Monday, January 6, 2014

The shoddy science of sceptic-bashing

Ben Pile of Climate Resistance in an interesting essay at spiked, "The pathologising of climate scepticism", dissects a controversial paper by psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky:
A recent study by Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Western Australia, aimed to identify climate change sceptics’ tendency towards conspiracy theories.

... It seems fairly obvious that Lewandowsky was at best mistaken. The data simply do not support his conclusions.

... Lewandowsky worked from his prejudice — that all sceptics are, a priori, wrong. His objective was to expose the ‘motivated reasoning’ that lies behind climate scepticism. But in doing so, he managed only to expose his own bad faith. ...


... A culture of intransigence has developed in the shadow of the compact between politics and science, which can be seen in the Lewandowsky affair in microcosm. Lewandowsky’s work unwittingly demonstrates that what is passed off as peer reviewed and published ‘science’, even in today’s world, is no more scientific than the worst ramblings of the least qualified and nuttiest climate change denier on the internet.

... The consequence of this should be alarming to everyone who takes an interest in the climate and other scientific debates, no matter what their view on climate change.  ...
A tad long, but worth the read.


Anonymous said...

The author mixes up skeptics and deniers. A denier is one who no matter what evidence was shown would say climate change is a hoax. A skeptic is someone who looks at the data and questions it when the evidence points to something different. I am a skeptic as I believe global warming is possible, but I am not sold that it is a fact. I think there are still too many unknown variables to be able to say definitively. I believe (although not certain) man made global warming likely exists but at a much more modest rate than Gore or Suzuki would have us believe. James Hansen in 1988 said the earth would warm 0.5C every decade when in fact the actual warming has been closer to 0.1C. If his assertions were true we would need to take dramatic action whereas by contrast a 0.1C a decade its significantly cheaper to adapt to a slightly warmer climate than mitigate it. Also the earth naturally warms and cools so has the warming even been man made or just part of the natural cycle.

JR said...

"The author mixes up skeptics and deniers. ..."

I don't think so. "Warmists" initiated the use of the term "denier" as a means of discrediting, ridiculing, demonizing and minimizing anyone sceptical in any way of their belief in the immediate threat posed by AGW. This is part of what Pile argues is a deliberate attempt by warmists to "pathologize scepticism" or attempt "to turn criticism into a psychological illness". Your definition of "denier" is a much narrower, and arguably less offensive, one than the warmists'. Personally, I wouldn't apply the word to anyone, except perhaps to warmists, who are in denial of the fact that their speculations on "climate change" might be in error;)

On the rest of your comments, we agree.

Anonymous said...

When I use the term denier, I mean it in a literal sense, not how the warmnists claim. Denier means they would believe it is hoax even if the evidence was overwhelming and contradicted them. And yes I would argue the warmistas fall in the same category although on the other end. The reality is climate is very complex and many factors influence it so simplistic arguments on either side don't work. The biggest problem for climate science is we only have around 100 years of accurate records and climate fluctuations occur over much longer stretches so without actual climate records (proxies are just that) its tough to make an accurate prognosis. For example there is conflicting reports on whether the earth was warmer or colder around 1000 AD than today. We know it was warmer in Europe and Asia while in the Middle East and Central America it was about the same (as variance is less in tropical regions), but we have no knowledge of what the Southern hemisphere was like was it is mostly ocean or the people living there had no written records. As such the skeptics claim it was warmer since records in Europe and Far East based on the crops they grow and the length of growing season prove it was, but warmistas claim it wasn't since the claim the southern hemisphere was much colder but we have no written evidence to prove otherwise.

My point is the science on this is evolving and we don't know which side is correct or not. As such that is why I am skeptic. The warmistas may be right, but we don't know.

JR said...

We're both skeptical for much the same reasons.

"The warmistas may be right, but we don't know."

Yes, but right about what? Skeptics agree with them that there's a greenhouse effect and that human activity contributes to it. But the warmists' main thesis, the one that drives their alarmism and fear mongering is CAGW which is based on speculative projections derived from the output of clearly biased and otherwise flawed climate models. There is no credible evidence to support this thesis. In fact the available objective evidence from satellite measurements and surface temperature records contradicts it. So, while warmists might eventually prove right about something, it seems quite unlikely that they are right about CAGW.