Formation of a crank: A case study

Readers of the Nation are probably by now familiar with the lunatic ravings of Alexander Cockburn on global warming.

What is bizarre, is that, before he traveled down this road, he seemed able to identify other crank ideas – like 9/11 conspiracy theories, and criticized them. Further, it’s unusual to see a left-winger become a crank on global warming. The history of this mess is interesting. It started with this first post from Cockburn, in which he declares global warming a scam.

What evolves is a fascinating picture into the formation of a crank, and the change in global warming denialism from attracting only right-wing cranks, to also attracting left-wing cranks – both denigrating science to serve a political goal.

Below the fold I’ll summarize Cockburn’s arguments and how they use the denialist tactics, George Monbiot’s responses (including his amazing crank-fu!) and discuss why in the future we may start seeing global warming denialism from the left as well as the right.

It starts off with Cockburn’s article entitled From Papal Indulgences to Carbon Credits Is Global Warming a Sin?

He starts early with a false statement:

There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend.

He then presents his evidence starting with a cherry-pick of a single time-point (while ignoring a host of reasons for the result):

Now imagine two lines on a piece of graph paper. The first rises to a crest, then slopes sharply down, then levels off and rises slowly once more. The other has no undulations. It rises in a smooth, slowly increasing arc. The first, wavy line is the worldwide CO2 tonnage produced by humans burning coal, oil and natural gas. On this graph it starts in 1928, at 1.1 gigatons (i.e. 1.1 billion metric tons). It peaks in 1929 at 1.17 gigatons. The world, led by its mightiest power, the USA, plummets into the Great Depression, and by 1932 human CO2 production has fallen to 0.88 gigatons a year, a 30 per cent drop. Hard times drove a tougher bargain than all the counsels of Al Gore or the jeremiads of the IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change). Then, in 1933 it began to climb slowly again, up to 0.9 gigatons.

And the other line, the one ascending so evenly? That’s the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, parts per million (ppm) by volume, moving in 1928 from just under 306, hitting 306 in 1929, to 307 in 1932 and on up. Boom and bust, the line heads up steadily. These days it’s at 380.There are, to be sure, seasonal variations in CO2, as measured since 1958 by the instruments on Mauna Loa, Hawai’i. (Pre-1958 measurements are of air bubbles trapped in glacial ice.) Summer and winter vary steadily by about 5 ppm, reflecting photosynthesis cycles. The two lines on that graph proclaim that a whopping 30 per cent cut in man-made CO2 emissions didn’t even cause a 1 ppm drop in the atmosphere’s CO2. Thus it is impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from human burning of fossil fuels.

You see, based on about 4 years of records, and the study of only two variables, you can disprove the entire science. This is a pretty fascinating argument – and classic crankery.

But how could he possibly justify this conclusion, and where did he get this stunningly stupid analysis? Well, it’s pretty extraordinary, and it represents an almost sure sign of crankery. He knows global warming is a lie because some guy he met on a boat told him so.

I met Dr. Martin Hertzberg, the man who drew that graph and those conclusions, on a Nation cruise back in 2001. He remarked that while he shared many of the Nation’s editorial positions, he approved of my reservations on the issue of supposed human contributions to global warming, as outlined in columns I wrote at that time. Hertzberg was a meteorologist for three years in the U.S. Navy, an occupation which gave him a lifelong mistrust of climate modeling. Trained in chemistry and physics, a combustion research scientist for most of his career, he’s retired now in Copper Mountain, Colorado, still consulting from time to time.

That’s right. A guy who was a meteorologist for three years is his expert. A meteorologist, not a climate scientist, for three years in the navy. He met him on a boat. Of course. It all makes sense now.

But what is Hertzberg’s evidence? Where does he get this so-called proof that everyone is wrong but him?

Not so long ago, Hertzberg sent me some of his recent papers on the global warming hypothesis, a construct now accepted by many progressives as infallible as Papal dogma on matters of faith or doctrine. Among them was the graph described above so devastating to the hypothesis.

Ah, papers! But wait. Where are these papers published? Where are the citations? Where is the peer review? How can we possibly analyze this ingenious disproof of the entirety of climate science without a citation?

Cockburn then goes on to recycle the oft repeated confusion that water is a climate forcing agent , hockey stick misrepresentations, the classic CO2 lags temperature canard and various assertions about not being able to accurately measure temperature because we can’t do that over water (we have satellites for that pal).

Well, very wisely, Monbiot asks just one critical question (where are your references?) and cleverly compares this recent foray of Cockburn’s into crankery to the 9/11 truth movement.

Cockburn provides no evidence that he has mastered these issues, or that his research into his chosen subject is any more extensive than that of the conspiracists he so correctly and so entertainingly derides. But this is not the only resemblance between his case and the case made by the truthers.

Cockburn’s article cannot be taken seriously until we have seen his list of references, and affirmed that the key claims he makes have already been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This would not mean they are correct, though it does mean that they are worth discussing. Could he possibly have gone into print without first ensuring that the scientific claims on which he bases his arguments have been properly published? I find this hard to believe, for it would be the height of irresponsibility. But Cockburn now has to demonstrate, by providing his references, that he did indeed carry out this basic check.

Then, comes Cockburn’s second article and response. Does he answer Monbiot’s questions? Of course not! He’s become a crank! For anyone who has read the HOWTO (I swear I wrote it before reading these articles), the crank never responds to a criticism, they instead must restate their claims, louder, and add more fuel to the fire.

First he chucks out a conspiracy theory!

In fact, when it comes to corporate sponsorship of crackpot theories about why the world is getting warmer, the best documented conspiracy of interest is between the Greenhouser fearmongers and the nuclear industry, now largely owned by oil companies, whose prospects twenty years ago looked dark, amid headlines about the fall-out from Chernobyl, aging plants and nuclear waste dumps leaking from here to eternity. The apex Greenhouse fearmongers are well aware that the only exit from the imaginary crisis they have been sponsoring is through a door marked “nuclear power”, with a servant’s sidedoor labeled “clean coal”.

He reasserts his previous position without responding to Monbiot:

(I refer those who rear back at the words “imaginary crisis” to my last column on this topic, where I emphasize that there is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind’s sinful contribution.)

Then he attacks Gore for a while, snore. Then, like he was reading the HOWTO, he attacks scientists as being grant-guzzlers. Another conspiracy theory!

The footsoldiers in this alliance have been the grant-guzzling climate modelers and their Internationale, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose collective scientific expertise is reverently invoked by all devotees of the Greenhouse fearmongers’ catechism. Aside from the fact that the graveyard of intellectual error is stuffed with the myriad tombstones of “overwhelming scientific consensus”, the IPCC has the usual army of functionaries and grant farmers, and the merest sprinkling of actual scientists with the prime qualification of being climatologists or atmospheric physicists.

Man-made global warming theory is fed by pseudo quantitative predictions from climate-careerists working primarily off the big, mega-computer General Circulation Models which include the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Department of Commerce’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, a private GCM which used to be at Oregon State before the University of Illinois lured the team away. There’s another one at Livermore and one in England, at Hadley.

Can’t you just feel the hatred for scientists just boiling off of him? It’s something else. Monbiot responds again simply requesting references, and now evincing some powerful crank-fu. Monbiot knows what he’s up against now, and starts outlining the HOWTO all on his own.

People who deny that manmade climate change is taking place have this in common: they do not answer their critics. They make what they say are definitive refutations of the science of climate change. When these refutations are shown to be nonsense, they do not seek to defend them. They simply repeat them as if nothing has changed, then move on to another line of attack.

What else can they do? If they have no understanding of science and no means of supporting their claims, they must seek to distract their critics with a barrage of new allegations. It doesn’t matter where they might be placed on the political spectrum – whether like James Inhofe and Joe Barton they come from the hard right or, like Alexander Cockburn, they come from the left. The tactic is always the same: never apologise, never explain. Just raise the volume, keep moving, and hope that people won’t notice the trail of broken claims in your wake.

Why did I do all that work yesterday? Monbiot had already done it for me. He spots the conspiracy theories too

But he must keep moving, firing his Parthian shots as he goes. Concern about global warming is a “conspiracy of interest between the Greenhouser fearmongers and the nuclear industry”. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an “army of functionaries and grant farmers, and the merest sprinkling of actual scientists”, whose science is less reliable than Lombroso’s craniology. Don’t stop. Don’t look back. Don’t let your opponents draw breath.

And ends with a killer question.

Scientists in the United Kingdom sometimes satirise people who claim to know more about their own subjects than they do by imagining how they would respond if asked to provide their references. “Man I Met in a Bar, A. 2006. Why I am Right and Everyone Else is Wrong. Proceedings of the Inebriate Society, Vol 9991524, no4.” So far, Alexander Cockburn’s references amount to “Man I Met on a Ship, A. 2001.” If he has better sources than that, why won’t he reveal them?

What is Cockburn’s response? Well, he’s a crank. So what do you think he does? Cry persecution! (I swear again I wrote the HOWTO before reading these articles, John Lynch and Tim Lambert will back me up on this)

I began this series of critiques of the greenhouse fearmongers with an evocation of the papal indulgences of the Middle Ages as precursors of the “carbon credits”-ready relief for carbon sinners, burdened, because all humans exhale carbon, with original sin. In the Middle Ages they burned heretics, and after reading through the hefty pile of abusive comments and supposed refutations of my initial article on global warming I’m fairly sure that the critics would be only to happy to cash in whatever carbon credits they have and torch me without further ado.

The greenhouse fearmongers explode at the first critical word, and have contrived a series of primitive rhetorical pandybats which they flourish in retaliation. Those who disagree with their claim that anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of the small, measured increase in the average earth’s surface temperature, are stigmatized as “denialists,” a charge which scurrilously combines an acoustic intimation of nihilism with a suggested affinity to those who insist the Holocaust never took place.

I’m flabbergasted. He seems to be upset with people like me that point out that people with no data who allege conspiracies, cherry pick data, cite false experts (if the guy on the boat wasn’t enough he goes on to cite Pat Michaels), bash peer-review, move goalposts and make illogical and incorrect assertions about the science might resemble denialists. What’s the cry? They called me names! Persecution! It’s burning of heretics!

It’s actually not name-calling. It’s the description of the use of a specific set of tactics to avoid substantive debate about science or facts and boy does he ever use the tactics.

Now Monbiot is fully-primed, he knows he’s dealing with a full-blown crank now. His final response is perfect:

I have now asked twice in public and four times in private. I have received three replies, each more vituperative and abusive than the last, but no answer to my question. It was not a complicated request. Alexander Cockburn maintained that the evidence that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere do not result from burning fossil fuels was contained in “papers” written by a Dr Martin Hertzberg. Knowing that papers carry no scientific weight unless they are published in peer-reviewed journals, I asked for references. This request, apparently, makes me an egotist, a liar and the “honorary chairman of the King Canute Action Committee”(1). But that is the extent of the information Cockburn has been kind enough to divulge to me. Of references, there is not a word.

In Cockburn’s latest column for the Nation and Counterpunch, he suggests that the request for peer review is “heavily overworked” and has been corrupted by climate scientists(2). Unable to provide peer-reviewed papers to support his claims, he instead attacks peer review. In doing so, he draws on the support of two great authorities: Patrick Michaels and Frederick Seitz. Perhaps he does not know who these men are. He would have done well to have found out before calling them as witnesses for the defence.

He then goes into the explanation for why Michaels and Seitz are not to be trusted as experts on anything.

Monbiot really nails him as a crank in this series of exchanges but there is a serious problem here, and in the debate at zdnet (all the essays are in this link) there is this essay by Justin Podur that describes why denialism about global warming may emerge from the left as well.

He argues that the carbon-trading market system advocated by global warming educators like Gore is really not going to benefit the environment as much as it will benefit industry. If anything, the diversion of crops from food to energy production will increase food prices and disproportionately hurt the world’s poor.

The first problem for leftists trying to understand climate science is that they cannot trust Gore and they cannot automatically trust the scientific consensus. The next problem is that the best-known proposed solutions for dealing with the problem are flawed. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, is completely inadequate for stabilizing emissions. Carbon emissions trading and markets are designed to provide incentives to corporate emitters. Biofuels, in the form of palm oil and sugarcane plantations, are helping to displace peasants through paramilitary massacre in Colombia, contributing to dangerous food shortages, and in any case cause CO2 emissions just like fossil fuels do. If credible science is mixed with dubious pro-corporate policy, which is what Gore has to offer, leftists might feel the sensible thing to do is reject the whole package.

This is what is probably caused the formation of these new left wing cranks on global warming (Podur describes a few other examples). The problem is that the solutions we are seeing are likely to negatively impact poorer countries, and lefties interested in social justice, and with a cranky disposition, might just reject all of global warming as yet another get-rich quick scheme for the illuminati. This would indeed be unfortunate.

It’s important to remember both the left and the right have anti-scientific tendencies, the left’s just tend to be less religious, less world-threatening and more woo-based. My brother recently told me about moving to California, “they don’t believe in Jesus here, just bullshit” in reference to the woo-based beliefs of large portions of the population. The risk of unscientific tendencies is when people with potential to become cranks see a scientific theory as a threat to some overvalued idea they hold dear. Sometimes the over-valued idea isn’t even a bad quality, it can be compassion – but taken to an extreme. If the left starts to see global warming policy as a money-grab by the elites, expect to see more left wing crankery and climate denial based on conspiratorial beliefs about carbon markets.

I suspect this is what has happened to Alexander Cockburn, a lefty who has gone over the deep end, on what appears to be suspicions of a conspiracy to further defraud and hurt poor countries using global warming science.

It might be true that carbon trading will hurt the poor, but that doesn’t change the fact that the science supports anthropogenic climate change. That’s an appeal to consequences, and shouldn’t be a reason to disbelieve and disparage the science and scientists who have worked this stuff out.

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Comments

  1. #1 David
    June 1, 2007

    From that first Cockburn link you give: “Milutin Milankovitch, one of the giants of 20th-century astrophysics.”

    I think it’s interesting that Cockburn thinks this ad hominem will work. He seems to think that science derives at least some authority from the stature of scientists.

    Maybe I’m reading too much, too simplistically, into him, but I think this sort of worldview (all we can know is the competing ideas of great thinkers) is vulnerable to crankery, because, if all these people did was have good ideas, well, hey, why can’t I?

  2. #2 ChuckO
    June 1, 2007

    When it comes to matters of science, Cockburn seems to lose his rational faculties. In addition to his global warming beliefs, on his CounterPunch web site, he has stated that he believes in the abiotic theory of the creation of oil, a theory which runs counter to known facts. He has also published an article on the web site that endorses the unproven notion that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism in children.

  3. #3 Dunc
    June 1, 2007

    The two lines on that graph proclaim that a whopping 30 per cent cut in man-made CO2 emissions didn’t even cause a 1 ppm drop in the atmosphere’s CO2. Thus it is impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from human burning of fossil fuels.

    WTF? CO2 does not magically disappear from the atmosphere at the end of the year in which it was emitted. A reduction in the rate of emissions does not imply a reduction in the total level.

    Does turning the tap filling your bath down from full-on to one-quarter-on cause the bath to start emptying?

    Every time I think I’ve seen the stupidest AGW-denialist argument ever, somebody has to go and prove me wrong…

  4. #4 Tony
    June 1, 2007

    Excellent analysis, as always. I, too, enjoyed the Monbiot takedown. And I think you’re right about the carbon market possibly turning away the New World Order types. A tax would be fairer and simpler — as would Monbiot’s idea about designating a per capita carbon ration to each individual on Earth. It seems to me that rationing is inevitable in the long run, but I’m extremely pessimistic about the ability of the public to wake up to the urgency of the problem. Already, there’s some evidence that alarmism is interpreted as hysteria by the public and can be counterproductive. What a Debbie Downer!

    Keep up the good work! This blog is habit-forming.

    (P.S. Final paragraph should read “anthropogenic climate change”. Normally, I’d add an emoticon here, but some purists object.)

  5. #5 Donald Wolberg
    June 1, 2007

    Science need discussion not techno-religion o the sky is falling and we are all melting. I suggest that one must divorce politics from science and look at what is really available. One also wonders what influence anyone has on the Chinese who continue to open one new coal fired power plant every week…that’s 52/year. Or the Indians who are doing the same.

    One also wonders why more of the neocatastrophist community doesn’t look at the earth record available to them. There is an amazingly detailed record of Earth environmental data that spans 4.6 billion years and if that is just too much of a recod, look only at the Phanerozoic from the Eocambrian/Cambrian to the present. You folks might want to take an undergraduate course in Historical geology, Paleontology, Paleoecology, Pleistocence Geology, etc., etc. There is a difference between climate and weather. The Cretaceous saw CO@ at 8-10 times present levels and O2 has fluctuated: 38% in the Devonian to 14% during the mother of all extinctions in the Permo-Triassic. Most of the Al Gorpisms charades are bad science fed to him by script writersless astute than most vegetables. So before silly 4 year climate graphs are thrown about, and before anyone forgets that the dinos breathed an atmosphere of 28% O2 and 5000-plus ppb CO2, start to worry about why O2 seems to be declining through the Phanerozoic. Or: take some good geology and paleontology courses. Possibly astronomy as well, come to think about it; Mars seems to be warming, Jupiter and Titan seem to be warming; Pluto seems to be warming…hmmmm…interesting.

  6. #6 Ted
    June 1, 2007

    Monbiot’s idea about designating a per capita carbon ration to each individual on Earth….

    Today’s USAToday has an article on the President’s Global Warming Summit. It’s not more than an outline of delaying tactics, but the money is in the USAToday’s ubiquitous tables where the worldwide carbon dioxide output for 2004 is chronicled:

    Greenhouse Gas Leaders
    USA 22%
    China 17%
    Russia 6%
    Japan 5%
    and so on…

    Hmm. No mention of per capita there. Lemme see, 300 million putting out 22% and 1.3B putting out 17%. And if we took the table back for a few years and compared per capita accumulations, I’d bet that the picture would look particularly ugly.

    Hey, there’s a reason that the average American is famously productive compared to those damn commies.

  7. #7 IanR
    June 1, 2007

    It’s easy for me to be dismissive of the industry-funded anti-GW nonsense, since it seems to be nothing but people out to make some money. The religious “God wouldn’t let that happen to us” people are just annoying. Lump them in with the theocrats as evil. But left-wing cranks elicit such mixed emotions from me. Developing countries are going to get screwed no matter what happens, far worse than rich countries – we need people to stand up for their rights. But not this way! It’s just sad, to see fundamentally good intentions resulting in such crankery.

    As Tony said:

    Keep up the good work! This blog is habit-forming.

  8. #8 Booker
    June 1, 2007

    Cockburn is clearly an amateur — he forgot to mention Galileo.

  9. #9 MarkH
    June 1, 2007

    Anthropomorphic ha! That’s a goof. Fixed.

    I’m sorry I wrote such a long post last night guys, to those who have suffered through the whole thing, I salute you. But it was really just the perfect evolution of a crank argument creating that classic paranoid persecution disorder. It was something else to read.

  10. #10 MarkH
    June 1, 2007

    Wow Wolberg, you really thought you could just show up, drop a bunch of inaccurate statements and canards and think that somehow we’d all think you’re a genius and we should all change our minds?

    The record does not go back 4.6 billion years, at best the proxy climate record goes back about 1 million years. Everything beyond that, I understand, are individual inferences from the geologic record with a lot less accuracy. Further how things were on Pangaea is one thing, the consequences of global warming in the modern world could be very severe since we’ve adapted to our current climate.

    This new “the solar system is warming therefore it’s not carbon” crap is a joke. The authors of the “mars is warming” paper said only an idiot would compare the two climates as an excuse to attack global warming. Well there you have it. Also you’re cherry picking, how about Venus and Jupiter? Have you systematically evaluated the climate on each of these planets or are you just latching onto every little factoid that allows you to protect your anti-scientific idea? Hmmm, that’s a tough one.

    And as Ted points out, China is a novice at emissions compared to us. This fatalism about other countries has nothing to do with the validity of the science, or our future abilities to generate technological changes that will allow us to respond.

    Classic crankery (including the bad grammar), nice job. We’re unimpressed with the argument however.

  11. #11 Pete h D
    June 1, 2007

    Misplaced negation (or erroneous temporal ordering)?

    (I swear I didn’t write it before reading these articles).

    Or am I just missing your meaning?

    Love the blog!

  12. #12 MarkH
    June 1, 2007

    I was referring to my crank howto pete. I wrote it 2-3 days ago and then read this unbelievable crankery from Cockburn.

    It fit too perfectly, so I was sure people would think I based the HOWTO on Cockburn, but I didn’t.

  13. #13 jtdub
    June 1, 2007

    “Man I Met in a Bar, A. 2006…” Classic.

    I hope you’ve thought about compiling some of these posts into a book of some sort- it would be like “Why people believe weird things…” but better.

  14. #14 GDG
    June 1, 2007

    I clicked through to the “CO2 lags temperature canard” link, and I was not reassured that the canard is the dead duck others claim it is. The link takes the reader to a 2004 post on the RealClimate.org. (That post now links through to an updated 2007 post.)

    The basic argument is that, while there may be a lag, there is positive feedback between temperature and CO2. Nothing wrong with that per se, but there must be other quantities other than temperature and CO2 that are coevolving.

    The original 2004 post implies that there is some (as yet) unmodeled process that interacts with temperature and CO2. The post reads: “Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO 2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release. So CO2 during ice ages should be thought of as a ‘feedback’, much like the feedback that results from putting a microphone too near to a loudspeaker.”

    The post, however, does not provide much in the way of policy-relevant information. Policy-relevant questions and information include:

    (1) Some measure of the magnitude of the positive feedback. Is it “small?” Is it large, and can reducing artificial emmissions dampen that effect?

    (2) If the effect extends over an interval of 5,000 years (as the 2004 post claims), then do we really have to be in a big rush to reduce emmissions now? Is it already too late to avoid serious consequences?

    (3) Ultimately, what are those unknown processes? Are changes in CO2 really just a proximate cause (if much of a cause at all), in which case we might be missing the most important action?

    Even if there is no positive feedback between CO2 and temperature, my own policy-relevant preferences remain the same: I’d love to see a shift into an economy that is less dependent on carbon resources. (Note: Let oil prices rise Make people directly perceive higher costs to using petro-chemicals!)

    Final note: I haven’t been keeping up with this Cockburn fellow, and, whether he is a crank or not, Mark H’s post strikes me as not a little cranky itself. A little humility please!

    Cheers.

  15. #15 Bronze Dog
    June 1, 2007

    Just something I thought I’d mention about thermal satellites and oceans: For a while, thermal data was only used for water because it was the only thing that had a consistent emissivity rate (about 98%), thus allowing us to easily calculate its temperature. It took a while to find the different emissivity values for different land cover types, but now we can use data other than weather station points, and we can go back to the earliest satellite thermal imagery to interpret it.

    Now to go back and read the rest of the idiocy you dissect…

  16. #16 MarkH
    June 1, 2007

    GDG,
    The issue of lag is an interesting one. The way I understand the theory, without anthropogenic carbon, it has previously been solar cycles that were responsible for most of the forcing on climate. As the cycles warmed the earth, carbon would be freed from various types of sinks (part of the origin of a fear of tipping points), this then feeds back until it essentially tops out. The best evidence that carbon has a major effect on forcing climate comes on the downside of the curve, when carbon drops precede the temperature drop.

    As far as me acting cranky, please. Cockburn suggests a grand conspiracy of politicians, oil companies and “grant-guzzling” climate modelers and scientists are out to defraud us because some guy on a boat told him so. He then publishes this in several outlets, and in response to criticism becomes more vituperative and crazy with each additional post! He starts confuses climate forcing with feedback, cites fake experts like Michaels and the hacks from George C. Marshall, and cries persecution like crazy. This is classic crankiness, and it’s really pretty hysterical.

    Where did I lose humility? When I called this lunacy? I’m very confused. I’m usually considered quite reserved compared to some of sciblings.

  17. #17 GDG
    June 1, 2007

    OK. You’re not cranky! ;-)

    Giuliana, you’re fellow humble passenger of Spaceship Earth.

  18. #18 MarkH
    June 1, 2007

    Now I think you’re just mocking me. Persecutor!

  19. #19 Lab Lemming
    June 1, 2007

    The papers showing huge early 20th century CO2 fluctuations do actually exist. The point of the papers was to show that measuring atmospheric CO2 in a city is tricky, as the concentration changes with the sampling location, wind direction, etc.

    Of course, a crank unable (or unwilling) to tell good data from bad data can easily reinterpret the results to mean that the whole atmosphere undergoes drastic fluctuations.

  20. #20 Pete h D
    June 1, 2007

    OK, I know this is a completely trivial point, but I just can’t refrain from following up (though I really did try). You wrote HowTo before reading Cockburn — and you swear to this. But your text reads “I didn’t write [HowTo] before reading [Cockburn].” So unless there’s irony here, the text says the opposite of what you mean. Again, sorry to even be discussing this, but I’m feeling like perhaps I should be worried that I have screw loose.

  21. #21 Chris Hyland
    June 2, 2007

    It’s probably worth pointing out that Monbiot is already on those problems you mentioned for the left:
    Carbon Trading
    Biofuels

  22. #22 MarkH
    June 2, 2007

    I see now. It definitely isn’t clear. I’ll fix it.

    I did write the HOWTO before reading Cockburn, that was the only point I was trying to make. The fact that it describes his arguments so closely is what was so eerie to me.

  23. #23 Graculus
    June 2, 2007

    the best documented conspiracy of interest is between the Greenhouser fearmongers and the nuclear industry.

    Did anyone eles immediately think of the Lumber Cartel?

  24. #24 CaptainBooshi
    June 3, 2007

    I think my favorite part about the idea that this is all a conspiracy by ‘grant-farming’ climatologists is the idea that if global warming didn’t exist, they’d be out of a job.

    I mean, after all, the earth and it’s weather is understood so well that I’m sure they wouldn’t be able to find anything else just as interesting and potentially useful to research, right?

  25. #25 MarkH
    June 3, 2007

    That’s a damn good point Captain.

  26. #26 Micahel Varrenti
    June 3, 2007

    It’s important to remember both the left and the right have anti-scientific tendencies

    Indeed. The crops and people of the USSR suffered as Stalin extolled the “science” of Trofim Lysenko over traditional genetics – which was ignored for not obeying the laws of Marxists Dialectics…

  27. #27 blf
    June 4, 2007

    … a lefty who has gone over the deep end, on what appears to be suspicions of a conspiracy to further defraud and hurt poor countries using global warming science.

    I ran into someone a few weeks back who seems to fit this description rather well. I (inadvertently) started his ranting by asking what airline that flies between mainland Europe and Ireland does the most to minimise its AGW impact. The guy quickly went off the overcrowded deep end, calling AGW a fraud blah blah blah. After some probing, it turns out the guy is involved with some NGO projects in parts of central Africa, and thinks AGW is a plot to prevent “Africa” from exploiting its reserves of coal and oil to generate much-needed electricity.

  28. #28 Lab Lemming
    June 4, 2007

    Has anyone looked at crankery from a psychological/ self-identity point of view? It seems that if you look at the behavior, and not the pathetic arguments used to justify it, that the following may be a trend:

    A person puts up an unusual or interesting opinion distinct from the mainstream- possibly thought through, possibly not. (Why? individuality? Attention seeking? I have no idea)

    A mischief maker promotes this idea, giving the proto-crank (a knob?) positive affirmation.

    The crank uses that affirmation as feedback to continue his trajectory away from the realm of common opinion.

    After a few cycles, the positive affirmation becomes less ingrained, but te behavioral pattern is set. Like gambling, the hope for occasional reward override common sense.

    While this is obviously rampant speculation (crankery, even?), I think that it is a better approach than trying to analyse crank arguments, because the arguments don’t exist- they are transparent ad hoc excusism for a predetermined position.

  29. #29 Corwin
    June 8, 2007

    I’ve not paid much attention to the global warming debate;I’ve had higher priorities with my time.I am amused by the credentials of the alarmists.Probably,the best investment of my time is to pay attention to Freeman Dyson.I’ll put in more time and get back to you.Still denial is endemic.I don’t comment unless I have enough knowledge to read something critically.Something more people should do.

  30. #30 Karl
    June 8, 2007

    “they must seek to distract their critics with a barrage of new allegations.”

    Do the newness of the allegations make them inherently wrong.

    Much of this reads like religious discourse.

    I think the rhetorical analysis is interesting, but to me, an agnostic on the issue, the rehtorical techniques are much more evident on the warming side, and were what piqued my suspicions.

    “I think my favorite part about the idea that this is all a conspiracy by ‘grant-farming’ climatologists is the idea that if global warming didn’t exist, they’d be out of a job.”

    Fewer grants doesn’t mean out of a job. Look into drug company practices to influence results.

    If the “science” found forcing, but miniscule, the grants would drop off. The more alarming, the more profitable.

  31. #31 Dave Surls
    June 9, 2007

    “at best the proxy climate record goes back about 1 million years.”

    Total hogwash.

    100% not true.