You may think that Climate Change / Global Warming Denier Conspiracy Theories are the same “boring” as all the other whacko conspiracy theories, but I suggest that you would be wrong. They have their own special character that is particularly revealing about Denier culture.
You have probably heard at least one or more of the Denier conspiracy theories, but Frank Bi over at IJI has very kindly created a web chart of the known conspiracy theories. There’s rather a lot of them actually, but I would like to start with Richard Lindzen‘s contributions to Denier Conspiricism for several reasons:
Modern Denier Conspiricism can be said to begin with Lindzen’s 1992 “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus“, and he has just recently contributed “The Mother of All Climate Conspiracies” so his work covers the epoch very nicely. Further, his theory is the one most parroted by Deniers so it is the most relevant. Finally, AccuWeather has just suggested Lindzen’s “Climate of Fear” and my post “But They Are Scientists” as paired reading, so it seems appropriate.
Capturing the madness in a nutshell, the premise is that scientists are motivated by the generous, biased, government controlled grant system to do research that supports the current understanding of climate change. The claim is that there is a climate of political correctness such that those who do not support the model of anthropogenic climate change are denied grants, honours and awards, and even punished.
These various claims are rebutted repeatedly and in detail here and I will not be repeating those arguments, although I will mention one or two in passing.
Now every crackpot with a perpetual motion carburetor claims their genius is being censored by a cabal of oppressors of one form or another. That some of the crackpots have bad proposals and silly ideas for climate research is neither surprising nor noteworthy. So how do we distinguish the crackpots from the legitimate whistleblowers?
The obvious and simple way to provide evidence of the alleged conspiracy is to publish the research proposals that were turned down. Let the world see how the applications were rational, robust proposals for solid science. This is such a no brainer that the Deniers naturally published them …. nowhere that I know of.
Does anyone? has anyone ever seen one of these? Apparently not. Apparently we are supposed to take it on faith that they were good science that should have been funded. We have the word of people who have been shown to misrepresent and distort over and over, so why would we not trust them now?
Now we get to the interesting parts. The fact is that other than a few anecdotes tossed about the Denialosphere there is no attempt to actually document the conspiracy. Why not? There are any number of ways that evidence could be provided. Grant guidelines and terms of reference could be offered and their bias revealed. Statistics could be generated on what research is funded to demonstrate bias, and so on.
It is fascinating that the Deniers invest almost no energy into documenting the alleged conspiracies. Most conspiracists obsess on gathering evidence. They watch videos over and over, study floor plans and forensic reports, plot trajectories and lines of sight, read and compare testimonies of witnesses endlessly, post youtube videos explaining byzantine timelines and event sequences. Their obsession with documenting evidence is almost pathological. Indeed there is a process to validating a conspiracy.
Yet the Deniers toss out a few anecdotes and move on. Why?
The most obvious reason would be that it can’t be done. Any critical examination of the evidence naturally causes the whole premise to fall apart. As I will discuss below the whole idea is absurd. In fact it is probable that the authors of the theories know them to be nonsense so they are not going to waste their time looking for evidence that they know does not exist.
More importantly, from their perspective it isn’t necessary, not for it’s intended purpose. What is a conspiracy theory for? and who is the audience? If your purpose is to stop or destroy the conspiracy then you must expose it to the public and the appropriate authorities. If your intended audience does not require convincing and the purpose is merely to sow confusion then evidence and facts are unnecessary.
The audience for the Denier conspiracy theories do not require evidence. As has been demonstrated over and over the Deniers accept the most outrageous nonsense as fact on the basis of hearsay. The popular media will publish almost any Denier nonsense under the rubric of “balance”, so evidence is wasted on them. Merely invoking the theory accomplishes the intended purpose, so why bother with evidence?
That having been said, let’s deconstruct the theory.
How can you suppress dissenter science before the research is done? Isn’t science supposed to be objective with the results not known in advance? Research proposals that have a predetermined answer are not science. Real proposals suggest a particular study to find out what the result is.
Let me be more blunt – with real science there is NO way to know in advance whether a particular study will support or undermine the current understanding of climate change. You propose to measure CO2 levels, trophospheric temperatures, rates of glacial movement, or some such. The granting agency decides whether the question is worth asking and whether the proposed experimental design will provide an answer.
Granted the hypothesis can seem to have a bias, but properly designed research will support or disprove the hypothesis regardless of the researchers expectations. What is really being admitted here is that work that admits it has a predetermined outcome (ie not science) is not getting funded, and that is as it should be.
The credibility of this conspiracy theory depends on there being rewards and support for climate science that supports anthropogenic climate change, does this bias exist? Well, as it happens there actually is well documented evidence of both government and industry conspiracies with respect to climate science – to suppress it, not to support it! The exact opposite of what the theory claims.
So how many people would this conspiracy have to involve? Obviously the bureaucrats and decision makers and funding agencies. How many is that? Globally? because of course climate research is going on all over the world and the conspiracy doesn’t work if only one countrys science supports climate change and everyone else’s doesn’t. So how many? thousands of people at least.
And the scientists of course. As discussed above the science itself will reveal whatever it reveals, so you need the scientists deliberately falsifying their work for this conspiracy to work. How many work on climate research directly? Ten thousand or more?
But that’s not enough of course, because the published work has to be approved by the editors of the thousands of scientific journals, and the reviewers. Let’s not forget all of the scientists who read the publications, because even though they do not do climate research themselves they would spot bad or phony science, so they have to be in on it to.
So what are we at now? maybe 100,000 people in thousands of Universities and research institutions spread across the planet? Something like that. Actually a very low estimate given that there is something 60 million scientists in the world. Even weeding out everyone who’s expertise is too dissimilar for them to understand climate science, or who don’t follow it etc, the real figure is probably more like 6 million, but let’s be kind to the Deniers and say 100,000.
In other words we are asked to believe there is a conspiracy involving minimally tens of thousands of people spread across perhaps 100 countries and thousands of different institutions. With no one willing to make himself famous and ensure his career by blowing the whistle on it. They are all motivated by money and career, but not for whistleblowing, just for falsifying their work.
Right. I believe that. They meet Thursdays. It’s potluck, so bring something.
The whole premise is so utterly idiotic and ridiculous that no one with the slightest familiarity with the sciences can do anything but laugh at it.
But as I said, the claim is not meant to convince anyone who knows anything about science. It was created to convince people who believe climate science is carried out by a small cabal of American scientists who are easily controlled and manipulated.
It is lame, pathetic and insulting nonsense.
Getting back to Frank’s chart, notice that all of the other conspiracies depend on the impossibility of this global collusion of scientists. Different theories attribute different motives and different controlling agencies, but they all assume the possibility of involving all the scientists and associated agencies … and they are all nonsense.
In an earlier blog I suggested that the Deniers rarely make things up out of nothing, that there usually some core fact that has been mutilated beyond recognition, but nonetheless exists. The exception is the Denier Conspiracy Theories. They are completely ex nihilo, and worth every penny of it.
See also: Climate change deniers, Flat-Earthers, and conspiracy theorists (Added Oct 12/2008)
UPDATE: When I wrote this I overlooked FrankBi’s important contribution to Denier Conspiritology “Surge, groupthink, petition” (see Secundo).
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 6 … still no evidence.
1As I discuss here I do not use the term “Denier” to refer to all climate change doubters. Those who thoughtfully and intelligently address the facts I call ’skeptics’.
Those who irrationally deny the existence of the science and instead propagate the lies and distortions such as those discussed above and linked to the right under “Debunking Denier Nonsense” are “Deniers”.
The choice of the correct term is based on their actions, not their conclusions.
Conspiracy Photo by Nictalopen http://flickr.com/photos/nictalopen/188360287/
Conspiracy Game Photo by El Fotopakismo http://flickr.com/photos/fotopakismo/492457768/