Hot Stuff

Over in Australia, where the plague of special interest enmeshed AGW “truthers” has been just as bad, if not worse than the miserable corps we have here,* an impressive cross section of the Oz scientific community is actually making some noise.

At a new website (still in beta) called The Conversation, set up to be a unfiltered source of news and analysis from the Australian academic community, a group of Australian climate scientists are trying to do to climate “skeptics” (aka buffoons and/or grifters) what Bruins forward Brad Marchand did to  Daniel Sedin’s chin in Game Six.  In an open letter announcing the start of two weeks worth of demonstration that climate change is real, due to human activity, and amenable to certain kinds of action within our power if not our grasp.  They write:

The overwhelming scientific evidence tells us that human greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in climate changes that cannot be explained by natural causes.

Climate change is real, we are causing it, and it is happening right now.


Bam! Short, simple, clear and true.

They name and shame:

…Understandable economic insecurity and fear of radical change have been exploited by ideologues and vested interests to whip up ill-informed, populist rage, and climate scientists have become the punching bag of shock jocks and tabloid scribes.

Aided by a pervasive media culture that often considers peer-reviewed scientific evidence to be in need of “balance” by internet bloggers, this has enabled so-called “sceptics” to find a captive audience while largely escaping scrutiny.

Australians have been exposed to a phony public debate which is not remotely reflected in the scientific literature and community of experts.

And they make a promise:

For the next two weeks, our series of daily analyses will show how they can side-step the scientific literature and how they subvert normal peer review. They invariably ignore clear refutations of their arguments and continue to promote demonstrably false critiques.

We will show that “sceptics” often show little regard for truth and the critical procedures of the ethical conduct of science on which real skepticism is based.

And they’ve begun.  You can check out the series here.

Now, while I was born at night, it wasn’t last night, so I know that even sharply argued rational discourse won’t make a difference to the professional skeptics.  They’re in it for the money, and for the warm and fuzzies that come with comforting the comfortable.

The real targets of this kind of effort are the media, and through them, the mushy middle currently being persuaded by false information disseminated within a fake debate.

Anne Laurie wrote yesterday on the problem with that ambition:  that too many, in the US at least, have now crossed the line into territory where belief in the great secular-scientific conspiracy on AGW has entered the realm of religious commitment, of identity.  That’s territory in which argument has little or no pull; once it becomes a condition of one’s world view to affirm something false…counterarguments aren’t even heard.

She (and Tom Junod, who wrote the inciting essay at Esquire) may well be right.  But the triumph of (bad) faith over works in this field is recent, and not yet universal.

The long road back begins with both hard fact and sound reasoning, relayed over and over again — and the repetition, just as loud, just as often, of the counter meme, that those lying about global warming are doing so to line their own and their patrons pockets.

“Follow the money” ain’t dignified (or original).  But everyone, including true believers, understand what it means.

So, good on ya, my Aussie kin.  Let’s have more of this, and over here.

*For more on that point, let me puff a book I’ve touted before, Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.  They document how telling the “science can’t be sure/it’s just a theory” meme is a profitable business of long standing — if you have the conscience of a goat with IBS

Image:  J. M. W. Turner, The Angel, Standing in the Sun, 1846.

Explore posts in the same categories: climate, Climate follies, Data matter, Fundamentalisms, Journalism and its discontents

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4 Comments on “Hot Stuff”

  1. Lichanos Says:

    Look, I think I have credibility as a rational commenter who is certainly not the tool of the looney right – I voted for Gore and Obama! But this site you point to is very weak. What it does is recycle criticisms of the worst of the AGW critics, while uncritically peddling the softest of the AGW claims as demonstrated fact. It is an exercise in journalism at its worst, an effort to sway opinion with rhetoric, and has little to do with science. Naomi Oreskes is a perfect example of this, despite her Ph.D. [see

    For a very simple and powerful example of the rhetorical nature of this website, note only that the heading about geoengineering shows a nuclear mushroom cloud. How’s that for alarming!

    And on and on…The greenhouse effect is real – duh? Who doubts it? We are geoengineering the planet – that’s news? 5000 years of forest clearing for agriculture is a good place to start to investigate human effects on regional climate. Peer review? The IPCC recently admitted that it was using studies published by Greenpeace!

    There are a lot of right-wing libertarian kooks who make hay attacking the AGW point of view, but the IPCC and the NYTimes give them a lot of really good targets. Just parsing Andy Revkin’s blog – and he’s an intelligent and open minded fellow – can be an exercise in deconstruction of the ‘dominant discourse’ of AGW.

    You have to step back and immerse yourself in the really boring and tedious work of examining the statistical record and the model output. Your old book, Ice Time, made a lot of good points about the nature of ‘climate science,’ but you seem to have forgotten them.

  2. Lichanos Says:

    BTW, a lot of this peer review stuff is a red herring. Climate Science is an applied science. That is, it’s an amalgam of techniques and theories from physics and other disciplines. A geologist, a meteorologist, a hydrologist, or anyone trained in statistics is perfectly capable of making good points in this discussion. They don’t have to publish in “Climate Science.” Even an economist, good heavens, can contribute, although my favorite columnist, Paul Krugman, fails his own tests for rationality when he discusses AGW.

  3. AJ Hill Says:

    So peer review’s a “red herring”, apparently not relevant in “applied science” (as defined by Lichanos)? Silly me! I thought the scientific method had been well established by now as a generally valid intellectual tool.

    • Lichanos Says:

      Gads! Scientific method – good. Peer review – good. Peer review as an issue in this controversy, red herring. Except insofar as the review process has been corrupted.

      Clear enough?

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