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Climate Hustle

Understanding climate denial

Posted on 28 September 2011 by John Cook

There are a number of areas of science where the evidence has become so overwhelming that a scientific consensus forms. For example, the consensus on the link between smoking and cancer, that HIV causes AIDS or that humans are causing global warming. Where there is a scientific consensus, there are often movements that deny the scientific evidence. All of these denialist movements have been found to share 5 common characteristics, including cherry pickingconspiracy theories and fake experts.

Understanding the denial of scientific evidence is a crucial element to putting the climate controversy into proper context. The first step is recognizing that the process of denial is to be distinguished from cases where the title 'denier' is used derogatorily. Complaining about the word 'denier' can be a form of denial itself, using concern trolling to avoid a serious discussion of the scientific evidence.

Certain defence mechanisms are tell-tale signs of denial. In one experiment, people were asked if they believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Those who answered yes were shown evidence that there was no such link, including a direct quote from President Bush. Despite the overwhelming evidence, only 2% of participants consciously changed their mind (although interestingly, 14% denied they ever believed in the link despite indicating so in the initial survey).

The most common response was attitude bolstering. This involves bringing to mind arguments that support pre-existing views while denying any counter evidence. The process is reflexive and almost sub-conscious. Attitude bolstering has an unexpected and unfortunate consequence. When one encounters threatening evidence, the cognitive process of bringing supporting arguments to the fore results in a strengthening of one's views. This is known as the backfire effect, where debunking a myth can paradoxically end up reinforcing the myth. The effect is strongest among those whose views are already quite strong.

Is it any wonder that so few who deny scientific evidence change their mind? But don't forget that 2%. The rare person who was "skeptical" about climate change but then considered the full body of evidence is the exception that proves the rule. In Confessions of a Climate Change Convert, D.R. Tucker perused all the scientific evidence, became convinced that humans are causing global warming and uttered the famous pronouncement, "I was defeated by facts".

Craig Good from Skeptoid, describes how he came to be convinced of the evidence in I, Global Warming Skeptic:

Since [Peter Gleick's] talk I have spent a lot of time on a site he recommended, skepticalscience.com. There they have taken each of the most common science questions, numbered them, and carefully addressed them with the current science. The answers are even presented in basic, intermediate, and advanced formats so that there’s likely to be one matching the reader’s level of scientific knowledge.

With the caveat that a few of the questions don’t belong on their list (42, 63, 105 and 165, at least) because they are economic and/or political rather than scientific, I highly recommend the site.

So, yes, I am now persuaded that anthropogenic global warming is real. That’s because I’m a skeptic.

I recently received an email from a blogger Nathan McKaskle who informed me:

"You changed my mind about global warming. Up until today I was a big time skeptic for a number of reasons. Great site with a wealth of information that addressed most of my concerns."

Unfortunately Nathan closed his blog down (otherwise I would've linked to his blog post on this subject). Ironically, he closed down his site due to discouragement, not knowing whether he'd changed a single mind through his blogging. It's a sentiment many of us bloggers can relate to, I'm sure.

These examples of minds being changed by the evidence reaffirms Skeptical Science's key mission of presenting the many lines of evidence for man-made global warming. Another key to putting the climate controversy into proper context is understanding the phenomenon of denial. Skeptical Science will continue to examine the 5 characteristics of science denial and how they manifest in many climate myths. It is by understanding how some deny the evidence that we are able to point to the scientific evidence.

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Comments 101 to 150 out of 261:

  1. @Eric(skeptic) #100:

    What's motivating Jacoby to write these columns? Is he trying to become the second coming of George Will?
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  2. "It seems to me to be key to denial that people will most deny facts if those facts carry implications that they are not in control of their own lives and destinies, or implications that some people have no regard for human life." - logicman in #37.

    Hear, hear.
    So my brutal conclusion was for years: 'facts are taboo' (usually appended with 'logic is poisonous'). Logicman explains why this is true. Taboo, according to Erich Fromm*, is anything one can't determine whether it belongs to 'self' or 'rest of the world'. Control, no control. --snip--. Including facts (whatever they are).

    --
    * - Erich Fromm
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    Moderator Response: [Albatross] I know that dealing with those in denial about AGW is frustrating and that venting is sometimes required, but the snipped text goes too far.
  3. John, looking at all his columns, not just climate change, I would say "populism". George Will is always a bit too pompous-sounding to be a good populist.
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  4. #99 sout, agree absolutely on "discussions help inform those who accept the science but might not understand it well, thus empowering more people with knowledge and influence."
    For me it is even a sufficient win. But there's another: one always learns something relevant during every discussion. Well, at least I don't think I get dumber :)
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  5. Jacoby has long been the Globe's token RWinger.
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  6. I think the root cause of denial is the political aspect. Most folks have only ever heard of climate change in the context of energy policy. The policy prescriptions are learned of first, then after the listener says "wait, you want to do what?" the justification is offered. People think "I can find a problem with that," and then set about nitpicking everything.

    The fact is in a vacuum no one (except the financiers who will make billions) would ever want to establish a carbon permit market. No electricity company would ever build a wind tower without massive government subsidies and in a vacuum the public would not support the subsidies. Global warming policy prescriptions as they stand right now - major new taxes that effect a huge transfer of wealth to financiers combined with reliance on intermittent and incredibly expensive electricy sources - really are a bad idea.

    The solution here is not to call people names or analyze their psychology. The solution is to come up with a good energy policy. Imagine how a layperson would respond to the following:

    "We need to put substantial taxes on gasoline so people don't drive nearly so much and pay more for new cars with better mileage. This is necessary to prevent damage to coastlines which will not happen in your lifetime."

    VS.

    "We need to invest in biofuel technology. With the right breakthroughs we could engineer algae that eat wastewater and produce ethanol. It will keep the price of filling your tank lower in the long run and let us reduce reliance on foreign oil."

    or

    "We need to put a high price on carbon emissions, that way we raise the price of electricity and transport to the point that massively inefficient alternatives become economically competitive."

    VS.

    "We need to develop 4th generation nuclear technology. If things go as promised we can produce energy at half the price of coal. Your family's electricity bill will go down, your children will be healthier, and America's natural beauty will be preserved."

    There is a debate over climate in this country and it is not a debate about science, it is a debate about energy policy. In the first half of my two examples the energy policy is basically indefensible and the speaker must fall back on defending the science of climate change. In the second half of each the policy is a good idea and the speaker can defend it on its own merits.
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    Moderator Response: See "Republican Presidential Candidates vs. Climate Science" for direct quotes about climate science made by American politicians. In the US, there is an ongoing public debate about both climate science and energy policy.
  7. rcglinks#106 illustrates a frequently used climate denier tactic of shfting the discussion from climate science to policy options to address climate change. Personally, I prefer to keep those discussions separate.
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  8. #85 eric - What I mean is that Spencer, Lindzen et al, were they to consider the full body of evidence, would quickly find that very low climate sensitivities are exceedingly difficult on Earth. That they choose not to consider palaeoclimate (and they can hardly be unaware of it), or to quantitatively criticise it, means they are not taking a truly critical approach. I don't think they avoid palaeoclimate by accident. You can't conveniently ignore strong evidence to the contrary of your opinion in the hope it will just go away.

    I agree with you on Happer - he's much further down the road of denial. When I read his recent piece, I wondered if I had found something impossible - somebody farther down that road than Monckton! And a physicist too - some of his statements were astonishing from a scientist. Happer is a powerful example of how belief can get in the way of rationality.
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  9. While I have respected the priority of SkepticalScience.com to focus on scientific issues, I'm pleased, nevertheless, to have seen a recent shift toward a more open and realistic approach toward the phenomenon of denialism, which I have long advocated. Scientific evidence alone is often insufficient to persuade individuals who find the (apparently) conflicting scientific evidence confusing, or simply filter out information inconsistent with their beliefs. For this reason, I believe it is equally important to directly address the nature, tactics, and origins of denialism.

    Denialism must be distinguished from skepticism, which is an essential element of scientific method. Denialism in its many forms is not about science or evidence, although this is superficially its focus. Rather, denialism is a phenomenon rooted in human psychology. We are social beings, and denialism is a manifestation of this, being strongly tied to political and social ideology, group affiliation, and collective beliefs. The fact that most denialists are unaware of the degree to which their beliefs are shaped by ideology is not surprising. The human mind imposes powerful filters on how we perceive and interpret the world around us.

    Skeptics may rationally question certain details of the scientific theory. AGW Denialists, however, reject AGW in toto, not on the basis of evidence, but because denial is consistent with certain beliefs they already hold. Underlying ideologies effectively dictate where they go for information, and which sources they tend to trust. Denialism serves to reassure its adherents that the things they believe in are right and true, while certain things they find threatening are not real. Ironically, many AGW Denialists simultaneously embrace an irrational fear of things that are not real, particularly that AGW represents an international conspiracy aimed at stealing their wealth and taking away their freedoms.

    While skepticism remains an admirable and essential element of scientific reasoning, denialism is a rather childish and petulant way of dealing with complex, challenging issues, yet it is a powerful force that has brought low even persons of keen intellect and education.

    It has long been anticipated that AGW Denialism would crumble before the weight of scientific evidence, yet the Denialist movement has been surprisingly resilient. The internet, as well as certain elements of the “faux news” media are largely to blame. The ongoing collapse of the northern ice cap has made it very difficult to continue to deceive people who have little in-depth understanding of the underlying science, but are willing to be persuaded by direct evidence. The fact that it has taken so long is disappointing, yet it's better late than never.

    I would hope that there are many who would learn from this experience, and begin to mistrust their beliefs on other issues, as the political ideology that gave rise to a AGW Denialism is “in denial” on many other issues as well. Unfortunately, in my years of fighting against AGW Denialism in the petroleum geology community, I’ve found that the most ardent denialists will never admit to being wrong about anything, ever. The typical response is to change the subject, or just silently slink away. While this can be frustrating from a rhetorical perspective, at least they will do less harm.
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  10. @ 6 John Russell

    Thanks, for that. I think you are quite right that writing in a style that may convince a 3rd party by their monitoring of the discussion would be the best approach when dealing with a hard-line 'skeptic'.

    I have lost track around post 60 as this is a long discussion but I would have to agree with cRR Kampen @ 29 with his view on denialism. It seems most people on SS concentrate on the big fishies (Spencer, Lindzen etc) and focus on their arguments on climate sensitivity but certainly the ones I encounter on news sites, You Tube etc often would never get to that higher level of skepticism in their arguments.

    The views I see involve conspiracy and coincides and often follow the es we should be most focused on tend to lead towards the "it's not warming" or "it's not us" style. I personally believe these are the ones to be most scared of and focus a good bit of attention to since as one can see in the Public Figures quote page on SS that these views are mirrored by policy makers.
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  11. addendum to last paragraph: (bad cut and paste job in editing)

    The views I see involve conspiracy and coincidences and often follow the "it's not warming" or "it's not us" argument. I personally believe these are the ones to be most scared of and focus a good bit of attention to since as one can see in the Public Figures quote page on SS that these views are mirrored by policy makers.
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  12. skywatcher (#108), perhaps Spencer and Lindzen do not consider paleoclimate to be convincing evidence of high sensitivity. I don't as I explained on the low sens. thread I would agree with yocta. (#110) in part because not many people know or care who Lindzen is. But yocta should also be careful to read Happer's Senate testimony because Happer actually says "it is warming" and "it is us" and then launches into a long series of minimizations and outright fabrications.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Fixed text.
  13. Suggested reading:

    “Evolution and Climate Deniers: Natural Allies?” by Chris Mooney, DeSmog Blog, Sep 28, 2011

    To access this insightful article, click here.
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  14. @107 Mr. Hartz - Please allow me to try to convince you of the merits of not separating the debates. (One caveat, I will assume you are American because I don't think you've been posting in the middle of night in England)

    1. Upon learning of a need to sacrifice some people will take up the burden as a badge of nobility. Most will not. The noble might tell the rest "your material desires put our collective future at risk, take up your part of the burden as a moral obligation." I would be surprised if that had ever worked in all human history, absent a war. Asking people to invest in advanced technology is much more likely to garner support. I think the brain places a greater weight on achieving a desirable outcome in the present than on avoiding a harmful outcome in the future.

    It's more effective to tell people invest, get new technology than sacrifice, avoid future harm.

    2. The policies currently on the table, the only ones that would foreseeably be implemented (in the US at least) stand a some risk of not significantly curbing US CO2 emissions. Say carbon permits are implemented. Who sets the number of permits? It's very unlikely to be a climate scientist; much more likely to be a banker or a corrupt bureaucrat.

    And think about what will happen to permit levels when Republicans control the whole government. They'll cynically flood the market, create an economic bubble, and then say the democrats will destroy jobs if they reduce permit numbers.

    If the point of fighting the good fight in the climate debate is to prevent future harm, I submit that to actually succeed (at the least in the US) one must win the fight on the policy front and must have an alternative to carbon permits.

    3. You can't win the public debate on climate science. There are no Earths to experiment with, there is not class of Earth-like planets to conduct epidemiological studies of, there is only what science must (and has) resort(ed) to. That is a massive advantage for naysayers and nitpickers. Think about the sheer number of pages on this website, it even has a top ten list. 90% of the complaints are [redacted for politeness], but even the IPCC has to include low and high climate sensitivities in their forecasts because there are real uncertainties.

    Yes, everyone is completely straightforward about the uncertainties, and everyone works to reduce them. They still exist. That's enough to keep biased laypeople biased. The nitpickers will always win the public debate. It's not fair. Life's not fair.

    You can win the 4th generation nuclear vs. coal debate. You can win the debate over whether to import mideast oil or use biofuels and fuels from thermal solar. You can win a debate over hybrid cars and gas mileage. You might even win a debate over whether it would be more fun to drive through rush hour or sit on a train/bus and play on your ipod through rush hour.

    /endlist

    As to typical denier tactic, I'd prefer peacemaking pro-nuclear denier who sees room for middle ground. Never waste a crisis, after all.

    I think the policy Hansen proposed in this essay is a good starting point for compromise.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110729_BabyLauren.pdf

    I can only disclaim I don't think it did any good for him to be so grandchildish. (attempt at humor)
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  15. rcglinsk @106, you are inaccurately framing the debate.

    You wrote:

    "We need to put substantial taxes on gasoline so people don't drive nearly so much and pay more for new cars with better mileage. This is necessary to prevent damage to coastlines which will not happen in your lifetime."


    Based on the science, the correct framing is:

    "Failure to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 50% within the next twenty years will almost certainly result in the complete loss of major eco-systems such as the Arctic, the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Such massive eco-system loss along with direct effects on human productivity is likely to result in a collapse of the international economic system which will make the great depression look like a boom in comparison. If you are under the age of fifty, this is likely to happen in your life time. The human population has never been greater than 200 million when the Earth's mean temperature has been outside a narrow band of about 1 degree C. We are already at the upper end of that band and within the life time of people being born now we will be as much above it as we where below it during the last "ice age" (glacial). There is no reason to think the Earth's carrying capacity for humans will remain at is high multi-billion level during that transition. So perhaps it is time to start doing something about it now.


    Unfortunately the politicians, even the Democrats, refuse to listen to what the science is saying.
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  16. cRR Kampen@102

    Thank you for your 'hear, hear' to my comment #37.

    It appears to me that some people who publish just plain wrong materials may not themselves be in denial of the science. Just as one may make money from remedial teaching, so one may make money from anti-remedial teaching.

    It appears to be part of the human psyche that we are primed to reject any evidence that we are not in control of our environment. An author of anti-remedial literature is thus likely to make more sales than the author of remedial literature.

    By anti-remedial I mean that which reinforces erroneous beliefs. For lovers of long words: I would call that kind of publishing activity 'fortipensatory therapeutics' - the therapeutic reinforcing of wrong but comforting ideas by inverting published scientific facts.

    Fortipensation is of Latin derivation and means 'strengthening of belief' but it is also an atrocious pun from a WW1 joke about errors in communication. A message is transmitted and re-transmitted over poor connections until it is completely garbled. "Send reinforcements, we are going to advance." becomes "Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance." Three and fourpence - 3 shillings and 4 pence - is forty pence in Britain's old money system.
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  17. @rcglinsk #114:

    Yes, I am an American. Right now, I am too tired to respond to your lengthy post. I will do so tomorrow morning when I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

    In the meantime, I recommend that you read Andy Revkin's recent post, "Reactions to a New Plan for CO2 Progress."
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  18. @Eric (skeptic) 112.

    Don't get me wrong, on the interwebs I encounter people who say things like

    "Have you ever saw that movie "The Day After Tomorrow", well, guess what? It wasnt a joke movie like 2012, It is happening right now."

    These comments I let slide to some respect as they are emotionally charged comments with respect to the issue. It is the comments such as:

    It is cold in everyone's back garden. AGW nutters can manipulate the numbers all they want, that is still a fact.

    These comments of accusation I flag and feel motivated to address. With regards to your comment on Happer's Senate testimony. I just had a quick scan and it appears he is advokating some pretty extreme views:

    I believe that the increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind
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  19. The link to the address is here:

    Climate Change, William Happer testimony to Senate Energy Committee on February 25, 2009 | Reprint
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  20. Suggested reading:

    “Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today's Left” by Chris Mooney, DeSmog Blog, Sep 26, 2011

    To access this insightful article, click here.

    As you my already be aware, Chris Mooney has written extensively about climate denial over the years.
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  21. @ Tom 115 - I've not seen that quote before, I don't think it's a common argument in the public climate debate. Where is it from?

    Also, if you might indulge a question, how do you indent and italicize a quote on this forum?
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    Response:

    [DB] Posting tips can be found here.  The blockquote tag may be used to indent (replace the b or i as found in the link with the word blockquote).

  22. @ Mr. Curtis 115, sorry, wish I could edit.
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  23. rcglinsk - I am sympathetic to your approach, but you must acknowledge Tom Curtis's framing. (Hint, if Tom Curtis ever posts; read and reflect carefully - he is a real gem (one of many) on this site).

    I think those of us who follow the science do tend to fall into the simplistic arguments you presented (not calling you simplistic), rather than the two paragraph version that Tom Curtis presents. To our detriment.
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  24. rcglinsk @ 121

    Just use basic HTML tags in the text. For example:
    Use the ‘a href=’ tag to add a link to Skeptical Science
    Use the i tag to italicize
    Use the blockquote tag to indent (might be a better way to do this)
    Use the Preview button to check your HTML, and then Submit
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  25. Something rather interesting and related at the BBC today:
    Is the internet re-writing history?. It's a discussion of how people are having difficulty separating fact from fiction on the Internet, with examples such as 9/11 denial, Bin Laden alive and other such conspiracy theories. No mention of AGW denial, but it seems clear that one factor in denial is the incredible ease of access to apparently credible sources of information on the Internet.

    "We have something like a Wild West on the internet," says Jamie Bartlett, senior researcher at Demos.

    There's a huge amount of very trustworthy, academic, good bits of journalism [on the internet], more than ever before, which is extremely liberating.

    But at the same time, equal proportions of distortions, propaganda, lies, mistruths, half-truths and all sorts of rubbish. It can be very difficult, especially for younger people, to sort the wheat from the chaff."

    The only solution is, as potholer54 is fond of saying, check your sources!
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  26. Albatros #102, I'm sorry but you misunderstood. The snipped text dealt with examples of taboo as interpreted by Fromm. By snipping those examples you actually acknowledged their quality! Taboo, taboo: facts are taboo (for denialists that is). This is fundamental, on topic psychology.
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  27. @rcglinsk #114:

    If the majority of the American public are not convinced that manmade climate change will severely impact the Earth's ability to sustain life as we know it, our elected representatives will never implement mitigation and adaption actions commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.
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  28. cRR@126,

    Actually, I did understand, they were good examples, the content though was not really consistent with that we prefer to use here at SkS..that is all. You are welcome to try again using less graphic terms.
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  29. #128, Well yes Albatros, I sometimes do prefer 'graphic' for clarity - then quite often have a good laugh at the response or total lack of it... I wonder how any taboo could be illustrated by non-graphic examples of it.

    Anyway, the argument made there is rather subtle, or let's say 'philosophical'; I think the message was clear at least for those interested. 'Facts are taboo' describes a typical denier's reaction to facts. Reactions like: flying into a rage, or running away, or censoring - the works.
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  30. People become attached to their opinions. Opinions represent who we are, and accepting that an opinion of ours is wrong comes at a substantial personal cost. The cost rises when your opinion is also the basis for your job/hobby/friendship circle/fame.
    People can go to amazing lengths to retain their opinions. A bit of cognitive dissonance is easy enough to maintain. Consider Monckton's plight. If he changes his mind about AGW he has to face two nasty thoughts. A) He isn't as clever as he thought he was and needs to do some serious grovelling and B) He aided and abetted a system that imperils the life and prosperity of the planet.
    If anyone wants a shining historical example take a look at Millerism.
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  31. Given this, It's going to be pretty hard to 'turn' any of the big names in the CAGW rejecting community. Just think how hard it'd be for them to 'turn' you!
    You might argue that logic/science is on your side (note: that's what they think too) so it's not a fair comparison but that's actually almost irrelevant. Cognitive dissonance alone isn't weighty enough to counteract all the other forces at play.
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  32. Very well, Tristan, I will confess. I was certain of GW by the year 1989. And until 2004 I thought it had to be the sun. In the end I got convinced by the facts I'm pushing forward nowadays like someone who quit smoking attacks everything and all in sight to with tobacco :)

    What have I gained? Actually some insight into denialism, particularly AGW-denialism. But a look over this thread will give same insight :)
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  33. Tristan, I agree that it will be hard to turn any of the big names. Afterall, it is their uniquely active intransigence that has made them "big names" in the first place and which has put them in the position where reversal will lead to public humiliation. If they hadn't sold themselves down the river intellectually, they would have been convinced by the evidence years ago.

    But for the same reason I think we should be careful not to paint too broad a canvass from their unusual example. That way leads to nihilism. In my experience, many people who "deny" climate change do so on a much more passive/indirect basis. (Note, I do not consider people who post on internet blogs a random sample of these people!) They are either going along with others they relate too, against others they don't relate to, or they are challenged by the idea that the effect of humans could compare to the power of nature. With all the noise surrounding communication about climate science, those indirect associations take over. But I do not believe they are not as committed personally to that position as the public faces of denial. They will listen to evidence when presented by a non-threatening source.

    In every major environmental debate on which the science spoke clearly, the science has won in the end, despite enormous efforts to derail it. That is not a call to complacency - it took effort. But you have to think that most people can be convinced by the evidence, else we might as well just give up and colonize Mars.
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  34. One thing we've not considered is the role of the sociopath in spreading denial. People with sociopathic tendencies apparently make up 4% of the population.

    I can't help think sometimes that some of the most vociferous of those in climate change denial would come out very clearly in this questionnaire as sociopaths. I'd mention one famous touring 'sceptic' by name but I guess he'd threaten to sue me. And if that doesn't give you a clue to whom I refer, I don't know what would!
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  35. cRR: The ability to change your stance like that is the essence of skepticism. Above all, we must remain skeptical of ourselves :)

    Stephen: You're right. The anti-CAGW/right-wing blogosphere is not representative of typical 'denialism'. In reality most people on both sides aren't well informed and will tend to the default position of whichever political team they're on. This puts undue influence in the hands of political leaders. The politics should be about addressing the problem, not assessing whether there is one (I thought we'd set up an independent international body to do that). The point you made about being non-threatening is very important. Derision and accusations incline people to commit further to their opposing view, rather than relax and listen to yours.
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  36. Michael Mann certainly understands climate denial, and he has learned how to give deniers all the respect that they deserve.

    Here's an example of how Dr. Mann is now dealing with deniers.

    Mann just responded to a denier hit-piece that was published on-line, and boy did he take the gloves off! You can read his piece here.

    I'd like to encourage folks here to follow the link to Mann's piece and click on the "recommend" button at the top of the page. Also, tweet it, facebook it, do whatever you can to spread Mann's words far and wide.
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  37. John Hartz @127

    As our Commonwealth colleagues will be happy to remind you, we in the US tend to be a little slow on the uptake in terms of genuine threats to Western civilization: two instances last century come immediately to mind.

    AGW denial is only our old bad habit of isolationism wearing another mask.
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  38. I'm not sure on the causes of denialism but it seems that some scientists had enough of the stupid nonsense some try to pass as information. Good to see them speak up.
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  39. Anyone here remember the Phlogiston Theory? Or Spontaneous Generation? Or the Ether Theory? When big science starts sounding more like religion, perhaps it’s time the rest of the world starts praying? Scientific consensus has been wrong at times. Good science should welcome critical questioning. I imagined that was the purpose of this thread.

    Before this comment is deleted (again), would somebody care to explain why?
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Your prior versions of this comment were deleted because they violate the Comments Policy. Please review that policy; posting here is a privilege, not a right. Try to deal in evidence and science rather than unsubstantiated rambling about long discredited hypotheses - 'the luminiferous ether' wasn't a theory. What science is 'sounding like religion'? And what science does not welcome critical questioning?
  40. This site adresses questioning that is not truly critical, nor constructive, nor sincere. The latest examples on Pat Michaels' island foolishness and the common argument on the NW passage are 2 typical examples. Denial is not critical questioning, especially when coming from people who are poorly informed or lack the qualifications.
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  41. Thank you for your clarification (@139). (-Snip-).
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    Response:

    [DB] Inflammatory tone snipped.

  42. Thank you, once again, for your expert guidance. Perhaps I can prevail upon you to advise me on what you found inflammatory? I imagine such insights will prove especially instructive to us, the uninitiated.
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    Response:

    [DB] "Perhaps I can prevail upon you to advise me on what you found inflammatory?"

    In your previous comment?  Pretty much everything after the first sentence.  An example from this comment above is "I imagine such insights will prove especially instructive to us, the uninitiated."  Perhaps you don't realize, but the tone is provocative.  Or perhaps you do.

    This forum exists for everyone to gain from the sharing of knowledge, free from condescending tones, heckling and invective (among other things). Seekers of knowledge here include scientists from other disciplines and lay people alike:  all are treated equally, and with respect.  Those that are able to contribute do so in the fashions and frequencies that they are able.

    It is noted that some feel the moderation policies here are too constraining and choose to take their participation elsewhere; this choice stands before you now. 

    Those that remain generally consider SkS to be one of the forums most conducive for learning things about climate science among the intertubes.

  43. GEP, the comments policy is well formulated. If you don't understand what is inflammatory, perhaps you should switch your focus from discussing climate science to working on your English.
    You should still feel privileged though: if we were using WUWT standards, the simple fact of being anonymous would earn you heaps of scorn and would likely get you banned.

    I'm not speaking on behalf of the mods, only as another commenter.
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  44. Philippe Chantreau - Actually, I have posted a number of times on several of the 'skeptic' blogs, and while some of the other posters have complained about my anonymous (but consistent) handle, the moderators there have (so far, at least) not objected, and indeed have once or twice told the other posters just that.

    Of course, that's subject to update if anything changes.
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  45. My comment was based on past experiences that go back to over a year, perhaps they have adjusted since. However, R.P. Sr. tried that avenue right here not long ago.

    In any case, thanks for the correction.
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  46. Philippe Chantreau - Indeed, Dr. Pielke did make some comments decrying anonymous posters, and I have heard that others have experienced issues on some sites. Just noting that I have not (again, so far).

    I usually consider such attacks (as they are not arguments) an Argument from Authority fallacy. I much rather prefer discussions based on what is said, rather than based on who said it.
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  47. I came here hoping to understand climate denial, and now I think I do. Thank you all.
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  48. Conservatives should value such things as responsibility, prudence and a sense of proportion. They should seek to ensure the survival and stability of their societies. They are supposed to be anti-utopian, willing to face up to unpleasant facts. Willfully ignoring the dangers of climate change is to go against these values. So why are so many conservatives engaging in willful blindness?

    Too many are motivated more by antipathy towards the left than they are by support for their own principles. And too many see environmentalists as being part of the left and automatically oppose them.

    But there is more to the antipathy many feel towards environmentalists than this. Many see environmentalism as anti-human. They see it as an attack on modernity and prosperity. They talk about attempts to send us back to the stone age.

    So what is behind this? Is it just paranoia and a distorted picture of their opponents? Or have environmentalists contributed to this picture of them?

    While it is a distorted picture of most environmentalists some environmentalists have contributed towards this image. I have heard environmentalism described by opponents as a religion. And those that do so often see any religion as irrational. I have heard people sneeringly talk about Gaia worship. Environmentalism is often seen as a put down of humanity and human accomplishment. Environmentalists are often seen as ascetics who want a return to a rustic lifestyle. People who are proud of what they have done see this as an affront.

    We will certainly have to make some sacrifices to mitigate climate change. But you have people asking others to make sacrifices and describing the desire for prosperity as greed and talking as if there was some virtue to making do with less. Should you be surprised if this led to some hostility?

    This does not justify the willful blindness of denialists, nothing can. But there are those who wish to hang on to as much as possible of what they have and make only those sacrifices that they see as necessary. There are people whose prudence and sense of responsibility to the next generation can be appealed to. But if you try to use necessary responses to climate dangers to accomplish other goals don't be surprised if there is opposition.

    John Cook, in your book Climate Change Denial you talk about a need to change from a human-centered to an eco-centered worldview. Many will see such a change as evil. And that will include people whose prudence could be appealed to. We have an emergency. Consider that you might be alienating those whose support you need.
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  49. Lloyd Flack: "Conservatives should value such things as responsibility, prudence and a sense of proportion. They should seek to ensure the survival and stability of their societies. They are supposed to be anti-utopian, willing to face up to unpleasant facts. Willfully ignoring the dangers of climate change is to go against these values. So why are so many conservatives engaging in willful blindness?"

    I know many liberals and leftists who fit that description. Marx was not a utopian, as Engels points out in "Socialism: Scientific and Utopian." The problem is that conservatism also describes the beliefs/actions of anyone who wants to conserve a particular way of life or (and this can be quite different) the fundamental elements of a way of life. Capitalism was quite a radical notion--quite liberal--at one point in history (and people believe in spreading the relations of capital under the guise of 'democracy' are still called 'neo-liberals'). People who support capitalism are now called "economic conservatives." The Christian socialist movement in the 19th century was huge, and that seems like an unbelievable paradox to many (certainly not all) Christians today. Environmental conservatives are not religious conservatives are not economic conservatives are not social conservatives are not political conservatives. Environmental conservatives may have religious, economic, and/or political reasons for rejecting the theory of AGW. I've never actually met a political, social, environmental, economic, and religious conservative. If one wants to address conservatives, each type of conservatism must be addressed.

    I would argue that we are not currently creating a human-centered world. We are creating a world in the interests of the current economic mode, a mode that has no built-in concern for human or environmental interests.
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  50. Suggested reading:

    “Why Conservative White Males Are More Likely to Be Climate Skeptics: Sociologists attempt to pin down what causes some to question the science behind global warming” by Julia Pyper, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Oct 5, 2011

    To access this timely article, click here.
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