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The “Have you stopped beating your wife yet (yes/no)” questionnaire

Filed under: — david @ 15 October 2007

I got an email Climate Expert Survey today from DemandDebate.com, a creation of Steve Milloy. Milloy has practiced to deceive before in the climate arena, and his junkscience.com, claiming to debunk the junk science of others, is actually a terrific source of specious deception in its own right. This survey looks like another such initiative. (Note added later: If you get a copy of this, post a comment or send us an email. We’d like to keep track.)

First question. Which best describes the reason(s) for climate change?

[ ] Human activity is the principal driver of climate change.
[ ] Human activity drives climate change, but natural variability is also important.
[ ] Natural variability drives climate change, but human activity is also important.
[ ] Natural variability is the principal driver of climate change.
[ ] No opinion.

The problem with this question is that it doesn’t specify what time frame I am to consider. Before the twentieth century, natural climate change was probably the most important factor. However, I fear that if I allow that, on whatever time scale, “natural variability is also important” my response will be used to argue that “X% of expert climate scientists think that natural variability is an important driver of climate”. As, of course, it is, but natural variability is no argument against the danger of human-induced climate change.

Second question. Which best describes the role of manmade CO2 emissions in climate change?

[ ] Manmade CO2 emissions are the principal driver of climate change.
[ ] Manmade CO2 emissions drive climate change, but other natural and human-related factors are also important.
[ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors drive climate change, but manmade CO2 emissions are important.
[ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors are the principal drivers of climate change.
[ ] No opinion.

Gee. We can’t choose the first option, because climate is sometimes also driven by the intensity of the sun, or by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit, or collapsing ice sheets… Again, though, if the question had been just about the last 30 years, the first option would be arguably right. But that’s not the question asked. Again, “X% of climate experts surveyed said that natural variability is important.” Again, it is, on some time scales. But it doesn’t give any reason not to fear global warming.

The questions being asked here are similar to another equally abused survey by Bray and von Storch. This survey is part of a larger agenda to try to challenge the consensus of climate scientists, and given the long list of statements of consensus from scientific organizations, you’d think they’d give up already.

I declined to participate in the survey and would advise you to do the same.


62 Responses to “The “Have you stopped beating your wife yet (yes/no)” questionnaire”

  1. 1
    Roger Smith says:

    Don’t forget the http://ultimateglobalwarmingchallenge.com/ where you can prove or disprove manmade global warming and earn up to $125,000. Only catch- they may or may not award a winner, they admit it’s quite subjective and entirely up to their judgment, and it costs $15 to enter and they get to keep the entry fee. Clever.

  2. 2
    Joe Mulhern says:

    Correct Roger, and also the word “proof” in science is reserved only for logical arguments, and therefore it is used only in the field of mathematics. It is not seen in other areas of science because by its very definition it cannot be refer to an empirical argument. Since climatology, physics, meteorology, biology, chemistry, and geology are all experimental sciences, the word “proof” has no meaning in them. The problem is that skeptics will argue that since something cannot be proved, it is therefore wrong. This mentality is serious misunderstanding of what science is and what it hopes to accomplish. A more accurate view of science is articulated quite nicely by Neils Bohr in this quotation refering to the study of quantum mechanics:

    “There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum mechanical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”

  3. 3

    Thanks for this useful insight into how an attack on the scientific consensus can be manufactured David. I liked the post but I thought your title was poorly chosen and open to misunderstanding.

    You may have meant it as an example of a survey question that has an in-built pitfall. If there are only yes/no answers, then if you answer “yes” you admit you previously beat your wife, if you answer “no” you admit you are still beating your wife.

    However, on first reading I thought you were making a joke about wife beating. If so, it is not acceptable and you shouldn’t use it as an attempt at humour.

    To avoid misunderstanding, I recommend you change the title to something like, “Manufacturing uncertainty and debate” or “Recognising traps in expert surveys”.

    [Response: Sorry, I didn't mean to offend. It's a classic example of a double-bind type of question, exactly as you figured out. I gather you hadn't heard it before. I didn't make it up. Neither of your suggested titles really grabs me, but I'll keep thinking on it. David]

  4. 4
    ScruffyDan says:

    Wow i never knew the power of debate! I never realized that stuff could be proved/disproved by a simple debate. To think the thousands of dollar that have been wasted on scientific research, when all was needed was a good old fashion debate. That will teach you fools for listening to scientists.

  5. 5
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. #2. how about `

    The “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” questionnaire

    [Response: Hokay. David]

  6. 6
    tamino says:

    Proper statistical treatment of survey results is difficult enough. One must also compensate for the fact that no survey sample is truly random. And of course, the questions must be designed so as not to introduce bias into the results.

    That’s why objective polling organizations (Gallup etc.) must work so hard to keep bias out of their results. Alas, it’s trivially easy to introduce bias if one wishes to! Doing so is one of the time-tested most popular methods of generating misinformation.

  7. 7
    Figen Mekik says:

    I think the title is ok because it is a pretty widely known cliche.. It assumes the guy is a wife beater, so the question is “has he stopped”. And the assumption made in the survey is that anthropogenic climate change is a matter of opinion. How do you feel about it? Like some democratic resolution will fix the problem. Gee, if only we could ignore the science and make AGW go away by voting it off or blaming it on the sun.

  8. 8
    Daniel Clarke says:

    Re: #2

    Please don’t change the title. Surely an important part of this post is that superficially reasonable questions can be misleading and dangerous.
    What I take away from this is that you cannot rely on the superficial and must a) look deeper and b) find out more.
    It is very much to Mr McGrath’s credit that he did both.

  9. 9
    Greg Simpson says:

    While I have no idea what the motivation was for sending out this poll, the questions listed really don’t seem very misleading. While it should be explicitly stated, I think it is obvious that the current warming is the subject, and not, e.g., the PETM. Poll questions always seem to be at least somewhat poorly worded, and these look better than average.

    For the questions listed, I would have no problem choosing the first response for the first question and the second response for the second (as methane, CFCs and aerosols are also important warming agents).

    [Response: Just wait. If this survey doesn't end up used for deceptive purposes, I'll eat my hat (that's another classic saying, not really about hats). David]

  10. 10

    An interesting question for us all would be “When do you think human civization will stop producing GHGs?” Follow-up: “What will human civilization look like at that point?”

  11. 11
    Russ Doty says:

    You science types could send Steve Milloy a reply questionnaire. First question: Have you stopped sending spurious questionnaires yet? []no []no

  12. 12
    Joel Shore says:

    Greg (#9): I disagree. These seem to be purposely ambiguously-worded…and, in fact, plays quite a lot on the sort of confusions prevalent in the non-scientific community. How many times have we seen someone argue against the AGW theory by saying something like, “Well, how do you explain how the earth warmed out of the ice age long before humans were driving around in their SUVs?”

    So, in fact, this is the sort of question that I think is more likely to “trip up” a scientist rather than a lay person because the scientist will be sensitive to the fact that missing from the question is any qualifier about when one is talking about and will thus go toward one of the middle answers that more accurately answers the question in the general sense in which it was stated.

    How hard is it to actually phrase the question more clearly (or divide it into several questions, e.g., one covering climate over the eons, one covering climate over the last 50 years, and one covering what one expects to be the primary driver over the next century)?

  13. 13

    It’s fortunate that David was perceptive enough to see through the traps being laid by the antis. I’m pretty that a number of scientists wont catch on to their duplicity. A time frame is very important to the answer to both questions.
    BTW after Liza Minelli kicked the stuffing( or whatever) out of her former husband, we were hoping she’d sign up with the football Giants or the Jets. Spousal “disagreements” can work both ways.

  14. 14
    Eli Rabett says:

    How about “why haven’t you condemned Al Gore’s nine errors yet?”

  15. 15
    Doug Watts says:

    How about, “If this is all so true, why are you still driving a car?”

    That’s what stopped Einstein in 1916. Hubble had to slap him around to get him back to work.

  16. 16
    Peter Roessingh says:

    I find a rather high level of conspiracy thinking here. Maybe i am naive, but i would tend to go by the saying “Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”

  17. 17

    Thanks for the suggestion from #5 about clarifying the title and the explanation from David about it. I wasn’t familiar with this style of questioning but I understand the point of the title now and I guess that is exactly the purpose of this post – to alert people to pitfalls and hidden agendas cloaked in reasonable sounding questions.

    Re #4, it is important for experts to be wary of hidden traps on this issue. The scientific debate about AGW has been largely settled based on the evidence and theories presented in favour of it, but the public and political debate is still being manipulated by people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to accept the fact that AGW is real. These people don’t play fair or by the rules of scientific debate because they don’t have the scientific evidence or ability to develop a better theoretical explanation for current observations (if they did they’d publish their evidence and theories in peer reviewed journals).

  18. 18

    Alright, how about a little word play!

    First question. Which best describes the reason(s) for understanding?

    [ ] Facts are a principal driver of human understanding.
    [ ] Facts drive human understanding, but bias is also important.
    [ ] Bias drives human understanding, but facts are also important.
    [ ] Bias is the principal driver of human understanding.
    [ ] No opinion.

    The problem with this question is that it ignores common sense reasoning in consideration of facts and bias as they pertain to understanding. It does not address the external meta systems of influence on interpretation of facts, influences on bias and the dynamics of human understanding.

    Second question. Which best describes the role of human understanding in interpreting facts or bias?

    [ ] Human understanding is the principal driver of facts/bias.
    [ ] Human understanding drives facts/bias, but other natural and human-related factors are also important.
    [ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors drive facts/bias, but human understanding is important.
    [ ] Other natural and/or human-related factors are the principal drivers of facts/bias.
    [ ] No opinion.

    The problem with this question is that it is true and false on both sides of the argument. Facts don’t change but are subject to, and victim of, bias as a system of thought or consciousness, which manipulates and/or alters interpretation including group dynamics of psychology and belief as well as associated proclivity; and the further complications of dynamic individual and group understanding based on premise (usually pre-concieved notions that such groups stand for ‘should not be questioned’; or you’re labeled/branded, not as intelligent as the group).

    Such a poll as the DemandDebate.com is morally abhorrent to the more comprehensive reasoning mind. Extrapolating its premise reminds me of the same brand of arguments that fomented the McCarthy era (thought they are more subtle), which though tamed for a period has been resurrected by our current administration to an uncomfortable degree.

    Edward R. Murrow’s words still ring true that we should not confuse dissent with disloyalty. And, while one must remain open-minded to new arguments (if they are new and relevant) one must also make decisions based on on reasonable understanding of the relevant science. Confusing the issue with such biased debate as put forth by the AGW proponents only delays needed political will to make economically sound decisions.

    Also, to frame an argument in a manner that traps a person into choosing between options that are not comprehensively addressing the scope of the matter at hand is a disservice to intelligence and the development of wisdom, knowledge and understanding that is less biased.

    [Response: masterful. thank you. David]

    Furthermore, the marketing methods of such web sites are clearly designed to make you feel more intelligent if you agree with them (and disagree with relevant science and well reasoned common sense).

    Lastly, their web banner has a formula showing that bias + teaching does not equal education. If they really believed that they would take down their web site. It’s just marketing and another way to get donations for an apparently unreasonable cause.

    PS I like their T-shirt though, but I would not buy it from them. I too am “worried about the intellectual climate”.

    re #14

    If you can afford it, pay attention to this site:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/05/al-gores-movie/
    Try to avoid making assertions on a science web site that has already answered the questions you raise.

    Re. Davids Title

    I think it makes the point well, but can understand those not familiar with the perspective might find it shocking. I still advise you leave the title as is as your point is standing on solid ground there (just my opinion of course).

  19. 19
    Fergus Brown says:

    From personal experience; soliciting scientists’ opinions is both worthwhile and difficult, but can be done; phrasing questions is difficult and always relates to what it is you’re trying to find out, but does not need to be biased; generating a database of legitimate respondents is merely slow and time-consuming, but is certainly doable.
    Experience (and useful feedback from generous individuals such as William, Steve and Eli) also shows me that responses can be both surprising and important. Since initial research, I have calculated that a reasonably full assessment of scientific opinion on even specific questions relating to climate change would take about 1000 hours of preparation, research and analysis.
    Hopefully, Brown, Annan & Pielke Sr., (2007) EOS (submitted), will soon be redrafted and available for discussion. Rather than respond to Milloy, I respectfully suggest instead that some climate scientists would be engaging in a more rigorous and fair evaluation by contributing to the verification project for this (initial) paper.
    Regards,

  20. 20

    re #14

    Not that it is so important, it is interesting to note that your post was 1 hour after the real climate team posted the following:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/convenient-untruths/

    Most arguments have been addressed and seem to just keep getting regurgitated and rehashed.

    We really need to get past this, so once you read the counter arguments in the above link, I suggest you email all your friends and let them know that Global Warming is ‘real’, it’s largely (93% of better) human caused (I could be wrong about that, because my analysis shows that it is likely more than 100% at this point. But I am not an expert, so I apologize for expressing my considered opinion based on my current analysis to those that might be offended.

    My view is limited to the scope of material I have reviewed. I am looking forward to a more critical analysis of the assessment as to likely, or averaged mean (from the models in relation to human added GHG and W/m2) to show the current mean of the models as to % of anthropogenic caused global warming, by the relevant scientific community.

  21. 21
    Wolfie says:

    I think you have chosen a great [very appropriate] title for this post. Good one.

  22. 22
    Nick O. says:

    David: great! Brilliant example of how you can get polls to show anything, if you try hard enough.

    OK then, is it worth the effort trying to put together a counter poll? See who we can in turn trip up, what ludicrous physics and other hypotheses these people work from? e.g:

    [] Human activity, including the activity of our ancient proto-human ancestors, has never and can never have any effect on the climate of the Earth, at any latitude or altitude, under any possible or conceivable circumstances.
    [] Human activity may possibly have had some effect on the climate of the Earth, but only temporarily and at very localised places, and in circumstances in which the noise of other climate changing factors drowns out the anthropogenic signal …

    etc. etc.

    Worth a shot? Could be very funny.

  23. 23
    san quintin says:

    Re No. 20. John, I think your criticism is directed at the wrong person. Eli is clearly not a sceptic….read his blog!

  24. 24
    robert says:

    Re: #9… This is the real trouble with surveys of scientists – the scientists are far more likely to read the question precisely, while the lay public is unable to do so b/c they are generally unaware of the nuance in the question. Of course a laymen would interpret the questions as asking about climate change of present, but hardly any climate scientist would do so; hey underrstand that climate is always changing.

    Re: #16… It’s a generally fair point, but off the mark in the case of Milloy. While I hesitate to use the word malice, as I can’t see into his soul, it is definitely not a case of stupidity (in the sense that he doesn’t understand what he’s doing). Perhaps a better characterization is “deliberately misleading.” Milloy is unquestionably planning to use the results to claim that there is no consensus among scientists re: attribution of present-day climate change. And he has designed his survey to obtain precisely that result.

    Re: #19… While I don’t disagree that soliciting scientific opinion can be beneficial, I have to say I find the most informative survey on the scientific thinking to be a survey of the published, peer-reviewed literature. If one wants to know if qualified, active climate researchers dispute AGW, look at the literature. This has been done effectively by the IPCC and by Oreskes. Questionnaires, in my view, are a far worse gauge of the science than the science itself.

  25. 25
    Dan W says:

    Peter (#16) wrote “I find a rather high level of conspiracy thinking here. Maybe i am naive, but i would tend to go by the saying “Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”

    I doubt you have spent much time over at Malloy’s junky website. If you do you will see that the assumptions are justified. He is not stupid. He is a lawyer.

    BTW, what ever happened to that nifty world thermometer Malloy had that kept getting hotter?

  26. 26
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Oh, come on now. Show some courage. Those junk questions are not much different from the dumb multiple-choice questions that we demand that our children answer at school.

    Your child’s reputation is just as much on the line as they answer those dumb school questions, as your reputation is as you answer those junk questions.

    Seriously, over the last few days, I have had several run-ins with highly educated people that leave me appalled at the lack of science understanding in university graduates. I think bad multiple-choice science questions are as much a part of our culture as plastic shopping bags. We need to change our culture.

  27. 27
    SecularAnimist says:

    Bird Thompson wrote:

    An interesting question for us all would be “When do you think human civization will stop producing GHGs?”

    Perhaps a more urgent question would be “When — in what year — do you think that anthropogenic CO2 emissions will peak and begin to decline?”

    Does anyone think this is likely to happen within the time frame that mainstream climate science tells us it must if we are to avoid the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change?

  28. 28
    mike says:

    Got it today.mike.

  29. 29
    Alex says:

    I’m a Sports Management major, and I love reading this site/blog. I took an interest in global climate change senior year of high school, and I’ve since taken an alternative energies class and a climate change class from a meteorology professor.

    I don’t fully comprehend many concepts and terms used in the explanations, but it’s definitely a relief to know there are more knowledgeable sources than myself educating GCC skeptics/deniers on their sketchy math/science.

    Keep up the great work!

  30. 30
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #10, & “When do you think human civization will stop producing GHGs?” Follow-up: “What will human civilization look like at that point?”

    I guess “dead,” since we do breath out CO2….(I’m not getting into methane here….)

  31. 31
    Lucky says:

    The title should have been “Have you stopped cheating on your wife (yet)” because sex is funny, violence is not.

  32. 32

    Re #20 You may be right that my comment was misdirected. And I also suppose I may be wrong in general about trying to get past something that has been beaten into the ground. Al Gores movie did a fine job and its most minute details have been scrutinized endlessly.

    I may also be wrong that we should get past this. I mean, the world needs to get past it. I am confounded at times how religious people can be about the science of earth (though they are not scientists), even when they don’t know much about it.

    Most people seem to be judging this based on what they read in the newspapers or hear on the radio or TV.

    Trusting we will get comprehensive reasoning by media organizations that have an inherent conflict of interest, that of making money in a competitive market vs. reporting non sexy news that might not get them the ad revenue the desire is a challenge. People actually think they are getting truth and mostly what we get is word crafting that caters to a market base. It seems to be an impediment to progress and understanding of the unfolding understanding of physical reality.

    I may also be wrong in the sense that it’s a dead issue, clearly it is not. I find it astounding how ignorant of reason people can be in the face of seemingly insurmountable evidence to the contrary and the unwillingness to see the forest through the trees.

    Furthermore, I may be wrong about my comment, but when I read it (#14) and thought about the time that the real climate team puts in to deal with all our questions and comments… I felt that the question was not considerate of the effort. My apologies to Eli. I was merely frustrated with the notion that this group is not addressing things fast enough. I am very thankful they have given their time and energy on this site to help us all understand this in a clear concise fashion. It is a service to the world and reason itself.

  33. 33
    Al says:

    Re: #16. “I find a rather high level of conspiracy thinking here. Maybe i am naive, but i would tend to go by the saying “Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”

    Peter, a familiarity with Steve Milloy’s past work is what probably tipped David off to “malice” as opposed to “stupidity”. There was an excellent book called: “Trust Us We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future” by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber that highlighted Milloy’s & others methods. Not so much a conspiracy, as a way of doing business.

    [Response: The questions were a flag; I was put off immediately. The web site DemandDebate is clearly biased. I didn't know anything about Milloy's history and background, though, until I had the post drafted and asked for feedback from the rest of the realclimate crew. David]

  34. 34
    Raymond Arritt says:

    Got it yesterday. Gave it the attention it deserved.

    I do fear that some of those who are unfamiliar with Milloy’s track record may respond in good faith.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    Figen Mekik says:

    BTW malice and stupidity aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive :)

  37. 37
    Edward Greisch says:

    Books that may not seem relevant but are:
    “The Accidental Mind” by David J. Linden, 2007 BelknapPress of Harvard University Press. Religion is caused by the extreme klugeyness of the “designed” by evolution brain. In particular, the narrative creation system cannot be turned off. It generates false narratives that are believed by the generating person in experiments done in the laboratory. This book has the best explanation of resistance to evolution: “There has also been an assumption that if one accepts the idea that life developed without divine intervention, it necessarily follows that all aspects of religious thought must be rejected. Those who take this line of argument to extremes argue that when religious thought is rejected moral and social codes will degenerate and “the law of the jungle” will be all that is left. It is imagined by religious fundamentalists that those who do not share their particular religious faith are incapable of leading moral lives.” These suppositions are not true in many ways. Linden later mentions that the creationists [intelligent design advocates] are exactly 180 degrees wrong rather than just a little wrong. Being exactly wrong, they are unable to unlearn their error. See Sociobiology or Sciobio.

    “The Science of Good and Evil” by Michael Shermer, 2004 “Morality and Ethics
    are now in the jurisdiction of Science and greatly improved thereby.”

    “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism” edited by Petto & Godfrey, 2007. The ID and creationist crowd are trying to do away with science.

    These are relevant because you are trying to deal with insanity, stupidity, dishonesty, political conniving and a brain that is a kluge at best. What do you say to the person who says: “God wouldn’t let that happen.”? Resistance to evolution is resistance to all science.

    [Response: this is not the forum for discussion of ID or religion in general. Please take it elsewhere. - gavin]

  38. 38
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Raymond Arritt said:
    “Got it yesterday. Gave it the attention it deserved.”
    Reminds me of the response of Max Reger to a critic:
    “I am in the smallest room in my house. Your review is before me. In a moment, it will be behind me.”

  39. 39
    DaveS says:

    Is it not fairly obvious that the survey was meant to refer to climate change over the last 150 years?

    [Response: It's exactly that kind of ambiguity this survey plays on. Scientists are pretty literal people and they will try and answer a question as precisely as possible - since it isn't specifically stated, some scientists will assume that it is more general. See the discussion related to the Bray and von Storch survey to see exactly this happening. Milloy isn't being original here. - gavin ]

    [Response: I got email from Milloy saying that the question is meant to apply only to present-day climate change. I read it more broadly, and if other scientists do the same, the question has a built-in tendency to get scientists to say that natural variability is leading to present-day climate change. David]

  40. 40
    James says:

    Re #39: [What do you say to the person who says: “God wouldn’t let that happen.”?]

    Apologies for the off-topic, but I suggest this line from an old Bill Cosby routine, “Noah? How long can you tread water?”

  41. 41
    Harold Brooks says:

    I got it yesterday and replied that I declined to participate because of the ambiguity of the first two questions.

  42. 42
    Hank Roberts says:

    > [ ... I didn’t know anything about Milloy’s history and
    > background, though, until I had the post drafted and asked
    > for feedback from the rest of the realclimate crew. David]

    If I had stayed in my PhD track and never left academia, I probably wouldn’t either, I guess, but it’s good to be reminded what y’all do _not_ know about. It encourages the rest of us to keep pointing and ‘ook’ing just in case you don’t know one of that ilk.

    [Response: I'm just too cheap to pay for cable TV... David]

  43. 43
    Paul Harris says:

    Dear Friends, perhaps someone from the USA can enlighen me on the credentials of “natural resources management expert” and “Montana State University resource economist Holly Fretwell” who is the author of “The Sky’s Not Falling” as advertised on Demanddebate.com as giving kids the true story about “the real-world consequences of the Left’s responses to” the climate change debate. To what degree can she claim expertise in this field? And why single out the left? For example, Al Gore is not a lefty…

    Cheers

    Paul Harris

  44. 44
    John Sully says:

    #43: I would guess that she is associated with a bunch of free marketers who headquarter here in Bozeman called “FREE” which has ties to PERC, another libertarian oriented “environmental” organization which has strong representation in Montana.

    John Baden and Pete Geddes share a column in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle which gives them an outlet for their garbage, although they do seem to be coming around on the AGW issue.

  45. 45
    Timothy Chase says:

    Paul Harris (#43) wrote:

    Dear Friends, perhaps someone from the USA can enlighten me on the credentials of “natural resources management expert” and “Montana State University resource economist Holly Fretwell” who is the author of “The Sky’s Not Falling” as advertised on Demanddebate.com as giving kids the true story about “the real-world consequences of the Left’s responses to” the climate change debate. To what degree can she claim expertise in this field? And why single out the left? For example, Al Gore is not a lefty…

    Holly Fretwell is (according to your own information) a “resource economist.” Not exactly sure what this means – although I have a suspicion of sorts. I will get to that in a moment. However, it is pretty clear that this has very little to do with climatology – and she in all likelihood can claim no expertise in that area.

    *

    With regard to DemandDebate.com, that is a PR-gimmick by climate skeptics who, despite the overwhelming evidence for climate change overwhelming consensus which exists within the the scientific community that such climate change is largely due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, refuse to acknowledge that the scientific case has been made – at least to their own satisfaction. And they would very much like everyone to be as dissatisfied with the conclusions of science as they are, and therefore to “demand debate” — on matters that have already been dealt to the satisfaction of all relevant major scientific organizations by the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

    *

    Digging a little further into Holly Fretwell’s background, I found that she is a “Research Fellow” at the rightwing thinktank “Property and Environment Research Center” (PERC) which is devoted to freemarket environmentalism and broadly advocates the privatization of public resources, e.g. national parks and Alaskan wilderness that is currently federally-owned. In their view, privatization would promote good stewardship through market incentives. And I presume this is what her title of “resource economist” refers to.

    There is more on them here:

    Property and Environment Research Center
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Property_and_Environment_Research_Center

    Now as someone who grew up on Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, I have sympathy for at least some of their views. However, this organization is ideological — and that may color some of their conclusion. Such as when they decide to call someone “leftwing.” For example, being this far to the right, when they say “leftwing,” they may simply mean “to the left” of where they are, which would mean pretty much anyone else. I suppose this would make it a synonym for “mainstream.”

    *

    Using the web-based tool at “ExxonSecrets.org,” I brought up the four key members of their organization: Patricia Lynn Scarlett, Terry Anderson, Gale Norton and Jonathan H. Adler. I then looked for the organizations they belong to. There is Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Alert, Defenders of Property Rights, Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, the “Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace,” Mountain States Legal Foundation, Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), Reason Foundation, and the Washington Legal Foundation.

    Unless I am mistaken, all eleven of these organizations are either rightwing thinktanks or “legal foundations.” And all but one are known to have received donations and/or other forms of monetary compensation from Exxon Mobil. The exception is “Defenders of Property Rights,” not PERC.

  46. 46

    [[“The Accidental Mind” by David J. Linden, 2007 BelknapPress of Harvard University Press. Religion is caused by the extreme klugeyness of the “designed” by evolution brain.]]

    [edit - no discussion of religion please]

  47. 47

    Re #39

    Dave S, If you look carefully at the questions you will see that most scientists will pick either the 2nd or 3rd option. This will allow the poll result to be spun; say something like:

    First Question: Which best describes the reason(s) for climate change?

    Answer: The majority of climate scientists believe natural variability is important and natural variability drives climate change.

    Second Question: Which best describes the role of manmade CO2 emissions in climate change?

    Answer: The majority of scientists believe climate change is driven by other natural and/or human-related factors, not CO2. Which then can be spun to: the majority of scientists do not believe that CO2 is the main driver of climate change.

    The people that made this are not stupid, just narrow minded as is evidenced in the limited scope and framing of the questions as well as tone, method and a somewhat obvious intent.

  48. 48
    James says:

    Re #43: [For example, Al Gore is not a lefty…]

    In the context of US politics he most certainly is – at least in the rhetoric of the US right. They seem not to be able to make fine political distinctions, and so leftist has gone from a description of particular political views to a generic derogatory term applied to anyone who doesn’t sing in their chorus.

  49. 49
    Russ Gaulin says:

    Your suspicion that such a “survey” might be misused is well-founded. This is a snippet from an off-the-charts propaganda sheet at http://planetdaily.ws/index.php/site/more/77/

    “In a 2003 poll, 2/3 of more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries did not believe greenhouse gases were the main reason for global warming. In fact, overlays of CO2 variations show little correlation with earth’s climate on long, medium, and even short time scales. The science is nowhere near settled.” (no citation given)

    Thank you so much for keeping up the fight for actual, factual discussion of the science, so desperately needed to counter such “truthiness” as this.

  50. 50
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “Defenders of Property Rights”

    I’ve found discussion of that approach as “Royal Libertarian” discussion sheds a lot of light on them. That group was founded by people from the Reagan administration. They’re of the ilk who say all the world should be property, and all property should be private, and they’re funded by that inimitable creation of US legal footnoting, immortal corporations — taking ownership of everything.

    The result is that anyone who comes along later will be a renter or sharecropper at best.

    The whirring sound is Thomas Jefferson, spinning in his grave.
    The smiling shades behind them them are kings and barons’ ghosts.

    Check their history and funding. There are worse things than being a creature of Exxon. This is one of them.


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