The Oz has published another response to my piece in the Fin, this time from Christopher Pearson. Unlike with William Kininmonth, I can’t complain about misquotation: Pearson gives extensive and fairly representative quotes from the article.
Pearson cites my observation that conservative political activists have constructed a parallel intellectual universe and goes on to say
This is precisely the kind of analysis I apply when trying to explain what sociologists call the plausibility structures that serve to underpin the twilight world of the warmists. Quiggin is fighting fire with fire, in much the same way that Marxist and Christian apologists used to try and encompass and thus explain away one another’s world views
Analytically, this is about right. Parallelism is a symmetric relationship, so Pearson’s view of my intellectual universe (and that of, among others, the US National Academy of Science, the Royal Society, NOAA, CSIRO and well over 95 per cent of active climate scientists) is much the same as my view of his (where these roles are filled by bodies like, among others, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Lavoisier Group, and experts such as those on Senator Inhofe’s list of 650-odd dissenters
– note the presence of such eminent Australian scientists as Louis Hissink and Alan Moran of the IPA).
I’ve always managed to maintain civil terms of debate with Pearson, and I hope to continue that, but of course discussions between parallel universes tend not to result in much in the way of serious engagement. I will however, restate my point that the problems with the parallel universe go well beyond climate change. An example is the way Pearson fell for the bogus claim that environmentalists had banned the antimalarial use of DDT, a claim propagated by now-discredited tobacco industry hack Stephen Milloy, and circulated through the parallelosphere by such authorities as Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Crichton. I had a to at it here and parasitologist Alan Lymbery did a thorough demolition here
. Pearson didn’t AFAIK revisit the DDT myth (and even refers to it as a human health hazard here), but neither has he learned any lessons about the reliability of sources like Lomborg and Crichton.
Still, by contrast with the usual standard of the Oz, Pearson’s piece is relatively calm and fairminded. I have only one major complaint. Pearson, like Kininmonth, misstates my view of where the issue is going, suggesting that I think the anti-science campaign is gaining ground with the general pubic. On the contrary, Australian public opinion is solidly behind mainstream science (PDF).  An ANU survey showed 56 per cent of responds agreeing that “global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in
your lifetime?” and only 13 per cent saying “No threat”. This is a strongly worded question, since the stated position is at the pessimistic end of mainstream opinion, represented by people like James Hansen and the book Climate Code Red. The response “not very serious” is pretty much consistent with mainstream opinion for respondents who don’t expect to be around after, say 2050. Only “No threat” is consistent with rejection of the science.
The real problem is not that delusionism is gaining ground in public debate. It is the continued prevalence of delusionist beliefs in the conservative political parties and among conservative political activists and commentators. In the long run, the conservatives will pay a high political price for this (they are already beginning to do so). But, on climate change, we don’t have time to wait for the long run.
fn1. Pearson quotes a Rasmussen poll which suggests the opposite, but Rasmussen seems to throw up odd results pretty frequently.