Home > Environment > Another bad day for delusionists*

Another bad day for delusionists*

February 27th, 2007

With Al Gore winning the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth and the CBC news “The Denial Machine” airing on Four Corners last night, it must be getting hard to hold on to the delusions that have been propagated so vigorously throughout the parallel universe created by Fox News and similar bodies. While it’s no news to anyone who reads blogs on the topic, the revelation that the “skepticism” propagated by our local delusionists was produced by recycled hacks for the tobacco industry, such as Fred Singer and Fred Seitz (I was mildly disappointed that Steve Milloy didn’t get a run) must have shaken a few more people awake.

“Happy Feet”, an Australian animated feature about penguins that has been attacked by the Fox News delusion machine because it refers to overfishing, also scored a gong. No doubt, Neil Cavuto would have preferred an award to the Astroturf exercise on penguins produced by DCI. It’s delusion all the way down with these guys.

* The problem of terminology has always been difficult. It’s obviously unreasonable to use terms like “skeptic” or “contrarian” to describe people who produce or swallow transparently fraudulent propaganda like that of Singer and Seitz because it happens to suit their preconceived ideological views or financial interest. On the other hand, there have been vigorous objections to “denialist”. So, I’m switching to “delusionists”, a term which covers:
(i) people who manufacture delusions for a living like those mentioned already and their local counterparts
(ii) people who prefer to accept ideologically convenient delusions rather than face the truth
(iii) people who have genuinely been deluded by this propaganda (not many of these left in Australia now).

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  1. Richard Tol
    March 6th, 2007 at 08:57 | #1

    Granted. Gore may never have claimed to have invented the internet — and he is responsible for “Parental Advisory” stickers too.

  2. jquiggin
    March 6th, 2007 at 09:23 | #2

    Wrong again, Richard. That was Tipper Gore.

  3. Richard Tol
    March 6th, 2007 at 16:38 | #3

    And Tipper would have succeeded had she not been married to Al? Ice-T disagrees.

  4. March 6th, 2007 at 16:56 | #4

    JQ: “I’m surprised that you think it’s good that people should be paid to lie about the dangers of tobacco and global warming, that it’s OK for you to promote them on your blog and that it’s mean to apply pejorative names to them.”

    I don’t think it’s good for people to lie or to pay others to lie. I have never said nor implied that. Further, you know I have never said nor implied that. Therefore the only conclusion I can draw from your comment is that you are attempting to be insulting. A consistent theme.

    And regarding the prejorative names you use on “them”, you also apply them to me and many other reasonable people.

    Brown joins in the theme (“blithering idiocy”), and seems to imply that it’s OK to use the scariest stories to justify big (and potentially costly) government programs. Presumably then he approved of Bush & friends’ tactic of raising fear by spreading scare stories about terrorists and Iraq to justify government action.

    Speaking for myself, I have always been against fear-mongering because I can see little evidence that it leads to better policy. In both instances I think supporters of action gleefully point to world-ending scenarios, belittle the skeptics as appeasers/denialists, and insist that only their massive government programs can save the world. I’m getting a little tired of these supposed-saints continually saving me.

  5. March 6th, 2007 at 17:01 | #5

    I’ll also add that some of those called “appeasers/denialists” were/are undoubtably appeasers/denialists.

    But perhaps some of the resident peace-mongers here will appreciate how frustrating and counter-productive it was debating with a warnick when all they did was call you an appeaser or a Saddam-lover or whichever prejorative term was the flavour of the day. I really don’t see the value.

  6. chrisl
    March 6th, 2007 at 17:21 | #6

    John H No crisis = No action
    It’s an oldie but a goodie

  7. Richard Tol
    March 6th, 2007 at 18:48 | #7

    Chrisl: Climate policy is global, and will take a century. You cannot create a global sense of crisis for that long — particularly not since nothing much is happening, and that what does happen is fifty years delayed anyway — and a false alarm may lead to a backlash, particularly if the false alarm is also followed by bad policy. The latest craze in Europe is to forbid people to take holidays abroad, in the name of the IPCC, Kyoto, and Climate Change.

  8. chrisl
    March 6th, 2007 at 19:19 | #8

    Richard Tol: It sounds like the holy trinity! In the name of the IPCC, Kyoto,and Climate Change.
    You mean there is not much happenig outside of climate models.
    Perhaps this is why there is so much interest in Polar bears, melting ice and heaven forbid that totally new phenomenon – drought.

  9. Richard Tol
    March 6th, 2007 at 19:25 | #9

    Chrisl: Sorry for being unclear. Any climate change impact that is observed today could have been avoided by emission reduction fifty years ago. Emission reduction today will not reduce climate change tomorrow, but in fifty years from now. In fact, drastic emission reduction today is likely to increase climate change for the next ten years by removing the sulfur veil that keeps us cool; and, drastic emission reduction will cost money that cannot be spend on adaptation to climate change. Therefore, justifying climate policy by pointing at current impacts is a self-defeating proposition.

  10. chrisl
    March 6th, 2007 at 19:54 | #10

    Richard Tol: So you mean that changing my light bulbs isn’t going to help?
    Don’t bother replying, I think I know the answer!
    It seems to me that the problem is painted as urgent/drastic/ but the solutions are so trivial/ineffectual. And yes I know that Kyoto is just a first step. It just makes me wonder what the other 99 steps may be.

  11. March 6th, 2007 at 19:57 | #11

    chrisl — I never said that no crisis meant, ipso facto, no action. But I believe that fear-mongering does not add value to the debate, and I also believe there is insufficient evidence that any current proposals are likely to produce a net benefit.

  12. jquiggin
    March 6th, 2007 at 20:18 | #12

    Richard, would you like to cite sources for your claims in #109, particularly “Emission reduction today will not reduce climate change tomorrow, but in fifty years from now”? Granted that there may exist some short-term offset from SO2 emissions, I’ve never seen a suggestion that it would last 50 years or even ten.

    Also, don’t you feel any concern citing a notoriously misogynist rapper as a justification for your own revealed belief that a woman’s actions can be regarded as being really those of her husband?

  13. Richard Tol
    March 6th, 2007 at 21:41 | #13

    John Q: You may want to read the IPCC sections on simple climate models. It has useful info on time constants and stuff.

    US politicians come as couples nowadays; I did not imply anything about the relationship within these couples; nor did I endorse anything Ice-T said or did; he was one of the first to protest against the parental advisory nonsense and the bleeps and gaps, and he does attribute this to Al and his bitch (his words, not mine), not to Tipper and her dog.

  14. March 7th, 2007 at 01:39 | #14

    Chris O’Neil: [talking about Bolt's claim that the Earth has cooled since 1998] …this is no longer true in any way (January 2007 was substantially warmer than February 1998)…

    Not that I think it matters — but Jan ’07 (while relatively warm) is cooler than Jan ’98 and Feb ’98.

    http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.2

    Having said that, I agree that Bolt over-states his case. While temps have stayed fairly constant since 1998 (and more so since ’02) the evidence doesn’t suggest a cooling trend.

  15. Majorajam
    March 7th, 2007 at 05:02 | #15

    Chrisl: Indeed. Not much happening outside of a hundred years of warming, artic ice disappearing, the oceans turning destructively acidic and myriad weather occurrences which will have been influenced (though we cannot say which ones, the law of large numbers dictates that this indeed has ‘happened’). If the environmental quacks also known as climate scientists didn’t know how to program those infernal computer models, they’d have nothing.

    Tol: My wife plays the violin that I bought for her. I didn’t realize that made me a musician.

  16. James Haughton
    March 7th, 2007 at 12:12 | #16

    re comment 44: you might be amused to know that they did indeed promote a perpetual motion machine – though I doubt they realised the fact.

  17. March 7th, 2007 at 20:12 | #17

    A follow-up to the point about ’07 v ’98 temperatures, the Feb ’07 temp was just released and it lower than every month in 1998 and broadly in line with temps over the last 5 years.

  18. Richard Tol
    March 8th, 2007 at 01:45 | #18

    Majorajam: You finally have the courage and civility to give hints about your identity. You are a US politician!

  19. Majorajam
    March 8th, 2007 at 02:25 | #19

    Actually no, but if it’ll make me a musician I may consider running for office.

  20. Chris O’Neill
    March 9th, 2007 at 02:29 | #20

    John Humphreys: “Not that I think it matters — but Jan ‘07 (while relatively warm) is cooler than Jan ‘98 and Feb ‘98. http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.2

    Obviously I should reveal what I think about the various derivations for global average temperature. The five derivations that I’ve looked at are NCDC, GISS, HadCRU, RSS, and UAH. The first three use surface-based thermometers and the last two derive temperature from satelite radiation measurements.

    NCDC and GISS use interpolation over polar areas that have sparse observation stations while I believe HadCRU ignores such areas that lack stations. The satellite derivations ignore polar areas (north of 82.5 degrees N and south of 70 degrees S for RSS).

    Long term trend is what matters with global warming and all of these derivations agree that there is substantial long term warming going on, ranging from 0.208 K/decade for RSS (lower troposphere) to 0.144 K/decade for UAH (lower troposphere). In fact, even with a cherry picked short term such as 1998 to the present and a cherry picked derivation such as UAH, statements such as

    “While temps have stayed fairly constant since 1998″

    are not true. The average rate of warming over this time with this derivation is 0.069 K/decade. I should also direct readers to the revision history file of UAH, which shows that their long term trend estimate has substantially increased since 1999, going from 0.029 K/decade to 0.144 K/decade for their latest version. Hardly the sort of record to inspire confidence.

    I think a good test of denialism comes from something I said earlier:

    “Bolt adopts the credulist position of ignoring the significance of the El Nino in 1998″

    Bolt’s action (or inaction) of ignoring the significance of the 98 El Nino shows how someone’s cognitive ability can be degraded by denialist motivation. The 98 El Nino made 1998 about 0.2 K warmer than it would otherwise have been. If the average global warming rate is 0.2 K/decade then it should most likely have taken a decade to again reach the temperature of 1998. It actually took 7 years.

  21. March 10th, 2007 at 15:57 | #21

    I think 0.03 degrees per decade justifies “remains fairly consistant”. It would take 333 years for temps to increase by 1 degree!

    I agree that long term trend is what matters… but what Bolt is alluding to is the possibility of a turning point. Even if temps stay constant for the next three decades there will still be a warming trend from the 1970s of about 0.1 per decade… but such an outcome would bring traditional AGW theories into question.

  22. Chris O’Neill
    March 11th, 2007 at 17:11 | #22

    “I think 0.03 degrees per decade justifies “remains fairly consistantâ€?.”

    You mis-read the point. Spencer and Christie’s estimate in 1999 was 0.029 K/decade. That was wrong. Using the same satellite data (except for the last few years which makes very little difference), Spencer and Christie now say their estimate is 0.144 K/decade. Read their revision history file. Not exactly confidence inspiring.

    “Bolt is alluding to the possibility of a turning point.”

    So ignoring the significance of the 98 El Nino is nothing more than alluding to the possiblity of a turning point? Sure.

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