Washington Post: Opinions differ on shape of earth

In one sense, the blogosphere has reached a near-universal consensus on climate change. Everyone who follows the issue at all closely agrees that there is no real debate. Instead, it’s generally agreed, we have a situation where (1) a large body of people devoted to serious scientific research on one side is confronted by (2) pushers of silly Internet talking points who are ideologically motivated, financially driven or just plain delusional . The only disagreement is which group is which. Is group (1):

* The Australian Academy of Science, all other similar organisations and the vast majority of active climate scientists;

or is it

* The 650 “sceptical scientists” identified by Marc Morano (aide to US Senator Inhofe) including such Australian luminaries as David Evans, Louis Hissink, Warwick Hughes and Jennifer Marohasy (Morano’s list includes numerous genuine scientists whose views he has misreprented

My Summer of Love rip

but he’s right to include all those I’ve mentioned )

Broadly speaking, for anyone from politically left or centrist blogs the first answer is correct, and for anyone from the political right, the second answer is correct. As far as the mainstream media is concerned, Fox News, the Australian and some other outlets know where they stand.

But for establishment outlets like the Washington Post, the idea that either (nearly) all scientists or (nearly) all right-of-centre politicans and commentators are liars/hacks/self-deluded is rather hard to accept. So we get episodes like this one. (via Tim Lambert)

39 thoughts on “Washington Post: Opinions differ on shape of earth

  1. re: #19 crispin

    The whole topic of research funding, publication funding, library funding, and who pays, and when, and how, is a whole topic unto itself, is seriously debated, and of course differs by location. Around here, to have 1-year library card at (public) UC Berkeley would cost me $100, and at (private) Stanford $200, as a member of the public with no official connections. If I needed that, I would personally not resent paying the cost of a few nice dinners for access to several of the world’s best research libraries, but reasonable people can disagree.

    In some sense, it’s a little like toll roads. Should I be able to go over the Golden Gate for free, since my gasoline taxes go into that, or is it reasonable that actual users of it pay more? Would people prefer to raise gasoline taxes enough to eliminate all tolls? Would people rather lower gasoline taxes and pay a toll on every road? [I make no argument for any particular position, just observe that policies in complex societies often find different balances.]

  2. Bit more complicated than the traditional right vs left. Many people with right wing attitudes have no problems with GW, though they may disagree about the best mechanisms to deal with it (market vs tax, et al).

    My gut feeling is that many climate ‘skeptics’ fall into the same camp as ‘peak oil’ deniers, anti-sustainability ideas, etc.

    The idea that the Earth is not infinite in resources or its capacity to absorb pollution is directly contradictory to long held beliefs (some religious).

    Thus it would shatter their worldview to accept such ideas. Faced with an unacceptable emotional impasse they fall into cognitive dissonence. Being such a large worldview change (comparible to the impact of Galileo) they can also become very shrill about the issue.

    Bit sad actually, just another obstacle getting in the way of fixing things up.

  3. Due respect, John Mashey, Jennifer Marohasy is not a scientist.
    She is a spin doctor; her purposes are antithetical to the true objectives and purposes of science.
    She has learned the methods and language of science without understanding, or worse still wilfully suppressing for venal and flagrantly anti scientific reasons an internalised guidance informed to the purposes of science. This involves actually, the suppression of underlying purpose of science relating to objective truth, as palpably demonstrated on her obfuscatory utterances concerning ecosciences.
    I don’t care how many letters she has after her name.
    She is not a “scientist” in any meaningful sense; her objectives are in fact antithetical to science as pursuit of objective truth. Any theoretical interest or knowledge is, in her case, subordinated to foremostly, truth’s perversion, misuse or misrepresentation through the employment its terminology, if need be as priority, on behalf of the vested interests sponsoring her.
    She is the academic equivalent of a street walker.

  4. 26# Paul – very true –

    From Wikipaedia

    Jennifer Marohasy (born 1963) is a senior fellow at the Australian think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, and is a director of the Australian Environment Foundation which she says was born out of frustration with the current direction of environment groups.[1]

    She does a lot of writing of anti science blurbs for the IPA and Quadrant with titles like “Why save the Murray”.

    She is in fact, one of the noisy minority who try to manipulate the majority. You dont have to dig too far behind the stream of media hits with titles like that above – before you find a CEO or two of mining or some other fossil fuel dependent business.

    Its a monumental CROC and its annoying because its deliberately misleading and dishonest and unscientific.

  5. Agreed Paul, Marohasy is a gun for hire to the lumpen AGW deniers. She may qualify as one of Jack Strocchi’s magnificent ‘intellectualoids’ of the sub-par variety. Somehow I can’t get Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew’s ‘pointy heads’ description out of my mind. But in that era they were the good guys.

  6. Monkey’s Uncle @21

    “However, the terms still have some benefit at least as a form of short-hand to describe certain ideas or worldviews.”

    Based on your example the term far-right would fit pretty well with Keating.

    Alanna @ 22

    “You only have to drive an hour or so out of Sydney to notice the difference in sky colour”

    I didn’t say that there is no carbon going into the air.

    There is strong scientific evidence to suggest that the amount of atmosphere that is carbon has gone from 0.0317% in 1960 to 0.0385% in 2008. Unfortunately that is where the evidence ends and the conjecture begins with AGW theory…. how can such a small fractional aberration cause such great cataclysmic changes to climate?…where are the actual global temperature readings? we only have interpolated ones…..where are the missing aeons of accurate records to benchmark from?…they conveniently disregard or ignore water vapours influence on climate….no controlled experiment that quantifies the contribution carbon makes to the Greenhouse effect ( or any other gas for that matter)

    The list of AGW conjecture just goes on and on. Sorry I can’t worship that kind of science.

  7. re: #28 paul

    Maybe I was being too subtle or ambiguous with “is/was”, and of course, I said nothing about degrees.

    Did you think I was defending her? 🙂

    “But it is well-known that a few scientists go off into non-science or even anti-science for a variety of reasons.”

    But rather than going to Wikipedia (which is useful but not authoritative), I offered a general procedure for evaluating the literature, and asked what conclusions people might draw from that.

    That seemed more helpful than merely offering my *own* opinion, especially since it can be useful in checking people where there isn’t an obvious thinktank connection.

    I could have said, my opinion is X, adding yet one more opinion to the plethora out there, but really, I’d rather point to some real data that anyone can see and ask “What conclusions do *you* draw?”

    Did you try the Google Scholar exercise? If you haven’t, please try it and post comments about what you see. Also, take a look at my reasons list and see if you think any fit. I’ll then happily post my analysis from doing that a while ago.

  8. Tony G, do you make up your own physics as well? If so, I have some great perpetual motion devices to sell you.

  9. Tony G

    Thanks for your data – surely even you would agree that this represents a continuing increase in CO2 concentrations around 26% every 68 years.

    So where does this lead?

    Are there any signs of modern climate or ice-sheet anomaly that you are aware of?

  10. More for #32, and connecting all this back to the original topic.

    In US politics (where minor parties are not big factors), some will always vote Democratic and others will always vote Republican. This leaves a fairly large group in the middle who are either Independents or centrists regardless of party affiliation.

    Hurling insults at the unloved side may feel good, but seems unlikely to change anyone’s mind. This is “playing to the base” and it sometimes works for elections. It can also really turn off the middle, even if the insults might be deserved. obviously there are fuzzy boundaries and reasonable people can disagree.

    Some websites are permeated with insults, where the actual information content of whole threads is ~0. But JQ tries to run a relatively courteous one, one of the reasons to visit.
    [I often suggest his Discussion Policy to other blog owners as a good starting model, i.e., spell out the limits to acceptable behavior.]]

    More important, when people post on a blog, they usually have no idea of the “lurker poster ratio” there. They normally only see the posters. There may be no lurkers, or there may be many, and some of the latter may well be uncommitted.

    Hence, it may be a good idea to write things *useful* to the uncommitted middle, because they are the ones most open to change.

  11. JQ has some “some great perpetual motion devices to sell”.

    I suppose if you believe the philosophies behind AGW and can sell that, you can sell anything.

    Chris Warren, 26% over 68 years

    I draw this analogy

    “crime rate goes up by 50%” At first glance it looks alarming, but after finding out the basis for the figures were, last year 1 milky bar was stolen from the corner store and this year 2, you just have to laugh at the modeller who is now extrapolating some cataclysmic crime wave.

    “Are there any signs of modern climate or ice-sheet anomaly that you are aware of?”

    I would have to say I do not know, except to say I am apathetic to AGW due to the exaggerations made by both sides.

  12. Tony G

    A negative trend inceasing at 50% is always of concern.

    The sample size determines the confidence level.

    One or two milky bars are not relevant as the sample size is to small and the population of corner stores and milky bars is far larger.

    There is a formula for sample size (assuming uniformity), so your example is not rigorous.

  13. The sample size determines the confidence level.

    IMHO a 0.007% change in the atmospheres composition over 50+ years of which the IPCC says 95% comes from natural causes, isn’t significant.

    We will agree to disagree.

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