BPSDB Judith Curry’s latest post Polyclimate is actually about an interesting and important topic that deserves real discussion, but that is apparently not the real purpose of her post, and as a consequence not of this one either.
The topic in question is the clear, effective communication of climate change science, and I just want to draw to your attention Dr Curry’s attempt to further undermine it.
Dr Curry is actually quite a clever misinformer, so a single blog post is not sufficient to document all of the errors, misrepresentations and cheap shots in the entire piece. Indeed may not even be sufficient to cover the introduction which attempts to frame the issue as being about flawed science. While masquerading as a serious discussion piece the fact is that a great deal of it is actually just juvenile swiftboating.
I suppose I should begin by thanking Dr Curry for the backhanded semi-compliment she gave in “it seems that few people read Greenfyre, but it is representative of the genre and more literate and entertaining than most“, but still note the typical gratuitous put down she felt obliged to insert. Moving right along:
“In short, the blame is being placed on “deniers,” the mainstream media, conservatives and libertarians, and tactics used by the environmental movement itself. The science itself is a non-issue in this matter: the incontrovertability of the Tyndall gas effect has somehow been translated into high confidence knowledge of what is going on with the climate system and what should be done about it.”
“Tyndall gas effect?” [ie greenhouse effect] Seriously? At one level this is just silly, a point more than adequately made by Eli Rabett so I won’t belabour it.
At another level it is a clever attempt to suggest that the physics and chemistry of CO2 has not been investigated since 1859.
Of course it has, over and over. In fact it’s very simple physics and chemistry that any High School student should be able to grasp.
“ … has somehow been translated into high confidence knowledge …” Somehow? Apparently Dr Curry is unaware that there has been some research on CO2 and climate since 1859 (time to renew that subscription to Nature I guess). Many tens of thousands of studies spanning many decades across multiple disciplines actually. Here are some sources to help her catch up on what’s been happening in the field:
- The science behind a climate change headline
- A brief history of climate change
- History/Discovery of Global Warming
- Most frequently cited authors of climate research (with links to their work)
I’ll take it as given that Dr Curry already knew that (many of her readers apparently do not however, hence the links), so why the completely disingenuous “somehow“? It seems a transparent and juvenile attempt to dismiss the science as anyone with even middle school level science knows how they are connected and why (the basics are taught in Grades 4 and 5 for pity’s sake).
Neither the scientists nor the state of the science gets any blame in these analyses. And Climategate is typically dismissed as an insignificant factor. This is despite these findings from three recent studies:
“Neither the scientists nor…” Let’s start by noting the bundling together of the scientists and the science as if they were somehow intermingled. It comes across as linguistic convenience, but is an important framing in that one might acknowledge that scientists have not been great at communicating, but in acknowledging some truth to her point you are necessarily conceding problems with the science itself as well, or at least seeming too. Clever.
That would probably be because in my piece about corporate funding, the tea party and Denier irrationality I opted to talk about corporate funding, the tea party and Denier irrationality. I just thought talking about my actual topic and not wandering off on every possible tangent would be a good idea; I’m funny that way.
In other posts I have talked about the issue of messaging and scientists’ short comings in that regard, and will do so again soon. When I write those pieces I will also probably continue to try to stay on topic. I will also try to avoid Red Herrings, Straw Man arguments, and gratuitous put downs.
McCright and Dunlap (the Sociological Quarterly she references) apparently suffer from the same debilitation as I do. It is quite true that in a paper that looks at the polarization of attitudes with respect to climate change they do not “blame” scientists, or the science, or the media, or anybody. Why would they? Their paper does not make any attempt to examine causes because it’s not what they were looking at.
In the same vein The Gettysburg Address, Hamlet, Whitehead and Russel’s Principia Mathematica and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time also did not blame scientists or the science. Shall we do a complete list of all works that were about something else? or have I made my point?
Now the really fun part. It is true that since Nesbit’s Climate Shift (the third reference) did examine “the factors shaping the recent decline in public concern and belief in climate change;” he might have mentioned “the scientists nor the state of the science”, so why didn’t he?
Well, for one thing that is only a minor part of a much bigger work that is focused on examining future communication strategies. The factors discussion is only one small part of it, and Nesbit was focused on the funded, professional communication strategies, a sector that does not involve real climate scientists (almost an oxymoron actually).
Now for a radical concept, maybe Nesbit didn’t mention them because in his analysis they are not to blame? or at least not in any meaningful or significant way?
Looking back at Curry’s framing, it’s a “have you stopped beating your wife” loaded question fallacy. That scientists and/or the science are not blamed in 3 (cherry picked and largely irrelevant) sources is not suggestive that they might not be the problem, instead it is seen as evidence of a conspiracy or collective blindness.
Obvious Alert! When pretending an objective discussion of communication strategies it helps if there are fewer examples of glaring a priori, unsubstantiated assumptions about responsibility. It would lend the piece some semblance of actual objectivity, and hence possibly even credibility.
She goes on “And Climategate is typically dismissed as an insignificant factor.” Ahhh, nice! Such clever wording. And just what does one mean by “Climategate?”
Is she referring to the emails themselves? the ones that showed no wrong doing, no tampering, no interference, no malfeasance of any sort? (links below) A fact that was glaringly obvious at the time to anyone with minimal literacy, a basic understanding of science, and who had bothered to actually read the emails.
Or is she referring to the entirely fatuous, ideologically driven campaign of lies and hysteria where the climate change Deniers (a group with dubious literacy skills, notorious for not understanding simple science and who clearly had never read the emails; attributes they apparently share with some churnalists) tried to claim it was evidence of the global conspiracy by climate scientists?
Obviously the former was insignificant, whereas the latter has played a central role in the problem of communicating climate science. But wait, if that is true then the blame must fall on the “deniers,” the mainstream media, conservatives and libertarians.” Opps, not Dr Curry’s point at all, better to imply that:
Ahh, but of course if the scientists had not written those private emails that the Deniers could then steal, cherry pick, misrepresent and lie about, then the CRU Hack could not have happened at all quod erat ignoratum. It’s a time honoured illogic known as victim blaming.
Wait a minute, if we are interested in root causes, what caused those emails to be written in the first place? Could it be the harassment? the environment where phony “skeptic” shills working for PR firms fronting for the oil industry that pose as think tanks distort and lie when not practising outright fraud?
If the logic is that we must look at root causes, then we would have to conclude that it is the fault of the ““deniers,” the mainstream media, conservatives and libertarians.” Oh wait, that’s the fact Dr Curry is trying to distract us from, better to just leave it in the air that “Climategate” was significant and not clarify what is meant by that.
This is despite these findings from three recent studies:
- Talking Past Each Other: this study found that science had a very high salience for both skeptics and “deniers” (which was not the case for the believers and convinced).
- Climate Change: Partisanship, Understanding, and Public Opinion: “Democrats and Republicans with high confidence in their understanding [of climate science] also stand the farthest apart.”
- In a Michigan State University press release on a new study, lead researcherAaron M. McCright said: “Instead of a public debate about different policies to deal with global warming, a significant percentage of the American public is still debating the science. As a result, we’re failing to significantly address one of the most serious problems of our time.”
OK, for the first study, “salience” is Dr Curry’s word, not the authors, and it is important to unpack that. Reading the actual study (Wow, what a concept!) the authors note that the “skeptics “and deniers obsess on the science only in an abstract sense, specifically their obsession is their unsubstantiated claim that the science is flawed.
In contrast, having demonstrated that the science is robust and that there is no rational reason to obsess on it, the believers and convinced are more concerned with policy issues and what to do about climate change.
As such, the authors quite correctly note that the two groups are talking at cross purposes.
The study is about “Cultural Framing”, and they “blame” the scientists only insofar as noting that it is socially, and hence politically meaningless to talk about the “science as settled” because that is culturally (ie socially and politically) not the case, even though it may be so scientifically (ie objective reality).
Now Dr Curry, IF you think there is any research that substantially undermines the facts of anthropogenic climate change in any significant way, why don’t you tell us all which papers those would be and exactly how they undermine the science? You have been blogging for over a year and yet the only thing that actually matters has yet to appear on your blog, or anywhere else for that matter, so how about it?
The second reference reports on the political divide between those who reject and those who accept the science. Here again it is utterly irrelevant to the point Curry seems to be trying to make, ie that somehow this study blames the scientists and/or the science.
It is important to note that in this study the designation of “high understanding” of climate science is based on self-assessment and has nothing to do with actual knowledge (can you say “Dunning Kruger”? I knew you could!).
The third reference is to exactly the same Sociological Quarterly article mentioned above, and it is still irrelevant despite being repeated here. Note that the study was first cited as an example of studies that fail to blame scientists and the science, and then cited as evidence that this alleged omission was wrong … ie the same study is being cited to prove opposites!
So despite what the convinced and believers say, climate science does “matter” in this debate,
The influence of skeptical scientists on political and opinion leaders is arguably substantial. So lets look at the failings of the climate scientists, in terms of making their case and garnering the public trust.
The millions of deaths that have occurred since are clearly the fault of the cancer researchers who failed to do something that was never their role in the first place, and now climate scientists are recklessly doing the same thing. It’s totally inexcusable!
In other words, you’re kidding, right?
IF the scientists and/or science are to blame (ie a significant factor), how about making a solid, rational case for it instead of complaining that no one else has? Because maybe, just maybe, there is no solid, rational case that can be made?
Dr Curry, my apologies for not getting to the actual alleged topic of your post; I meant to, I really did. I would very much prefer to be talking about how we improve the communication of science. It’s just that I find it’s very difficult to read a piece where every second statement has me slapping my forehead at the shameless misrepresentation of the facts, the transparent bad faith, and baldly disingenuous arguments.
To improve the communication of science I humbly suggest that objectively and accurately reporting the facts coupled with a rational, sincere and in good faith discussion would go a long way to helping.
Swifthack (blog devoted to the issue)
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
- who wants to play? by theloushe
- Blamegame by matt_leclair
- Stop the Blame Game by Oxfam International
- Blame Game by Dan4th
- Who’s To Blame? by Andreas_MB
- Blame by FatBusinessman
- blame by Scratchdaddy
- raoul moat game over by smemon87
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