Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Archive for the ‘Pseudo science’ Category

Occam’s Razor works for me!

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‘The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Line’ by Dr Michael Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, was recently published in paperback.  I decided to purchase a copy.  Here is my review of the book, as published on amazon.com.

In the opening chapters of this book, Michael Mann repeatedly makes it clear that, as a physicist, his interest in palaeoclimatology was entirely natural.  That is to say, he did not approach the evidence for climate change with any prejudicial notion of what he wanted to find, least of all to prove that ongoing climate change is predominantly human-caused.  

Those who are suspicious of Michael Mann’s motives will no doubt respond:
“Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he!

However, all readers of this book will, sooner or later, have to decide where they stand on the question of the validity of ‘Occam’s Razor’.  This is the logical supposition that, among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.  With regard to climate science, I have to say, it works for me:  Either this book is an unashamed piece of propaganda and, from the very start, is deeply disingenuous; or it is the honest account of a very humble physicist who, completely unwittingly, became the focus of the biggest industry-funded misinformation campaign of modern times.

Having read both this book and Andrew Montford’s ‘Hockey Stick Illusion’, I should like to propose that, even if you have not done so, you have the following choice:  Do you put your trust in an authoritative argument from a genuine expert (Mann) or do you want to believe the conspiracy theory put forward by a non-expert (Montford)?

Put it another way, are you going to believe that climate scientists are over-stating a problem in order to perpetuate the funding of their research; or are you willing to accept that business leaders are down-playing a problem in order to perpetuate the viability of their business?

If you are undecided, the following facts may help you:
(1)  There is no significant precedent for research scientists over-stating environmental problems – nor any evidence (that has not been examined and found to be groundless) that climate scientists are doing this or have done this at any time in the last twenty years.
(2) There is a very significant precedent for business leaders (in the tobacco industry) down-playing environmental problems – and a great deal of evidence that this is exactly what fossil fuel executives have been doing for at least the last 20 to 50 years.

In the opening chapters of this book I was particularly impressed by the following argument (attributed to Stephen Schneider): We do not buy home insurance because we think our house may burn down. We buy it because that very unlikely event will be catastrophic… Applied to the issue of anthropogenic climate disruption, humanity’s continuing failure to take out insurance against an increasing probable catastrophic outcome does indeed seem “crazy”…  Unless of course, you prefer to believe the ideologically prejudiced opinions of other genuine non-experts like Senator James Inhoffe, who would have us all believe that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is a false alarm.

If, after reading this book, you still think ACD is a false alarm, I suggest you cancel your fire insurance – you’re wasting your money – it’s never going to happen.

Nice website, shame about the ideological blindness

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Masthead-v6

A  blogger friend of mine who subscribes to NaturalNews.com sent me the a link to an article on it, entitled ‘Global warming computer models collapse; Arctic ice sheets rapidly expand as planet plunges into global cooling’ , challenging me to find the scientific flaws in it.

Sadly, this was very easy:  There is no valid science in the article, which is written by Mike Adams, who… “is an award-winning journalist and holistic nutritionist with a passion for sharing empowering information to help improve personal and planetary health…” (i.e. he is not a scientist).

Indeed, upon reading the article and doing some investigation of its sources (etc), it quickly became apparent that the article is, in fact, just a regurgitation of misinformation posted by scientifically-illiterate journalists in the Mail on Sunday (David Rose) and Sunday Telegraph (Hayley Dixon).  ***Update – Apparently ‘Hayley Dixon’ IS David Rose (see first comment posted below)***

Dana Nuccitelli, author of a number of peer-reviewed articles on the scientific basis for concern about human-caused climate change, has done two good demolition jobs on these articles: (1) briefly (on both) on the Guardian website; and (2) in more detail (on David Rose) on the SkepticalScience website:

(1) – Arctic sea ice delusions strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph

(2) – Arctic sea-ice ‘growth’, a manufactured IPCC ‘crisis’ and more: David Rose is at it again

However, for the record, this is my response to the (un)original article by Mike Adams:

The flaw in the article is that it is full of statements of opinion dressed up as fact; and that those opinions can only be justified by dismissing the consensus view of our predicament as a political and/or scientific conspiracy. Indeed, this article is quite remarkable in that it manages to include just about every ‘sceptical’ argument I have ever heard. All of which are answered on sites like SkepticalScience/Arguments.

The problem, of course, is that if you are a conspiracy theorist, any source of information that conflicts with your beliefs is automatically rejected as being part of the conspiracy. If so, how do I know that it is not me that is the conspiracy theorist? That is simple: My beliefs are not just my beliefs; they reflect the settled view of the vast majority of relevant experts based on an examination of all of the evidence.

Therefore, unlike the erroneous consensus that the Earth is flat that was overturned by the weight of conflicting evidence, the consensus that humans are the primary cause of climate change will never be overturned by people like Mike Adams who cherry-pick the only data capable of justifying an alternative view.

To dismiss the vast majority of experts as stupid, mistaken, or deceitful, is not just conspiracy theory; it is also highly improbable. As I have now said many times, it is more likely that the Moon Landings were faked and/or that 9/11 was an inside job.  

Clearly, people like Mike Adams (who has chosen very unwisely to live in Tuscon, AZ – one of the World’s most unsustainable cities) are perfectly at liberty to choose to believe conspiracy theories rather than accept science. However, in doing so, the vast majority of the evidence suggests that they are being ideologically blinded to the intellectual dishonesty required to make that decision: The decision not to follow the evidence to the fully justifiable conclusion that humans are primarily responsible for what is happening to our planet and need to modify their behaviour accordingly.

Resources are not infinite, and perpetual growth in consumption of any resource is therefore ultimately impossible. Fossil fuels will run out one day and we therefore need to plan for a World without them. However, now that we know burning them is endangering the climatic stability that made all life on Earth possible (i.e. the settled view of the vast majority of scientists), we need to phase out fossil fuel use wherever possible; and as fast as possible.

If we do not plan for this transition (to a fossil fuel-free future), it will happen anyway (and be a lot more abrupt, costly, and unpleasant). Therefore, as someone once said, “Failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail!”

Written by Martin Lack

11 September 2013 at 16:00

To mark Australia’s return to the anti-science wilderness!

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It looks like Australia is just about to elect the most anti-science government outside of North America:  ‘Tony Abbott to win Australian election, final polls show’ (i.e. on UK’s Telegraph website).

To mark this latest ‘victory’ for those duped by conspiracy theory explanations for climate science in particular (and the stupidity of libertarian ideological blindness in general), I have decided to reproduce below my response to my most recent reality-challenged follower, called ‘freedomfan’, who has suggested that Richard Lindzen’s beliefs are a good reason to think humanity is not sleepwalking into an environmental catastrophe.

Richard Lindzen may be a meteorologist but he is not well-respected. He shredded his scientific credibility a long time ago as a result of being willing to appear as an expert witness for tobacco companies trying to dispute the reality of inconvenient science. Sadly, he learnt nothing from doing this and has repeated his mistake with the fossil fuel industry.

For someone who is gambling the future habitability on low climate sensitivity (when every time the issue is revisited the consensus view is that Lindzen is wrong), you seem remarkably confident in your own wishful thinking. This seems even more ill-judged when you consider that the International Monetary Fund, the International Energy Agency and the US Department of Defense all agree that anthropogenic climate disruption is happening; and that it is significant, bad, and worth preventing. Are they all in on the conspiracy to perpetuate scientific research funding; and/or justify higher taxes and authoritarian government? Quite frankly, it is more likely that the Moon Landings were faked (e.g. that flag was blowing in a breeze after all, right?).

If there is no positive feedback mechanism (and/or massive inertia in the climate system), why have the glaciers, ice caps, ice shelves and sea ice all continued to melt? If there is no positive feedback mechanism, why is the Keeling Curve a curve (rather than a straight line)? Positive feedback mechanisms are everywhere in Nature (very few things are linear); because Nature is biological – and we are part of it.

Here are 10 positive feedback mechanisms, which Guy McPherson has identified, that all need to be “disappeared” before your ambivalence towards the veracity of climate science becomes anywhere near being anything other than ideological blindness:
– Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean.
– Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic Ocean.
– Siberian methane vents are increasing in size.
– Amazonian drought/fires released more CO2 than USA in 2010.
– Peat decomposition in boreal forests is accelerating.
– Methane is now being released from seabed in the Antarctic.
– Wildfires are increasing in frequency and scale.
– Increased CO2 is accelerating glacier disintegration.
– Exposure to sunlight is accelerating the thawing of the permafrost.
– Arctic drilling is being fast-tracked by Western governments.

For links to data sources, see: What on Earth are we doing (19 February 2013).

Anyone in any doubt about Lindzen, should read the large number of posts on this blog in the ‘Lindzengate’ category.  However, anyone in a hurry should start with:  Lindzen is either negligent, incompetent, or deceitful (6 July 2012).

How NOT to be sceptical

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In the process of compiling my previous post, I was reminded of this one; and decided it warranted being re-posted in its own right…  Originally posted on 7 September 2011, as How to be a climate change “sceptic”, this is probably (even if I do say so myself) one of the best things I have ever written here (because it neatly summarises the raison d’etre of this blog).

———-

Washington and Cook - Climate Change DenialIf I have not said it before, the reason sceptic is inside quotation marks is because I take the view, as do Clive Hamilton, Peter Jacques, and David MacKay, that those who deny anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) are not sceptics at all.

As a consequence of this, my (MA in Environmental Politics) dissertation (researching climate change scepticism in the UK) included a threefold theoretical background, as summarised (on my old blog) as follows:
1. The philosophical roots of scepticism;
2. The political misuse of scepticism; and
3. The psychology of denial.

All of this leads me to offer readers this easy-to-use guide on “How to be a climate change ‘sceptic'”, as follows:
1. Assume everything you have been told by authority figures is a lie.
2. Assume, even though you are not an expert, that you know best.
3. Allow confirmation bias to prevent you from considering any information that might alert you to the fact that you are suffering from cognitive dissonance (i.e. “It is hard to convey just how selective you have to be to dismiss the evidence for climate change. You must climb over a mountain of evidence to pick up a crumb: a crumb which then disintegrates in your palm. You must ignore an entire canon of science, the statements of the world’s most eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of papers published in the foremost scientific journals…”George Monbiot, 10 May 2005).
4. Continue asserting your individual human rights whilst simultaneously ignoring your collective human responsibilities.
5. Maintain a utilitarian attitude to the environment (i.e. “use it up and wear it out”) despite mounting evidence to indicate that the ecological carrying capacity of planet Earth (w.r.t. humans at least) has already been exceeded.
6. Accuse anyone who asserts that there is cause for concern and/or an urgent need for radical action to mitigate humanity’s impact on the planet as being any or all of the following:- anti-human, anti-libertarian, anti-progress, anti-Western, and/or in favour of a new global socialist world government (“which is what the UN is all about, init!”).

In his book, ”Bad Science”, Ben Goldacre says that proponents of pseudoscience have succeeded in making people think science is impenetrable. However, the truth may be even more insidious because, by awakening people to the fact that they are regularly being lied to, these peddlers of pseudoscience have in fact contributed to – if not caused – a much more widespread distrust of science and all scientific authority.

Therefore, I would humlby suggest that claiming that humanity is not the cause of climate change is even more stupid – and even more dangerous – than claiming (as did Thabo Mbeki for a long time) that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.

The graphical nature of reality

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In response to demand (and comments submitted), here is yesterday’s post in graphical form:

what ifglobalwarming_theories
Questioning the reality, reliability, or reasonableness of the consensus understanding of atmospheric physics (i.e. that post-1850 warming cannot be explained unless 40% extra atmospheric CO2 is the main driver) can only be justified by believing that the majority of climate scientists are either stupid, mistaken or corrupt.

Past performance is not a predictor of future results

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As it says on my About page,  “The driver of an accelerating car about to hit a brick wall might well say ‘so far so good’ – but that does not mean that the wall is not there!” — John Dryzek (2005: 70).

“So far so good… No! Wait!… Oh shi…”

This is the almost-ubiquitous advice of stockbrokers but, sadly, it is almost universally ignored.

As ccgwebmaster recently observed wryly in a comment on this very blog:

I have never died before. Does this mean I can presume upon my immortality?

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to make a few suggestions to all those who think concern for the environment is a false alarm, a new religion, or an excuse to curtail your freedom or tax you more heavily:
1. Grow up.
2. Go back to school.
3. Open your eyes and look out the window.
4. Stop cherry-picking data that reinforces your prejudice.
5. Stop ignoring all the data that contradicts your misperception of reality.
6. Read this Wikipedia article on the New World Order – it might just open up your mind.
7. Read this Skeptical Science article on the History of Climate Science – it might just resolve your confusion.

You know we’re in trouble when…

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The Sunday Telegraph starts advocating polices that will accelerate anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

Two days ago, one of Britain’s oldest and most-respected broadsheet newspapers decided to shred the last few bits of credibility it might have had by publishing an anonymous editorial piece calling for the Climate Change Act 2008 to be repealed.

I am therefore sorry but, I just had to post this response:

Thank goodness the Sunday Telegraph is not a widely-read newspaper.  This kind of advocacy for policies that will accelerate anthropogenic climate disruption is short-sighted to say the least.

If you don’t like our countryside being despoiled by windfarms, new sets of National Grid power lines, and new nuclear plants…  What you should be advocating is greater subsidies for households that install solar PV panels on their roofs, which will reduce UK demand for centrally-generated electricity of all kinds.

Oh and, by the way, shale gas is not low-carbon intensity:  Because of the methane release it involves, it is extremely high-carbon intensity.  Now we know we need to reduce our global CO2 emissions and that further delay will mean greater ultimate cost (i.e. Sir John Beddington, today)… the international push to extract shale gas – and all other unconventional hydrocarbons –  is completely irrational.

If anyone is curious, the pronouncements of the UK Government’s Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, to which I referred above, can be seen and heard in this video on the BBC website.  This was a fascinating development, coming, as it did, on the same day that the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) announced that it was willing to enter into discussions with the Royal Society – to try and resolve the fact that the two organisations hold diametrically-opposed views regarding the validity of the scientific consensus that ACD is already happening.

This prompted me to send the GWPF’s Director, social anthropologist Benny Peiser, the following email:

Dear Dr Peiser,

I note, with genuine interest, your acceptance of the offer by the Royal Society to put the GWPF in touch with mainstream climate scientists.

I note also the public statement by the Sir John Beddington – who says evidence of anthropogenic climate disruption is now unequivocal and further delay in reducing emissions will mean harder and more expensive policy changes in future.

I should therefore be very grateful to know how much longer you think the GWPF is going to continue to insist that the science is uncertain and that calls for action are politically motivated.  For example, how long will it be before the GWPF accepts that we need to decarbonise our power generation systems – by implementing a revenue-neutral Fee and Dividend system as proposed by Dr James Hansen and many others.

Yours very sincerely,

Martin Lack

No answer as yet.

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