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It’s a kind of studied ignorance

You need a good basic primer to refute climate change denialists? Dana Nuccitelli rebuts the top ten climate misconceptions.

At the end, he asks if you notice a pattern.

You may have noticed some patterns in these questions. Most are based on false premises and are trivially simple to answer. These ‘top ten good skeptic arguments’ are frankly not very good or challenging.

Oh, man, yes. It’s also the pattern in creationist arguments — they’re not even asking good questions, and they have to struggle to get past the faulty premises in their own views. Well, ‘struggle’ is probably the wrong word — they mostly don’t seem at all interested in learning.

But for climate change, we’re seeing the effects right now.

“For a long time, we have perceived climate change as an issue that’s distant, affecting just polar bears or something that matters to our kids,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University professor and a co-author of the report. “This shows it’s not just in the future; it matters today. Many people are feeling the effects.”

You really have to work hard at it to be in denial of either climate change or evolution.

Comments

  1. Alex says

    Climate science could use some more strident advocates who manage to be omnipresent in the blogosphere and on TV, pounding on the truth nonstop. There are some excellent sites and blogs, but they are still mostly too technical and subtle.

    @Kevin:

    Let me tell you how my last winter was in Europe. Wait, what winter…

  2. Marc Abian says

    You really have to work hard at it to be in denial of either climate change or evolution.

    No you don’t. It comes naturally to so many.

  3. voidhawk says

    On the plus side, even most ‘skeptics’ I talk to now admit that the Earth is warming, they just deny that man has a significant effect. One task ticked off, I suppose.

  4. Drolfe says

    From the article, “there’s got to be some pretty radical changes to practices and policies.”

    That’s how I know we’re doomed. We can’t even get incremental changes to practices and policies. The next four to six years may even be under Republican influence, so zero changes or infact negative changes ahead. Maybe in a decade or two.

    I don’t expect campaign finance or voting reform to occur in that timeframe either, so we can expect extraction industry lobbies to continue to control policy. Money is speech; they have more money.

  5. saganite says

    @Alex
    On the internet? Perhaps. But the various analyses of the mainstream media’s climate change coverage are sad to say the least. Even when they talk about it, they almost never bring scientists on but pundits, economists, known “skeptics”/denialists and so on. Not surprising, really, considering the business interests they tend to be owned or at least heavily influenced by.

  6. Howard Bannister says

    Voidhawk @ 4

    Nope.

    They have a formula. It goes like this.

    It ain’t happening. Even if it is, it isn’t manmade. Even if it’s manmade, we can’t stop it. Even if we could stop it, it’d cost too much. Even if we could afford it, it’s too late. Even if it was on time, it’s all too convenient for your social agenda.

    They jump on the denial bandwagon at any of those points, depending how educated the audience is. They’ll go straight to the top if they’re talking to somebody they think is credulous enough to believe it.

  7. jstackpo says

    In an earlier post (or somewhere) we saw a picture of PZ’s MN home, with a well trimmed lawn.

    Is he (and all the rest of us) going to stop cutting the grass with a power mower in order to help reduce CO2 (unless we scythe it by hand)?

  8. Nick Gotts says

    Is he (and all the rest of us) going to stop cutting the grass with a power mower in order to help reduce CO2 (unless we scythe it by hand)? – jstackpo@9

    Doubtless you can give us a reasonably accurate estimate of how much CO2 that would save.

  9. ck says

    jstackpo wrote:

    Is he (and all the rest of us) going to stop cutting the grass with a power mower in order to help reduce CO2 (unless we scythe it by hand)?

    It never fails. Any time there’s a climate change post, some idiot is trying for “gotchas”.

  10. Lofty says

    jstackpo, how do you know the lawn was cut by a power tool? Were you there? Coulda used a push mower like my dad had. Coulda borrowed his neighbour’s sheep, for all you know.

  11. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @voidhawk #4

    Like Howard said in #7, even if they admit global temps are rising they usually add that it’s not anthropogenic so we can’t possibly ever do anything to affect them. And therefore all this clean energy that they’ve been warning us is destroying our economy and taking away our light bulbs has been for naught.

  12. numerobis says

    jstackpo, nice variant on the old “it’s not warming because people who talk about it exhale CO2 and they aren’t holding their breaths” meme.

  13. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @numerobis

    jstackpo sounds more like a variant of “But Al Gore lives in a big house, so either he’s killing more polar bears than anyone else or it’s all a hoax!”

  14. mikeyb says

    Enclosed is a couple of typical opinions of right wing climate deniers. Not only do they deny the science, they actually assert that the broad consensus is made up. They actually assert that we await some sort of Einstein to overturn the whole climate science consensus that doesn’t exist. That since the science picture isn’t complete, it must all be bogus conjecture. These people are gleefully actively routing against reality. It’s sickening. It’s no wonder we essentially haven’t done a goddamn thing about climate change – how do try to deal with a problem, the other side doesn’t admit to exist because they don’t bother to look at the facts. It’s like if you’re neighbors house burned down and you went to another neighbor to ask how should we help, and they answered what house, do a consensus of your neighbors admit there was a house next door, how do we know all the other neighbors are making this up, my neighbors on the right side of the street haven’t seen this house? It’s impossible to deal with people committed to denying reality.

    http://mediamatters.org/video/2014/05/06/foxs-krauthammer-on-climate-change-im-not-impre/199196

  15. jstackpo says

    In response to various folks…

    Seems to me that cutting the grass with a power mower is a nice encapsulation, in miniature, of the world’s current climate problem.

    I’m going out to cut my grass (with a Toro) this morning and then drive to a neighborhood party this afternoon. And I’ll feel a bit guilty about both.

  16. says

    …said Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University professor and a co-author of the report.

    Hayhoe is an evangelical and married to an evangelical preacher. She spends a lot of time educating groups in highly religious areas about AGW, but framing it also in religious terms – the effects are “God’s creation speaking to us” and so forth. She’s featured in the new Showtime series “Years of Living Dangerously,” and Don Cheadle’s conclusion in the episode featuring her (I think it was the first one, which evidently you can watch online) is something like “If only people would stop thinking of science and religion as incompatible…” I had several problems with the episode, but she came across as a good scientist and a good person.

  17. Alex says

    @jstackpo
    Just cut the grass and take the bike to the party guilt-free :)

  18. says

    @Howard Bannister in #7:
    yes, and you can see a good part of that sequence in Spencer’s 10 questions, from “No recent warming” to “is warming even bad?”

  19. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I’m going out to cut my grass (with a Toro) this morning and then drive to a neighborhood party this afternoon. And I’ll feel a bit guilty about both.

    tsk tsk tsk, don’t feel guilty. A bigger sin of hypocrisy is those who Drive (their huge SUV) 5 miles to the track (in a field, not in an air-conditioned gym), to run 10 miles, then get back in the SUV and drive 5 miles back home. For exercise!

    To be a shill, I gotta say; I see this “anthropogenic climate denial” too much over at Bad Astronomy. Go there, look for the flaming earth pix and read the “comments”[shudder] This here site is for evo-deniers, I demand PZ set this ship back on its proper course. PZ DONT OWN THIS SITE, HE JUST STEERS THIS ONE CHAPTER OF IT. AND CLIMATE CHANGE TALK WILL DRIVE IT OFF A CLIFF. I DEMAND, GET BACK ON THE ROAD!!1!!1!!1!! [wrings hands... "pheww"]
    Anthropogenic is the recent denial, even when they admit to warming, it’s usually “Sun is getting hotter, so the Earth gets warmer, what’s the problem?”
    and:
    “You just want to profit (steal our money) by taxing carbon, carbon feeds trees, without CO2 trees will die. Think about THAT you tree-huggers you!”

  20. Rey Fox says

    well what about the fact America’s had its coldest winter in decades?

    It’s not just the ignorance of weather vs. climate that bothers me, but the damn short memory that these people have, many of whom have been on this earth longer than I have. It used to get that cold all the time. Really. Did none of these people have childhoods? What ever happened to the old timers with their stories of twenty-below highs and six-foot snowdrifts uphill both ways?

    jstackpo sounds more like a variant of “But Al Gore lives in a big house, so either he’s killing more polar bears than anyone else or it’s all a hoax!”

    It’s the usual “Unless you live in a yurt off the grid, then you’re a big hypocrite and a liar, and I don’t have to do anything, which I would do anyway, but am happy to have the flimsiest justification for it.” The rallying cry of the pseudo-idealistic-but-actually-apathetic-and-addicted-to-scoring-cheap-points-in-their-own-head.

  21. Rey Fox says

    See also: “Why are you complaining about Issue X instead of the reeeeeal problems?*”

    * That the speaker doesn’t care one bit about beyond using them to score cheap rhetorical points and hopefully silence the complainer

  22. chigau (違う) says

    I don’t mow my front lawn until the neighbour mows his.
    He mows his if I mow mine.
    I a good summer, it can happen only once or twice.

  23. Kevin Kehres says

    The winter in the East was colder than normal. The rest of the US, not so much. So, in fact, that really horrible January was not colder than normal when you take the entire continent into consideration.

    And according to NOAA, January 2014 globally was the 4th warmest on record.

    So, once again, weather =/= climate.

  24. Sili says

    I thought apres nous le deluge was supposed to be just a figure of speech.

  25. says

    OT
    @jstackpo

    Is he (and all the rest of us) going to stop cutting the grass with a power mower in order to help reduce CO2 (unless we scythe it by hand)?

    Grass? What grass? Ohh yeah, living in California, it’d be highly irresponsible for me to have a lawn. With water rationing going on in town and what not (although, I haven’t watered my lawn in over a decade). And when it rains (which it did little extremely little this year), I have a push mower to clean up the weeds.

    That said, my front brown weed-lawn will soon be moving over to woodchips or a desert garden.

  26. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    Living on the South coast of Ireland, we get a LOT of rain. The lawn needs mowing at least once a week, often twice (and by ‘need’, I mean it is so long that it trips us up – knee-high to the toddler). 3/4 of an acre is too much to do with a push-mower; we have a ride-on.

    Last week we got some sheep.

  27. Kevin Kehres says

    I bought an Ego electric lawnmower. 54 volt battery that charges in 15 minutes, powers through the lawn. Good for 45 minutes to an hour of straight mowing time. I haven’t run out of a charge yet, even though the spring has been wet and the grass has been growing like crazy around here. Never needs oil. Maintenance is a breeze. Very light.

    Yes, it’s a little more expensive…but way worth it.

  28. twas brillig (stevem) says

    “If only people would stop thinking of science and religion as incompatible…”

    uhmm, yeah, if you can compartmentalize your thinking into “religion for morality” & “Science for reality”; or some other separation of Religion and Science into two non-overlapping realms of thought.["ethics is ummm borderline between the two...fuzzy line separating the two there]
    Personally, I treat it much more simply as “Sci-Fi” vs “Textbook” (guess which is which). Even there, others sometimes have “issues”: Sci-fi solutions to existing problems [looking at you, Climate], or complaints of the bad science in a scifi story [looking at you StarTrek:Into Darkness]. I too, am guilty of ScienceFiction nerdrage at times. I think Sci-Fi is Science+Fiction, not Fictional Science. That is, sci-fi includes science into a fictional story; the story is fiction, not the science. [at least Plausible Science, not Magical Science]

  29. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I bought an Ego electric lawnmower.

    {steepled fingers}Exxxxcellent…./Mr.Burns voice
    [ComicGuy voice:]
    But where does that electricity come from?!? A generator burning coal makes CO2 just the same, all you done was move the CO2 a little bit further away! but the atmosphere is everywhere; mowing your lawn still dooms us all. Let your grass grow, it will eat up all the extra CO2 floating around. Don’t stunt your CO2 eater, let them grow, grow grow! [/voice]

  30. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I used a push mower when I had a small lawn, no power at all, except muscle power. When we got a bigger lawn, I did go with electric, but that was more for convenience (much less maintenance).

    I do most of my commuting on bicycle (11 miles each way), and probably most importantly, I’m not having kids.

  31. David Marjanović says

    See also: “Why are you complaining about Issue X instead of the reeeeeal problems?*”

    Such as… Benghazi.

  32. Kevin Kehres says

    @31: Yes, my electric company is a coal burner…but it’s going to be burning that coal whether or not I siphon off a 15-minute portion of it or not. The demand of charging my battery doesn’t make a whit of difference to them. Not even a Santa’s stocking-sized chunk of coal difference. The effect to the climate of my charging the battery is effectively zero.

    It does, however, prevent me from running a dirty 2-cycle lawnmower.

    All-in-all, the use of the electric lawnmower is net benefit — as well as my electric string trimmer — when compared to the gas-guzzling alternatives. I’m an old guy, so a hand-pushed lawnmower isn’t a great option for me. If I were 20 years younger, definitely.

    In addition, I just took out about 2/3rds of my back yard lawn and replaced it with beds of perennial flowers and trees that are indigenous to the area — so won’t be watering them after they’re established. They’re my own little carbon sinks. Plus, they look great and now I have a view from my home office. I don’t drive every day–maybe a couple-to-three times a week. I bundle my trips–if I have to go to the dentist, then I go grocery shopping.

    If people would just do the little things — make even the slightest, teeniest little bit of effort — instead of throwing their hands in the air like you just did — things would improve.

  33. Kevin Kehres says

    Oh yeah, I should also point out that now that we’re in a heat wave, I don’t run the air conditioner unless the house gets above 80…and I set the thermostat to 76. That’s just right for me.

    And in the winter, it’s set at 68 in the daytime and 65 at night.

    Little things. Like an EnergyStar-rated computer that I shut off when not in use.

  34. unclefrogy says

    of all the fucking denial coming at me from the “Official Conservative Position” to include reverse racism, and anti-feminism human rights, I think climate change denial is the most maddening.
    It seems so disconnected with reality. It is not just studied ignorance it is obstinately ignorant demanding that reality conform to their desires. It is frighteningly delusional.
    The determined effort to maintain their positions regardless of any facts to the contrary will only lead to conflict, because the only argument they have left is force.
    uncle frogy

  35. twas brillig (stevem) says

    If people would just do the little things — make even the slightest, teeniest little bit of effort — instead of throwing their hands in the air like you just did — things would improve.

    +1000. QFT!!

  36. leftwingfox says

    Kevin Kehres: At least with electric there’s the potential to reduce carbon by a mix of inputs. The local power plant might be a coal burner, but as more solar and wind production comes online, less CO2 comes out of that use.

    The gas mower would need to accept biodiesel or ethanol to be on similar footing.

  37. Marc Abian says

    #22 Rey Fox

    It’s the usual “Unless you live in a yurt off the grid, then you’re a big hypocrite and a liar, and I don’t have to do anything, which I would do anyway, but am happy to have the flimsiest justification for it.” The rallying cry of the pseudo-idealistic-but-actually-apathetic-and-addicted-to-scoring-cheap-points-in-their-own-head.

    I’m not saying that doesn’t occur, but do you doubt that some people are not apathetic and have made changes, or do you just think none of them would advocate that others follow their lead?

  38. Paul Brown says

    The Media Matters vid from mikeyb at comment#16 is priceless.

    At least they’ve given up even trying to pretend that they understand the science. They’re reduced to one of two conclusions; either ( a ) they’re wrong, and their mistake is due to deep flaws and faults in their character, or ( b ) everyone else is simply factually wrong. The willful mis-interpretation of what phrases like “The Last Word” means? The “science is not a democratic process” defense? Pure post-hoc rationalization. The climate debate is now all about their hurt fee-fees.

    Dr Krauthammer should reach into his bag of psychological framings and look up ‘cognitive dissonance’.

  39. Seize says

    As I was studying for my Developmental Bio final today and focusing on the mammalian embryo, I was thinking something similar regarding the viewpoints shared with me by clinic protestors and “sidewalk counselors” who congregate outside the clinic where I volunteer. There is a very annoying priest who brings these excellent, anatomically accurate models of the uterus at different stages of gestation. Of course what he does is grabs the removable embryo or fetus out of each one and waggles it at women, asking them what the difference is between that an actual baby. It’s really a damned shame because he completely misses the fact that the placenta — which he does not pull out and wave around — was formed from the “baby” too. The Catholic Church has no problem with throwing the used placenta in the incinerator after a woman gives birth in a hospital, even though it is a special diploid human organ formed when sacred sperm meets egg.

    If these people were having a good faith argument that actually focused on the ethics of when a human conceptus stops being a null quantity and starts to require considerations, developments in developmental biology would be on the nightly news. And yet they are utterly satisfied with facile assertions like “fetal pain” or “life begins at conception.”

  40. numerobis says

    And in the winter, it’s set at 68 in the daytime and 65 at night.

    Seems warm to me.

    I have baseboards, so every room can have a different temperature. That lets me warm up the bedroom at bedtime and morning while letting the rest of the apartment get cold — I set most of the thermostats to 10C (50F) just so the pipes don’t freeze in cold snaps. The living room I keep at 18 during the day, 15 at night. And I close doors from the warm rooms to the cold ones.

    Regardless of individual small changes in thermostat settings, a much bigger difference is that I live in an apartment rather than a stand-alone house. That means we have a lot less area to the exterior to lose heat out of. And there’s shops and jobs nearby, so I don’t have to drive much. And there’s less road surface per capita, so there’s less road upkeep. Etc etc. Best of all, I don’t have a lawn to mow.

  41. jrfdeux, mode d'emploi says

    I live in British Columbia, well known for its verdant forests and health-fanatic populace in Vancouver and Victoria, etc etc. We have wondrously clean air. All of our power comes from hydro-electric dams. We have a pretty good recycling program. There’s a general awareness of our environment and a strong desire to keep it clean and unpolluted.

    At the same time, in Victoria’s scenic Inner Harbour we dump raw sewage, we have countless fish farms up and down the coast, we’re stripping away our Agricultural Land Reserve for development (why the FUCK would you build a skyscraper on the most fertile farmland in the nation?!) and one province over we have the Oil Sands which produces one quarter of Canada’s carbon emissions. And they’ve been talking about running an oil and gas pipeline from Fort McMurray to Kitimat’s harbour.

    Shit. :-(

  42. mikeyb says

    @40 Thanks. And to think these guys (Krauthammer, George Will) are so-called mainstream respectable semi-intelligent (sometimes) right wingers, these aren’t even the crazies.

  43. says

    8) Is CO2 Bad? How did carbon dioxide, necessary for life on Earth and only 4 parts in 10,000 of our atmosphere, get rebranded as some sort of dangerous gas?

    I cannot believe a guy calling himself a climate scientist resorted to this idiocy. As if 150 years of studying the greenhouse effect were all for nothing, and his thousands of colleagues were actually talking about toxicity instead of global warming this whole time.

    9) Do We Look that Stupid?

    Oh yes. Yes you do.

  44. says

    Nice read. One nitpick though:

    We don’t need climate models to project future global warming. We know from past climate change events the planet will warm between about 1.5 and 4.5°C from the increased greenhouse effect of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I understand the word “model” as a scientist, assuming between 1.5C and 4.5C warming from a doubling in CO2 sure sounds like a model. A simplistic one, but still a model. Heck, expecting a certain mileage of your car for a given amount of petrol is using a model.

    So I just wish that instead of saying, ah, disregard those ivory tower models for a moment because we don’t need them, there would be an attempt to demystify the term and show that we all constantly rely on models, even so-called climate sceptics.

  45. ck says

    @Kevin Kehres,

    Well, you could throw some solar cells on whatever shed you use to store your mower/garden tools, and recharge your tools when you’re not using them, if you wanted.

  46. Alex says

    @Area Man

    How did carbon dioxide, necessary for life on Earth and only 4 parts in 10,000 of our atmosphere, get rebranded as some sort of dangerous gas?

    Exactly. This statement is so damning, it’s not even funny. The translation is basically: I know nothing, and/or am an evil propagandist liar. It’s the bottom of the barrel.

    It should be shot down in the fiercest way possible, he should be taken to task for spreading such lies. DN’s response is factually correct, but waaay to tame.

    It’s literally like saying – wow why are you saying I killed him when I hit him with that baseball bat, when did wood suddenly become rebranded as this dangerous toxic substance?

  47. says

    How did carbon dioxide, necessary for life on Earth and only 4 parts in 10,000 of our atmosphere, get rebranded as some sort of dangerous gas?

    Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential ingredients for plant growth; how can they possibly be a pollutant??

    Ugh, the dumb.

    Anyway, I appreciate the individual actions folks are talking about taking – biking to work, push mowers, etc. However, the even more important individual actions include: calling your elected representatives. Voting for reps who understand the urgency. Running for office yourself, or finding someone who will, if nobody fits the criteria. Participating in protests. Getting arrested in protests. Publicizing protests in all types of media.

    Change has to take place at the policy level, otherwise all the push mowers in the world aren’t going to make a whit of difference.

  48. Kevin Kehres says

    @47: That would be awesome. I’ve thought about it, but the initial investment in the panels is a bit much for me. There are leasing options; I’ve thought about those as well.

    The biggest barrier for me would be the homeowners’ association, however. It was a tussle just to get them to agree to allow architectural shingles to replace the 3-tabs that kept getting blown off during our frequent wind storms.

    I can’t imagine what the prospect of solar panels (or a windmill!) would do to their tiny brains. Even though my roof is oriented almost perfectly for maximum solar collection.

  49. Pumako says

    The biggest barrier for me would be the homeowners’ association, however. It was a tussle just to get them to agree to allow architectural shingles to replace the 3-tabs that kept getting blown off during our frequent wind storms.

    You might have an easier time with solar. When we researched getting solar panels, we were told that an HOA cannot outright stop you from installing them (only being permitted some reasonable restrictions.) We thought this was a federal law, but looking around it seems it is actually a state law (Colorado.) A number of other states also have similar laws.

    In addition, the company that installed them took care of all the HOA details, so that aspect was a snap, despite having a pretty strict HOA.