Monday, 26 October 2015

Why is it so hard to convince climate science 'deniers' of the AGW thesis?

-- AKA : the boy who cried wolf

Climate science has long been associated with environmentalism. For example, the great champion of global warming is Al Gore. His movie An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, won him world wide fame and numerous awards. Al Gore himself is a long time environmentalist, and anti-nuke. He was instrumental in banning advanced fission research in the United States back in 1994.

Climate science's strong ties with the environment movement is both a strength and a weakness. It's clearly a strength in terms of mobilizing many greens, green money and organizations to support the man-made global warming, AGW, thesis. Yet this association is also a big weakness for climate science. Any opponent of environmentalism will instinctively be suspicious of AGW because:

  1. many leading climate scientists are obviously environmentalists too,
  2. climate campaigns tend to use the same strategies and tactics as environmentalism

The general campaigning tactic of environmentalists has long been to scare people witless into banning technology and curtailing development. This has been particularly effective against GMOs and nuclear power.

Climate campaigners scare people. But do they tell lies? Climate science is mainly premised on mathematical models. Such models are really just fancy speculation. Speculation has always been a deadly trap for thought that seeks to understand the world. Speculation is generally wrong. The recent GFC showed us that just about every economic model was wrong! Yet science gets models wrong too. Many academic physicists spent the best part of 20 years search for a grand unification theory based on string theory. Countless thousands of physics graduates were channelled into string theory research. All for vain. There is, of course, the core climate science : the more greenhouse gas, GHG, we emit, the more we warm the atmosphere. This core climate science - GHG causes global warming - is widely agreed upon - even by many 'deniers'. In contrast, the climate models which amplify this basic effect between 0.85 and 10 times are disputed - not least by mainstream climate scientists! Which model is right? Many models settle on an amplification effect of 3. We call this effect climate sensitivity. e.g. No amplification = climate sensitivity of 1; 3 × amplification = climate sensitivity of 3.

People promoting environmentalism and campaigning on climate are often the same. Let's consider other similarities between climate and green campaigns.

Let's tally the score
Do they? Climate campaigners Environmentalists
tell lies 'deniers' frequently accuse them of exaggeration yes
promote fear with their campaigns yes yes
promote regulation to stifle energy intensive economy yes yes
promote energy saving yes yes
favour more expensive fossil fuel yes yes
oppose plentiful energy often yes
favour degrowth by implication whenever they promote energy saving or higher fossil fuel prices yes
promote renewable energy as main source of non-carbon energy very often always
oppose nuclear power sometimes always
oppose energy R&D sometimes often : "Calls for R&D are just a 'delaying tactic' - we already have the technology, we just need to build it!"

I think climate science 'deniers' may often be people who've had a bad experience with environmentalists. Quite a few 'deniers' see climate science as just the latest, most sophisticated, environmental campaign.

As such, seasoned environmentalists and deniers often share contempt for each other. One can imagine how difficult it will be to convince a 'denier' when one adopts the habits of environmentalists. Yet the majority of climate campaigners seem to do precisely that! Their habit of preferring to fight battles rather than bother trying to win a war is most puzzling. Their refusal to let go of long-time environmentalist tactics (exaggeration, and existential threats aimed at humanity) doesn't engender them to me.

Lastly: It goes without saying that an anti-nuke climate campaigner, or opponent of energy R&D is faux by definition. Fake. Yet there are a lot of them out there! Faux climate campaigners - what will the environmental movement dream up next?


Also known as
Anthropic global warming - AKA: man-made global warming
Economic contraction and, generally, less people.
Term of abuse for anyone disputing mainstream climate science. The term was explicitly chosen to associate with holocaust deniers
existential threat
A matter of life and death, a threat to one's existence
Global financial crash
Greenhouse gas : a gas emitted into the atmosphere which, very slowly, causes planetary warming
Research and development

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