The parallel universe of climate skeptics

I tend to give the letters to the editor column of the Plain Dealer only the most cursory of glances. One rarely learns anything from them but they do provide a window into some very strange minds. Within the space of two days, I saw two letters on climate change that boggled my mind. Here they are in full.

Hiram College climate indoctrination (appeared on May 1, 2015)

It was with disbelief that I read Hiram College is offering a course in climate change (”Hiram opens Biomes program to all undergrads,” Plain Dealer, April 24). For nearly $30,000 (tuition and fees) you get to spent 80 days going around the world looking at alleged impacts. When you return, you get 12 credit hours.

Basket weaving used to be the most ridiculed Mickey Mouse course.

How such a course qualifies as higher education is beyond me. It is nothing more than indoctrination.

Satellite measurements of global temperatures show little change over the last 18 years — a fact not just ignored, but challenged by inaccurate and manipulated data that purports to show warming.

Most people don’t know or realize when they hear about a ”hottest year” or other period, the data has very likely been falsified. I’m afraid what’s happening at Hiram is also occurring at other colleges, probably in an effort to get government funding.

John M. Sanders,

Climate-data fudging continues (appeared on May 3, 2015)

Man-made climate change is settled science and is threatening our very existence Really? If so, why are so-called climate scientists continually shown to be cooking the books?

First, there was Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph predicting our demise. Of course that graph was finally and completely discredited as bad science. Then there was Phil Jones’ forced resignation as director of University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. He, too, had been shown to be manipulating data. John Cook’s flawed 2013 study produced the often-quoted claim that 97 percent of scientists believe in man-made global warming. That’s not true, either. Now we hear that climate scientists are continuing the practice of correcting ”past errors.” They always find justification to adjust past temperatures downward to support their claim we are in a warming trend.

I am often called a denier, but that’s OK. Unlike those who offer that as criticism, I have actually taken the time to research and examine the facts.

Bryan James,

It is quite extraordinary how these people make sweeping claims about things that are manifestly false and yet are so assured that they are right. For example, don’t they have any idea how average global temperatures are measured and the massive amount of collusion that would have to exist by large numbers of scientists over a long period of time to falsify the data in any appreciable way?

And why would the scientists do this anyway? There is this curious idea that if one warns of global warming and the disastrous effects of climate change, then rivers of money would flow towards you. That is simply not true. The very fact that almost all scientists believe that warming is occurring means that there is very little research money available for each one. In fact, just a few days ago, the US House of Representatives voted along party lines to slash NASA’s budget for earth sciences that could amount to as much as 40%. Geoscience research funding at the NSF and DOE have also been cut about 10%. Does anyone doubt that this is vindictive act because earth scientists have been among those warning about the dangers of climate change?

In fact, the contrary is true. If you are a scientist willing to deny climate change, then the Koch brothers, the Heartland Institute, and entire industries will rush to fund your ‘research’ and give you a platform.

Climate change deniers seem to think as long as we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen.


  1. Apropos of nothing says

    Its also worth pointing out that the 2nd letter contains factual errors, two that are trivial to check:

    1. “First, there was Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph predicting our demise. Of course that graph was finally and completely discredited as bad science.” That’s news to me. Despite a witch-hunt, Mann was found to be correct, and a google to Wikipedia finds: “More than two dozen reconstructions, using various statistical methods and combinations of proxy records, have supported the broad consensus shown in the original 1998 hockey-stick graph, with variations in how flat the pre-20th century ‘shaft’ appears.” at: and with citations!

    2. “Then there was Phil Jones’ forced resignation as director of University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. He, too, had been shown to be manipulating data.” This is simply not the case, as a more googling will show. Wikipedia says that he “temporarily stepped aside from Director of the CRU in November 2009” and “was reinstated in July 2010 with the newly created role of Director of Research” after a review found “no fault with the ‘rigour and honesty as scientists’ of Jones and his colleagues”.
    I guess the climate change deniers can avoid seeing this if they don’t look.

    3. This one is not so trivial -- the John Cook et al “97% consensus” seems to have generated a strong backlash, apparently because its a very powerful statistic. As far as I can tell it still holds up as the only nay-sayers, numerous as they may be, are on the denial side. However, that likely fuels validation amongst them, but I didn’t find any back-tracking by Cook and colleagues, nor a credible refutation. Best I could see was a downward estimation to 91% by a critic, Richard Tol, here (open access journal “Energy Policy”, section 3.3.1. Abstract ratings):
    and it seems to me pretty weak if that’s the best they can do.

  2. says

    Um, yeah…I was a little bit shocked that the US Congress actually had a vote about this very real issue. I don’t understand how anyone not living under a rock and having zero contact with the “outside world,” can still deny global warming.

    Unlike religion where there is zero tangible evidence that god(s) exist, there are endless reams of solid data proving man-made climate change. It seems to me that those who most strongly deny it and refuse to accept any kind of scientifically proven evidence, are also the ones who most strongly, and blindly, believe in a sky daddy.

  3. lanir says

    The generalized take-away here seems to be about how you perceive a threat. I think “conservatives” (still can’t figure out what they’re “conserving”) are getting suckered in by professional fear mongers. Fake threats have a more slick presentation. For real threats I think the first thought of most people is spreading the alert so more people can have a chance to respond to it and avoid it. Selling it as a credible threat is a secondary thought because the data can do that on it’s own generally. Unless it’s competing for oxygen with a fear monger’s menacing phantoms.

    Personally the most striking of these to me is the gibbering lunacy about national gun owners lists and the extreme perceived threat such a thing would pose versus the very real facts surrounding the NSA bulk data collection. They won’t just have a very good idea whether you own a gun or not, they’ll know if you’ve ever openly said anything supportive of the NRA, looked up gun shows online or forwarded a bunch of 2nd amendment chain emails to all your contacts. But hey, it’s the fake threat that’s a concern, the usual response to the real one is “I don’t have anything to hide.” Nope, not at all… Just whether or not you own a gun and anything you’ve said openly or in email or on a forum somewhere about what you think of that topic.

  4. jockmcdock says

    “And why would the scientists do this anyway?” (Mano). This is a point that has been very understressed and I’m glad you brought it up, Mano. There is no vested interest backing those who state that climate change is real (apart from the possible survival of humanity, says he a little overdramatically). No company, as far as I’m aware, stands to benefit from the fact that climate change is real. But deniers receive funding from people like the Koch brothers.

    BTW, John Cook is offering an edX course on climate change denial. You can still enrol or (as I am doing) simply download the material and peruse at your leisure.

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