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Climate conspiracy

I’ve been putting off working on this, but it’s been humming in the back of my mind for a while now, not the least reason being that everyone in the blogosphere seems to be talking about it.

The core of the issue at hand is climate change, and the ground that denialists have been gaining over the past 18 months. And the problem I have is, people are far too willing to suggest that every scientist in every country in the world that agrees that anthropogenic climate change is in the process of attempting to perpetrate the greatest conspiracy hoax ever, and has somehow been able to keep hundreds of thousands of people who are “in on it” quiet about the fact that it’s all a hoax, and all this supposedly for “money”.

And yet, there’s far more money in preventing humankind from moving off of petroleum while the oil companies have 99% of the Earths’ oil reserves under their control presently, and have tapped hardly any of it at all. So, conspirators at the top of the oil heap spread anti-science, and those with vested interests in defeating science (e.g., conservatives and religious leaders), as well as those that stand to make a lot of money off the perpetuation of current technology, become the “true believers” of the denialist movement and fight tooth and nail against the general scientific consensus that exists. And many, maybe most, of these people honestly believe that it is more likely that scientists are just trying to destroy the gravy train they’re riding on, than that scientists are presenting the facts in an unbiased manner and it just so happens to threaten said gravy train.

To be perfectly clear, I am using the term “denialist” as opposed to “skeptic” because skepticism is absolutely a good thing, and wholly justified. However, skeptics are swayed by science and evidence once said evidence is obtained — they do not pick a desired outcome and let selection bias do the rest of the cherry-picking work from there. When someone refuses to look at thousands upon thousands of papers based on publicly available data and well-founded and accepted scientific methods, and well-understood principles, choosing only those select few PhDs that disagree with the general consensus, that is not skepticism — that is cherry-picking, and is a hallmark of denialism.

When the CRU hack was perpetrated and thirteen years of e-mails were stolen, one single scandal was exposed involving a few scientists obfuscating their work in some attempt to put up roadblocks for the denialists that were using FOIA requests as harassment methods — which, don’t get me wrong, is the crux of the immorality. You need to respond to all FOIA requests whether spurious or used to eat resources as a denial-of-service attack or not. These scientists were immoral in doing so, no matter how spurious the requests were themselves.

Some code and a single e-mail were both drastically misinterpreted by the media as meaning scientists were cooking data (when in actuality they were attempting to compensate for the margin of error produced by using a proxy for temperature rather than the temperature itself). Denialists seized upon this revelation and went on the astroturf attack, Googling for anyone talking about it and flooding their comment threads with excoriation and accusations of “spin” and “cover-up”. Never mind that this one scandal, exposing one small group of scientists doing something unethical, was a tiny sliver of a fraction of the science on the topic, and never mind that other e-mails further on in the thread, BY OTHER SCIENTISTS, took these people to task for their lack of ethics. And never mind, while we’re at it, that the code in question with the “hide the decline” quote-mine, actually had said artificial-data-fudging commented out. That means, to laymen, the code was NOT BEING USED. As in, while they were massaging the data into something usable (which is scientifically valid), they temporarily used an artificial means of fixing an issue with the proxy data while they were doing so, and when they could, they reverted the code back to more sound methods.

And anyway, the data IS available, so others could verify their work. Being a denialist means never doing any work though — simply screaming at the top of your lungs to drown out the legitimate work at the merest hint of something untoward done by anyone on the other side of an argument. The truth of the matter is, scientists are human beings, and while you can call some science into question because of their immorality, you can’t deny ALL of science just because one person (or a small group of them) was immoral. Well… maybe you can. But that would be as stupidly uncritical and wrong as claiming there’s a vast conspiracy of scientists, all determined to, in unison, perpetrate fraud on the whole of humanity to sell a few books. Especially not when the climate books on the top-ten are mostly all climate denialism. Books like The Deniers. Or Red Hot Lies. Or Cool It. Or Global Warming False Alarm.

If this whole denialist movement seems familiar to you, there’s a good reason. It’s nearly identical to the anti-scientific disinformation campaign Phillip Morris undertook when cigarettes were discovered to cause cancer. And before you say it, yes, it’s a real campaign, and companies like ExxonMobil are deeply involved, as proven by leaked internal memos.

Despite the verifiable collusion between the industries that stand to lose out from switching off of fossil fuels as an energy source, one tiny scandal, wherein scientists did things that were derided by other scientists and said things that were easily misinterpreted as implying a massive scam, is inflated to the point where the sturm und drang far outpaces and out-volumes the side of the argument that STILL has all the science on their side. Meanwhile, our governments are blocking legitimate and merited action, scamming the people whose countries are going to be hit hardest by climate change, because they have the most to lose if they make any changes at all. It’s all economy (by which I mean, the economy of really cheap energy derived from fossil fuels) over sustainability (by which I mean, really cheap energy derived from geothermal, solar and wind power, which would only be really cheap if it got the kind of government backing that coal and oil does now). And honestly, it’s economy over humanity. Why change energy sources, when the people in power are making a bundle off the current ones? So what if some poor people in other countries die as a result! We can just deny the science and, when they die as a result of climate change, say “well, the science wasn’t adequate!” or “you scientists didn’t scream loudly enough!”

The worst part about this is, 99% of the denialists and all of the PROPER skeptics that remain unconvinced of AGW, suggest that the measures to be taken to reduce CO2 and the effects of burning fossil fuels, are all good ideas for the progress of science and sustainability. Yes, climatology is a confusing field and a very imprecise science, one that relies far too heavily on models that are potentially flawed. But when every flaw thus far in the models we’ve made show that we’ve been entirely too CONSERVATIVE in estimating the damage of global warming, and nobody is dissenting against getting off fossil fuels and pursuing future technology, why the living fuck is anyone screaming fraud about scientists “selling books” when oil barons selling oil are profiting at exponentially higher rates?

The fact that skeptics like James Randi do not “march in lockstep” and are skeptical by default is a good thing. He is a leader of the skeptics community, and it is his job to provide the example of “doubt the premise until the evidence is seen”. However, through the entire blog post he wrote on the topic, he explains that he is not one to believe in “scientific consensus” just because people say so, and that he did not look at much of the evidence himself. That some folks shouted him down for believing uncritically in the flawed “Petition Project” is a travesty, when all he said was that he suspected the project was valid. He obviously hadn’t seen the debunking of the project, and he has been in contact with other skeptics in the community and has said he needs to think about the subject more. He has every opportunity to educate himself and make an educated assessment as to whether there are billions of points of made-up data by hundreds of thousands of scientists to the end of selling some books and driving everyone toward technologies that by every rights we’re heading toward anyway, or if the people with a vested interest in keeping us all addicted to fossil fuels are loath to give up their gravy train and are obfuscating and using FUD tactics to keep that train on track just a little while longer. And I have faith that he will eventually look at the evidence and make a more educated decision. That doesn’t mean I want him to march in lockstep with everyone in the pro-science camp, just that I strongly suspect his admissions that he has a poor understanding of the science is the case, and that once he sees the evidence, he’ll see there’s precious little conspiracy there to begin with.

The point is, the evidence speaks for itself. Greenhouse gases are well understood for the past 150 years, some greenhouse gases are good because they keep warmth in, too much is bad because runaway greenhouse gases caused Venus to be what it is now, and CO2 is a greenhouse gas. And CO2 is demonstrably increasing far beyond the usual boom/bust cycle. The sun has been in a trough of sunspot activity for the past several years, and yet the planet is still warming despite claims that the warming is due to the sun. Denialists do not have any alternate explanations for the warming, some of them claiming it’s not warming at all, many (if not most) saying that it IS increasing but that AGW isn’t the cause, a scant few even saying “so what if AGW is true, warming will be GOOD for us!”. There is no unified alternative explanation for the evidence that has been obtained via numerous channels, both with proxy measurements of temperature (like those in the CRU hack case), and with DIRECT measurements of temperature, which are unimpeachable and largely ignored.

Watch some Thunderf00t for how off the wall the whole damn anti-AGW crusade has become over this hack. And weep with me for a humanity that refuses to do the right thing in pursuing future technology even when, whether AGW is true or not, the right thing is STILL the right thing.

Comments

  1. says

    Just as I finish and post this entry, I saw on the Global Atheist syndication that James Randi just updated his blog. I’m not going to edit my post, just add this comment as an addendum. Go check out I Am Not “Denying” Anything and see that I was right to defend Randi. (Of course I was! :D )

    I do not, and did not, deny the established fact — arrived at by extensive scientific research — that average global temperatures have increased by a bit less than one Celsius degree. My commentary was concerned with my amateur confusion about the myriad of natural phenomena that obviously bring about worldwide climate changes and whether we can properly assign the cause to anthropogenic influences. Yes, I’m aware of the massive release of energy — mostly heat — that we’ve produced by exhuming and burning oil, natural gas, and coal. We’ve also attacked forests and turned them into fuel by converting them into paper at further energy expense, paper that is also burned, in turn. My remarks, again, are directed at the complexity of determining whether this GW is anthropogenic or not. I do not deny that possibility. In fact, I accept it as quite probable. I remain respectful of science and its participants. I stand outside the walls of academe, in awe.

    And he finishes:

    I merely expressed my thoughts about the controversy, and I received a storm (no pun intended) of comments, many of which showed a lack of careful reading that led to unfair presumptions and interpretations. Will I do it again with other subjects? Without fail, I promise you. This is what human interaction is all about, what makes it important. I’ve shown that I can make observations on subjects barely within my understanding, while admitting my shortcomings, and provoke reactions that are interesting, constructive, and sometimes furious. That’s okay. Language is a means of expressing one’s thoughts and opinions without resorting to fisticuffs or worse. This encounter was bloodless, gentlemanly, and civilized.

    I am satisfied. And proven right.

  2. says

    I’ve yet to see anyone say that there isn’t a degree of global warming going on, however there are far too many who are leaping on the bandwagon that it’s all our fault and that’s just not justified based on the available data. Does man’s greenhouse gas emissions play some role? Probably. Is it the sole, or even the primary cause? Unlikely. The fact is, the planet goes through these cycles all the time, this is hardly the first and certainly not remotely the worst, temperature norms go up and down based on solar cycles and volcanic activity. They’ve been doing it long before we discovered fossil fuels, they’ll be doing long after we’ve moved on.

    Unfortunately, there are far too many people, especially on the left, who have turned global warming into almost a religion of sorts, not only do you have to admit it’s happening, you have to follow their gospel of human responsibility or you get excommunicated from their little club and they say lots of bad things about your intelligence. Randi followed the actual evidence and came to a different conclusion, it’s laughable to watch the global warming theists turn on one of their own just because he’s skeptical of the unwarranted conclusions to which they’ve been leaping.

    Guess it just goes to show you that even skepticism isn’t universal. Many of the people who claim to be skeptics about religion and pseudoscience are all too quick to embrace human-caused global warming unskeptically. I wish I could say I was surprised.

  3. says

    Sorry, Cephus, but I still think you’re wrong. While I recognize your point, that there are people on the far-right (Edit: oops, far-left) that just lap up dogma and treat the situation dogmatically, with Al Gore as their “prophet”, I cannot and do not accept your premise that Randi came to a different conclusion after looking at the evidence, especially not in light of his second post on the matter. Nor do I accept your premise that this is all just a conspiracy to whip up fear to sell books, not with books on the other side of the fence making much more money, and not with all the vested interests that stand to lose all sorts of money if they do not fight the scientific consensus.

  4. says

    A minor amendment — hardly worth mentioning — but cigarettes were discovered to cause cancer in people predisposed to lung cancer. It doesn’t give EVERYONE lung cancer, but it flips a switch in people that have that switch to begin with.

    Likewise, the bulk of the climate denialists’ argument is that models are computer-based and don’t account for everything in the climate. They’re right. Nor could they. They are abstractions, simplifications, made for the purpose of figuring out how bad things are if they stay on the track they’ve been observed to have over the past century.

    That some people take all this on faith is bad. But faith in the scientific method isn’t quite so terrible, not in light of the fact that not everyone can do primary source science themselves.

  5. says

    The problem is, I don’t know anyone who denies that the planet is in a current warming trend. What they deny is that human activity has a primary responsibility for that trend. Certainly it doesn’t appear so, the last decade has brought about pronounced cooling with absolutely no demonstrable change in greenhouse gases, things go up and down all the time, they’re trending up now, in the future they’ll trend down again and it won’t have much, if anything to do with what we pump into the atmosphere.

    The fact is, what’s happened this century isn’t any different than what’s happened in earlier centuries, we’re just here to leave detailed written records so we can tell in much more detail what’s been happening. That’s not the case in centuries past, they didn’t have weather stations that could give us the weather hour-by-hour over every inch of the planet. Just because they didn’t doesn’t mean that everything was always wonderful though, which seems to be what modern-day warming wingnuts seem to think. People need to take a step back and realize that what’s happening today isn’t unique, it isn’t new and it certainly isn’t worth running around like chickens with their heads cut off over. A rational person, a person who looks at the science in context, will realize that.

  6. says

    It certainly does, in fact, appear that since the industrial revolution we’ve put a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, enough to raise the PPM count to ~380. And CO2 doesn’t directly cause warming — it causes natural warming cycles caused by sunspot cycles and the Earth’s Milankovitch cycles to be amplified. That’s why when it was 180-220PPM, the natural warming cycle ended up causing an ice age, due to runaway cooling.

    We don’t have any way of figuring out what CO2 was in the past, you see. So, we have to use proxies like trees and ice cores, which of course don’t produce totally reliable measurements. They do, however, produce pretty good measurements when you take a lot of them and average them out, comparing them to known quantities and adjusting the “baselines” to calibrate what data we get out of the proxies against what we know the CO2 to have been in recent history.

    And the natural cycles of CO2, as you can see in the graph I linked above, range between 180ppm and 290ppm. They have never trended, in the 400,000 years we’ve been able to measure, above 300ppm. Yet here they are, at 380. And here we are, burning fossil fuels and trees, cutting trees down which act as natural carbon sinks, and overfishing our oceans, causing massive carbon sinks in the water to die out. We’re destroying the carbon sinks that serve as the Earth’s natural cycle driver, plus we’re taking sequestered carbon fuels and burning them, overwhelming the very sinks that we’re in the process of destroying.

    How is any of this difficult to comprehend? 99% of the scientists that have any knowledge of climate understand this and agree with this assessment, and that burning CO2 while destroying carbon sinks is an empirically bad idea given that the greenhouse effect has been known and understood for 150 years. The other 1% of the scientists basically agree that the Earth is warming, but disagree on why — and most of them disagree with one another, or support pet theories that are only propped up by a tiny fraction of the science. They’re cherry-picking, in other words.

    And I’m afraid that scientists have been talking about it for so long, and humans are so ill-equipped to handle long-term crises, that acceptance of these facts is decreasing right when we’re approaching the crunch time. And it would be horrendous if people really have to die in large numbers in the poorer countries before people like yourself would look at the evidence and start trusting the scientists that have talked about it for years and years as a well-understood and well-documented phenomenon that, if there’s any controversy, is a controversy only insofar as scientists just aren’t sure how bad it will be.

    Nobody’s talking about running around with their heads cut off. But it would be nice if we could go on pursuing future technologies and getting ourselves off the habit of chopping down all the forests to put up cow factories and burning up all the oil that’s sequestered in the ground. You know, before really bad things start to happen and people start to get displaced, causing wars over water and wrecking “civilized” societies.

    Call me a loon if you will. Science is on my side, though.

  7. says

    Additionally: are you referring to this “cooling trend” since 1998′s record high? Cherrypicking a ten year span, starting with a record high, when we’re talking about an up-and-down that only shows a “hockey stick” when normalized, is disingenuous and dishonest beyond belief.

  8. David says

    Want to make a million bucks? Follow Albert Gore’s lead:

    1. Create the perception of a crisis.

    2. Proffer your own pre-determinted solution.

    3. Lobby your solution into law.

    4. Profit by force at the expense of the masses.

    5. Repeat.

    By now, if you can’t appreciate the scam, then you’re the sucker Al Gore & Co. is hedging upon.

    Believe it or deny it, the climate change context is a scam. It has co-oped worthy environmentalism for a cause that should have always belonged to the kook fringe.

    Move on to more worthy pursuits.

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