Ignorant, out of touch, crazy

Those are the terms chosen by young American voters to describe climate change deniers in a poll conducted for the League of Conservation Voters. LCV is obviously pro-environment, but historically nonpartisan, and they used both a Democratic and a Republican pollster.

The fact that, to be accepted in Republican circles, its necessary to be ignorant, out of touch or crazy or, at the very least, deferential to the crazies who dominate that side of politics, is being recognised as a problem for the Republicans and an opportunity for the Democrats, going well beyond the specific issue of climate change.

The climate denial issue came up again in Andrew Bolt’s interview with Kevin Rudd, and I’ve been reminded of his repeated claim that I got estimates of the climate impact of the government’s emission target wrong. In fact, it was Bolt who was wrong, as on almost every topic he touches, in this case, out by a factor of 100.

Motes and beams (repost)

The Oz and Andrew Bolt have a tag team attack on me today (Google it if you want). Most of it consists of quotations, with lots of ellipses, that are meant to show me as a dangerous radical. I can’t say I’m too upset by that – from their perspective, it’s a fair assessment. But Bolt also repeats his claim that I made a factor-of-5 error in my estimate of the impact of Australia’s current 2020 target on global temperatures.

This is a striking piece of chutzpah, given that this estimate was made in the process of correcting a calculation by Bolt, which was out by two orders of magnitude. But it has finally provoked me to clear up some of the confusion on this. The starting point was this post by Bolt who used a calculation by Damon Matthews that each tonne of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere changes the equilibrium temperature by 0.000 000 000 0015 degrees, that is 1.5*10^-12 in scientific notation. Noting that the carbon price is expected to reduce emissions by 160 million tonnes per year by 2020, Bolt made the calculation that the emissions avoided in the year 2020 will reduce equilibrium temperature by 2.4*10^-4 or 0.00024 degrees, and treats this as an estimate of the impact of the policy.

This is an amazing howler on Bolt’s part. He’s only counted one year of emissions reductions for a policy that is supposed to permanently reduce emissions. I made the very quick calculation that, if the policy stays in place until 2100 and that the 2020 reduction in emissions was maintained over this period, the number used by Bolt would imply a reduction of 0.02 degrees. I did another rough calculation that came out the same way.

Bolt came back with a lower estimate by Roger Jones, who suggest that the policy would reduce temperature by only 0.004 degrees, lower by a factor of 5 than my estimate, but higher by a factor of 20 than Bolt’s silly calculation.

At this point I slipped up. As a result of a misunderstood conversation with Roger, I gave an incorrect explanation for the discrepancy. Roger subsequently advised that he had made his calculation using a standard modelling tool called MAGICC. I finally got around to downloading MAGICC, and trying it out, so I can now give an explanation for why our estimates differ. There are three main points

(1) The most important factor is that we are estimating two different things. MAGICC produces estimates of the temperature change by 2100, but the atmosphere takes a long time to reach equilibrium. For reductions in CO2 emissions spread out over the rest of this century, the change by 2100 is only about half the long run equilibrium change.

(2) Estimates of the sensitivity of the global climate to changes in CO2 concentrations vary. The most common measure is the equilibrium temperature change for a doubling in atmospheric CO2. Until recently MAGICC used 2.6 degrees as the default, on the low side of most estimates. I used 3.5, which gives a value around 30 per cent higher

(3) Finally, while it’s obviously silly to assume, like Bolt, that the policy is in effect for only one year, it’s not entirely clear how we should project its impact into the future. That depends on baseline projections of emissions from which to calculate percentage reductions. My simple estimate takes a constant reduction over 80 years, which is probably a bit on the high side. If you assumed that emissions were going to decline anyway over the second half of this century, the effect of the policy would be reduced, perhaps by half.

Those three factors, taken together, would account for the discrepancy in the two estimates. I don’t claim that I’ve got them exactly right and there may be points I’ve missed. But for someone like Bolt to pontificate on a subject like this, when he is incapable of avoiding or correcting even the most absurd errors, brings to mind Matthew 7:3-5.

A couple of minor points

First, Bolt’s behavior in crowing about a minor mistake on my part, while ignoring his own total absurdity, is par for the course among delusionists. A while back, there was a major scandal (it even got a “Gate”) over the fact that the thousand-page IPCC volume on the impact of climate change included an erroneous claim about Himalayan glaciers. But delusionists get away with far sillier stuff on a daily basis. For example, Christopher Monckton, until recently Bolt’s favorite source of scientific evidence[1] used Gavin Menzies 1421 to argue that the retreat of polar icecaps was nothing new, since the great Chinese fleet had taken the Arctic route on the return journey from discovering America.

Second, as Cut and Paste notes, I said when I took up the Climate Commission position that I’d try to refrain from polemics with people like Bolt. I haven’t stuck to that as well as I might have, and now I think it’s totally pointless. So, from now on, I plan to give as good as I get and, if possible, a bit more.

fn1. He was, after all, Thatcher’s science adviser, if only in bizarro world.

99 thoughts on “Ignorant, out of touch, crazy

  1. A couple of things there, Terje.

    The first is that Global warming is not subject to the notion of “Orthodoxy”. For something to be orthodox it is required to have been accepted for a considerable period. Secondly Orthodoxy refers to matters of faith not physical fact.

    As an example where someone says “Liar liar your pants are on fire” this can be an Orthodox concept where it refers to what people believe about someone. Tony Abbott for instance is accepted to be a habitual liar, and as he has been this way for his whole life people can accept that on faith to be an Orthodox belief even where they have never heard him tell a lie directly. For Julie Bishop to say no he always tells the absolute truth, this would be a heretical statement as well as an expression of gross gullibility.

    However if someone said to you personally “Liar Liar your pants are on fire” this is almost certainly a matter of fact, your pants are on fire and you had better sit in a bucket quickly.

    Global Warming fits this second category because a, this has been fully understood only recently, and b, it has been measured to be true and the degree to which it is true has been very accurately determined.

    So orthodox is indeed the wrong term completely, but that brings up the other issue and that is that you appear determined to accept “expert opinion” singular, and for such a grave matter as for the Earth splitting in two. With a fact checking regime of that thoroughness I can assume here that you quite likely own the Harbour Bridge and possibly the “real” Mona Lisa, too.

    Now you think that it is leap of faith to determine the degree of anthopogenic warming. Again we are dealing observable fact that you can verify yourself at home if you wish so simply with 2 soda water bottles. Empty one completely and the other to a third with the soda water. Fill the first to a third with plain water, put a thermometer in each, replace the caps loosely and place them on the ledge fully exposed to the sun and observe the rate of temperature rise in each.

    That is science, not faith. Fact, not fiction.

  2. Engineers and woo:

    “An engineer is a professional trained in engineering: the design and construction of devices or other works. They put science into practice, designing the stuff that makes civilization.

    Most engineers are as sensible and reasonable as anyone. But engineers as a group have a noted tendency to pontificate on things well outside their area of expertise, to the point of actual fallacy. This phenomenon is so prevalent that users of talk.origins have come up with the Salem Hypothesis, which predicts that any creationist claiming scientific expertise or advanced degrees is likely to be an engineer.[2] Of course, this does not mean that engineers are likely to be creationists.”


    “The Salem Hypothesis is the observation of the apparent correlation between the engineering trade and creationist beliefs (possibly due to crank magnetism, this can also include climate change denial and other crackpot beliefs). It holds that people who claim science expertise, whilst advocating creationism, tend to be formally trained as engineers.”

    Of course there are plenty of scientifically well-trained engineer exceptions, people like John Mashey for a notable example.

  3. I’ll try my own, less, absurd example:

    All humanity lives on one island. The trees grow at a rate such that one reaches full growth each year. We use trees for fuel and building material. Once we used less than a tree a year, then we increased that up to one per year and lately we’ve been felling full grown trees at the rate of two a year.

    Our experts tell us that we have to reduce our tree usage back to a level that can be sustained (in this case no more than one a year). The tree ‘industry’ refuses to accept that fact and insists that it should fell as many as it likes. It uses all sorts of tactics and arguments to achieve this goal, but it carries on felling trees at the rate of more than one a year.

    It denies the fact asserted by the experts about the trees.

    The trees run out. There are none left. No food, shelter, building material, fuel etc..

  4. There is a rather bizarre piece of anti-science historical revisionism in that IPA garbage.

    And it’s one that is repeated by several of the chapter authors – they seem to think it’s a killer argument; that as part of the AGW theory, scientists are claiming that climate has always been stable.

    They then point to the vast scientific literature on past climate to attack their straw-man.

    The old orthodoxy was that the climate was stable, until enterprising scientists discovered evidence that this was very much mistaken. And of course that same body of scientific work that looked at past climate and understanding how it changed, eventually got to thinking about man’s influence, and found that we too could, and where, exerting an effect.

  5. @David Irving (no relation)

    It was a deliberate allegory. Not a comparison or metaphor.

    The point is that people like Terje hold that they should be able to destroy my planet, because it belongs to them too.

    I suspect that Terje is actually a fascist.

  6. Responding to Terje, this isn’t a question of being charitable or otherwise. It’s common ground that one side of this debate is telling deliberate lies to advance political goal. The IPA says that the entire scientific community (with a handful of exceptions like Plimer) are lying, and the “Climategate” (which you’ve pushed in the past) is evidence of this. The supposed motives are many and various, but the main one seems to be to get grant money

    On the other hand, you’ve been pointed to vast quantities of evidence pointing out that Plimer, the IPA are consistently wrong on basic facts, have a clear financial and ideological interest in what they are doing, have been shown to be wrong about the Climategate claims by numerous official inquiriest etc

    If you were intellectually honest, you would admit that, although these guys are your political allies, they are a pack of liars and have been repeatedly shown to be so. Alternatively, if you think that all the scientists in the world are engaged in a giant conspiracy you should say so

    No matter how desperately you want one, there is no middle ground here

  7. Of course there is a middle ground. That you can’t see it simply indicates how polarised the debate has become. And you seem as eager as any to polarise if further. Presumably believing that “your side” will win if only you can silence or isolate the critics. That at some point they will fade away. Good luck with that.

  8. @TerjeP

    A middle ground between what?

    Between science and liars?

    Between a community of people with a commitment to following the scientific method and finding truth that way, and some ‘individuals’ who believe that they can see the truth more accurately because they are individuals who think ‘outside the box’.

  9. TerjeP :Of course there is a middle ground. .

    Is this some kind of weird post-modern thing where there is no fact, only opinion, and the IPA style of ‘opinion’ is just as valid as scientific data??

  10. I think that the only way forward here with you, Terje, is to examine your hold on reality. The first test of this is to determine your degree of objectivity.

    “Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual feelings, imaginings, or interpretations. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met and are “mind-independent”—that is, existing freely or independently from a mind (from the thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. of a sentient subject).”

    Straight away there is a problem as you continually reject hard evidence in favour of your personal belief system. You appear to be unable to accept real objects which create, in your case, disequilibrium in the form of financial disonance. The financial is your strongest cognition so you resolve your unease by grasping the nearest alternative cognition to block out or cast doubt on the real objects before you.

    Maybe it is a phase, and you will grow through it. Or maybe Climate Change with bring you to reality by obliterating the wealth structure that is so important to you in your current state.

    It is a watching brief.

  11. Personally, I am of the view that there are valid grounds to be skeptical of economists’ analysis of the effects of climate change that extend decades ahead.

    But this does not work in favour of doing nothing: there are some circumstances where politicians and people should take a “just do it” approach regardless of what economics can suggest will happen in uncertain futures. I mean, if you wanted to take a purely economics based analysis of whether the US should have joined WW2, for example, there might have been an argument that a Nazi controlled Europe would be a pretty good trading partner for the States. (I’m know nothing of German economics in that period, but you get the point anyway if I am wrong!)

    I take the same view with AGW: the long term effects of it at even only 2 to 3 degrees are truly capable of changing the globe to such a dramatic degree that I doubt you can expect anyone to work out what it means economically; and there will be humanitarian and cultural issues (just how many ancient coastal cities do you want to see turned into uninhabitable versions of Venice?) that over-ride the importance of the economic questions anyway.

    So, I think it’s a case of not worrying about discount rates and reduced rates of GDP growth for already wealthy nations, and such like: the concentration should just be on realistic means to be move to the reductions of emissions that limit the range of consequences as far as possible. Economics can help on that; then “just do it…”

  12. Yep, Megan, above. What ever happened to the fundamental libertarian creed of “only if it doesn’t affect others liberty”?

    “It’s my planet too. I should have a say in whether or not we risk destroying it for everyone” – may be admirably democratic, but it’s laughably un-libertarian.

    Terje, I don’t think you’re a fascist. On the contrary, I like the way you referred to “our planet”. It shows you intuitively (if not philosophically) understand it ain’t just all about private property.

  13. You’ve just described Easter Island.

    I wonder what they all thought as the last tree came down.

    Well, one speculative account of Easter Island, popularised by Jared Diamond. Of course, there’s no actual consensus on when or how Easter Island was deforested, or what the impact was on the inhabitants.

  14. @John Quiggin

    The IPA says that the entire scientific community (with a handful of exceptions like Plimer) are lying, and the “Climategate” (which you’ve pushed in the past) is evidence of this.

    The supposed motives are many and various, but the main one seems to be to get grant money

    is there any grant money about for those that research global warming and find it is real.

  15. @Jim Rose

    You may have intended to put a “not” in your comment (?), but in any case I suggest looking up “Cook et al 2013 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming”.

    There isn’t any serious argument that the warming is “real”.

  16. @Jim Rose

    Stuffed if I know.

    How many firemen’s jobs depend on fire being real?

    To save time: do you think that global warming is not happening (ie: global average temperature isn’t rising)? Or do you think it is, but it has little to do with industrialised human activity?

  17. @Julie Thomas Another way of looking at it is that the so called “middle ground” is the curvy bendy one, lying between the flat earthers and the round ones. A banana shaped middle earth.

  18. @Jim Rose

    There’s grant money for salient competent research. Grants are not tied to scientific conclusions, obviously.

    They tend to go to people who can show competence in the field. Peer review in journals of record is one measure of competence.

    Nobody researching climate science has a vested future interest in “anthropogenic climate change being real”. Indeed, if any person could show that the IPCC consensus were flawed, they would almost certainly be heralded as one of the scientists of the age and could look out of their windows in expectation that trucks full of money from those holding fossil HC assets would soon pull up and start dumping their loads. It might be worth it to them to invest in a larger driveway and secure storage.

    All jokes aside though … most of the grant money is to pay researchers. Professors might get some relief from teaching and keep their incomes. They might be promoted. Yet whatever they got would be trifling compared with the kind of money had by just about any senior-executive of some fossil HC comany or some RW “think” tank.

  19. FB:

    “They might be promoted. Yet whatever they got would be trifling compared with the kind of money had by just about any senior-executive of some fossil HC comany or some RW “think” tank.”

    For every dollar put up by corporations and RW think tanks for anti-AGW “science” at least $100 of government/uni/private etc money is put up by the other side.

    I don’t think the cantankerous old goats of denialism (nearly every prominent denialist scientist has one foot in the grave) are motivated by money. Cantankerous old goats have always been a feature of science, hence Planck’s famous quip about science progressing one funeral at a time.

  20. @Mel

    For every dollar put up by corporations and RW think tanks for anti-AGW “science” at least $100 of government/uni/private etc money is put up by the other side.

    I’ve seen this claim made by the denialist crowd, but I’m yet to see anyone show that it is plausible. In any event, I wasn’t claiming that those working for Heartland or the Koch Bros are better paid than those working for credible research organisations (though I’d be surprised if the top folks there weren’t the better paid).

    I asserted that senior fossil HC execs personally earned much more than grant-receiving scientists.

    I don’t think the cantankerous old goats of denialism (nearly every prominent denialist scientist has one foot in the grave) are motivated by money.

    I won’t pretend to know what goes through their heads, because, I’m not privy to it, but one can guess. Some of them just seem profoundly troubled, or perhaps keen to continue seeming relevant after a life of being regarded as bright. Some are dogmatic reactionaries. All of them need a living though and there’s no doubt what the filth merchants want out of their kept men.

  21. FB:

    I would’ve thought my first point would be obvious to anyone who has followed the issue. Anyhow, now I’ve done some checking.

    The Obama administration alone budgeted US$2.7 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program for the 2014 financial year.

    Acccording to Greenpeace, the Koch Bros gave US$67 million to denialist groups from 1997 to 2011. The groups that got funded are mostly free enterprise, small government advocacy bodies for whom climate change denialism is but one of many activities. Even if we generously assume that 20% the allocated monies funds denialism, we end up with a figure of only $US0.9 million per year.

    By way of comparison, Greenpeace has an annual budget of about US$330 million per year while WWF, another major not-for-profit with a keen interest in AGW has a budget of well over US$100 million per year.

    The Heartland Institute is partly funded by the Koch Bros and has an annual budget of US$6 million.

    Based on my quick survey survey of the monies involved, I suspect my ballpark estimate of a 1 to 100 funding imbalance vastly overstates the funding made available by corporations etc for AGW denialism. The funding ratio is probably more like 1:500.

    Thanks for making me do the legwork, Fran 😉

  22. @rog

    I’m in ‘moral’ mode and in that shaped earth there is no middle ground; the choice is between a person who lies for profit and his own self-aggrandisement and the flawed search for truth that we call science.

    There is always doubt about the actuality of the situation but for me the choice that matters is, as Auden said, between the ethical light and the conservative dark.

    Fran and Mel, that old satan Phillip Adams did an interview – ponderous and full of old man pauses and sighs – on denialism and what motivates it in old cantankerous blokes like Pilmer who, Adams says was once was a good friend.


  23. @Mel

    You’ve signed on to the conspiracy theory that all research on climate change is controlled by warmists? Do you think this was true even when the money was coming from Bush?

    Lindzen, Christy and (I think) Spencer have all received NSF funding for their work. The fact that the preponderance of research money goes to people who agree with the mainstream view is scarcely surprising – if most researchers didn’t agree with it, it wouldn’t be the mainstream view.

  24. PrQ,

    I’m still with the mainstream on AGW.

    My point is that money is not the major motivation for the cantankerous old goats who promote denialism. I’ve read a couple of history of science books and the cantankerous old goats are always there, telling the bright young things that they’ve got it all wrong.

    There is a thesis in geriatric psychology to be written on this.

  25. @Mel
    Mel, your analysis is a little unbalanced. You point out that the free-enterprise think-tanks funded by the Koch brothers are not exclusively focused on climate change denialism, but fail to point out that the more generously funded environmental groups are also not exclusively focused on climate change campaigning, nor is it necessarily the main focus of their activities (if 20% is a fair estimate for the RW thinktanks, I’d suggest its also fair for the environmental NGOs). So, assuming the dollar figures you’ve cited are correct, the funding asymmetry is still significantly lower than you’re suggesting.

  26. TM:

    “but fail to point out that the more generously funded environmental groups are also not exclusively focused on climate change campaigning … ”

    Sometimes I fail to point out the bleedingly obvious.

    I also failed to point out that many corporations want a green tinged image and thus fork out money for environmental issues including AGW.

    Back in 2008, private foundations, most of which are based on corporate wealth, put a lazy US$900 million into climate change funding. That alone is one thousand times more money than Kochtopus money put into denailism.

    My point remains. In fact I now think the ratio is more like 1:1,000.

  27. @Mel

    Conversely, even if it were true, you’d never know it from the way climate change gets covered in the (mainstream) media.

    What happens to the funding balance when you add Fox News, News Corp and the like on the side of the denialati?

    Also, how often does green tinge = green wash? In such cases, should that funding shift to the other side of the equation?

    So many questions, so little time.

  28. @Mel

    Perhaps you’re right about the balance of advocacy money. If we exclude money for actual science, the figures you cite suggest there still are probably more dollars going into policy advocacy. The AEI and other RW “think” tanks should also be included of course.

    It may be that because

    a) they are the rock throwers rather than the advocates of a position, their position is easier for the media to play when pretending to “balance”

    b) and the English-speaking mass media leans heavily to the right, the efforts of these RW rock throwers get a much more sympathetic hearing and extensive coverage than would be the case for anyone else with equal funding.

    Those pressing the case for anti-vaccination or anti-GM don’t get the benefit of “balance” in the media but rather, are treated as ratbags.

    Given that the anti-vaccination and anti-GM positions are no more flawed than those denying anthropogenic climate change (the anti-GM position perhaps somewhat less so)* it seems the main difference is that these positions (like mitigation of CO2 emissions) contradict established commercial interests (respectively Big Pharma and Agribusiness) meaning that the populist appeals against remote authority wouldn’t help the right in the long run.

    *NB I strongly support the standard vaccinations and know of no persuasive scientific reason to reject GM crops as a group. There may be a marketing need to restrict the roll out in some cases on other grounds (e.g. consumer choice)

  29. Not sure how the argument got into a question of who is or isn’t more likely motivated by money, but as an aside, AGW denialism is pretty much a child of the internet, isn’t it? Look at how ridiculously cheap and easy it is for Anthony Watts (TV weatherman with no undergraduate degree in anything), for example, to publish whatever guff he wants, and have it recycled via Andrew Bolt within 24 hours, turning up next morning on the Alan Jones show, and thereby convincing 50% of the Coalition that it is all crap and they have to replace their leader.

    If denialism was solely restricted to publication in magazines and newspapers, I find it hard to believe it could have achieved the political success that it has. It’s the cheap, self publishing, promotional power of the internet that has given it legs.

  30. Sometimes I fail to point out the bleedingly obvious.

    Well, it may have been bleedingly obvious, but the trouble is, you left it out of one side of your calculation, while including it in the other.

    I also failed to point out that many corporations want a green tinged image and thus fork out money for environmental issues including AGW.

    Back in 2008, private foundations, most of which are based on corporate wealth, put a lazy US$900 million into climate change funding. That alone is one thousand times more money than Kochtopus money put into denailism.

    Your argument’s starting to get a bit more dodgy at this point. Your link states that the $900 million in grants was for “addressing global warming”. In order to be compared directly to the Koch Bros. denialist funding, all that money would have to have been used exclusively for promotion/public relations/advertising of the climate change problem, and not for actual emissions reductions or low emissions technology development. Can you confirm that all of that $900 million was spent on promotion and campaigning? Personally, I doubt it.

    My point remains. In fact I now think the ratio is more like 1:1,000.

    I don’t dispute your general point. It seems very likely to me that significantly more money is spent on promoting awareness of climate change as an issue than is spent on promoting denialism. That’s why it’s surprising to me that you’re using sloppy reasoning and dodgy figures to support this view. There’s no need, so why do it?

  31. @Fran Barlow the economics and sociology of science does not work in the way you seem to suggest. Why should climate scientists be expected to be cut from a finer moral timber than other scientists?

    Popper wrote that the growth of knowledge depends not on the ethics of the individual scientists but on the critical spirit to scientific community as a whole. The critical scrutiny of others policed the truth, testing ideas.

    Philosophers of science have repeatedly demonstrated that more than one theoretical construction can always be placed upon a given collection of data.

    Thomas Kuhn used a quote from Max Planck: “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it’.

    As Kuhn pointed out, in a paradigm shift, the transition between worldviews was neither instantaneous nor calm, and involves a protracted set of attacks, both with empirical data as well as rhetorical or philosophical arguments, by both sides.

    A field’s textbooks must be rewritten in the aftermath of a scientific revolution. Once rewritten, they inevitably disguise not only the role but the existence and significance of the revolutions that produced the current paradigm.

    Knowledge does not grow as though it was a match onwards and upwards to the light. It moves in zigs-and-zags and abrupt shifts.

    p.s. where would the department of climate change be but for climate alarmism?

  32. There is plenty on the Koch Bros and their programme of public manipulation


    Google articles on the Koch Bros secret meetings.

    Koch Bros don’t need to use their own money as they command a small army of 1 percentile aspitants who have access to corporate funds to divert. In an earlier secret meeting Murdoch was represented by one of his key executives.

    As is probably mentioned above denialist activites are not about scientific research, they are about misrepresentation of research mega amplified by the Murdoch slave media empire. Koch dollars go a long way when all they seek to do is cast doubt.

    The method is the “how many times do you beat your wife” tactic, timing and broad access to people who really do not care that much as they assume that their government is taking care of these big issues on the one hand and have a vote on the other.

    Mel, your “legwork” is pretty lame.

  33. TM:

    “That’s why it’s surprising to me that you’re using sloppy reasoning and dodgy figures to support this view. There’s no need, so why do it?”

    I acknowledge that I’ve done nothing more than a very rough back of the envelop ballpark thingie.

    I like to prick holes in dumb arguments made by the Left even though I consider myself a moderate Leftist and one of those dumb arguments is that Evil Corporations are putting vastly greater dollars into denialism than is spent by pro-AGW corps, foundations, private philanthropists, universities, governments etc..

    The fact that conservatives and libertarians ( even more so the better educated ones) are swayed by BS by denialists is a far more interesting story than the story about Evil Corporations. PrQ puts it mostly down to dishonesty and I’m sure some of it is, but I think what is more important is how all of us are effectively imprisoned by the ideologies we subscribe to.

    The same applies to Greens leader Christine Milne- no she isn’t lying- she really does believe in the horrors of frankenfoods and this is largely because of her ideological priors.

    I’m glad to see Fran has not swallowed the frankenfoods fable about GM food, but her priors are Marxist and Marxists have always tended to be techno-optimists.

  34. My point is that money is not the major motivation for the cantankerous old goats who promote denialism.

    On the whole that’s correct. The movement relied for its start on corporate money of various kinds (Exxon and the anti-science foundations set up by the tobacco lobby), but now it’s become a self-sustaining piece of tribal identity for cantankerous old goats. At this point, most of the corporations would happily settle, but the goats won’t let them

    Still, as you said in another thread, a valid point is rarely helped by quoting dodgy numbers, and yours are thoroughly dodgy.

  35. BilB:

    “Mel, your “legwork” is pretty lame.”

    Well rather than mouth off, how about you show us your figures.

    You can start by detailing the anti-AGW funding provided by “1 percentile aspitants” (sic) you mention.

  36. PrQ:

    Still, as you said in another thread, a valid point is rarely helped by quoting dodgy numbers, and yours are thoroughly dodgy.

    I’m happy to accept that the numbers are a bit dodgy but they are nonetheless, I think, enough to dispel the myth that this is all about money.

    I think part of the collective conservative psych is to react against anything proposed by someone who is (at least nominally) progressive.

    Hence conservatives squawking madly about the dangers of Obamcare even though it is much the same as the Romneycare they didn’t oppose.

  37. “This” (being climate change denial) is very much about money.

    In fact it is a little ironic that the keenest footsoldiers for the denialist obfuscation effort are unpaid, will never profit from their efforts and will suffer along with the rest of us to the extent that they succeed in delaying or preventing the scientifically ascertained reductions of CO2 required.

    The amounts of money involved are staggering. There is even a good argument that the entire economic system, as currently structured and controlled, is at stake.

    Actual traceable and reported figures on the amounts attributed as having been directly “spent” on denial are tiny when compared to the “in kind” (such as having the Murdoch machine tell lies dressed up as truth) contributions toward the goal – ie: delay indefinitely action.

  38. On the topic of FF, here is that crazy greenie Fatih Birol from that loopy-out-there crank outfit IEA:

    About two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius, according to the chief economist at the International Energy Agency.

    Addressing participants in the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn, Fatih Birol said this should be an “eye-opener” for pension funds with significant investments in the energy sector – particularly in coal – as well as for ratings agencies.

    He predicted coal would be hardest hit in the “unburnable carbon” scenario, followed by oil and gas. “We cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have. If we did that, it [average global surface temperature] would go higher than four degrees.

    Why are my fellow Australians so dead-set keen on being the laughing stock of the rest of the planet? I refuse to believe it is because they are simply stupid. Even blind partisan hackery doesn’t explain it.

    Anyone who isn’t a shill got any suggestions as to what is going on here?

  39. Mel, you would have to have been living in a rock cave in the Kimberlies somewhere for the last ten years to have said that “this” (your incredibly dodgey summation of climate change denier expenditure) is

    “enough to dispel the myth that this is all about money”

    What the…..?

    Australia’s No1 Climate Change Denier (denier of everything actually), Tony Abbott has roundly abused prime ABC television time in an attempt to claim that Climate Change does not exist and that any money spent addressing it is a total waste and a threat to the entire economy. And every Coalition redneck that I have spoken to believes this to be the case.

  40. The conspiracy theory of ignorance which interprets ignorance not as a mere lack of knowledge but as the work of some sinister power, the source of impure and evil influences which pervert and poison our minds and instil in us the habit of resistance to knowledge. (Kark Popper Conjectures and Refutations)

    the truth is out there but for sinister forces excuses people from hard analysis and persuasion.

    The possibility that are ignorance is large in the dciences and many social consequences are unintended is not as an exciting an explanation.

    Milton Friedman argued that people agree on most objectives, but differ on the predicted outcomes of different policies and institutions.

    There is Christopher Robert and Richard Zeckhauser‘s taxonomy of disagreement:

    Positive disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Scope: what elements of the world one is trying to understand
    2. Model: what mechanisms explain the behaviour of the world
    3. Estimate: what estimates of the model’s parameters are thought to obtain in particular contexts

    Values disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Standing: who counts
    2. Criteria: what counts
    3. Weights: how much different individuals and criteria count

    Any positive analysis will tend to include elements of scope, model, and estimation, though often these elements intertwine; they frequently feature in an implicit or undifferentiated manner. Likewise, normative analysis will also include elements of standing, criteria, and weights, whether or not these distinctions are recognized.

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