what is the urgency, what is the “emergency” right NOW to do anything, if not AGW and manufactured panic?
At MOST, we ought to use natural gas to replace oil in cars and trucks, as fracking has provided a few hundred years of it at about 40 CENTS per Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent (though it is retailing at $1.80/GGE locally due to government tariff issues).
We simply are not running out of fuels. Period. Full stop.
So what are you “fixing”?
For a very long time (about 40 years) I’ve been a strong advocate for things like eliminating reliance on foreign oil. One of the major issues I have with the AGW Agenda is that it is directly in conflict with that goal.
The single most effective thing we in the non-OPEC West could do to eliminate dependence on foreign oil is to build Gas To Liquids (GTL) and Coal To Liquids (CTL) factories to turn our natural gas and coal into gasoline and diesel. This avoids fleet change. Take the 300,000,000 or so cars and trucks in America; multiply by about $30,000 each for a new replacement. That’s one heck of a lot of dollars needed to change that fleet. As the average vehicle is presently kept for 10-15 years, any solution that involves fleet change would take at least 20 years to turn over naturally even if we were already buying the new non-oil cars, which we are not. So you simply MUST make gasoline and diesel fuel if you wish to get off the OPEC oil.
Yes, by all means, make e-cars and sell natural gas conversion kits and LNG trucks, methanol cars and everything else. But recognize that the likely “time to solution” down that path is a quarter century of gradual fleet change.
Now think about THAT for just a minute too. You want to convince me to support mandatory sales of e-cars and destruction of coal mining with mandatory consumption of solar cells (never mind that we can’t both charge cars AND eliminate coal-powered electricity generation). You want me to embrace electricity that costs 25 cents US/kW-hr (as per my bill – headed for $0.50/kW-hr as per filed rate tariffs for mandatory ‘alternative energy’ in California) and at the same time expect me to buy an e-car as a ‘solution’ to OPEC oil? Just nuts. Obvious to anyone who’s an engineer. We can turn coal into methanol and with a minor ($500 or so) kit on the car or truck run it in the existing fleet. We can do that conversion in about five years and with fuel that would be about $3/Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent OR LESS. We can turn coal into gasoline and diesel, as South Africa has been doing since the ’70s, at similar costs and in similar time frames.
Now think about that.
You want to sell me a “bill of goods” that includes destruction of electricity generation as my transportation is made dependent on electricity generation. You want my electricity costs to rise from 10 cents/kW-hr to 50 cents kW-hr at the same time. You want me to buy a new $50,000 to $100,000 e-car instead of a $30,000 gas car (or just keep my old Mercedes diesel running at about $2000 per year) and you want us to do all this buying inside five years.
Can you see how nutty that is? If you can’t, I strongly suggest spending some time with an engineer who can do the maths for you and perhaps a business major who can show you the costs. By putting coal and natural gas off limits you ensure that there can be no effective conversion away from OPEC oil. Not now. Not in a decade. Not in my lifetime.
If, instead, you advocate for CTL and GTL, you can tell OPEC to go away in less than a decade even if you are slow about it. No fleet change is required. Gasoline and diesel prices would likely drop some. They are competitive with oil at about $80/bbl, so cheaper than oil above that price point, more expensive below it.
So think again, for just a couple of minutes, about how effective it will be to try to persuade me that e-cars and solar cells and windmills will replace OPEC. That taking that path, for that reason, is a suitable alternative to AGW belief.
I’ve been an advocate of alternative energy since the ’70s Arab Oil Embargo and have advocated for substituting any and all alternatives (including solar, wind, hydro, garbage gasification, you name it) for OPEC oil for that whole time. I am not against solar and wind. It is just that you must recognize their costs and technical limits in any real-world solutions. They are bit players at best, with very large ‘dispatch’ issues.
So, in summary: Social POV, meet Engineering Mindset and Reality Constraints.
Want to convince me? Then show an engineering solution that makes business sense.
Until then, the Fluffy Bunnies live in the back yard… (which reminds me, I need to go check their feed and water… I really do have bunnies…)