I doubt that, Douthat

Ross Douthat proposes an explanation for why Republicans are so wacky on climate change. He points out that there’s a strong strain of climate change denial in the American public, one that’s also present in other countries.

What’s interesting, though, is that if you look at public opinion on climate change, the U.S. isn’t actually that much of an outlier among the wealthier Western nations. In a 2007-2008 Gallup survey on global views of climate change, for instance, just 49 percent of American told pollsters that human beings are responsible for global warming. But the same figure for Britain (where Rush Limbaugh has relatively few listeners, I believe) was 48 percent, and belief in human-caused climate change was only slightly higher across northern Europe: 52 percent in the Czech Republic, 59 percent in Germany, 49 percent in Denmark, 51 percent in Austria, just 44 percent in the Netherlands, with highs of 63 percent in France and 64 percent in Sweden.

OK, let’s provisionally accept that. Where Douthat goes next, though, is weird; he argues that it is an advantage of our political leaders in the US that they are more representative of the electorate, and that our politicians are simply tracking polls to win votes.

It’s all nonsense. Kooky right-wingers like Inhofe and Angle and Miller and Rubio and on and on are not canny, cunning politicians who are cynically following the wishes of the people — they are True Believers, ideologues who promote, rather than merely follow. What it really indicates is that Republican voters are willing to put morons into office, while voters in all those other Western nations retain some dignity and insist on a louder hint of credibility in their representatives.

It’s also not true that the Republican leadership better reflects the popular consensus. “97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming, but 97% of GOP Senate candidates disagree.” What it actually tells us is that Republicans are more willing to charge off into the fringe than the general electorate.

And most importantly, climate change is a scientific issue, one that has an evidence-based answer, not something that can be swayed by popular opinion. It is not a virtue to to obey the whims of an ignorant populace to pursue a position contrary to fact.


  1. Ken says

    You do realize that even the IPCC’s reportS (plural) include probablisitic statements regarding that liklihood that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is even happening–something like a 10 percent chance that’s its not.

    Also, there’s tremendous unknowns & uncertainties associted with some key factors–solar activity (#1 uncertainty) & clouds (#1 feedback) being among those that are very poorly understood:

    NASA’s Website: http://climate.nasa.gov/uncertainties/

    Given that those are not well undersood it is impossible that any model has them accurately modeled.

    NASA noting solar connections: http://www.dailytech.com/NASA+Study+Acknowledges+Solar+Cycle+Not+Man+Responsible+for+Past+Warming/article15310.htm

    SOLAR/CLOUD relationships ARE observered but not well understood because, primarily, available data is poor, incomplete or nonexistant. A bunch of renowned international researchers at CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider) are in the process of conducting an objective experiment to understand what extent certain hypothesized mechanisms between solar & other factors may affect clouds & by extension weather. Given that these factors are basically unknown, no climate model can possibly have them modeled, much less modeled correctly. That’s a lot of uncertainty — which even the IPCC concedes with NASA.

    As those CERN researchers are MUCH more accomplished in their respective scientific areas of expertise than just about anybody here, you might want to consider what they’re up to:


    And the experiment is described at: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/16/cern_cloud_experiment/

    They are addressing a topic for which essentially no complete or objective data exists. Regardless, certain “name” AGW alarmist scientists have dismissed their prospective findings ‘out of hand.’ THAT is NOT “science.” Science endeavors to test & challenge & confirm theories, etc. — including those that are commonly accepted as history shows time & again that “common knowlege/common sense” was very commonly wrong.

    Some groups — religious groups in particular — do just that however. Which is why so many are skeptical of a number of renowned AGW’ers — whose behavior can be described in terms that are indistinguishable from religious extremists/fundamentalists (i.e. if the topic is left blank identical terms can be used/substituted to describe their respective behaviors — “denier” in the 70s was the religioius fundamentalist’s term for people that denied the “Rapture” is real — AGW’ers are using identical terminology). This is a significant reason why they’re losing “believers” (another term used by AGW’ers toward “denialists” — the jargon is IDENTICAL to that used by religious fundamentalists…though “denier” & “believer” were used more in the 70s).

    Here’s a peer-reviewed paper “hot off the press” re solar activity & climate cycles:


    Anyway, if you’ve got scientific arguments for why AGW, CO2 in particular, is a problem please share them — especially if they address the still-pending data & findings from the CLOUD experiment (link provided above).

    And note that nobody is “denying” that global warming isn’t happening —
    — what’s at issue is WHY, the “deniers” simply aren’t convinced its all due to CO2. A lot, almost all, of the invective directed at them takes the position that they’re denying that warming has occurred/is occurring.

    If you’re one of those people that can’t even get a very basic, and simple, fact correct (the denier’s issue is WHY [causal factor] warming is occuring NOT IF its occuring [effect])–you just make yourself come across as a blithering idiot.

    So, for many of the people here, just go ahead & rant (or, to use Phil Plait’s jargon, go ahead & be a dick) — which makes your behavior indistinguishable from a religious fundamentalist’s … which makes you appear like a different form of religious crackpot. Which just reinforces the skeptic’s (“deniers” — to use the religion-laden term) perception, which just undermines your position even further. Not that they’ll be paying much attention to you at that point anyway.

  2. populartechnology says

    KG, (fair warning don’t waste your time arguing me over stuff you find on wikipedia, I’ve been through this a thousand times)

    The Scopus listing is incorrect and the editors of Elsevier have been contacted and have it corrected on their internal master list. I do not know when the Scopus list will be updated.

    Regardless E&E does not match their trade journal criteria,

    E&E is not associated with any specific “trade” such as “chemical engineering” and it failed to match their criteria for defining a “trade journal”,

    Coverage of Source Types (Scopus)

    1. “Trade Journal: a serial publication covering and intended to reach a specific industry, trade or type of business.”

    Fail – E&E is not targeted at any specific industry, trade or business. It is explicitly stated that it is an interdisciplinary journal,

    interdisciplinary (defined) – “involving two or more academic, scientific, or artistic disciplines.”

    2. “Characteristics: usually a glossy magazine type of periodical with articles on topical subjects,”

    Fail – E&E is not a glossy magazine type of periodical.

    3. “many news items and advertisements that will appeal to those in the field.”

    Fail – E&E has no advertisements and does not appeal to any field.

    4. “Trade Journals are seldom refereed”

    Fail – E&E is refereed. The word “seldom” implies some are, thus a trade journal listing does not mean it cannot be peer-reviewed.

    5. “…and do not always have an editorial board.”

    Fail – E&E has an editorial board.

    6. “Abstracts are usually short or non-existent, and few or no references are given.”

    Fail – E&E abstracts are average length and extensive references are given. Examples,

    A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-treering proxies
    (Energy & Environment, Volume 18, Numbers 7-8, pp. 1049-1058, December 2007)
    – Craig Loehle

    The M&M Critique of the MBH98 Northern Hemisphere Climate Index: Update and Implications
    (Energy & Environment, Volume 16, Number 1, pp. 69-100, January 2005)
    – Stephen McIntyre, Ross McKitrick

    7. Finally it is stated, “Trade journals are included in Scopus because users and librarians consider selected articles to be scientifically relevant.”

    ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) is owned by the multi-billion dollar Thomson Reuters corporation and offers for-profit commercial database services (Web of Knowledge) similar to other companies services such as EBSCO’s “Academic Search” and Elsevier’s “Scopus”. Whether a journal is indexed by them is purely subjective and irrelevant to the peer-review status of the journal.

    The editor’s political agenda is quite clear, just ask her,

    “My political agenda is simple and open; it concerns the role of research ambitions in the making of policy. I concluded from a research project about the IPCC – funded by the UK government during the mid 1990s – that this body was set up to support, initially, climate change research projects supported by the WMO and hence the rapidly evolving art and science of climate modeling. A little later the IPCC came to serve an intergovernmental treaty, the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This enshrines in law that future climate change would be warming caused by greenhouse gases (this remains debated), is man-made (to what an extend remains debated) as well as dangerous (remains debated). It became a task of the IPCC government selected and government funded, to support the theory that this man-made warming would be dangerous rather than beneficial, as some argue. The solutions to this assumed problem were worked out by IPCC working group three, which worked largely independently of the science working group one and consisted primarily of parties interested in a ‘green’ energy agenda, including people from environment agencies, NGOs and environmental economics. This group supplied the science group with emission scenarios that have been widely criticized and which certainly enhanced the ‘danger’. From interviews and my own reading I concluded that the climate science debate WAS BY NO MEANS OVER AND SHOULD CONTINUE. However, when I noticed that scientific critics of the IPCC science working group were increasingly side-lined and had difficulties being published – when offered the editorship of E&E, I decided to continue publishing ‘climate skeptics’ and document the politics associated with the science debate. The implications for energy policy and technology are obvious. I myself have argued the cause of climate ‘realism’ – I am a geomorphologist by academic training before switching to environmental international relations – but do so on more the basis of political rather than science-based arguments. As far as the science of climate change is concerned, I would describe myself as agnostic. In my opinion the global climate research enterprise must be considered as an independent political actor in environmental politics. I have widely published on this subject myself, and my own research conclusions have influenced my editorial policy. I also rely on an excellent and most helpful editorial board which includes a number of experienced scientists. Several of the most respected ‘climate skeptics’ regularly peer-review IPCC critical papers I publish.” – Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, Editor, Energy & Environment

    So do you reject Arrhenius’s paper and consider it meaningless?

    I didn’t ask you about evolution theory, I am talking explicitly about AGW.

    Oreskes paper is an exercise in propaganda. The fact remains that Oreskes deliberately and deceptively called a paper “The scientific consensus on climate change” while using the search term “global climate change” thus leaving out 11,000 papers in the ISI database alone. Since I have already established that the ISI does not index all peer-reviewed papers, her study is worthless. All you have to do is check my list in the date ranges she searched to see all the papers she missed.