Climate Skepticism revisited

I put up an article on my Energy Blog a few weeks ago entitled “why do people deny climate change?”. While a recent surge in climate denial seems to have halted and reversed (probably as a result of recent “extreme weather” events both sides of the Atlantic), an unfortunately high number of people still believe that the overwhelming evidence supporting AGW is merely a con and tens of thousands of the world’s top climate scientists are involved in some sort of elaborate mass conspiracy.

In this article I concluded that we can pin this tendency down to a number of factors. Inevitably a misunderstanding of basic science and climate behaviour play’s its part (some of which is counter intuitive in nature, Chris Beck of Grist tackles a couple of these, I discussed this previously here). And of course there are plenty of professional deniers out there who are ready to exploit this lack of understanding. This article from the Daily Mail, plus a rebuttal by the Met Office and is a good set of examples.

In part we can also blame a natural skepticism among some people of government and its motives. That, for example, the state is merely using climate change to further its own tax and spend agenda. Now on the one hand, I would argue that scepticism of governments is actually healthy in any democracy, after all it’s our job as voters too keep the government in check.

But climate skeptic’s, like a large number of other conspiracy theorist, take this natural skepticism to a whole new level. i.e. they have the world’s scientists conspiring with politicians of both the right wing and the left….for some ill defined reason. The crux of the infamous “Great Global Warming Swindle” docu-fantasy was that right wing politicians such as the Thatcher and Reagan conspired with lefty green groups and academic professors (and one assumes the Roswell alien & Jimmy Hoffa!) to create this myth of global warming…as a way of getting back at the coal miners!…or something!

And inevitably those on the political right are more likely than anyone else to engage in such tactics. Climate change confronts right wingers, in particular those of the Libertarian persuasion with a bit of a conundrum. The earth’s atmosphere is a global commons and so long as someone can profit by dumping stuff into it, someone will continue to do so until some sort of regulation or tax is imposed to discourage such activity.

But (the libertarian is forced to ask) how can we get big government off our back’s / drown it in the bath tub, if issues like climate change exist and create a constant need for some sort of “authority” (who for lack of a word we’ll refer to as “the government”) to enact laws to ensure these issues are properly dealt with?

And of course, even if we can dodge the AGW bullet, there’s still issues such as peak oil, water resource depletion, environmental pollution (I would argue climate change is merely a symptom of this wider problem), extinction of endanger wild life, over population, etc, all to worry about!

In essence a free market accolade has essentially two choices at this junction, admit that his philosophy is seriously flawed and that yes there is some role (limited or otherwise) for governments to perform…or denying that the problems mentioned above actually exist.

Inevitably the zealots within the political right opt for the latter option. As this libertarian blogger all but admits, they deny climate change because they have too! And when those pesky annoying facts get in the way, they resort to dubious pseudo-science quackery or propagating wild conspiracy theories to fill in the gaps.

For example, unable to accept that America might have a gun problem, right wingers will often propose unworkable solutions (arm kinder garden teachers and 6 year old’s with assault rifles!) and propagate wild conspiracy theories (such as the various 9/11-was-a-inside-job lunacy) to explain such incidents as Sandy Hook away.

Some may query whether it is fair for me to dump climate denialist into the same boat as conspiracy nuts who think NASA didn’t land on the moon or young earth creationists. Well actually, that’s the point, much of the tactics used by these different groups are one and the same.

As this article in Climatecrocks highlights, a joint study by psychologist’s from the University of Zurich and University of Western Australia noted similarity between the tactics of these groups and how if you’re a believer in, say UFO’s or creationism, you’re statistically also more likely to be climate change denier too (indeed more Republicans believe in demonic position than climate change!). Predictably the response of the denier community is to claim that this paper (remember a scientist wrote this study….i.e. one of the “them”) proves that the climate change conspiracy runs ever deeper.

SG Collins, a former cinematographer has a You-tube video discussion about the lunar landing Hoax. He points out that it would be technically impossible for NASA to have faked the moon landing footage. Indeed it would have been actually easier just to go to the moon and film everything there! Much of the supposed “proof” behind the lunar hoax conspiracy (much like climate denial) relies on a miss understanding of how light behaves in certain conditions or how cinematography works. But of course the lunar hoax conspiracy theorist will come back by inventing elaborate technologies (that would be harder and more expensive to develop than a Apollo moon rocket!) and massive government conspiracies to paper over the cracks….much like the climate denier is forced to do the same.

Indeed Collins leaves out the most compelling piece of evidence, the Americans needed the co-operation of other nations all around the world (since the earth rotates and they needed access to dishes on the other side of the planet) to keep track of the Apollo spacecraft and maintain communication with its crew….including the Russians! So in short, the lunar conspiracy would only be possible if the Soviets (America’s arch cold war rivals) were in on it!

Similarly climate denial only works if every government on the planet and the army of advisors, civil servants and scientists these governments rely on to function were all in on it and none of them thought to leak the conspiracy to the world. Indeed when you start to assemble the facts you have to conclude it would be easier for the government to just get us all to dump vast quantities of carbon in the atmosphere and cause climate change, than fake the evidence of global warming.

When you have to start playing mental gymnastics to make a theory work, you’re well past the point where logic or reasoning depart and paranoid fantasy begins. Take the latest delusion from Fox News(again from climatecrocks), solar energy can’t work in America like it does in Germany (30 GW’s and growing) because Germany gets so much more sunshine than the US….actually Germany’s at about the same latitude as Newfoundland! And the only State in the USA that receives less solar energy than Germany is Alaska! Many US states get double or more the sunshine that Germany receives (i.e. if solar energy works in Germany, it should be a slam dunk in the US).

In short denial of climate change is both irrational and silly and well have you resorting to the wearing of tinfoil hats before you know it!


2 thoughts on “Climate Skepticism revisited

  1. I’ve never believed that the moon landings were faked.
    I virtually daren’t again say in public what I believe about the death of P/Diana because when I do I get annoyed people telling me that OF COURSE it was a simple drunk-driver accident.
    Err, yes, except I’ve looked into it a lot more closely than they have.
    I’ve never closely studied the arguments for or against global warming.
    Those on ‘the left’ generally accept GW as fact, whilst many on ‘the right’ tend to be cynical, even refusing to watch D/Attenborough programmes because he accepts it as reality.
    I accept that you’re far better informed about GW than I am.
    For cynical governments obsessed with winning the next election it must be all too tempting to either forget about GW whether they believe it exists or not, or to find ways of using it as an excuse to raise more in taxes.


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