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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, a creation of Steve Milloy. Milloy has practiced to deceive before in the climate arena, and his, 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. 51
    James says:

    Re #50: [They’re of the ilk who say all the world should be property…]

    Yet one could argue that AGW (and many other pollution problems) came about precisely because the atmosphere is not considered property, and therefore anyone & everyone was free to dump their garbage in it.

    I’m not trying to get off into political philosophy – just the opposite, in fact, because the philosophy doesn’t really matter here. Your collectivist bureaucrats, ardent democrats, radical libertarians, whatever: all of them are equally prone to short-sighted disregard reality when it suits their purposes.

  2. 52
    Ray Ladbury says:

    James and Hank, Some resources are of necessity “commons”–and indeed perhaps all are. I am sure Woody Harrelson would love to have a monopoly on O2 in his oxygen bar (it’s an LA thing, no normal human would understand), but that isn’t likely to happen. So while we have the sad economic truth of the tragedy of the commons, we have the physical and ecological reality that we belong to Earth and not the reverse.

  3. 53
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Tragedy of the
    > Commons

    “… more recently elucidated in The Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 9(5), 1994. …”

  4. 54
    Timothy Chase says:

    Hank Roberts (#50) wrote:

    … immortal corporations — taking ownership of everything.

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

    I am glad you are here and I often find you to be quite insightful. Unfortunately this isn’t one of those times, but perhaps its only due to my lack of personal insight.

    In any case, I believe its best if we simply agree to disagree in this department. I think we both realize that there are far more immediate issues of grave importance confronting humanity as a whole – and sometimes issues of political philosophy simply need to be set aside.

    Incidentally, I have “Under Green Sky.” It looks pretty good – and seems to be doing a fairly good job of bringing people up to speed on the more recent discoveries related to extinctions. I might have more to say once I get further into the book.

  5. 55

    I did indeed get “surveyed” by and I actually wasted 15 whole minutes on an exchange with Milloy arguing about his obvious agenda in the question’s phrasing (not to mention’s blatently transparent agenda). I feel so dirty.

  6. 56
    Dan W says:

    Mark (55):

    “Dirty” is a good word for it. I periodically visit to view the latest (anti)AGW arguments designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    Hopefully this thread will preempt Milloy from distorting any responses from his mailing. If it doesn’t, it will at least serve as useful reference for those of us that discuss such things on other forums.

  7. 57
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dan W. says “Hopefully this thread will preempt Milloy from distorting any responses from his mailing.”

    Wanna bet?

  8. 58
    Dan W says:


  9. 59
    Mike Donald says:

    Yep. Now I remember. There was a similar snide thing from the Heartland crowd a few months ago. Downloade

  10. 60
    Bob Cousins says:

    Re: #49

    Google shines a spotlight on unreferenced sources:

    “In a 2003 poll conducted by German environmental researchers Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch, two-thirds of more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries surveyed did not believe that […] “

    Yup, “that” poll.

  11. 61
    jj mollo says:

    A humor deficit shows up in some of the comments. It seems to me that you should never restrict yourself in that regard any more than you should hop about on one leg simply because some people only have one. Ooops! Is it OK to say that?

    Maybe if you just explain the joke, you will have done your duty. The joke is that accusing a man of being a wifebeater is an outrageous calumny. The hypothetical individual receiving the question is seen as strongly indignant at the implied accusation, but amusingly tangled up in the structure of the question. The humor doesn’t work unless the accusation is seen as emotionally charged.

    Exposure to this kind of verbal mischief might explain why some folks are motivated to go into Science, where you can spend all day parsing the meaning of a statement or result without a “game over” light coming on. Politics doesn’t work that way, and the subject of this blog has become very political. Trying to unravel and display all the dirty tricks and disinformation is a noble enterprise, but very difficult, especially without the use of humor.

  12. 62

    Milloy posted the results of his “survey” on Nov. 8. I posted a pretty detailed deconstruction of those results at on Monday if you’re interested in checking it out.

    “We Berate, You Deride –’s survey on the scientific consensus surrounding global heating