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Non-condensable Cynicism in Santa Fe

Filed under: — mike @ 17 January 2017

Guest Post by Mark Boslough

The Fourth Santa Fe Conference on Global & Regional Climate Change will be held on Feb 5-10, 2017. It is the fourth in a series organized and chaired by Petr Chylek of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and takes place intervals of 5 years or thereabouts. It is sponsored this year by LANL’s Center for Earth and Space Science and co-sponsored by the American Meteorological Society. I attended the Third in the series, which was held the week of Oct 31, 2011. I reported on it here in my essay “Climate cynicism at the Santa Fe conference”.

In that report, I described my experiences and interactions with other attendees, whose opinions and scientific competence spanned the entire spectrum of possibility. Christopher Monckton represented one extreme end-member, with no scientific credibility, total denial of facts, zero acknowledgment of uncertainty in his position, and complete belief in a global conspiracy to promote a global warming fraud. At the opposite end were respected professional climate scientists at the top of their fields, such as Richard Peltier and Gerald North. Others, such as Fred Singer and Bill Gray, occupied different parts of the multi-dimensional phase space, having credentials but also having embraced denial—each for their own reasons that probably didn’t intersect.

2011 conference participants share a “Christmas in the trenches” moment on the Santa Fe plaza (author on the upper right; Monckton to his immediate left, with Singer just below)

For me, the Third Conference represented an opportunity to talk to people who held contrary opinions and who promoted factually incorrect information for reasons I did not understand. My main motivation for attending was to engage in dialogue with the contrarians and deniers, to try to understand them, and to try to get them to understand me. I came away on good terms with some (Bill Gray and I bonded over our common connection to Colorado State University, where I was an undergraduate physics student in the 1970s) but not so much with others.

I was ambitious and submitted four abstracts. I and my colleagues were pursuing uncertainty quantification for climate change in collaboration with other DOE labs. I had been collaborating on several approaches to it, including betting markets, expert elicitation, and statistical surrogate models, so I submitted an abstract for each of those methods. I had also been working with Lloyd Keigwin, a senior scientist and oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and another top-of-his-field researcher. We submitted an abstract together about his paleotemperature reconstruction of Sargasso Sea surface temperature, which is probably the most widely reproduced paleoclimate time series other than the Mann et al. “Hockey Stick” graph. I had updated it with modern SST measurements, and in our abstract we pointed out that it had been misused by contrarians who had removed some of the data, replotted it, and mislabeled it to falsely claim that it was a global temperature record showing a cooling trend. The graph continues to make appearances. On March 23, 2000, ExxonMobil took out an advertisement in the New York Times claiming that global warming was “Unsettled Science”. The ad was illustrated with a doctored version of Lloyd’s graph (the inconvenient modern temperature data showing a warming trend had been removed). This drawing was very similar to one that had been generated by climate denier Art Robinson and his son for a Wall Street Journal editorial a couple months earlier. It wasn’t long before other distorted versions started showing up elsewhere, such as the Albuquerque Journal opinion page. The 2000 ExxonMobil version was just entered into the Congressional Record last week by Senator Tim Kaine during the Tillerson confirmation hearings.

Original Keigwin (1996) graph as it appeared in the journal Science.

Doctored Version of Keigwin (1996) graph that appeared in Robinson et al (1998)

Doctored version of Keigwin (1996) graph used in ExxonMobil advertisement.

In 2011, my abstracts on betting, expert elicitation, and statistical models were all accepted, and I presented them. But the abstract that Lloyd and I submitted was unilaterally rejected by Chylek who said, “This Conference is not a suitable forum for [the] type of presentations described in [the] submitted abstract. We would accept a paper that spoke to the science, the measurements, the interpretation, but not simply an attempted refutation of someone else’s assertions (especially when made in unpublished reports and blog site).” The unpublished report he spoke of was the NIPCC/Heartland Institute report, which Fred Singer was there to discuss. After the conference, I spoke to one of the co-chairs about the reasons for the rejection. He said that he hadn’t seen it and did not agree with the reasons for the rejection. He encouraged Lloyd and me to re-submit it again for the 4th conference. So we did. Lloyd sent the following slightly-revised version on January 4.

Misrepresentations of Sargasso Sea Temperatures by Global Warming Doubters

Lloyd Keigwin (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and Mark Boslough (Sandia National Laboratories)

Keigwin (Science 274:1504–1508, 1996) reconstructed the SST record in the northern Sargasso Sea to document natural climate variability in recent millennia. The annual average SST proxy used δ18O in planktonic foraminifera in a radiocarbon-dated 1990 Bermuda Rise box core. Keigwin’s Fig. 4B (K4B) shows a 50-year-averaged time series along with four decades of SST measurements from Station S near Bermuda, demonstrating that at the time of publication, the Sargasso Sea was at its warmest in more than 400 years, and well above the most recent box-core temperature. Taken together, Station S and paleotemperatures suggest there was an acceleration of warming in the 20th century, though this was not an explicit conclusion of the paper. Keigwin concluded that anthropogenic warming may be superposed on a natural warming trend.

In a paper circulated with the anti-Kyoto “Oregon Petition,” Robinson et al. (“Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” 1998) reproduced K4B but (1) omitted Station S data, (2) incorrectly stated that the time series ended in 1975, (3) conflated Sargasso Sea data with global temperature, and (4) falsely claimed that Keigwin showed global temperatures “are still a little below the average for the past 3,000 years.” Slight variations of Robinson et al. (1998) have been repeatedly published with different author rotations. Various mislabeled, improperly-drawn, and distorted versions of K4B have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, in weblogs, and even as an editorial cartoon—all supporting baseless claims that current temperatures are lower than the long term mean, and traceable to Robinson’s misrepresentation with Station S data removed. In 2007, Robinson added a fictitious 2006 temperature that is significantly lower than the measured data. This doctored version of K4B with fabricated data was reprinted in a 2008 Heartland Institute advocacy report, “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate.”

On Jan. 9, Lloyd and I got a terse rejection from Chylek: “Not accepted. The committee finding was that the abstract did not indicate that the presentation would provide additional science that would be appropriate for the conference.”

I had also submitted an abstract with Stephen Lewandowsky and James Risbey called “Bets reveal people’s opinions on climate change and illustrate the statistics of climate change,” and a companion poster entitled “Forty years of expert opinion on global warming: 1977-2017” in which we proposed to survey the conference attendees:

Forecasts of anthropogenic global warming in the 1970s (e.g. Broecker, 1975, Charney et al., 1979) were taken seriously by policy makers. At that time, climate change was already broadly recognized within the US defense and intelligence establishments as a threat to national and global security, particularly due to climate’s effect on food production. There was uncertainty about the degree of global warming, and media-hyped speculation about global cooling confused the public. Because science-informed policy decisions needed to be made in the face of this uncertainty, the US Department of Defense funded a study in 1977 by National Defense University (NDU) called “Climate Change to the Year 2000” in which a panel of experts was surveyed. Contrary to the recent mythology of a global cooling scare in the 1970s, the NDU report (published in 1978) concluded that, “Collectively, the respondents tended to anticipate a slight global warming rather than a cooling”.

Despite the rapid global warming since 1977, this subject remains politically contentious. We propose to use our poster presentation to survey the attendees of the Fourth Santa Fe Conference on Global and Regional Climate Change and to determine how expert opinion has changed in the last 40 years.

I had attempted a similar project at the 3rd conference with my poster “Comparison of Climate Forecasts: Expert Opinions vs. Prediction Markets” in which my abstract proposed the following: “As an experiment, we will ask participants to go on the record with estimates of probability that the global temperature anomaly for calendar year 2012 will be equal to or greater than x, where x ranges in increments of 0.05 °C from 0.30 to 1.10 °C (relative to the 1951-1980 base period, and published by NASA GISS).” I included a table for participants to fill in, and even printed extra sheets to tack up on the board with my poster so I could compile them and report them later.

This idea was a spinoff of work I had presented at an unclassified session of the 2006 International Conference on Intelligence Analysis on my research in support of the US intelligence community for which a broad spectrum of opinion must be used to generate an actionable consensus with incomplete or conflicting information. That was certainly the case in Santa Fe, where there were individuals (e.g. Don Easterbrook) who were going on record with predictions of global cooling. By the last day of the conference, several individuals had filled in the table with their probabilistic predictions and I decided to leave my poster up until the end of the day, which was how long they could be displayed according to the conference program. I wanted to plug it during my oral presentation on prediction markets so that I could get more participation. Unfortunately when I returned to the display room, my poster had been removed. Hotel employees did not know where it was, and the diverse probability estimates were lost.

This year I would be more careful, as announced in my abstract. But the committee would have no part of it. On Jan 10 I got my rejection letter:

I regret to inform you that we have decided to decline this submission.

Based on our consideration of the abstract and plan, it is our view that designing a survey that accurately elicits expert opinion requires special expertise as the answers can depend on how the questions are asked. No indication of such expertise was presented in the abstract itself or found based on examination of your publication record.

A further concern dealt with the proposed comparison with opinion elicited at a different time from a different community by a different method that might allow one to “determine how expert opinion has changed in the last 40 years.”

Concern was raised also over how one might legitimately transform the results of such a poll into “into probabilistic global warming projections.”

Although we cannot accept this poster, we certainly look forward to your active participation in the Conference.

Of the hundreds of abstracts I’ve submitted, this is the only conference that’s ever rejected one. As a frequent session convener and program committee chair myself, I am accustomed to providing poster space for abstracts that I might question, misunderstand, or disagree with. It has never occurred to me to look at the publication list of a poster presenter, But if I were to do that, I would be more thorough and look other information, including their coauthors’ publication lists and CVs as well. In this case, the committee might have discovered more than a few papers by one of them on the subject, such as Risbey and Kandlikar (2002) “Expert Assessment of Uncertainties in Detection and Attribution of Climate Change” in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, or that Prof. Risbey was a faculty member in Granger Morgan’s Engineering and Public Policy department at CMU for five years, a place awash in expert elicitation of climate (I sent my abstract to Prof. Morgan–who I know from my AGU uncertainty quantification days–for his opinion before submitting it to the conference).

At the very least, I would look at the previous work cited in the abstract. The committee would not have been puzzled by how to transform survey data into probabilistic projections if they had done so. They would have learned that the 1978 NDU study we cited had already established the methodology we were proposing to use. The NDU “Task I” was “To define and estimate the likelihood of changes in climate during the next 25 years…” using ten survey questions described in Chapter One (Methodology). The first survey question was on average global temperature. So the legitimacy of the method we were planning to use was established 40 years ago.

I concluded after the 3rd Santa Fe conference that cynicism was the only attribute that was shared by the minority of attendees who were deniers, contrarians, publicity-seekers, enablers, or provocateurs. I now think that cynicism has something in common with greenhouse gases. Cynicism begets cynicism, to the detriment of society. There are natural-born cynics, and if they turn the rest of us into cynics then we are their amplifiers, just like water vapor is an amplifier of carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect. We become part of a cynical feedback loop that generates distrust in science and the scientific method. I refuse to let that happen. I might have gotten a little steamed by an unfair or inappropriate rejection, but I’ve cooled off and my induced cynicism has condensed now. I am not going to assume that everyone is a cynic just because of a couple of misguided and misinformed decisions.

As President Obama said in his farewell address, “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.” So if you are attending the Santa Fe conference, I would like to meet with you. If you are flying into Albuquerque, where I live, drop me a line. Or meet me for a drink or dinner in Santa Fe. I can show you why Lloyd’s research really does provide additional science that is relevant to the conference. I can try to convince you that prediction markets are indeed superior to expert elicitation in their ability to forecast climate change. Maybe I can even talk you into going on record with your own probabilistic global warming forecast!

103 Responses to “Non-condensable Cynicism in Santa Fe”

  1. 1
    Thomas says:

    Wonderful Mark. Thank you for taking the time to present this here. And for the commitment and hard work over years that led up to it.

    The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

    Think big anyway.

    Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

    Give the world the best you have anyway.

  2. 2
    Thomas Fuller says:

    Mr. Boslough, if you would like help with your survey, that’s what I do for a living. I have examined past surveys designed to elicit expert opinion on climate change and believe I could design an effective instrument.

    I am a lukewarmer and have been very critical of some members of the climate science community–I’m not particularly welcome here.

    But I can help you produce a survey that will meet your needs. Let me know.

  3. 3
    Racetrack Playa says:

    Every scientific discipline generates a few diehard contrarians who refuse to accept facts and who keep plugging away at their pet theories – AIDS/HIV research has Peter Duesberg, who claims HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, global extinction research has Gerta Keller, who claims an asteroid impact played no role in the extinction of dinosaurs, etc. The difference is that such contrarians don’t get funding to run conferences and promote their nonsensical views from the fossil fuel industry.

    People like that won’t change their minds or their stance because of evidence that conflicts with their beliefs, however. At best they can be publicly discredited as unscientific charlatans or propaganda producers in the pay of the fossil fuel lobby.

  4. 4
    Digby Scorgie says:

    As climate change begins to bite, is there any event or set of events that we can expect to occur that will make it impossible for most people to deny the reality of the phenomenon? I say “most people” because, as Michael Mann puts it, there will always be flat-earthers. Also, if there is such an event, when will it likely occur?

    An example of a likely event is an ice-free Arctic in September, although even this might not persuade the doubters. As a friend cynically remarked, the probable response would be, “Oh, good. We’ve melted the Arctic. Now we can drill for oil!”

  5. 5
    Adam Lea says:

    4: “As climate change begins to bite, is there any event or set of events that we can expect to occur that will make it impossible for most people to deny the reality of the phenomenon?”

    In my opinion, no, or at least not before it is too late. It is like trying to persuade a smoker to give up by appealing to the destructive side effects of smoking, or trying to persuade someone who loves driving to ride a bicycle for local journeys, or trying to persuade someone who binge drinks to cut back on the alcohol, or trying to persuade a clinically obese person to clean up their diet. The person involved has to want to do it, and you can’t force people to want to do something (I don’t class making something compulsory by law as forcing someone to WANT to do something). I would love to be proved wrong, but I can’t see it happening. The human race is still hardwired by instincts that worked well for survival in the hunter-gatherer days, but are hopeless for dealing with modern day problems.

  6. 6
    Ric Merritt says:

    I agree with Adam Lea in response to Digby Scorgie. The examples of denying pretty simple slices of reality in today’s politics are too numerous and well-known to rehash at length here. For example, determining where a person was born, in the mid-20th century, in a prosperous country with official records and newspaper notices, and no contrary evidence. You’d think that would be easy to agree on, wouldn’t you?

    There is no reliable test for whether someone “really really” believes something, or just likes to spout nonsense, or doesn’t care. The impulse is to imagine some celestial tribunal to judge and publicly condemn, but it is alas unavailable in the world we actually inhabit.

    When the oft-imagined moment arrives, when anyone sane and informed would have to yield, millions will just continue to deny, or blame it on groups they don’t like, or change the subject.

  7. 7
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Adam Lea @5 Ric Merrit @6

    Remember I’m excluding the confirmed falt-earthers. I’m thinking rather of people like friends of mine overseas who are genuinely confused as a result of the fossil-fuel propaganda war against climate science. (I’m trying to educate them.) I’m sure there must be many more like them. Surely at some stage we should reach a “tipping point” when such people will finally realize they’ve been caught for suckers by the fossil fools?

    This is not to say that the “tipping point” will occur before it’s too late to avert disaster. I suspect that it’s already too late.

  8. 8
    patrick says:

    Thanks, Mark Boslough. Condense, condense, I say. This is a finely pointed machining of your uncertainty quantification and professional intelligence work, if I am not mistaken. It’s supremely newsworthy and deserves wide attention, especially now. Thanks for this explainer on the horrendous exhibit of disinformation–the signed ExxonMobil advertisement–which you show in full.

    Stunned, I have paused to examine the horror-show of phony arguments that it logs, one after another. It reads like a manual of dezinformatsiya. The doctored graph is the central lie, surrounded by assorted flavors of phony science-speak in the text to lull the misdirected mind.

    The last two paragraphs of the article are the worst kind of misguidance, I think, though they may seem innocuous. Absence of any mention of the basic cause of the problem is sealed with a pretension of concern, and a suggestion of purported know-how–about something (else!) or other.

    Thanks, Mike. (And thank you, Senator.)

  9. 9
    Adam Lea says:

    7: I wasn’t just referring to the “flat-earthers” (I assume here you mean those on the extreme end of denial), I was referring to genuine cognitive flaws in human thinking. Even in the case where someone does accept that AGW is real and is a threat, look at how they live. Do they actually take measures to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond the really easy stuff that requires little effort? If not, then their words are just lip service, it is easy to talk the talk, less easy to walk the walk. One reason you have denial is because taking significant action will require making compromises and maybe sacrifices to comfort. People don’t want to reduce the creature comforts in their life, but they also don’t want to think of themselves as irresponsible, this sets up cognitive dissonance when it comes to AGW and Western lifestyles. The way to resolve the dissonance is to either shift responsibility (make out it is the responsibility of politicians/corporations, not the individual) or flat out denial (it is exaggerated, no evidence etc) which absolves them of having to do anything.

  10. 10
    Just Wondering says:

    I’ve thought for awhile that there should be some facility for the revokation of one’s professional credentials when it is proven that said person is knowingly lying and twisting science for whatever reasons. I don’t know, does such a facility exist? ‘Course, the sceptics would just cry “persecution” and gain yet more followers.

    Anyway, I am wondering if anyone has collected examples of all the the many and various denial positions held by sceptics over the years? For the longest time it was that the earth isn’t warming. Finally acknowledging that it is came all of the statements that, while yes, it is warming, it’s for purely natural reasons. It’s the sun, it’s tectonism, it’s el nino, it’s space aliens or whatever. Anything but us. Is there an exhaustive list somewhere of the sceptics variety of positions over the years?

  11. 11
    Mal Adapted says:

    Adam Lea:

    Even in the case where someone does accept that AGW is real and is a threat, look at how they live. Do they actually take measures to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond the really easy stuff that requires little effort?…The way to resolve the dissonance is to either shift responsibility (make out it is the responsibility of politicians/corporations, not the individual)…

    It sounds like you don’t think AGW is a Tragedy of the Commons. Voluntary choices to reduce personal carbon footprint shouldn’t be discouraged, but they won’t solve the problem by themselves.

    As long as the cost of climate change is kept out of the price we ‘Western’ consumers pay for “cheap” fossil fuels, it’s economically rational to choose them over more expensive carbon-neutral energy sources. Fossil fuel producers, of course, will continue to externalize as much of their production costs as they can, and IMO it’s overly optimistic to expect consumers to voluntarily internalize the cost of greenhouse warming in their lifestyle choices, at least enough of them to bring warming to a halt. That will require everyone to internalize AGW’s cost, voluntarily or otherwise, in the form of a carbon tax for example. That is, effective mitigation of AGW is the responsibility of politicians.

  12. 12
    Rapier says:

    Let me suggest that viewing the linked video is an imperative. It is tangentially about climate denial-ism but it seeks a deeper understanding of the our current condition. Professor Mirowski is an historian and his specialty is the history of Economics. From this springs a profound view of where we are and how we got here. In large measure because now everything is seen in terms of economics. For that we can thank neoliberalism.

    Well anyway, take a look. Do take special note of his contention that economics is conflated with nature and this marriage produces much mischief.

  13. 13
    Digby Scorgie says:

    I see that I let a typo through: my “flat-earthers” came out as “falt-earthers”. Damn! But then “falt” is not from “fault”, which is also appropriate!

    Adam Lea @9

    You are taking the discussion down a different path. I’m not thinking of people who deny climate change for such reasons as ideology or cognitive dissonance. I’m thinking of people who are confused by the propaganda war — precisely the aim of the propaganda.

    Once a person acknowledges the reality of climate change, then how that person responds to the threat becomes an entirely different question.

  14. 14
    Nick Hengartner says:

    I am on the organization committee. And I had a hand in the decision. The
    rejection was done to protect Mark. He proposed (in one of the abstract
    that he conveniently did not publish), to use human subjects without any human
    subject experiment approvals. So I concluded that Mark, while a smart person,
    did not have the background, experience and ability to conduct the proposed
    research/activity written in the abstract.

    To make it clear, my decision was based on the submitted abstract. Until we all
    see these abstract, and can evaluate his proposals on their scientific contributions,

    Mark: please prove me wrong and send the IRB approval for proposed data
    collection. If I do not hear from you, I plan to share your abstract with your

  15. 15
    Thomas says:

    That will require everyone to internalize AGW’s cost, voluntarily or otherwise, in the form of a carbon tax ($$$) for example.

    The true cost of AGW comes in non-monetary terms – the systemic and permanent damage to the planet’s climate, ecosystems and life-forms – all of which are impossible to convert into a $ amount. It’s irrational and illogical to think in this way, besides being ethically irresponsible.

    No matter what the level of taxation is that will not stop the effects of human behaviour being immoral and harmful for the life of CO2e emissions in the atmosphere – no amount of $$$$ can make up for that irreparable harm.

    Furthermore individuals cannot be held equally responsible for the effects of the entrenched systemic use of fossil fuels in the economy. Individuals do not have the freedom or equal power to make individual “purchasing” choices in the economy that will create a major shift in the Energy System of humanity. It’s irrational and illogical to think or fantasize it ever could.

  16. 16
    zebra says:

    Adam Lea and respondents,

    Why does the wheel have to be reinvented, over and over?

    We know that everyone is susceptible to all the well established and deployed “hidden persuaders”, and in particular a (perhaps) majority has been conditioned by upbringing and circumstance to exhibit Authoritarian Personality characteristics, and that there is a set of social/political paradigms that is particularly appealing to the majority of those individuals. A minority of them probably adopts the antithetical social/political paradigms for similar psychological reasons rather than through the exercise of reason.

    Witness the election.

    So, dudes, the rational folk are probably in the minority overall. There isn’t a vast reservoir of people to be “convinced”– we all, including me, engage in this fantasy of the objective lurker just waiting to be enlightened by our wisdom, but fantasy is all it is.

    Adam Lea, if you want people to make choices, you have to give them choices, and the choices can’t be in the form of “eat your spinach” and “be moral as I define morality”.

    As I’ve pointed out many times here, there are plenty of Republican Denialists in California with solar panels on their roofs and plug-in vehicles in the garage.

    This is a political problem. Win the elections. Give people positive reasons to adopt non-FF technologies. They will come, because it’s better.

  17. 17
    Mark Boslough says:

    Dear Nick, I appreciate your protective instincts. You say that I “conveneniently did not publish” my expert elicitation abstract. But I did. It is the two paragraphs above, beginning “Forecasts of anthropogenic global warming in the 1970s…”

    But you said you read it already, and your decision was based on it. Unfortunately, your decision was not communicated to me. If it had been, I would have sent you the memo I recieved from our Human Resources Board, which reviewed the information submitted for this proposed activity. They determined that the activity does constitute human subject research, but is exempt from further HSB review under 10 CSF 745.101(b)(2).

    I can have our HRB get in touch with the committee and provide this information directly. Who would be the approproiate point of contact? Thank you for clearing up the real reason for the rejection. I will assume that since an HRB ruling has already been made, there will be no further objections to this presentation and I can proceed as planned.

  18. 18
    Steve Fish says:

    Re: Just Wondering 20 Jan 2017 at 3:20 PM, ~#10 says: “Is there an exhaustive list somewhere of the sceptics variety of positions over the years?”

    I recommend:

    They often have several levels of explanation (eg: basic or intermediate) and provide appropriate peer reviewed science references. Steve

  19. 19
    Russell says:

    Hiring PR firms must surely rank as high on the list or alarm signals for intent to distort science as abetting blog comments.

  20. 20
    Just Wondering says:

    Thanks Steve Fish. I was thinking more of a single article but Skeptical Science is also good.

  21. 21

    Individuals do not have the freedom or equal power to make individual “purchasing” choices in the economy that will create a major shift in the Energy System of humanity. It’s irrational and illogical to think or fantasize it ever could.

    CF&D, AKA ‘carbon tax’, doesn’t just work at the individual level; it affects corporate and governmental spending decisions, too. That’s one of the strengths of the approach.

  22. 22
    t marvell says:

    Are deniers all politically conservative? I suspect that they are. In the past decades, the USA Republican conservatives have found out that lies work. That happens in all areas, not just climate science. That is Trump’s main tactic, and it worked for him.

    It really is a question of yelling the loudest. The conservatives can continually boldly lie. The “sensible” people try to reason with them, presenting facts and arguments. That is not working very well, most likely because the conservatives know they are lying and believe it is justified. It is necessary to yell “you lie” “you are a fraud” over and over again, louder and louder.

    The downside is that the subject turns into an unseemly brawl, which might be what the conservatives would like. But they have found a good tactic, and its continuation is very damaging to democracy.

    I still remember the debates about smoking and cancer. There the reasonable, calm response to the tobacco companies’ claims eventually worked. But we now live in a different era.

  23. 23

    “Are deniers all politically conservative?”

    Most, but not quite all. There is a strain of leftwing denialism, too For instance, the late Alexander Cockburn:

    There was also a (very flaky) guy calling himself “Gordon Robertson” with whom I used to joust pretty regularly who fell into this category. Haven’t seen his handle lately, though. Don’t know if he died or was disabled, or just gave up.

    In any case, I think the numbers of these types was small and has probably gotten smaller.

  24. 24
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Are deniers all politically conservative?

    Look at the advertisers who buy ad space. They know the customers.
    Advertising there is a good way to find a credulous audience.
    Well documented:

  25. 25
    Hank Roberts says:

    in a paper published Monday, researchers suggest using a psychological “vaccine” to inoculate the public against the damaging effects of misleading “myths about climate change.”

    In a statement, the researchers from universities of Yale, George Mason, and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, said: “A new study compared reactions to a well-known climate change fact with those to a popular misinformation campaign. When presented consecutively, the false material completely cancelled out the accurate statement in people’s minds — opinions ended up back where they started. Researchers then added a small dose of misinformation to delivery of the climate change fact, by briefly introducing people to distortion tactics used by certain groups. This ‘inoculation’ helped shift and hold opinions closer to the truth — despite the follow-up exposure to ‘fake news’.”

  26. 26
    Hank Roberts says:

    Don’t waste your time trying to prove that this ism is better than that ism. Ditch all the big words. Why? Because, again, the problem is not the message but the messenger. It’s not that Trump supporters are too stupid to see right from wrong, it’s that you’re much more valuable to them as an enemy than as a compatriot.

    The problem is tribal. Your challenge is to prove that you belong in the same tribe as them: that you are American in exactly the same way they are.

    Seriously worth a slow thoughtful read

  27. 27
    Mal Adapted says:

    Kevin McKinney:

    Individuals do not have the freedom or equal power to make individual “purchasing” choices in the economy that will create a major shift in the Energy System of humanity. It’s irrational and illogical to think or fantasize it ever could.

    CF&D, AKA ‘carbon tax’, doesn’t just work at the individual level; it affects corporate and governmental spending decisions, too. That’s one of the strengths of the approach.

    Yes, I’m afraid Thomas has fundamentally misunderstood how tragedies of the commons arise, as well as the ways they can be avoided by collective action. I recommend a course in Environmental Economics.

    Carbon taxes aren’t intended to punish the use of fossil fuels, but to “stop the effects of human behaviour being immoral and harmful for the life of CO2e emissions in the atmosphere” by causing their replacement. A carbon tax need only be high enough to eliminate the price advantage fossil fuels currently have over carbon-neutral energy sources, so that market forces can drive R&D and buildout of carbon-neutral supplies and infrastructure. And even though not all the impacts of AGW can be assigned dollar values, those that can (e.g. storm damage, crop loss) allow for minimum estimates of the social cost of carbon, and a defensible floor for a carbon tax.

    It’s arguably true that “individuals cannot be held equally responsible for the effects of the entrenched systemic use of fossil fuels in the economy”. Part of the appeal of Hansen-style fee (i.e. tax) and dividend proposals is that individuals who use more than the average amount of FFs, and are the most responsible for the effects, would pay the individuals who use less than the average. Hansen’s proposal addresses complaints that a carbon tax is regressive: while poor people must devote a higher proportion of their income to energy than rich people do, total energy use is positively correlated with income, so that fee-and-dividend would result in a net transfer of income from rich to poor. See

    Nor are carbon taxes the only collective action that can be at least partially effective to reduce GHG emissions. I’ll let someone else make the case for subsidies, regulations, etc. The consensus among economists, however, is that a well-designed carbon tax has the best chance of reducing GHG emissions rapidly while causing the least economic disruption to society, thus making them politically possible. IOW they most likely to get the job done before it’s too late. It’s harder to design a good — i.e. effective and fair — carbon tax than a bad one, but it’s not impossible, and the low probability that our elected representatives can enact a good carbon tax is not a reason to dismiss the whole idea out of hand.

  28. 28

    Hengartner [14] and Boslough [17]:

    Excellent! Hengartner claims Boslough’s abstract was rejected because of no IRB approval. Didn’t know, apparently, that IRB approval is not normally included in an abstract. Anyway, IRB had signed off on the project, so we now know that Boslough’s abstract will be accepted.

    Or is there an alt-fact that I’m missing here, Hengartner?

  29. 29
    Thomas says:

    #23 Kevin McKinney.

    Hi Kevin, your ‘mate’ Gordon Robertson is alive and well and kicking. I had a few ‘chats’ with him last year and know what you mean.

  30. 30

    #29, Thomas–Interesting, thanks. Perhaps he’s still active on CBC.CA and our paths have just not crossed. I lost track of all the things he denies, but the list includes quantum mechanics and HIV

  31. 31
    zebra says:

    Hank Roberts

    A nice set of references as usual.

    I suggest people read 24 first.

    I have to reiterate my earlier point: Many on the left are in denial of science themselves when they ignore all the well established social and psychological research on how particular personality types, which comprise much of the population, are easily manipulated.

    Which brings me to Mal Adapted– no, you aren’t an Authoritarian Personality, but you are engaging in wishful thinking. A carbon tax will simply be framed as taking money from hard-working white folks and giving it to those shiftless blacks and browns. It really is about tribalism and identity, and the inner chimp/child, and in isolation CI is a laughably easy thing to defeat politically.

    And going back to Hank’s references, I do take issue with the Venezuela one. Venezuela has a different racial dynamic, as well as a different demographic makeup, and economic context. This meme that the only problem is liberals being condescending to white working-class people is getting getting really old.

  32. 32
    zebra says:

    That’s “…in isolation CT (carbon tax)…”

  33. 33
    Thomas says:

    I’m afraid Thomas has fundamentally misunderstood how tragedies of the commons arise, as well as the ways they can be avoided by collective action. LOL. Big call.

    So who voted ‘theoretical economists’ in as Infallible Gods in Human Form to rule over all Humanity and The Commons?

    Lock the Gate and Leave it in the Ground are fundamental logical scientific truths that do not require prior approval from your tribal Witch Doctors of the Age.

  34. 34
    Radge Havers says:

    Re: Lying liars who like to lie.

    1. B.S. (preferably with superlatives, self aggrandizement, and no specifics)
    2. Gaslight
    3. Rationalize

    It seems that some members of ‘the media’ have finally decided to call a lie a lie, or at least a provable falsehood. The change in Spicer’s tactics from his first to his second press conference might indicate that being plainly called out caused him to back down a little.

    Hopefully it’s not just training the trolls to be less obviously perfidious. If so, it will mean sustained effort to keep them off balance and the public informed. My suggestion would be to include with inoculations some comment on the rhetorical methods used to deceive.

  35. 35
    Adam Lea says:

    11: “It sounds like you don’t think AGW is a Tragedy of the Commons. Voluntary choices to reduce personal carbon footprint shouldn’t be discouraged, but they won’t solve the problem by themselves.”

    I haven’t thought about AGW in terms of tragedy of the commons but my first thought is that it isn’t. IMO, if it were tragedy of the commons, the general human attitude would to be that there is, or maybe is a problem with resource availability, it might run out soon, so lets consume, consume, consume some more, as not consuming means someone else consumes and benefits whilst we don’t and lose out (that is like neo-liberal capitalism). That to me seems a little different to the current attitude which denies that there is a serious problem in the first place and it is a case of just carrying on with our privileged way of life, wanting more and more wealth because we’ve been brainwashed into believing more wealth equates to better quality of life (this is true in the poorest areas of the world but false in the wealthy countries), because we have lost touch with what really makes us happy.

    Regarding voluntary causes, they may not solve the problem by themselves, but that is all I can do personally to address the problem. I can’t control other people, and I have no power above my minuscule place in society, all I can do is look at my own lifestyle and look at ways to reduce my carbon footprint, and if possible be an advocate of a more sustainable lifestyle (it is easier to advocate and am more likely to be listened too, if I live by my principles, as opposed to mouthing off a lot but doing little, thus coming across as a hypocrite). It would surely make a difference if the millions in the Western world also did this. Indirectly, it would likely result in a mass demand for more sustainable products, renewable energy, urban planning that prioritises pedestrians and cyclists over cars, and lower liklihood of voting in more right wing governments bought by corporations and their dedication to business as usual unsustainable neo-liberal capitalism.

  36. 36
    Thomas says:

    27 Mal Adapted, not that I or anyone cares, but I have inclination to change my mind about F&D even if Hansen promotes it. I much prefer his more intelligent far-sighted permanent solution of a revolutionary third party in the US (and all the other 19th century 2 party systems around the globe as well)

    A new 21st century Coalition Party that includes the Greens, Independents, Business, Academia and Scientists heading it up – hopefully being guided by an advisory global body of preeminent experts in philosophy, ethics, psychology, cognitive sciences, climate scientists and emeritus professors from a range of fields.

    Misc taxes and subsidies are fine but unless the focus is on ultimately banning fossil fuels then forget it. So if tax income is what the “system” and govt needs to get the job done asap then fine the most rational logical approach is a 100% Luxury Tax on everything that is needed by the average human being across the world …. eg steel rims on a car are fine, alloy rims are an unnecessary carbon intensive luxury.

    eg a 100% Tax on all air cargo and airline passengers. But not on buses or trains or trams or shipping. Such a tax would hit the wealthiest highest income 20% of the planet including wasteful corporations and governments and politicians at the pigs trough of taxpayers funds.

    The free market and price points will then progressively solve every other problem that arises in record fast time.

    Such an approach is what will eventually happen, may as well do it now rather than waiting until ~2050 when the planet’s ecosystems and food supplies will already be all but destroyed along with every economy in the world.

    It’s a simple choice – Life or money/greed and power over others. And it remains a choice from now to the eve of destruction. :-)

  37. 37
    Radge Havers says:

    Regarding the definition of the tradgedy of the commons, I think you can over simplify by putting too fine a point on it. What goes on in an individual’s head doesn’t necessarily just multiply up into a society à la Horatio Alger. More likely what goes on in most people’s heads isn’t thinking for themselves so much as what flows effortlessly from society into the vessel formed by bias and habit. The compostion of that flow is tainted by tribal bubbles, culturally induced ignorance, and effectively controlling, if diseased, power structures. I suppose you could say that it’s an economy of scale and systemics.

    Sure, you can point to progress in areas like civil rights that take root in fertile ground, but you can also point to myriad failures. I mean you’d think we’d know how to do this right, and then we get a jolt of surrealism-based reality called Trump– which by the way is bad enough, but note also that he’s been handed the keys to an office of expanded executive power along with a sweep of the other branches. Now maybe there will be resistance and progress where it counts, but the outcome is by no means certain.

  38. 38
    Thomas says:

    typo, sorry
    “on everything that is NOT needed by the average human being across the world”

    And no I am not really serious about a 100% blanket luxury tax … it’s impossible of course – but the concept, taking time out to consider these types of potentially alternative approaches in a mix, and even more importantly remaining open minded and on the look out for minor adjustments to the very hard and fixed assumptions intrinsic in the absolute certainty of prevailing consensus in policy proscriptions to date.

    If the complexities and subtleties of the science and data are acceptable and reasonable – there are uncertainties in the science knowledge – then why is it so unreasonable, unintelligent and illogical to reconsider the predominant assumptions in the Policy solutions?

    I am 100% certain the current politically correct Policy solutions are at least an order of magnitude far less scientifically certain than the climate science is?

    Science is successful because it always allows human creativity and imagination and the unexpected arising to always be considered in the mix.

    It is extremely weird and depressing (not so much here but across all the public debates) to see so many ‘trained scientists’ who are not experts in public policy, govt., economics, business, Law, Psychology etc – NOR the latest in technology/science developments targeting solutions ( eg Scott and carbon sequestration in soils) – who remain so absolutely fixated and/or certain in their own cherished beliefs and opinions about the unscientific assumptions in all the Policy options to date and/or the degree of urgency of the problem.

    Meanwhile, do the billions of people in the NON-USA non-white christian Anglosphere western world equally engage in these ridiculous “Santa Fe talk fests”, denier blog sites and right wing political think tanks attacks on climate science, individual scientists and extremely irrational Policy “debates”?

    If not why not? Answer those kinds of questions for yourself and there lays the causes and the solutions to fix AGW/CC Denialism and Policy Inaction across the West.

    Meanwhile the Keystone Pipeline DAPL – Trump vs Obama aka Repubs vs Dems from Dr. James Hansen

    I am fed up with both sides. I am sore about the Obama Administration’s lack of interest in a settlement of our legal case that could have committed future Administrations to have a plan for reducing emissions, specifically reductions at least as steep as in the Deep Decarbonization plan presented by John Kerry at Marrakesh (80% reduction by 2050). This could have provided a mechanism to constrain irresponsible actions by later Administrations.

    We missed an opportunity with the last [Obama/Biden/Clinton] Administration.

  39. 39

    T 33: So who voted ‘theoretical economists’ in as Infallible Gods in Human Form to rule over all Humanity and The Commons?

    BPL: Rephrased as climate denial: So who voted ‘climate scientists’ in as Infallible Gods in Human Form to rule over all weather and the climate?

    The economists are just pointing out the rules of mass human behavior they have observed. Your denial of those empirical generalizations is no less ignorant than AGW deniers’ views of climate physics.

  40. 40
    Christopher Winter says:

    Here is a worthwhile article on the difficulties of communicating with people who are not convinced by reason alone:

    (h/t: John Flack)

  41. 41
    Thomas says:

    #39 (sigh) The correct answer to both questions is NO.

    That’s the important take-away message using reason and common sense and accurate unbiased observations and the empirical evidence. Thomas is not the ignorant one living in denial here.

    #40 good reference.

    “a good positive and emotional story with a hero or convincing theme is just as important as ‘the evidence’ to social and policy change. This programme gives examples, shows you how to do it, and identifies what stories work.”

    It’s even more than the stories it’s the individual words being used. The psychological issue that confronts all human beings here on any topic is psychology and modern day cognitive science has many answers now about this.

    Paul Piff and George Lakoff from Berkley are two good examples of this. They can explain the science of WHY Stories have been and still so critical in the communication business and especially in Politics. It’s a crisis these days due to the nefarious manipulation by extremists from isis to your favourite political party today.

    Marketers understand this power far more than scientists – stories trump facts 24/7/365 – oddly that is a scientific fact. :-)


    again I say great ref article!

  42. 42
    Mark Boslough says:

    Nick Hengartner admitted last week in a private message to me and my coauthors that the IRB issue he brought up actually had nothing to do with the committee’s rejection of our abstract. Another committee member has now confirmed that Hengartner was lying when he said that “the rejection was done to protect Mark”. The facts show that this reason was pure fabrication. Apparently Hengartner went rogue and took it upon himself to claim without any evidence that the I had not followed proper procedures. “Without evidence” seems to be the modis operandi for this committee’s decisions.

  43. 43
    Marco says:

    That’s horrible, Mark. Especially since his comment here also contained an implicit accusation of scientific misconduct by you and that he would possibly report you for it.

  44. 44
    Fred Rubble says:

    You know it’s the same graph, just the x axis has been reversed? Same data.

    [Response: You know that wasn’t the issue? Try reading above: misrepresentations are “1) omitted Station S data, (2) incorrectly stated that the time series ended in 1975, (3) conflated Sargasso Sea data with global temperature, and (4) falsely claimed that Keigwin showed global temperatures “are still a little below the average for the past 3,000 years.”” PS. To everyone else who wants to make the same point based on something they read on WUWT, please don’t waste your time. – gavin]

  45. 45
    Kip Hansen says:

    Something a bit wrong in the article above. Robinson 1998 does not use the caption claimed in the image supplied by Mark Boslough.

    The actual caption (and it is Figure 1 in the paper) in the Robinson 1998 [ available at ] uses this caption:

    “Figure 1: Surface temperatures in the Sargasso Sea, a 2 million square mile region of the Atlantic Ocean, with time resolution of 50 to 100 years and ending in 1975, as determined by isotope ratios of marine organism remains in sediment at the bottom of the sea (3). The horizontal line is the average temperature for this 3,000-year period. The Little Ice Age and Medieval Climate Optimum were naturally occurring, extended intervals of climate departures from the mean. A value of 0.25 °C, which is the change in Sargasso Sea temperature between 1975 and 2006, has been added to the 1975 data in order to provide a 2006 temperature value.”

    The graph in the original Robinson paper (as noted in the caption) includes a derived 2006 value, which appears to have been removed in the images used here.

    As for “instrument data deleted”, there are two points of interest. It is almost never correct to compare paleo-proxy data to modern instrument data on the same graph…they are not compatible data. Keigwin did it so he could make this point, from his original caption “… it is clear that on centennial and millennial time scales, SST variability as been greater than has been measured over the past four decades at Station “S”.” The caption for the graph in Robinson 1998 correctly states what data is shown in their version — which did not include the Station S data as it was not paleo data.

    Mr. Boslough should be more careful and check original sources before making accusations that are easily shown to be incorrect.

    Someone has altered a graph and caption, but it is not Robinson et al.

  46. 46
    Hank Roberts says:

    to use human subjects without any human
    subject experiment approvals.

    That’s what the fossil fuel industry did wrong, ya know?

  47. 47
    Susan Anderson says:

    Ah Kip, and OISM, no less. These guys are better at spotting the fake than I am, so I’ll leave them to it. But nobody else should be deceived. Kip was promoted to author at WUWT some time ago. Same old same old.

    A few things have happened since 1998, but no amount of Koch-ally fueled Trump-supported fiction will survive the reality test. Unfortunately, the kleptocrats don’t seem to care about the future. But they will as it arrives.
    There’s lots more. Mercer, among others …

    Sadly, Singer seems to be one of the few, the proud, the corrupt in the saddle here, and they’re going to ruin our earth if it kills them all.

    There’s lots more. RC, you seem to have created an unskeptical “skeptic” magnet here. Tom Fuller does like to argue about surveys but he’s in much worse company.

  48. 48
    Marco says:

    Kip Hansen should learn the difference between 2007 (which is the publication year of the paper for which he provides a link) and 1998, the year Robinson *also* published a paper with the exact same title.

    I think Kip Hansen owns Mark Boslough an apology, and a big one.

  49. 49
    Steve Thayer says:

    The two graphs at the top of the article look the same to me, just with the time scale direction reversed. The first “as published” graph shows the time scale as “Calendar years before present”, meaning the 3000 on the right side is 3000 years before the present. The trend is going up as the data goes from 0 to 3000 years before present, or down as the data goes from 3000 years before present to the current day. The second graph switches the direction of the time scale, so 3000 years before present is on the left, and the trend again is down as the data goes from 3000 years before present to the current day. The plot line patterns all look the same too, just reversed because the time scale is reversed. Why do you think the data has been changed from one graph to the other?

  50. 50
    Steve Thayer says:

    The station S (modern) data on the first graph just looks like a black band, wouldn’t it be better to show that region, last 50 years or so, on a different graph with a shorter time period scale so we can see that data better? And is station S data really relevant to the plot when there is only comparable data for the last 50 years or so? All that really tells us is Station S data is slightly warmer than the other data collected in the graph. Is there a reason to believe the Station S data would have shown a different trend over the last 3000 years than the other data presented, other than being warmer than the previous data?

    It seems to me the people that reproduced the original graph left that newer data out because there isn’t comparable data for the whole 3000 year period, and if your purpose for looking at the data is to look for trends over 3000 years the newer data doesn’t help you determine that, it only shows a trend over the last 50 years. The warming trend over the last 300 years is shown clearly by the reconstructed data, the new measurements don’t really show any trend on the scale used, so I would leave it out also if I was using that graph, or show the newer data in a different graph with a shorter scale.