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The Climate Show #2: Merchants of Doubt and Twitterbots

Posted on 19 November 2010 by John Cook

The Climate Show podcast/vidcast is going from strength to strength (and this is only their second episode). This week, the highlight is a must-listen interview with Naomi Oreskes. They go into great detail about Merchants of Doubt, how the book came about as well as her 2004 paper on the scientific consensus about global warming. For those who haven't read the book, it's a great introduction to the material... and then go buy the book!

Also in the show: excellent infographics, Arctic warming bringing colder winters to the northern hemisphere, European biofuels, electric cars and steady state economics. I talk to Gareth and Glenn about the new Twitter bot that auto argues with denier tweets and the tortuous process Skeptical Science went through (with me struggling against the flow every step of the way) from long, detailed rebuttals of skeptical arguments to tweetable, 100 character one-liner rebuttals.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, or listen direct/download from the Hot Topic blog.

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Comments 1 to 10:

  1. The results of the Merchants of Doubt-led denial of climate science and global warming? 40 years of news stories on global warming and we're further from action on CO2 emissions than ever. Example, this news article from 1986:
    "Scientists say the Puget Sound region could one day be as balmy as Baja because of the pollution-caused trend in global warming known as the greenhouse effect."
    Even in 1986 CO2 was referred to as pollution. Who'dathunkit? The Yooper
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  2. Great episode! Interesting that Gareth mentions steady-state economics. CASSE have just released (as of yesterday) a road map for a sustainable economy, 'Enough is Enough', based on ideas generated in a conference held in Leeds this year. There's a bunch of interesting videos of the keynote speeches from the conference on the site too. Would be interested to hear what people think about the idea of a steady state economy.
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  3. Poptech. How about the appalling anti-engineering and anti-science information on your web site? How can you criticise others without cleaning up your own back yard?
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    Moderator Response: Please, everybody -- there have been discussions of Poptech's list of papers in many previous threads. That subject is off-topic here.
     
    Second try: Apparently some people aren't getting the message. No more discussion in this thread from any side of Poptech's list of papers, please.
  4. Poptech wrote : "Why not have Nicolas Nierenberg, Fred Singer or William O'Keefe on to debate her and correct the misinformation in her book? Good advice on this from Richard Dawkins, relevant to discussions with deniers or so-called skeptics : Why I Won't Debate Creationists Also, the following George Bernard Shaw quote springs to mind : I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. No more need be said or written.
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  5. There's a politician in Brazil that was famous for his corruption scandals (and that's a field that is difficult to stand out, here). On his heydays, he would start the debates by accusing the opponent of corruption. And he happened to dispute elections with some pretty good guys. At that point, to accuse him to be corrupt as well would just give the audience the impression that "everyone accuses everyone" or maybe "everyone is corrupt" - which was already a beneficial levelling of the starting point for him. The tactics are time-honored. Wanna know who's right? Check the scientific evidence. Even the pre-80s science is pretty conclusive (unlike one of the links prom Poptech suggests). Recent science, of course, is more abundant, more accurate and even more conclusive. Once you've checked the science, it's instructive to find out how there's so much babbling about uncertainties or even conspiracies in a field where the science has already so much information. That's where Oreskes comes in handy.
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  6. The IPCC offers a range of 1.1°C to 6.4°C warming. I think we know who the real 'Merchants of Doubt' are.
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  7. ClimateWatcher, Are you claiming that detailing multiple results based on differing scenarios is sowing doubt?
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  8. ClimateWatcher... I believe the IPCC says 2C to 4.5C with 3C as best fit based on the results of dozens of papers on the topic. Call it "Merchants of Scientific Range of Uncertainties."
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  9. If you think the skeptics here are tough to counter, try to deal with rhetoric like this from the chief Merchant of Doubt trolling where I generally comment. I just want you to know it's going to be a tough fight. (Note, just to be clear, I don't support any of this.) [quote] That [exponential growth with fixed resources is a recipe for disaster] would be yet another ulterior motive for supporting the AGW paradigm, to add to the following ones: 1- For researchers, once a paradigm becomes popular and dominant, it is career limiting to oppose it. 2- If the climate is presented as something about which governments can make policies, then government money will flow for research. If climate is something that we cannot affect, funding is not going to be as forthcoming. 3- Plus of course it gives researchers a good feeling to imagine that they're working to save the world instead of, say, developing a new scent for feminine hygiene products. 4- Environmentalists see carbon emission control as a means to reduce real pollutants like NOx, SO2, Hg, etc. as a side effect. 5- Luddites see carbon strangulation as a way of dismantling the industrial economies to force everyone to a much reduced subsistence. 6- 'Personal isolationists' try to use AGW as a way to eliminate big utility companies, with power generated at home from wind, solar, or even car batteries, and even sold to the local grid at retail (or higher) rates. 7- EU trade isolationists see carbon regulation as a way of increasing the energy cost, and thus decreasing the competitiveness, of North American economies _vis a vis_ EU ones. 8- Opportunities to use carbon emissions as pretexts to block or heavily tariff imports abound, thus degrading international trade even further. 9- Local trade isolationists like the idea of overseas products becoming more expensive, and if they can't do that by punitive tariffs and quotas, they hope to do so by artificially driving up shipping costs. 10- Various people see Kyoto-type agreements as a way of transferring wealth from developed economies to lesser ones, as our one-time Liberal cabinet minister Stewart once claimed. 11- Some also envision carbon strangulation as a pretext for involving governments deeply into the economy, via direct and indirect subsidies for energy alternatives that can claim to be 'green'. Naturally, those who are involved and invested in such industries have their own greed factor. 12- Believers in Big Government also love the idea of sending governments even more of our money under any pretext, and use carbon taxes as a way to transfer even more money to people in lower income levels. 13- Some politicians see taking 'the west' off oil as a means of removing the dependence the US in particular has on politically uncertain sources. 14- Other politicians see 'cap & trade' or other quota management as a way to direct corruption to their buddies and relatives. 15- Nuclear energy proponents see carbon strangulation as a way to promote nuclear power. 16- Some people imagine that energy cost reductions will magically pay for, and even squeeze profit from, expensive carbon control technologies whose payback times are actually measured (when they aren't just dead costs) in decades. 17- Opportunistic "businessmen" see the panic of the masses as an opportunity to solicit donations to so-called "non-profit" organizations or to operate carbon credit companies in order to enrich themselves financially. 18- Financial trading corporations like Goldman Sachs see carbon trading as an opportunity to generate a new financial bubble out of an inexistant commodity (carbon credits) with which to justify huge profits and staggering executive bonuses. 19- In politics it is generally held far more important to be consistent than it is to be right. Lies and errors about warming are thus propagated further, instead of being squelched, in order to bolster the political optics. 20- Some people propose deliberately crushing economic growth to be an improvement over what they think will happen if we let growth proceed naturally. [end-quote] Link to original comment
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  10. It is very regrettable that Poptech conflated two very different things. I think that Singer misrepresented Revelle and Lancaster and Oreskes and Conway correctly describes the affair. On the other hand, the interpretation by Oreskes and Conway about actions of William Nierenberg before he joined G.C. Marshall Institute seems prejudiced based on his action after that, and in this aspect the account by Nicholas Nierenberg (his son) seems relatively more reliable. The latter issue is discussed by William Connolley of Stoat several times the most recently in August 2010, and a little by myself as comment to Brian Angliss's review of the book. I do not want to discuss it here against the will of the moderator, so I just show pointers.
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