Ending the antagonistic climate debate

I wanted to write another post about the recent paper by Sharman and Howarth that considers why climate scientists and skeptical voices participate in the climate debate? This is partly because Reich suggested that maybe there is something to learn from it, which is almost always true.

However, I do want to promote Michael Tobis’s post that very nicely describes why the public understanding of science community betrays the climate. It’s always possible that physical/natural scientists don’t understand what is being presented in other fields. However, I do think that if one field is going to study another, there is merit in them understanding why some might have issues with what they present.

Anyway, back to the paper in question. I did reread it and some of it is indeed interesting. In particular, the sections on perceptions of a dominant other and debate participation and framing are worth reading. However, since I want to keep this reasonably short I just want to make a couple of personal observations about their discussions and conclusions. For example, the paper says

CSs were acutely aware, and often made uncomfortable by, recognition that much debate centred on policy disagreement rather than the science itself. If the actor-subject interaction in public discourse were to be renegotiated (i.e. politicians debating policies rather than CSs, or CSs actively choosing to debate the policy implications of their research), it may reduce the exhaustive nature of the debate where dead-end arguments are being held precisely because they do not make explicit what is actually being debated….

Absolutely. In my experience this is indeed a major obstacle. Many discussions do indeed seem to confuse policy with science. The problem, though, is that it seems virtually impossible to avoid this. Even explicit attempts to stick, for example, to discussing science, invariably end up with one party invoking Climategate, Michael Mann, Al Gore, the intermittency of renewables, or something else that is largely unrelated to the science specifically. If all parties could indeed define what it is they’re discussing, and aim to stick to that, it would indeed improve the tenor of the debate. I doubt that this is possible and my cynical side suspects that this is more a feature than a bug.

The paper also says

This research also shows that whereas inevitable differences of worldview exist, greater commonalities also exist than may be acknowledged in public forums. Building on cultural interpretations of the many different understandings of climate change, we suggest that a focus on potential overlaps between underlying (and/or manifestly expressed) rationales behind climate opinions may encourage constructive discussion even with actors who had previously engaged in purposefully antagonistic exchange.

Well, yes, I suspect this is true. Most of those involved publicly seem to have similar levels of education, and seem to come from countries with similar levels of development and similar cultures. It is no great surprise that many of those involved have much in common. I doubt that my general values differ greatly from those with whom I’ve argued. I also doubt, however, that pointing this out would make much difference. It seems quite common for one side to define the values of those on the other side simply of the basis of whether or not they accept mainstream climate science. Pointing out that their judgement is almost certainly wrong, typically makes absolutely no difference. Concern about climate change does not mean a lack of concern about poverty, hunger, world health, future economic growth,…… but try pointing that out to someone who has just claimed that it does.

So, there are some interesting comments and discussions in the paper. Before I started engaging in this topic I would probably have agreed with much of what was suggested. Now, however, I think it’s unrealistic and maybe a little naive. I don’t think there is really much desire to reduce the level of antagonism. As I think I may have said before, if people really wanted to improve the standard of the debate, it wouldn’t be all that hard. Simply stop maligning and insulting everyone with whom you disagree. Find some positives, even if you do regard much of what they say as wrong. Be a little less confrontational. Basically, try to behave as you would if you were talking face-to-face. I certainly don’t always succeed in this regard, but it is still a goal; one I often fail to achieve. My guess, however, is that many have no interest in doing so and that the antagonism is a feature, rather than a bug.

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72 Responses to Ending the antagonistic climate debate

  1. Steve Marshall says:

    Is it not the problem that the deniers have sought to keep the debate about doubting the science rather than accepting the science and debating the policy? In doing so they refuse to find common ground and stifle any meaningful conversation about either.

  2. Is it not the problem that the deniers have sought to keep the debate about doubting the science rather than accepting the science and debating the policy?

    That’s certainly my impression. You do regularly here people argue that we should focus on policy and I largely agree. The problem is that it seems a good deal harder than some would have you believe.

  3. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Most of the “debate” is nothing more than a propaganda war where objectivity is always the first casualty. As long as there are people with deep-seated polictical beliefs that all solutions to mitigating manmade climate change are just a means to a nefarious end, the “debate” will continue. Scratch a climate science denier and you will find an idealogue.

  4. Typically arguments in the on-line ‘climate debate’ start when…

    1) …a climate ‘skeptic’ posts something that distorts the facts, spreads untruths or generally misrepresents climate science. When corrected—however gently/nicely—abuse of one sort or another is returned by the ‘skeptic’ side and the ‘debate’ escalates.

    2) …a climate scientist or activist posts factually-correct climate information. Climate ‘skeptics’ respond with distortions, untruths or accusations. When corrected—however gently/nicely—abuse of one sort of another is returned by the ‘skeptic’ side and the ‘debate’ escalates.

    Can someone enlighten me as to how climate scientists and activists are supposed to handle things differently to prevent the escalation? Keeping quiet is not an option, so—as far as I can see—any response is bound to provoke. Is there anyone out there we can look to as a role model who has mastered the art of countering propaganda, without upsetting skeptics?

  5. Vinny Burgoo says:

    johnrussell40, what do you hope to achieve by commenting on blogs like these? Keeping quiet IS an option, so what are you up to? Honest question, as Polar used to say.

  6. @VB

    Discussing tactics. More seriously I learn a lot by asking questions and hearing what others think about things in which I’m interested. And by ‘interested’ I mean both meanings of the word

  7. T-rev says:

    >Can someone enlighten me as to how climate scientists and activists are supposed to handle things differently to prevent the escalation? Keeping quiet is not an option, so—as far as I can see—any response is bound to provoke.

    Why engage ? No amount of recitation of the science will convince a genuine denier, it only reinforces their belief and if cornered, they retreat into conspiracies ie the data has been fudged etc. You’ll end up being nothing but frustrated. What’s the endgame of engaging anyway ? It’s like a Monty Python knights sketch.

    That aside, I find the behavior of those who say they accept or understand the science and the subsequent need to mitigate be the most bizarre. If you do, how do you justify continued high emissions ? The reason I here proffered most is 1. my individual emissions don’t matter or 2. self importance eg I must tell the rest of the world of this dire issue and to do that I must emit prodigiously. Actions matter, It’s like hitting your partner and advocating against domestic violence, there’s a reason no one takes Al Gore or Leonardo deCaprio etal seriously.

    Emissions are the problem, deniers make up a small, albeit noisy minority and have become convenient scapegoats. We will never get any emissions reductions until we start reducing emissions, we seem to have forgotten this. Queueing to do the right thing, all the while trying to get to the back of the line so we don’t have to be first, seems unjustifiable behavior on the face of it.

    Anyone emitting more than about 2t of CO2 is the problem, they are the ones who should be made to, ‘please explain’, for their poor behaviour.

  8. There are different constituencies, and the vocal CVs (I am here using Willard’s alternative designation: Contrarian Voices) are really quite a marginalised one. If it were not for the fact that Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch, and other powerful people in the media give them column inches to give voice to their contrarianism, then it probably would be best to ignore them. Like the naughty child in school who is given lots of attention when being naughty, and the result is escalating naughtiness.

    But in the real world, how relevant are they?

    In the UK at least, in the Commons, when there are debates on climate and energy, yes you do get the odd contrarian but there is a generally a civil debate and most Conservatives, Labour, LibDems, etc. accept the science and the debate IS about how to respond to it. Ok, the rules of the House are not the rules of the Blogosphere, but even so …

    Here is an example:
    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/backbench-business-committee/news-parliament-2015/mps-debate-the-preparations-for-the-paris-climate-change-conference/

  9. MikeH says:

    “Why engage ? No amount of recitation of the science will convince a genuine denier, …”

    True. But engaging is not about attempting to change the mind of denier who is extremely unlikely to change, it is to prevent the misinformation from spreading to bystanders and other participants who form a much larger group and who may be addressing the issue for the first time or may simply not have enough science to be inoculated against the misinformation.

    I try never allow a piece of climate science misinformation directed at the public to stand unchallenged if I have the opportunity to correct it. I try doing it politely but IMO snark is ok when you are dealing with a repeat hardcore climate “skeptic”. The more important thing is to provide correct information and context.

    On the broader point, I cannot recall a situation in history where significant social or political change has been achieved on the basis of polite debate alone. Why would we expect anything different now? The climate “skeptics” are not going to fade away – they need to be thoroughly defeated politically given that the science debate is largely a proxy for the underlying political fight over ending the use of fossil fuels. How that can be achieved is probably outside the bounds of a science blog.

  10. Brandon Gates says:

    MikeH,

    I try never allow a piece of climate science misinformation directed at the public to stand unchallenged if I have the opportunity to correct it.

    Me as well. At the same time, I understand the “why bother” sentiments expressed by others all too well because it is a frustrating and generally thankless activity which typically does not yield any clearly visible success. I have to prevail on the personal satisfaction of “winning” according to my own judgement and/or hope that some undecided lurker was swayed toward reality by my rebuttal. Neither are substantially satisfactory over the long run.

    Why would we expect anything different now?

    Exactly. A sufficiently motivated political opponent is ALWAYS going to be able and willing to find a way to attack a position they don’t like. I know this because I operate the same way. Even though I believe that my overall position is superior — based as it is on sound theory backed by multiple converging lines of empirical evidence — I’m not always on the soundest footing for any given argument. But that does not stop me from pressing my case.

  11. Russell says:

    What Nassim Taleb blogged last week seems germane to the Cimate Wars :

    March 9 at 7:44am ·
    “What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against… that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

    With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
    Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. I have shown that most of what Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types call “rational” or “irrational” comes from misunderstanding of probability theory.”

  12. dikranmarsupial says:

    “As I think I may have said before, if people really wanted to improve the standard of the debate, it wouldn’t be all that hard. Simply stop maligning and insulting everyone with whom you disagree”

    Sadly I don’t think it is that simple. Ferdinand Engelbeen (himself a skeptic) has been tireless in trying to address the misunderstandings that cause people to think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is a natural phenomenon. He has steadfastly avoided maligning or insulting anybody, regardless of the provocation, in a most impressive manner. Has it changed the standard of discussion of this topic on skeptic blogs? Sadly, the answer is “no”. Are people polite to Ferdinand? Again, no, they tend to be rude and dismissive. I try to stick to the science and to avoid maligning and insulting people, but often fail (being only human), but Ferdinand shows that this approach actually doesn’t improve the standard of the debate. I suspect he has a bigger effect on the lurkers who are not actively participating in the discussion.

    The real problem is that it is hard to keep your cool in a scientific discussion if your interlocutor repeatedly violates the conventions of scientific discussion (e.g. giving straight answers to direct questions and not using scientific objections as a front for avoiding the real issues). Mike Hulme’s book on “Why we disagree about climate” is a good summary of the real issues, and it is a pity “we” don’t spend more time discussing them (I say “we” as I am not that interested in discussing them, but it is where the public discussion does need to focus more attention).

    My own approach to improving the standard of discussion is to ask direct questions that hopefully clarify my interlocutor’s position (generally about what I see as being a key weakness in it). Now if they have a good answer to the question, then I have given them an open goal to shoot at, and helped them to make their case convincingly if they have one, and the discussion will make progress. If they engage in evasion instead, then they make it clear that they know perfectly well that they have no substantive answer, but are not interested in admitting it. I see no problem in pointing this out, as this signals that the discussion is likely to go nowhere for reasons not of your causing (recognising that is, I suppose, progress of a sort). If someone asks me a question, I generally do my best to answer them (I’m still only human), but I have noticed that asking direct questions is actually quite unusual in blog discussions, which tend to be mostly making assertions (which is possibly why there is so much talking past eachother).

  13. Sadly I don’t think it is that simple. Ferdinand Engelbeen (himself a skeptic) has been tireless in trying to address the misunderstandings that cause people to think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is a natural phenomenon. He has steadfastly avoided maligning or insulting anybody, regardless of the provocation, in a most impressive manner.

    Yes, indeed. Ferdinand has an impressive ability to remain polite and on topic.

    Has it changed the standard of discussion of this topic on skeptic blogs? Sadly, the answer is “no”. Are people polite to Ferdinand? Again, no, they tend to be rude and dismissive.

    Sure, but that’s still kind of my point. If the other parties were genuinely interested in a less antagonistic debate they could choose to behave more reasonably. That they are rude and dismissive to one of the most polite people who engages in this topic rather shows that they have little interest in a less antagonistic debate.

  14. dikranmarsupial says:

    Yes, it requires a commitment from both sides, and can’t be done unilaterally, which basically means it won’t happen. I suspect the discussion would be more civil if conducted face to face (e.g. at conferences or “bridge building dinners”), but then again written discussions give a greater opportunity for considered questions and responses which some of us (i.e. myself) find more difficult to do “off the cuff”, so it is a pity the opportunity is so often wasted.

  15. @T-Rev: “why engage…?”

    Sigh. Because, like a drug addict, humanity is engaged in long term self-abuse and I care about future generations. As I’ve said numerous times on previous posts, propaganda must not be allowed to propagate. The aim is not to change the minds of those who seek to spread denial—that’s a hopeless task—but so uninformed onlookers (surely the majority?) can see that untruths will be challenged and inaccurate information will be countered by the scientific evidence.

  16. Yes, it requires a commitment from both sides, and can’t be done unilaterally, which basically means it won’t happen.

    Yes, exactly.

    I suspect the discussion would be more civil if conducted face to face

    Probably, although there are certain people who I would struggle to be polite to were I to meet them face-to-face 🙂

  17. As I’ve said numerous times on previous posts, propaganda must not be allowed to propagate.

    Agreed. I’ve heard some argue that some of what is promoted is so obviously wrong that it should be ignored. I don’t really agree as it isn’t always obvious to all that it is obviously wrong.

    The aim is not to change the minds of those who seek to spread denial—that’s a hopeless task—but so uninformed onlookers (surely the majority?) can see that untruths will be challenged and inaccurate information will be countered by the scientific evidence.

    Indeed, there are some who will continue to spout nonsense despite all the evidence to the contrary. They are beyond help.

  18. paulski0 says:

    Interesting segment on This American Life this week about an antagonistic debate in microcosm, over the public use of a beach populated by seals.

    I suspect the discussion would be more civil if conducted face to face

    The TAL segment suggests that’s not a given.

  19. Pete Best says:

    Put simply, you only have to influence those people that matter rather than the entire electorate for example. Therefore looking at the current state of US politics, there has been some movement from a democratic side but the republican side is an almost impossible nut to crack and denial appears to be the central position.

    From what I can ascertain from the current central position and the recent Paris meeting, there is momentum to do something about global warming but there are also lots of other issues preventing an easy transition to zero carbon energy sources.

    Lets all argue about that instead of the science which is mainly settled in terms of it not being a good idea to continue pumping out lots of carbon into the atmosphere.

  20. Put simply, you only have to influence those people that matter rather than the entire electorate for example.

    Indeed. There seems to be some kind of assumption that the various factions should make up, but that isn’t obvious. I suspect that the “skeptical voices” are actually quite few but are somewhat over-presented in the media. Although I don’t object to improving the dialogue, it’s not obvious that it should be a goal. We don’t need to convince the prominent “skeptical voices”, we just need to convince a sufficient fraction of everyone else.

  21. JCH says:

    The pause was most real in its manifestation in public and media and political opinion, and in that place the pause is still not dead.

  22. Pete Best says:

    I don’t think climate change is covered much at all in the mainstream media any more. We have already agreed to change our ways via the miracle of the techno fix, namely that we can deploy technologies that already exist (electricity based ones mainly) and hey presto in 20 years time we will have mitigated our emissions enough to avoid 2C. However considering that no one knows exactly what needs to be done but solar and wind features highly but electricity only makes up 20% of global energy usage so the other 80% will have to wait until negative energy technologies (the miracle of the techno fix once again) can be deployed.

    So here is what I am saying regarding media equivalence on the matter even though science does not work this way. We cant work out a way of mitigating our emissions enough for us to avoid significant impacts but we can deny it or even worse ignore it. You see we could reduce our emissions but that’s a bad idea apparently.

  23. Put simply, you only have to influence those people that matter rather than the entire electorate for example.

    That’s what I used to think, but then as I watched politicians over my lifetime I realised that they rarely actually lead. They respond to the needs and wants of the electorate, especially at election times.

    Many necessary changes to mitigate climate change will be unpopular. A carbon tax, for example, will put up the price of a tank full of fossil fuel for the car. People are vocal and come out in droves when pump prices rise because the immediate impact trumps long term negative effects. Politicians will only adopt climate mitigating policies when people demand them.

    Making ordinary people realise the problems society is building up for their children is a vital activity for anyone who cares about climate.

  24. John Hartz says:

    Pete Best:

    I don’t think climate change is covered much at all in the mainstream media any more.

    As the person responsible for populating the Skeptical Science Facebook page with links to media articles and for compiling the Skeptical Science News Roundup, I disagree with your assessment. There has been a definite uptick in media coverage of manmade climate change in the past couple of years. The problem is that the general public has/is focused on other issues.

  25. John Hartz says:

    There are two separate discussions going on here. The first is the “debate” (propaganda war) between climate science wonks and climate science deniers. The second is the general public’s response to what mainstream climate scientists are telling us about manmade climate change.

    With respect to the second, there are numerous psychological reasons why the general public has a difficult time embracing what sicnetists are telling us.

  26. Willard says:

    > what do you hope to achieve by commenting on blogs like these?

    Good question, Vinny.

    You go first.

  27. OPatrick says:

    Sometimes politeness will be a form of false balance. I would say it is important to be consistent, and to treat ideas that deserve contempt with the contempt they deserve (that is, not just ideas that are wrong, which could be due to a genuine misunderstanding, but ones that continue to be expressed even after sufficient evidence has been presented for the person propagating them to be expected to know they are wrong).

    If the ‘uninformed onlookers’ see someone responding consistently and politely to what appear to be reasonable points, then responding with contempt to other apparently reasonable points, they should understand that this is a good reason to believe those points are not, in fact,reasonable.

  28. Lars Karlsson says:

    dikranmarsupial: “I suspect the discussion would be more civil if conducted face to face”

    I trump you with a Trump!

  29. John Hartz says:

    O’Patrick: I have yet to see any statistics that show how many ‘uninformed onlookers’ acually read comment threads. I supect they are few and far between.

  30. @John Hartz

    By definition it’s impossible to know. I suspect more than you think.

    At some point every ‘uninformed onlooker’ eventually will want to inform themselves. If they find climate science posts followed by reams of ‘skeptic’ comments, they might start to think there something behind the ‘skepticism’. If they find, at least, an equal weight of counter-comments pointing out the factual errors and distortions in the ‘skeptic’ comments, they should then understand the nature of the climate debate, and be able to work out where the truth lies.

  31. John Hartz says:

    John Russell: We’re lucky if the average person takes the time to read the entire OP, much less the comments that follow. Regardless, posting on comment threads is probably one of the least efficient ways of communicating with the general public.

  32. John Hartz says:

    Willard:

    Good question, Vinny.

    You go first.

    My version:

    Begone!

  33. John Hartz says:

    Willard:

    Better yet: Get thee to a nunnery!

  34. Let’s not chase somewhat regular commenters away, especially those who at least abide by the moderation policies 🙂

  35. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. 🙂

    (I was an altar boy back in the days when the Mass was still said in Latin.)

  36. Windchaser says:

    That they are rude and dismissive to one of the most polite people who engages in this topic rather shows that they have little interest in a less antagonistic debate.

    Thinking about this, my past experience is that if you ask skeptics why they’re antagonistic, they’ll say that warmists are antagonistic towards them. If you point out that you’re being polite right now, they’ll refer to the media, politicians, or even to the policy prescriptions as being antagonistic.

    So maybe you aren’t being antagonistic to them, but in their mind, that’s no reason for them to not be antagonistic back.

    Put another way, they feel beset upon. They feel attacked, threatened.

    One of first things I noticed when I first went to WUWT was a constant theme of fear and emotion. The government is coming, they’re lying to you, they’re trying to take your money, they’re trying to destroy America and what makes us great. After being in the dry scientific literature for years, WUWT felt like a wave of raw emotive power.

    In the end, I don’t think it’s about intellect or facts. The skeptics are antagonistic because this is an emotional debate for them, not a logical one. And as long as they’re afraid that those damn libruls are going to ruin their way of life, they’re going to see you as the enemy, and they won’t feel any need to be civil.

  37. Pete Best says:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/16/surge-in-renewable-energy-stalls-world-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    We have apparently decoupled carbon emissions from growth for the second year running but China and USA offsets have been picked up by other countries keeping emissions the same two year running. So now we have managed to stop emissions from growing, the next issue is to reduce emissions whilst we grow.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/16/surge-in-renewable-energy-stalls-world-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    It looks like we are covering GW less to me

  38. BBD says:

    The Graun is gushing again.

  39. mwgrant says:

    “Ending the antagonistic climate debate”

    No need to. Events will over take it.

  40. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    If you really wanted to end the “antagonistic climate debate”, you would shut down this website post haste. 🙂

  41. People keep telling me that 😉

  42. mwgrant,
    Quite possibly, but I don’t see that as necessarily a good thing.

  43. Andrew dodds says:

    Mwgrant –

    Or possibly not. Will there ever be a point where change will be so dramatic on a year to year basis that it is unavoidable? The signal would have to dominate year to year variation.

  44. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Thanks ATTIP,

    ” I don’t think there is really much desire to reduce the level of antagonism.”

    It’s part of the campaign, i.e. deliberate (not that all on the other side know having simply been riled up by those that know).

  45. mwgrant says:

    aTTP

    “Quite possibly, but I don’t see that as necessarily a good thing.”

    I more than agree. I did not suggest that it would be a good thing. To me events overtaking debate clearly would be a bad thing. If that occurs that would mean we forfeited any rational decision-making (and implementation) on the issue. Nor does it mean that we may not have already wasted too much time and run through a critical point as I believe some have suggested.

    Andrew

    “Will there ever be a point where change will be so dramatic on a year to year basis that it is unavoidable?”

    Probably not and I suspect we will continue the antagonistic debate.

    People spent time like its passage is a free pass–it isn’t in the context of assessing risks. Time is paramount in any balanced assessment (IMO) of all of the strategies and attendant risks.

  46. Brandon Gates says:

    Andrew dodds,

    The signal would have to dominate year to year variation.

    To put that into perspective, I come up with 1.25 doublings of CO2 per year required. I got there by computing the annual trend of net surface fluxes taken from the NCAR/NCEP reanalysis over 1948-2015, obtaining a rate of 0.08 W m^-2 yr^-1. The 2-sigma deviation of the residual between the trend prediction less the annual mean value is 4.64 W/m^2. Assuming 3.7 W/m^2 forcing for every doubling of CO2 gives a ratio of 1.25.

    Not the most robust result to be sure. For one thing, it doesn’t account for uncertainty in the reanalysis data, and latent heat flux in particular has large excursions from the trend.

  47. @BBD

    As the Keeling Curve you show indicates and NOAA report, there was a 3ppm rise in 2015 …
    http://www.noaa.gov/record-annual-increase-carbon-dioxide-observed-mauna-loa-2015

    At the same time, IEA report a levelling of carbon emissions …
    http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2016/march/decoupling-of-global-emissions-and-economic-growth-confirmed.html

    Does anyone know of work that will answer these questions: Is this a reduction in the balance between the level of CO2 take-up in the oceans (and other carbon sinks), and that which remains in the atmosphere? Is this likely to be part of a trend?

  48. Richard,
    My understanding is that the year-to-year variability is too great for us to really know if this is part of a trend, or not. On the other hand, if we continue to emit as we are (or even faster) then we do expect the airborne fraction to increase.

  49. dikranmarsupial says:

    windchaser wrote “Thinking about this, my past experience is that if you ask skeptics why they’re antagonistic, they’ll say that warmists are antagonistic towards them.”

    I suspect it is more that they don’t want a calm, rational discussion of the science because they know they won’t “win” (really the aim shouldn’t be to “win” but to get as close to the truth as possible), and hence an antagonistic rhetorical debate suits them better; they are simply choosing their battlefield.

  50. JCH says:

    This spike is almost certainly due in substantial part to the ongoing El Niño event, which is a fleeting effect that increases carbon dioxide concentrations temporarily,” Mann said. “Carbon dioxide concentrations are a lagging indicator, and they don’t accurately reflect recent trends in the more important variable — our actual carbon emissions.”

  51. Joshua says:

    ==> I don’t think there is really much desire to reduce the level of antagonism.

    For many, the antagonism is rather the point. Identity-aggressive and identity-defensive behaviors are, as they say, a feature not a bug.

  52. BBD says:

    Looking at the Keeling curve I see no evidence of any ‘decoupling’ of growth from emissions or of any leveling off in the rate of increase. The likeliest explanation (and one that I believe is widely accepted) is that the emissions estimates submitted by individual nations are inaccurate and the IEA figures are not especially reliable. Hence my preference for the actual atmospheric concentration data.

  53. andrew adams says:

    It suits people opposed to action on climate change for it to be seen as a “controversial” subject – it helps muddy the waters and make the case for action seem less clear cut to the uninitiated. If the debate is heated and antagonistic it’s easy to portray it as a controversial subject and it can also put off laymen who might be tempted to get involved and understand the rights and wrongs of the issue – instead some will just assume that the truth must be somewhere in the middle. So in that sense the antagonism is, as Joshua says, a feature not a bug.

  54. andrew adams says:

    Contrast the climate debate with the EU referendum debate – there you have on the one hand one side warning of the dangers of a certain course of action and another side, led by right wing newspapers, commentators and think tanks, accusing them of scaremongering and saying that everything will be fine because, well, reasons.

    Oh.

  55. andrew adams says:

    Relatedly

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-eurosceptics-climate-change-sceptics-55-tufton-street-westminster-a6866021.html

    “The former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson is one of the key figures at 55 Tufton Street, after he moved his climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation to the premises.”

    “This puts the foundation in the same building as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the bullishly effective low-tax pressure group whose founder Matthew Elliott is now masterminding the Brexit campaign Vote Leave – which has just appointed Lord Lawson as chairman.”

  56. BBD says:

    Oh it’s a small world, isn’t it?

  57. Magma says:

    Off-topic, except in the broadest sense, the world’s largest coal miner is on the brink of bankruptcy after failing to meet a scheduled loan payment. Peabody Energy looks set to join the other four largest American coal companies that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the last two years.

    Note that this does not mean that mining operations will stop, although particularly unprofitable mines may be shut down. However the implications for large institutional investors, lenders and financiers are clear… coal is a dangerous investment and a fine way to turn mountains of cash into worthless ash.

  58. John Hartz says:

    Fracking’s contribution to CO2 emissions quantified…

    Well now respected environmental journalist Geffrey Lean, writing in the Independent, reports on another down-side of the fracking boom: The rise of carbon-intensive infrastructure and industries which all have a climatic impact.

    He reports “fracking is set to lead to a sharp rise in emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases, newly undermining industry and government claims that shale gas is a relatively clean fuel that can help combat global warming, an authoritative new study reveals.”

    The new study, entitled, “Greenhouse Gases from a Growing Petrochemical Industry” was led by a former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Civil Enforcement, who now heads the Environmental Integrity Project.

    The study concludes that cheap shale gas is encouraging the development of other energy-intensive infrastructure and industries which in turn produce vast amounts of carbon dioxide.

    If you add up the emissions of CO2 from LNG storage and processing plants, new fertiliser projects, new chemical plants and refineries in the US, this comes to almost 86 million tons a year of CO2.

    The report concludes this is equivalent to 19 coal-fired power plants.

    Lean concludes: “The new study strikes another blow at the strategy of both the US and British governments to rely on shale gas as a relatively clean ‘bridge’ from dirty fossil fuels to non-polluting renewable sources”.

    As NASA releases climate “bombshell”, more questions raised over fracking’s climatic impact by Andy Rowell, Oil Change International, Mar 14, 2016

  59. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Social science mostly views the climate change ‘debate’ as a collision between physical science and the views of a subset of non-scientists who, labelled in various ways, none of them positive, disagree with the policy choices of other non-scientists who cite physical science in support of their preferred policy options. A daft dichotomy. Science vs policy activists.

    But that daft dichotomy is out there and is dominant. This being so, isn’t it about time that social science had a proper, academic look at those other non-scientists who cite physical science in support for their preferred policy options?

    Y’know, all those celebrities and big-name charities and SkS groupies who say that (sometimes misrepresented) science says we should do such and such?

    Don’t they deserve their own Sharman, Howarth, Lewandowsky, whomever?

  60. A daft dichotomy. Science vs policy activists.

    Yes, but I don’t think the scientists involved are specifically trying to fight policy activists; I think they’re trying to engage the public/policy makers with the science.

    This being so, isn’t it about time that social science had a proper, academic look at those other non-scientists who cite physical science in support for their preferred policy options?

    Maybe they can’t see anything all that interesting coming from it: “group of people in democracy have policy views and general justify them on the basis of a reasonable interpretation of the available evidence. They don’t invoke conspiracies or claim some kind of world-wide fraud by relevant experts.”

  61. BBD says:

    Vinnie with a particularly desperate attempt at false equivalence there.

  62. John Hartz says:

    BBD: Don’t be too harsh on Vinnie. He does, afterall, provide comic relief to what otherwise might be a rather stodgy discussion. (Perhaps this is why royalty invented court jesters during the Medieval Warm Period.)

  63. Brandon Gates says:

    ‘Tis a fuzzy line ‘tween Jester and Fool.

  64. I’ve been reading Dark Money by Jane Mayer. You can, I think, get free material on the subject from The New Yorker, where she published her first work on the subject (was it 2009?) and continues to recently “Who Sponsored the Hate”:
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/who-sponsored-the-hate
    Here’s another of many:
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/koch-pledge-tied-to-congressional-climate-inaction

    I started reading the section on climate last night and thought I would bang out one of the items in the chapter about fossil resistance and put it here.

    Rubert Brulle, a Drexel University professor of sociology and environment, discovered that between 2003 and 2010 over half a billion dollars was spent on what he described as a massive “campaign to manipulate and mislead the public about the threat posed by climate change.” The study examined the tax records of more than a hundred nonprofit organizations engaged in challenging the prevailing science on global warming. What it found was, in essence, a corporate lobbying campaign disguised as a tax-exempt philanthropic endeavor. Some 140 conservative foundations funded the campaign … During the seven-year period he studied, these foundations distributed $558 million in the form of 5,299 grants to 91 different nonprofit organizations. The money went to think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations, other foundations, and academic and legal programs. Cumulatively, this private network waged a permanent campaign to undermine Americans’ faith in climate science and to defeat any effort to regulate carbon emissions.

    …. Among those he pinpointed as the largest bankrollers of climate change denial were foundations affiliated with the Koch and Scaife families, both of whose fortunes derived partly from oil. Also heavily involved were the Bradley Foundation and several others associated with hugely wealthy families participating in the Koch donor summits. …. Brulle found that as the money was dispersed, 3/4 of the funds from these and other sources … were untraceable.

    [Another little mentioned oil magnate active in these activities is Philip Anschutz.]

    You may find much more about this, and the evolution into ever more secrecy with Donors Trust and all, in depth, in John Mashey’s work, featured at DeSmog blog.

    My plea, which may bore and/or be off topic at times, is that we not underestimate the deep pocketed dishonesty and power of this campaign. Many arguers may be innocent victims of this, and one might hope they might become more curious about the very real depth of science and simplicity of the basic physics that underlie the material they seem unwilling to accept.

  65. Kestrel27 says:

    Susan Anderson: this coming from the side that routinely claims that contrarians are conspiracy theorists?! I wouldn’t claim that those working in green industries amount to a conspiracy but they are certainly a powerful vested interest; their livelihoods depend on politicians continuing to spend on policies to counteract climate change.

    Incidentally, with reference to Geoffrey Lean and his blast against fracking, does anyone know what emissions result from the manufacture, transport and erection of wind turbines? Genuine query.

  66. Russell says:

    Susan ought not to underestimate the appetite for power and the capacity for dishonesty of the politically passionate .

    Last week Nassim Taleb put the Climate Wars in context thus :

    “What we are seeing worldwide,… is the rebellion against… that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us
    1) what to do,
    2) what to eat,
    3) how to speak,
    4) how to think… and
    5) who to vote for.”

    Trump is not the only Authority figure on offer.

  67. Marco says:

    “Incidentally, with reference to Geoffrey Lean and his blast against fracking, does anyone know what emissions result from the manufacture, transport and erection of wind turbines? Genuine query.”

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources

  68. verytallguy says:

    coming from the side that routinely claims that contrarians are conspiracy theorists?

    Pick any contrarian website. Count the comments claiming fraud, political motivation or similar. Then tell me contrarians aren’t conspiracy theorists.

  69. snarkrates says:

    Kestrel27 (aka the 27th person who thought “Kestrel” would be a neat and original screen name),
    We are all vested interests. However, there are vested interests who are trying to make the world sustainable and those who are trying merely to line their pockets as they rape the planet. The latter find it convenient to align with conspiracy theorists and other loons, as these have demonstrated their gullibility. The former have no need to.

  70. Kestrel27 says:

    Marco: thank you for the reference – much appreciated.

    verytallguy: my point was not that there are no conspiracy theorists on the contrarian side but that they evidently thrive on the consensus side as well.

  71. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy “tell me contrarians aren’t conspiracy theorists.”

    I would but I suspect there’s a tautology involved, one is part of the definition of the other. Conspiracy theorists of any kind tend to be contrarians with regard to the source of the conspiracy. That is to say, if you were part of the conspiracy (or employed by a government or corporation), you are a keeper of the secrets. If you dislike those secrets then you will probably not only be not employed by possessors of secrets but you might oppose them.

    Contrarians tend to be conspiracy theorists because otherwise you would not be sensitive to (or care about) cabals, governments, or a secret corporation laboratory hoarding the exact recipe for Coca Cola, and so on.

    The Left is uniquely entertaining for its opposition to conspiracies (Occupy Wall Street comes to mind), their awareness of conspiracies (Exxon or Koch Brothers), while at the same time pointing a finger denouncing other people for being conspiracy theorists. The object seems to be to denounce other people and use whatever fancy words might stick.

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