Manufactured doubt and made-up science of climate denialists

Merchants of Doubt they are. Climate denialists warp and concoct their own faulty science to counteract well-accepted methods and conclusions. Are they making headway? It’s hard to say but there are many who will NEVER accept global climate change because they simply refuse out of ignorance.

Climate Skeptic Groups Launch Global Anti-Science Campaign – Bloomberg.

Conservative groups at the forefront of global warming skepticism are doubling down on trying to discredit the next big report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In recent weeks, they’ve been cranking out a stream of op-eds, blogs and reports to sow doubt in the public’s mind before the report is published, with no end in sight.

“The goal is to inform the public, scientific community and media that the upcoming IPCC report doesn’t have all the science to make informed judgments,” said Jim Lakely, a spokesman for the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Chicago that has been spearheading the efforts.

The fifth assessment by the IPCC, the world’s leading scientific advisory body on global warming, is expected to conclude with at least 95 percent certainty that human activities have caused most of earth’s temperature rise since 1950, and will continue to do so in the future. That’s up from a confidence level of 90 percent in 2007, the year the last assessment came out. The IPCC, which consists of thousands of scientists and reviewers from more than 100 countries, shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Al Gore. Governments often use its periodic reviews of climate risks to set targets for reducing carbon emissions and other policies.

To try to shape coverage of the findings, the Heartland Institute released a 1,200-page report on Wednesday by the provocatively titled Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The 10-year-old coalition of “nongovernment scientists and scholars” disputes the reality of man-made climate change.

The new report, Climate Change Reconsidered II, “uses layman’s language to present solid evidence that today’s climate changes are well within the bounds of natural variability,” according to Robert Carter, a former marine geologist at Australia’s James Cook University and a consultant to climate skeptic groups.

Heartland Institute ran a billboard campaign last year comparing climate change believers to “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski and several corporate donors withdrew support for the group. Fossil fuel companies still fund this cause. They still hang on the gimmick of “uncertainty” and that the claims of global warming are being exaggerated. See how they appeal with JUST enough cherry picked science (and paid for results) to make it sound respectable. It’s not. It’s unethical and it’s not science.

  20 comments for “Manufactured doubt and made-up science of climate denialists

  1. RDW
    September 22, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    If we placed huge solar arrays in orbit in strategic places around the globe, we could both block some of the sunlight from hitting the surface, and store or transmit energy back to Earth. If we had available energy waiting for us in space, we wouldn’t have to haul it up there in the form of fuel. Co2 emissions would matter less, and we might not be caught off guard if a comet or asteroid were to pop up suddenly that could potentially destroy much of the life on the planet.

  2. spookyparadigm
    September 22, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it – Upton Sinclair

  3. Carol
    September 22, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    OK, I feel like this is a really dumb question, but here it is — could someone explain why conservatives don’t want to believe in global warming? Thanks.

  4. September 22, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    Carol, as its been explained to me conservatives are largely fundamentalist Christians or at least dependant on their votes. If global warming is admitted as real then it means mere human beings can change Yahweh’s ‘perfect’ creation – yes, I know that our planet isn’t perfect but they can’t admit that.

  5. Lisa Barth
    September 22, 2013 at 8:47 PM

    I have never really understood that either, that in the US, it seems as if global warming is mostly a political issue & not one that affects the world, & I wonder if it is the same in other countries. I mean there are many countries,unlike the US, that are island nations ( & some parts of the US are islands). It doesn’t make sense that those countries would be bickering about it.

  6. spookyparadigm
    September 22, 2013 at 9:27 PM


    1. For reasons including Texas, there has been a long alliance between oil companies and the corporate wing of the American right. The international and especially pollution issues (never minding AGW for the moment, let’s just talk oil spills and related issues) regarding oil companies have also led to an even closer alliance with the anti-regulation policies of the corporate wing of the American right.

    1a. Coal and Appalachia. Even with the long and proud history of organized labor in coal country, criticisms of fossils fuels can easily be spun into Coastal elites attacking the working class, and the threat of entire communities being wiped out by mine closures.

    2. Ecology grew up squarely in the universities, and I’d wager especially in the state universities, of the 1960s. Which were ground zero for the Baby Boomer counter culture. This alone gives some conservatives reason to treat criticism of ecology like a shibboleth.

    3. I know there are some arguments as above about the idea that Creation can’t be harmed by humans, etc.. And I’m sure there is some truth to that. But I think climate science is a casualty of the larger conservative cultural war on “elites” and the learning that gives them their supposed prestige and power (because professors just make so much money and have tv shows and are the true idols and heroes of our society after all).

    If you go back to the 1950s, the stereotype of the Republican was that he was a business minded small-c conservative with maybe even some progressive social values. Heck, even into the early 1990s, you had some GOP that were concerned about climate change (just as the current hated Obamacare started life as a GOP creation at that time). Many of the more socially conservative politicians in America were in fact Democrats, specifically on the issue of segregation and race more generally.

    This was an artifact of the Civil War and the formation of the Republican party largely as an abolitionist party and the party of Reconstruction. During the 20th century these positions shifted a little, with the major change coming with FDR’s transformation of his party into the New Deal alliance of populist labor with the remnants of the old Democratic party (the Dixiecrats as they were colloquially called). But with the alliance with labor, a smart move in the Depression that probably saved the US from violent revolution, came closer ties to the American left, and particularly its social left associated with academia. This schism came to a head after WWII, when the Democrat alliance started to fracture regionally (Northeast and California liberals vs. Dixiecrats), and was sealed with the election of Kennedy and then the subsequent signing of the Civil Rights Act by Johnson. Civil rights was a huge issue for Johnson, but he did state that by winning that battle, he lost the South for the DNC for a generation, and that’s exactly what happened. The Solid South stayed solid in most elections (recent changes in North Carolina and Florida have been largely due to migration from the Northeast), but it switched from the DNC to the GOP, and Nixon (an example of the old progressive but business-oriented Republican, remember he created the EPA, opened China, and give the paleoconservatives fits with his economic policies) encouraged this with his race-baiting Southern Strategy.

    I tell this potted history because it is necessary to understand how the South, and its evangelical religion and social conservatism and anti-urban-elite sentiments, captured the GOP. In particular, it did so in the midst of a seismic shift in American religiosity, with the former mainline churches (socially moderate, non-literalist in their theology, associated more with urban areas, think WASPy Episcopals and other churches such as Methodists and Lutherans) that held a lot of influence in American culture, gave way to a blossoming of religiosity in two directions. On the one hand, a small but influential number of more liberal Americans left the mainline churches and Christianity generally for other faiths or other personal blends of faith. And on the right, literalist fundamentalist churches, including the rise of the televangelists and the megachurches bringing a whole subculture and cottage industry (and eventually industry) with them, picked up a lot of people dismayed by the events of the second half of the twentieth century, including rapid social value changes, economic changes (the entrance of women into a greater number of more prestigious jobs, and the decline of manufacturing are definitely factors in this equation), and I think particularly the atomic age and the Cold War (it isn’t hard to fault people for thinking of the End Times when the two biggest countries in the world spent trillions of dollars to make it possible with nearly the same convenience as ordering a pizza).

    So with the confluence of events, you have a region of the country that has a long history of religious social conservatism, and that just went through a decade of conflict with the rest of the country over segregation (including in some cases federal troops being deployed to enforce the law, with the echoes of the Civil War), poised as the biggest prize in American politics. The party that was already starting to be on the outs with academia, home of science in America during the era of Big Federal Science and Education spending (this history gets really complicated with the history of radical politics, the red scare, and so on, but is important, see the history of the neocons for more information), and that was more in tune with corporate concerns over regulation including the new environmental regulations, grabbed that prize, and with it, a powerful anti-elite sentiment that spread to being increasingly anti-science.

    There is research on this, including some studies cited on Doubtful News, on how partisan identity will color reaction to science and conspiracy ideas, both of which I’d argue largely are about populist anti-elitism. At this point, these issues are largely shibboleths, and aren’t examined so much as they are simply re-inforced within echo chambers. It’s why Creationism is constantly being pushed for on school boards and state legislation. Yes, there are theological and cultural reasons religious conservatives in America oppose Creationism. But a lot of it just has to do with an inferiority complex, and sticking it to the elites (see the infamous quote to that effect in the Texas school standards fight, in which the dentist that led the Creationist and historical revisionist charge openly decried that they had heard too much from experts). This is also one reason why actual politicians have a much greater leadership role in the liberal side of American culture, while conservatives look to entertainers and conspiracy theorists for their leadership, which then has the knock-on effect of one party largely keeping conspiracy theory and antiscience out of the political arena, while the other is more receptive to it.

  7. Chris Howard
    September 22, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Yeah, what spooky said. ;-)

  8. Carol
    September 22, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    Thanks, folks, for the feedback on my question! Spookyparadigm, I plan to bookmark this page and read your reply several more times to take it all in. Thanks so much for the history and the context lesson!

  9. One Eyed Jack
    September 22, 2013 at 10:22 PM


    What you propose is one of many ideas, however it has some very large problems to implementation.

    First, the cost of lifting materials into earth orbit is currently around $10,000/kg. In addition to the panels you will need microwave broadcasters to send the energy to the surface and booster engines to periodically compensate for orbit decay. Second, solar efficiency is still low. The best commercial cells are around 30% and the best research is just approaching 45%. Last, it would take a tremendous number of arrays to have any noticeable effect on the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface.

    I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying it can’t be done now.

  10. spookyparadigm
    September 22, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    Please remember, the above is just my take on things, off the cuff. I am probably woefully ignorant of a lot of more nuanced history here. But I will defend the basics above, in part because anyone stepping back and looking at the political trajectory since 1973 can plainly see it.

  11. Patrick
    September 22, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    When talking about how conservatives reject climate science, remember that lots of liberals reject science, too. Just different science. Conservatives have climate and evolution; liberals have GMOs and vaccines. Yes, these are generalizations, but generally accurate. Chris Mooney says conservatives are worse. Perhaps. They all bug me, though.

  12. Katherine Moyd
    September 23, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    Another reason for some conservatives not to want to believe in climate change is that they are opposed to any regulation of the economy.

  13. spookyparadigm
    September 23, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    Patrick, how many elected officials and politicos with real power (aka money and pull, not Bill Maher) in the Democratic party have problems with the science of GMOs or vaccines (something I’ll note is just as much an issue on the far right).

    Now, how many GOP elected officials have problems with climate and biological science? A hell of a lot of them.

    That’s the difference. To suggest they are at all the same on this is false equivalence.

  14. spookyparadigm
    September 23, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    I get that people want to try and by politic (and not political) about this sort of thing.

    That’s exactly why we’re in so much trouble. Because we ignore the uncomfortable facts.

  15. Blargh
    September 23, 2013 at 3:28 AM

    Patrick: antivax idiocy is politically neutral.

    As for GMOs, that’s an issue that’s a heck of a lot more nuanced than something you can just be pro or con.

  16. September 23, 2013 at 5:40 AM

    Surely it’s possible to look at this situation a little more simply. Some groups are bound to play down the idea of climate change, as are others likely to exaggerate what is currently known about it. That is the nature of man, it is in the material interest of both groups to act that way. Everything has ’causes’.

    Is climate change on the way? Certainly, the climate is continually changing.

    How fast and how severe will it be? We are not sure yet. At some point in time it seems likely, if not certain, that all the world’s current sea-level cities will become uninhabitable. We don’t know if that will be a hundred years from now or thousands of years away, when those cities will have changed anyway.

    Is global warming man made? Undoubtedly in the last 250 years, with the arrival of industry and the massive rise in population, humans have had an impact. We don’t know if this is a major recent cause or just one of many contributory ones. We do know that our species have only been around for 200 thousand years (the arbitrary date that scientists have given for our transition from proto-humans to homo sapiens), and we are aware that the climate has been continually changing long before we arrived.

    Can we, and will we, do anything about climate change? Humankind are the most adaptable and innovative of all animals, so we are likely to survive. We cannot say more than that.

    We have never wilfully been able to change anything in the past and that situation remains. We are creatures of evolution like all other forms of life, there is little point in worrying about it (if we are able not to do so).

  17. spookyparadigm
    September 23, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    There is a lot of anger or weird annoyance in the comments on the Chris Mooney post linked by Blargh. What the hell? I can understand the argument that “Bigfoot skepticism” is a waste of effort. I don’t agree, but I can see the logic. But who thinks fighting antivaxx is a waste of time? What the hell do they think is so much more important (I’m guessing climate change, and for all the people criticizing Mooney’s inability to properly communicate the science on that, no one in the climate change “debate” should be praising their successes there).

  18. spookyparadigm
    September 23, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Michael, the 200,000 date is not arbitrary. Based on bones (which go back to about 160,000), yes, that’s arbitrary. But the 200,000 date comes from study of mtDNA, and the estimate of when the last time everyone alive as a human today (or a sample of them) shared a single common ancestor. With more testing, this is liable to change (and I’ve heard of an individual who might push it back closer to 350,000, but I don’t know how that work has fared since I first heard about it). But that’s a fairly understandable boundary to make, of the sort we can’t do with transitional fossils.

  19. September 23, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    I’m not trying to argue, but I do want to say just a couple of things. First, I am not trying to be politic (I’m *assuming* that comment was at least in part directed my way). You don’t know me, but that’s the last thing I care about. I don’t take offense easily, and I assume others don’t, until they prove otherwise. Second, I recognize that anti-vax is across the ideological spectrum, though I see how my comment could be construed otherwise. I was just trying to make the point that lots of my liberal friends have this idea they are science-driven, but they oppose science they don’t like, while criticizing conservatives for doing the same thing.

    Third, I”m not sure I see how the science of GMOs is more nuanced than any of the other things being talked about here. There have been billions of tons of GMO corn eaten, with no evidence of harm. Some argument could be made about any science topic — that’s what makes it interesting — and I see no reason to single out GMOs as somehow more nuanced than anything else. We know with a high degree of confidence that GMOs are safe. That’s the provisional conclusion, as certain as the provisional conclusions about vaccines or climate change, and that’s the best we are going to get.

    And finally, it seems correct to say that right-wingers are more vocal about their anti-science. But it was liberals who, for example, created NCCAM. And it’s liberals, starting with the president, who are not aggressively pursuing an agenda to take action on climate change. So I am not convinced that the equivalency is so false. It could be argued that liberals are just biding their time, or something along those lines, but for practical purposes, not taking action is not much better than preaching against action.

  20. neko
    September 25, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    “I’m not trying to argue, but I do want to say just a couple of things.”

    Uh-huh. Right. Dude, it’s OK. saying that before you start presenting a continuing argument in the next paragraph is… well….

    It’s a comment section on a blog. A certain amount of arguing is not worth pretending you aren’t doing. As long as you are sincere and civil, I figure it’s all good.

    “Third, I”m not sure I see how the science of GMOs is more nuanced than any of the other things being talked about here.”

    Well, I don’t think anyone would deny that on this board. The questions about GMOs are outside of science, like “Should we be able to patent DNA?”, “Should a company be able to sue a farmer for patent infringement or demand payment if he plants grain of mixed heritage?”

    These are probably ( don’t want to put words in people’s mouth. ) the nuanced questions they mean.

    For that matter, you better check out itunes lately.

    I was listening to a libertarian podcast the other day when they were all nattering on about GMOs and how they are raising survivalist organic chickens in their anarcho-capitalist victory gardens in Florida and Kentucky.

    AIDS denialists, who are frequently right wingers, unlike the Pope, also usually have GMO hate.

    It’s not 1970 anymore, I don’t know that the eco thing is all on one side at this stage.

    “And it’s liberals, starting with the president, who are not aggressively pursuing an agenda to take action on climate change.”

    Wow. OK. I’m at a loss on that one.

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