Consensus messaging

I haven’t paid much attention to Dan Kahan’s work, but recently noticed a post on his blog about the *public consensus* on what climate scientists think about human-caused global warming. The basic premise seems to be that although your political leaning might influence whether or not you agree that there is solid evidence that global warming is mostly human-caused, most still accept that a scientific consensus exists. According to Dan Kahan’s post:

… there’s barely any partisan disagreement over what climate scientists believe about the specific causes and consequences of human-caused climate change.

The post then goes on to say

“97% consensus” social marketing campaigns ….. aren’t telling ordinary Americans on either side of the “climate change debate” anything they haven’t already heard & indeed accepted: that climate scientists believe human-caused global warming is putting them in a position of extreme peril.

All the “social marketing” of “scientific consensus” does is augment the toxic idioms of contempt that are poisoning our science communication environment.

I don’t really know how best to interpret what is being suggested here. So, consensus messaging is somehow toxic and damages other attempts at science communication? Well, that there is a strong consensus with respect to AGW is essentially true. If consensus messaging is toxic, then that seems to suggest that some respond poorly to being made aware of something true, which is – in itself – interesting. There may well be better ways in which to use consensus messaging, but to suggest not using it at all would seem to imply avoiding saying something that is true. I find that mildly disturbing.

I actually don’t really know what else to say about Dan Kahan’s post. It’s possible I’ve misunderstood it (I’m hoping that Joshua, or someone else who understand Dan Kahan’s ideas, can clarify things) but I find the underlying premise quite strange. I could understand if someone was suggesting a better, or an alternative, way to communicate science. However, suggesting that others – who are promoting someone that is true – are damaging science communication just seems a little bizarre. It’s certainly not a hugely constructive approach.

I think, however, that there may be an issue of terminology here. To me, science communication is about communicating scientific ideas to the public, or to policy makers. Whether they accept it, or not, is their choice. Of course, someone could advise on how best to communicate science, but suggesting that something shouldn’t be said is not – typically – a suggestion that I’d regard as reasonable. Considering how best to get people to accept a scientific position – rather than how to understand it – seems more like marketing, than science communication. Of course, this is part of the motivation behind consensus messaging, but that doesn’t change that there is indeed a strong consensus.

In some sense, I don’t really see consensus messaging as science communication. At best, it’s peripheral; it’s part of getting people to accept that there is a scientific position that can be communicated. It’s part of getting people to recognise that some scientific ideas are regarded as not credible. It might play a role in science communication, but – by itself – it doesn’t really communicate any science; well apart from the existence of a basic consensus position. It would be wonderful if it was so well-accepted that we didn’t need to point out that it existed. I realise that Dan Kahan is suggesting that it is, but the apparent negative response to pointing it out, might suggest that it’s not quite that simple.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Climate change, ClimateBall, Global warming, Science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

321 Responses to Consensus messaging

  1. dana1981 says:

    I’m struggling to understand how these aren’t contradictory statements.

    But there is still a huge amount of polarization on whether there is scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

    “97% consensus” social marketing campaigns ….. aren’t telling ordinary Americans on either side of the “climate change debate” anything they haven’t already heard & indeed accepted: that climate scientists believe human-caused global warming is putting them in a position of extreme peril.

    I suppose the inclusion of ‘peril’ in the latter is the difference? It seems that Kahan is arguing that people (mainly conservatives) don’t accept there’s an expert consensus on human-caused global warming, but they do accept that there’s an expert consensus that climate change poses risks.

    In any case, the issue at hand is what the best communications strategies are if your goal is to convince the public to support/demand action on climate change. Kahan thinks that focusing on consensus messaging does more harm than good. All the evidence I’ve seen indicates to the contrary. I don’t see anything he’s presented here that supports this argument.

    He thinks that political/ideological polarization is a big problem, and that’s certainly true. But he doesn’t present any ideas about how to solve that problem (except isolated examples, like focusing on sea level rise in Florida), and he doesn’t make a convincing case that also talking about the expert consensus is a net negative. It’s possible that it has a backfire effect on extreme conservatives (there’s contradictory evidence on that), but for most people, the data indicates that consensus messaging increases science acceptance and support for policy action.

  2. Does Kahan suggest scientists lie about the existence of a consensus on the basics of climate change? Or does Kahan suggest that scientists try to avoid the topic like politicians?

    Both would seem detrimental to the image of science. If there is something the public expects from scientists; I think, if there is something the public should be able to expect from scientists, I feel, then it is to be honest about the state of the science.

  3. Yes, that is rather confusing. The scientific consensus, in my view, is about humans causing global waming, whereas Kahan seems to changing it to “putting into a position of extreme peril”.

    All the evidence I’ve seen indicates to the contrary. I don’t see anything he’s presented here that supports this argument.

    I was going to mention something like this in the post, but ran out of space. I still haven’t seen a convincing argument that it would be less polarising in the absence of consensus messaging. As I think others have mentioned, given the vast amounts of misinformation out there, it could well have been worse in its absence.

    He thinks that political/ideological polarization is a big problem, and that’s certainly true. But he doesn’t present any ideas about how to solve that problem

    Yes, that was my impression. Highlighting a problem, but not presenting any real way of resolving it.

  4. Victor,

    Does Kahan suggest scientists lie about the existence of a consensus on the basics of climate change? Or does Kahan suggest that scientists try to avoid the topic like politicians?

    That’s the bit I don’t get. That he suggests that it damages other attempts at science communication would suggest that he is suggesting that it should be avoided.

    Both would seem detrimental to the image of science.

    Yes, I agree.

  5. dana1981 says:

    Kahan’s mental model is something like this: Polarization is the problem. Telling people there’s an expert consensus further polarizes them. Therefore, specific efforts to communicate the expert consensus to the public are damaging.

    I think one big flaw in this line of argument is the assumption that if you’re polarizing anybody, you’re doing more harm than good. The vast majority of people badly underestimate the expert consensus on AGW. It may be true that some very ideologically conservative people will always deny the consensus, and that trying to convince them about the consensus will push them further into denial. But these are people who we’re never going to reach anyway.

    Our contrasting model: Most people just don’t know about the consensus, and if made aware of it, would accept that information and as a result be more likely to accept the science and support policy action.

    I think our model has a lot more supporting evidence than Kahan’s. And again it’s certainly true that ideology and polarization are huge problems, but the consensus gap is also a problem.

  6. Harry Twinotter says:

    “… there’s barely any partisan disagreement over what climate scientists believe about the specific causes and consequences of human-caused climate change.”

    Really? Last I heard the “consensus gap” was around 50%.

    This is all really silly. The deniers use talking points such as many scientists disagree about AGW. Cook et al do a survey, collect the numbers, and provide evidence that the talking point is wrong and there is a consensus amongst scientists. So then Kahan criticizes people for pointing out this consensus? What would he have people do instead?

  7. HT is right. There’s only a need for consensus messaging because of the fossil fuel industry-led campaign to pretend “scientists can’t agree”.

    I was reading an article only yesterday about US textbooks pushing the idea that climate change is “a controversial debate stemming from differing [scientists] opinions”. [ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151110120441.htm ].

    In the face of such wilful distortion someone now thinks the truth should not be expressed? One must question their motives.

  8. L Hamilton says:

    The partisan divide on consensus looks pretty wide in our surveys — about 60 points between Democrats and Tea Partiers, last time we asked the following question:

    “Which of the following two statements do you think is more accurate? ROTATE 1–2
    1 Most scientists agree that climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities.
    2 There is little agreement among scientists whether climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities.”

    There may be some people who concede that a consensus exists, but reconcile that with their rejection of climate change by assuming a conspiracy. From the data, however, that can’t be a large group. And some of them might just be confused — because similar proportions reject climate change but accept the consensus, and accept climate change but reject the consensus.

    To my mind, consensus messaging has more relevance to folks in the middle, who are lower in certainty either way.

  9. Lawrence, I once heard the claim that when you ask about climate change, it makes a large difference whether you ask the same question in a survey with other science questions, or in a survey with other political questions. Together with other science questions, most people answer that scientists accept that climate change is real, was the claim. However, I cannot find it anymore. Is that claim true?

    If it were true, people would not actually say “I do not believe in climate change”, but rather “I pledge allegiance to the Republican party and all it stands for”.

  10. Magma says:

    (Advance warning, some generalizing ahead.) I find the problem with some social scientists is that they view many topics through an agnostic/ambivalent/noncommittal lens. Which is fine if it comes to many questions of political leanings, religious beliefs or dietary preferences. But it’s not so useful where physics, Earth and atmospheric sciences are concerned.

    Kahan writes: The unmistkable social meaning of the material featuring this “message” (not to mention the cultural conflict bottom-feeders who make a living “debating” this issue on talk shows) is that “you and people who share your identity are morons.” It’s not “science communication”; it’s a clownish bumper sticker that says, “fuck you.”

    It is precisely because of the assaultive, culturally partisan resonances that this “message” conveys that people respond to the question “is there scientific consensus on global warming?” by expressing who they are rather than what they know about climate change risks.

    Physicists don’t concern themselves with the level of consensus regarding the standard model or general relativity, or biologists about the consensus over evolution. The reason, the only reason that this is even being discussed and measured for AGW is because there has been a deliberate, decades-long industry campaign modeled after equally ‘successful’ ones minimizing the risks posed by lead, asbestos and tobacco to buy time by sowing doubt and shoddy scientific and economic arguments against emerging bodies of evidence and research that might reduce the profitability of the fossil fuel industry and the value of its assets.

    If there is a statistically significant bias to the political and ideological beliefs of those who buy into AGW denial (and there clearly appears to be), fine. That can be studied, understood and learned from. But to claim, as Kahan does, that noting that the overwhelming majority of climate researchers agree on a basic consensus on the overall causes of recent climate change amounts to a clownish bumper sticker that says, “fuck you.” seems naive, ignorant and insulting. That the ‘skeptics’ have reacted with what can only be described as upset and rage when this fact is emphasized is more likely due to its reported effectiveness with uncommitted members of the public and the way it illustrates just how unsupported their fringe positions are.

  11. I’m not a expert on cognitive science, but…….

    funny.

    Some folks might say, do your own cultural cognition studies…

    I will say this. The consensus message has been tried. How’s it working?

    That doesnt mean you have to deny the consensus, but rather it means this. If you have to pick a best argument… choose a different one. Otherwise you just innoculate folks.

  12. Magma says:

    To summarize Kahan’s follow-up posted today, Americans already strongly predisposed to reject AGW react angrily to the mention of a “97% scientific consensus” since the existence of such a consensus implies they are anti-scientific idiots. Therefore, if the intent of the consensus message is to win such individuals over, it is counterproductive.

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2016/2/12/will-people-who-are-culturally-predisposed-to-reject-human-c.html

    However, in six or seven years of following blogs and social media such as newspaper comment forums, I have never seen a global warming skeptic publicly accept even neutrally worded matter-of-fact observations regarding the field evidence for climate change or the physical science basis of the greenhouse effect. (Admittedly, such commenters are probably unrepresentative of the population as a whole.) Many individual ‘skeptics’ have dropped off the radar over time, but that could easily be loss of interest, changing personal circumstances, illness or death rather than an unacknowledged abandonment of AGW denial.

    Kahan’s tacit assumption that there is some combination of gentle words that will bring hardcore deniers around to accepting the consequential findings of climate science is faulty. It also underestimates the effectiveness that the consensus message may have on the uncommitted or weakly interested majority, both in terms of intellectual shortcuts (when I want to learn about a subject I’m ignorant of, I start with its accepted conventions first, thank you) and in terms of avoiding shame or embarrassment (not falling for a crackpot hypothesis).

  13. L Hamilton says:

    VV:
    “Lawrence, I once heard the claim that when you ask about climate change, it makes a large difference whether you ask the same question in a survey with other science questions, or in a survey with other political questions. Together with other science questions, most people answer that scientists accept that climate change is real, was the claim. However, I cannot find it anymore. Is that claim true?”

    It is well known that survey responses can be affected by question wording, framing, information provided or context. Unintentionally such factors could bias your results. Experimentally you could vary things deliberately to measure their effects. Corrupt push-polls try to use question effects to get answers they want.

    I mostly try to avoid context that could bias responses, because I’m interested in tracking the un-modified views in the wild, over time. So the standard climate questions I use are placed as early as possible on a survey, with no extra information or framing. Some of these surveys have no political questions until we ask about party near the end, well after climate. Others start out with some even more standard questions such as whether America is on the right track, or do you approve of Obama … but usually then climate before issues. As far as I can tell, these variations make very little difference, so our climate questions get remarkably stable results. Not all polls show that pattern.

    Our New Hampshire time series is now 6 years and more than 13,000 interviews long, with a thousand more to come by the end of this month. That’s a lot of statistical power to watch change as it happens, but I don’t want to be the cause myself.

  14. Kahan, and others, fail to see the larger picture. Consider this summary from the Huffington Post:

    “If it were just one or two issues on which either party was deranged, this would be just another election year. But the Trump/Cruz/Carson/Fiorina wing of the party is disconnected from reality on just about every issue: Obamacare has driven up costs, more guns make us safer, climate change is a fraud, tax cuts to the rich are the only we way we can have economic growth, foreign aid is consuming our budget, whites suffer more discrimination than blacks, Hurricane Katrina was Obama’s fault, crime is on the rise, unemployment is up, Obama is a Muslim, Russia humiliated America in the Ukraine, the Great Recession started in 2009, the deficit is growing, the economy is in shambles, abortion is out of control.

    Each and every one of those claims is not just untrue, but easily verified as such. And yet, if you add up the Trump/Cruz/Carson/Fiorina vote, almost 60 percent of Republican voters live in this offshored reality.

    Apply Kahan’s reasoning to each of these issues. Is *messaging* the problem? No, the problem is that a large segment of the US population is ignorant, stupid, insane or just plain evil.

  15. Dan L. says:

    Kahan seems to have missed an awful lot of climateball over the last ten years or so.

    As others have noted, consensus messaging did not arise de novo as a method to bring doubters into the scientific fold. In fact, it began as a response to the “fake expert” tactics of climate dis-informers, which include appeals to bogus mass authority like the Oregon petition. To abandon it would leave the field to those selling the notion that large numbers of geo-scientists still doubt the perils of AGW.

  16. Brandon Gates says:

    Anders,

    I don’t really know how best to interpret what is being suggested here. So, consensus messaging is somehow toxic and damages other attempts at science communication?

    Yes, because of its tendency to polarize due to political self-identity:

    Answers to these two questions — are humans causing climate change? do scientists believe that? — are still most plausibly viewed as being caused by a single, unobserved or latent disposition: namely, a general pro- or con- affective orientation toward “climate change” that reflects the social meaning positions on this issue has within a person’s identity-defining affinity groups.

    Or in other words, the questions “is human climate change happening” and “is there scientific consensus on human-caused climate change” both measure who a person is, politically speaking.

    I would have said, “both partially measure who a person is”, but I get his gist. Victor V. and L Hamilton are already on this … very next paragraph:

    That’s a different thing from what members of the public know about climate science. To measure that requires a valid climate-science comprehension instrument.

    … and then he goes on to list some sample questions constructed as: According to climate scientists … X will cause Y, true or false?

    Subtle, but apparently works because most people are not climate scientists, and therefore don’t self-identify as such. The partisan divide all but disappears in the results … or at least the ones he shows in this particular post.

    That’s interesting in and of itself, but as he also discusses, some of the “X will cause Y” questions should have been answered false, and there was little partisan gap there either.

    Basically he’s arguing: don’t preach the consensus, teach the science.

  17. Brandon Gates says:

    Steven Mosher,

    The consensus message has been tried. How’s it working?

    Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s a crappy ClimateBall™ move when playing I’m playing offence, and a wicked-good one when I’m on defence. When one unpacks the numbers from the Cook (2015) abstract …

    In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.

    … the tally comes out as follows:

     62.7% support AGW
     35.5% no position
      1.8% reject AGW
    ------
    100.0% total

    It’s, like, the perfect squirrel. Has been observed to send entire threads to the Serengeti. I’d rather talk about tree rings.

    How it plays in the court of general public opinion? Difficult for me to tell.

    COP21 suggests an emerging consensus of policy opinion, but a lack of political capital. 5/9ths of SCOTUS Justices apparently agree.

    Not for the first time, I suggest it may come down to greasing the right palms.

  18. Kahan is of course referring to the subliminal message. When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”. Some would pause (or perhaps hiatus) to think that 97% of experts are registered Democrats.

  19. Brigitte says:

    I have always wondered why Dan Kahan uses the words ‘toxic’, ‘poisonous’ and ‘poison’ so often and what that means for consensus messaging. I suppose talking about consensus is not bad in itself but in the current ‘toxic’ (partisan) context of climate change communication, any such message may become ‘toxic’ or turn ‘poisonous’. In a 2012 Nature article he says: “Overcoming this dilemma requires collective strategies to protect the quality of the science-communication environment from the pollution of divisive cultural meanings.” (http://www.nature.com/news/why-we-are-poles-apart-on-climate-change-1.11166) But I have not yet seen any such strategies…. It would be great if one could do a cultural experiment. Some nations have less toxic environments in terms of climate change communication than others. So does consensus messaging work differently there, is it then less toxic itself – basically are there cultural differences in how these ‘cultural meanings’ play out?

  20. izen says:

    Consensus messaging is a reaction to the strategy of messaging the doubt (Christy), uncertainty (Curry) and false balance (Kip Hansen?) that emerged from the Luntz memo.
    A reminder…

    Luntz wrote (2002): “The scientific debate is closing … but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science…. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”

    Both forms of messaging are exploiting the human trait of conforming to the mainstream view. Neither have anything to do with conveying the scientific evidence.

    Concensus messaging (and its obverse) works to the extent the recipient is unable or unwilling to engage with the evidence, but willing to accept whatever their social group regards as the mainstream view.

    It is ineffective if the recipient rejects the global in favour of the local/tribal group view to which they belong, but a conformation bias increasing the subjective self-worth of the recipient who advocates for action (or inaction) on the issue.

    For some the ‘97% AGREE’ message is just a bit too blatent. It pulls aside the curtain from the Wizard of spin and makes the appeal to groupthink rather too obvious. In a cynical world that views much of public discoure as a battlefield of lies and misinformation, the rhetoric may be offensively naked.

  21. MartinM says:

    If you have to pick a best argument…

    We don’t.

  22. When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”.

    Sure, so what?

  23. Steven

    I will say this. The consensus message has been tried. How’s it working?

    Well, I don’t know specifically, but there is – I think – some evidence to suggest that it has worked in some circumstances. I also think that the response to consensus messaging is itself interesting.

    That doesnt mean you have to deny the consensus, but rather it means this. If you have to pick a best argument… choose a different one. Otherwise you just innoculate folks.

    Sure, and if someone wants to find a better communication strategy, go ahead. However, if pointing out that there is a consensus is indeed damaging, then I’m unconvinced that there is actually a science communication strategy that would be more effective for those who respond negatively to consensus messaging.

  24. Brandon,

    Basically he’s arguing: don’t preach the consensus, teach the science.

    Well, there is a lot of information out there that does discuss the science and that doesn’t rely on consensus messaging. In fact, I suspect it dominates. I also agree that actually discussing the science is preferable to simply using consensus messaging. On the other hand that there is a strong consensus is true and if some don’t want to accept this, then it’s hard to see how they would accept the science; they seem somewhat linked.

  25. Brigitte,
    Yes, I find the terminology a bit strange myself. It’s one thing to promote an alternative, or to suggest something slightly different. To claim that promoting that is true is somehow toxic and damaging seems a bit ovee the top.

  26. @wotts
    “Sure, so what?” [sic]

  27. lerpo says:

    Basically he’s arguing: don’t preach the consensus, teach the science.

    That sounds like he’s endorsing the “deficit model”, which I understand he is not keen on:

    “If we could just transfer our scientific knowledge to enough people (and make enough people receptive enough to understand it), those people would of course change their minds to agree with us, change their voting patterns and behavior in the ways we desire…and the world would be saved.”

    “Communications scholars call this chain of reasoning the “injection” or “empty bucket” or “science deficit” model of communications. The real problem: About two decades of science on the science deficit model have shown that it’s not true.” http://blog.nature.org/science/2013/03/01/dan-kahan-climate-changescience-communications/

  28. Richard,
    If pointing out that there is a strong consensus makes you feel like a dumbass, that’s not my problem. I prefer people being made aware of things that are essentially true. How they respond to that information is their choice.

    lerpo,

    That sounds like he’s endorsing the “deficit model”, which I understand he is not keen on:

    Yes, if he is suggesting that we should teach the science, rather than use consensus messaging, then that would then seem to be promoting the deficit model. I’m not sure why it has to be an either or, myself.

  29. I’ll add my standard comment about the failure of the deficit model. My understanding of the argument is that simply reducing the public’s knowledge deficit does not influence their policy preferences. This may well be true, but is not – in my opinion – an argument against communicating scientific information. How people choose to respond to a reduction in their knowledge deficit is, again, their choice.

  30. izen says:

    @-Brandon Gates
    “Not for the first time, I suggest it may come down to greasing the right palms.”

    That strategy is already in play. The going rate is set by those with the largest resources.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article55081605.html

    “Since lawmakers finished their 2015 regular session work in June, at least $9.5 million — in five- and six-figure checks — were sent to the political committees of individual lawmakers. Another $6 million went directly to the campaigns of state representatives and $3 million to state Senate campaigns. The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised another $3.2 million for Republican senators. The Republican Party of Florida, which is collecting checks for state House campaigns, raised $4.3 million, and the Florida Democratic Party, which raises money for all its legislators, collected $2.1 million.”

  31. Physics: “I also think that the response to consensus messaging is itself interesting.

    Brandon: “Basically he’s arguing: don’t preach the consensus, teach the science.

    If it is not possible to agree with someone on a simply fact, like the consensus, it seem futile to try to discus complicated science with this person.

  32. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard Toll wrote “Kahan is of course referring to the subliminal message.”

    There is a difference between a subliminal message and a perceived subtext. One says something about the sender of the message, the other says something about the receiver.

    “When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass””.

    That would be a “perceived subtext”, caused by “most people” thinking that those who think there is no consensus are “dumbasses”, but that does not mean that any such implication is in the original message. For what its worth, the “you dumbass” doesn’t occur to me.

    “Some would pause (or perhaps hiatus) to think that 97% of experts are registered Democrats.”

    That would be confirmation bias in operation, again not the fault of the sender, but of the receiver of the message.

    What rational people would do is look at the research that has been done on this topic and see that those claiming that there is no consensus are simply wrong. It really is a damning criticism of modern society if we have to write academic papers in such a way to completely prevent others from reading into them implicit subtexts that were never intended. That is the sort of world that ends up in coffee cups having to be printed with warnings that the coffee might be hot. No thanks, I think we ought to be able to do a little better than that!

  33. Phil says:

    With respect to Victor and Laurence’s conversation, I came across this survey – https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/12/29/economy-and-climate-change/ It indicats that framing a question on climate change with one about the economy influenced the response to the climate change question. The implication of the article seems to be that people (in UK, at least) [regard] tackling climate change as a “would be nice” – something to do once we are prosperous enough to do so. This perhaps reflects a generally perceived narrative that climate change is about “saving the planet” (and, by implication, planet=polar bears). The idea that failing to act on climate change (or an “unsaved planet”, whatever one of those is) will negatively impact our economy/civilisation/quality of life seems to have little traction.

  34. @wotts
    In a democracy, it is not about being right, it is about convincing people that you are. Calling names is less than convincing.

    @dikran
    What matters is the message received, rather than the message sent.

  35. In a democracy, it is not about being right, it is about convincing people that you are.

    If you’re thinking politics/policy, then sure. When it comes to science communication, I disagree. Science communication is very simply about communicating our current scientific understanding. Whether it is convincing, or not, is somewhat secondary (you may as well do it as convincingly as possible, while remaining honest, though).

    Calling names is less than convincing.

    Indeed, but I certainly did no such thing and I don’t think I’ve seen an example of consensus messaging that does so. If people’s response to something true is to feel like a dumbass, that’s not the fault of the person pointing out the thing that is true. This is obvious, right?

  36. izen says:

    @-Tol
    “What matters is the message received, rather than the message sent.”

    The accurate transmission of information is corrupted by defects in the receiving equipment.

    And attempts to ‘jam’ transmission by the opposition.

  37. Richard,
    Here’s what confuses me. If consensus messaging is so ineffective and divisive, then why would delayers – like yourself – be discouraging its use? I would have thought that you’d be happy to see others using what is – according to you – an ineffective strategy.

  38. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard Tol “What matters is the message received, rather than the message sent.”

    No, that is just a lame excuse for allowing unhelpful cognitive biases to continue unchecked.

    Not everybody is the same, some people will find one style of argument convincing and not another; others will have the opposite preference. The fact that some mistakenly perceive the “dumbass subtext” doesn’t mean that there are not more rational (but uninformed) people who will be convinced of the truth by just being presented with well researched evidence. The idea that there is a “one size fits all” approach is, shall we say, “misguided”.

    I rather doubt that “most people” perceive a “dumbass” subtext anyway, do you have any evidence to support that assertion?

  39. I rather doubt that “most people” perceive a “dumbass” subtext anyway, do you have any evidence to support that assertion?

    (R. Tol; private communication)

  40. BBD says:

    Consensus messaging must be good because it sends contrarians into a frenzy. So let’s keep it up.

    Note Steven effectively saying ‘shut up! You aren’t allowed to say that’:

    That doesnt mean you have to deny the consensus, but rather it means this. If you have to pick a best argument… choose a different one.

    QED. Keep it up.

  41. dikranmarsupial says:

    Incidentally, I suspect that there are some for whom explicit “dumbass” messaging will be effective (c.f. “Global Warming” versus “Climate Change”). I’m not saying that is a good thing, just that a plurality of approaches is probably pragmatic.

  42. @dikran, wotts
    Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind next time the majority of my students fail their exam. It’s their fault. I told them the right things. They just did not listen. They were too insulted to understand.

  43. Richard,

    Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind next time the majority of my students fail their exam. It’s their fault. I told them the right things. They just did not listen. They were too insulted to understand.

    Strawmanning again? Does consensus messaging bother you so much that you feel the need to misrepresent what others are saying? Certainly seems that way. If so, it also suggests that it’s a good deal more effective than some would have us believe.

  44. Also, Richard, if I have to say things that aren’t true in order to get my students to pass an exam, then that would typically be regarded as a highly unorthodox teaching method.

  45. Willard says:

    > I have always wondered why Dan Kahan uses the words ‘toxic’, ‘poisonous’ and ‘poison’ so often and what that means for consensus messaging.

    My own hypothesis is illiberal status competition:

    It’s also Dan’s, but for something else.

  46. dikranmarsupial says:

    “@dikran, wotts “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind next time the majority of my students fail their exam. It’s their fault. I told them the right things. They just did not listen. They were too insulted to understand.”

    Richard evades answering the request for evidence to support his assertion yet again.

    Richard also demonstrates that he wasn’t paying attention to what I was actually saying (plus ca change). My argument was that you need a plurality of approaches to explaining things. Learning is an activity that requires the active participation of both the student and the teacher to be really successful. If the student won’t listen, then the failure is theirs, likewise if the student insists on interpreting the arguments of the teacher according to their own preconceptions, then that is also the failure of the student. If the teacher can only explain something one way, and doesn’t ask and (rather ironically) answer questions to make sure that the student is able to understand the material, then that is their failure. Teaching isn’t just “telling them the right things”.

  47. @dikran
    “Teaching isn’t just “telling them the right things”.”

    Indeed. Kahan’s research shows that banging on about the consensus only serves to get people’s backs up.

  48. BBD says:

    Just a historical aside, but in 1998, the American Petroleum Institute summarised its strategy and tactics for attacking climate science in a now-infamous memo. Here is a representative quote with some added emphasis:

    The advocates of global warming have been successful on the basis of skillfully misrepresenting the science and the extent of agreement on the science, while industry and its partners ceded the science and fought on the economic issues. Yet if we can show that science does not support the Kyoto treaty – which most true climate scientists believe to be the case – this puts the United States in a stronger moral position and frees its negotiators from the need to make concessions as a defense against perceived selfish economic concerns.

    Upon this tableau, the Global Climate Science Communications Team (GCSCT) developed an action plan to inform the American public that science does not support the precipitous actions Kyoto would dictate, thereby providing a climate for the right policy decisions to be made. The team considered results from a new public opinion survey in developing the plan.

    Charlton Research’s survey of 1,100 “informed Americans” suggests that while Americans currently perceive climate change to be a great threat, public opinion is open enough to change on climate science. When informed that “some scientists believe there is not enough evidence to suggest that [what is called global climate change] is a long-term change due to human behavior and activities,” 58 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to oppose the Kyoto treaty. Moreover, half the respondents harbored doubts about climate science.

    When contrarians go into fits over consensus messaging, it is because it blows a hole through this fundamental strategy of attacking the scientific consensus in order to mislead the public and distort policy.

    That’s why they don’t want you doing it.

  49. Magma says:

    BBD: Consensus messaging must be good because it sends contrarians into a frenzy.

    Ha! I said that too, but with 4x the words and 1/4 the punch. I need an editor.

  50. Magma says:

    Major oil companies are (and have been) run by intelligent, competent people with unfettered access to high-level scientific and technical expertise in geology and geophysics and (by comparison to academic researchers) virtually unlimited financial resources. That for 30 years they haven’t even tried to refute the existential threat that AGW poses to their business operations with scientific research of their own says it all. Funding fake contrarians was much more cost-effective.

    I said they were intelligent. I didn’t say they were farsighted or ethical.

  51. wheelism says:

    Didn’t DK (ha!) previously write a paper that effectively endorsed exaggerating the state of CCS technology as a method of “converting” deniers? (The elimination of that last word seems to be more of a cause for Dan than a focus on emissions reductions.)

  52. Indeed. Kahan’s research shows that banging on about the consensus only serves to get people’s backs up.

    Which, if true, is interesting. Especially given who’s backs it typically puts up.

  53. @wotts
    Kahan works with representative samples. You may think it funny of my, say, back is put up. I do not think it is funny to turn a large share of the electorate against climate policy.

  54. Richard,

    I do not think it is funny to turn a large share of the electorate against climate policy.

    I don’t think you think it’s funny to turn a large share of the electorate against climate policy. From what I’ve seen of your role in this topic, it’s your main goal.

    Also, I didn’t say it was funny. I said it was interesting whose backs were put out. That telling something true puts people backs up is instructive. That people like yourself seem so desperate to stop that truth being told might suggest that it is far more effective than you would like to admit.

  55. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “I do not think it is funny to turn a large share of the electorate against climate policy.”

    Isn’t that the aim of the GWPF? I don’t think it is funny either.

    The thing I don’t really understand is why people think that “consensus messaging” is the major form of communication about climate science and policy. I don’t think it is. AFAICS it is mostly just the obvious and natural response to those who (incorrectly) argue that there is no consensus, and if that argument were no longer made, then there would be no need for it to be answered. If you look at SkepticalScience, for example, to which the authors of the 97% consensus paper, very little of it is about consensus, most of it is about addressing the various scientific misunderstandings. How often does RealClimate have an article on consensus?

    I do find it odd that those criticising papers arguing for the existence of a consensus don’t seem to be quite so keen to criticise those arguing that there is no consensus. Perhaps I just haven’t seen them, perhaps someone should publish a study ;o)

  56. The thing I don’t really understand is why people think that “consensus messaging” is the major form of communication about climate science and policy.

    Indeed. It may appear quite common, but climate change/science/policy is very topical and I suspect there is a great of information that does not utilise consensus messaging. Also, as you say, if people didn’t continually attack anyone who tried to illustrate the level of consensus, maybe it would seem less prevalent.

  57. Hmm. Hasn’t the IPCC pushed a consensus message since its first report in 1990? Hasn’t every pro-climate-policy-politician mentioned the scientific consensus?

  58. Richard,

    Hasn’t the IPCC pushed a consensus message since its first report in 1990?

    No, I don’t think so. Do you understand what is meant by the term “consensus messaging”?

    Hasn’t every pro-climate-policy-politician mentioned the scientific consensus?

    This seems irrelevant to me. Politicians are not engaged in science communication. They’ll use whatever they can to promote whatever position they wish to promote.

  59. dikranmarsupial says:

    No Richard, the IPCC WG1 report is a summary of the mainstream understanding of climate change, it is not arguing that “almost all scientists believe this so you should believe it to”, it is providing the actual scientific reasons for believing it. I think you are having this “perceived subtext” problem again.

  60. Andrew dodds says:

    All politicians have a climate policy. Some may have a pro-climate-change policy. Some may have a anti-climate-change policy. Many have a ‘please don’t mention it’ policy.

  61. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Hasn’t every pro-climate-policy-politician mentioned the scientific consensus?”

    I suspect quite a few anti-climate-policy-politicians have mentioned the lack of one, or instead tried to undermine the consensus by suggesting it is politically motivated, or inconsistent?

    Personally I think politicians are showing good sense when they follow the scientific consensuses on scientific issues. They don’t generally have the scientific understanding to judge for themselves, so that is a rational thing to do. What is the alternative? Perhaps seek out the few contrary scientists and follow their advice instead? That seems rather less sensible to me.

  62. Hmm. I had always thought, from reading about the history of the IPCC and talking to the founding fathers, that the IPCC was founded to forge a consensus and monopolize the science-policy interface. Whatever else you may think about the IPCC, they have been rather successful in their mission.

  63. I had always thought, from reading about the history of the IPCC and talking to the founding fathers, that the IPCC was founded to forge a consensus and monopolize the science-policy interface.

    Now I think you’re making stuff up. According to this,

    The initial task for the IPCC as outlined in UN General Assembly Resolution 43/53 of 6 December 1988 was to prepare a comprehensive review and recommendations with respect to the state of knowledge of the science of climate change; the social and economic impact of climate change, and possible response strategies and elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate.

    The only places I’ve ever seen it suggested that the IPCC was founded to generate/forge/enforce a consensus was on “sceptic” blogs. You really should try to get your information from more credible sites.

    Also, you still haven’t indicated that you understand the meaning of the term “consensus messaging”.

  64. Willard says:

    > Kahan’s research shows that banging on about the consensus only serves to get people’s backs up.

    Citation needed.

  65. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard, as I pointed out to you, “forging a consensus” is not the same as “consensus messaging”.

    Can you give me a reference or some other evidence to support the assertion that the IPCC was founded to “forge a consensus” (rather than find out what it is) and “monopolize the science-policy interface”. As you have demonstrated a problem with “perceived subtext” a couple of times on this thread, your memory of conversations with people isn’t reliable evidence.

  66. A really “interesting” argument that honestly telling about the consensus has the perceived subtext that the receiver is a “dumbass”. That is namely an argument you can use for any convincing argument.

    It is not as if last week we were not sure about climate change, but our modern age Galileo now made the decisive experiment the receiver could not have heard about yet.

    I see no way to explain the science of climate change without implicitly communicating that the political movement of Richard Tol has deceived Anglo-America.

    If consensus messaging is dumbass messaging and climate scientists should thus shut up, then Kahan may want to consider whether his messaging has the perceived subtext that scientists are dumbasses and do what his conclusion for others is.

  67. Victor,

    If consensus messaging is dumbass messaging and climate scientists should thus shut up, then Kahan may want to consider whether his messaging has the perceived subtext that scientists are dumbasses and do what his conclusion for others is.

    Indeed, I do find the suggestion that those who are engaging in a form of communication with which he disagrees are somehow doing something damaging/toxic.

  68. The way I understood it, the request of the governments around the world was that the IPCC reports discuss the scientific consensus around climate change.

    I would interpret that as requesting that the reports should not just describe the mainstream, the assessment of the science of the majority, but be as inclusive as possible and discuss the full width of scientifically defensible arguments. Naturally with somewhere a cut-off to avoid presenting pseudo-science.

  69. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Lawrence, I once heard the claim that when you ask about climate change, it makes a large difference whether you ask the same question in a survey with other science questions, or in a survey with other political questions. Together with other science questions, most people answer that scientists accept that climate change is real, was the claim. However, I cannot find it anymore. Is that claim true?

    If it were true, people would not actually say “I do not believe in climate change”, but rather “I pledge allegiance to the Republican party and all it stands for”.

    VV, Kahan found something sorta kinda similar in ‘Geoengineering and Climate Change Polarization’. Perhaps you were thinking of that. He and his co-authors did an experiment in which people were shown one of two (fake) news items about scientists responding to a (fake) scientific paper that had found that climate change was worse than had been thought and that irreversible catastrophe was just around the corner. In one of the news items, the scientists called for a scientific/techno fix for climate change – geoengineering – and in the other they called for a political fix – lower CO2 targets. Both groups were then shown the scientific paper itself.

    Kahan et al found that right-wingers who had been primed with the scientific/techno story were a bit more likely to believe the doomy scientific paper than those who had been primed with the political one.

    (Lefties were the other way around but… Sure, so what? Only right-wing voters should be manipulated like lab rats, right?)

  70. BBD says:

    Vinny

    (Lefties were the other way around but… Sure, so what? Only right-wing voters should be manipulated like lab rats, right?)

    While I appreciate your concerns, they are misplaced. Look at what vested interest has been trying to do since (at least!) 1998.

    Let’s not ignore the really important stuff.

  71. wheelism says:

    (Gotta love labeling a reduction of emissions as the “political, non-science” solution.)

  72. Vinny Burgoo says:

    @Wheelism Thus the ‘sorta kinda’. (Such escape-clauses are fully sanctioned in social science, even by implication. See, for example, ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’ by Cook et al.)

  73. L Hamilton says:

    In survey data I don’t see much room for a large group of people likely to get “polarized” if they encounter consensus messaging. More than 3/4 of the people who do not believe humans are changing the climate, also do not believe that most scientists agree on this point. So the two beliefs already are so tightly connected they behave like indicators for the same thing.

    For illustration, here are the responses to our do-scientists-agree question, from a 50-state US survey (bottom) and single-state New Hampshire survey (top). Who is going to change their view if they hear consensus messaging? Shouldn’t be the ones who already perceive a consensus, since they’re just hearing they were right. The messaging might persuade at least a few of those who don’t perceive a consensus, while just irritating some of the others in their group — but even if it irritates all of them, they already were rejecting the idea.

    So that leaves the “don’t know” group who look like plausible candidates for an information-deficit model, whether or not that applies to others.

  74. BBD says:

    Blasting from the past, here’s a bit more from the 1998 American Petroleum Institute memo:

    Victory Will Be Achieved When

    • Average citizens “understand” (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the “conventional wisdom”

    • Media “understands” (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science

    • Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current “conventional wisdom”

    • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy

    • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extent [sic] science appears to be out of touch with reality.

  75. RE: The “deficit model” versus “cultural cognition” meme.

    I’ve pushed this line before, but both camps can be comfortably accommodated within the same Bayesian framework. All that is required is to broaden our notion of the Bayesian “prior” so that it incorporates beliefs about source (e.g. IPCC) credibility. I provide a simple example in the Discussion section (p. 20) of this paper.

    FWIW, I discussed this with John Cook after reading about his recent study (the findings of which are entirely consistent with my claim above). He agreed that an extended Bayesian framework can act as a lingua franca between these competing theories of consensus messaging. If that’s the case (and others also agree), it seems doubly pointless to spend time pitting them against each other.

  76. Tadaaa says:

    I have said it on a few blogs, the consensus message is like kryptonite to the deniers

    The is why it is so ruthlessly attacked – off course in Climate Ball, the retort is science isn’t decided by by vote or consensus (which is obviously tru)

    But most people don’t play or understand the rules of Climate Ball

    And anyway to most people a “theory” is what a couple of blokes dream up in a pub, over a pint

    Outside the walled garden of science, the scientific community and the “debate” the vast majority of people don’t have time or inclination to understand it – life is pretty tough for most people these days just paying the rent

    They get their science by consensus

  77. Andrew dodds says:

    I honestly don’t understand how it is possible to see a threat like global warming – something that is (or was) fundamentally fixable – and say ‘well, yes, but we’ll just lie about it and hang the consequences’. At least an alcoholic with chirrosis will suffer direct immediate pain if they stop. This is suited guys in offices deciding to inflict loss and destruction on a huge number of people. And I doubt there would have been much material cost to them to make the decision the other way.

    After all, a synthetic fuel company would be similar in size to an oil company. Not like these guys will suddenly vanish.

    Must be the sheltered upbringing.. In the less salubrious areas of Leicester they just beat you up, much nicer people.

  78. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Andrew dodds, have there ever any salubrious areas of Leicester at all? Less or more doesn’t really come into it, surely?

    #fisticuffs

  79. BBD

    “Note Steven effectively saying ‘shut up! You aren’t allowed to say that’:”

    Err No.

    I said, IF you have to pick a BEST argument, choose a different one.

    As I have said here a number of times there are places and circumstances where the argument
    works. Like all messaging what matters is the audience.

    For example: when messaging the uncommitted, uncertain, I would use it. without a doubt or reservation.

  80. > [I]t seems doubly pointless to spend time pitting them against each other.

    Unless one’s more into illiberal ClimateBall ™ than one confesses:

  81. BBD says:

    Steven

    I said, IF you have to pick a BEST argument, choose a different one.

    Which one would you suggest?

  82. BBD says:

    Vinny

    have there ever any salubrious areas of Leicester at all?

    Let’s not ignore the really important stuff.

  83. that climate scientists believe human-caused global warming is putting them in a position of extreme peril.

    I suspect there is a consensus regarding warming ( a group that includes Spencer, Christy, Michaels, Lindzen, Curry, et. al. ).

    I believe there is no consensus about peril, extreme or otherwise.

    Benefits probably exceed detriments up to some level ( precisely what level no one knows ).

    Warming is a trend that obviously can’t continue indefinitely without harm, but there’s a huge list of similar trends, including population, which can’t ( and won’t ) go one indefinitely either.

  84. Joseph says:

    prepare a comprehensive review and recommendations with respect to the state of knowledge of the science of climate change.

    And I would think because of the number of people and resources involved that it would be more thorough and comprehensive than typical reviews in other fields of science. I think it makes sense that governments and others would use their findings to help guide policy making.

  85. Via Matthew Iglesias:

    Donald Trump finally made some bold and provocative claims that were largely true, and the Republican Party finally closed ranks to attack him.

    Saying Mexican immigrants are rapists didn’t do it. Calling for a return of torture didn’t do it. Calling for a ban on Muslim immigration didn’t do it. Raising questions about Barack Obama’s status as an American citizen didn’t do it. Pretending that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered 9/11 didn’t do it.

    So what did it? Trump said that invading Iraq was a disaster, that the country was mislead into invading Iraq by the Bush administration, and that the claim that Bush kept the country safe from terrorism is ridiculous because 9/11 happened on his watch.

    It was a bizarre and telling moment, in which the battered forces of the Republican establishment finally picked themselves up off the floor specifically in order to defend some of its least-defensible conduct of the 21st Century.

    The problem isn’t with messaging – consensus or otherwise – it’s with the recipients of the message.

  86. Steven

    I said, IF you have to pick a BEST argument, choose a different one.

    Which one would you suggest?

    ######################################

    easy.

    just explain the science and why you believe it.

    For me that is easy. I don;t believe it because of the consensus.

    I believe it because of physics that is more certain than any survey. Why would lead with evidence that is less certain?

    In other words if I have to pick a science to defend , I choose climate science over survey science.

    more science, however, won’t work necessarily with deniers

    “In my own research, when I’ve informed strong political conservatives that there’s a scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, they become less accepting that humans are causing climate change.”

    So, you have to know your audience.

  87. @wotts
    Now you’re being naive. Organizations have stated aims and actual aims. The two rarely coincide. The IPCC was formed to avoid the experience with initial pluralism in acid rain.

  88. Richard,
    Now you’re simply being silly. An organisation that is tasked with reviewing/describing the consensus position is not necessarily an organisation that is tasked with ensuring that such a position actually exists. There isn’t some kind of major conspiracy to exclude other possibilities. Again, you really should avoid getting your info from “sceptic” blogs.

  89. @wotts
    There is a wonderful literature on the relationships between acidification and climate change, and how LRTAP inspired the IPCC, by the likes of Jill Jaeger, Bill Clarke, Silvio Funtowicz, Hadi Dowlatabadi, Leen Hordijk.

    I also wrote a few things on this, but I only spoke to the key players in the mid 1990s (the action was in the late 1980s) and wrote it it up much later.

  90. Brandon Gates says:

    Anders,

    Well, there is a lot of information out there that does discuss the science and that doesn’t rely on consensus messaging. In fact, I suspect it dominates.

    I agree. I may have stated my understanding of his case too strongly. My impression is that he’s suggesting it would be best to place more emphasis on teaching the science and less on pushing the consensus.

    I also agree that actually discussing the science is preferable to simply using consensus messaging.

    Same. Others have pointed out that it’s entirely appropriate to counter, “there’s no consensus” with, “the majority of published climate literature supports CO2’s role in observed post-industrial temperature rise”. And then cite Cook (2015).

    On the other hand that there is a strong consensus is true and if some don’t want to accept this, then it’s hard to see how they would accept the science; they seem somewhat linked.

    Hence my suggestion that winning hearts and minds is not the way forward, but appealing to right peoples’ wallets.

    lerpo,

    That sounds like he’s endorsing the “deficit model”, which I understand he is not keen on:

    “If we could just transfer our scientific knowledge to enough people (and make enough people receptive enough to understand it), those people would of course change their minds to agree with us, change their voting patterns and behavior in the ways we desire…and the world would be saved.”

    Thanks for that, I’m not keen on it either for similar reasons — which is a conflict for me since I spend a great deal of time ostensibly trying to do it. How he’d reconcile that apparent conflict, I cannot say.

    izen,

    That strategy is already in play. The going rate is set by those with the largest resources.

    From the article: However, the prospects look better for the oil and gas industry. Its top priority — preventing local governments from regulating or banning hydraulic fracturing (fracking) — has sped through both chambers.

    We have recently seen how effective blocking minorities can be, and also how desctrutive. Historically, compromise and horse-trading have been more productive than winner-take-all or gridlock. So trade not banning fracking for a revenue neutral carbon tax. If everyone opposes everything equally, nothing ever gets done. Prioritize, pick battles, and yield on lesser evils in exchange for greater goods.

    The palms to grease are not pols themselves, but the industries who have bought and paid for them. I’m saying: make a counter-offer instead of just saying, “no”.

    Victor,

    If it is not possible to agree with someone on a simple fact, like the consensus, it seem futile to try to discus complicated science with this person.

    True. As you often say; it’s about the lurkers. For me, it’s probably more about ClimateBall™.

  91. Richard,
    Are you really suggesting that there are plausible scientific ideas that are being suppressed, or ignored, by the IPCC?

  92. BBD says:

    Steven

    I said, IF you have to pick a BEST argument, choose a different one.

    And where is it argued that consensus messaging is the best argument?

    You used a strawman to insert an anti-consensus messaging message and it got noticed.

  93. And where is it argued that consensus messaging is the best argument?

    Indeed. The claim appears to be that consensus messaging is toxic and damages other attempts at science communication. My personal view is that if this is true then it is itself interesting. On the other hand, even if there is truth to this claim, my own view is that it is probably toxic only to those for whom there is no viable communication strategy anyway.

  94. BBD says:

    What is toxic and damaging to other attempts at science communication is the way vested interest has systematically misinformed the public about a non-existent dissensus in climate science.

    That’s what we should be talking about, but as usual, it has been almost entirely ignored. Consensus messaging only exists because of contrarian lies. Let’s keep this front and centre.

  95. @wotts
    “Are you really suggesting that there are plausible scientific ideas that are being suppressed, or ignored, by the IPCC?”
    No, that’s not what I said. I said that the IPCC is designed to forge a consensus and monopolize the science-policy interface.

    The IPCC does suppress certain parts of the literature, such as the literature on the architecture of international agreements (cf. Stavins in AR5) and on the ex post evaluation of national climate policies. But that is not part of the consensus messaging.

  96. I said that the IPCC is designed to forge a consensus and monopolize the science-policy interface.

    How does “forge a consensus” differ from suppressing, or ignoring, certain scientific ideas? Publicly the IPCC reviews and presents our current scientific position. That is very obviously not necessarily the same as forging a consensus. If what they present is reasonable representation of our actual scientific position, then either they’ve done a good job of doing so, or they’ve actively prevented certain scientific ideas from being presented. If what they present is not a good representation of our current scientific position, then they’ve ignored certain scientific ideas. If you’re going to suggest the latter, then you’re going to have to do better job than appealing to your supposed expertise.

  97. BBD says:

    An affiliate of a secretly-funded energy industry lobby group claims that the scientific consensus has been engineered by the IPCC.

    Aside from being complete bollocks, this is a perfect example of the way the song remains the same.

  98. lerpo says:

    I don’t think Richard is suggesting that there was some covert mission statement communicated to the participants of the IPCC, hidden behind the public statement of science communication.

    I think he is suggesting that in 1988 is was already so clear that there was a consensus that simply assembling a team to summarize the current state of knowledge would make that obvious.

  99. lerpo,
    Maybe, but the word “forge” typically implies making something, not simply presenting something that is already obvious.

  100. BBD says:

    lerpo

    RT wrote:

    No, that’s not what I said. I said that the IPCC is designed to forge a consensus and monopolize the science-policy interface.

    This is clear. RT is saying that the scientific consensus did not arise spontaneously but was crafted (‘forged’) in a very specific way (deafening dogwhistle).

    Taken in the context of the rest of RT’s commentary here, I think it is safe to parse this statement exactly as ATTP and I did.

  101. Andrew dodds says:

    I thought that the IPCC was formed as a way to try and beaurcratise the message and slow down action. After all, the problem was pretty obvious in 1988. As was the solution.

    It just happens to have proven a useful target now.

  102. lerpo says:

    BBD and ATTP, how could they have expected that forming a group with the stated goal of “presenting the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change” would forge a consensus unless it was already known among scientists that a consensus existed?

  103. Magma says:

    The verb ‘forge’, first introduced into this discussion by Richard Tol, has (at least) three distinct meanings in English. Not to be suspicious, but deliberately playing on the potential confusion between meanings (2) and (3) among those whose level of English literacy may not be the highest can’t be ruled out on the part of mischief-makers.

    Shorter OED definitions, Forge (verb):
    1 [with object] Make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and hammering it
    2 Create (something) strong, enduring, or successful
    3 Produce a fraudulent copy or imitation of (a document, signature, banknote, or work of art)

  104. Phil says:

    Definitions of forge:

    1. to make an ​illegal ​copy of something in ​order to ​deceive.

    2. to make or ​produce something, ​especially with some ​difficulty

    From http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/forge

    The derivation of [2] is from the meaning of “a forge” (noun)
    a ​working ​area with a ​fire for ​heating ​metal until it is ​soft enough to be ​beaten into different ​shapes.
    Hence the implication of manufacturing with difficulty or great effort.

  105. “And where is it argued that consensus messaging is the best argument?

    You used a strawman to insert an anti-consensus messaging message and it got noticed.”

    ################
    Ah no.

    I used a conditional to state a fact.

  106. “On the other hand, even if there is truth to this claim, my own view is that it is probably toxic only to those for whom there is no viable communication strategy anyway.”

    That is closer to the truth.

    But….Dont you read John Cook?

  107. Joshua says:

    A little late to the party…

    ==> I’m hoping that Joshua, or someone else who understand Dan Kahan’s ideas, can clarify things)

    I have some trouble understanding some of Dan’s stuff. I think you should go over to his site and ask questions…he’s very responsive (although I haven’t always found that his answers clarify what I didn’t understand).

    Not having read the discussion here yet..

    I have asked Dan repeatedly about his implication that “consensus messaging” worsens polarization. I don’t think that his evidence supports that conclusion. He doesn’t necessarily come out and explicitly assert causality there, but he does seem to strongly imply causality when all I can see in his evidence is a related correlation.

    My own take is that “consensus-messaging” probably has little effect one way or the other. People who are strongly identified on the issue of climate change filter new information so as to reinforce their views. IMO, People who are strongly identified with an ideology of “skeptical” orientation will not be swayed by “consensus-messaging,” particularly since that messaging is far more likely than not to come from an “other.” IMO, People who are identified ideologically with “concern” about continued and unabated aCO2 emissions will not be persuaded to support specific climate change-related policies because they hear “consensus-messaging” – as there isn’t a direct relationship: There are many elements that affect which policies people will or won’t actively support and “consensus-messaging” will more than likely just fit as more “confirmation bias” within that matrix of elements. Climate change policies are developed and implemented in a context of high risk/low probability, long time horizons, distant proximity impact, uncertainty, etc. Simple methods such as “consensus-messaging” don’t really reach to the root of the decision-making matrix, and again, IMO, people use and fit evidence related to a “consensus” to support their existing orientation.

    Those who don’t have a strong ideological predisposition, such that their assessment process isn’t characterized by a “let me find evidence to confirm my preexisting orientation” (1) are going to hear different information about the “consensus” (e.g., it shows that we must take immediate action to prevent climate change, it shows that climate change is a left-wing hoax) and pretty much just stay without a strong orientation towards policy development and implementation.

    I think that Dan’s argument that the existing lack of uniformity in the public’s views on climate change proves that “consensus-messaging” either doesn’t work or exacerbates the politicization doesn’t really hold up. As a counter-factual argument, it doesn’t stand up to the high bar of proof that counterfactual arguments require. In other words, how do we really know what the situation would be if there weren’t “consensus-messaging?” Sure, I guess it’s possible that “consensus-messaging’ that has already taken place has exacerbated existing “skepticism” and polarization, but how do we know that there wouldn’t be a higher level of “skepticism” and polarization absent “consensus-messaging.” I get the common-sense argument that there’s an underlying message of “you must be stupid or ignorant if you don’t agree with the vast majority of scientists” to consensus-messaging, and that such an underlying massage is likely to be counter-productive…but that argument, also, seems too simplistic to me to be explanatory of much in such a complicated context as the one in which the public forms its views on climate change.

    I am likewise unpersuaded by the arguments that “realists” present in support of “consensus-messaging.” For example, the evidence presented to show that it has a positive effect on “skeptics” lacks a real-world framework where “consensus-messaging” comes from ideologically-identified sources that are “others” for the recipient, and engenders a counter-messaging from ideologically-identified sources are are aligned with the recipient.

    I do think that the recent slant that Dan puts on the larger question is interesting: It seems quite likely that the # of people who agree that scientists say that the evidence shows that, for example, flooding will be worse because of climate change, is larger than the # of people who think that there is a “consensus” among scientists about climate change. That is pretty interesting, and it does reinforce the possibility that the question of “consensus” is more polarized than the actual implications of how scientists interpret the evidence.

  108. Magma says:

    The preceding may be a subtle point, but most readers will be aware of how different intended meanings can be emphasized by near-synonyms, for example using ‘alleged’ or ‘claimed’ rather than the neutral ‘said’ or ‘stated’ in order to express doubt as to the truthfulness of a statement.

    At any rate, this is a diversion. Scientific consensuses aren’t hammered out (figurative use of meaning (1); literal use of (2)) at meetings and conferences but emerge over the course of time and research. And finally, the IPCC’s mandate does not and did not involve consensus building. Another straw man (or is it a red herring?) introduced by Tol.

  109. L Hamilton says:

    Consensus messaging no doubt constructively informs some people while irritating others, although most of those irritated probably disbelieved the science already — as constrained by our surveys above. But I see no evidence that recent efforts at consensus messaging have increased public polarization. That has been wide and with a characteristic pattern for at least the past 10 years.

    For example, that right-opening megaphone shape showing the partisan gap widening with education (or with science literacy etc.) was first modeled AFAIK in a 2008 paper based on a 2006 US (nationwide) survey, which carried questions assessing public concern about climate change in the polar regions, Here’s Figure 4 from that paper:

    journal: http://instaar.colorado.edu/AAAR/journal_issues/abstract.php?id=2601

    Substantively similar figures have since been produced from scores of quite different datasets and measures. Here’s a recent example from a survey in rural northeast Oregon (not far from Burns), which asked straightforward questions about whether summers in the last 20 years had been warmer, on average, than those of 30 or 40 years ago (in fact they have warmed at about twice the global rate, affecting wildfire risks). The survey also asked whether respondents expect future summers to be warmer, cooler or about the same (a crucial, practical concern for adaptation and planning). Neither of these summer-temperature questions mentioned climate change, the survey asked our standard question about that separately. Here’s the all too familiar result:

    journal: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-015-0914-y

  110. Joshua says:

    Larry –

    ==> although most of those irritated probably disbelieved the science already —

    Right. See my comment above when it gets out of moderation. I have yet to see Dan respond to that point explicitly…although I have tried to get him to do so.

    For example, just because Richard Tol gets animated when he can justify his views on the science because John Cook talks about “consensus,” doesn’t mean that Richard wouldn’t derive similar satisfaction and find other ways to rationalize his views from other sources if John Cook didn’t do that.

  111. Magma says:

    Larry, those are depressing graphs. It’s one thing when one’s politics and ideology influence the usual tedious “kids today are [insert hot button topic of choice]” rants. It’s another when they influence perception of measured and verifiable physical facts. Or do thermometers have a well-known liberal bias that I somehow missed?

  112. Joshua says:

    Interesting graphs, Larry. They seem to contradict Dan’s evidence that there isn’t much disagreement about “what scientists believe” (particularly relative to disagreement over whether there is a “consensus:”)

  113. BBD says:

    Steven

    You did what I said you did. Please don’t insult the collective intelligence of the readership here by denying it.

  114. L Hamilton says:

    More directly, here’s what we’ve seen tracking belief that most scientists agree, humans are changing the climate. Data are a series of New Hampshire surveys; we haven’t asked this question recently but might do so later this month. The one-time up and down squiggles are within expected sampling variation, I wouldn’t try to interpret those. But it seems clear enough that belief there exists a scientific consensus is not going down, nor getting any more partisan than it was at least 5 years ago.

    background: http://scholars.unh.edu/carsey/154/

  115. BBD says:

    lerpo

    BBD and ATTP, how could they have expected that forming a group with the stated goal of “presenting the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change” would forge a consensus unless it was already known among scientists that a consensus existed?

    This is getting confused. Richard’s claim is that the IPCC shaped (‘forged’) the scientific consensus in a specific way and then “monopolize[d] the science-policy interface” presumably to influence (distort?) public policy. All this, he insinuates mightily, was done with specific, doubtless left-leaning political aims.

  116. First, IPCC chapters are written by people who do not normally work with each other, but after a year or two agree on a common message.

    Second, chapter leads come together to jointly draft a summary with a common message.

    Third, diplomats come together to jointly rewrite the summary with a common message.

    Now, in some areas, the common message is easily found and the IPCC simply documents pre-existing agreement. In other areas, common ground is rare, and the IPCC forges a consensus.

  117. L Hamilton says:

    Magma:
    “Larry, those are depressing graphs. It’s one thing when one’s politics and ideology influence the usual tedious “kids today are [insert hot button topic of choice]” rants. It’s another when they influence perception of measured and verifiable physical facts. Or do thermometers have a well-known liberal bias that I somehow missed?”

    I wrote a few years back about “the demographics of true and false climate facts,”
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-12-00008.1
    but the climate facts in question there were global things like Arctic ice, CO2 or volcanoes. More recently we’ve found the same partisan dynamics shape that shape perceptions about distant sea ice have similarly strong effects on perceptions about the climate where you live, such as local trends in temperature trends or flooding.

  118. Talking, during everyday living, to hundreds of people who lack a scientific background (and even some with a scientific background in other areas) leads me to believe that it’s likely a majority of the UK population don’t understand the science of climate change and rely on consensus messaging to help form their own positions. For these people, knowing the consensus message is therefore critical—even to the point of them asking “what do the experts think?”

    The fake ‘skeptics’ who want to sway public opinion towards inaction on climate change, will do all in their power to rubbish the consensus message and it’s therefore inevitable that discussing that message will infuriate them. But these fake ‘skeptics’ don’t matter, and their opinions—because they’re based in ideology rather than science—should be ignored.

    Likewise, those people who believe the scientific explanation should be enough to provide laypeople with an opinion about climate change—because it’s all they need—are just being elitist, and their view should also be ignored.

    Lastly, I must repeat that the only reason consensus messaging exists is because of the long-term campaign to spread the insidious lie that “scientists cannot agree”.

  119. I just came across yet another survey that lends support to my position (and I’ve never seen one that didn’t).

    “At least one in three teachers bring climate change denial into the classroom, claiming that many scientists believe climate change is not caused by humans” says NCSE programs and policy director Josh Rosenau. “Worse, half of the surveyed teachers have allowed students to discuss the supposed ‘controversy’ over climate change without guiding students to the scientifically supported conclusion.” Scarier still: three out of five teachers were unaware of, or actively misinformed about, the near total scientific consensus on climate change.

    http://ncse.com/climate/first-nationwide-survey-climate-change-education

  120. Joseph says:

    At least one in three teachers bring climate change denial into the classroom, claiming that many scientists believe climate change is not caused by humans

    And science itself is generally taught by providing the consensus view at the time in any given field. If we ignore the consensus view, then I don’t know how else it can be taught.

  121. Richard,
    Once again, I find myself in a semi-discussion with you where it appears that you’re just making stuff up as you go along. You do realise that the “consensus messaging” in this context refers to the 97% consensus about climate science? That says nothing about climate policy, climate economics,…..

  122. Magma says:

    ATTP: The way the target defends itself in the popular old game of Whac-A-Mole is through speed and subterfuge, disappearing and quickly popping up in a different location. Other versions involving armoring (Whak-An-Armadillo), concealment (Whac-A-Squid), toxins (Whac-A-Rattlesnake) or large pointy aggression (Whak-A-Tiger) proved less popular.

  123. Joshua says:

    Hey Anders –

    You gonna let my comment out of prison?

  124. Joshua,
    Just found it. Should be out now.

  125. Vinny Burgoo says:

    The IPCC has different consensuses forgedformed with different levels of supposedexpertise*, unanimity and validity. When most people talk about the IPCC consensus they generally mean the main one from WGI, that global warming is real and humans are causing it, but less credible claims are also said to be the consensus view of the IPCC’s 97,000 (or whatever) scientists, some of which are the output of very few people who are sometimes working in under-researched or contentious areas.

    For an extreme example, consider the former IPCC consensus view, much peddled by Dr Pachauri at international junketsconferences between 2007 and 2014, that climate change will increase the water stress of between 75 and 250 million Africans by 2020. It turns out that those numbers were erroneously extracted by an unknown IPCC author from a single table in a single paper then misrepresented** in a draft AR4 chapter and signed off into the final report apparently without anyone bothering to check whether they had any basis in science – so basically it was a consensus of one, and erroneous to boot. And yet it featured in the AR4 SYR. (This bogus claim is still around but it has morphed into climate change exposing 250 million Africans to water stress – not increased water stress – by 2030. An earlier morph had the 250 million attached to poverty, not water stress. Consensus science is a magical thing. It can be anything its wielders want it to be. Except perhaps science.)

    All of which is a long way of saying that it is not at all unlikely that some of the IPCC’s many consensuses are ‘forged’ in the sense of being bogus in some way***. People should be clear about which consensus they are talking about. (See, for example, ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’ by Cook et al.) Otherwise ‘the consensus’ is just a big hollow hammer rather than anything scientific. It’s a ‘consensus without an object’ (H/T Ben Pile). It’s bollocks.

    ===
    *My expertise is reputed
    Yours is putative
    His is supposed

    **The already wrong numbers were said to be due to climate change alone when they were due to climate change and population growth (mostly the latter) and they were implied to be net estimates of those to be affected whereas they were only the bad side of the story – a similar range for those expected to experience decreased water stress could be (erroneously) extracted from the same paper – and, perhaps least importantly, the wrong and misrepresented numbers should have been for 2025, not 2020. Omnishambles ain’t even close.

    ***To be fair, WGII seems to have cleaned up its act a bit since AR4, which is sort of what I have been saying. People might think I have been saying the exact opposite, but that’s sort of my point. For example, consensus-messaging might be toxic or it might not be. It depends on the last thing I read. Which, to be fair, is sort of my point, and you with your supposed [contd. p. 94]

  126. It’s a ‘consensus without an object’ (H/T Ben Pile). It’s bollocks.

    That’s the right word to describe what Ben Pile writes, but I doubt that’s what you intended.

  127. People should be clear about which consensus they are talking about.

    Given that the bit of Dan Kahan’s post that I quoted said

    “97% consensus”

    I had thought it was pretty obvious. It’s also why I think that Ben Pile “consensus without an object” should really be “consensus that Ben Pile does not understand”.

    However, that, for example, economists don’t have some kind of consensus view, or that there isn’t come kind of consensus view about climate policy does not surprise me. I’ve certainly never suggested that there is, and never really seen an argument claiming that there is. The consensus, in this context, typically refers to climate science specifically, not climate policy or climate economic. It also doesn’t imply some kind of “we agree about every little thing” situation.

  128. Brandon Gates says:

    Tol,

    First, IPCC chapters are written by people who do not normally work with each other, but after a year or two agree on a common message.

    And quite often that common message is that a high degree of uncertainty exists and/or that there is little agreement on a particular aspect of climate. Even though the IPCC doesn’t do science, those kind of qualified statements of the state of knowledge look like textbook skeptical science to this observer.

  129. > For an extreme example […]

    While I love the way you stack up your deck, Vinny, it might be time to cut it.

    The consensus is about AGW, BTW. You might wish to argue it’s not an object. I don’t think you should.

    RTFP instead of Mr. Pile’s bile.

  130. Brandon Gates says:

    Vinny Burgoo,

    People should be clear about which consensus they are talking about.

    People should not create ambiguity where it does not exist. See also the constant and widespread abuse of “the science is settled” by those who hold opinions contrary to the literature and IPCC consensus on man-made CO2-induced radiative forcing.

    I have my own broad brush too, you see. How well do you like being pasted with it?

  131. BBD says:

    Otherwise ‘the consensus’ is just a big hollow hammer rather than anything scientific.

    If only.

  132. The main value I see in Kahan’s work is that it helps confirm that the perceived legitimacy of scientific knowledge has changed in the general community.

    The traditional means of communicating scientific knowledge in Western society has been via an argument from authority. This worked well up until the late 20th century, not because people understood why scientists knew what they were doing, but because the social authority of science dovetailed with the political and economic authority of governments and industry -science borrowed public legitimacy from the real power-brokers.

    But since the 1950s, and building up to a high point in the 1990s, scientific research communities have been raising alarm about risks to health and the environment which are posed by industry -this set some scientific communities against more powerful interests. This scientific knowledge has been taken up by the environmentalist movement, which also attracted more and more generally left-leaning people, with the decline of the other left wing political movements since the 1980s. Hardly any environmentalist issue would even exist without scientific expertise to point it out.

    This meant that the counter-movement against environmentalism had to come up with a way to create its own counter-science as well. It started with Tobacco’s campaign against epidemiology, which led to think tanks doing natural science -and has reached full maturity in the counter-movement against AGW. A half century of fighting for alternative sources of scientific authority has made it possible for the various interested parties to point to “their science” and “our science”. This has all been exacerbated by the conservative movement’s general hostility towards state-funded research over the last few decades.

    Kahan’s most recent finding, that educated conservatives who strongly reject AGW are also aware of the AGW consensus, is important because it points us towards what is really going on with the AGW counter-movement.

    It just would not be possible for self-described conservatives to believe both that climate scientists are in consensus around AGW, and that the climate science consensus is wrong, if there was not a body of counterscience –and with it an alternative claim to scientific legitimacy. The more scientifically literate people who reject AGW tap into parts of the scientific tradition -they have their heroes (eg. Karl Popper), arguments, evidence and their own version of scientific method (they really don’t think they’re science ‘deniers’ because they see themselves as ‘upholding’ ideas like falsificationism against pseudoscience). To the scientifically illiterate people, it looks just as sophisticated.

    This is why I think the important takeaway from Kahan’s research is that it is possible for the meaning of consensus to be challenged so much that it can lose its value. What needs to continue is to make an argument about how scientific communities work, that is, how they reach consensus -and why it matters. Scientific research communities have a unique kind of ethos, which I don’t think the public at large understands, but the public understands the political ethos only too well – and the tricky bit about AGW is that the climate science community’s consensus has been formalised by the IPCC. There is plenty of good evidence to say the consensus was there anyway, but there is also plenty of evidence that the IPCC has clearly influenced it. This makes it hard to detach the political associations of the IPCC from the knowledge of the scientific community, and raises the complexity of the argument.

    Having said that, I think something Lawrence Hamilton said earlier is true -the audience for consensus messaging is those people in the middle, not those at the poles. If you look at Kahan’s tables closely, you will see the big majority of people are still not so strongly partisan that they will just interpret scientific consensus via a conspiracy theory.

  133. Magma says:

    Thanks, Larry (Hamilton), Joshua, BBD, and Mark Ryan among others for long and thoughtful posts. Lots to think about.

  134. Magma says:

    Um… not to mention our host ATTP for kicking it off.

  135. Mark,
    That’s an interesting point, thanks. I take it, though, that this is how you interpret Kahan’s work, rather than what he presents himself?

  136. ATTP,

    I think Kahan’s ideas tend to be misunderstood a lot in these threads…but what I’m suggesting is in a sense an answer to the riddle his work poses.

    I don’t agree with Kahan when he treats consensus messaging as having a polarising effect in itself -I think that conclusion is beyond the data. His research shows that the stronger a person’s views about AGW, the less the person’s science education seems to correlate -or more precisely, that people with good scientific literacy and strong conservative politics still reject AGW. This clearly indicates that such people are able to find arguments against AGW which they regard as scientifically sophisticated.

    I wrote earlier that because AGW counter-science taps into scientific traditions and tropes, the claims of both sides look equally sophisticated to people with low scientific literacy. But that is not what is really important about counter-science. The reason it is so effective is that it provides educated people a justification for rejecting AGW. You can know plenty about engineering, programming, economics etc -and if you are disposed to find exceptions to AGW, then it is really pretty much guaranteed that you will. Climate is a stochastic system, and the effects of forcings are tendential. Skillful people can collect plenty of noise from such a system, and it’s too easy to just accumulate gaps and ambiguities, when your starting point is opposition.

  137. dikranmarsupial says:

    I wrote “Teaching isn’t just “telling them the right things”.”

    Richard wrote “Indeed. Kahan’s research shows that banging on about the consensus only serves to get people’s backs up.”

    Richard is engaging in evasion again. Rather than address the central point in the paragraph that was responding to, he picks on one line that he can use to bring the discussion back to his assertion, which yet again he provides without any evidential support. The ironic thing is that paragraph began:

    “Richard also demonstrates that he wasn’t paying attention to what I was actually saying (plus ca change). My argument was that you need a plurality of approaches to explaining things.”

    I’m sorry Richard, but if you want people to take you seriously, that really isn’t the best approach. Try providing evidence to support your assertions, and try giving straight answers to questions, even when you don’t like the answer.

  138. Kahan says here that:

    “By now, nearly a decade after the first $300 million “consensus” marketing campaign, those who reject climate change are surely very experienced at discounting the credibility of those who are “marketing” this “message.”…It’s patently ridiculous to think that “97% messaging” will change the minds of rather than antagonize these individuals, who make up the bulk of the climate-skeptical population.”

    I think his definition of “climate-skeptical population” includes people who resort to cultural certification of expertise in the absence of more convincing reasons, but who are not so committed to a prior ideological position that they cannot be convinced. I also think that counter-science has patterns which give it away, even when the specific arguments are too technical or arcane for laypeople to get to grips with. These patterns are to do with exaggerating uncertainty, ‘single paper syndrome’, and of course conspiracy ideation. They reveal the true intent behind the scientific arguments -whether it is to converge towards understanding something, or instead to hold out against some conclusion. But those patterns are a discussion for another time…

  139. dikranmarsupial says:

    Mark, in my experience climate-skeptics (of the sort that would discount the credibility of sources, rather than consider the argument on its own merits) also seem to be quite antagonized by explaining how we know the rise in atmospheric CO2 is largely due to fossil fuel emissions. However the 97% consensus message isn’t intended for them anyway, it is for the general public who have been misled by them into thinking there is genuine scientific debate on the fundamentals of climate change (AFAICS the fundamentals have been settled for quite a long time). I don’t think they would generally be antagonized by being provided with the evidence.

  140. Mark,
    Thanks, that’s a very interesting point. I guess what I find a bit strange about Kahan’s style is that he seems to be essentially undermining a message that even he regards as essentially true. It’s one thing to suggest that consensus messaging can be counter-productive, but another to claim it’s toxic/damaging. It seems to me that what he is doing is providing ammunition for those who want to undermine the existence of a consensus which makes me think that he is not really some kind of indpendent observer.

  141. Dikran,

    I am also skeptical that the general public would be antagonised by consensus messaging -I think Kahan overstates his case. However, I think there are some very important issues that Kahan’s work raises – in particular, it shows that we cannot assume that stating a scientific consensus in itself has authority with people outside of scientific communities. My own research has led me to several campaigns since the 1970s to chip away at the social authority of institutional science, which have culminated today in a network of think tanks, media forums, blogs etc. which generate ideas for a conservative movement which is trying to re-assert in a changing world.

    The authority of scientific consensus can be outflanked if some groups contest the legitimacy of who should be included as a scientific ‘peer’ -the anti-environmental movement has embraced the notion of ‘crowd science’ in such a way that they can re-frame the idea of consensus as being some kind of anti-democratic exclusion. This is counter-intuitive for most people who have undergone scientific training, because such people are acculturated to treat consensus -which is after all a social phenomenon- as an epistemic phenomenon. What I mean is that years of participating in a research community gives scientists such a rich context, that they assume any scientific consensus is hard-fought and therefore robust.

    The sociologist Harry Collins calls this interactional expertise, a kind of experience people outside research communities do not share.

    This all means there is a need to argue about:
    1. how scientific consensus forms
    2. why scientific consensus is a uniquely reliable form of knowledge
    3. how to tell whether any given argument is designed to advance knowledge, or to resist it

    ATTP,

    I get how you can interpret Kahan that way, but I think that is missing the point of his work. When he talks about a “polluted science environment” and so on, he is saying that the knowledge of the climate science community is prevented from getting through. He wants it to get through!

    You have to remember, consensus messaging really is an argument from authority. That is not in itself a problem -arguments from authority are a necessary part of every functional community- but Kahan is alerting us that we should not take it for granted that our assumptions (scientific consensus is knowledge-based) cannot be replaced by other assumptions (scientific consensus is political/groupthink/dogma). He gets hot under the collar about this because he sees the opponents of AGW easily reinterpret scientific consensus in this way. They have had many decades to work out how to do it, and the message comes from media, from politicians, and now from people on the street.

    Of course the hard-core deniers won’t be swayed by consensus messaging, but if those people can appeal to common-sense ideas to discount the consensus to their families, neighbours, workmates, or the readers of their blogs etc. then the issue is no longer to communicate consensus, but to demarcatereliable science from the science put together by political activists.

  142. but I think that is missing the point of his work.

    I may well be.

    When he talks about a “polluted science environment” and so on, he is saying that the knowledge of the climate science community is prevented from getting through. He wants it to get through!

    Okay, yes, I can see this. I still think that his framing of the situation is potentially providing ammunition to those who would rather it didn’t. To be clear, I’m all for people finding other ways to get the message through, but what appears to be a battle between two groups, both of whom want this, seems counterproductive. I don’t think that those who promote consensus messaging see it as somehow at odds with what Kahan presents.

    I had two other points. I’ve no idea where his £300 million comes from. That seems remarkably high. Also, in his most recent post he says

    They understand accepting “97% consensus messaging” as assenting to the charge that they and others who share their cultural identity are cretins, morons—socially incompetent actors worthy of ridicule.

    I don’t know if this is true or not, but we all seem to accept that there is a strong consensus. The suggesting seems to be that pointing this out is implying that those who don’t accept this are stupid, or will see themselves as stupid if they do accept it. However, by suggesting that we avoid this almost seems to imply that he thinks these people cannot accept a truth, which might seem somewhat ironic.

  143. BBD says:

    The rise of agnotology, with thanks to various generous sponsors.

  144. Yes, I agree with your last point in particular -I can see how someone who is a regular at WUWT might take the consensus message to mean they and others who share their cultural identity are cretins, morons—socially incompetent actors worthy of ridicule, but it’s drawing a long bow to suggest that 45% of Americans respond that way.

    As for the “300 Million” remark -I don’t know either. It seems like rhetorical excess, so I didn’t trouble to look into it.

    I’m aware of nine studies which indicate consensus around AGW in the 90th percentile or higher -I think that rather than focusing on any one number, the argument needs to be along the lines of ‘what are the chances this is accidental? Or ideological? -or maybe because AGW is true?”

  145. dikranmarsupial says:

    Mark wrote “in particular, it shows that we cannot assume that stating a scientific consensus in itself has authority with people outside of scientific communities. “

    Indeed, the main audience for papers on consensus is those in the general public that want to align themselves with the scientific mainstream, just as most of us would follow mainstream medical opinion in deciding how we want to be treated when we are ill. However things like the MMR-autism hypothesis show that there are likely to be some who are natural iconoclasts/contrarians, who are disinclined to believe the mainstream opinion on a variety of topics. It would still be a mistake to deprive the former of the accurate information they want for fear of (unreasonably) offending the latter. People shouldn’t be offended by things that are demonstrably (e.g. by conducting a survey) true, but we also shouldn’t expect everybody to behave rationally on ever topic all of the time (I don’t think we are capable of that as a species).

  146. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The suggesting seems to be that pointing this out is implying that those who don’t accept this are stupid, or will see themselves as stupid if they do accept it.”

    Indeed, a bit like pointing out that we know that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic, or that the greenhouse effect doesn’t break the second law of thermodynamics, or that we have only recently started to use “climate change” rather than “global warming”, or many other such mistaken arguments that keep cropping up in the public debate on climate. If you persist in promulgating such arguments even after they have been shown to be incorrect, then the repeated doubling down means you reach a point where the loss of face from admitting your are wrong becomes insurmountable. Should we then also avoid pointing out what the science actually says, for risk of giving offense?

    As Montaigne wrote ‘to learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads” (or words to that effect). To some extent we need to embrace our inner blockhead, and not be so proud that we can’t be corrected and hence make progress.

  147. I’m aware of nine studies which indicate consensus around AGW in the 90th percentile or higher -I think that rather than focusing on any one number, the argument needs to be along the lines of ‘what are the chances this is accidental? Or ideological? -or maybe because AGW is true?”

    I agree that this would be useful. Even if people don’t like consensus messaging, you would think that they would at least make sure to stress that the existence of a consensus is not really in doubt. In fact, if everyone who has criticised consensus messaging simply stated very clearly that there is a consensus, maybe the use of consensus messaging would reduce. However, it seems that the criticism just leads to another round of consensus papers and, hence, more consensus messaging.

  148. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” In fact, if everyone who has criticised consensus messaging simply stated very clearly that there is a consensus, maybe the use of consensus messaging would reduce.”

    It would also be useful if those criticising “consensus messaging” could suggest (what they would view as) a more productive response to those claiming there is no scientific consensus.

  149. Joshua says:

    Mark Ryan –

    A couple of things regarding your interpretation of Kahan’s work:

    First, Kahan has written a lot of posts that present a lot of evidence to support arguments that (1) on most (i.e., non-politicized) issues, people accept the “authority of scientific consensus” as a matter of everyday life, without a hitch in their gettyup, and (2) that there is no significant change over time in the general public’s trust in scientists or scientific institutions.

    Also:

    ==> It just would not be possible for self-described conservatives to believe both that climate scientists are in consensus around AGW, and that the climate science consensus is wrong, if there was not a body of counterscience.

    Keep in mind that Dan writes frequently against the notion that “skeptics” or other groups are “anti-science.”

    Whether or not that drives a wedge between [Larry]’s work and your interpretation of his work, he definitely presents a lot of evidence related to “knowing disbelief,” which I look at as part of a more general truth that I see ubiquitously: “motivated reasoning,” confirmation bias, “cultural cognition,” etc. make it quite easy and in fact, quite common, for people to hold entirely contradictory, or logically inconsistent beliefs. In fact, allowing our identity-orientation to bias our logical reasoning is pretty much a part of the human condition – and although putting the scientific method into practice is a hedge against being influenced by such biases on our reasoning, being scientifically knowledgeable is not some kind of vaccination against the tendency.

  150. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> I guess what I find a bit strange about Kahan’s style is that he seems to be essentially undermining a message that even he regards as essentially true. It’s one thing to suggest that consensus messaging can be counter-productive, but another to claim it’s toxic/damaging.

    I don’t follow. If he thinks that it is toxic and damaging, why shouldn’t he make that argument? I don’t happen to agree that his evidence supports that conclusion, but I see no reason that he shouldn’t make that argument if that’s how he interprets his data.

    ==> It seems to me that what he is doing is providing ammunition for those who want to undermine the existence of a consensus which makes me think that he is not really some kind of indpendent observer.

    First, only a tiny % of the public have any idea whatsoever who Dan is or what he argues about climate change. You seem to think that what his work has some significant impact on public opinion about climate change. I don’t think that it does. Second, surely you don’t think that whether or not people who are distort evidence to support the cause of climate change “skepticism” should influence whether or not he conducts his research or presents his findings. That would be in contradiction to what you wrote earlier, that a scientists’ goal is to present the evidence that she finds and interpret it as she thinks accurate. Third, none of us is exactly and “independent observer” and Dan doesn’t present himself to be one….but you seem awfully close to motivation impugning there…

    hmmm….

  151. Joshua says:

    ==> It seems to me that what he is doing is providing ammunition for those who want to undermine the existence of a consensus

    If we eliminated the arguments that Richard Tol, Barry Woods, Anthony Watts, Steven Mosher and others will distort in order to promote their views on climate change, we would have precious few remaining arguments to discuss.

  152. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    ==>It would also be useful if those criticising “consensus messaging” could suggest (what they would view as) a more productive response to those claiming there is no scientific consensus.

    Kahan does present arguments on more productive ways to communicate science related to climate change. I think that the methodology he suggests is a bit nebulous, but I don’t think that it’s non-existent. But even still, I’m not sure why presenting evidence on why “consensus-messaging” is counterproductive (or toxin-inducing if that’s what he thinks his evidence shows) needs to be contingent on presenting an alternative method.

  153. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua, but the question is how can you eliminate those arguments against the existence of a consensus without providing evidence of the existence of a consensus?

  154. Joshua says:

    They won’t be eliminated either way. They will continue regardless.

    The question is how can you counterbalance their effect. I would suggest by utilizing methods that circumvent the politicization, work towards de-politicizing the science, and that rest on a non-politicized paradigm. Admittedly, those methods are extremely difficult to put into practice, perhaps impossible. But that doesn’t mean that we should settle for counterproductive methods, and we should be careful not to inflate the effectiveness of alternative methods just because we feel frustrated.

  155. Lars Karlsson says:

    Kahan:
    All the “social marketing” of “scientific consensus” does is augment the toxic idioms of contempt that are poisoning our science communication environment.

    I think that what Kahan says here is not that consensus arguments are toxic per se, but that in an already poisoned environment they risk to become just more venom to spit on your opponents. Of course, in a poisoned environment, almost any kind of argument comes with that risk.

    The poison comes from both sides, but I think there is one side that really depends on it in order to disarm consensus arguments and to prevent a more dispassionate public discourse about the scientific aspects of climate change. That’s why e.g. Lamar Smith attacks the integrity of NOAA scientists, and why Ted Cruz invites Mark Steyn to a sentate subcommittee hearing. I’m afraid the poison will not go away, but let us at least remember who has the most to benefit from it.

  156. L Hamilton says:

    Mark Ryan:
    “I don’t agree with Kahan when he treats consensus messaging as having a polarising effect in itself -I think that conclusion is beyond the data. His research shows that the stronger a person’s views about AGW, the less the person’s science education seems to correlate -or more precisely, that people with good scientific literacy and strong conservative politics still reject AGW. This clearly indicates that such people are able to find arguments against AGW which they regard as scientifically sophisticated.”

    Yes, but the pattern goes well beyond plausible connections to consensus messaging, indeed well beyond climate issues in general.

    The finding that political polarization on climate change widens with education – that right-opening megaphone shape prominent in Kahan’s work, and in mine – has been broadly confirmed. Formally, this represents an interaction effect of knowledge (various indicators) and politics (various indicators) on perceptions about science or environment (various indicators). The interaction was first tested, I think, in a 2008 paper with 2006 data involving perceptions about impacts of polar climate change,
    http://instaar.colorado.edu/AAAR/journal_issues/abstract.php?id=2601

    By 2011 it had been replicated in half a dozen studies using different data and measures, e.g.
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-010-9946-y
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-010-9957-8

    Here’s a subsequent example in a 2012 paper (pooling 2006 and 2010 nationwide survey data), showing the interaction between ideology and scores on an 11-item science literacy quiz:


    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1088937X.2012.684155

    Many more replications have occurred since then; this one pools 34 different surveys (2010 to 2014) that all asked the same question:


    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0138208

    Thus it’s a well known pattern, unsurprising to find in survey or experimental data – but the explanation in each case is probably not local.

  157. dana1981 says:

    Arg, guys (Willard excepted), don’t let Tol get away with these false assertions:

    Indeed. Kahan’s research shows that banging on about the consensus only serves to get people’s backs up.

    That is not at all what Kahan’s research shows. That is how Kahan is (mis)interpreting research. There is no evidence to support Tol’s argument here, which seems to be Tol’s favorite kind of argument.

    To respond to the Kahan/Mosher “if consensus messaging works, then why hasn’t it worked yet?” argument, it’s because consensus messaging doesn’t operate in a vacuum. There’s also anti-consensus messaging, and media false balance, the latter of which a new study shows is very effective at creating the perception of low consensus. Of course I’ve been making these same points for years now, but it’s nice to have a peer-reviewed study confirm them!

  158. L Hamilton says:

    Although this interaction effect does not occur everywhere, it is not confined to climate topics. Education*party interactions were observed regarding perceptions about urban sprawl, resource conservation, and environmental protection in a 2007 series of US rural-region surveys:
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1549-0831.2010.00013.x/abstract

    Or belief in human evolution in 2012 and 2014 New Hampshire surveys:
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09644016.2014.976485

    As well as trust in scientists about forest management (northeast Oregon 2014) or vaccines (New Hampshire 2014):


    http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/5/3/2158244015602752

    Surveys of coastal-region residents found education*party interaction effects on concern about overfishing and beach pollution (!):


    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/08941920.2014.933926

  159. Joshua says:

    Something to note – that I think is largely consistent with Larry’s data…

    Mainstream Republicans as a cohort are more like Independents (and sometimes even moderate Dems) on many issues than they are like Tea Partiers. That’s pretty striking, and although it’s true across issues a variety of issues. it’s important for evaluating the specifics of the climate change issue.

    In my observation, which of course is purely anecdotal, online “skeptics” tend to be on the Tea Party end of the spectrum. If you look at the (often close to the surface) ideological orientation at the “skeptics” at someplace like Climate Etc. or WUWT, you see how many of them align with extreme political ideology. For example, there are quite a few, vocal Trump supporters at Climate Etc.and they get little to no pushback from other resident “skeptics.” Likewise, Cruz gets little criticism there. Brandon Schollenberger (sp?) posted criticism of Cruz’s distortion of climate science a while back and, IIRC, got no response whatsoever. While Trump and Cruz have reasonably large bases of support, their supporters largely lie outside the “mainstream” of the Republican base.

    My point here is that it is easy to lose sight of the situation where online “skeptics” represent an outlier group in many ways. It is very easy when you spend gobs of time interacting with online “skeptics” to forget that they are not representative of “skeptics” more generally…they are are akin to the Tea Party whereas the larger cohort of “skeptics” is more akin to the larger Republican base. Thinking of how to engage with online “skeptics” is not particularly useful for thinking about how to engage with the larger “skeptical” U.S. public.

  160. Joshua says:

    Larry –

    What do you think of Dan’s latest batch of data that show that political ideology doesn’t associate strongly with how people interpret the specific views of scientists on things like sea level change (and that people on both sides of the political spectrum are quite ignorant about the specifics of what scientists say about climate change even if they are in basic agreement that most climate science experts think that aCO2 emissions pose a risk for harmful climate change)?

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/storage/thumbnails/4177295-26855510-thumbnail.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1455461472958

    Your data seem to suggest a greater divergence in views in association with political ideology.

  161. dikranmarsupial says:

    Dana, “Arg, guys (Willard excepted), don’t let Tol get away with these false assertions:”

    I tried, I asked “I rather doubt that “most people” perceive a “dumbass” subtext anyway, do you have any evidence to support that assertion?”. Richard responded with bluster and evasion, which has been his response to more or less all of the questions I have asked him. The real problem is where he has refused to give a straight answer to technical questions about his publications.

  162. L Hamilton says:

    Joshua:
    “Mainstream Republicans as a cohort are more like Independents (and sometimes even moderate Dems) on many issues than they are like Tea Partiers. That’s pretty striking, and although it’s true across issues a variety of issues. it’s important for evaluating the specifics of the climate change issue.”

    Quite right, and we have data. From “A four-party view of US environmental concern” (2015):

    “Research on US public concern about environmental issues finds ideology or political party are the most consistent background predictors. Party is commonly defined by three groups: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Here, using statewide New Hampshire survey data, we elaborate this approach to distinguish a fourth group: respondents who say they support the Tea Party movement. On 8 out of 12 science- or environment-related questions, Tea Party supporters differ significantly from non–Tea Party Republicans. Tea Party supporters are less likely than non–Tea Party Republicans to trust scientists for information about environmental issues, accept human evolution, believe either the physical reality or the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, or recognise trends in Arctic ice, glaciers, or CO2. Despite factual gaps, Tea Party supporters express greater confidence in their own understanding of climate change. Independents, on the other hand, differ less from non–Tea Party Republicans on most of these questions—although Independents do more often accept the scientific consensus on climate change. On many science and environmental questions, Republicans and Tea Party supporters stand farther apart than Republicans and Independents.”


    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09644016.2014.976485

    Education*party interactions (not shown here but tested in the paper) affect 6 of the questions in that graphic: trust in scientists for information about the environment; whether humans evolved; is climate changing now due to humans; do most scientists agree climate is changing now due to humans; would Arctic warming affect weather where you live; and how well do you understand climate change.

    I’ll respond to other points later today if I have time. Incidentally, if anyone can’t get past the paywalls to see some of these papers, email me and I’ll send you the pdf.

  163. Joshua,

    But even still, I’m not sure why presenting evidence on why “consensus-messaging” is counterproductive (or toxin-inducing if that’s what he thinks his evidence shows) needs to be contingent on presenting an alternative method.

    You’re right, it doesn’t require that. My point was more to do with at what stage does the criticism from a Yale Professor start to contribute to its ineffectiveness. In other words, can we be confident that Dan Kahan’s claims that “consensus messaging” is toxic/damaging aren’t contributing to its potential toxicity?

  164. Lawrence Hamilton, thanks for such a lot of useful data -I’m a big fan of your work.

    When looking at your findings, in addition to Kahan’s, Pew Research, McCright and Dunlap, Gallup and so on, they suggest to me there has been a shift in the social legitimacy of science in our society. Joshua pointed out earlier that several studies find a high general esteem for science among people of all political persuasions – I think we need to ask -who is included in the definition of respectable science these days?

    The paradigm of the previous century, in which scientific authority was centered around a small number of institutions, has shifted now so that it is considered quite rational in some circles to think that no real science is done at NASA -a person can say this while insisting they hold scientists generally in high esteem. “I respect scientists, but they are not real scientists”.

    Among people who are very partisan themselves, general esteem for science manifests as ‘our (real, objective) science’ vs ‘your (fake, politically compromised) science’. We know we can find folks who think Mark Steyn counts among the respectable science community, but Michael Manne does not. That is an extreme example, but I think it reflects a more general phenomenon, which is that the perception of who counts as a scientific ‘peer’ is much broader in the general public than it is in the scientific community. And of course, survey responses keep finding that even people who accept AGW still believe there is a debate among experts about AGW.

    Joshua wrote: “I would suggest…utilizing methods that circumvent the politicization, work towards de-politicizing the science, and that rest on a non-politicized paradigm.” I agree. We talk about scientific literacy – I think there is a need for a meta-literacy, part of which is understanding why it is extremelyunlikely that a scientific research community could come up with a theory of AGW if it was not the most cogent, most consilient explanation of the available evidence. Part of this involves communicating the values of scientific communities, and how the norms of professionalism have evolved in order to ‘keep scientists honest’, as it were. It would also highlight just how preposterous the idea that AGW is a political concoction really is.

    I’d love to see more stories about what it is like to be a scientist -especially the kinds of stories that communicate the conservatism of the scientific community when faced with new ideas. I bet you have some good stories ATTP!

  165. Up until the late twentieth century, the broad public understanding of who counts as a scientific ‘peer’ was roughly the same as the understanding held by the professional science community itself -people outside of science generally accepted scientists’ decisions about whose opinions were worth listening to. Now there are people outside of science -the ‘citizen auditors’ and ‘Galileos’- who insist on being counted as an extended peer group.

    This notion that participation in scientific communities is some kind of right that can be denied, causes statements of consensus to be reinterpreted as statements of elitism, dogma, gatekeeping, and exclusion.

  166. dana1981 says:

    But even still, I’m not sure why presenting evidence on why “consensus-messaging” is counterproductive (or toxin-inducing if that’s what he thinks his evidence shows) needs to be contingent on presenting an alternative method.

    Kahan’s comments on consensus messaging strike me as similar to those made by Republican politicians about Obamacare. They just want Obamacare repealed and haven’t proposed anything to replace it. That wouldn’t be unreasonable if Obamacare were doing net harm, in which case repealing it would do immediate good. However, the evidence clearly indicates that it’s doing a lot of good, so really all they’re proposing is that we go back to the worse previous status quo.

    Likewise with consensus messaging there’s evidence it’s beneficial. How beneficial, we don’t know (that’s not nearly as clear as the evidence for Obamacare benefits). But you would hope that if Kahan is proposing that we ‘repeal’ consensus messaging, he would at least propose another type of more effective messaging to replace it with. He doesn’t have that.

    Again, if he were right and consensus messaging were doing more harm than good, then his ‘repeal’ argument would be valid. But again, there’s no evidence that’s true, and some evidence it’s wrong. So ultimately, like the Republicans, he’s proposing to repeal something that’s doing some good, without proposing a better alternative to replace it with.

  167. “Steven

    You did what I said you did. Please don’t insult the collective intelligence of the readership here by denying it.”

    Sorry my conditional is not a straw man.

    I can say it a different way.

    The consensus argument is not the best argument we have.
    Further, I think you make more progress with better arguments than you do with weaker arguments.

    So, IF you have choose one argument, I would not suggest that you pull a chris darden
    and ask OJ to try the glove on.

    Again, why would I rely on weaker science ( people reading abstracts), when we have actual physics on our side? I wouldn’t.

    If it worked, if it demonstrably WORKED, then I have no issue with the consensus message

    But here we are again, wasting brain cells on an inferior , unproven, appeal.

  168. Andy Skuce says:

    I listened to an interesting CBC radio interview with Katharine Hayhoe yesterday. You can listen to it here:
    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/sharing-truths-1.3442515/how-to-talk-climate-change-with-evangelical-christians-1.3442612

    If there is anything in Dan Kahan’s work that I can think of as helpful in terms of actual advice for how to communicate climate science to the obstinate, it is to use trusted communicators who speak the language and share the values of the target audience. Katharine Hayhoe certainly fits the bill with evangelicals in this regard.

    In the interview, she talks quite frankly how she skirts the issue of the age of the Earth in her communications. She knows that to address this would certainly gets people’s backs up and the rest of the message would be lost. She says that she wants to defuse one mine at a time and the mine she cares about is anthropogenic climate change.

    However, there are other issues with her fellow Christians that she has to attack head-on. One is whether man has dominion over the Earth (and can thus do whatever he likes) or whether man is appointed as a steward of the planet. It all hinges on a biblical translation, apparently. Another is the view of some Christians that the End Times are coming anyway, so it would be futile and foolish to care for the distant future. St Paul rebutted that myth 2000 years ago, I hear.

    If mentioning the consensus is a landmine with denialists, it seems to me that this is not one that we can tiptoe around and come back to later. Denying consensus is actually quite fundamental to their worldview and it has even been characterized by some researchers as a gateway belief. I think it has to be dealt with head-on. If there is some Newton’s third law of communication that says that any forceful argument applied to a core belief will be met with an equal and opposite reaction, then so be it. When I am told that there is no scientific consensus on climate change, I get pretty polarized too.

  169. I’d love to see more stories about what it is like to be a scientist -especially the kinds of stories that communicate the conservatism of the scientific community when faced with new ideas. I bet you have some good stories ATTP!

    My experience is quite mixed. Sometimes a new idea is latched onto happily, especially if it’s presents exciting possibilities. Other times it takes a while. I suspect it has something to do with what the new idea implies. If it’s going to overthrow something established, it might take some time to take hold. If it’s a new area where there are few truly established ideas, new ideas are welcomed.

  170. @dikran
    Sorry for not citing chapter and verse. I thought it was obvious that I was paraphrasing Kahan. Fortunately, we now have Dana with his master’s in an unrelated topic asserting that this Yale professor misinterprets his own research.

  171. Fortunately, we now have Dana with his master’s in an unrelated topic asserting that this Yale professor misinterprets his own research.

    Fortunately, we now have Richard appealing to some kind of authority.

  172. @wotts
    Indeed, when it comes to interpreting psychology, I’d go with a doctor in psychology first and a master in environmental science second, and when it comes to interpreting evidence, I’d go with the author first and an outsider second.

    (and indeed, Cook’s is the exception that proves my second rule)

  173. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard You didn’t have to cite chapter and verse, just provide some evidence to support your assertion.

    Your most recent reply is just more evasion (you still haven’t provided any evidence) and all did was indulge in a cheap ad-hominem against dana combined with an argument from authority. I hate to tell you this, but in science (and I would hope economics and sociology) it is not the source of an argument that matters, but the strength of the argument and the evidence underpinning it.

  174. dikranmarsupial says:

    “So, IF you have choose one argument,”

    The problem is that, even then, the best approach depends on who you are talking to. If you are talking to someone that wants to align themselves with mainstream scientific opinion, then talking about the evidence for the existence of a scientific consensus is exactly the one argument you should use. The idea that there is a single optimal approach, regardless of the audience (arguable it also depends somewhat on the nature of the speaker), seems a bit of a non-starter to me.

  175. @dikran
    The evidence is in Kahan’s research, cited in the opening post.

  176. Richard,
    None of what you said changes that you’re simply appealing to authority.

  177. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard, AFAICS, the closest bit of Kahan’s article that supports your “When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”” has no evidence, just his subjective interpretation of a video. That isn’t evidence, it is opinion. Even then it doesn’t justify your “most”, merely “some”.

  178. dikranmarsupial says:

    Incidentally, I think Kahan’s (hypothetical) experimental method seems rather questionable (to my inexpert eye), if the experiment starts with the assumption “There people are likely to “receive” it [the consensus message] in the form it takes in videos produced by the advocacy group Organizing for Action.”, in the context of videos called ” “X is a climate change denier,” (where X is some, presumably republican, politician), then that seems to me to be biasing the experiment towards finding consensus messaging polarising, simply because the political polarisation is made explicit from the outset, as is the use of terms some consider to be derogatory. If you did the same experiment, but instead of talking about consensus some non-contraversial scientific topic was presented in the same context, I suspect that would also be found to be polarising. Obviously I am no expert on this sort of thing, but I do know that in science it is a good idea to avoid extraneous factors that might influence the result (or at least compensate for them).

    It seems to me that Kahan has really shown that if you present your arguments in an confrontational, politically polarised manner, then you will further polarise the discussion. Seems like a statement of the bleedin’ obvious to me, but perhaps I have misunderstood.

  179. @dikran
    Kahan’s bumper sticker has language more intemperate than mine.

    Recall that this is US data, and that in the US you can spot the college towns on the electoral map.

  180. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard, Kahan’s bumper sticker language being more intemperate than your bumper sticker language doesn’t change the fact that Kahan provides only opinion, not evidence, not data. You are still being evasive.

  181. @dikran
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Kahan’s conclusions based on a series of surveys of the US population? His blog post starts with graphs. Did he make up the data?

  182. dikranmarsupial says:

    AFAICS not the bit about

    “The unmistkable social meaning of the material featuring this “message” (not to mention the cultural conflict bottom-feeders who make a living “debating” this issue on talk shows) is that “you and people who share your identity are morons.” It’s not “science communication”; it’s a clownish bumper sticker that says, “fuck you.””

    which seems to be the only support for your

    “Kahan is of course referring to the subliminal message. When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”.”

  183. BBD says:

    Dikran to Steven:

    The idea that there is a single optimal approach, regardless of the audience (arguable it also depends somewhat on the nature of the speaker), seems a bit of a non-starter to me.

    Which is why Steven has set up his strawman as he has. The object of the exercise is to delegitimise consensus messaging in any form, while leaving the counter-campaign by misinformers in play.

    And he thinks we are so stupid we don’t see what he’s doing.

  184. BBD says:

    Andy Skuce

    Denying consensus is actually quite fundamental to their worldview and it has even been characterized by some researchers as a gateway belief. I think it has to be dealt with head-on. If there is some Newton’s third law of communication that says that any forceful argument applied to a core belief will be met with an equal and opposite reaction, then so be it. When I am told that there is no scientific consensus on climate change, I get pretty polarized too.

    Bravo.

  185. @dikran
    As far as I can see, that is the core of Kahan’s survey design. He seeks to disentangle whether people use the message as a way to increase their knowledge or as a way to express their identity.

    Strangely enough, Kahan finds that when Midwest conservatives encounter a Californian environmentalist who writes in the Guardian, they do not pause to listen to what he has to say.

  186. I think there are a number of issues with how Dan Kahan frames this. Firstly he refers to is as 97% social marketing campaigns which has an immediate negative connotation; it implies an attempt to sell something. He describe it as toxic and damaging despite this appearing to simply be his opinion, rather than based on anything particularly definitive. Also, when he refers to the consensus, he typically says something like

    that climate scientists believe human-caused global warming is putting them in a position of extreme peril.

    Well, this isn’t what is typically meant by the consensus. The consensus is with regards to anthropogenic global warming (we are warming, it is mostly us). Hence it doesn’t even seem that he’s really considering the correct form of the consensus.

    A problem I can see is that some people will policy preferences and with agendas will use information that appears to support their agendas. The 97% consensus study is clearly useful for those who want climate action. Some of those people clearly expand it from a simple scientific statement to one that incorporates “danger/peril”. It’s true that this isn’t what consensus studies show, but it’s also the case that those who do so are not really engaging in science communication.

    As Dana points out, it’s not even clear that consensus messaging does put people’s back up, but – even if it did – how do you disentangle the response to genuine science communication attempts and politicians/activists who are utilising it to support their policy agenda and would probably put certain people’s backs up whatever they said.

  187. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard writes: “@dikran
    As far as I can see, that is the core of Kahan’s survey design. He seeks to disentangle whether people use the message as a way to increase their knowledge or as a way to express their identity.”

    None of which supports your “dumbass” assertion, nor Kahan’s ” “you and people who share your identity are morons.”. Both you and Kahan seem to be drawing conclusions well in advance of what the survey data actually shows. If you disagree, then specify which particular survey questions support your assertion that:

    ““Kahan is of course referring to the subliminal message. When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”.”

    Note Kahan doesn’t do this, his conclusion seems based on his subjective interpretation of a particular video, and AFAICS he makes that quite clear on his blog.

    “Strangely enough, Kahan finds that when Midwest conservatives encounter a Californian environmentalist who writes in the Guardian, they do not pause to listen to what he has to say.”

    You would be better off giving straight answers to the questions, rather than engaging in unedifying partisan rhetoric like this (which is in itself rather ironic in a discussion about whether consensus messaging is polarising).

  188. Willard says:

    > [W]hen it comes to interpreting psychology, I’d go with a doctor in psychology first […]

    Which Dan isn’t, Richie.

    ***

    > [A]ren’t Kahan’s conclusions based on a series of surveys of the US population?

    Not the “toxic” part, to which his own marketing concerns contribute.

  189. @dikran
    So, you’ve moved from “no evidence” to “overselling evidence”. I don’t think that Kahan is overselling, but let’s leave it at that.

    @willard
    Indeed. Apologies. Kahan does have a series of psychology papers in psychology journals, but he is not a card-carrying psychologist.

  190. dana1981 says:

    Kahan’s argument could perhaps be more accurately reframed by saying that consensus messaging can be polarizing, for example when used in political videos, or when claiming the consensus is that climate change is dangerous (coincidentally, there probably is an expert consensus that climate change is dangerous, but we didn’t measure that).

    Kahan doesn’t have evidence to support that argument either, but at least it’s more plausible and faces less counter-evidence than his more generalized ‘consensus messaging is polarizing’ argument. Certainly anything can be polarizing if used in a political video, I would imagine.

    But it seems to me that’s just all the more reason for those of us who accurately and effectively communicate about the expert climate consensus to do so. You’re not going to stop people from talking about the consensus, so why not make sure somebody is communicating it accurately?

  191. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “So, you’ve moved from “no evidence” to “overselling evidence”. I don’t think that Kahan is overselling, but let’s leave it at that.”

    No, there is no evidence in the survey to support your assertion:

    “Kahan is of course referring to the subliminal message. When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”

    If you disagree, as I said, point out the questions in the survey that support this assertion (I note you evaded that particular challenge in your response).

    There was no shift from “no evidence” to “overselling the evidence”. The first part of Kahan’s article makes some reasonable points about the survey data, however he then goes on to make some further conclusions that are not based solely on the survey data. Kahan is not overselling the survey data in this respect as, unlike you, he does not claim that those conclusions are based on the survey data, but on his subjective interpretation of a video (as he makes clear if you click on the link).

  192. dikranmarsupial says:

    To anticipate further word games, ” however he then goes on to make some further conclusions that are not based solely on the survey data. ” should have been ” however he then goes on to make some further conclusions that are not based on the survey data.”. As Willard points out, the “toxic” part is not supported by the survey data.

  193. Willard says:

    No need to apologize, Richie. Just acknowledge that your appeal to Dan’s authority switched from:

    Indeed, when it comes to interpreting psychology, I’d go with a doctor in psychology first […]

    to:

    Kahan does have a series of psychology papers in psychology journals, but he is not a card-carrying psychologist.

    If you could also acknowledge your minimization from “doctor” to “card-carrying,” that’d be great.

    Which psychology journals, BTW?

  194. Joseph says:

    I think a persons views on climate change would be closely related to their reaction to consensus messaging. And so the more they dismiss the science the more they are going to dismiss the consensus as either not existing or irrelevant. So I think the consensus messaging is probably no more toxic than simply presenting the evidence to climate “skeptics.”

  195. Dana (and others),

    Kahan’s argument could perhaps be more accurately reframed by saying that consensus messaging can be polarizing…

    Yes, I think that this is right. (Did you see my comment above?) Fortunately, I’d argue that the mechanisms underlying how, when and why polarisation occurs are quite straightforward to explain. What’s more, the Bayesian framework that I am proposing is easily able to accommodate both cases (i.e. polarisation versus convergence). Here’s how I summarised it in the paper:

    “[The] modified Bayesian framework offers a bridge between competing explanations of climate scepticism as a phenomenon. For instance, the “deficit model” posits a lack of scientific knowledge and understanding as key drivers of scepticism, whereas advocates of the “cultural cognition” theory argue that group identity and value systems are more relevant (Clark et al., 2013; Kahan et al., 2011, 2012). A Bayesian model that incorporates perceptions of source credibility is able to accommodate both camps. Exposure to new scientific evidence can ameliorate a person’s scepticism, but only if their priors allow for it. This includes whether factors such as cultural identity cause them to discount some sources of information more than others.”

    This seems such an obvious and non-controversial point to me that I doubt anyone would dispute it. (The added value comes from putting it in a coherent, probabilistic framework.) A problem, however, arises from trying to promote each theory as mutually exclusive, true models of reality. In reality, they are are really just special cases of the same general model.

  196. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP writes: “So, consensus messaging is somehow toxic and damages other attempts at science communication?”

    I accept Dan Kahan is a practicing authority on this particular topic and consequently I accept the assertion as stated (with due regard to possibly amending it in the future as I do with pretty much all assertions of any kind).

    “I could understand if someone was suggesting a better, or an alternative, way to communicate science.”

    Dan Kahan’s work is not about communicating science per se; but rather (and in my opinion) he is exploring meta-communication, things that are communicated in addition to “the science” and at times this meta communication is louder (figuratively speaking) than the science message.

    I will provide an example from my specialty, electronics. Suppose I have a wire and I put a digital voltmeter on it, referenced to ground, and read 12 volts. I proclaim that the wire has 12 volts DC. As I have measured it, it must be correct within the tolerance of the measurement.

    But someone else measures it and gets 3 volts AC.

    It is possible because I was only looking for DC, my meter was set to “DC” and ignored the AC. The other measurement ignored the DC and measured the AC. A third measurement might be the temperature of the wire, and if you are looking for “dark matter” the temperature of the wire is probably the most important metric of all.

    I believe *all* communications invoke multiple dimensions — factual (scientific, left brain), emotional (political, right brain). The communication stream is “multiplexed” with conscious speaking to conscious (nouns and verbs), and unconscious speaking to unconscious (adjectives, moral judgment, it is good or bad to be 12 volts).

    So what Dan Kahan *seems* to be advocating, is that after you construct your “science message”, pay heed to the population that is going to ignore it and look instead for political and emotional meanings. They will find it even if you did not deliberately intend for such things to be there. So be deliberate with the meta-messaging, don’t let your emotions cloud a science message, and don’t let science cloud an emotional message.

    Meta-messages can have consequences.

    [Mod: redacted]

    Your blog title itself contains a meta-message: “And Then There’s Physics…” suggests that physics is at the tail end of a long list of undeclared considerations and that you are meekly bringing up this tail end.

    Contemplate for a moment a blog titled “It Starts with Physics…”

  197. snarkrates says:

    Michael2,
    Just curious. For you, is irony just a synonym for metallic?

  198. May I suggest that is it nearly irrelevant how science is communicated?

    I would be very surprised if science communication in the USA or Australia is very different from the rest of the world, but the outcomes are very different.

    What is different is money that in the USA and Australia political leaders are willing to hold silly opinions to get funding for their political campaigns. These silly opinions legitimize other people holding silly opinions. These silly opinions make it possible for the mass media to spread silly opinions while pretending to communicate objective information.

    These are much stronger social cues than the opinion of the occasional scientist on television or in the newspaper. Scientists and our niche in the blogosphere can jump up and down as much as we like, it will not move much, we have to get money out of politics.

  199. Joshua says:

    I’ll repeat the post here that I put up at Dan’s…

    Well, I suppose I’m somewhat in the middle.

    The causality behind public opinion on climate change seems very complex to me. It’s multi-factorial and involves the complicated dynamics of how people engage with risk assessment and uncertainty with low probability/high impact outcomes. It involves the complicated nature of identity-cognition (meaning identity-aggression and identity defense), motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, cultural cognition.

    As such, it seems quite implausible to me that “consensus-messaging,” a rather minute component of the overall dynamic in play, has much explanatory power for understanding public opinions on climate change. And that implausibility runs in two directions: Just as it is implausible to me that very many “skeptics” have have their opinions significantly altered by “consensus-messaging,” it also seems implausible that many people will have their level of concern about aCO2 emissions significantly increased as the result of “consensus-messaging.”

    I get (1) Dan’s argument that asking questions about whether there is a “consensus” shows a level of polarization that isn’t apparent when if you simply ask about climate scientists’ opinions about sea level change, say and, (2) there is a certain common sense logic behind speculating that “consensus-messaging” is likely to some to seem as identity-assaultive rhetoric…but I still feel that Dan has not presented solid evidence of any significant “toxic” impact from “consensus-messaging” (IMO, most of those not already ideologically aligned on the issue of climate change are not likely to respond strongly to “consensus-messaging,” and those who are likely to respond strongly to “consensus-messaging” are already strongly ideologically aligned.

    On the other hand, I remained unconvinced by the evidence I’ve seen presented by those who argue that “consensus-messaging” will will have the potential to significantly move the needle on public opinion on climate change. Again, MO, the dynamic of opinion formation on this issue is far to complex to be materially changed by that methodology, particularly since the use of that methodology in the real world will inevitably be viewed within a politicized framework.

  200. Brandon Gates says:

    Victor,

    Scientists and our niche in the blogosphere can jump up and down as much as we like, it will not move much, we have to get money out of politics.

    Kind of ironic that they’re a PAC … 🙂

    Also interesting that they don’t make many specific proposals other than overturning Citizens United. That would be a big step to be sure, but I think more is needed … essentially 100% publicly financed elections at the Federal level, with private fund-raising capped and only to be used to get on the ballot.

    Don’t think it will happen any time soon. We can’t even get 100% publicly financed healthcare in this backwater Republic.

  201. Joshua,
    I’ll respond here, rather than at Dan’s 🙂

    My view is still that the existence of a strong consensus is true, so a strategy of avoiding it is concerning. Also, as I think you’re getting at, I don’t think Dan has really shown that it is toxic given that I don’t think he can he really illustrated where we would be now in the absence of consensus messaging. There is also work that suggests it is effective, such as this, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet.

  202. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua wrote “And that implausibility runs in two directions: Just as it is implausible to me that very many “skeptics” have have their opinions significantly altered by “consensus-messaging,””

    I agree with this, but I don’t think that the skeptics are the intended audience for the message, but instead it is intended for the undecided (or maybe even apathetic).

    it also seems implausible that many people will have their level of concern about aCO2 emissions significantly increased as the result of “consensus-messaging.”

    I also agree with this, however I don’t think the consensus messaging is intended to do that either, but instead to get rid of an obstacle to people finding out more about the problem, which isn’t quite the same thing. What it is intended to do is to close the “consensus gap”, so that the public and the scientific community become in closer agreement about what the science says. Whether someone becomes more concerned about CO2 rather depends on their views of the potential consequences.

    I agree that Kahan hasn’t really shown much evidence that consensus messaging per se is toxic, and I don’t think it is (and indeed it really shouldn’t be). Now if he were to argue that confrontational partisan rhetoric was toxic, then for large parts of the general public I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. Kahan’s problem seems to be that he doesn’t make a distinction between confrontational political advocacy and scientific communication. I would also make a distinction between political and scientific advocacy, but if Kahan isn’t able to see the distinction between science communication and political advocacy, there is little chance of him seeing a finer distinction. Sadly the fact that he is rude and dismissive to those who point out difficulties in his argument, and then fails to respond when his poor behaviour is pointed out, suggests that he is not actually interested in potential flaws in his work, which is not a good approach to research (IMHO).

  203. KR says:

    “When you say “97% of expert disagree with you” most people hear “you dumbass”.

    And when you tell the Emperor that he has no clothes on, he may well feel like a dumbass. But that personal response to having been mistaken doesn’t change the truth of the statement, nor does it make the statement any less important to make to the public in the first place.

    Richard’s entire set of arguments seems to distill down to “Don’t tell anyone about the scientific consensus!” And why should we avoid telling the public the truth of the matter? Why distort their perception of the science? The only motive I can see is to prevent public actions based on that science, as per the GWPF (where Richard Tol is an advisor) and other lobbying groups.

    The Emperor’s personal reaction is (perhaps) unfortunate, but there are always going to be folks with basic misconceptions, and indulging the dumbasses by not speaking the truth does far more harm than simply stating it.

  204. L Hamilton says:

    I’ve been inspired by this discussion to place our do-scientists-agree question on the next New Hampshire survey, which starts polling tomorrow. Data (500 new interviews) in a few weeks, extending this series through Feb 2016.

  205. That people who reject AGW (whom happen to be primarily politically conservative) were notably freaked about the SkS consensus messaging seems, to me, to be an expected result. Part of the reason we did the author self-ratings was to (a) validate our SkS ratings, and (b) provide a more bullet-proof conclusion. The vengeance against Cook13 seems, to me, like further validation of the importance of the research.

    I think that’s essentially also what ATTP is pointing out when asking, if the results are toxic or damaging, why attack the research? They (Richard, in particular) have to be attacking the research because it’s successful.

    You can almost think of it like MLK. He was clearly on the right side of the issue, but that position was one that a faction of Americans vehemently rejected. MLK was highly successful in forcing our nation to face the reality of racial inequality. What he did upset a whole lot of people.

    So, I don’t think we should be afraid to force people to face up to the realities of climate change, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes them. It would be morally reprehensible not to do so.

    Personally, I do a little celebration every time a climate denier attacks the 97% message. In that, perhaps we should be thanking Richard since he’s probably done more than any single individual to disseminate that message.

  206. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Martin Luther Cook? Good grief!

    Rob Honeycutt, ‘Cook13’ was bollocks because its ratings system made no sense. That’s it. End of.

    (I hope my comment gives you a little leap of joy.)

  207. Rob: The vengeance against Cook13 seems, to me, like further validation of the importance of the research. It seems to me that if we take into account:
    1. The intense reaction to Cook et al 2013,
    2. The fact that come people can describe themselves as ‘pro science’ while being hostile to established climate science,
    3.The fact that large numbers of people believe scientists disagree about AGW.

    The one explanation which accounts for all of these is that a key tactic of the anti-AGW movement is to redefine who should count as an expert on climate science. This means the anti-AGW activists fight hard against the boundaries of expertise being drawn such that they are not included -hence the extreme reaction to consensus studies. It is also clear that they have succeeded in persuading some groups that climate ‘experts’ includes anti-AGW activists -or at least made it very hard for people in the public to distinguish between the folks making claims about the scientific facts.

    Lawrence Hamilton -have you done much research to measure how people define the extent of scientific community with regard to climate change? It suspect that information would be very informative if it was added to the data you have included above. For example, do liberals validate NASA, but discount think tanks, and do conservatives do the inverse?

  208. L Hamilton says:

    Mark Ryan:
    “For example, do liberals validate NASA, but discount think tanks, and do conservatives do the inverse?”

    It might look that way but unfortunately the algorithm is simpler. If you don’t like what most scientists are telling you, believe someone else who sounds sciency but is saying what you want to hear. Could be from a University, think tank, whatever, that one’s the honest one.

    More broadly and to the theme of this thread, I think that efforts to find causes of climate science rejection in the words or deeds of climate scientists are missing the forest for the trees. It’s one part of a larger problem.

  209. Thanks Lawrence. What is that chart measuring exactly?

  210. anoilman says:

    Mark Ryan, that chart measures how long you’ll stare at it guessing what it means, where it came from, what methodology was used, how valid it was, and whether anything substantial and contrary was found. Its also a red herring in the big picture. You can’t argue with physics.

    Might I recommend picking up a copy of Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen. At least you’ll know where you stand with that.
    http://tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations

  211. Vinny,
    I think you’re confusing “made no sense” with “I don’t understand”.

  212. snarkrates says:

    Look, the point is not to persuade the “from my cold dead hands” denialati any more than the purpose of confronting overt racists or sexists is to persuade them of the error of their ways. The purpose is to make denial of facts unacceptable in polite society. The purpose is to have them feel some shame when the go to WTFUWT.

    The purpose is to bludgeon them with the truth.

  213. @KR
    It’s Kahan’s message, not mine. And his message is simple: If you want to convince people of the need for climate policy, don’t mention the consensus.

    Kahan has long argued that current climate policy does not enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (like I have, whatever Rob H may say).

  214. Mark Ryan… What you’re describing is what’s happening within the group of already firmly committed deniers. They necessarily become more confirmed in their pre-established position.

    What you’re ignoring is the fact that, every single time they discuss “the 97%” they are repeating those words. So, as George Lakoff says, “Don’t think of an elephant.” You can’t discuss the message positively or negatively without repeating the message, and that 97% message is the key. It’s very clear that message resonates with people who are learning about climate science.

    The 97% message drives deniers up the wall specifically because it’s rattling their cognitive dissonance.

  215. verytallguy says:

    Rob wins the internet:

    Personally, I do a little celebration every time a climate denier attacks the 97% message. In that, perhaps we should be thanking Richard since he’s probably done more than any single individual to disseminate that message.

    Also

    The 97% message drives deniers up the wall specifically because it’s rattling their cognitive dissonance.

    Likewise their foaming at the mouth at any mention of the L-word.

    we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science … …We additionally show that … …NASA faked the moon landing… …predicts rejection of climate science

    These things are not reacted against strongly by “sceptics” because they are false, but rather because they are painfully obviously true.

  216. Vinny Burgoo… Yes, it does delight me when confirmed deniers react exactly the way you’re reacting. But having read a large number of the abstracts in the study myself, I can say with full confidence the results are accurate.

    Vinny, I would venture to guess that you are entirely intractable in your denial of man-made climate change. You will do anything to avoid accepting the basic scientific reality of AGW. You could, yourself, go and create your own rating system, read say 100 or even 1000 random research paper abstracts, and create your own consensus study. I’ve asked many (including Tol) if they would do this exact same thing. No one has taken up the task.

    We now have multiple studies showing a very high level of scientific consensus. We have exactly ZERO studies that show anything other than a very high level of scientific consensus. Even in the Cook13 study we have two very different approaches that resulted in almost the exact same number.

    All that and you’re here refuting the findings. I find that incredibly fascinating!

    And yes, I would have to suggest that you (and all the other deniers) are fighting from the same moral and intellectual position as segregationists of the 1950’s and 60’s. You’re rejecting very well established scientific fact and you’re rejecting the moral obligations that arise from that scientific fact.

  217. I interpret it differently. If you want it to appear that those who oppose climate action are idiots, use consensus messaging.

  218. Glenn Tamblyn says:

    I would just like to inject an important but disturbing and confronting point here…

    How much of this entire discussion isn’t about communicating X, Y or Z to people. It is about communicating X, Y or Z to Americans. Lest you think I am being racist of countryist, my point is that there is a strange dynamic going on that seems to be specific to America.

    So Dan really needs to expand his research base to see to what extent the processes he observes – and I do think his research is uncovering real stuff – is global vs highly US-centric. Is Cultural Cognition a powerful driver in debates globally, or is it a more powerful driver specifically in America. My thesis would be that CC is a common factor across many cultures to a moderate level (except perhaps in minority groups where it might be stronger) but is turbo-charged in some countries and some cultural contexts.There might be more insights to be gained from what the inter-nation data shows rather than the intra-nation data.

    Is Dan researching Cultural Cognition? Or is he researching America?

    Is CC versus Consensus messaging the more effective approach in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia?

    In fact is the very question a merely Anglo-sphere hang-up?

  219. Richard… “If you want to convince people of the need for climate policy, don’t mention the consensus.”

    To me, that’s like telling MLK it’s a bad idea to upset the segregationists too much. They said the same thing when SF Mayor Gavin Newsom started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

    The scientific consensus is a fact. It is a fact that upsets certain factions of people. That’s perfectly fine. I believe the facts that inform our collective wisdom will ultimately prevail.

  220. Willard says:

    > Kahan has long argued that current climate policy does not enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions […]

    A quote might be nice.

  221. L Hamilton says:

    Mark Ryan:
    “What is that chart measuring exactly?”

    My apologies, posting from a tiny screen last night I didn’t see that I had linked to an unlabeled version of the graph. A more self-contained version is below. These are weighted percentages (based on 1300 to 2800 interviews) of “trust” responses to 5 survey questions of the form:

    “Would you say that you trust, don’t trust or are unsure about scientists as a source of information about X ?”


    — from “Conservative and liberal views of science: Does trust depend on the topic?”
    (not paywalled) https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/views-of-science

    Conservative distrust regarding climate change and evolution was expected; but many people have argued that corresponding liberal distrust would be found regarding vaccines, nuclear power, or GMOs. We tested that hypothesis and found the opposite.

    This is one piece of evidence behind my comment that the widespread science rejection occurring today is not caused by climate scientists; it goes well beyond that topic.

  222. Joshua says:

    Glen –

    Clearly, the kind of polarization around the issue of climate change that Dan causally attributes to cultural cognition is more prevalent in the U.S. than in many other countries. I’ve commented on his blog many times that I think that the kind of political-identity polarization that he focuses on is, to some degree at least, a function of a large cultural framework. For example, in my experience among the Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese I have worked with over the years, it is higher in my own family and culture of origin (East Coast Jews) – at least in an issue-contingent way – than among many other Americans that I’ve spent time with (for example, construction workers or people who live in Northern New England)…

    IIRC, Dan has commented that he finds the potential for cultural differences in how cultural cognition plays out to be interesting and important, but I can’t recall him ever going into any detail as to how he thinks that those cultural differences might manifest.

  223. Joshua says:

    er…causally….

  224. Marco says:

    Larry, a suggestion (and maybe one you already tried): would it be of interest to ask the same question where “scientists” is replaced by “industry”? It does not quite work with evolution, of course, but the others do.

    I know quite a few anti-GMO’ers who claim they trust the scientists, because it is (according to them) the scientists who tell them that GMO’s are not safe, and that all the positive stories about GMOs come from the industry (or “industry shills”). I have seen similar tendencies in some anti-vaxxers. My own experiences are far from objective, not in the least because you tend to hear the vocal minority (and the anti-GMO’ers and anti-vaxxers can be really, really loud…).

  225. Joshua says:

    Even more garbled that usual…

    I meant to say that political-identity polarization is lower among the Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese that I’ve worked with (and I’ll add, I am referring to political-identity polarization internally within a national culture. Certainly, political-identity polarization is quite high across the Japanese/Korean divide or the Japanese/Chinese divide).

  226. Ian Forrester says:

    Marco, please stop putting those of us scientists who understand the problems with GMOs in the same basket as anti-vaxxers. Your only response to those of us who do understand, from a non industry point of view but a scientific one, is ad hominem comment. There is no scientific consensus among scientists that GMOs are either safe or useful as they are presently being offered.

    I have had discussions with you in the past and all I get from you is ad hominem comment, you never discuss the science.

  227. @Rob H
    Indeed. There are some people who do well out of polarization and stagnation. Others are more interested in moving climate policy towards emission reduction.

  228. Eli Rabett says:

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, insist that only a single argument be used. Eli is not sure why and he sure as hell thinks that argument is spinach.

  229. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli was quite surprised by the GMO part of the survey that Larry Hamilton posted. European surveys show that politics is not much of a divider on GMOs but sex is

    http://ips.sagepub.com/content/33/3/301.abstract

  230. Marco says:

    Ian, I don’t seriously discuss science with a wuwt-nut either. Someone who in all earnest directs people to i-sis.org.uk (=you) lacks a BS detector. Add references to Séralini and Monsanto, and I can see no benefit discussing scientific facts with you.

    I’ll leave it there, no need to hijack this thread any further.

  231. Ian Forrester,

    What an odd comment. There is clearly a strong consensus among scientists and credible scientific organisations on the safety of current GMOs. See here, here, here and here for starters.

    Now, you may disagree with this majority opinion, and that is your prerogative. But that simply renders your case analogous to that of climate sceptics. If you aren’t swayed by scientific consensus in one area, why should you expect them to be swayed in another?

    The failure of various climate campaigners to recognise this cognitive dissonance within themselves (Naomi Oreskes, I’m looking at you) is utterly depressing to me.

  232. Richard Tol,

    There are some people who do well out of polarization and stagnation.

    Those associated with the GWPF, for example.

    Others are more interested in moving climate policy towards emission reduction.

    Indeed, and some of those people think that accepting the existence of a strong consensus wrt to AGW is part of the process.

  233. I’m actually away on holiday, so if we could avoid this thread descending into a fight about GMOs, that would be appreciated.

  234. L Hamilton says:

    Eli Rabett:
    “Eli was quite surprised by the GMO part of the survey that Larry Hamilton posted. European surveys show that politics is not much of a divider on GMOs but sex is”

    This is surprising because it’s widely assumed that ‘trust in scientists about X’ is more or less the same thing as ‘my attitude toward X’. But if that were true then liberals, who are less likely to view nuclear power or GMOs favorably, would also be less likely to trust scientists on these topics. That is commonly given as an explanation for conservative rejection of science on climate and evolution, for instant.

    However, when we tested the hypothesis on some things liberals like less, we found that even there they more often say they trust scientists as sources of information — e.g., about the safety of nuclear power or GMOs. So what my bar charts show is something new — that trust in scientists for information about X, and attitudes toward X, are more separable than people thought.

    Marco:
    “would it be of interest to ask the same question where “scientists” is replaced by “industry”? It does not quite work with evolution, of course, but the others do.”

    For me that would be a less interesting question, on these topics evoking the plot of many movies. There is in the literature a related distinction, however, between “impact science” (such as finding adverse health & environmental impacts from economic activity) and “production science” (which facilitates economic activity). Liberal are said to be more favorable to the former, and conservatives to the latter. There are many topics like evolution that don’t fit this distinction, though, and for vaccines the logic seems to point in the opposite direction from empirical observations.

    More about that (climate & vaccines) in this paper, which is not paywalled:
    http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/5/3/2158244015602752

  235. Ian Forrester says:

    My only response is that real scientists should start reading what is being published in the scientific literature about GMOs.I bet Marco will be all over the report which shows that the testes of male mice were reduced by 50% when fed a GMO diet. Go on Marco please respond in your usual way to people who produced results showing negative effects of GMOs.

    And are GMO apologists going to compare this group of scientists with the clowns at WUWT?

    http://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-016-0117-0

  236. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “There are some people who do well out of polarization and stagnation. ”

    the loud click was the pointer on my irony-o-meter hitting the end-stop once again 😦

  237. Ian Forrester says:

    OK i will resist further comments on GMOs. But I am surprised at the attitude of supposed scientists on this matter.

  238. @wotts
    I responded to Rob’s “[it]’s perfectly fine […] [to] upset[] certain factions of people”.

    Now I don’t know about you, but I think it is bad for climate policy that US Congress has a majority against. Rob may delight in getting further up the voters’ nose, but it would hardly warm to emission reduction.

  239. Richard… “Now I don’t know about you, but I think it is bad for climate policy that US Congress has a majority against.”

    Then perhaps it’s time to get FF industry money out of politics, because as it is right now, the only way Conservatives keep their jobs and their financial backers is to flat out deny well established scientific facts.

    You seem to be making the false assumption that Conservatives deny climate change because they’ve been presented with correct information. That’s rather absurd, don’t you think?

  240. Richard,
    I’ve lost track of what you’re getting at, but I really don’t get how you think you can criticise others for ineffective strategies for emission reduction.

  241. Richard… “I responded to Rob’s “[it]’s perfectly fine […] [to] upset[] certain factions of people”.”

    That is one massive contortion you’ve gone through to make my words perform tricks for you.

    My statements were far more nuanced that just ‘it’s fine to upset certain factions of people.’ What I’m saying is, when you have groups, like segregationists, who cling so firmly to fundamentally wrong ideas, it is perfectly rational and effective to call them out. Put them under the spot light. Make clear to everyone the absurdity of their position. I think the situation with climate deniers is not dissimilar.

  242. Just for clarity here. Richard managed to turn this quote:

    “The scientific consensus is a fact. It is a fact that upsets certain factions of people. That’s perfectly fine. I believe the facts that inform our collective wisdom will ultimately prevail.”

    …into this:

    “[it]’s perfectly fine […] [to] upset[] certain factions of people”

    If you try a little harder, Richard, I’d bet you could train my words to serve dinner for you as well.

  243. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >>> I really don’t get how you think you can criticise others for ineffective strategies for emission reduction.

    Contentious messaging.

  244. Rob,
    You have to appreciate that Richard seems to feel that as long as he can construct some kind of sentence from the words you used (and not, necessarily, all the words), that he can respond to that, rather than to what you actually said. It’s a special skill.

  245. ATTP… Maybe […] it’s [a] (gnew) form of {} abstract expression=ism. %;

  246. Although that quote itself cannot actually be found anywhere, it must, in reality, exist because sophisticated statistical tests were undertaken, proving that it must exist that way somewhere.

    #FreeTheTol300

  247. @rob h
    So “fine” did not refer to “upset”?

    @wotts
    I helped with the UK landfill tax, the Ireland carbon tax, and the US social cost of carbon. What have you done for emission reduction?

  248. Richard,
    Do you also specialise in making inane arguments on the internet? Actually, that may be a bad comparison, because you appear to really do that.

  249. Michael 2 says:

    Rob Honeycutt writes “The scientific consensus is a fact.”

    A slightly more correct wording would be “it is a fact that consensus exists among climate scientists” (followed by a definition of what constitutes a climate scientist for the purpose of this declaration)

    Perhaps you could survey if ANYONE on this blog thinks otherwise so why mention it (again)?

  250. Richard… “So “fine” did not refer to ‘upset’?”

    You left out all context for the statement. You could re-quote it this way: “[Scientific] fact[s] upset certain factions of people. That’s perfectly fine.”

    That is clearly not the same as saying ‘it’s perfectly fine to upset certain factions of people.’

  251. Magma says:

    I find the polling data from Larry Hamilton (specifically the plots in post at 2:11 PM Feb 18) to be worrying, along with the apparent willingness of political conservatives to allow their politics to bias even the interpretation of physical measurements such as local and global temperatures, ice extent, sea level, ocean surface pH, etc.

    This is particularly troubling because those conservatives hold a disproportionate influence in federal and state legislatures and governors’ offices. And although this conservative mindset appears to be most strongly developed in the U.S., I think a similar effect also occurs to lesser extent in the UK, Australia and Canada, but that is based on purely anecdotal observations.

    Is the cause due to a less flexible, more dogmatic or authoritarian, top-down view of the world? I’d really prefer not get into the somewhat inflammatory “I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative” remark by JS Mill a century and a half ago. That comment and its various successors over the years don’t exactly open the door to dialogue.

  252. Or just quote me on this: “It’s fine if scientific facts upset certain factions of people.”

  253. Michael 2 says:

    Rob Honeycutt wrote: “You will do anything to avoid accepting the basic scientific reality of AGW. You could, yourself, go and create your own rating system, read say 100 or even 1000 random research paper abstracts, and create your own consensus study.”

    I hope you can see the orthogonality of science versus papers. Science measures physical things, counting papers is a different kind of thing being measured: Whatever it takes to get published, that is what is being counted and measured.

    There’s a peculiar assumption here that has a parallel in religion: All holy books prove themselves. Where do you go to prove AGW? Why, to the very advocates themselves!

    Assuming that you are 100 percent correct, you are right and everyone else is varying degrees of wrong, what do you propose, and what are the consequences of your proposal?

  254. guthrie says:

    Impressive derail by Tol onto how wonderful he is, rather than the questions at hand.

  255. Michael 2 says:

    snarkrates writes “The purpose is to make denial of facts unacceptable in polite society.”

    Thank you! I have been writing that many times. I am pleased that you recognize its true purpose. You assume, I presume, that you are the polite society, and maybe where you are it is so. Elsewhere I have written on the regional nature of what is considered polite (never mind why anyone wants to be polite in the first place). Norwegians seemed polite, the French not so much; but within their cultures each behaves appropriately.

    “The purpose is to have them feel some shame when the go to WTFUWT.”

    I do not feel shame going to any website. To be sure some are Not Safe For Work, and where I work, that would include Salon.com or Huffington Post.

    “The purpose is to bludgeon them with the truth.”

    Your bludgeon does not seem very intimidating and, quite frankly, rather useless here on ATTP. If you want to bludgeon deniers, you have to go where they have gone.

    There’s exactly two people here with a bludgeon: ATTP and Willard. For everyone else there’s whining/whinging.

  256. Willard says:

    FWIW,

    Dan qualifies C13 as

    [A]n elegantly designed and executed empirical assessment […]

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan-on-cook-et-al-4-points/

  257. Eli Rabett says:

    How about trapping any reference to Wotts so it does not sully this fine blog.

  258. Joshua says:

    From Willard’s link to Dan’s webpage, something that I agree with (except to the extent that it may be a bit of a strawman by virtue of a lack of specificity about the phenomenon it is describing):

    … I think it is inimical to the goal of promoting constructive public engagement with climate science to perpetuate the view that a failure to disseminate news of scientific consensus is the source of political polarization on climate change.

    But to which I’d add n the following manner:

    .. I think it is inimical to the goal of promoting constructive public engagement with climate science to perpetuate the view that a failure to disseminate disseminating news of scientific consensus is the source of political polarization on climate change.

  259. Peter Jacobs says:

    Wow, getting here late. The Tol-circus aside, there was some really worthwhile discussion here.

    I am of course biased, but I think that the repeated experimental evidence showing that consensus messaging is depolarizing should be at least **minimally** kept in mind when Prof. Kahan proffers a string of critical blog posts against consensus messaging, and we can benefit to think about the real causes of polarization.

    Joshua, I am curious- as a person (myself) who took Kahan’s Southeast Florida sea level rise adaptation claims at face value what you think about Larry Hamilton’s data showing incredibly strong polarization around climate topics when neither consensus nor causation are mentioned. One the one hand, that tracks with my anecdotal experience and predisposition (that ignoring causation gets you nowhere in the long run). On the other, I was kind of desperately hoping that that sort of Wily Coyote-ist model (it will be fine as long as no one looks down!) would work. It seemed to good to be true, but I also never wanted to disbelieve a potential tool in the toolbox.

  260. Peter Jacobs says:

    Also, and not that I don’t engage there (I sometimes do!), but the next time you’re around Kahan’s Joshua, you might want to ask about the striking failure of the Kahanian model to grapple with the huge liberal consensus gap in so many surveys, all the while he’s claiming that the consensus message is both saturated and polarizing. Like, can’t we all agree, at least one of those three things has to be definitionally false.


  261. Direct cloud scale observations of these small changes in the condensation efficiency with temperature are difficult. An alternative is to search for indirect constraints based on emergent properties of the simulation (e.g. Klein and Hall 2015). The problem is that, while it may be possible to find some properties of the climate simulation that look better in one of these models than the others, the biases in other parts of the model affecting the same metric can make it hard to make a convincing case that you have constrained cloud feedback. At this point, we are not convinced that we have emergent constraints that clearly favor one version of this proto-AM4 model over the others. We are uncomfortable having the freedom to engineer climate sensitivity to this degree. You can always try to use the magnitude of the warming over the past century itself to constrain cloud feedback, but this gets convolved with estimates of aerosol forcing and internal variability. Ideally we would like to constrain cloud feedbacks in other ways so as to bring these other constraints to bear on the attribution of the observed warming.”

    I love me some consensus

  262. Eli,

    How about trapping any reference to Wotts so it does not sully this fine blog.

    It’s a term of endearment, apparently 🙂

  263. Steven,
    That would be a bit of a strawman, right?

  264. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “Now I don’t know about you, but I think it is bad for climate policy that US Congress has a majority against”

    Which raises the question of why Richard is on the academic advisory council of the GWPF who appear oppose action on climate change in the UK. Perhaps Richard is hoping to advise them to support reductions of fossil fuel emissions? Perhaps being against climate policy is bad in the US but good in the UK. What a confusing topic this must be! ;o)

  265. Dikran,
    If Richard is part of the GWPF’s Advisory council so that he can encourage them to support emission reductions, he’s doing a particularly bad job.

  266. BBD says:

    Steven,
    That would be a bit of a strawman, right?

    Not his first on this thread.

  267. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Direct cloud scale observations of these small changes in the condensation efficiency…”

    I don’t see anything here that argues against the sort of consensus discussed on this thread, so the models are not perfect (they never are, they are models) and there isn’t complete agreement on how to make them better (if there were there would not be competing groups making their own models). Climatologists can agree on the big picture (it is warming, it is because of us, climate sensitivity is in more or less the range given in the IPCC WG1 report) without having to agree on every detail. I am not sure what point Steve was trying to make, perhaps he could clarify?

  268. Michael 2… “Assuming that you are 100 percent correct, you are right and everyone else is varying degrees of wrong, what do you propose, and what are the consequences of your proposal?”

    I’m supposing your question somehow pertains to what would come of consensus deniers doing their own consensus research. Since there have been numerous studies giving the same result so far, one could easily assume, if someone who denies there is a scientific consensus were to actually take the time to read through a significant number of peer reviewed papers, rate them for their level of agreement with the IPCC position on AGW, they would come up with results similar to Cook13. And if they took the addition measure to validate their results by getting the papers authors to also rate their papers, those results would match their own.

    So, what would come of that? Well… I would hope they could then accept the results of their own research.

  269. Michael 2… “I hope you can see the orthogonality of science versus papers. Science measures physical things, counting papers is a different kind of thing being measured: Whatever it takes to get published, that is what is being counted and measured.”

    I also hope that you understand that consensus is a fundamental aspect of science. Without consensus each and every research paper would have to start from first principles. Measuring the level of consensus is every bit as much about measuring something as any other element of science.

    There is no “science vs papers.” If you do science and don’t write a paper, no one knows about the science. Science and papers are part and parcel.

  270. Joshua says:

    Peter –

    How’s it going?

    ==> Joshua, I am curious- as a person (myself) who took Kahan’s Southeast Florida sea level rise adaptation claims at face value what you think about Larry Hamilton’s data showing incredibly strong polarization around climate topics when neither consensus nor causation are mentioned.

    I would like to see Larry’s data reconciled with Dan’s, because I think that they are inconsistent with each other in some ways. I’ve posted some of Larry’s stuff over at Dan’s blog. Dan complemented Dan’s work, and also said that Larry’s data need to be viewed in the context of being from one state only (which, of course, is a legitimate point although I am not persuaded that the reconciliation of the contradiction is that his own data are more robust due to characteristics of the sampling such as sample size, national representativeness, etc.).

    ==> the striking failure of the Kahanian model to grapple with the huge liberal consensus gap in so many surveys, all the while he’s claiming that the consensus message is both saturated and polarizing.

    Keep in mind that I don’t see how Dan derives his confidence that “consensus-messaging” increases the polarization to any significant degree. I get the basic logic that (1) he has evidence that it is a polarized concept (supported by his data that asking people if there is a “consensus’ is more polarized than asking people what climate scientists have to say about sea level change, etc), and (2) that if someone is presented with material that they find identity-threatening, they are likely to become more polarized on the related issues. But I don’t think that means that the polarization he finds (specifically around the question of whether there is a “consensus”) is necessarily causal for the more general polarization. I think that (1) there are other, more plausible causes for that polarization and, (2) in the least, he hasn’t sufficiently substantiated the causal chain/attribution he asserts.

    I also don’t think that the public has been saturated with the message – but what’s interesting about that is that with as much as I’ve read people arguing about that issue, I haven’t seen that anyone has taken the time to actually measure the level of saturation. Saying that x% of people don’t think that there is a strong prevalence of shared opinion among climate scientists doesn’t necessarily imply that the same % have never heard “consensus-messaging,” or even that they haven’t heard it a lot. That, seems to me, to be a poorly reasoned conclusion (that some seem to make). In that sense, I think that Dan’s critique of the reverse-engineering that underlies the “deficit model” strategy – that more people would support climate change if more people heard about the “consensus” – is pretty important. What I think would be interesting would be to see how many people have heard “consensus-messaging” but underestimate the “consensus” nonetheless. And of course, a complicated issue there is that there is generally in most of these discussions a lack of specificity of exactly what the “consensus’ is – whether it is that the GHE is real, or whether it is that the current rate of climate change suggests a risk of dangerous climate change going forward, and that aCO2 emissions largely explanatory for the recent rate of change, or whether it is that given the physics of the GHE the energy budget is out of balance and that if we fail to take action that imbalance has the potential to result in dangerous climate change The problem with trying to measure a more specific “consensus” among the general public is that a relatively very few people even understand the issues well enough to provide a valid answer as to what they think the “consensus” is about.

  271. Joshua says:

    ==> I am not sure what point Steve was trying to make, perhaps he could clarify?

    Consider how well that type of request works with Richard Tol, and consider whether it’s likely to be more productive with Steven Mosher than it would be with Richard.

  272. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I’m beginning to think that you must have a very sophisticated moderation filter that weeds out comments that are verbose and lack conciseness. What else could explain why my comments wind up in moderation so frequently.

    Or maybe you’re just “censoring” me because my critiques are so devastating?

  273. Joshua… I’d guess ATTP is filtering for specific words or phrases. Maybe you’re just more adept at flushing them out.

  274. HarryWiggs says:

    “I’m beginning to think that you must have a very sophisticated moderation filter that weeds out comments that are verbose and lack conciseness.”

    You won the Internet with that one!

    Carry on, y’all, trying to scare Richie into actually abmitting errors. I know of at least 300 of them.

  275. KR says:

    Kahan’s “cultural cognition” argument is, IMO, really missing the point. Yes, there are folks with cultural cognition issues who reject the science, and who get upset when called on it by pointing out that (a) they are are tiny minority, and (b) the consensus view of science indicates that they are wrong. This may be due to ideological issues, such as free-market or libertarian beliefs, i.e. the desire to avoid regulation and ‘gubmint’ controls, by political orientation, by belief in their own cobwebby ideas about physics, or because it interferes with their paid lobbying efforts – it really doesn’t matter why.

    Those people are going to find the science upsetting no matter what happens, and are unlikely to be convinced by any rational means.

    However, due to the considerable publicity efforts of these few, whether it be think-tank publications (ramping up immensely over the last few decades), by media false balance and interviewing a matching loon every time a scientist is on TV (and so often the same loons, over and over again), and basically by introducing doubt, a significant part of the public who don’t suffer from those cultural cognition issues are deceived into believing that no consensus exists, that major questions about climate change are still unanswered.

    And that portion of the public has sufficient doubt instilled by the tiny percentage of the inconvincible that it distorts public policy – that public policy isn’t, contrary to just about every other issue, informed by the best information available from experts.

    Do the inconvincible get upset? Yes. So what??? The misinformed, when corrected, do not react with personal anger, they are simply informed.

    The fraction of people who are directly upset at having their cultural cognition demonstrated to be the Emperors new clothes are [a] unreachable, [b] far smaller than the percentage who are simply misinformed by them, and [c] only a tiny fraction of the population as a whole harmed by misinformed public policy. It’s a silly argument on Kahan’s part – he’s projecting the emotional issues of the inconvincible upon the population as a whole.

  276. Willard says:

    > Kahan’s “cultural cognition” argument is, IMO, really missing the point.

    It might be missing one point. It might also miss many points. But all the points?

    To me, Dan’s main point about “cultural cognition” (researchers find the darnednest buzzwords) is related to what Andy Skuce was underlining earlier: people hold their beliefs together.

    George Marshall already said the same thing. In fact, there’s nothing controversial about the idea. There’s nothing very innovative either.

    Cue to status competition.

  277. Michael 2 says:

    Rob Honeycutt wrote “I’m supposing your question somehow pertains to what would come of consensus deniers doing their own consensus research.”

    Not at all. Consensus deniers don’t care about the consensus. There is very little actual denial. I haven’t seen a link from you pointing to consensus denial. There’s some entertainment value knocking off a percentage point or two, get it off the magical prime number “97”. 96 just doesn’t have the same cachet.

    What I asked, which seemed clear enough to me, maybe someone could help with the wording, what do you want done? Suppose all “denial” ceased today and we groveled at your feet; saying, “oh mightly master, what shall we do?”

    So, what shall we do, if we (every human on earth) were to do what you want done? I suspect there’s no hope of that actually happening but I am hoping you have a goal in mind besides arguing with deniers (perhaps a reasonable goal all by itself as it sharpens your rhetorical skills).

  278. snarkrates says:

    Michael2,
    So it is acceptable to you to simply deny science?

  279. Michael 2 says:

    snarkrates writes “Michael2, So it is acceptable to you to simply deny science?”

    Maybe. I do not understand “acceptable”. I am libertarian (small L) which means whether you accept science is your choice to make, I am neither your ruler nor your judge.

    Neither is science “binary”; a thing that is accepted 100 percent or 0 percent. Some of it is rather esoteric and very much the subject of argument such as String Theory. Many PhD’s are passionately denying the science of other PhD’s while advancing their own.

    You mistake that very many people “deny science” and so this discussion is somewhat of a strawman argument. Dan Kahan’s argument seems to be that if you keep the discussion strictly on science, very few people will doubt, deny or object to its claims; but the moment you blow that “dog whistle” and invoke political theory you are likely to arouse opposition.

    So you go from nearly universal acceptance to some level of opposition. Why would you ever invoke something antagonistic? Well, obviously, it’s fun to be snarky; no?

  280. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua writes “What I think would be interesting would be to see how many people have heard consensus-messaging but underestimate the consensus nonetheless.”

    Or its importance.

  281. L Hamilton says:

    Joshua:
    “I would like to see Larry’s data reconciled with Dan’s, because I think that they are inconsistent with each other in some ways. I’ve posted some of Larry’s stuff over at Dan’s blog. Dan complemented Dan’s work, and also said that Larry’s data need to be viewed in the context of being from one state only (which, of course, is a legitimate point although I am not persuaded that the reconciliation of the contradiction is that his own data are more robust due to characteristics of the sampling such as sample size, national representativeness, etc.).”

    Just a quick note on that point: Representativeness is a good issue to raise, and one of the reasons (time and place variations being another) that we do so many replications. For example, here is the percentage who think that most scientists agree, humans are changing the climate — identical questions tracked on 8 New Hampshire and 2 nationwide surveys.

    Or for something different, here are percentages on the same question broken down by political party, on 6 separate surveys (1,000 interviews each, except 500 in Ketchikan) of coastal regions from southeast Alaska to the Florida Gulf Coast.

    In just the two images above (incidentally, they are an ATTP exclusive — I just drew them) we’re looking at 16 independent surveys.

  282. L Hamilton says:

    (I seem to have pasted links in the wrong places, my text above describes the 2 graphs in opposite order.)

  283. snarkrates says:

    Michael2, So the truth is simply a matter of personal preference for you? That’s not libertarianism, that’s nihilism.

    Reality is that which still has consequences even when you stop believing in it.

  284. @Rob H
    As you are no doubt aware, a majority in the House of Republicans and the Senate are opposed to climate policy. Perhaps the strategy should be win these people (and those who elect them) over to the climate side, rather than upset them?

    @others
    Note that others at the GWPF have argued for a carbon tax too — Mendelsohn and McKitrick for instance — while the Nigel Lawson had a hand in the dash for gas that cut UK CO2 emissions by quite a bit.

  285. Richard,
    I can just imagine it “alright everyone, quietly now ‘let’s have a carbon tax’. Okay, now that that’s over, what about some kind of enquiry into adjustments of temperature data, and let’s promote some stories from denialist blogs, oh and don’t forget that we must attack consensus studies”.

  286. Joshua says:

    ==> As you are no doubt aware, a majority in the House of Republicans and the Senate are opposed to climate policy. Perhaps the strategy should be win these people (and those who elect them) over to the climate side, rather than upset them?

    Indeed. Let’s focus on Inhofe first. Let’s just all agree that it’s a hoax. Then we can move on to Cruz; Agree that global warming has stopped.

    Let’s take up a collection to fund a bunch more of these:

    I would imagine with that done, we can all hold hands and look forward to the passage of a carbon tax.

  287. Eli Rabett says:

    No wotts is not a term of endearment, it is what is called bi tch slapping as in Democrat Party

  288. BBD says:

    Richard

    Perhaps the strategy should be win these people (and those who elect them) over to the climate side, rather than upset them?

    As a European, you should be aware of the pitfalls of appeasement.

  289. > [O]thers at the GWPF have argued for a carbon tax too — Mendelsohn and McKitrick for instance.

    Richie dear, I hope you can agree with me that McKitrick argued for a very specific kind of tax, argued for that tax before he was into GWPF stuff, and is not at the GWPF anymore.

    Thank you for your concerns.

  290. More status competition:

  291. Magma says:

    Perhaps the strategy should be win these people (and those who elect them) over to the climate side, rather than upset them? — R. Tol

    Sounds good. So shall we first bring the serial disinformers to account, once and for all?

  292. Michael 2 says:

    Magma writes “So shall we first bring the serial disinformers to account, once and for all?”

    We do that every day right here. What more did you have in mind?

  293. Michael 2 says:

    snarkrates writes “Michael2, So the truth is simply a matter of personal preference for you? That’s not libertarianism, that’s nihilism.”

    It’s neither. You are describing narcissism. Truth with a little t is also known as a “factoid”, some bit of information, usually trivial, and part of a larger effort whose intentions are likely varied.

    “Reality is that which still has consequences even when you stop believing in it.”

    That’s a pretty good description. Did you create it? If so, well done; if not, well done for remembering it.
    Philip K. Dick – Wikiquote. Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

    Still, just being pedantic, I suggest that physical consequences attend reality. When a person stops believing in something imaginary (or which you consider to be imaginary) consequences still follow. Belief is a powerful modulator of behavior.

  294. Joshua says:

    ==> we find robust and replicated evidence that communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change leads to significant and substantial changes in perceived scientific agreement among conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike.

    Ha. The plot thickens (no pun intended).

    So does that change from 4.57 to 4.81 really equate to “substantial” (given that the meaningful change would be if more people thought that global warming is mostly caused by human activity)? I assume that the “significant” means statistically speaking, but is that change of @5% towards accepting AGW as predominating really substantial, especially considering that the test was done in a controlled environment with tightly-controlled “messaging” and devoid of any of the real-world political overtones of most “messaging” media and extracted from the counterbalancing effects of any potential real-world counter-messaging?

  295. @willard
    You beat me to it. There is indeed a group of credible psychologists who have data that show the exact opposite of Kahan.

  296. Eli,
    Yes, I realise. I wasn’t really taking Richard seriously 🙂

  297. Dan apparently thinks the new studies is misleading.

  298. the test was done in a controlled environment with tightly-controlled “messaging” and devoid of any of the real-world political overtones of most “messaging” media and extracted from the counterbalancing effects of any potential real-world counter-messaging?

    Isn’t that kind of the point though? In the absence of other factors, consensus messaging is effective. I must admit that Dan’s response to this is similar to what I’d expect on WUWT or BH. I might be reluctant to make such an insulting comparison, but since Dan seems quite comfortable doing so, I’m not.

  299. guthrie says:

    The obvious question is, how do you win people who are vehemently opposed to the actual science and any method of dealing with climate change over to your side?

    I know that some forms of Christianity have been involved in some of it, by appealing to the thing about being stewards of the earth. I recall too that various ID-Creationists have lost their belief in it through being repeatedly exposed to the facts of evolution and sometimes some mockery. However I don’t recall hearing of any important creationists turning away from it, only the rank and file.

    Maybe Richard is a deep cover agent at the GWPF whose mission it is to slowly persuade the influential people inside it that climate change is a real problem and something should be done about it.

  300. snarkrates says:

    Michael2: “Truth with a little t is also known as a “factoid”, some bit of information, usually trivial, and part of a larger effort whose intentions are likely varied. ”

    To some of us, the only difference between Truth and truth is that the former occurs at the beginning of a sentence. Truth is truth. And a truth that affects society’s ability to feed, clothe house and care for the 10-12 billion people who will be on the planet when Earth’s human population crests some time this century is hardly trivial.

    As to the quote, the formulation is my own. It is a combination of the quote by Dick and the dictum in anthropology that “what you believe is true is true in its consequences.”

    Physical reality is not negotiable.

  301. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    It does seem to me that Dan makes a legit point about the scale of the effect. His rhetoric in making that point seems gratuitous and counterproductive from a good-faith communication stsandpoint.

    As you pointed out, that seems rather ironic given the larger context of Dan’s position on polarizing and toxic communication strategies. I can only assume that he has decided that adding to the toxicity doesn’t make a material difference if you are antagonizing people who you’re already in disagreement with. Kind of like what I’ve been telling him is something he overlooks in his conclusion about the impact of “consensus-messaging,” although I guess he could argue that there is a difference of scale in that he’s only deliberately antagonizing a relatively select group of people.

    Anyway, I have never noticed there to be a dearth of irony in the “climat-o-sphere.”

  302. Joshua,

    It does seem to me that Dan makes a legit point about the scale of the effect.

    Maybe, but there’s a difference between “not very big” and “toxic and damaging”.

    I can only assume that he has decided that adding to the toxicity doesn’t make a material difference if you are antagonizing people who you’re already in disagreement with.

    Quite possibly, but that’s the point that many who have been defending consensus messaging have been making with regards to his point about it being toxic/damaging.

  303. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> Isn’t that kind of the point though?

    It’s not the point that I think is meaningful. IMO, the meaningful question is what is the impact of “consensus-messaging” in the real world. Although it generates a shit-ton of noise in the “climate-o-sphere,” my guess is that in the real world, the impact is negligible, in contrast to what Dan and “consensus-messengers” have to say.

  304. Joshua says:

    perhaps even a metric shit-ton.

  305. my guess is that in the real world, the impact is negligible, in contrast to what Dan and “consensus-messengers” have to say.

    Possibly, which returns me to the key point I was making in this post: that there is a strong consensus wrt AGW is essentially true.

  306. Willard says:

    > You beat me to it. There is indeed a group of credible psychologists […]

    Thank you, Richie. Let me remind you your expertise rule, which makes you an expertise expert in Judy’s expertise angelology:

    [W]hen it comes to interpreting psychology, I’d go with a doctor in psychology first […]

  307. Pingback: Consensus messaging – a follow up | …and Then There's Physics

  308. Michael 2 says:

    guthrie wrote: “I don’t recall hearing of any important creationists turning away from it, only the rank and file.”

    Ignore “important creationists”; I suspect you seek 51 percent of a democratically elected legislature. The important creationist has just one vote and so do each of the rank and file. The important creationists got that way by sticking to their message even if they don’t actually believe it. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but they cannot change without destroying themselves because they have made it part of their own identity.

  309. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP writes “In the absence of other factors, consensus messaging is effective.”

    Indeed. Nine out of ten doctors agree!
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NineOutOfTenDoctorsAgree

    But it’s a shotgun with limited range. Churches meet every 7th day because otherwise the message begins to fade and even on message, you still have to “aim” the shotgun. Persuading 9 out of 10 Americans that 9 out of 10 scientists of any kind agree on whatever science they happen to be studying isn’t exactly new news.

  310. MartinM says:

    So does that change from 4.57 to 4.81 really equate to “substantial” (given that the meaningful change would be if more people thought that global warming is mostly caused by human activity)?

    “Significant and substantial” refers to the change in perceived consensus, not to belief in climate change.

    As for the rest of the paper, the conclusion is basically that informing people of the 97% scientific consensus increases a) their belief that global warming is happening, b) their belief that it’s caused by humans, and c) their degree of worry about it, each by about 0.2-0.25 points on a 7-point scale. The degree to which that’s important is, of course, a judgement call. IMO, Kahan’s asinine Fox News comparison has more to do with the fact that a positive effect on conservatives, important or not, blows his argument that consensus messaging is toxic out of the water.

  311. Joshua says:

    Martin –

    ==> “Significant and substantial” refers to the change in perceived consensus, not to belief in climate change.

    Thanks.

  312. Joshua says:

    Martin –

    ==> IMO, Kahan’s asinine Fox News comparison has more to do with…

    Dan has (indirectly) provided something of a rationale for his comparison to Fox News (n answering a question of why he focuses on “bad work”) in the comments of his latest post. I’ve asked him to address some of my criticisms of his rational further down in the comment thread. My Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good.”

  313. Interesting that Dan Kahan objects to studies using only subjects from New Hampshire. Then he will surely understand that I object to him only studying people from the USA. Seen world wide the largest contrast is between the USA (and Australia) and the rest of the world.

    Without a model on effective communication that works in the entire world, how am I to trust an argument that is based on correlation (more difference of opinion between Dem and Rep for more educated people)? There are so many other things that also change with education. It can easily be a spurious correlation. Without a model that fits more generally, I am not very convinced by statistics without “physics”.

  314. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard Tol wrote “Note that others at the GWPF have argued for a carbon tax too — Mendelsohn and McKitrick for instance”

    Are they arguing for a carbon tax that is towards the high end of the spectrum of proposals, or towards the low end?

  315. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    Didn’t object to Larry’s work. Not in the least. He noted that sampling from one state may be less generalizable than his own sampling. That is a reasonable point.

    IIRC, he has discussed the limitation of his work as the result of sampling limited to the U.S….but IMO doesn’t consistently consider that limitation when drawing implications about how his work generalizes (FWIW, I have posted many comments at his site about how national or ethnic culture might interact with cultural cognition, but I can’t recall that he ever had much to say in response).

  316. Richard… “Perhaps the strategy should be win these people (and those who elect them) over to the climate side, rather than upset them?”

    You seem to be suggesting that we coddle people’s ignorance as a strategy to ‘win them over’ and that seems like a cynical approach.

    To borrow from MLK once again I’ll paraphrase by saying, the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward truth.

    I do not believe we help anyone by protecting them from the reality of what is happening, regardless of how they feel about it. My position remains, I believe the facts that inform our collective wisdom will ultimately prevail.

  317. Michael 2 says:

    Rob Honeycutt writes: “I do not believe we help anyone by protecting them from the reality of what is happening, regardless of how they feel about it.”

    Agreed. Where we perhaps differ is in what we believe is happening. Many things are happening. To stop one thing from happening you produce a different happening. It may be that some people are more comfortable with the current happening than your proposed replacement happening.

    Either way, people ought to disclose their preferred happenings.

    As to the “reality of what is happening”, I propose using real data, be you so lucky to have some of that. The nearest I can come to it has obviously been touched.
    http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9439040

    * What is happening with the price of gasoline? (Affects the price of nearly everything).
    * What is happening in the middle east? (Affects the price of gasoline).
    * What are the Russians doing?
    * What are asteroids doing?
    * What are rich people doing?
    * What are poor people doing?
    * What are you doing?

  318. Pingback: "C'est moi, Catherine Deneuve"? - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  319. Pingback: Consensus messaging – again | …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