Guest post: The Elephant in the Room

This is a guest post by Lawrence Hamilton, Senior Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire.

This will not surprise you, but surveys see an elephant.

Several colleagues and I have a new paper describing results from 35 surveys that asked the same climate-change question. The question is present-tense and neutrally worded. It does not mention policy or the future. One response choice corresponds to the scientific consensus:

Which of the following three statements do you personally believe?
– Climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities.
– Climate change is happening now, but caused mainly by natural forces.
– Climate change is NOT happening now.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Respondents can say they don’t know, or decline to answer, but few do. The first three charts in Figure 1 show results from representative US surveys conducted by different researchers, with different methods, in different years (2011, 2012, 2014). In stark contrast to the consensus among active scientists, each of these general-public surveys found just 52 or 53% agreement on the reality of anthropogenic climate change (ACC). The fourth chart pools data from 21 surveys in the northeastern US state of New Hampshire (2010 to 2015). New Hampshire runs a few points higher (55%) than the nation but might not be a bad proxy.

So who agrees with scientists that human activities are changing the climate? Figure 2 breaks down the percentage of now/human responses on New Hampshire surveys by gender, age, education, political party—the usual suspects in survey research—and also by ideology and frequency of watching Fox news.

Figure 2

Figure 2

I often write about political divisions while wishing that I could talk instead about differences among age cohorts or the effects of weather or something else. But politics is the elephant in the room. Whereas evidence for the reality of ACC has brought overwhelming agreement among scientists, in these general-public data liberals and conservatives stand 62 points apart. Only the divisions by other political indicators come close, such as Democrat/Tea Party (58 points) or no-Fox/daily-Fox (49 points); the gender, age and education divisions on climate change are each below 20 points. Moreover, while the reality of ACC is among the most polarized survey questions, other science or environmental topics, from concern about local beach pollution to trust in scientists for information about vaccines, show divisions going in the same direction.

Figure 3

Figure 3

After politics, education is the second-strongest predictor of views on climate. But politics can neutralize or even reverse the effects of education. College-educated respondents more actively assimilate information in accord with their prejudices, whether these prejudices incline them toward scientific or ideological sources. Figure 3 depicts the probability of a now/human response as a function of education and politics (details here). The pattern is reproduced with remarkable consistency across 34 surveys. Among Democrats and Independents, agreement with the scientific consensus rises with education. Among Republicans, agreement with the scientific consensus does not rise with education, and sometimes even falls. This fall becomes steeper if we separate Tea Party supporters into their own group.

Environmental sociologists Riley Dunlap and Robert Brulle, under the auspices of the American Sociological Association, recently edited a book called Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives. Sociological perspectives lie outside most scientific reports on climate change, even those from interdisciplinary groups with a “human dimensions” component. The reason partly involves that elephant in the room, unseen in physical data and hard for physical scientists to address—yet unmissable in society and social data. As Dunlap and Brulle summarize,

The problem is that despite climate change having never come close to being a consensual, post-political issue in the United States—with fossil fuels and many other corporations and now nearly all of the conservative movement challenging its reality and opposed to acting to limit it—key actors concerned about the issue seem to act as if it were. Thus, government agencies sponsoring and funding climate science and response efforts (epitomized by the USGCRP), foundations funding “climate work,” most national environmental organizations, many scientific organizations, many climate scientists, and individual citizens acting to “save the climate” all tend to downplay if not ignore the extreme degree of conflict and polarization surrounding climate change in the U.S.

Postscript: Same elephant, different day

Last week (9/17 to 9/23) a routine political poll asked more than 700 New Hampshire residents who they favored in the coming presidential primaries, also posing some hypothetical questions like this:

Suppose the 2016 presidential election was being held today and the candidates were Donald Trump, the Republican, and Joe Biden, the Democrat, who would you vote for?

Coincidentally, the same poll also carried several science questions like this one:
Which of the following three statements do you think is more accurate? Scientific measurements have confirmed that in recent decades, the concentration of CO2 or carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing, decreasing, or staying about the same?

The upper chart in this graphic plots the race. The lower chart compares supporters of the two candidates and finds a 34-point gap in what they believe about CO2.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

119 Responses to Guest post: The Elephant in the Room

  1. Joshua says:

    It’s interesting that you seem to to get some different results than Dan Kahan when stratifying the data wr/t issues (in particular GMOs and vaccines, nuclear) and political ideology.

    For example: http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/4/17/vaccine-risk-perceptions-and-risk-communication-study-conclu.html

    Have you looked at his results? If so, any thoughts about differences or similarities.

  2. Marco says:

    New Hampshire is probably more democratic than republican, but still, the fact they prefer Biden over Trump with such a margin should worry republicans enormously.

  3. Joshua says:

    Sorry – I meant to delete “nuclear” above…

    W/r/t Kahan’s findings on GMOs…

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/storage/thumbnails/4177295-26361944-thumbnail.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1435873571779

  4. Pingback: NH study: Climate change opinions and politics are inextricably linked - Granite Geek

  5. Only 5% of New Hempshire would vote for Dunning Kruger (DK) as president?

    At least I can stop blogging, people accept that the climate is changing, “just” have problems with the reason why. That is quite a contrast to the climate “debate” where one of the main content providers of Watts Up With That, Eric Worrall, “thinks” that we may well be in a cooling period.

    On the topic of scare quotes, so necessary in the climate “debate” for accurate expression, may I suggest to use the term Fox “News”?

    most national environmental organizations, many scientific organizations, many climate scientists, and individual citizens acting to “save the climate” all tend to downplay if not ignore the extreme degree of conflict and polarization surrounding climate change in the U.S.

    Yes, most scientists simply do their job. The ones in the climate “debate” sure know that there is a culture war in the USA. Lawrence Hamilton, how should I take this political problem into account when I try to improve our scientific understanding of the climate system?

  6. L Hamilton says:

    Victor, it doesn’t help understand the climate system of course! But bears centrally on science communication, which sometimes gets discussed too abstractly with problems laid to scientists using the wrong tone or words. That’s not the problem, and there’s and elephant in this room.

  7. L Hamilton says:

    Joshua, I have looked at and often cite Dan Kahan’s work. Some thoughts about the differences (they aren’t direct contradictions) between his questions/analysis and ours appear here:
    http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/5/3/2158244015602752

    We followed up that study with another set of surveys asking about trust in scientists re climate, vaccines, nuclear power safety, evolution and GMOs:
    http://scholars.unh.edu/carsey/252/

    But stepping outside the box of our data — recent statements by Republican candidates for president seem to reinforce these general-public survey findings.

  8. Magma says:

    “Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never, ever get it out.”
    (Doubtfully attributed to Cardinal Thomas Wosley with respect to Henry VIII.)

    The sad thing here is that political operatives and lobby groups have succeeded in doing exactly what they were paid to do, and have convinced large parts of the public to look at science and data as if they were just another brand of toothpaste or political candidate. We will be dealing with the damage that this has caused both in the US and globally for many years to come.

    Another sad thing is that it seems reasonable to infer that many of the Democrats surveyed accepted “Climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities” not because they carefully examined the evidence and arguments for it, but rather on the same partisan grounds that Republicans rejected it.

  9. Joshua says:

    Lawrence (Larry?) –

    Thanks.

  10. New Hampshire is only slightly Democratic–it’s one of the Republican strongholds in New England. Still has a Republican Senator and Congressman (in 1 of 2 Congressional districts). Has a very strong anti-tax movement.

  11. which sometimes gets discussed too abstractly with problems laid to scientists using the wrong tone or words. That’s not the problem, and there’s and elephant in this room.

    I completely agree with you. That is also why I do not see any elephants.

    Maybe because I am a scientist, that makes it even clearer that the stuff on WUWT & Co. is mostly nonsense and that people who buy into that, and especially do not complain about that, cannot be reasonably assumed to be scientifically motivated.

    Maybe it is also because I am an outsider and still shocked by the dysfunctional political “culture” in the USA.

    The liberal internet news channel TYT just got a new British moderator, they typically moderate and discus the news in small groups, and you can see him think: this can’t be true, I have ended up in a mad house; watch his body language. I am that British guy.

  12. Meant to say “thanks for the post”. I’ve spent the last hour wondering why there weren’t any comments, only to realise that I don’t get notifed if I’m not the author and have to actually reload the page 🙂

  13. Richard says:

    With the Governor of The Bank of England giving a speech warning the financial sector that it needs to address a range of risks arising from global warming, I wonder how long mitigation sceptics will keep their money where their mouths are … Will they risk big loses from a burst carbon bubble?

    I have decarbonized my pension, and as is noted, institutions and businesses are acting as though GOP’s position is an irrelevance. Many US cities and companies are committing to low carbon futures. Is Ted Cruz going to force them otherwise? Of course not. He is on the wrong side of history and probably knows it, but is desperate to play to the GOP gallery to try to get elected. Cynical I call it.

  14. Joshua says:

    For all the complaints about public investment in alternative energy and mitigation strategies, as near as I can tell, there isn’t a huge investor block that sees shorting climate change as a viable investment strategy. Shockingly, it seems that “skeptics” realise that their concernsabout the horrors and economic collapse we’re in store for as a result of eco-zealotry are purely theoretical.

  15. I do not know if divestment helps to speed up solving climate change, but I do look forward to the enormous losses of the mitigation sceptics when the carbon bubble bursts. That reduction in their economic power can only be good for the world.

  16. izen says:

    The new response from the polarized ‘doubters’ is already evident in the recent comments by GOP candidate Carla Fiorina.(?)
    Asked whether she believed in climate change, she carefully replied that SCIENTISTS claim that it is warming from human emissions which must be curtailed urgently.
    But, she goes on to assert, this would require world governance, (independent action is irrelevant) and would cost the global economy trillions, therefore there is zero chance of action being taken.
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/09/29/3706787/carly-fiorina-global-warming-glenn-beck/
    Presumably because it is inconceivable that the US, or most other nations, would surrender that amount of autonomy and subject themselves to those costs just because scientists believe it is required.

  17. Izen, to formulate a little more precisely: scientists do not believe it is required, not in their role as scientists at least. They would only state that it is costly to suffer the consequences and to adapt to the changes. That solving the problem is much much cheaper.

    Carla Fiorina is free to see the interests of her campaign donors as more important than the price tag for the American people. And the American people is free to think that Carla water boarding Fiorina would make a great president. That is politics. Values are different.

  18. Howard says:

    Live Free or Die State is probably full of lukewarming small-l-libertarians which is why they look so smart in the poll

  19. The carbon bubble will burst anyway, the question is who is hurt by it. We are no longer in the 1970s. The energy sector is just 6% of the GDP and if we are smart and transition to clean energy early the transition can be made slow enough. It will hurt those people who bet on carbon is life till the bitter end.

    The difference between police and organized crime is legitimacy. The US does not have a democratic legitimization outside of the USA. Please chose a more appropriate word. We are not at Fox “News” here.

    No idea why a democratically dysfunctional state could not have an army. Rome had one.

  20. Ethan Allen says:

    VV,

    “The difference between police and organized crime is legitimacy. The US does not have a democratic legitimization outside of the USA. Please chose a more appropriate word. We are not at Fox “News” here.

    No idea why a democratically dysfunctional state could not have an army. Rome had one.”

    Where did that come from and whom was it directed towards?

    I mean, most of your posts in this particular thread seem … well … sort of … antithetical .. or perhaps … somewhat … incoherent … to the spirit of open discussion.

  21. John Mashey says:

    People should remember that the TEA Party was fostered by the Kochs+Big Tobacco, neither of whom have any use for the Federal government, and both especially hate the EPA. That may help explain why TEA Party and other Republicans respond somewhat differently.

    It is also much easier to make government NOT work than to make it work well, and for the Kochs, while control is better, gridlock is pretty good, and it avoids being in power and responsible. One may consider Kansas and Sam Brownback as example of being in control and blamable.

    ===
    This is an amusing coincidence. We had lunch with Larry in Durham about a month ago, and then a nice hour’s break with ATTP a few weeks’ ago.

  22. John Mashey says:

    Note, it’s Carly Fiorina, well-known hereabouts.
    Santa Clara and San Mateo counties usually vote (D), but have sometimes been supportive of moderate business-oriented Republicans, For instance, in 2006 election Arnold Schwarzenegger(R) was ~same as Angelides(D) in San Mateo and won in Santa Clara.

    Fiorina lost to Barbara Boxer in 2010.
    She lsot these counties, who knew her best. (Hint: HP headquarters is at Northern edge of Santa Clara county, near San Mateo.)

  23. BBD says:

    Steven

    It’s not working out in practice, is it? May I refer you to the guest post and links therein?

    I sincerely hope you aren’t trying to defend the indefensible nuttery of the right.

  24. John,

    This is an amusing coincidence. We had lunch with Larry in Durham about a month ago, and then a nice hour’s break with ATTP a few weeks’ ago.

    Yes, I hadn’t realised that you’d had lunch with Larry before coming to see us.

  25. Ethan Allen, that was a response to a comment that seems to have been removed for being off topic. Sorry, for voicing opinions you normally do not hear.

  26. Sam taylor says:

    Here’s an interesting paper looking at how political beliefs relate to trust in science from 1974 to 2010: http://asr.sagepub.com/content/77/2/167.short

    From the abstract: “Results show that group differences in trust in science are largely stable over the period, except for respondents identifying as conservative. Conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to liberals and moderates, and ended the period with the lowest.”. Anyone care to venture any explanations?

    Victor, “The energy sector is just 6% of the GDP”, and yet if that 6% of the economy were to magically disappear, it would take the other 94% with it. If the output elasticity of energy isn’t equal to its cost share (as most ecological economics work would imply) then the ‘easy transition’ to non-fossil renewables becomes much more complicated and risky. Quoting from a recent IMF paper (it was mostly about peak oil, but the comparison is valid I think):

    “First, if the economy attempted to substitute away from oil, it might
    encounter a lower limit of oil use dictated by entropy. Second, the contribution of oil to
    output could be much larger than its cost share, because oil is an essential precondition
    for the continued viability of many modern technologies. Third, the income elasticity of
    oil demand could be equal to one third as in some empirical studies, rather than one as in
    our model. And if two or more of these aggravating factors were to occur in combination,
    the effects could range from dramatic to downright implausible.”

    paper here: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2012/wp12256.pdf

  27. Sam taylor says:

    I should add that the scientific beliefs paper covers the USA only.

  28. O Bothe says:

    Maybe I missed it or am too unfamiliar with the stata-data format. But, could you, if you find the time, show plots of now/nat and not now over time (similar to your Figure 2a in the paper)? Could be interesting.

  29. Andrew Dodds says:

    Sam –

    Yes, although I’d be interested to see how Tea Partiers in the US compared to Daily Mail readers in the UK.

  30. L Hamilton says:

    O Bothe, I thought that would be interesting too, but ran the analyses and found out, not so much. There seems to be a fuzzy boundary, sociologically speaking, between people who give now/natural and not-now responses — these are not distinctive groups, to the extent that now/human is different from the others (see http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-12-00008.1 for some of this work). I suspect some of the same people drift between now/natural and not-now responses. As happens too in the blogosphere and public discourse.

    As if there’s a steel core beneath different paint jobs, the core being “Don’t reduce fossil fuel use!” (economic) or “Environmentalists are wrong!” (cultural) — the synergy between those imperatives is something that Dunlap, Brulle and others have written about. Reasons why are painted over the core, they might have to do with uncertainty monsters, 60-year cycles, low sensitivity, the pause, surface stations, models are wrong, hockey stick is broken, those darn Chinese, world hasn’t ended yet, it will wreck our economy, you must hate the poor, too late anyhow, but Galileo, big conspiracies and so forth. Different arguments suit different people, but to some extent also adapt to audiences or occasions.

  31. BBD says:

    Sam Taylor

    Conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to liberals and moderates, and ended the period with the lowest.”. Anyone care to venture any explanations?

    Perhaps the emergence of environmental science into the public perception over this period? In contrast to the earlier positive relationship between science (representing ‘progress’) and industrial capitalism.

  32. Sam Taylor

    Conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to liberals and moderates, and ended the period with the lowest.”. Anyone care to venture any explanations?

    How about propaganda? That study was for the USA. Conservatives in Europe have no problem with science, as far as I know. Thus the reason should be found in a cultural phenomenon in this period in the USA.

    Sam Taylor

    Victor, “The energy sector is just 6% of the GDP”, and yet if that 6% of the economy were to magically disappear, it would take the other 94% with it.

    Yes, if it goes too fast, it would be a problem. That is also why we complain about the irrational behaviour of the right wing extreme in the USA. Had we started in 1990, the reductions of the FF industry would have had much less impact.

    But even now, in 2050 we will be about twice as rich (100% more of the current GDP). Thus even if clean energy were 10 times as expensive (and the 6% would become 60% of the current GDP), it would not lead to the economic disaster the alarmists keep on repeating. If you take all costs into account (even if you leave out climate change) it may well be that clean energy is actually cheaper.

  33. Joe Public says:

    “The question is ….. neutrally worded.”
    – Climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities.
    – Climate change is happening now, but caused mainly by natural forces.”

    Why does only one of those choices have a conjunction, and one not?

  34. Joshua says:

    Outside the U.S.

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/mar/14/how-to-read-the-latest-data-on-public-attitudes-to-science

    Some discussion of the Gauchat findings.

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/4/28/science-and-public-policy-who-distrusts-whom-about-what.html

    With regard to the Gauchat findings, the author speculates about the influence of the growth of the religious right on the trend of greater distrust among conservatives.

  35. O Bothe says:

    It would nevertheless be interesting to see such Figures. It would complete the picture we get from your article.

  36. Joe,
    Does it really matter?

  37. Joshua says:

    Well whaddya know…lots of discussion between a certain “L. Hamilton” and Dan at that last link.

    Must be a coincidence.

  38. “It’s not working out in practice, is it? May I refer you to the guest post and links therein?”

    read harder BBD.

  39. Joshua says:

    Lawrence –

    ==> “As if there’s a steel core beneath different paint jobs, the core being “Don’t reduce fossil fuel use!” (economic) or “Environmentalists are wrong!” (cultural) — the synergy between those imperatives is something that Dunlap,”

    It seems to me that the economic paint job is built on top of a cultural undercoating. And I question whether the cultural undercoating can really be attributed to a well-defined public relations campaign as opposed to a more widespread polarization in ideological orientation that finds different forms (it could be in the form of polarization about climate change or other environmental issues, it could be about the costs and benefits of welfare programs, it could be about how to deal with Islamic fundamentalism, etc.)

    But allow me to repeat this for emphasis:

    Reasons why are painted over the core, they might have to do with uncertainty monsters, 60-year cycles, low sensitivity, the pause, surface stations, models are wrong, hockey stick is broken, those darn Chinese, world hasn’t ended yet, it will wreck our economy, you must hate the poor, too late anyhow, but Galileo, big conspiracies and so forth.

    Even if I might add, “But, they said it wouldn’t snow anymore in England,” and “But RealClimate deleted my comments because my criticisms were so devastating” (which I suppose may be a variant of the hockey stick is broken’ and/or “big conspiracies.”)

  40. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> “I sincerely hope you aren’t trying to defend the indefensible nuttery of the right.”

    Although it may not be purely coincidence that the located the one diagram on the right and the other on the left…

    I see no reason to assume that in reality, the diagram on the right or left are respectively any more or less applicable to the right and left ideologically speaking. “Groupiness” seems to be an attribute strongly associated with both sides of an ideological divide…

    This was interesting:

    –snip–

    Centola further noted that these kinds of structures, in which group boundaries exist but overlap to some degree, are naturally occurring on the Internet. Distinct online communities sprout up among people with common interests, yet these groups also have interconnections across their membership.

    –snip-

    I would like to know more about what that’s supposed to mean…as I see no reason to think that for whatever “interconnections across membership” do occur on the Internet, it has any meaningful impact on how effectively ideas get diffused across any wide cross section. From my own anecdotal observations, if anything it seems to me that Internet discourse is not coincidental to greater ideological polarization that seems to be occurring in the U.S., at least.

  41. Joe Public says:

    @ATTP 2:38

    Not only are they not ‘neutrally worded’, there’s a declaration to attempt to convince readers that they are ‘neutrally worded’.

    So yes, it does matter.

  42. Joe,
    I think it is simply meant to be sequential. There is question 1, then there is 2 which agree with the first part of 1, BUT not the second, and then there is question 3, which disagrees with all of 1 and 2. Not everything is a conspiracy.

  43. Joshua says:

    Joe –

    If you think that the wording might be reflective of bias on the part of the people who created the survey…

    …could you speculate a bit about in what way you think that the “non-neutral” wording might impact results? Do you think that the impact might be significant, or is your point to be critical of the creators of the survey for not being neutral?

  44. BBD says:

    Steven

    read harder BBD.

    Own your dogwhistles and stop being evasive.

  45. BBD says:

    Joshua

    “Groupiness” seems to be an attribute strongly associated with both sides of an ideological divide…

    Climate science denial is a right thing, as we all know. That’s what the article shows. I don’t care for false balance.

  46. Joshua says:

    ==> “That’s what the article shows. ”

    You mean Hamilton’s article, right?

    ==> “I don’t care for false balance.”

    Please elaborate.

  47. Eli Rabett says:

    Just a quick note about NH. It used to be (back in the 1960s rock ribbed Republican and anti-tax. With the coming of the interstates the southern third of the state filled up with Massholes who commuted to the Boston area, to the point where there are probably about the same number of Democrats and Republicans who are all anti-tax. The state has neither income nor sales taxes and offers few social services. All they care about is schools and keeping the road plowed and schools are optional.

    What keeps the place afloat are fees, high real estate taxes and traffic fines (see Ferguson MO for an example).

  48. Eli Rabett says:

    Allow Eli to display the elephant’s father. The survey data is clearly shows the elephant, the political split. As important is the elephants father, why that split exits. Simply it has been bought and paid for by the elephant’s funders, the Exxons, Peabody Coal, etc.

  49. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Yes, I was referring to Hamilton’s article.

    As for false balance, Hamilton’s article is about the rejection of climate science by the right. The elephant in the room. The political basis for climate change denial. The Big Problem.

    It seems reasonably clear that the right has turned on environmental science because it presents an existential threat to free market fundamentalism. It names and shames externalities. It shows the invisible hand to be a pickpocket and a despoiler, not a universal panacea.

    I don’t find the endless discussion of how all sides are equally guilty of similar behaviours in any way helpful and at times, it becomes actively irritating given the enormous gravity of what the political right is doing here. Hence the tag of false balance.

  50. Sam taylor says:

    Victor,

    > But even now, in 2050 we will be about twice as rich (100% more of the current GDP). Thus even if clean energy were 10 times as expensive (and the 6% would become 60% of the current GDP), it would not lead to the economic disaster the alarmists keep on repeating.

    I don’t think it’s a given that we’ll be richer by 2050 at all. Quite a few of the more optimistic forecasts for things like peak oil are well before 2050, and there is no guarantee that such an event would not be economically interesting. Secondly, if energy were to become 10x more expensive as it currently is, and we were to becomes twice as rich, it would go from being 6% (in your example) to 30% of total GDP. That is an incredibly significant increase over current energy costs proportionally. There are a number of studies which suggest that energy expenditure over something like 5-6% leads to stagnation or recession. The current response of OECD economies to the crash in oil price looks like it might well back up this assertion.

  51. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    I don’t know if there’s any way that we can cover new ground here. But hey, I’ll respond anyway.

    ==> “As for false balance, Hamilton’s article is about the rejection of climate science by the right. The elephant in the room. The political basis for climate change denial. The Big Problem.”

    I think there’s an overwhelming body of evidence to show that views on climate change are associated with ideological orientation. I think that the evidence shows a balance there, and that the balance is not false. None of that contradicts the argument that dismissal of the risks posed by ACO2 emissions is a rightwing/libertarian phenomenon (at least in the U.S.).

    Yes, it’s a big problem, and I don’t think it’s an elephant in the room so much as that it is the room itself.

    ==> “It seems reasonably clear that the right has turned on environmental science because it presents an existential threat to free market fundamentalism. It names and shames externalities. It shows the invisible hand to be a pickpocket and a despoiler, not a universal panacea.”

    I certainly don’t disagree with that.

    ==> “I don’t find the endless discussion of how all sides are equally guilty of similar behaviours in any way helpful and at times, it becomes actively irritating given the enormous gravity of what the political right is doing here.”

    I don’t know about “guilty.” It seems to me that it’s fundamental human nature to polarize around issues that stimulate identity-oriented cognition. Since I don’t have the technical or intellectual chops to evaluate the science in itself, I can’t evaluate on my own whose arguments are further from some objective perspective on the science. I can try to assess probabilities in that regard, but I also have to view arguments presented as being inextricable with the ideologically-associated context. It isn’t my goal to irritate you or anyone else – well, most of the time 🙂 – but recognizing the ideology-associated context shouldn’t suggest that I don’t find the rightwing/libertarian dismissal of the risks posed by ACO2 as anything other than hugely problematic. As far as I’m concerned, a failure to recognize the universal nature of cultural cognition leaves no alternative but to stay stuck in the recursive climate wars until such time as there is no ambiguity for most people as to whether ACO2 emissions affects them negatively on a daily basis. IMO, it is only with a recognition of the fundamentally ideological nature of the polarization,and recognition that the tendency towards ideological biases is not proportionately allocated based on particular ideology orientation, that an alternative way forward is feasible.

    None of that means, either, that I can’t sometimes recognize vapid arguments (when it doesn’t require much brains or technical skill to do so), if they’re thrown out there by Steven or folks like Richard Tol, Nic Lewis, etc. in order to protect their own ideological biases.

  52. “Own your dogwhistles and stop being evasive.”

    Dog whistle’s

    I would hazard that no dog’s can hear my whistle.

    Just read and think. It’s not that hard. If you dont want to, that’s fine. but I’m not in the mood to spoon feed you.

    Think.

  53. BBD says:

    Joshua

    IMO, it is only with a recognition of the fundamentally ideological nature of the polarization,and recognition that the tendency towards ideological biases is not proportionately allocated based on particular ideology orientation, that an alternative way forward is feasible.

    What alternative way forward? What do you suggest?

  54. BBD says:

    Steven

    Elucidate.

  55. BBD says:

    Dog whistle’s

    I would hazard that no dog’s can hear my whistle.

    What’s with the misplaced apostrophes by the way? Not getting that.

  56. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> “What alternative way forward? What do you suggest?”

    Maybe I need to walk back “feasible,” and replace it with “more feasible.” Ultimately, what I suggest as being feasible is only so in a relative sense.

    I think that successful negotiation strategies, “Getting to Yes” strategies, that utilize techniques of participatory democracy and stakeholder dialogue, to distinguish interests from positions, and to find synergies, is a more feasible alternative. Continued ideological bickering seems to me like it won’t get anywhere new. I see no reason to think that “realists” will win an ideological war with “skeptics,” not the least because “skeptics” win with a lack of adoption of effective policies.

  57. John Mashey says:

    One more time, read TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always, whose long gestation was run through a Koch-founded group, Citizens for a Sound Economy. Then read the (open) paper, To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party”.

    We know the tobacco side better than the Koch side, since we have 90M pages of internal tobacco documents. It’s rather harder to see the Koch side, but the TEA Party was rather entangled with Koch operatives like Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer. I.e., we don’t have the letters, but key people are good markers as they moved around.

    The TEA Party was brilliantly designed to capture a certain segment of the US and reinforce their views, while steering them “behind the scenes.”

    The Koch’s father cofounded John Birch Society, and David ran for US VIce-President as Libertarian.
    Then they started creating the network of think tanks and front groups … and the TEA Party was their greatest creation, helped by the great marketeers of tobacco, who get hired at Koch.

    Again, neither the Kochs nor big tobacco have much use for the US Federal government, or in fact any government that inhibits them. By the way, as noted towards end of the Quarterback paper:
    “Moreover, while the Tea Party started in the USA, it is beginning to spread internationally.22–26 In 2012 FreedomWorks expanded the movement internationally, training activists in 30 countries, including Israel, Georgia, Japan, Nigeria and Serbia.22 This international expansion makes it likely that Tea Party organisations will be mounting opposition to tobacco control (and other health) policies as they have done in the USA.”

  58. Jim Lovejoy says:

    Sam Taylor 5:33

    VV’s point was even at 10X cost fossil fuel replacement was possible. In actuality, renewable is getting to price parity with fossil fuel for electricity. According to berkley labs, in the US, utility scale solar has fallen to 5cents/kwh. (That would be around 6.1Cents unsubsidized). http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2015/09/30/price-of-solar-energy-in-the-united-states-has-fallen-to-5%C2%A2kwh-on-average/

    On shore wind is cheaper yet. At those costs, renewables are cheaper than any fossil fuel new source. I realize that the US is not the world, but there are countries where solar can be installed for much less than in the US.

    For transport, a few years ago the head of Nissan said that when EVs get to 2% of total sales they will be price competitive with gas/diesel. (And ‘fuel’ and maintenance will be much cheaper.

    Right now we can install as much solar and wind capacity as the manufacturers can produce at a price competitive with ff. The price of solar is falling fairly fast, and wind prices are also falling though slower.

    Getting to 90% electricity by 2050 only requires a level playing field. If battery prices continue to fall getting to well over 50% new vehicle sales by 2050 is also extremely doable. Whether that will be enough is another question.

  59. BBD says:

    In actuality, renewable is getting to price parity with fossil fuel for electricity.

    Utility-scale storage for slew/intermittency not costed. Grid extensions not costed. Grid interconnectors not costed. This is misinformation, nothing less.

  60. Sam taylor says:

    I really don’t buy all the “grid parity arguments” for a number of reasons, some of which BBD covered above, and some of which because, as ever, the truth is probably more complex. The LCOE metric is perhaps not the best tool for comparing costs (eg see Joskow), and EIA LCOE and LACE metrics don’t exactly look brilliant for wind or solar ( http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm ).

    Further, it’s very hard to say exactly what solar or wind end up displacing. In the UK it might be gas, in Demnark it might be norwegian Hydro. And the amount of fossil energy that is displaced by non-fossil is not necesarilly 1:1 ( http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n6/abs/nclimate1451.html ).

    There’s this meme that somehow cheap solar, wind and storage will ride to the rescue and allow us to both avoid climate change and keep our current way of life, without needing any painful or expensive changes. Personally I think this is simplistic rubbish and that if we do want to avoid cooking ourselves then we’ll have to take quite a lot of pain. But I guess that’s not optimistic enough or something.

  61. BBD why don’t you talk about the storage needed for current nuclear power plants? France is now subsidising night electricity for all of Europe because they cannot turn their slow responding power plants of at night.

    But the real question is: would smarter grids, a market for electricity with fluctuating prices, storage with hydro, batteries and artificial gas and overcapacity cost more than 10 times the current energy system. Would that need 60% of our current economy, to put it in perspective. I doubt it. I have some trust in the free market and human ingenuity to make money in finding services to bring supply and demand together.

  62. L Hamilton says:

    Thanks, L.

    Cheers, W.
    Keep on truckin’

  63. L Hamilton says:

    It would nevertheless be interesting to see such Figures. It would complete the picture we get from your article.

    Not sure whether the image will appear, but this should track the percentage of now/natural responses in our NH timeseries:

  64. L Hamilton says:

    Here is now/natural by party:

    Not-now responses:

    Not-now by party (if we’re not over-interpreting noise, might see “the pause” taking hold):

  65. BBD says:

    V V

    BBD why don’t you talk about the storage needed for current nuclear power plants?

    Because nuclear is dispatchable.

    What I object to is the misrepresentation involved in claiming that renewables are close to grid parity with conventional generation technologies. It is not true, so we should not say it.

  66. Joshua says:

    Perhaps the most telling aspect of that (2:51 pm ) graph is how it is “dose-dependent” in a sense (not sure what the correct technical term would be)…in that there is a clear association of views on climate change with strength of ideology along a certain axis — from Dems to Indies to Repubs to Tea Partiers. That kind of “dose dependency” is an important sign, IMO, that this isn’t just a matter of correlation.

    Ala “Hills Criteria of Causation”

    http://www.drabruzzi.com/hills_criteria_of_causation.htm

    Although, I don’t think that it works that ideology creates views on climate change, but that both ideological beliefs and views on climate change are “caused” by psychological and cognitive human attributes that contribute to how identity influences belief system.

  67. Magma says:

    BBD @ 3:05 PM:

    Nuclear power plants aren’t really dispatchable. Almost all of them are operated at or close to full capacity 24/7, except during maintenance or repair. They are very good for supplying baseload power, but that is a different issue from meeting variable short-term demand.

  68. Willard says:

    To insert images, everyone, simply insert the URL on a line between empty lines.

    Like this:

  69. BBD says:

    Magma

    Almost all of them are operated at or close to full capacity 24/7, except during maintenance or repair.

    Yes, that’s true of older plant, but in the case of French electricity exports, it would be reasonable and correct to describe French nuclear plant as dispatchable.

    They are very good for supplying baseload power, but that is a different issue from meeting variable short-term demand.

    Which is why nuclear plant is used for baseload and not load following.

  70. John Mashey says:

    Here we have a guest post on an important topic from a knowkedgabke expert who remains engaged with the discussion.

    It might be nice to actually discuss the topic, rather than turning this into an energy systems discussion, an important topic in its own right… but must it derail the political topic? One if the rare ones with real expertise and data?

  71. John Mashey says:

    Oops, among other things, Larry is great at whipping up different graphs from his extensive data. A month ago, i asked him a question over lunch, and within an hour he sent me new graphs … Before we arrived in Lowell MA, where I visited Lomborg’s US “hesdquarters”.

  72. John makes a good point

    Here we have a guest post on an important topic from a knowkedgabke expert who remains engaged with the discussion.

    It might be nice to actually discuss the topic

    It’s an opportunity to take advantage of a knowledgable expert; let’s try and do so.

  73. Magma says:

    John Mashey: “It might be nice to actually discuss the topic”

    True, though I think LH has quantified an issue many were already aware of. One question I have (made in the form of a comment two days ago) was to wonder if at least some of the high acceptance of anthropogenic climate change among Democrats doesn’t come from the same sort of political/tribal identity motivations as cause its rejection among right-wing Republicans.

    If this is the case (and it seems plausible to me), then such individuals will have made the correct* choice (*very likely for ACC, certain for CO2 concentration) because of their political identity, not because they were more intelligent or better informed. This is something to bear in mind, since people are often tempted to assume that they or their allies aren’t prey to the same errors as their opponents.

  74. Magma,
    That’s a good question. It seems quite plausible to me that the tendency for Democrat to accept the science is possibly for the same basic reason as the Republican’s tendency to dispute it. Would be interesting to get Larry’s view on that.

  75. BBD says:

    Unless I’ve misunderstood him, that is Joshua’s central argument.

  76. L Hamilton says:

    Culture fits some aspects of climate change (and other science) rejection, but focusing only on those aspects can be missing, again, the elephant in the room. Dunlap & McCright’s chapter on “Challenging Climate Change: The Denial Countermovement” in
    https://global.oup.com/academic/product/climate-change-and-society-9780199356119?cc=us&lang=en&
    could be one place to start for a more skeptical account of its history. They lead with…

    Shortly after James Hansen’s June 1988 Senate testimony placed anthropogenic global warming on the public agenda in the United States, organized efforts to deny the reality and significance of the phenomenon began, reflected by the formation the following year of the Global Climate Coalition (an industry-led front group formed to call global warming into question). These efforts to deny global warming–and human-caused climate change more generally–have continued over the ensuing quarter-century, involving an ever-growing array of actors, and often cresting when domestic or international action (e.g., the 1997 Kyoto Protocol) aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions seemed imminent.

  77. L Hamilton says:

    So there is a common claim out there of left v. right ideological symmetry, or similar but offsetting biases. If similar but offsetting biases exist regarding science, I can’t find these in my surveys, nor in current events. As noted here
    http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/5/3/2158244015602752
    and here
    https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/views-of-science
    distrust of science is generally more prevalent on the right, even on topics (vaccines, nuclear power, GMOs) where pundits said it would go the other way.

  78. Magma says:

    BBD, I think he does make that argument in some of his posts, but maybe a bit too obscurely.

  79. L Hamilton says:

    Symmetry conjures an image of different sides turning to their respective left and right ideological wells for arguments they know will support their prejudices. But that’s not a good description if it’s mostly done on one side, while the other is more inclined to credit what, as best they can tell, scientists are saying.

    Going back to my “do you trust scientists” survey questions (above), if you don’t trust scientists, why not? Must be because scientists are stupid (this view exists but I don’t think it’s widespread) or else lying (= conspiracy, and sadly we know that’s widespread). And who do you trust instead? Evidently, sources that–unlike scientists–will more reliably say what you want to hear.

  80. Going back to my “do you trust scientists” survey questions (above), if you don’t trust scientists, why not?

    Okay, that’s a good point. It’s one thing to argue that Democrat’s tendency to accept science is somehow equivalent to (but anti-symmetric) to Republican’s tendency to reject it, but that then begs the question as to why this is the case. As you say “why do some people not trust scientists?”.

  81. BBD says:

    This is why I disagree with Joshua. I hope he is continuing to read this thread.

  82. I hope he is continuing to read this thread.

    I’d be surprised if he wasn’t 🙂

  83. Magma says:

    Larry Hamilton: First, thanks for the participation here and the underlying research behind it. Not surprisingly (I’m a geoscientist) I wasn’t aware of your very recent papers, and I will read them carefully. I scrapped most of my comment-in-progress since they (in particular your summer 2015 Casey Research note) answered some of my points. That particular paper gives a strong indication that there is no such symmetry, or if there is, only a very small one.

    I found the trend to conservative distrust of scientists in regard to vaccination not too surprising considering the possible influence of (RW) libertarianism. The same trend with respect to nuclear power was more surprising, and the one with respect to GMO even more so considering many corn, soybean and oilseed farmers in the US Midwest and western North America grow GM crops and tend to lean to the right politically, and many of the more vocal GM opponents clearly lean to the left.

    In brief, is the liberal/conservative effect you’re measuring actually “I trust what scientists say about X”, with the emphasis on ‘trust’ rather than ‘about X’?

    If so, I might add a couple of notes of caution. Anecdotally, I’m familiar with people who would say they agree with science-based risk assessments, but when it comes to concrete examples (GM food or nuclear reactors near their city) they backtrack. Also, while there are very strong scientific consensuses regarding evolution, vaccination and AGW, any such agreement is considerably weaker for GMO and weaker still for nuclear power (if indeed we can say that nuclear power is a scientific issue rather than a mixed scientific, economic, engineering and regulatory one).

  84. John Mashey says:

    Larry:
    On “Here is now/natural by party:” and “Not-now by party ”
    Akin to Q I asked at lunch, we see the percentages of each category in (D,I, R, T), but the graphs don’t show the relative sizes of R+T.
    Can you do graphs that show:
    Republican
    Tea Party
    (Republican+ Tea Party together),
    basically to approximate the extent to which T influences the effect if one just does (D, I, R).
    I.e., how much does T move the overall R? (I understand that some T’s would be I’s or maybe D’s in the 3-way choice.

  85. L Hamilton says:

    John, if I understand your question, the answer looks like this (NH data). Courier 9pt font might help to read this.

    . svy: tab party3 warmop2d if party4<., row percent
    (running tabulate on estimation sample)

    Number of strata = 1 Number of obs = 11,914
    Number of PSUs = 11,914 Population size = 11,867.142
    Design df = 11,913

    —————————————-
    Political |
    party |
    identific | Believe happening now/human
    ation (3) | not/natu now/huma Total
    ———-+—————————–
    Democrat | 19.01 80.99 100
    Independ | 44.14 55.86 100
    Republic | 68.55 31.45 100
    |
    Total | 43.21 56.79 100
    —————————————-
    Key: row percentage

    Pearson:
    Uncorrected chi2(2) = 2414.8178
    Design-based F(2.00, 23800.97)= 872.4921 P = 0.0000

    . svy: tab party4 warmop2d if party3<., row percent
    (running tabulate on estimation sample)

    Number of strata = 1 Number of obs = 11,914
    Number of PSUs = 11,914 Population size = 11,867.142
    Design df = 11,913

    —————————————-
    inclusive |
    tea party |
    definitio | Believe happening now/human
    n | not/natu now/huma Total
    ———-+—————————–
    Democrat | 18.05 81.95 100
    Independ | 38.86 61.14 100
    Republic | 58.73 41.27 100
    Tea Part | 75.76 24.24 100
    |
    Total | 43.21 56.79 100
    —————————————-
    Key: row percentage

    Pearson:
    Uncorrected chi2(3) = 2669.9444
    Design-based F(3.00, 35705.36)= 639.7454 P = 0.0000

  86. Joshua says:

    First, I think that Kahan offers some interesting criticisms of the data which show differences by ideology in “trust in science.” Basically, while I’m not inclined to agree with the extent to which he dismisses the differences in “trust in science” in association with ideology, the data he presents do complicate my understanding of whether such a clear difference exists.

    2nd……I think that the very task of measuring “trust” in science or scientists is complicated – as it seems to me to be very hard to disentangle any questions on that topic from ideologically-influenced interpretation. Republicans who say that they have lost trust in science don’t start burning their GPS. or started rejecting medical science research It would seem to me that asking Republicans whether they “trust scientists” is likely to be translated into “do you accept AGW,” or “do you want to fund the CDC.”

    Third… from what I’ve seen previously, I think that “trust” in science (or scientists) in association with ideology is issue dependent more than it is broadly consistent across the board. I’ll have to take some time to look at the links that Larry just offered that seems to suggest otherwise (in his 6:11 comment).

    Fourth,…

    ==> “while the other is more inclined to credit what, as best they can tell, scientists are saying.”

    …”skeptics;’ trust scientists that are aligned with their ideology and distrust those who aren’t. It seems to me that “realists” do the same. Both sides are inclined to credit what, as best they can tell, scientists are saying…but their methods for determining as best they can what scientists are saying is necessarily going to be a biased process.

    We can see the same pattern play out with other “experts” on other topics – say economists w/r/t evidence on the effects of taxes or welfare, or other social scientists w/r/t the causes of higher poverty in African American communities. People cull through expert opinion to magically find that, as best as they can tell, scientists’ views are aligned with their own ideology.

    I’m inclined to view the climate wars in the larger context of how people reason in polarized contexts. I’m not sure that there is a kind of symmetry, but symmetry does seem to me to be a reasonable starting point as I think that the factors that influence belief formation are rooted in fundamental psychological (identity-protective mechanisms) and cognitive (pattern-finding) attributes that are shared by all humans. Thus, to move from a basic starting point of symmetry, I’d need to see conclusive evidence otherwise. There was some information here at ATTP recently about differences in “openness” in association with political ideology that was interesting, and I hope to have more time to look at that information…but I’m instinctively dubious about arguments suggesting that there are more differences across ideology than there are differences within cohorts that share ideology.

  87. L Hamilton says:

    In brief, is the liberal/conservative effect you’re measuring actually “I trust what scientists say about X”, with the emphasis on ‘trust’ rather than ‘about X’?

    This is a key question and one that, as we collected more data, I’ve flipped sides on. Initially we’d asked about trusting scientists about environment, or about climate change, and of course liberals/Democrats said they trusted them more. That made sense if you assume it’s the ‘about X’ part that matters most, as Dan Kahan argues and I was initially persuaded.

    But it’s testable, which is what we tried next. Scanning the interwebs you see many folks declaring that trust will lean the opposite way (liberals distrustful) if you ask about vaccines. We placed climate change and vaccine questions on summer/fall 2014 surveys in NE Oregon and New Hampshire. Both found Democrats most trusting and Tea Party supporters least trusting, on both issues. I’m a huge fan of replication (or more accurately, reproducibility) so this consistent result from two surveys seemed worth writing up. It hints that the ‘trust scientists’ part overshadows ‘about X.’

    Still, that’s only two topics (in NE Oregon there was a 3rd one about forest management, but that’s somewhat region-specific). And as I talked about it some people said we should have asked about nuclear power or GMOs, *then* we’d find real liberal bias. Well that’s testable too. Hence the Carsey brief where we placed onto new surveys the climate and vaccine questions alongside GMOs, nukes and for the heck of it evolution. Again with strikingly consistent results. It’s not that there is no liberal bias, but if there is it appears only strong enough to narrow the gap on some issues between liberals and conservatives, not coming close to reversal.

    BTW, switching from Dem/Ind/Rep/Tea comparison on the Sage Open paper, to Lib/Mod/Con comparison in the Carsey brief, was intentionally another test of how reproducible this result might be.

  88. > I’m a huge fan of replication (or more accurately, reproducibility)

    The latter is more enjoyable. Half of that proposition is testable. My favorite half to test.

    Enjoy your evening,

    W

  89. Joshua says:

    ==> “But it’s testable, which is what we tried next. Scanning the interwebs you see many folks declaring that trust will lean the opposite way (liberals distrustful) if you ask about vaccines. We placed climate change and vaccine questions on summer/fall 2014 surveys in NE Oregon and New Hampshire. ”

    A couple of thoughts about that. First, the vaccine question doesn’t surprise me in the least – that’s why I spoke about the CDC in my comment…I was thinking in particular about vaccines and Ebola…. I don’t think that by asking about vaccines you’re effectively controlling for what you’re actually measuring…you could still, essentially, be asking about ideology…not the least because in general, vaccines is not a highly polarized issue. 2nd, just because “many folks” on the Interwebs declare that asking about vaccines should show an opposite bias doesn’t mean anything. For example, at Collide-a-scape, I saw the claim made many times that anti-vax ideology is associated with libz…so I’d just link to a rant from Alex Jones at Prison Planet (not that it would change their minds, of course). Many people in the Interwebs are likely to see patterns that fit their ideological predispositions – whether they exist or not.

    ==> “Hence the Carsey brief where we placed onto new surveys the climate and vaccine questions alongside GMOs, nukes and for the heck of it evolution.”

    So that is something that I wouldn’t expect as much…although….

    I have this question…you have two levels of sub-categorization on the right hand side of Independents but only one on the left side. Along with that, you see stronger patterns of ideological influence with Tea Partiers. What do you think you’d see if you stratified similarly on the left hand side of Independents?

  90. Joshua says:

    Larry –

    In the Carsey paper you asked about whether people “trust scientists” about nuclear power… How do you think that the respondents were interpreting that question? Were they interpreting “scientists” to mean something like the”What the Union of Concerned Scientists say” as being representative of “scientists.” It seems data show that in general, conz are less concerned about risks from nuclear power than libz…so couldn’t you just largely be finding out that libz and conz are both influenced in their response to trust in “scientists” on the issue on the basis of what they think scientists are saying? In other word, conz were not answering about “trust in science,” as they think that the weight of scientific evidence shows that nuclear power is safe.

    It’s seems pretty obvious to me that when many conz here about “scientists,” – when discussing a polarized issue, they’re thinking about those librul elitists that drink lattes in their ivory towers…

  91. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Lawrence writes:

    It’s not that there is no liberal bias, but if there is it appears only strong enough to narrow the gap on some issues between liberals and conservatives, not coming close to reversal.

    This chimes with my subjective impression that ideology and objectivity are asymmetric.

  92. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    I’d like to believe that’s true.

    But it’s easily predictable that each side would see an asymmetry, and of course that’s what happens. I’m telling “skeptics” all the time that they need to control for their confirmation bias with evidence (in other words, actually be skeptical). One of the reasons why I criticize Judith so frequently is because she asserts asymmetry w/o even attempting to provide evidence.

    At least Lawrence provides evidence….that means something. But I think that human nature suggests symmetry, and so to be convinced I’d need extraordinary evidence. I understand that maybe my own confirmation bias prevents me from recognizing the conclusive nature of the the evidence presented.

  93. Joshua,
    I’m not sure I quite follow what you’re getting at. If it were symmetrical wouldn’t you expect both sides to accept some things, and not others, in a way that chimed with their ideologies. However, what this seems to suggest is that there is a tendency for one side to accept science in general, and the other to reject it. That seems harder to interpret as simply ideology driving what is accepted, and what is rejected. What am I missing here?

  94. BBD says:

    Joshua

    But it’s easily predictable that each side would see an asymmetry, and of course that’s what happens.

    There IS an asymmetry. It’s in the evidence (which you are skating perilously close to denying) and in the observation that ideology is asymmetrical with objectivity.

    Are scientists driven ideologues? Or are they simply trying to be objective?

  95. L Hamilton says:

    At least Lawrence provides evidence….that means something. But I think that human nature suggests symmetry, and so to be convinced I’d need extraordinary evidence.

    Setting aside questions of human nature, we have several kinds of evidence. The biggest by far, the real elephant in the room, is what we’re seeing out in the real world. Where there are high-profile attacks against core areas of Earth sciences, biology, medical research, social sciences and even history. For just one anecdote, among the 3 leading candidates for president of one party, all 3 are climate-change deniers, 2 are anti-vaxxers, and 1 thinks the devil inspired Charles Darwin. Rush Limbaugh suggests that finding water on Mars fits some liberal conspiracy, he’s not sure quite what, and we might think that’s a fringe view but 13 million people tune in to hear him each week. We could go on and on with examples.

    The surveys I cited give much narrower evidence, but in their limited way more systematic, that seems consistent with these impressions from daily news. I find the surveys persuasive so far, but we’re not done by any means and neither are other researchers, new things will come up.

    A third line of evidence comes from experiments, and some of them reach a contrary conclusion, finding signs of left/right symmetry in science-related responses. Experimental design (with people) classically works by randomly assigning individuals to different treatments, then measuring some possible response. If an appropriate analysis then finds a significant difference in responses, then it’s a reasonable inference that was caused by the treatment — because random assignment in principle makes the treatment uncorrelated with everything else. In social-research jargon, internal validity (causal inferences are well supported within the study) is a strength of experiments. Surveys generally are weaker at that because we must adjust for correlated factors statistically.

    But what of external validity (causal inferences generalize more widely)? The balance shifts. A science-communication experiment, for example, applies treatment in the form of information supplied to the subject, with aspects of that information (how is the source described? what do they claim to find? how is it presented?) manipulated while we watch for effects. The information itself might be true or completely made up; it will certainly be very selective. If changing the information supplied in an experiment alters the response, that does not necessarily tell us what will happen back in life, where there are countless competing sources of information (as we pick and choose what to hear) and time flies by bringing new, louder stuff.

  96. L Hamilton says:

    I have this question…you have two levels of sub-categorization on the right hand side of Independents but only one on the left side. Along with that, you see stronger patterns of ideological influence with Tea Partiers. What do you think you’d see if you stratified similarly on the left hand side of Independents?

    For one answer, see this graph from our Carsey brief, which doesn’t use parties at all but a 5-point liberal/conservative scale:

    That 5-point scale was simplified from an original 9-point version, as described in Note 24 of the Carsey brief (trying to make the steps clear!):
    https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/views-of-science

  97. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “I’m not sure I quite follow what you’re getting at.”

    That makes two of us. 🙂

    ==> “If it were symmetrical wouldn’t you expect both sides to accept some things, and not others, in a way that chimed with their ideologies. However, what this seems to suggest is that there is a tendency for one side to accept science in general, and the other to reject it.”

    The evidence that Lawrence presents is interesting, and I need to think about it more, and perhaps see more evidence, to know what applies “in general.” Most of the investigation that Lawrence has reported here overlays on to political polarization and identification. The one exception might be GMOs. Even the issue of vaccines, which from some data I’ve seen is not an issue that is highly polarized politically when you aggregate data, can become polarizing when the questions are asked in the form of “do you trust scientists about….” Is it possible that while conz say that they don’t trust scientists about vaccines they are not materially differentiated on the question of whether they are likely to have their child vaccinated? If so, what does that mean? And further, if I see this…

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/11/25/conservatives-lose-faith-in-science-over-last-40-years-where.html

    I have more questions what it really means if conz report that their less trustful of what scientists say on that issue. And further, lately in the U.S. vaccination is a topic that conservative politicians have sought to leverage for political expediency…so it filters back in to questions of ideological predisposition.

    In other words, I’m skeptical about the transition from “do you trust scientists for information about X…” to…

    The vaccines, nuclear power, and GMO questions were specifically chosen to test whether on those topics liberals would be more inclined than conservatives to reject science.

    Let’s take GMOs… I find it kind of hard to know what scientists say about GMOs. I see conflicting reports. I see some folks, some of whom I don’t particularly trust for their even-handed treatment of evidence, who say there is no doubt that “scientists overwhelmingly say” that there are no real valid health concerns about GMOs. But I see scientists who say that isn’t true, or that the evidence that others present is influenced by the biotechnology industry. So how do I answer the question about whether I trust what scientists say about GMOs? And what does my answer really mean? If I answer the question one way or the other about my level of trust in what “scientists say” on that issue, does that tell you whether or not I “reject science?” Or does it tell you more about how my predispositions influence me to evaluate which experts I want to trust? And that’s without even going in to the differing arguments I see about the class and economic and political implications of widespread usage of GMOs – and it would be hard for me to just extract my answer to a question about my trust of what scientists say about GMOs from my impressions about the follow-on issues.

    ==> “That seems harder to interpret as simply ideology driving what is accepted, and what is rejected.”

    I don’t think it’s simple, and I don’t think that ideology drives what is or isn’t accepted. I suspect that what drives what is and isn’t accepted are, to at least a meaningful extent, identity protective behaviors. Ideology, I suspect, like how people form their beliefs about polarized issues, is largely a function of how people manifest that underlying psychological attribute of being human. In other words, I’m still working from a gut-level impression that ideology is more a moderator/mediator between people’s sense of identity (and cognitive attributes) and their beliefs on polarized issues.

    The scientific method is a means for helping to control for that underlying, causal mechanism…which is why I tend to trust the outcomes of a scientific process, but I recognize that scientists are not immune from being influenced by the underlying causal mechanisms. Confirmation bias does affect the output of the scientific process to some extent.

    But even beyond that, I know that in myself, I can recognize my tendency, and in fact a certain fundamental need, to filter evidence through my ideological orientation. I see that pattern to be ubiquitous as a key feature of human psychological and cognitive processes. I see the pattern all around me, say, in how couples fight with each other or how a kid tries to convince her parent to let her stay up late and watch TV. I don’t reject the possibility of some substantial asymmetry…I don’t know…but I’m not convinced that it exists and I feel that to discount my baseline presumption of symmetry the evidence has to be extraordinary. I recognize that could just well be my own bias in play.

  98. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> “Are scientists driven ideologues? Or are they simply trying to be objective?

    I think, no and no.

  99. Joshua says:

    Lawrence –

    ==> “Where there are high-profile attacks against core areas of Earth sciences, biology, medical research, social sciences and even history. For just one anecdote, among the 3 leading candidates for president of one party, all 3 are climate-change deniers, 2 are anti-vaxxers, and 1 thinks the devil inspired Charles Darwin. Rush Limbaugh suggests that finding water on Mars fits some liberal conspiracy, he’s not sure quite what, and we might think that’s a fringe view but 13 million people tune in to hear him each week. We could go on and on with examples.”

    Sure. I linked to Rush’s rant over at Hotwhopper. What, 60% of Trump supporters report a belief that Obama is a Muslim ferner?…

    But how does that reconcile with:

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/display/ShowImage?imageUrl=/storage/onbalance.png?

    When a “skeptic” claims that “skeptics” derive their beliefs from a dispassionate look at the underlying science, I ask them to account for why “skeptics” as a group largely share conspiratorial beliefs about Obama’s life history and his religious beliefs. Of course, I never get an answer, and so I don’t give credence to their belief that “skeptics” as a group are dispassionate analysts of scientific evidence. In fact, it is the lack of answer that helps me to see that they deserve quotation marks around their self-proclaimed label of “skeptic.”

    ==> “But what of external validity (causal inferences generalize more widely)? The balance shifts. A science-communication experiment, for example, applies treatment in the form of information supplied to the subject, with aspects of that information (how is the source described? what do they claim to find? how is it presented?) manipulated while we watch for effects. The information itself might be true or completely made up; it will certainly be very selective. If changing the information supplied in an experiment alters the response, that does not necessarily tell us what will happen back in life, where there are countless competing sources of information (as we pick and choose what to hear) and time flies by bringing new, louder stuff.”

    Agreed. This is why I am dubious about the experiments that report findings on the effects of consensus messaging…

  100. Willard says:

    > In other words, I’m skeptical about the transition from “do you trust scientists for information about X…” to… The vaccines, nuclear power, and GMO questions were specifically chosen to test whether on those topics liberals would be more inclined than conservatives to reject science.

    You might as well question the transition from the scientific topics selected to science in general.

    The problem might very well be that the concept of science is quite moot in theorical, technical and practical terms.

  101. The difference is also not really liberal against conservative.

    It is US liberal against US conservative.

    Lawrence Hamilton, do you have any data for Europe? Preferably for the continent, because the UK seems to suffer partially from having the same language as the culture warriors.

    I would expect that data from Europe to show a much smaller difference in the acceptance of climate change between the different political groups than in the USA. The only group in Europe where I expect to see more rejection of basic climate science results would be the racists, but not normal conservatives.

    Also in Europe the right wing sees solving climate change as less of a priority than the left wing, but that does not go so far as to destroy their intellectual credibility by denying basic science.

  102. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    Somewhat (tangentially) useful:

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/mar/14/how-to-read-the-latest-data-on-public-attitudes-to-science

    With links to studies of the UK, Europe a whole, topic-specific “trust”… but not much in the way of stratification by ideological orientation.

  103. BBD says:

    Joshua

    I think, no and no.

    Scientists are not trying to be objective? Really? Or have I misunderstood you here?

  104. Joshua,
    Thanks. I’ll have to think about your response a little more. To be quite honest, I find this whole issue rather confusing. It’s not as simple as physics 🙂

  105. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    I got hung up with the “simply” part of: “Are scientists driven ideologues? Or are they simply trying to be objective?

    I think that there’s’ a middle ground between being a driven ideologue and simply trying to be objective – because there are other forces, such as confirmation bias, cultural cognition, etc., that are in play as a part of the human condition.

    My guess is that most scientists are trying to be objective, and failing to varying degrees at various times. Sometimes it seems obvious to me that they’re failing to control for their own biases – often when they’re discussing non-technical matters – but I can’t conclude from that that they aren’t trying to be objective, or that they are simply trying to be objective, or that they are driven ideologues…

  106. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “Thanks. I’ll have to think about your response a little more. To be quite honest, I find this whole issue rather confusing.”

    Don’t get caught up in the thinking that if you find what I wrote confusing, it isn’t explainable in that what I wrote is inherently confused. I am, quite admittedly, shooting from the hip here.

    ==> “It’s not as simple as physics”

    Ha.

  107. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Yes, I would agree objectivity is an unattainable state that scientists (and everyone else) can only strive towards. Obviously this is why the scientific consensus is so useful, arising as it does from the competition of ideas (and biases) which militates against individual bias and weak arguments alike.

    With this in mind, I’m still unable to see how accepting the scientific consensus for logical reasons is symmetrical with denying it for ideological reasons.

  108. We have our huge brains to understand and con other humans and to allow for large-scale collaboration with non-kin. Something as simple as physics or solving an integral equation is an afterthought.

  109. Victor’s almost made the point that I was going to make. Trying to analyse and understand human behaviour is much more difficult than trying to understand and analyse a physical system. A physical system obeys the laws of physics. It may be technically difficult to carry out such an analysis, but once you have – and understand – the tools it is relatively straightforward; at least compared to trying to understand why humans do what they do.

  110. John Mashey says:

    This is why it is a really good idea to find good social scientists (sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, economists, historians) and get them involved.

    Some skill sets overlap with physical scientists, but others differ, as do knowledge bases.

  111. L Hamilton says:

    do you have any data for Europe?

    I do not, but this new paper by Aaron McCright et al. just came out in Environmental Politics:

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09644016.2015.1090371

    “Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union”

    Abstract
    There is a strong political divide on climate change in the US general public, with Liberals and Democrats expressing greater belief in and concern about climate change than Conservatives and Republicans. Recent studies find a similar though less pronounced divide in other countries. Its leadership in international climate policy making warrants extending this line of research to the European Union (EU). The extent of a left–right ideological divide on climate change views is examined via Eurobarometer survey data on the publics of 25 EU countries before the 2008 global financial crisis, the 2009 ‘climategate’ controversy and COP-15 in Copenhagen, and an increase in organized climate change denial campaigns. Citizens on the left consistently reported stronger belief in climate change and support for action to mitigate it than did citizens on the right in 14 Western European countries. There was no such ideological divide in 11 former Communist countries, likely due to the low political salience of climate change and the differing meaning of left–right identification in these countries.

  112. Lawrence Hamilton, thank you. Paper is unfortunately pay-walled. Normally I am privileged, but this time not.

    Citizens on the left consistently reported stronger belief in climate change and support for action to mitigate it than did citizens on the right in 14 Western European countries.

    Not surprised about the difference in support for mitigation, would love to know the details bout climate change “belief”.

    John Mashey, yep, it would be naive to think that natural scientists could do social science better without first putting in the same amount of work.

  113. O Bothe says:

    Rather late than never: Thanks for the additional Figures

  114. Pingback: 2015 blog summary | …and Then There's Physics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s