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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 151 to 200 out of 261:

  1. A few excerpts from the article:

    "It's a political thing." Liberal white males are more accepting of government regulations and challenges to the status quo because it fits in their political ideology,"

    "the study also found that conservative white men who self-report a high understanding of global warming -- dubbed "confident" conservative males -- are even more likely to express climate change denial."

    The original paper can be found here:
    http://ireswb.cc.ku.edu/~crgc/NSFWorkshop/Readings/Challenging%20Global%20Warming.pdf
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  2. As detailed in this informative article, not all Republicans have gone over the cliff of climate change denial.

    “Retired Republicans Quietly Try to Shift GOP Climate-Change Focus,” National Journal, Oct 3, 2011-10-06

    To access this article, click here.
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  3. Suggested reading:

    “Attention climate wonks: you can’t take the politics out of politics,” by David Roberts, Grist, Oct 6, 2011

    To access this thought provoking article, click here.
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  4. Same old story -

    the risks associated with climate change might require a market intervention, ergo, climate change is not happening or its not bad.
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  5. People on all sides of politics tend to attribute to opponents motives that they find comfortable to oppose. And there is a tendency to see any perceived harm from opponents policies as something intended rather than as a result of different priorities and values. I'm trying to get people here to watch out for such tendencies in themselves as well as in denialists.

    I'm trying to you to try to see what the denialists are seeing when they look at you. And ask yourselves whether there is a grain of truth in the denialist's picture or whether there are errors that you have contributed to. This is not letting denialists off the hook. The vast majority of their irresponsibility is their fault. But cavalier dismissal of their values is not the way to deal with them.

    We do face an emergency. It is counterproductive to let yourselves be seen as trying to use the emergency to gain other goals. Engage those conservative values that support doing something effective. And identify what their fears are and try to avoid unnecessarily triggering them.
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  6. Lloyd Flack - Agreed, it's important to not drop to the gutter when arguing with the denialists (but the gutter is so warm and inviting!). And the best motivator is self-interest - the challenge is in framing the issues so that those blocking action see reasonable change is in their interests too.

    Still, how can one treat with respect those who post several completely bogus arguments per day (I can think of several candidates there), who flatly lie to Congress, who repeat the same canards over and over after being presented with the data, all with complete disregard for logic, evidence, or anything aside from rhetorical distortions to support their ideology? I wish I had an answer to that...
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  7. Good points Lloyd. The screams that climate change shows capitalism past its use-by date would be one common example. There are many times when I think the requirements of adjusting to climate change are being used to push other agendas.
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  8. I agree, even though the process is nightmarishly messy and time consuming. It's the kind of effort Kim Stanley Robinson describes in the Mars trilogy.

    Scaddenp, to claim that the mode of capitalism does not hinder in any way efforts to mitigate is just as bad as claiming it is the root of all evil. The mode and its relation to the historical development of climate change must be understood critically, and there is very strong evidence for a link between the mode itself (not simply industrialism) and the ability to effectively change ecological relations. However, there is also nothing in the basic mechanism of socialism that requires a stable climate. An economic mode that features democratic control of the means of production is not necessarily one that seeks to stabilize the climate. Such stabilization might be more likely under socialism, but that's an argument for another day.

    The basic need is to identify long-range human interests and realize a realistic path from here to there, given current material conditions and the force of history that resides in our myriad ideologies. I think that fits Lloyd's perspective, but I do have the same reservation that KR has: what of those who willfully refuse to engage the science? And what of those who use the banner of "conservatism" to mask an indifference to the long-range human interests that many conservatives uphold?
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  9. DSL - I dont. However, the rhetoric of "Capitalism has failed and time to replace with (Utopia_of_choice)" isn't helping the right wing come to grips the science. That kind of talk is what I understood Lloyd was alluding to. For certain political elements, climate change issues is just another weapon with which to push their agenda. I personally don't see how climate change can effectively handled without some kind of market intervention but that is long way from "capitalism is dead".
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  10. DSL - I would much prefer dealing with an honest man (all credit to Doonesbury) than a professional dissembler. But we have to deal with what we get...

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  11. No politics?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Please review the Comments Policy which clearly spells these things out.
  12. #161 GEP, no politics is the rule on all threads with only a few exceptions. This thread is one of those exceptions but there are still some rules: avoid generalizations, avoid labeling people, avoid implying there are ulterior motives behind the science, etc.
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  13. Scaddenp, I certainly appreciate your perspective on the interaction between science and politics in this thread. To some extent it doesn't whether or not there is rhetoric like "capitalism has failed" here or not. If rhetoric like that were a problem, it would be trumpeted all the time at sites like what's up. But try googling that site and sks and socialism and there really aren't many hits.

    It's pointless to deny that right wing politics has a certain synergy with an anti-science element. But the generalization is probably stretched too far to equate American right wing politics with capitalism. Your "challenge for the right" thread is a constructive attempt to address a particular political problem, the various dimensions of which may not be always adequately appreciated.
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  14. Denialism seems to me to be mostly an American attitude. There are denialists in other countries but they seem to be mostly influenced by the American denialists. While most denialists in Australia and the UK are on the right, most of the right are not denialists. Might I suggest that there are some attitudes that are particularly common in the US that encourage denialism. The question is what are they?

    Any suggestions that I make here will be speculative. But these are my impressions.

    It is my impression that Americans tend to think about authority differently to most other nations. Americans are I think reluctant to see authority as residing in people. They want it to reside in rules.

    I wonder whether this contributes to many thinking that they know better than scientists. Any authority that a scientist could be seen as having is personal. Could it be that many are reluctant to defer to another person rather than the holder of an office.

    And I wonder whether this emphasis on rules contributes to the pursuit of inflexible principles framed in terms of rights. Could this contribute to various freedoms being protected no matter what the cost. Morality being thought of as inflexible principles rather than approches and guidelines. This approch allows them to try to deny any discretion to those in power reducing them to carrying out rules. Could this contribute to the market becoming sacred and protected at all costs?

    As I said these are impressions and speculations not claims of fact.
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  15. 165, Lloyd,

    Note to moderators: This comment skirts very close to violating the comments policy, because it wanders somewhat into politics. I feel that Lloyd's observation deserves a response, and it is still focused on the current subject (Understanding climate denial).

    I see a pretty vocal Aussie denial machine. Admittedly, other countries do not seem as bad, with the exception perhaps of an occasional Lord Viscount Confabulator or two.

    As far as Americans and rules... Americans are instinctively (historically?) distrustful of any government, including their own. The want power to rest with the people, but know that the powerful and influential will always warp the system, so the people's only true control is through strict, inviolable rules.

    It is very true that we will make a rule to an extreme, such as protecting free speech, even if doing so facilitates neo-nazi hatred, predatory commercial practices, and terrorism. The same applies to the right to bear arms, even though allowing that right also increases accidental deaths and criminal acts. It's very, very hard for us to bring ourselves to invite exceptions that could later be used against us.

    Those aspects of strict, axiomatic rules are absolutely are a part of the American psyche.

    [It is actually abhorrent and absurd to us that the Brits could live with an unwritten constitution. How crazy is that?]

    But my own read on it is that American denialism is founded in a twisted version of conservatism that has arisen only in the past decade. It is supported by the Fox News mouthpiece, which is the first truly political-party controlled (or might as well be) national media outlet this country has ever seen, and it has no opposite number, no matter how much they might give lip service to the supposed left-wing media.

    The current brand of American conservatism has shifted its focus from true individual liberties, fiscal responsibility and limited federal power (to which they now only give constant contradictory and hypocritical lip service), to one of a focus on Christian morals (to the detriment of personal liberties), excessive federal power in matters of security and common defense, and a deference to business, corporations, and a 100% regulation free market system as the main ingredient to prosperity and happiness.

    This last element is the key to everything. It is a recurring theme in how to tax people, social entitlements, and controlling climate change. Let the market decide all. That is the current conservative credo, and leads to serious myopia on every single issue.

    All in all, today sees a very twisted version of conservatism when compared to anything from the Federalists and Antifederalists of 1787-1791 to the Republicans of the 1860s, 1940s, 1960s or 1980s. I just wish more conservatives would study history to understand that they are something new, different and very, very dangerous. They are not their father's brand of Republican.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "it wanders somewhat into politics"

    Unfortunately, climate denialism and politics are an inseparable duo, joined at the hip like Siamese twins.  Leeway is allowed on threads of this nature, as long as things don't go too far.

  16. Actually, it's quite the opposite, Lloyd. People in the U.S. like rules and order, but only if those rules and that order fits their individual, self-defined interests. External authority is almost always seen as tyrannical, unless it is carefully circumscribed and limited into uselessness. In the U.S., there is a love-hate relationship with the traditional forms of authority in religion, representative democracy, and capitalism, mechanisms which offer freedom and individual empowerment and at the same time impose an external authority.
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  17. Ref 162. I apologize if the point was not made sufficiently clearly. The point of the comment is: there is no form of energy accessible to human society which is not previously derived from a nuclear reactor, whether that nuclear reactor is sited in our own back yard or in the sun. Should I repost it to another thread?
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    Response:

    [DB] It was most appropriate where you initially posted it, on the "It's the sun" thread.  That being said, in it's construction you give no context to why it was relative even there, as you make no "given this information, this _____ is _____" statement to close off the comment.

     

    Unless you are disputing the evidence behind the forces causing the waming of the climate observed.  If so, depending on which part you are disputing, use the Search function in the upper left of every page to find the most suitable thread to continue the discussion there, not here.

    But first read that thread (and the comments therein) before posting your comment.

  18. GEP, search SkS for "nuclear," and find the most appropriate thread. It sounds like you're trying to argue for nuclear power as a solution.
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  19. DSL, Sphaerica,

    I know that Australia seems to have the next worst denialist machine or possibly being an Australian it is particularly visible to me. Even so it is considerably weaker than the corresponding American movement. Also it seems to me to take its cues from the American denialists. Granted this is partially numbers.

    What I was trying to get at is that denialism's main home seems to be in the American right, not so much the right in other countries. And that perhaps it is in interaction between right wing ideology and values that are more influential in the whole of the US than they are in other countries. Perhaps it is the downside of American anti-authoritarianism and egalitarianism.
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  20. Lloyd,

    Yes, absolutely, the American denial machine is it, and it is founded on the right.

    But you have the source wrong. It's founded, I'm pretty sure, almost entirely on the recent trend towards equating wealth with liberty, prosperity, and happiness, and a 100% free, unregulated market as the only path towards wealth.

    Anything, from taxes to regulations, that interferes with the free market is interpreted to be a harbinger of doom.

    Climate change implies the need for regulation, which the American right has been programmed to believe will destroy the economy, which will cost jobs, which will hurt everyone, even if you're not a member of the 1% of the population that qualifies as wealthy.

    Corporations must be free to fire employees, hold wages down, drill for oil where ever they find it, build coal plants, and to compete entirely without interference from the government. Somehow, though, billions a year in subsidies and tax breaks for already immensely profitable fossil fuel companies is okay.
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  21. " If rhetoric like that were a problem, it would be trumpeted all the time at sites like what's up. "

    Try non-USA sites (like our very own Hot-topic) and you will find that rhetoric among commentators. I havent seen much overtly socialist advocacy on American media that I visit, but I think it hidden in veiled commentary.
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  22. Here's some interesting news relevant to this discussion of denial.

    I'm sure we've all come across people who, seemingly illogically, just refuse to consider negative evidence; as if they have some sort of mental block. It seems it might have a basis in brain function.
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  23. Scientific "consensus" is an odd way of advancing science. We do not talk about such a thing when we discuss gravity, we know the theory can be tested and has yet to be proved wrong. No-one seriously doubts it. The same applies to HIV and AIDS. There is a virus, it can be identified and no-one(so far as I know) suggests that people have contracted AIDS without the HIV being present. Smoking and lung cancer is a bit different because we do not yet have a perfect explanation about how smoke causes cancer. Here there may be a consensus about the mechanism but the evidence is not yet all in, as far as I know. We can say that if you do not smoke you are very unlikely to develop lung cancer, but we cannot say that absolutely all people who develop lung cancer are smokers. The statistical correlation between lung cancer and smoking was however very strong. When Sir Richard Doll started to investigate the rise in lung cancer rates in the UK he found that of his 700 cases 698 were smokers and, as a result, he gave up smoking while conducting his investigation.

    All of these cases are in sharp contrast to the case of man made global warming. Unfortunately climate is a complex business and does not lend itself to easy explanations. The evidence is not remotely overwhelming and is unlikely to become so because there are so many possible influences on climate that no possible way exists of disentangling the effect of each factor. The claims that we know that if the CO2 concentration increases by 100% the world will warm by 2C or 3C or 4C or not at all are what would be labelled in other areas as "scientistic", that is to say they have the trappings of science but are in fact not scientific at all. To compare the fantastic work of Sir Richard Doll with the pseudoscience of climate modelling is a disgrace to his memory.
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  24. Elsa:
    Ask Dr. Lindzen (the well known climate denier) about the link between smoking and cancer: he claims there is no data to support it. One of the past Presidents of South Africa denied that HIV caused AIDS. Gravity theory has been challenged in the last few decades (check alternative gravity versus dark matter theories). If you do not pay attention to scientific developments you are not aware of what is current.

    All science advances by consensus. If you learn more about science you will realize that is the way science works. How much of this site is dedicated to modeling? Learn more about the data that supports climate science and you will lament models less.
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  25. Elsa, climate modeling is an attempt to forecast climate based on a sound physical model and probable conditions. It is the equivalent of Doll saying, "Smoking will continue to cause premature deaths in smokers at a rate of 75 per 100 over the next 100 years." His work was not predictive, or, if it became predictive, it would have the same basic weakness of all models of real world phenomena: the unknown. Yet science is pointless without such predictive applications (as Doll notes through the act of quitting smoking).

    Climate, as you say, is extraordinarily complex, and it must include the human element, so it becomes even more complex. Does that necessarily mean that it should not be done or that it is currently being done poorly? No. Many of the models are actually quite good. Note that you offer a range of between 0C and 4C, but you do not give the model confidence for any values in this range. This suggests you haven't studied climate modeling. Yet you make absolute statements about the activity. If you have questions, ask them.

    Further comments on modeling should be posted to the appropriate threads. Use the search function for "models" -- there are quite a few threads on the subject.

    Oh, and there has been a great deal of work done recently on causes of genetic mutation in smokers. See this study in Nature.
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  26. Michael.

    I disagree. Science does not advance by consensus. Consensus (if it occurs) is one of the last steps in advancing science, and only occurs after much scientific work has been performed. Science advances by individual scientists breaking through previously perceived boundaries to make new discoveries. Oftentimes, these scientists are ridiculed by their peers for proposing such "ridiculous" theories. These theories go against the established scientific tenets (consensus), and require sufficient proof to convince the scientific establishment.

    Look at history, how many scientific theories were advanced by consensus? Consensus is for bureaucrats and politicans. Science advances by research and evidence. I side with Elsa on this one.
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  27. This looks like semantics and/or sophistry to me.

    Yes, science is advanced by research... but scientific advancements are recognized by consensus. Mendel did the research to advance science with the understanding of genetics... but nobody noticed until decades after he had died. Further research on genetics was stalled until the work was rediscovered and a consensus grew that it was correct and useful information.
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  28. 173, elsa,
    ...they have the trappings of science but are in fact not scientific at all.
    Spoken clearly and unequivocally by someone who clearly does not understand the science well enough, or else you would not make such an outrageously false statement.

    I suggest you begin with Dr. Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming.

    When you have studied enough to understand what we do in fact know, how, and how well, then you can come back and correct your own mistaken post.
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  29. Jonathan, that's an odd view. Most scientific work (advancement) is not "breaking through." Most scientific work is recognizing gaps in previous work (existing understanding) and working to fill those gaps. Most scientists do not go to work each day hoping to overturn the fundamentals of their disciplines. The scientific understanding of the world has become more and more precise over the last 200 years. That is true largely because scientists have been able to build carefully and methodically on the work of their predecessors rather than constantly re-writing the fundamentals.

    And it is not "individual" scientists doing this. Science is highly social, and major breakthroughs (not breaking through perceived boundaries but finally having the means to fill in a tough gap) occur through the work of often dozens of scientists. I can't remember the last time I saw a major study in the hard sciences authored by one individual. Your perceived moments of the individual Galileo are extremely rare. Most major changes to the fundamentals occur through individuals who work within schools of thought, schools that have developed for years with a core group of scientists. Finally, one can scarcely move a few centimeters through the history of science without tripping over failed schools of thought.
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  30. 173, elsa,
    Scientific "consensus" is an odd way of advancing science.
    A strawman.

    No one ever said that consensus advances science.

    The point is that the scientists working actively in the field have reached a point where they all pretty much agree on what they understand and what it means. That happened simply because they all started to individually come to the same conclusions. They didn't get together and take a vote, or debate on a group position, or adopt it as a strategy. That's just what happens. After a while everyone starts to say "wait a minute, this is all starting to fit."

    That's called a consensus.

    The problem is that no one's ever before had to prove to legions of deniers that such a consensus does or does not exist. No one every really even thinks about it and says "aha, I think we have a consensus!"

    No, normally science just works.

    What you have now, however, are legions of deniers who don't know what they're talking about, don't want to either understand or accept the science, and who attempt to circumvent the science by manufacturing the illusion of doubt, and part of that illusion is to claim that there are a lot of reputable scientists who disagree with current climate science.

    There are only a handful, because there is in fact a consensus, which is the tangential result of everyone having done so much research that most of the pieces fit, and very few people question how they fit or what they mean.
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  31. elsa As Sphaerica suggests, nobody has said that consensus advances science, it is the other way round, the consensus is the result of advances in the science reducing the key uncertainties to the point that (more or less) everybody is in agreement on the basics.

    Perhaps you should read "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn. He basically argues that science proceeds via a sequence of paradigms, each of which represents the current mainstream view of the science of the day, which persists until the flaws in the current paradigm become overwhelming and there is a scientific revolution leading to a new (hopefully improved) paradigm. So according to at least one well known philosopher of science, the existence of a consensus is what you would expect to see once a paradigm has been established (i.e. the science is essentially settled - at least for the moment ;o).

    I'm not personally much of a fan of Kuhn, IMHO all scientific progress shifts mainstream view if only imperceptably and it is hard to define what size of shift is categorised as a paradigm shift and what isn't. However the point remains that the existence of a consensus is evidence of a stable paradigm (i.e. a mainstream view of the science that is essentially robust in which a fatal flaw has yet to be revealed. Skeptics often think they have driven the final nail into the coffin of AGW, but unfortunately they have usually just bashed their thumb).
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  32. Scientific advancement can occur through individuals or groups of individuals (my post was not intented to mean one person working in a vacuum), and can occur through filling in small gaps of knowledge or through major breakthroughs. In eash case, the current mainstream view changes vased on the new work, as Dikran explained previously. Some changes can be imperceptively small, others can have dramatic effects.

    I have to agree with Sphaerica that nobody wakes up one day and says we have a consensus. Oftentimes, a consensus is never reached as differing theories keep moving in different directions (a classic example of this is the theoris of dinosaur extinction). The odd thing about AGW, is that this is the first time I can remember people arguing about a scientific consensus, and whether or not one exists.
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  33. DikranM#181:

    This 'consensus is bad' argument is the ultimate strawman. Would those who challenge the value of consensus be satisfied if more climate scientists disagreed about the causes of climate change? The 'skeptic' who raises this herring is hoping that the subsequent discussion will forget that it is the consensus of the evidence, not the consensus of opinion that counts.
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  34. Good point, muon. Consensus of opinion is important, though, because it can change the direction of scientific activity in a world of limited resources. The interface with the democracy is, after all, where the real battle is being fought right now, and that is the realm of the consensus of opinion, for better or worse. The same people who publicly tout Dr. Pielke as an example of non-consensus do so in order to sway public opinion against the position that something needs to be done--ironically, a position that Pielke has repeatedly endorsed.

    DM: Too many people use Kuhn to support the idea that progress is an illusion: paradigms will always be shifted--science changes like fashion.

    One interesting study into the idea of consensus is performed indirectly by Charles Mann in his 1491 (haven't seen 1493 yet).
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  35. 182, Jonathon,
    The odd thing about AGW, is that this is the first time I can remember people arguing about a scientific consensus, and whether or not one exists.
    Exactly my point. It rarely happens.

    It happened in a less precise way with tobacco and cancer. And CFCs and the ozone hole. But in those cases it was a lot more of "we don't know" than "there is no consensus."

    So why do you think there is this consensus argument now?

    If you go to look at all of the literature (search around scholar.google.com) and get a really good feel for what's going on in the field, versus what is pumped up in neon and sparklers in the blogosphere... what do you think?

    Forget studies, and surveys, and everything else. Just by glancing at scientific papers and seeing how most climate scientists talk to each other... is there a consensus?

    This isn't the thread to answer that question, but when you do get an answer, then you can ask yourself again about why this is the first time this question of "consensus" is arising, and the answer is a single word.

    I'll give you a hint. It begins with the letter "d."
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  36. Michael Sweet: you say Dr. Lindzen says there is no link between smoking and cancer. I have not seen his views on this but I would have some sympathy. There is no causal explanation established (contrary actually to the CO2 warming theory where there is) between smoking and lung cancer although there is a high degree of correlation within one country between the two (it falls down when you try it across many countries I believe).
    You say past Presidents of South Africa denied that HIV caused AIDS. Actually I think it is one and I am not aware that he has any scientific credentials. No scientist has ever suggested this.
    You also say "Gravity theory has been challenged in the last few decades." I think the theory has been challenged by refinements to the basic theory, which is what happens if science is to advance.
    You say "All science advances by consensus." I could not disagree more and luckily I see I am not alone in this view in this blog, there are plenty of warmists who have commented here who understand that science advances from testing competing points of view, not consensus. If you need more help in this area I would be happy to explain it to you in more detail.

    Next you say "How much of this site is dedicated to modeling? Learn more about the data that supports climate science and you will lament models less." I find that the more I look at the models the less I am impressed by them.
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  37. elsa, what is a "warmist" and who do you believe are the "warmists" who have "commented here" ?
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  38. "I find that the more I look at the models the less I am impressed by them. "

    Exactly how are you looking at models? Studying the code? Comparing prediction to observations on the time scales of model skill? Or what?
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  39. Elsa,
    Consensus is what is left when the data is clear. The consensus does not advance the science, the science advances to form the consensus.

    You provided smoking as an example of consensus in science, not me. I provided a climate denier that challenged your view expressed here. He is as wrong about smoking as he is about climate change.

    3 seconds on Google yields "Thabo Mbeki invited several HIV/AIDS denialist" these people have credentials as strong as the AGW deniers you refer to.

    The proponents of dark matter say the challenge to gravity is too great to be considered, not a small adjustment see here for example.

    These are specific challenges to show that your examples of scientific consensus are not completely accepted as you claimed. The deniers of climate change are just louder and better financed than the other examples I cited.

    My point about models is that the data that supports AGW is overwhelming without any model data at all. If you look beyond the denier arguments about models you will see that is the case. The paleo data alone is enough to show we are in big trouble, not to mention rising sea levels, retreating ice, increasing drought (and floods), and record temperatures.
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  40. I don't think I suggested that consensus advances science so my apologies if I gave that impression. The smoking consensus was not raised by me it was raised in the article. The HIV/AIDS point seems to me no comparison at all. We can test the HIV/AIDS theory. If for example we found an AIDS patient without the HIV we could demonstrate the theory to be wrong. Mr Mbeki has, so far as I know, no qualifications at all in this area. If I did not think that the HIV explanation was a very good one I would be interested to hear his alternative, but as it is I have no great inclination to seek out what is almost certainly a load of rubbish.
    I do not understand why you say the data that supports AGW is overwhelming "without any model data at all". I agree that there is good evidence that the world has become a bit warmer in recent years. How you manage to attribute that to specific causes is the question. The data you refer to is all indicative of warming but nothing more. It does not establish a link between CO2 and the recent rise in temperature. Nor do I really understand why if you perceive the science to be about temperature and mankind you then talk about ice, sea levels etc. These could change for other reasons. I would have thought if you were interested in the science it would be better just to stick to temperature and not confuse the issue.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] There are many lines of evidence that are finger prints of anthropogenic climate change that are independent of the models, for instance a cooling stratosphere. There is certainly rather more than merely "good evidence that the world has become a bit warmer in recent years." If you wish to discuss how warming can be attributed to anthropogenic causes, then I'm sure that there are many here who would be happy to join you in such a discussion, but it is heading off-topic for this thread, the one I linked to above would be more appropriate. It is perfecly reasonable to include sea levels and ice caps in the discussion as the consequences of anthropogenic climate change are relevant to any policy decisions, so it is vital to have the science right on the likely consequences as well as the causes.
  41. DSL You say "climate modeling is an attempt to forecast climate based on a sound physical model and probable conditions."
    I don't really understand what you mean by "a sound physical model". As far as I know we have no knowledge outside the models themselves of the relationship between eg CO2 and temperature. We are not given the information by physics that we could then test. What we have is information obtained by measurements about temperature and CO2 which we then fit together in a model. But the logic here is circular. Of course the data will fit because we have made it do so! Where the relationship between the two variables does not hold we add in something else to ensure that it continues to do so.

    This is quite the reverse of Sir Richard Doll's work. When he started out he had no preconceptions about what was causing the rise in lung cancer rates. His initial hunch was that the tarmacing of roads was the problem. Only after his work did he come up with the smoking/cancer relationship.

    In my view this is the flaw in the warmist argument. The "scientific" evidence for AGW is completely lacking because it is dependant on the models, which are not really scientific at all, although by using maths and complex jargon they give a sophisticated impression. Until the warmists are able to come up with falsifiable propositions a truly scientific consensus cannot come about.
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    Response:

    [DB]  "The "scientific" evidence for AGW is completely lacking because it is dependant on the models, which are not really scientific at all, although by using maths and complex jargon they give a sophisticated impression."

    It is indeed hard to take you seriously when you make statements like this.  The "evidence" is largely empirical, consisting of things we can see and measure in our world.  Multiple, independent lines of consilient evidence exist, all fully consistent with the radiative physics of CO2:

    F1

    Your comments reveal a fundamental lack of knowledge (which is no slam, as we all start somewhere), so let's start at the beginning:  Welcome to Skeptical Science! 

    There is an immense amount of reference material discussed here and it can be a bit difficult at first to find an answer to your questions.  That's why we recommend that Newcomers, Start Here and then learn The Big Picture.

    I also recommend watching this video on why CO2 is the biggest climate control knob in Earth's history.

    Further general questions can usually be be answered by first using the Search function in the upper left of every Skeptical Science page to see if there is already a post on it (odds are, there is).  If you still have questions, use the Search function located in the upper left of every page here at Skeptical Science and post your question on the most pertinent thread.

    All pages are live at SkS; many may be currently inactive, however.  Posting a question or comment on any will not be missed as regulars here follow the Recent Comments threads, which allows them to see every new comment that gets posted here.

    Comments primarily dealing with ideologies are frowned upon here.  SkS is on online climate science Forum in which participants can freely discuss the science of climate change and the myths promulgated by those seeking to dissemble.  All science is presented in context with links to primary sources so that the active, engaging mind can review any claims made.

    Remember to frame your questions in compliance with the Comments Policy and lastly, to use the Preview function below the comment box to ensure that any html tags you're using work properly.

    As for models, perhaps start with the Models are unreliable page.

  42. elsa, you really need to look at the link in Dikran's response to you. You claim the evidence for AGW is based on models, yet it is not. There is a wealth of observation you appear not to be seeing. For just one example, you are ignoring the changes in longwave radiation escaping Earth or returning to the surface that are measured, and just so happen to be at specific absorbtion wavelengths for CO2. Different molecules absorb and re-emit radiation at very specific different frequencies - this is the foundation stone of modern astronomy (spectroscopy) among other things, without which we would not know such things as the composition of stars or the distances to galaxies (through redshifting of specific wavelengths of radiation).

    The relationship between CO2 and longwave IR was first experimentally observed in the 19th Century! You do know that you yourself can conduct a CO2 experiment with a couple of bottles, a couple of thermometers and a source of CO2?
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  43. correction to my #192 - I meant the expansion rate of the Universe rather than the distances through redshift - oops! Distances are measured through Type 1A supernovae, known as such due to their spectral characteristics.
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  44. "It is perfecly reasonable to include sea levels and ice caps in the discussion as the consequences of anthropogenic climate change are relevant to any policy decisions, so it is vital to have the science right on the likely consequences as well as the causes."

    I would agree with that. But you need to be sure that it is done that way round, that is to say as consequences of climate change. It is not satisfactory to say eg that rising sea levels demonstrate that the world is warming still less that they demonstrate that the world is warming as a result of mankind.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "It is not satisfactory to say eg that rising sea levels demonstrate that the world is warming still less that they demonstrate that the world is warming as a result of mankind."

    Without more to go by, you give us hand-waving.  Unfortunately, this is redolent with denial.  Please see my response to your previous comment.

    [Dikran Marsupial] As requested, please take the discussion of specific scientific topics to a more appropriate thread. As I pointed out, the evidece that the observed warming is substantially anthropogenic in origin is pretty well established, see the multiple lines of evidence in the article I mentioned in my previous comment.
  45. elsa wrote: "It is not satisfactory to say eg that rising sea levels demonstrate that the world is warming"

    Really? Then what is your alternative hypothesis? Have millions of comets fallen into the oceans while no one was looking? Is rock spontaneously transmogrifying into water? Are the oceans filling with the tears of angels?

    What other than warming explains rising sea levels? Can you name a climate scientist who suggests some other cause? I don't recall seeing even one. Nearly everyone on the planet knows that ice melts into water and water expands as it gets warmer. From these facts it is then obvious that a warming world will cause sea levels to rise both by melting ice and causing water to expand in volume. Could 'something else' cause sea levels to rise? Yes... but absolutely no one (that I know of) has suggested that anything else is doing so. Because there is no evidence of anything else and overwhelming evidence of a warming world... which the rising oceans are just one more confirmation of.

    So why do you introduce a completely substanceless objection? Unless you really do have an alternate hypothesis for why sea levels are rising... or are just casting about for any pretext on which to deny the evidence.
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  46. Sphaerica,

    You asked two questions, and yes, this is not the thread to get into a lengthy discussion about such.

    TO answer accurately, is to know exactly to what you are referring. If you are asking has the Earth warmed, and is CO2 contributing, then the answer is yes. However, if you are asked to what extend does CO2 contributes to the observed warming, and what will be the future impacts, then I would have to say no. The blogosphere would have people believe that there are two, and only two, sides to the debate when there are in actuality, several different theories (or maybe nuances to the central theory) which explain various portions of the observations. This is where the disagreement occurs, which some seem to think indicates that there is disagreement about the whole.

    I am not sure how the whole argument started. I suspect it may have been an argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to authority). Whatever the reason, whether a consensus exists or not is immaterial. The science will progress, and move in whatever direction the research leads. Most of the scientists will follow, and if a consensus is reached, fine. But it is not necessary.
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  47. Skywatcher and Moderator
    My apologies that my last post came ahead of the receipt by me from the moderator of a response. I had taken the trouble to look through much of this site long before making a comment but I will try to comment in more detail on your comments in the right area in future [snip]

    To stick to the topic here, I think my main point was that the situation of global warming is quite different from that of smoking or AIDS. There is proper science to back those areas whereas the science is lacking for AGW. The whole scientific process for AGW is odd. We do not appoint an equivalent of the IPCC for any other area, nor would we expect eg cancer treatments to be determined by a consensus decided by looking at peer reviewed publications. What we do is look at the competing views and treatments (quite the reverse of consensus in many ways). Underlying this article is a belief that the writer is correct and that anyone who disagrees must be suffering from some sort of delusion or at best be hopelessly ill informed. This has been the way with pseudo science for many years. It is not so long ago that Marxists claimed to have discovered scientific laws about the development of society and Freudians were able to explain anything that any patient brought to them through their "science".
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Moderation complain snipped. This thread is about denial. There are many that are ill-informed regarding the science of climate change, however this is not denial. To be in denial is to be reject evidence of the anthropogenic climate change withoit being able to refute the evidence that is presented, and continue to hold and promote their belief without being willing to discuss the state of the science.
  48. Skywatcher's comment directly addresses your use of Doll:

    "The relationship between CO2 and longwave IR was first experimentally observed in the 19th Century! You do know that you yourself can conduct a CO2 experiment with a couple of bottles, a couple of thermometers and a source of CO2?"

    John Tyndall also had few preconceptions when he worked on the radiative properties of gases in the 19th century. He certainly had no agenda re the theory of AGW, just as Doll, much later, had no agenda with smoking. The theory of AGW has been developing for almost two centuries, elsa. Tens of thousands of observations and experiments have been done that corroborate and confirm the radiative properties of CO2 and other atmospheric gases.

    I'm wondering if this is the appropriate thread for this discussion. This discussion is either highly appropriate here as an example, or, hopefully, it is not at all appropriate and needs to move to other threads (already suggested and linked).
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  49. Elsa, your description is incorrect. We've known the physical basis for AGW for 150 years. The radiative properties of atmospheric gases were not determined after the theory of AGW was developed.

    Further, to dismiss Freud and Marx out of hand suggests that you're either not a careful student of history or that you yourself are doing what you rail against: starting with ideology and trying to fit the facts.
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  50. elsa, [snip]

    "I think my main point was that the situation of global warming is quite different from that of smoking or AIDS. There is proper science to back those areas whereas the science is lacking for AGW."

    This continues to be pure fiction. This site is full of proof to the contrary. Indeed, the science behind AGW is more firmly established than the 'how' of smoking induced cancer.

    "We do not appoint an equivalent of the IPCC for any other area"

    Really? The UN does not have a group dedicated to AIDS research? How strange.

    Does it never bother you that so much of what you write is obviously false?

    "Underlying this article is a belief that the writer is correct and that anyone who disagrees must be suffering from some sort of delusion or at best be hopelessly ill informed."

    See above about false statements. What other conclusions are we to draw?
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Moderation issue dealt with, so response snipped.

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