Four years after Al Gore unleashed his army of slide show presenters on the planet in an attempt to spread the word that climate is something we should be worried about, the polls show public opinion has budged hardly at all. If anything, opposition to climate-change mitigation strategies has only hardened. Why?

Some, like Chris Mooney, have turned their attention to the idea that there’s a link between political ideology and psychology. There could be something to that, although it’s unclear what’s the cause and what’s the effect. But University of British Columbia geographer Simon Donner has what seems to me to be a more powerful explanation. In a presentation to the American Meteorological Society at a recent conference titled “Making the climate a part of the human world” he argues:

It is unreasonable to expect a lay audience not armed with the same analytical tools [available to professional climatologists] to develop lasting acceptance of a scientific conclusion that runs counter to thousands of years of human belief in a one hour public seminar.

On the one hand, it’s most frustrating to learn that people with no scientific training would dismiss the convictions of thousands of scientists who have devoted their entire professional lives to the study of the subject at hand. What hubris! But what Donner is saying is that that’s entirely predictable, given how strongly embedded in the fabric of our culture is the idea that changing the climate is beyond the capacity of us mere mortals.

Donner isn’t just talking about the Bible. His experience among Pacific Island cultures suggests that this notion — that climate change is by definition the purview of forces greater than ourslves — is near universal, predating the Judeo-Christian canon and deeply embedded just about everywhere we go.

He suggests that any communications strategy designed to shift public opinion on global warming literacy “needs to include the full history and development of human thinking about climate.”

Great. So culling the collection of 380 slides that Gore painstakingly assembled down to something that fits into a 45-minute show isn’t enough. Now I have to add another 100 slides on the religious and cultural forces that shaped our collective consciousness.

Of course, isn’t the story of civilization one example of overcoming the biases of tradition after another? Donner likens the challenge of communications climate change to that of evolution, which still faces considerable opposition in this country and elsewhere. (A similarity that has not gone unnoticed by others.) The difference here being that rising global temperature averages imply a unique degree of urgency missing in other battles against historical prejudice. If Donner is right, then we may not have the time we need to overcome the primary obstacle to generating public support for the policy necessary to avert catastrophic climate change.

Comments

  1. #1 john
    March 3, 2011

    On the one hand, it’s most frustrating to learn that people with no scientific training would dismiss the convictions of thousands of scientists who have devoted their entire professional lives to the study of the subject at hand. What hubris!

    I bet Bernie Madoff said the same thing to people who balked at investing in his pyramid scheme.

    Have you ever considered that the lack of science education amongst believers in Global Warming? The same lack of education allows Scientists to fool them with bad data and bad statistics.

    As a Denier, not only will you never get me to beleive in your Global Warming Religion, I and my fellow deniers will actively pursue warmists like you as if we were the Nuremberg trials.

    You tried to steal from us. Now we’re out for revenge.

  2. #2 kent
    March 3, 2011

    Scientists like to see the world in terms of knowledge and ignorance. Your idea of adding slides to help combat ignorance and increase knowledge falls within this paradigm.

    But as john’s comment shows, in this specific case, it’s more about ideology than ignorance. The deniers have been fed so many lies about the political motivations of scientists that they have come to see it as an epic battle of good versus evil — with the deniers on the side of “good.” Truly concerned scientists need to start working with political consultants to figure out how to fight back. Education alone isn’t going to do it, I’m afraid.

  3. #3 theshortearedowl
    March 3, 2011

    … is the first comment supposed to be a joke?

    This is a great post. I’ve run across this in my own experience – otherwise intelligent, science-accepting people who just claim that the climate is too big for us to change. I still don’t quite know how to answer that.

  4. #4 Nanu Nanu
    March 3, 2011

    Because they are generally educated and are able to use their brains instead of relying on emotions. And they aren’t puffed up narcissists who believe they need to make up some total bs grandiose crisis in order to “save the world from itself” (and sneak in a little liberal social engineering on the way).

    Wake up and realize the world doesn’t need your lies or your help Star Trek boy.

  5. #5 Luna_the_cat
    March 3, 2011

    …except for the unfortunate fact, john, that the research, simple observation, and obvious trends are all on the side of climate change being very real and down to industrialisation. Those of us who actually do understand science, at least a little bit, and who pay more attention to primary literature out of numerous fields (biology and oceanography as well as climatology and atmospheric physics and chemistry, for example) have no difficulty spotting widely diverse lines of evidence which converge on real phenomena. When someone grasps the basic physical science better than the standard denialist tropes on the web, it becomes obvious that we’ve seen false claim after false claim after false claim used to support the “AGW isn’t happening” argument — and not even subtle false claims, I mean everything from talking points about “Arctic ice has recovered to 1979 levels” (yeah, how’s that working out?) to blatant distortions of published graphs to simple denials that trace gases could possibly affect the heat content of the atmosphere.

    When I look at which side is the most poorly educated, and does the vast majority of lying and mudslinging…well, it isn’t the climatologists. It’s the sorry lot who flatly refuse to believe that humans could affect anything as big as a planet, in absolute defiance of any evidence.


    Personally, I blame the “one person is a person, a million is a statistic” phenomenon. People think of people in terms of individuals. They can picture a couple of hundred people perfectly fine, too. But by the time you get to picturing over 10,000 people, most people have no good mental grasp of what this really entails; it’s just a number. So “gut level” instinct tells people, a person couldn’t make much difference to the physical environment of a planet. When it comes to thinking about the scale and interference of 7,000,000,000 persons, though, no chance — few people can picture it well.

  6. #6 dynameme
    March 3, 2011

    When assessing risk, the ultimate question is, “So What?”

    When assessing risk in an discussion where large scale behavior change and expense may be involved, the acid test for “So What?” is pretty stringent.

    When the risk assessment dialog is polarized, by personality (Mr Gore for one), politics, culture, etc, even getting to common terms on what “So What?” means can be tortuous.

    I know the following to be true:
    The planet’s climate has been changing for its entire life.
    It has been widely human habitable for a very, very small part of that life.
    It is in danger of becoming generally uninhabitable for humans as we know them.
    If mankind has contributed enough to the current climate changes, it may be worth stopping and reversing the contributions–we know when one is in a hole and wishes to exit one should stop digging.
    The laws of thermodynamics tell us it will take more energy to get out of the hole than it did to create it.

    While I know these things to be operationally true, There are people I love and respect that would disagree with each, some, or all of them — according to their upbringing, education, culture, etc.

    It is up to science to coherently explain, not up to people to blindly place their trust in science. Science has become shrill on this issue, it has sought to influence the political dialog, it has chosen or been hijacked by polarizing personalities for personal gain, it has been trivialized by our incredibly inciteful media. But worst of all, science has failed to frame “So What?” in terms that motivate people on a meaningful scale.

    I believe the planet’s climate is changing. I believe humankind has had a role in the change. I am a post graduate thermodynamicist.

    I do not believe there is the popular will, political consensus, nor credible technical solutions that can presently overcome the shrill and ineffective articulation of So What?

    We can’t balance a fiscal budget, and we kinda sorta generally agree that’s bad. So we are going to balance a thermal budget that stops climate change in humanity’s long term favor? The climate dialog makes the Fed look wise beyond description.

  7. #7 Miles
    March 3, 2011

    Does John really think scientific data on global warming is jealously guarded? Maybe he just hasn’t bothered to look.

    Nanu, your talk of using your brain instead of relying on emotion reminds me of religious folk who insist that faith is a good reason to believe, the existence of complexity is evidence for a creator, the existence of good things is evidence for a benevolent lawgiver, and that atheists deny all this because they hate god – we must think with our emotions like scientists. I see “reason and evidence > emotion” is a meme that has stuck with you, which is good, but you don’t understand what any of those words mean.

    I think I should make something clear on behalf of all the liberals I know: we don’t want anthropomorphic climate change to be true. We wish it weren’t. We don’t push AGW on ideological grounds, but on the strength of the evidence. Climate change should not be a partisan issue, and the fact that is has become one in America is further evidence that conservative policies benefit the short-term interest of the rich and the dominant to the total exclusion of everyone else. This is what happens when private advertisers own the media and private campaign donors control elections. Money is property, not speech, and the exchange of money is trade at best, bribery at worst, both of which Congress should control.

    My apologies for going on at length about something that seems so off-topic, but private campaign financing and corporate media are the source for every single issue of public ignorance and misinformation as far as I can tell. The only way to really change people’s minds is to get the vested interests to stop fighting you every inch of the way.

  8. #8 plutosdad
    March 3, 2011

    For me, it was hard to finally change my mind, but there were three main things that held me back:

    Science journalism. When there is a snowstorm, everyone is quick to say “local weather is not climate” but when there is a heatwave, the newspapers inundate us with “global warming is to blame”, the same for hurricanes “increased bad weather is a sign of global warming” every bad thing is global warming. This not only violates “local weather is not climate” making it look like a double standard, but secondly it looks like crying wolf.

    Horribly off predictions: when people make predictions in the near term, they are almost always wrong. AFAIK, we just can’t predict something as close to a decade out, for the same reason that weather is not climate. but that doesn’t stop people from making predictions and being wrong, and thus again we have something that looks like crying wolf. I already stopped believing in Malthus’ ideas after I finally took the time to read him directly, so I am wary of predictions of doom.

    Climate scientists making economic pronouncements: a scientist specializing in climate, physics, geology, etc, are all good at that. But well just look at other science blogs, and a lot think they are also good at sociology and economics. that is laughable as a sociologist making statements about climate. Unfortunately, most of them immediately advocate central planning, without considering any alternatives. Their message would be better off if they took a step back and let others handle the “how”, they need only to show the need and that the problem is inherent to the status quo (going back to debate team there). Let others argue economics.

    Anyway, those were my general laymen problems. As you can see, they aren’t too much about science, but rather about the advocates, who are talking past people instead of engaging them, and talking outside their fields.

    I have other issues (as a computer programmer, I am shocked more people don’t release their code. Every shop out there who tried to get SEI 3, let alone 4 or 5, knows that is is laughable to say “the model is based on this” and think that is enough information to reproduce results. I mean, I have to release my code in peer reviews in commercial coding, and it’s for good reason. )

  9. #9 pough
    March 3, 2011

    I bet Bernie Madoff said the same thing to people who balked at investing in his pyramid scheme.

    Indeed, the first thing Bernie said to any prospective sucker was, “Hi I’m Bernie and you should trust me because I am 1000 people.”

  10. #10 Miles
    March 3, 2011

    I dislike the mainstream response to snowstorms as well, but only because snowstorms are a prediction of global warming! More melting of ice caps = more water and hotter water = more evaporation = more precipitation all year round = more storms = more snow.

    The minimal change = crying wolf argument is strange, in that it follows from the other argument deniers use that the climate is too big for humans to affect. Every year total human impact is small, but year by year it adds up until decade-to-decade comparisons show relatively large changes.

    If Tax-and-Dividend is considered central planning, how can we change our actions without central planning? Or perhaps plutosdad meant Cap-and-Trade, except it was drawn up as a compromise to get corporate interests on board with a plan that would let the rich profit, so how are market forces central planning? Or maybe both those plans are wrong because they artificially raise the price of fossil fuels / lower the price of green energy, when we should focus on affecting the cost itself via technological investment. Or maybe government investment in alternative energy sources was plutosdad’s objection all along, since that definitely is centrally planned, except now there aren’t any other methods of tackling the problem of carbon pollution.

    Honestly, I don’t think environmentalists or climate scientists care that much which of the three methods are chosen (carbon tax, carbon market, or gov’t investment), so long as something gets done. I am enthusiastically open to suggestions, but as far as I can tell there are no other options.

  11. #11 Thomas Forbes
    March 3, 2011

    Ideology and willful ignorance are certainly root causes of some ‘skepticism’, but it’s also true that almost all of the really interesting scientific ideas are counterintuitive. Time is relative. Spacetime is curved. Radioactive decay is not determinate. One can predict precisely how many atoms will decay over time but never which ones. Natural selection and mutation can produce human beings and all of biodiversity. Anthropogenic climate change is no different for many people. The argument from personal incredulity seems to be what most people call common sense. The scientific method is the only thing we know of that can get us beyond that. If the electorate is too scientifically ignorant to understand that the only real debate is the one occurring slowly and deliberately in the peer-reviewed literature, then no amount of performance art or tap dancing is going to help.

  12. #12 TTT
    March 3, 2011

    Not all political critiques of scientific statements are illegitimate.

    It is simply impossible to expect people to accept material sacrifice and/or increased economic costs, upon their basic standard-of-living staple items and services–NOW–for the sake of possibly warding off the not-entirely-specified effects of global warming, which will strike within a not-entirely-specified timeframe, unequally across the world, and which may very well be inevitable at this point anyway.

    It’s hard enough to get otherwise reasonable and self-interested people to go to the dentist every year when their teeth feel just fine.

    People WILL make sacrifices for environmental law that is actually consequential. I’m sure many jobs really were lost when they signed the Clean Water Act, not that I care; many jobs have been lost in the asbestos industry too, for the same reason and worthy of equally no concern. The benefit incomparably outweighed the cost. But in global warming’s case, the pain is too immediate and the benefits too vague. Don’t ever expect anything significant to be done, guys.

    (Oh, and stop trying to convince deniers by saying things like “even IF global warming weren’t real and we move to prevent it anyway, we’ll have constructed a whole new energy economy which will be good for us, so stop opposing us!” It’s one of the worst arguments in the world, staggeringly naive of human nature. People will not change unless they HAVE to, and if you come right out and say they might not HAVE to, they simply won’t. As soon as you submissively accept the denialist frame of the words “if it isn’t,” you have lost.)

  13. #13 SallyStrange
    March 3, 2011

    otherwise intelligent, science-accepting people who just claim that the climate is too big for us to change. I still don’t quite know how to answer that.

    I say, “You sound just like the early European explorers in North America, who marveled at the incredible abundance of salmon, buffalo, and passenger pigeons, and then proceeded to shoot as many of them as physically possible, under the belief that no puny human effort could possibly be sufficient to put a dent in such staggering numbers.”

    I stole that from Derrick Jensen.

  14. #14 TTT
    March 3, 2011

    Sally: very unfortunately, their retort might well be “they’re gone, we’re here, we’re rich.” If they feel they can make an argument about how destroying ecosystems didn’t harm human society, it would only embolden them to keep ignoring global warming.

  15. #15 abb3w
    March 3, 2011

    john: Have you ever considered that the lack of science education amongst believers in Global Warming? The same lack of education allows Scientists to fool them with bad data and bad statistics.

    Except that it’s disbelief in global warming that is more common among the less educated.

  16. #16 John
    March 3, 2011

    What an amusing view you warmists have.

    You really don’t understand the mind of a Denier at all. The fight over global warming is over, and the warmists lost.

    The next fight is where we’re coming after your professional credibility. All the Journo’s and all the Scientists and all the Politicians involved in this fraud will be put on trial.

    You’ve failed. C02 will continue to rise, and you will never change our lifestyle. The EPA is being castrated, regional initiatives are being ended, and the IPCC is being defunded. The hoax is over.

    Now we’re coming for your careers. Get ready for the climate alarmist trials.

  17. #17 Renee
    March 3, 2011

    Thousands of years of common sense are right.

    Humans can’t stop climate change; the most draconian carbon emission restrictions are a drop in the bucket when it comes to preventing it.

  18. #18 Pascal Lapointe
    March 3, 2011

    If anything, opposition to climate-change mitigation strategies has only hardened. Why?

    Also, don’t forget that it is not a world phenomenon. Opposition to climate-change is stronger in the U.S. than in most, if not all, the industrialized countries.

  19. #19 Stern
    March 3, 2011

    John – you are hilarious and you packed so much obvious ignorance into one small comment. No worries mate, the invisible hand of the market will correct all, aye?

    Good luck with your whole commie plot thing.

  20. #20 Lou Grinzo
    March 3, 2011

    Wow, we’re hip-deep in sock puppets, it seems.

    The denier reaction (a wholly different phenomenon than true skepticism) in the US is strongly tied to the basic nature of America, I think. Many of us are so in love with the mythos of What Made America Great (rugged individualism, stickin’ it to The Man, keeping government at arm’s length, etc.), that when a problem like CC comes along many of us are heavily predisposed to reject it.

    Plus, there’s that little matter of a gargantuan, long-running PR effort to tell us more CO2 is a good thing, it would cost bazillions of dollars to do anything about it, scientists are all evil money grabbers, etc. In effect we’re being told by candy companies to ignore the dentist, don’t brush or floss, and eat lots of candy. That’s a prescription for keeping a child happy in the short run, but not so much in the longer term.

    Sometimes I’m surprised that the level of understanding of CC in the US is as high as it is, even thought it’s not nearly as high as I would prefer and we need it to be.

  21. #21 TTT
    March 3, 2011

    I’d find John here a lot funnier, except someone just like him shot Gabby Giffords.

  22. #22 PeterK
    March 3, 2011

    The problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know. Lack of knowledge and delusion about the quality of your knowledge come together, the same process that makes you know less also makes you satisfied with the knowledge.

    I am so tired of the “World to end at ten, film at eleven” mantra from the ecopocalypse crowd. Don’t children in school read, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” anymore?

    PT Barnum allegedly said that there is a sucker born every minute and there is someone there to take him!

    It is amazing how theories trump “actual physical evidence.”

  23. #23 m Andrea
    March 4, 2011

    Hmm I’m not stupid by any stretch, but I’m also not an expert in climatology or any of the other science fields. Yet I believe the professionals when they say CC is real. So why does someone like me believe when the fundy-rich-poor-and-everything-in-between do not?

    Well why do they believe in god and I don’t? It’s the same question, really. Some people evaluate facts to render their assessment, while others count the number of baby jesus’s visible in cornbread. Problem is, they’ve had common sense explained to them for thousands of years and still they think jesus is gonna come.

    Perhaps a few scientists could posit a scenario or sequence of scientific claims which suggests the possibility — to an idiot — that Climate Change is the devil. At least then they would have a “reason” to avoid it.

  24. #24 Stern
    March 4, 2011

    About John – he doesn’t sound any different than Sen. Inhofe…

    I’m a little lost about the trumping physical evidence comment…there is a ton of physical evidence that the planet is warming…and quickly…and that CO2 levels are much higher than we’d expect. Physical evidence that contradicts theory necessarily means the theory/model is wrong which leads to a modification. My observations have been that science is progressing as it should but that this time around, the stakes are too high to sit back and just watch. It looks like CC/GW issues are leading to a revolution in Science Communication…that’s just barely got off the ground.

    In any case – for us lay folks, it all depends on where we put our trust – science and the scientific process or the media/republicans/industry. I’m sticking with science.

  25. #25 Clam
    March 4, 2011

    John would be funny if he weren’t ill. One shouldn’t laugh at Village Idiots, that’s not civilised.
    BTW, today, at the height of the Arctic winter, the ice cover is down by over a million square kilometres (1,272,000) from the 1979 -2009 average (note that that includes the low of 2007) and, simultaneously, in the Antarctic, at the end of summer, the sea-ice is 177,000 sq km down. Converting to square miles, that means that the Earth is short of 520,825 sq m of sea ice that should be reflecting heat. That’s an area of approximately one seventh of the U.S.of A. or 2.5 times the area of France.
    So what’s with this but it’s getting colder again bit?

  26. #26 Chris Mooney
    March 4, 2011

    Hey James
    This is a good post but two things…

    1. I think the psychology of ideology is interesting but I’m not positing it–necessarily–as the explanation for climate denial. If you look at the discussion threads on my blog about this, you’ll see that nobody has come up with a good enough explanation of how that connection is supposed to work.

    2. Donner makes a good point, but it isn’t as relevant as sheer partisanship when it comes to explaining people’s inflexibility and resistance to persuasion around climate change.

  27. #27 Jack
    March 4, 2011

    The truth of the matter is people are waking up to the truth and pissed that they have been fooled and scammed by the so called global warming hysteria. You warmists try to scam the world and now the world is waking up and all you scammers are running scared. You warmists make Madoff proud. Good vs. evil/global warming scammers. The good will win, the truth is out. You can’t lie to the people anymore. Only a few gullible individual is still buying the global warming religion.

  28. #28 John Shade
    March 4, 2011

    It is interesting to see how by how much we gain different impressions! I see the so-called ‘denier’ scientists and supporters as far more considered, highly qualified, civil, and plausible. No doubt there are exceptions to each of these qualifiers, as well as for the ones I would apply to the ‘alarmist’ scientists and their supporters: intemperate, poorly qualified, intolerant, and implausible.

    If only we could get a proper debate in science, that area in which so many have told us the debate is over. I think the debate is over in the majority of GCMs, but in the hearts and minds of we humans, it seems to have barely started.

  29. #29 nrekle
    March 4, 2011

    Wonderful juxtaposition here: “Jack” says things like “Only a few gullible individual is still buying the global warming religion”, followed by “John Shade” saying “I see the so-called ‘denier’ scientists and supporters as far more considered, highly qualified, civil, and plausible”.

    John, are you serious? Sure, climate scientists can get snarky and occasionally bombastic or sophomoric, but so-called “skeptical” commenters like “Jack” often go waaayyy beyond that. His first comment in this thread is actually quite threatening (“we’re out for revenge”), and none of them really relate to the original topic of the thread. Isn’t that commonly described as “trolling”?

    “Jack” seems so over-the-top that he may even be spoofing – I just can’t tell. What do you think, John Shade? Can you point to anything in this thread – or in other Class M threads – which supports your your view that “skeptics” are generally more “civil”?

    Do you see this comment (the one you’re reading right now) as “intemperate” or “intolerant”? If so, please explain how.

  30. #30 Nullius in Verba
    March 4, 2011

    The idea that humans can affect climate is an old one, built into superstitions about weather magic, rain dances, witches causing storms, ranging down to the pervasive belief that if you wash your car and hang clothes out to dry it is sure to rain.

    The denial of this close connection between human action and the weather is, in terms of human history, relatively recent. The image of the universe as an incomprehensibly big, impersonal, out of control, amoral and oblivious machine, that pays us no regard and in which we are utterly unimportant is a new one, and not comfortable to some people’s psychology.

    People want to believe that they are powerful and important, that they have an effect, that by changing their lightbulbs and turning their TV off from standby they are the hero of the story and Saving the World. You really *can* alter the global climate and save the polar bears if you buy carbon offsets.

    Not everyone who believes in the coming climate apocalypse does so for scientific reasons. There are non-scientists on *both* sides.

  31. #31 kramer
    March 4, 2011

    What about the conservative AGW skeptics like myself that believe what the scientists say in just about all the other areas of science?

    Perhaps we see things that you liberals don’t see. For example, it’s a known fact that liberals want to be taken care of by a big mommy and daddy government. I also know without a doubt that one of the ‘solutions’ to AGW is a global government that will manage the world’s resources, among a number of things. So what I see is the left using AGW as a means to get their ultimate teat of comfort and safety put in place, a global big-mommy government.

    Of course, I also see other reasons for liberals not questioning AGW science such as eco-reparations (via REDD, international carbon offsets, etc.) to atone for the sins of us Christian conservatives who have used colonialism to enrich ourselves.

  32. #32 nrekle
    March 4, 2011

    Kramer, can you cite peer-reviewed sources behind your claim that “it’s a known fact that liberals want to be taken care of by a big mommy and daddy government”?

    You seem to have a suprisingly liberal view – in the literal, not the political sense – of the meaning of the word “fact”.

    Or perhaps I’ve gotten confused – is this the thread on using Humor when talking about Climate Change?

  33. #33 Mike Mangan
    March 4, 2011

    Deniers and Alarmists have always been playing two different games. Deniers want to prevent Alarmists from doing harm. Alarmists want to save the world. Our goals are easily achieved by pooling the resources and strengths of free men and woman across this nation, marching to the voting booth and putting Denier politicians in office. Phase I results in taking the House. Phase II, in 2012 will hand us the Senate and Presidency. It will be a loooong time before you find the political support you squandered during the first two years of the Obamanation. Budgets will be slashed, hearings will be held, no “climate change” legislation ever sees the light of day. Game, set, match for the Deniers.

    Alarmists will assume their rightful place, howling in the darkness about their moral and intellectual superiority and accomplishing absolutely nothing.

  34. #34 baryogenesis
    March 4, 2011

    It’s always about politics as proven over and over in the comments of any blogpost about climate change. Every post is hijacked and of course that is the intention. It’s about media promotion.
    If science is argued at all– if it is with an apparent grasp of the facts — it is intentionally distorted. There is an agenda. It is political. It’s based on extremism in regards to climate science. It is the same lying extremism of the Limbaugh/O’Reilly/Beck U.S.right wing. It is an anachronistic view of life in the Great Wild USA (as mentioned above). And, btw, it isn’t always the christian rt; it does include libertarian atheists. Most of the rest of the educated world outside the States doesn’t understand this extremism in regards to climate science. Follow the science. That’s what must be done. And I suppose— buy “beach” property on the Hudson Bay for your great grandchildren’s future. (See, sockpuppets, I can be a capitalist entrepreneur too).

  35. #35 Knightly
    March 5, 2011

    It’s equally hard to change a scientist’s mind. Not about the phenomenon itself; very hard to change someone’s mind about something that’s real and for which they have evidence. Rather about the skeptics and the deniers.

    Time is short. How short, we aren’t sure but what does look pretty clear is that however much we have, it’s not enough. Why are we wasting our time arguing with skeptics? Even if we get them all to see the light and agree… then what? What difference does it make? That we get to be right and get to enjoy their knowledge of our being right?

    Remember Y2K. Lots of people thought it was total nonsense and a hoax. The experts – the people who actually knew how to address the problem – did all the work to correct the problem before it went catastrophic. They did a great job. Crisis averted. The deniers and skeptics still smirk about how Y2K turned out to be a total non-event, and how all the “scientists” were panicking over nothing, completely disregarding the power of stepping out of the way of an oncoming truck rather than taking the time to document its impact vector.

    We need to do that again. The greatest success science and humanity could possibly have in this crisis is to allow thick-skulled people to continue to think they’re right.

  36. #36 Sailrik
    March 5, 2011

    according to Jack:

    “Only a few gullible individual is still buying the global warming religion.”

    Yeah, like 97% of scientists who actually do research and virtually every major scientific organization in the world.

    I have two lists here. Which list do you think represents the science? Which one do you think is scamming people?

    LIST #1 Professional scientific organizations that agree with the IPCC on AGW.

    National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)

    NASA

    Woods Hole Resesarch Center

    US Geological Survey (USGS)

    National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

    NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)

    American Association of State Climatologists

    Federal Climate Change Science Program, 2006 (the study authorized by the Bush administration, and then Edited by a Petroleum Institute lawyer under the Bush administration to water it down)

    American Chemical Society – (world’s largest scientific organization with over 155,000 members)

    Geological Society of America

    American Geophysical Union (AGU)

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    American Association of State Climatologists

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    American Astronomical Society

    American Institute of Physics

    American Meteorological Society (AMS)

    American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

    Stratigraphy Commission – Geological Society of London – (The world’s oldest and the United Kingdom’s largest geoscience organization)

    Chinese Academy of Sciences

    Royal Society, United Kingdom

    Russian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Society of Canada

    Science Council of Japan

    Australian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts

    Brazilian Academy of Sciences

    Caribbean Academy of Sciences

    French Academy of Sciences

    German Academy of Natural Scientists

    Indian National Science Academy

    Indonesian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Irish Academy

    Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy)

    Academy of Sciences Malaysia

    Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand

    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Union of Concerned Scientists

    The Institution of Engineers Australia

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)

    National Research Council

    Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospherice Sciences

    World Meteorological Organization

    State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)

    International Council on Science

    American Physical Society (APS)

    Australian Institute of Physics (AIP

    European Physical Society

    European Science Foundation

    Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS

    Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)

    Network of African Science Academies

    International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS

    European Academy of Sciences and Arts

    InterAcademy Council (IAC)

    International Arctic Science Committee

    Arctic Council

    European Federation of Geologists (EFG)

    European Geosciences Union (EGU)

    Geological Society of Australia

    International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics

    National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT

    Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    Royal Meteorological Society (UK)

    American Quaternary Association (AMQUA

    American Institute of Biological Sciences

    American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV

    American Society for Microbiology

    Institute of Biology (UK)

    Society of American Foresters (SAF

    Deniers would have you believe that somehow all these organizations and the thousands of scientists from 120 countries, who have been doing the research for 20 years, and over 30 years for some, are all scamming you in some dark conspiracy. Wow, and they call the scientists alarmists!

    LIST #2
    And here is the list of professional scientific organizations that don’t agree with the IPCC.

    American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

    Canadian Association of Petroleum Geologists (CAPG)

    That is the whole list.

    Go figure.

  37. #37 Sailrick
    March 5, 2011

    These 32 conservative think tanks have all been involved in the tobacco industry’s campaign to deny the science showing the dangers of tobacco.

    They are all now involved in the campaign to deny the science of climate change.

    1. Acton Institute
    2. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
    3. Alexis de Tocquerville Institute
    4. American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
    5. Americans for Prosperity
    6. Atlas Economic Research Foundation
    7. Burson-Marsteller (PR firm)
    8. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)
    9. Cato Institute
    10. Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
    11. Consumer Alert
    12. DCI Group (PR firm)
    13. European Science and Environment Forum
    14. Fraser Institute
    15. Frontiers of Freedom
    16. George C. Marshall Institute
    17. Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
    18. Heartland Institute
    19. Heritage Foundation
    20. Independent Institute
    21. International Center for a Scientific Ecology
    22. International Policy Network
    23. John Locke Foundation
    24. Junk Science
    25. National Center for Public Policy Research
    26. National Journalism Center
    27. National Legal Center for the Public Interest (NLCPI)
    28. Pacific Research Institute
    29. Reason Foundation
    30. Small Business Survival Committee
    31. The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)
    32. Washington Legal Foundation

    #5 and #9 are creations of the Koch brothers, though they have their hands in several others.

    #24 is run by Steve Milloy, another of Fox News’ favorite climate experts. He’s not even a scientist but a professional PR man, and a registered and paid lobbyist for fossil fuel interests. Has Fox ever disclosed this to viewers? I doubt it.

  38. #38 Sailrick
    March 5, 2011

    By the way, if you peruse the book shelves at your local Barnes and Noble, you will notice at least as many, if not more, books by climate change skeptics, as mainstream climate science books. There is a reason for this. The same “think tanks” who are spreading the disinformation for the fossil fuel industry, are funding most of these books. They promote 78% of skeptical books on climate change. This has resulted in at least 64 climate change skeptic books.

    There would be no denialist movement or literature if not for these groups. Books are another part of how they have manufactured the impression of a controversy about climate science, where there really isn’t one.

    An interest in the fossil fuel industry isn’t the only thing that motivates these groups of course. A rigid belief in the benefits of a free market that is not hampered by any envirnomental regulations is what’s behind most denialism.

  39. #39 LOL
    March 5, 2011

    Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww wassammatta Star Trek boy?

    Now you’re censoring like a good little warminista commy. Gavin would be proud of you Star Trek boy.

    good job Star Trek Boy!!!

  40. #40 Stern
    March 5, 2011

    Has anyone else noticed that the so called “Skeptics” (e.g. the LOL post above) posting here seem exactly like the bullies from high school who couldn’t get through the math and science classes so they would make fun of all the kids who performed well academically?

    Thinking about how to approach “denialists” reminds me of something Dawkins said – that we’ll almost never reach a “True Believer”, but with logic and evidence we can still persuade the people on the fence who haven’t completely succumbed to the dark side

  41. #41 Sailrick
    March 5, 2011

    Regarding the oft held belief that puny little humans cannot possibly effect something as big as the earth’s climate, I regularly post comments on the internet that try to dispell that myth.

    I do that by briefly explaining what the active carbon cycle (or short term carbon cycle) is – how carbon circulates through atmosphere, soil, water and living things. The rest is as follows.

    “You have probably heard of ‘clean coal’ – carbon capture and sequestration.
    All those dead plants and animals, that eventually became coal and oil, are sequestered carbon. Through biological and geological processes, the carbon in them was removed from the active carbon cycle and locked away in coal deposits for instance. Coal is a carbon sink from long ago.
    The active carbon cycle has been in a certain balance for probably millions of years, within which we and other species evolved and flourished.
    We are upsetting that balance.

    It took 65 million years for coal to develop in the earth, by precipitating out of the short term carbon cycle, and being locked away in coal deposits and into the long term carbon cycle. I refer to this as mother nature’s carbon sequestration, similar to what is being proposed for clean coal. Now we are releasing this 65 million year accumulation of carbon back into the atmosphere and thus, back into the short term carbon cycle, in a few hundred years, or a geological nanosecond.
    This is an unprecedented occurance, probably in the history of the planet.”

    A good book that covers this is “The Carbon Age” by Eric Roston:

    I don’t know if 65 million years is the most accurate, but it is at least tens of millions of years. Maybe someone else could clarify this a little better.

    Perhaps this is the kind of thing that needs to be better communicated to the public.
    Show people that what humans are doing is unprecedented.

    Another obvious point is that we have effected the earth on a large scale in so many other ways, other than greenhouse gases. CFCs damaging the protective ozone layer, acidification of the oceans, deforestation, dead zones in the ocean from effluent run off, polluted air and water, large scale extinction of species, etc. The list goes on and on.

  42. #42 I. Snarlalot
    March 5, 2011

    Interesting that the deniers posting here don’t try to argue the science but instead choose to spew sneering rhetoric– and pretty inept rhetoric at that.

    I suspect that in addition to the psychology, poor education, politics, culture, biology, and ideology of denialism, the problem is compounded by national bad habits concerning diet, exercise, and substance abuse all of which can contribute to less than optimal thinking.

    That is to say, no one, or even a few of these things, may be too terribly toxic. Putting them all together in sufficient amounts nationwide: lethal.

  43. #43 I Snarlalot
    March 5, 2011

    isnarlalot……

    because……..THIS is SUCH a “science” site.

    bwa freakin ha.

    Thanks for coming to this “science” based forum for discussion.

    throw up some CRAP on the wall, and the flies come in.

    Class – M oron.

  44. #44 Lance
    March 6, 2011

    I’d find John here a lot funnier, except someone just like him shot Gabby Giffords. – TTT

    And the winner for the slimiest post is…

  45. #45 Magica
    March 6, 2011

    Dear All,

    I have been working in the field of sustainable development for 25 years now. I have three University degrees. I have worked with the United Nations for 25 years and have lived and worked in many countries. I have been a Technical Advisor to the Prime Ministers of Jamaica and the Commonwealth of Dominica. I am the author of two UN reports for the Latin America region on climate change, and contributor to numerous other well recognized reports. I attend major climate meetings COP 15 COP 16 and various others.

    One interesting perspective with which to view this issue, is to look beyond the borders of the USA- to see the percentage of people who are climate “deniers” as opposed to the so called “warmists”, —looking from a global perspective.

    I am unsure of the actual numbers, but I can concretely say that I have only very very rarely encoutered “deniers” outside of the USA.

    I invite those who do not believe in human induced climate change to ask themselves why billions of people outside the USA, do believe in it. They dont even speak English often and have little interest in American media or politics. Therefore they could not be influenced, or influenced indirectly only, by the “warmists”, we are all speaking of.. What is influencing them to believe?

    Also I ask you to also please consider the number of people – like myself – who are working on climate action without pay or any benefit for ourselves? Please also take note of how many people are working day and night on “denial actions” without any pay? Please dig a little deeper and find out who is indeed funding those scientific based think tanks which are denying human induced climate change.

    If one looks into the carbon markets and carbon taxes and other climate financing mechanisms, they are not some easy ticket to make pots of money fast. They are complicated AND many, if not most of the “warmists” actually are against carbon schemes as the answer to all related issues. Cap and Trade for example is highly criticized within the “warmist” groups.

    Do you realize that the cultures and peoples of the Pacific Islands are 4000 years old? Do you realize that the President of the Maldives has set forth an “Extinction Plan” for his entire nation? Yet, he still, with his little drowning nation, set forth his own nationally energy plan to seriously cut emissions.

    Do you realize that the International Standards Organiztion is now recommending a seven foot allowance for coastal development within the next 25 years to accommodate expected and predicted sea level rise?

    Do you realize that the some studies are now even linking the melting of the ice sheets with seismic activity (the lessening of the tremendous weight of the ice by melting is thought (models are showing this) to affect the tectonic plates and perhaps cause seismic activity (Earthquakes)?

    Do you know that the National Academy of Science (USA) and the Royal Society of the UK (science body of the top UK scientists) already are in the process of trying to establish the governance structures for geo-engineering (global scale technological intervention aiming to prevent further warming?).

    Even Queen Elizabeth has warned of global warming in her Christmas message,(2009 I believe) and please ponder why she would need or feel urged to do this? She doesnt need the money or fame, and she is perhaps one of the most level headed leaders of this century?

    Why is the Head of the UNFCCC, Ms. Figueres, crying with a youth group (on a you tube video) last December in Cancun? She says that she is doing this job – which is not exactly easy – leading the UNFCCC – because of her daughters. She doesnt even need to work. She is gaining nothing. She was already well known.

    Why are Richard Branson, and Bill Gates worried about this issue so much so that they are not only funding action but spending alot of their own personal time working on the issue?

    Why did Ted Turner bother to go to sit in a three day meeting in Cancun with basically no publicity or anything for himself?

    Why did the President of Mexico spend the entire two weeks of the Cancun meetings actually AT the meetings? (And Mexico spent alot of money on the venues, as did the Government of Denmark last year? The Danish leadership requested its citizens to open their homes to the 40 thousand participants that attended as there was not enough hotel space. And they did – many of them free of charge.)

    Why is the Prime Minister of the UK so active on this issue also?

    And one more detail, the majority of climate activists world wide are youth. Please think about why youth, many of whom are teenagers, are so commited to climate action. Teenagers and college kids spending their own money and time on this issue.

    I am aquainted personally with dozens of climate activists. Every single one of them wishes the deniers were indeed correct. Every one. No one is happy that global warming is going on.

    Please, I urge you all to check the lists mentioned above. Look at the data yourself. Look at the projections of food shortages. Look at what is projected to happen to the USA and the water situation and arable land situation.

    And please look at how big money and big power is directly related to fuel the “deniers”. There is no big money for 99.9% of the “warmists” working on climate action, yet a rather inverse relationship within the “denier” circle.

    And I also urge all of us not to fight and say mean and bad things to each other – even threatening things. There is so much fear around this issue already. Remember the old rule of colonial powers – – DIVIDE and conquer. If we divide, we are conquered. We dont need to be afraid. We need to get together, and think together and work together.

    Please everyone, check the raw data yourself, become informed of what is going on. Make up you own minds. But please look outside your own borders too. Your decisions will affect everyone. It matters and it is real.

    In closing, I came across a study ranking which countries would be habitable after 2100 with any quality of life. Two only – Canada and Norway – due to a number of factors – most importantly a strong “Commons” system of governance.

    Thank you.

  46. #46 kermit
    March 7, 2011

    The short denialist’s response to magica’s impassioned post:
    “They hate us for our freedoms”. Sigh.

    I think that the right wing authoritarians (who are not necessarily religious) are expressing a primal process in human nature. To some degree, tribal identification is determined by a set of beliefs. The bad guys – atheists, liberals, scientists, foreigners, Muslims, hippies – are the ones who believe the opposite of the correct beliefs.

    Correct beliefs include:
    America is best in every way,
    I’d be rich if it weren’t for liberal economic policies,
    everybody I hate are in a conspiracy against us,
    Jesus saves(1),
    scientific theories are idle speculation or just opinions,
    elitism is bad(2).

    No evidence can change their minds. Tribal identity and authoritative pronouncements are the most important thing for right wing authoritarians. They have come to their current conclusions based not on evidence, but on their need to belong to the right group.

    They do not understand that others can be very different from them; they cannot stand in another’s shoes, even in imagination. To understand others, they try to imagine what would motivate *them to act that way:
    “I would only say there is no God if I were mad at Him. Therefore, atheists hate God.”
    Folks who see a necessity for global action must “hate America, and want a world government”.
    Anyone who thinks we need to increase taxes to pay off a collective debt must be Communists who hate private property.
    People must study science because it makes them rich, or gives them power over others.

    So naturally, all the bad guys understand who the good guys are, and would of course happily join hands in a multigeneration, international conspiracy against all that is good and pure.

    (1) Optional for Libertarian Real Americans
    (2) Except in sports, air guitar, and military adventurism.

  47. #47 indenial1smile
    March 7, 2011

    What nonsense. Far-out, some of you jokers crack me up. With name-calling, ha! You think you’re so clever ‘coz you helped warm the earth to assist growing crops etc. Idiot. Denier. Hmmph.Degenerate into the political… C’mon- you know it’s all a load of rubbish we dont need a tax for. Unreal. Ian Plimer- Heaven + Earth. Ian Wishart- Air Con. U.K. schools having to admit it’s Gorey fiction. And still you fools bleeeeet on…

  48. #48 Messier Tidy Upper
    May 11, 2011

    @ 36. Sailrick | March 5, 2011 4:05 PM :

    Good listings there – thanks. I hope you don’t mind if I quote that somewhere (eg. BadAstronomy blog) sometime?

    If folks haven’t already seen these may I recommend the “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” series by Peter Sinclair (aka “Greenman36..” er some other numerals) on Youtube as an informative and entertaining takedown on some of the Climate Contrarian canards?

  49. #49 Wow
    May 12, 2011

    “C’mon- you know it’s all a load of rubbish”

    Nope, you hope and delude yourself that it is because you don’t want to clean up your own messes, and would rather leave that to someone else’s government, even if that is your children’s government.

    “Ian Plimer- Heaven + Earth.” this would be the man who says that the sun is a glowing hot ball of iron, yes?

    “U.K. schools having to admit it’s Gorey fiction.” Ah, yes, the judge who agreed that AIT was good and accurate but for educational purposes had to add things like “the greenland ice sheet is not expected to completely melt for many years”. Meanwhile, TTGWS was so full of libellous and actionable errors that the entire thing was withdrawn and the errors removed for pubishing. And nary a sound from deniers.

    This smiling fool is, however, a great example of why it’s not possible to change a deniers mind: they will not hear anything inconvenient to their faith.