Climate change scepticism

Lies, damned lies, and statistics – scepticism and denial

burning
Whichever way you look at it, it's getting hot in here.

There’s a world of difference between climate change scepticism and denial. The first is healthy, the second is often one-eyed, fanatical, or both. There are a number of things I don’t understand about the climate change denial industry:

Why do denialists have to be so obnoxious? They invariably use the same sarcastic, sneering tone that Richard Dawkins uses when reviling creationists in his best-selling books. Although I agree with Dawkins’ views on evolution, I suspect that his methods only serve to entrench the beliefs of those whom he belittles—he ends up preaching to the converted and loses an audience of potential converts. The same argument applies with the denial industry. If they have faith in their beliefs, why not state their truth calmly and lucidly and let the facts sway the skeptical?

Ian Wishhart’s recent book Air Con is a case in point. Sneering is the most apt adjective for the tone of the whole book. I tried to read the book in the hope of finding some insight into the denialist case. I was disappointed. After the first 3 or 4 chapters I’d had it with the half-truths, the interminable ramblings and the lies of omission; I gave up on it.

Where’s the problem?

As a denialist, is it not possible to accept that, even if you’re right, the actions promoted by anthropogenic climate change supporters would be good for the planet no matter what the global temperature graph looks like 20, 50 or 100 years on? Why not just get over it?

  • What’s wrong with replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources?
  • What’s wrong with denying the oil producers the wherewithal to continue to fund extremist Islam, anti-Western jihadist, and fanatical terrorist groups?
  • What’s wrong with reducing atmospheric pollution?
  • What’s to like about the coal industry?
  • What’s wrong with creating new hi-tech technologies, new green industries, and new clean jobs?
  • Who doesn’t want much more energy efficient cars. Which transfer the (reduced) pollution they generate from exhaust pipes to power plants far from choked city streets?

Most of all, how can you be so certain? Scratch the most prominent denialists and you’ll find that they’re doing very nicely out of it – like Bjørn Lomborg (a political scientist) with his money-making books and lecture circuit, or they’re like David Evans (a mathematician) who pads his résumé, or they’re working for big oil, or they’re just plain out-there, like the physicist at Auckland University who seemed to claim that the sun must be driving the change because it’s very big! Bjørn Lomborg on the BBC recently:

For me there’s no choice

Most of all I ask the denialists, “What if you’re wrong?” What will you tell your grand-children? If you’re right, it won’t matter too much, we’ll have made some overdue changes to the way things are done and my grandchildren will benefit.

If you’re wrong, and you succeed in sowing enough doubt, you could doom millions, maybe billions, to a far more apocalyptic outcome than would otherwise have been the case.

  • accepts that global warming is real,
  • that it’s man-made,
  • and it’s an important problem.

So he’s gone from denial to saying that we have more important things to worry about.

I’m not a climate scientist, I’m a retired engineer. My past income has depended upon my success in monitoring processes in thermodynamic systems and I can spot a trend as well as anybody.

When the denial industry tell me that the planet’s been cooling since 1998 I know that they’re either mistaken, can’t read a graph, they’re ignorant, or they’re lying. One El Niño induced anomalous year notwithstanding. That tired argument is particularly mystifying when one considers that the last decade is the warmest on record even though we’ve been in a low period of solar forcing for the latter part of it.

When they tell me that Arctic ice cover is increasing while they confuse extent with volume my eyes glaze over.

When the realities of Milankovitch Cycles are ignored and they equate cooling of Pluto with Earth’s climate I smell a very dead and decomposing rat.