Jun 172012

(This post by Geoff Chambers may be a harbinger of better things to come. I certainly hope so. TonyN)

This dialogue was a result of contact I made with Adam Corner following an article by Ben Pile at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2012/03/shrinking-the-sceptics.html about some research into scepticism which Corner had conducted at Cardiff University, and his article discussing the research at Guardian Environment. (There was a similar thread later at http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2012/5/28/the-logic-at-yale.html concerning the Kahan research which Corner refers to below)

Comments were pretty brutal, and Adam suggested that he would be willing to continue the conversation if the tone was moderated. We exchanged a few emails discussing my views on this kind of research, and Adam suggested writing a Q&A session for his blog http://talkingclimate.org/

This article is being published simultaneously on both blogs – a world first, I believe.

There is a growing body of academic literature that seeks to understand, explain – and even overcome – climate change scepticism. But is it getting to grips with scepticism, or missing the point? In this exchange between Adam Corner (Talking Climate and co-author of the UK paper) and Geoff Chambers – (a regular commenter at several climate sceptic blogs), they discuss research on the psychology of scepticism.

ADAM:

In the last few months, two academic papers that make similar arguments about the nature and origins of climate change scepticism have been published. If there is one simple message to take from these two studies, it is that simply providing more information – or turning up the volume on the science – is unlikely to reduce scepticism about climate change. This is because scepticism about climate change is not primarily caused by a ‘misunderstanding’ of the science but by motivated reasoning processes – rooted in ideological differences – that mean that the ‘same’ evidence is not evaluated in the same way. Would you agree that scepticism about climate change has more to do with political views than an assessment of the science?

GEOFF:

Of course not. That would be to admit that my politics was overriding my reasoning capacities! The misunderstanding comes I think from confounding the tiny number of active sceptics, who’ve come to a reasoned conclusion, with the Jeremy Clarkson fans who show up in polls. You’re just not going to catch many of us in a survey of the general population. The “old white conservative male” label is no doubt true for the population at large, and can be easily explained, but it tells you nothing about the nature of reasoned scepticism.

I agree with you that turning up the volume on the science is unlikely to reduce scepticism about climate change, but not for the reason you give. The more people learn about the science, the more they see how dodgy is the climate science responsible for rising energy prices. One of the results of the Kahan study you refer to was that the more scientifically literate tend to be more sceptical.

ADAM:

What Kahan found was that being scientifically literate increased polarisation – that is, it amplified views on either side – but your instant equation of ‘the science’ with ‘rising energy prices’ illustrates an important point: climate science and climate policy get horribly confused. Rising energy prices are caused by political and economic choices: they have little if anything to do with climate science.

But things like rising energy prices, taxes, regulations, and restrictions on people’s behaviour have become synonymous with ‘climate change’. I believe – based on the available research – that this is why many people are sceptical. The answers to the problem of climate change look and feel like ‘left-wing’ solutions, and so the problem itself is downplayed or rejected.

GEOFF

I think we agree about the interpretation of Kahan. Belief / scepticism about climate change is strongly correlated with political views, but scepticism is also correlated with scientific literacy, though less strongly. This is what you’d expect. Conservatives are naturally suspicious of schemes which raise taxes, while environmentalism, sympathy for the third world, and Al Gore have got concern about climate change firmly identified as a left-wing cause.

I agree that “the answers to the problem of climate change look and feel like ‘left-wing’ solutions” – that is to say they look extremely expensive, and are therefore opposed most fervently by those who pay most taxes.

You say: “Rising energy prices are caused by political and economic choices: they have little if anything to do with climate science”. Renewables like wind and solar are more expensive than fossil fuels. If they ever account for a significant proportion of energy supply, they will cause prices to rise. The only reason for renewables is fear of the supposed danger of CO2, which is the central tenet of the climate science consensus.

ADAM:

I share your concerns about things like rising energy prices – although I don’t agree that renewables are to blame. However, your line of reasoning seems to conform what studies of scepticism are showing: your concerns about certain economic and political choices are driving you to question the ‘supposed danger’ of CO2. That suggests to me that if there were other policy options on the table – that didn’t involve rising energy prices – your doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying science would not be as strong. Would you agree?

There is some evidence that when people who are more sceptical about climate change are presented with other policy options – for example ‘geoengineering’ – their perception of the risks that climate change poses increases. Do you think that many sceptics would be less likely to doubt the reality or seriousness of climate change if tackling it had no impact on their lives, or could be shown to be ‘cost-free’?

GEOFF:

No I don’t think that many sceptics would be less likely to doubt the reality or seriousness of climate change if tackling it had no impact on their lives, or could be shown to be ‘cost-free’

I disagree most strongly that my concerns about certain economic and political choices are driving my climate scepticism. My scepticism is based on the same scientific grounds as that of other commenters on sceptic blogs, many of whom hold political opinions radically different from mine. We don’t deny that global temperatures have been rising irregularly for centuries, and that anthropogenic CO2 may be responsible for some of the recent rise.

Where we disagree with the consensus is on the higher estimates of climate sensitivity endorsed by the IPCC and the catastrophic effects which are supposed inevitably to follow.

However, I would agree that our political and cultural backgrounds strongly affect the way we express our scepticism. There are Tea Party types who think global warming is a commie plot to install global government; nimbys who don’t like windfarms; engineers scornful of the mathematical models used to generate temperature projections; scientists and academics fearful for the reputation of their professions; and Tories who don’t like hippy treehuggers. It takes all sorts.

Here are a couple of examples of culturally determined inputs to my own scepticism:

1) I was very impressed by reports by the institute of Forecasting suggesting that ordinary members of the public are often better at long-term forecasting that experts, since, in their ignorance, they tend to assume that things will go on much as before, whereas experts get carried away with every leap and bound on their graphs into predicting extreme outcomes. This appeals to my left-wing egalitarian instincts – an Orwell-type faith in the common sense of the common man, if you like.

2) My earliest research into the question of climate change was conducted in the pages of the Guardian, and I was shocked to see this once liberal broad-minded paper adopting a Pravda-like policy of news filtering and censorship, with George Monbiot, a journalist I’d admired, conducting petty vindictive campaigns against fellow-journalists and, after being the first journalist to acknowledge the seriousness of Climategate, making a Maoist-style confession of his error. I’m not personally the least interested in the science of climate change. I’m very interested in the existence of a rational left-of-centre press.

Unlike most sceptics, I think your project of exploring the socio-cultural roots of scepticism is a valid and interesting one. But I don’t think you’ll do it by getting members of the public to tick boxes on your batteries of yes/no questions.

ADAM:

So the biggest reasons for your scepticism are that you are disillusioned with the media and have, in your own words, an ‘instinct’ that the common man is often more trustworthy and reliable than the so-called ‘experts’? I share these concerns, although I don’t necessarily see how they detract from the seriousness of the underlying problem of climate change and what – on even conservative estimates – the negative effects are likely to be. But your explanation of your scepticism suggests that if proponents of climate change science – or policy – want to be taken seriously by sceptics, it will be by addressing social concerns like these, not by shouting the science louder.

So how would you say social scientists might get more enlightening answers about the socio-cultural roots of climate change scepticism? Do you think there is an argument for more direct engagement between sceptics and researchers?

GEOFF:

We’re arguing at cross-purposes here. My observations about the common man and forecasting and the Guardian are NOT the reasons I don’t believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. I’ve offered them as possible contributory factors to my coming to these conclusions – a bit of auto-sociological analysis, if you like – as an antidote to the more common observations about conservative white males not wanting to pay taxes.

If proponents of climate change science – or policy – want to be taken seriously by informed sceptics, it will not be by addressing any particular socio-political concerns, but by persuading us that their science is right. In this I’m sure I speak for all sceptical bloggers, but, as I pointed out, we’re a tiny minority among the sceptic population at large, and possibly atypical.

You ask how social scientists might get more enlightening answers about the socio-cultural roots of climate change scepticism. Ask the sceptics is the short answer. We reveal an awful lot about ourselves in comments on blogs. Bishop Hill had a self-completion survey once of our demographics (age, sex, educational qualifications and geographical spread). However, I feel such a survey would only be enlightening if it covered activists or engaged participants on both sides of the divide.

Finally, do I think there is an argument for more direct engagement between sceptics and researchers? Certainly. Clearing up the misunderstandings as to the meaning of climate scepticism and the motivation of sceptics is the first necessary step in any dialogue.

13 Responses to “Christmas Football in No-mans-land”

  1. 1
    geoffchambers Says:

    Footnote:
    This was meant to go up simultaneously here and at Corner’s blog, Talking Climate. Corner jumped the gun rather, putting it up three days ago. BishopHill gave it some publicity, and many commenters there tried to comment at TalkingClimate, only to find their comments moderated. (I’d insisted that comments should be allowed. Corner doubtfully agreed, but unfortunately he didn’t specify on what grounds they would be moderated). The thread at BishopHill has therefore largely been devoted to objections to censorship at Talking Climate.

    Censorship on climate blogs is of course a valid topic.This was the first time Talking Climate had allowed comments on an article. I hope commenters here will find something to say about the content of the article, and not simply about Adam’s moderation policy.

  2. 2
    Anteros Says:

    Geoff,

    For some reason I had three long comments all allowed at Adam’s blog so I have no complaints on the grounds of censorship.

    One of the things I missed the first time I read the exchange was that you were introduced as a ‘sceptic’. I find that fairly offensive – it would equate to calling Corner a ‘psychologist’. It’s just a bare-faced insult.

    I suppose the feeling I have now about the whole article is more of a general sense that prejudice about the validity (or the lack thereof) of sceptics beliefs led to a rather sneering tone on Corner’s part and an embarrassing lack of awareness that all his comments about world-views influencing beliefs could be equally made to ‘believers’ – such as himself.

    Now that I’m more aware of his extremist activism and support for Gordon Brown calling people ‘deniers’, I’m much less inclined to be tolerant towards his tone, his attitude towards scepticism (ie something to be ‘overcome’) or his ‘research’.

    There really is something useful about people meeting to discuss things they disagree about, but without an acceptance that the points of view of people other than ourselves have an equal validity to our own, it is utterly pointless. I re-read your discussion with Adam Corner and I think there’s a sense in which you are being mocked.

    The up-side (and I didn’t intend to be wholly negative, but I’ve spent some time at COIN etc and it is a depressing experience) is that many very thoughtful comments appeared at the Talking Climate website – as well as at BH and CR – and it may give Adam Corner some cause to question his own prejudices. Let’s hope so.

  3. 3
    TonyN Says:

    As I said in my lead-in to the header post, I hope that the dialogue between Geoff and Adam will continue, and that this will not be another case of a committed warmist retiring from the fray as soon as he realises that a sceptic has arguments that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

  4. 4
    Barry Woods Says:

    Tony he dismmiss my comment as off topic and persobally critically (just some very relevant material facts, I sure that most of the genera public would agree with.) What ever he says this is on topic. ie reason why sceptics might be sceptical and totally relevant to his on topic request of ‘The Phsycology of Scepticism

    (Take a look at Bishop Hill at the number of people, reproducing comments that have not been allowed, and decide for yourself is OFF topic or not)

    —————————- my missing comment ————

    Hi Adam, I would still love to have a chat with you.

    But as a phsycologist surely you must be aware how ‘sceptics’ must percieve you[as an activist scientist], and the fact that perhaps you would be percieved as having your own ideological backage and biases as well.

    Additionally, you must recognise it is hard to be percieved as a nuetral scientist, on the particular issue of climate change and climate policies, when you are policy advisor to COIN, which is percived as a totally activist, policy & political lobbying organisation,

    and that you were carrying a banner at Copenhagen with ‘Act Now’ on it, and writing at the time as a green party candidate..
    http://t.co/Hdqz9Wbn

    Photo, and write up Green Party mag it came from -
    http://t.co/ezqsBusb

    Not that there is anything ‘wrong’ in that, ie lots of nice sincere people are greens, (my sister in law, having been a Green Party MP candidate, councilor, spokesperson, Green Party Press Officer, and the former editor of Greenworld, is a personal testament to that) but you must realise you will be percieved as an activist AND a lobbyist for policies (ie anti-fossil fuels, and nuclear?) who also questions aspects of capitalism, and you will be challenged as such.

    You clearly believe having your own blog ‘a hundred months and counting’ and your other writing, that dangerous climate change is just around the corner. You consider the science is established enough on that, to state above:

    “Scepticism about cli­mate policies — and debate about what altern­at­ives might be– seems much more important than a repeated doubting of well-established science.”

    Whilst I am mainly sceptical about policies, these are driven by the science, where very many sceptics do question, just how well established it is the science, at least the projections af dangerous climate change, believing that these depend in part on the models which are diverting now from reality.

    The example of Prof Judith Curry, at Tamsins’ blog, being an expression of that – [models] OVER estimated. The climate scientists will cheefully discuss whole areas of climate science where there is very low or medium confidence in the drivers of climate change. (this is all in the IPCC reports, in the main text of wg1)

    Thus we hit the problem of climate communication, many want to move the debate on to policy (the science settled) yet many do not consider this to be correct, especially with respect to dangerous climate change. ie perfectly happy to accept, doubling CO2 will cause a degree or so of warming, with possible benign benfits. Prof Richard Betts warned a while ago, that environmentalists should not over hype 2C, that this could occur and impact be neglible .. ie it is all uncertain.

    and rather than allow the debate on the issue of the science, we end up phsycologising reason for denial/secpticism of the science.

    Now I do applaud this blog post, it shows a willingness to talk, yet George Marshall, and many of your aquaintances and collegues) has done so much to polarise debate, with Halls of Shame, talking about denial, etc

    This shameful language of deniers, anti-science, flatearthers, etc has made it into main stream political speech

    @AJCorner
    loving Brown calling people ‘deniers’ and ‘luddites’ on Cif. Tell it like it is Gordy! http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green
    12:59 PM Dec 7th, 2009 from web

    Gordon Brown’s speech reffering to flat-earther, anti-science climate deniers and luddites, appalled me, I thought it was dispicable ignorant POLITICAL rhetoric from the Prime Minister of my country, that with Ed Milliband frequent ignorant use of denier, and a shocking reference to ‘climate sabatouer’ (ie en par with terrorism)made me very concerned and is a part, why I started being very sceptical.

    Yet my response does not seem to fit in your world view of why people are sceptical.

    Perhaps you and your collegues could reflect on that.

    Just going to quote from Bishop Hill, the fundamental problem we seem to have with communicating with each other..

    “Ok, with the best will in the world, how are you going to have a conversation based on their terms, which appear to be ‘we must discuss policy, the science is settled’? Where to start? I am not advocating not talking to them, I just can’t see how we are able to, if they will not admit ‘there is room for doubt.’” – Rhoda

    May I ask if you see another reason why many are secptical, the sheer nastyness and political nature of the rhetoric of those champoiingthe cause.

    What would you say personally about scepticism, to a cambridge professor, that has been put into a politicised AGW consensus, well funded USA website, ‘Denier, Disinformation Database.

    Tagged and labelled a climate denier, Part of the denial industry, responsible for ‘disinformation’ and’ misinformation’.

    basically a blacklist of dissentters, accused of, delieberatley lying and spreding faslehodos and propoganda. Would you be sceptical of motives of people that creted this database.

    What would you say to Professor Don Keiller, treated like this publically, just a scientist disagreeing and asking questions of other scientists?

    http://www.desmogblog.com/don-keiller

    I know at least half a dozen people in that database. I would prefer not to be put in it mself. very nasty stuff. And yes I frequently get called a ‘denier’, in the above politicised context it really offends me.

    Dr Tamsin Edwards had this to say a while back about me and Andrew:

    “I am an example of a consensusist who has stopped using denier directly because of Barry, Bish and this forum.

    Name calling is ever so counterproductive. Today I was defending you lot to (particle physics) friends, yesterday to climate/stats friends, saying that denier offends and there is a spectrum of opinions anyway.” – Dr Tamsin Edwards

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/9/28/dellers-on-reason.html?currentPage=3#comments

    At the time, I was writing about not calling those on the offensive consensus names. (even having an argument about it with James Delingpole earlier in the comments, as was Ben Pile, similar tone to me)

    To repeat whilst at Copenhagen campaigning, you tweeted

    @AJCorner
    loving Brown calling people ‘deniers’ and ‘luddites’ on Cif. Tell it like it is Gordy! http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green
    12:59 PM Dec 7th, 2009 from web

    So what is your opinion Adam, am I a ‘denier’ for questioning aspect of the science, have you moved on from that copenhagen tweet, about ‘Deniers’ & ‘luddites’

    As I said I would love to have a serious chat, but until the science is on the table, at least the more alarmist aspects of it, it would seem very hard to do this.

    ps:

    Mark Lynas used to be on the advisory board of the Campaign Against Climate Change (alongside George Marshall -COIN, and Tim Helweg Larsen PIRC – 2 organisatiuons behind this very blog – Talking Climate)

    Mark has stepped down now from CaCC, and a while back said to me [at Climate Etc, and privately), that the Halls of Shame were shameful.

    here: http://judithcurry.com/2011/06/15/an-opening-mind/#comment-76091

    your thoughts?

    pps sorry for the long comment, opportunities for frank exchanges can be quite rare.

    ————————————–

    So Adam want to discuus onlt the topic of the phsycology of scepticism’ I think all the above is relevant and on-topic.

    Adam will not publish it..

    PLease Remeber Talking Climate is a PUBLICALLY funded blog, having recieved money from Nottingham University and Cardiff UNiversity to prduce the website, and to set up the database.

    Brigitte Nerlich at Nottingham University provided £3000 to COIN (one of
    > the organisations that set up Talking Climate – see the About page) for
    > website development, design and start-up costs (writing all the
    > content/design of the website etc)
    >
    > Nick Pidgeon at Cardiff University provided £3590+VAT for compiling and
    > designing the database of academic papers. This money went directly to
    > Torchbox (who had the technical skills for this), for “development of an
    > interactive resource (large database of academic papers, as part of the
    > Talking Climate website) to disseminate academic findings on climate
    > change communication.”

    And I would like to thank Adam for providing that information, when it was requested by @foxgoose (who then tweeted it to me)

  5. 5
    Miket Says:

    I agree with Tony that it would be useful if the dialogue between Adam and Geoff can continue. Any communication of the serious scientific base for sceptics arguments must be useful, assuming that Adam is actually listening. At times it doesn’t sound as if he is in the discussion above.

    Given his approach and what others say about his history, I do have a worry that his aim is to understand sceptics in order to be better able to counter them (us!) and their arguments.

  6. 6
    robotech master Says:

    Adam is censoring comments and making sure that only “approved thought” maybe posted on his blog. Wrote a very long long post about how skeptics think and apply science which should be directly on topic and nothing. I find it insulting to write for nearly an hour+ on a topic and have it censored because its not “approved thought”.

  7. 7
    geoffchambers Says:

    Adam has posted his criteria for moderation in a comment at TalkingClimate, saying:

    please don’t be offended if you dont get a reply or your comments sit in moderation for ages. ALSO (and I should have been more clear about this at the outset) this post is about research on the psychology of scepticism, what it can and cannot show etc, and so ANY POST GOING INTO A DISCUSSION OF THE SCIENCE WILL NOT GET THROUGH (or going off topic in other ways).

    Trying vainly to keep up with comments on four different blog threads, I thought at first we’d made a horrible mistake. Then I thought: hey! this is like real life, when you’re stuck at a wedding reception with people you don’t know, while your friends seem to be having fascinating conversations further up the table. Then suddenly, you’re having two or three conversations at the same time yourself with perfect strangers.
    I’ve got a comment in moderation on the twin thread. There are comments there from people like Lucy Skywalker, Tamsin Edwards, and PeterS (whose gnomic psycholanalytic utterances at Climate Resistance have always fascinated me) so I don’t think we’ll get bored. Sorry Anteros and Barry if I haven’t replied to your interesting points. Sorry also if I’ve replied twice. I’ve started exploring other threads at Talking Climate (Barry, as usual, with his inimitable spelling, has got there first) and think they’ll keep me busy for a while. I won’t be discussing censorship, activism, or financing, not because they’re not important, but because there’s no useful discussion to be had on those topics here.

  8. 8
    Barry Woods Says:

    Comment added at Talking Climate, I do believe this would be considered fair, on topic and reasonable by most member of the public, especially as Adam is not just an academic, but has a media profile, a regular column in the Guardian (multiple blogs as well) a publically funded blog (Talking Climate itself) also writing publically for the Ecologist and New Scientist (and other locations) and tweeting publically as @talkingclimate (profesionally) and @ajcorner (personally, butI don’t think anybody would claim twitter to be non-fair game?)

    Hi Adam

    May I ask a few of ques­tions, to cla­rify your thoughts, please (ie us proponents/opponents of an issue need to talk to under­stand each other)

    1) I earlier men­tioned a phsy­co­lo­gical reason for scep­ti­cism, when the public (including con­ser­vat­ives ) might per­cieve a sci­entist to be act­ivist with respect to a cause (I don’t mean signing a direct debit for RSBP, Greenpeace, etc) ie very pub­lic­ally with a media pro­file and this raises a concern.

    The most well know example I gave was James Hansen, ie – being arrested, etc,etc coal trains death trains, etc.. (and of course the other example I gave, many others are also available)

    Would you agree that for the public (or a subset con­ser­vative) this might be a reason to doubt? ie per­cep­tions per­haps of objectivity lost for the ’cause’ amongst con­ser­vat­ives or the wider public

    2) this is my opinion, but PIRC, COIN would by many I think be per­cieved as act­ivist and/or lob­bying organisa­tions for ‘cli­mate change’ (nothing wrong with that in itself) do you under­stand why the gen­eral public may per­cieve this and have a doubt or 2?

    3) I do not mean to be per­sonal, but I think the wider gen­eral public would see it as rel­evant, sim­ilar to ques­tion 1) do you per­cieve your­self as an act­ivist or cam­paigner?
    (I under­stand this maybe com­part­ment­al­ised into per­sonal and you belive you can seperate this from your work, which is of course possible)

    a) But the ques­tion is with respect to phsy­co­logy, I’m asking about the pub­lics per­cep­tion how do you think the public (or con­ser­vative subset ) would per­cieve this? ie like with James Hansen who does actu­ally not dis­garee that he is an activist?

    b) again how we per­cieve ourselves and others per­cieve us can be very dif­ferent and lead to confuson/doubt. If a sci­entist (or pro­fes­sional) is also an act­ivist or cam­paigner, when it dir­ectly related to sub­ject of their pro­fes­sional field.

    Do you think the ‘sceptic’, public or con­ser­vative subest pote­tial reason for scep­ti­cism?
    LIke with Hansesn do you agree that the public might per­cieve your­self as a campaigner?

    An ana­logy being an eco­nomic aca­demic researcher,who also writes/has a column for say the BBC? ! /Daily Mail /Times that writes pub­lic­ally, about the EU, etc. Who is also say a UKIP can­didate, and a policy advisor to a think tank that is eurosceptic.

    4) I would be very inter­ested in your thoughts from a phsy­co­lo­gical per­spective, as I do believe both examples (economic/climate) would be at least amongst the gen­eral public be a reason (small per­haps) for a degree of scep­ti­cismm would you agree that this might be a likley public response? (amongst which groups)

    I would very much like to hear/discuss your answers to those ques­tions. As I intend to write a blog art­icle myself, and I thought, (with some advice — not from my ‘side’) that it would only be fair to give you an opor­tunity to respond.

    Thanks

    Barry

    ps please note, I’m NOT saying pro­fes­sional objectivity IS lost for a cause (though it is a recog­nised risk) but amongst those groups that you describe, it is merely the ‘per­cep­tions’ of objectivity lost for a cause, that cause a degree of scepticism.

    Hence a non ideo­lo­gical reason (ie with my example, a labour or of the left grouping of people, AND wider gen­eral public, I would think would ALL be scep­tical to various degrees of the eco­nomic analogy)
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  9. 9
    Peter Geany Says:

    Hi TonyN, good to see a new post here. I must admit to suffering climate fatigue these days, and so I pop into WUWT or Bishop Hill now and again just to check to see if nothing dramatic has happened. It is now 7 years since I started to follow this subject with intense interest and in all that time not one single piece of imperial evidence has been presented demonstrating that CO2 has anything to do with controlling our climate. Correlation is not causation as they say. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m a mechanical engineer, one at the more practical end of the discipline that demands that I see a bit more proof than maybe some others accept before I’m prepared to believe in AGW. In the last 2 years as I have shifted my interest in science back to a wider range of subjects and it has become even more obvious to me that the whole idea of CO2 being in control of the climate is not only wrong, but almost ludicrous when one considers other factors controlling our climate.

    One of the factors that I became aware of from very early on was that the policy responses of our politicians were not based on any science, bio fuels being a case in point, where we have accelerated rainforest destruction in our quest to massage our European consciences. It has always seemed to me that the scientific narrative, far from being driven by any physical imperative, was being driven by a good old political scare story, this being the oldest political device in human history. This led me to the conclusion that nothing would change politically, until the money ran out. No amount of demonstrating that the science was wrong or flaky was ever going to deflect the politicians from their chosen course.

    All those who have spent the last 10 years or so, perhaps more picking apart the mathematics, the dubious scientific processors, and dubious publication methods have performed a valuable service in that they have bought to the attention of a wide audience that all is not well with climate science. But up until 18 months ago nothing had persuaded the political classes that they needed to change course. If anything a mixture of arrogance and complacency has prevailed and this has seen even more draconian regulation bought to the table.

    At this point I will comment directly on someone trying to rationalise scepticism. Nothing could be more ridiculous. To try and rationalise it down to someone’s political views only reinforces the view that AGW has always been political, and never about science. And the words left and right have no place in today’s politics. In fact this language is used in this instance as a distraction from discussing the real issue.

    The real issue is how we have managed to waste so much money on renewable energy that doesn’t work, how we have created a carbon market that has just striped money from ordinary tax payers and put it in the hands of the rich, and how regulation has almost strangled the life out of our western economies. All this in response to a non-existent AGW We have real people suffering real hardship and all we get is someone worried about why we are sceptical.

    But the good news is, if we can consider this good news, AGW is dead. It will continue in the heads of true warmist’s, but we have run out of money and therefore slowly but surely every last scam will have to be wound back. The euro is finished and with it the EU. We will get our democracy back, and if we manage to find a leader will lead the world back to prosperity. But be warned, whilst the Euro continues our economy will continue to fail.

  10. 10
    TonyN Says:

    Peter

    There is another post, related to this one, at Judih Curry’s:

    http://judithcurry.com/2012/06/19/analyzing-people-who-talk-about-agw-denialism/

    She doesn’t seem to be impressed by recent research.

    and we must have got interested in AGW at about the same time. It’s certainly very difficult to see how the EU could possibly retain enough authority to impose a Europe wide energy policy post-Euro, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

  11. 11
    Alex Cull Says:

    I’m not sure if this will add much to what has been said so far, but I’ve transcribed Adam Corner’s presentation at the Policy Exchange back in May:
    https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20120501_ac

    Here’s an excerpt:

    I think a major issue, to start off with, is that the language and the imagery and the storylines and the narratives – the very way that climate change is presented to people – seems to be infused with ideas of the left. So the answers to the problem of climate change seem like the kind of things that those on the right should be opposing, so – regulation and international agreements, government influence and interference in people’s lives. But, whether on purpose or by accident, what seems to have happened is that instead of coming up with different answers to the problem, people have moved from that and gone backwards to say “Well, maybe there isn’t such a problem in the first place”, to dismiss or to underplay the extent of the problem that’s there.

    And this is a kind of process that all of us are susceptible to. So, in all of our reasoning, there’s well-documented psychological processes that – we’re, all of us, more likely to accept evidence that fits with our existing beliefs. You can see this all the time. You know this from your personal experience of people. But the scientific facts of climate change – and there are scientific facts in this, this is not just all about interpretation – haven’t been presented in a way that meshes very well with a typical more right-wing ideology. That’s not to say that we need some kind of voodoo manipulation of climate science facts. The science of climate change is the science of climate change, and it’s not up for grabs in that way. But although climate change is a scientific entity, it’s a scientific entity that we give meaning to, and we give shape to through our ideologies, because climate change is not really about some dry appraisal of the facts, and then some logical extension of what to do about it. All climate policy that’s responded to climate change – the problem of climate change – is a choice about how you see the future, its values. It’s how you want future society to look.

    I find it interesting that after saying that the science is the science and the facts should not be manipulated, he then goes on to argue against a “dry appraisal” of the facts and argue for the debate to be about “how you want future society to look” in the light of “the problem of climate change”. If there is no dry appraisal of the facts, how do we know that climate change is a problem which requires society to be rearranged in order to solve?

  12. 12
    geoffchambers Says:

    Alex
    Many thanks for the transcription. If you’re going to argue seriously with someone, you need to see his whole argument. The internet habit of presenting podcasts and videos means that we’re often arguing about sound bites, instead of debating. The reason I asked TonyN to post our discussion here was because HarmlessSky regulars take their time to construct an argument. As it happened, discussion got off at BishopHill and ClimateEtc, where Montford and Curry have a very different policy; they link to something with a terse message “here, this is interesting. What do you think?” and hundreds of readers pile in. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it doesn’t make for calm discussion.
    You can see from the transcript that Corner’s basic thesis about belief is perfectly reasonable, and applies to believers as much as sceptics. He says: “..there’s well-documented psychological processes that – we’re, all of us, more likely to accept evidence that fits with our existing beliefs” and he goes on to measure shifts in beliefs of both believers and sceptics.
    The problem comes when he shifts from interpretation of his research on belief (which is into a highly unrepresentative sample of young female Welsh undergraduates) to interpretation as to what is wrong with us grumpy old white males that makes us refuse to accept the truth. None of this got discussed at BishopHill or ClimateEtc.
    It did get discussed in the thread at Ben Pile’s original article, which is where the real analysis of Corner’s work took place.
    One thing that got left out, because not available at the time of the discussion at CR, was the “evidence” used to change minds. This was in the form of four fake editorials two scientific, two political; two warmit, two sceptic, written by Corner and his colleagues. Here they are:

    US politicians are committing treason against the planet

    Creationists and climate change deniers have this in common: they don’t answer their critics. They make what they say are definitive refutations of the science. When these refutations are shown to be nonsense, they do not seek to defend them. They simply switch to another line of attack.

    This month saw a critical vote in the US House of Representatives on climate change. As they debated, it became clear that these were not people who had thought hard about a crucial issue, and were trying to do the right thing. They were people who showed no sign of being interested in the truth. Today we have 20 years of evidence, across tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, to show that they are wrong.

    They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it – and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial. Watching the deniers make their arguments was almost like watching a form of treason – treason against the planet. By denying the human influence on climate, these sceptics are condemning future generations, not to mention those currently living in much of the developing world, to increased risks of disease, damage to homes and communities, and even death. This catastrophe and injustice will not be avoided by ignoring it.

    We are as certain about climate change as we can be about anything

    As in economic forecasts, medical diagnoses, and policy making, uncertainty runs through climate science like the lettering in sticks of rock. For some, the mere presence of uncertainty in climate models is reason enough to doubt them. But uncertainty is not an enemy of science that must be conquered – it is the stimulus that drives science forward.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body of international climate scientists whose responsibility it is to produce Assessment Reports of peer-reviewed climate science. In order to be included in an Assessment Report, a piece of peer-reviewed science must be agreed on by all authors – that is, only papers on which there is a consensus get included in the Report. That means the studies that are included have been peer-reviewed twice, and the conclusions of the IPCC are thus naturally cautious. So, when they announce that there are 90% certain that humans are causing global warming and that the consequences will be overwhelmingly negative, it should be enough to convince anyone that climate change is real.
    There is very little uncertainty about whether humans are causing climate change – the uncertainty relates to how bad the consequences will be. The good news is that scientists are particularly adept at acknowledging, identifying and modelling uncertainty. If there’s one group of people who have thought long and hard about uncertainty, it’s climate scientists – and their considered opinions are the best evidence we have.

    Why are environmentalists exaggerating claims about climate change?

    The hackers that broke into the computer systems of the University of East Anglia claim they have found the ‘smoking gun’ that proves climate change is being exaggerated by scientists. One email includes a reference to ‘hiding the decline’, and other emails discuss keeping certain academic papers out of the peer review process.

    It isn’t the first time that suspicions have been raised about whether climate change claims have been exaggerated. Over the last few years a new environmental phenomenon has been constructed in this country – the phenomenon of “catastrophic” climate change. It seems that mere “climate change” was not going to be bad enough, and so now it must be “catastrophic” to be worthy of attention.

    Why would anyone want to exaggerate climate change? Because controversial new climate change legislation will impose a massive tax on people. Climate change has been exaggerated by people who want to see us pay more tax and want to control us, and they are dangerously close to getting what they want.

    The problem with the environmental movement is that it has always had some reason why people should not be doing the things they do. First, it was CFCs. Then it was animal experiments. Now it is climate change. And what do these things have in common? They all want to stop progress. Perhaps it is time to call the environmentalists’ bluff – climate change is one exaggeration too far.

    If we can’t predict the weather, how can we predict the climate?

    The UK Met Office has in recent years become something of a laughing stock. Its much-derided forecast that Britain would enjoy a “barbecue summer” in 2009 was only the latest of a string of predictions that proved wildly off-target. These short-term forecasts which are often so comically wrong are produced with the aid of the same super-computer used to provide predictions of what the world’s climate will be like in 100 years’ time.

    In fact, accurate satellite, balloon and mountain top observations made over the last three decades have not shown any significant change in the long-term rate of increase in global temperatures. Average ground station readings do show a mild warming of 0.6 to 0.8C over the last 100 years, which is well within the natural variations recorded in the last millennium. The ground station network suffers from an uneven distribution across the globe; the stations are preferentially located in growing urban and industrial areas (“heat islands”), which show substantially higher readings than adjacent rural areas (“land use effects”).

    Perhaps it is time we scrapped the expensive Met Office computers, and the dodgy ground station readings and focussed on trying to improve our predictions about the weather next week. We are a long way off being able to say anything at all reliable or useful about the climate of next century.

  13. 13
    geoffchambers Says:

    The second part of my ongoing debate with Adam Corner is now up at Barry Woods’ new blog at
    http://unsettledclimate.org/2012/08/20/dr-adam-corner-talks-with-geoff-chambers-discussion-2/

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