Denier Tricks in Action
This is a footnote of the main article:
Talking To Climate Deniers
What I learned, and why you should change your mind about global warming
Let’s have a look at the first ten posts shown on WattsUpWithThat — which touts 314 million pageviews — to see the denier tricks I mentioned in action:
- “Study: weather patterns affect frost timing more than global warming”: acknowledges that the frost-free season has gotten 10 days longer in one century, but says air circulation rather than global warming is the main cause. To me this is a strange argument, since global warming can affect patterns of air circulation; I have no reason to think the two factors are independent. Goal: minimize global warming’s importance in the reader’s mind while showing how scientific the web site is.
- “Contradicting consensus climate science: Study suggests ‘continual warming over the past 11,000 years”: Cherry picks one scientist — a student — researching one proxy temperature record in the Ural mountains. Goal: cast doubt on existing climate science.
- “Climate alarmism: The mother of all availability cascades”: This article claims that ‘Climate change is real, man-made and dangerous’ is “(with absolute certainty) scientific hogwash”. It then discusses real science about human psychology — while promoting several myths about global warming. Goal: make deniers think they are the only sane people.
- “Astronomers propose a new type of planetary object” and “Cutting the grass”: Not about climate change at all. Goal: demonstrate that the site loves real science.
- “China Claims Methane Hydrates Breakthrough May Lead To Global Energy Revolution”: Goal: get readers excited about methane frozen in undersea ice, a brand new kind of CO2-producing fuel.
- “Oxfam’s Climate Warriors Declare War on Poor People”: says that reducing use of coal will hurt poor people. Although global warming is expected to hurt poor countries the most, readers are expected either not to believe that, or to not care because humans don’t cause it. Goal: show that belief in AGW is the real harm. Counterargument: clean tech is getting cheap faster than you think! I currently live in the Philippines, and a neighbor who is too poor to use the electric grid just bought solar panels. If rich countries had invested in clean tech sooner, my neighbor could have had solar panels sooner! Plus, clean energy investment is required anyway because fossil fuels will eventually run out. See the clean energy links at the end of the main article.
- “Climate scientist Josh Willis shows you how to deal with your climate change denying uncle — but fails”. This rebuttal to an anti-denier video has to pull out all the stops. First, it rebuts a comment, made by a non-scientist character in the video, that maybe it’s hot in the desert because of global warming. The rebuttal claims deserts will actually shrink; meanwhile the BBC reports “the evidence is limited and definitive conclusions are impossible to reach”. Next, it sort-of admits as “half true” that solar output has decreased. Then, it greatly downplays the amount of warming in the last 20 years. It cherry-picks a U.S. temperature graph from a 1999 paper that doesn’t show any warming. It makes a plausible argument about paleoclimatology (which I lack the expertise to evaluate). It claims that the antarctic losing ice is a “flat-out lie” — well, recent studies are in conflict about whether land ice is increasing or decreasing, but what’s not in dispute is that both polar oceans have warmed up substantially. It claims bad impacts of global warming are “imaginary”. Huh? Finally, it claims that the “97% consensus” comes from just one study in 2009 and tries to debunk that study — but as we’ve seen there are many studies. In fact, I didn’t even bother talking about the 2009 study because it only showed that human activity is a “significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures”. It’s too easy for deniers to claim that “significant” means “not enough to be concerned about”. Goal: enhance deniers’ mental defenses against AGW “facts” and the people who spread them.
- “Examining the Carbon Dioxide Cycle”: this appears to be a largely correct and scientific-sounding discussion of the largest CO2 exchanges in the atmosphere, but it is worded in a way that downplays the human impact. For instance, immense natural processes absorb CO2 while other immense natural processes emit CO2; because of that, humans only account for 4.7 percent of all CO2 emitted. Goal: state the facts in a way that makes humans sound insignificant, while giving readers a little knowledge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
- Hilarious Peer Reviewed Climate Hoax: “The conceptual penis as a social construct”: Conventional scientific publishing does have several problems that need to be addressed. Concerned scientists have demonstrated more than once that it’s possible to make some journals publish articles that are obviously fake. This article puts a new spin on these lax standards by claiming the way to get a fake article published is to “conform to left wing social prejudices about masculinity, capitalism and climate change”. Goal: piss on liberals and have fun doing it. However, this article demonstrates that the nature of the site is political rather than scientific.
- “Official Climate Agenda is Always the Negative Side; Never Fair and Balanced” by Tim Ball (the retired geography professor featured in “The Great Global Warming Swindle”): Among other things, works hard to cast doubt on the IPCC and make the whole topic of global warming sound like a political one. In reality, the IPCC relies directly on hundreds of climate scientists including contrarians, and indirectly on thousands more who are not subject to its charter. Contrarian conclusions do influence the IPCC’s conclusions, as I touched on in the main article, causing some scientists on the other side to argue that the IPCC is too conservative. His core complaint that contrarians are not given a big enough voice is clearly nonsense, as surveys show that doubts about climate change are far, far greater among the general public (and politicians) than among climatologists. Obviously, the contrarian side’s voice is already too large, otherwise the public consensus would match the scientific one.