Myths and Reality of Polar Bears

There is the Greenpeace view.

The noble beast is brought low by pollution, rubbish, and CO2 emissions. The huge white beast passes unnoticed through the bleakest parts of London. Unnoticed by homeless people, people in parks and people sitting in their cars. Only a young girl sees the beast, and then with sympathy. It is meant to be a metaphor for the Greenpeace “reality”. The collective callousness of the British people, with their comfortable lifestyles are destroying the pristine Arctic, just as grasping capitalistic societies have polluted the atmosphere, potentially destroying the climate for future generations. For them, it is a truth so obvious even this cuddly beast knows all about it. These falsities are used to gain support and money.

Then there is the Reality

For human beings, polar bears are one of the most dangerous carnivores on earth. There are many thousands, each  roaming huge areas. There are many cases where they have attacked people. We also know, from this David Attenborough clip, that when polar bears are particularly dangerous when hungry.

In 2011 Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple was tragically killed when camping on Svarlbard island. Any human responsibility for this tragedy has yet to be decided by an inquest. However, what is clear is that the proximate cause of death was by a polar bear attack.

If a polar bear ever got loose in London, it would have to be shot on sight. It would likely be highly stressed. It would certainly not be calmly wandering around taking no notice of people and cars. There would be no reasoning with the beast for it’s behavior is wired in. In a similar way there is no reasoning with those who run Greenpeace, for the false view of the world portrayed  in this clip encapsulates their core  belief system. Yet they would impose this on others, and protest against those who act contrary to their codes. Such views were common in the days of established religion – although their methods of imposing those religious codes were far more gruesome that the noisy eco-warriors. The solution to this imposition of beliefs on others was worked out over two centuries ago, and stated in the US First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

The Greenpeace video accessed at July 2014

Lewandowsky – Climate Scientists should be listened to because they are wrong

Stephen Lewandowsky has another couple of papers out. From e! Science News

Scientific uncertainty has been described as a ‘monster’ that prevents understanding and delays mitigative action in response to climate change. New research by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol, and international colleagues, shows that uncertainty should make us more rather than less concerned about climate change. In two companion papers, published today in Climatic Change, the researchers investigated the mathematics of uncertainty in the climate system and showed that increased scientific uncertainty necessitates even greater action to mitigate climate change.

The scientists used an ordinal approach — a range of mathematical methods that address the question: ‘What would the consequences be if uncertainty is even greater than we think it is?’


Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair in Cognitive Psychology and member of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol, said: “We can understand the implications of uncertainty, and in the case of the climate system, it is very clear that greater uncertainty will make things even worse. This means that we can never say that there is too much uncertainty for us to act. If you appeal to uncertainty to make a policy decision the legitimate conclusion is to increase the urgency of mitigation.”

Co-author, Dr James Risbey of Australia’s CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, said: “Some point to uncertainty as a way to minimize the climate change problem, when in fact it means that the problem is more likely to be worse than expected in the absence of that uncertainty. This result is robust to a range of assumptions and shows that uncertainty does not excuse inaction.”

If we assume that catastrophic climate change is a fundamental truth, the authors are right. The task of climate science is to reveal that truth to the world. If that truth cannot be accurately accessed, then the consequences of unmitigated climate change will be greater than if they could be. But if there is no fundamental truth to be revealed then all what you have is a number of dogmatic people who cannot accept that their theories are not backed by the evidence. The failure to understand the path to climate catastrophe might be due to no climate catastrophe in prospect. Persistent failures increase the likelihood that the belief in the fundamental truth of climate catastrophism is just a cult. Circumstantial evidence is in the unique methods and language of the “science”; moral certitude; failure to appreciate climate change could be a trivial problem; belief in their infallibility; reliance on belief in science, as opposed to accepting science that fails to be falsified; failure to recognize that those who disagree may also have valid viewpoint; and the denigration of anybody who asks questions as heretics deniers. Further, the solution is always the same, fitting in with an extremist socialist-environmentalist world view. There is no recognition that mitigation policies can fail. If mitigation can avert climate catastrophe it is a tautology to state that if mitigation is only practiced in a few minor emitting countries, those countries will bear all the cost of policies, and future generations will endure virtually all the consequences. The same is tautological truth applies if mitigation is practiced globally, but fails to reduce emissions.

The pay walled papers are here and here.

Kevin Marshall

Update :Jo Nova has a satirical take on the latest Lew papers.

Lewandowsky’s setback on campaign to undermine academic pluralism and excellence

The “Recursive Fury” paper, that allegedly libelled a number of bloggers1, has been taken down2. Lead author Stephan Lewandowsky has given his reaction at Shaping tommorow’s world.

Two of the “Recursive Fury” paper authors were Prof Lewandowsky and the blogger John Cook3. In 2011 they co-wrote “The Debunking Handbook“. I ask that readers view my comments in the context of the following opening statement:-

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

My comment is copied below. In brief I try to cover:-

  • Lewandowsky’s smearing of the majority with the views expressed by a minority.
  • Total failure to empathise with alternative points of view.
  • How his appeals for academic freedom are the reverse.
  • How the false allegations and smears are used to a shutdown questions on public policy.
  • How the “Lewandowsky Episode” can become a textbook example of why promotion of pluralism is necessary in our universities.
  1. ManicBeancounter at 20:37 PM on 23 March, 2014

    Stephan Lewandowsky,
    As a professor, you should be my intellectual superior. As a scientist you should be able to provide novel explanations about your subject area that go beyond what the non-specialist would find out for themselves, but at the same time accommodate the basic understanding that the non-specialist.
    Your “Hoax” paper ignored the obvious conclusion of the data. The vast majority of respondents did not believe in the cranky conspiracy theories, regardless of their views on “climate science”. Any “conspiracist ideation” revolves around differences in the small proportions that do. That means that the vast majority of “skeptics” who do not understand will feel insulted. Morally you should have clearly stated that any conclusions only apply to a small minority. The first part of the paper’s title inferred the opposite.
    “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax”
    Out of 1145 respondents, just 2 strongly rejected “climate science” and strongly supported that faxed moon landing theory. The question was not asked of those two people if they followed that path of reasoning. Unsurprisingly, when you smear people with ideas that they find insulting they express outrage. There is nothing “confected” about this.
    There are three things that make this beyond the pale of academic freedom
    First, you do not advance knowledge, but to repress the obvious empirical statement (the vast majority do not believe in cranky conspiracy theories) with the opposite.
    Second is that the smears is to deny a group of people who you disagree with a voice.
    Third, is that you use false allegations of intellectual inferiority to evaluate climate “science”, to prevent a voice in matters of public policy. Yet the voices that you seek to repress often have far greater understanding and knowledge of economics and policy implementation than you and your fellow-travelling academics.
    Academic freedom must be protected so that ideas and knowledge that challenge society’s established beliefs can be nurtured. But that must be accompanied by a deliberate policy of pluralism, for there are none so defensive of their protecting their beliefs or ideas as those who spent their lives developing them. Professor Lewandowsky, your work in the last three years should become a textbook example of the attempts and consequences to suppress that freedom.

  2. ManicBeancounter at 06:39 AM on 24 March, 2014


    Your comment 68 shows a basic function of peer review. Correcting the obvious errors. If there is no such quality control then the demarcation between academic and non-academic literature simply collapses. Further, if the academia cannot easily distinguish the excellent from the dross, then there must be a quality control before their recommendations are passed into public policy. Much the same way are new pharmaceuticals must go through rigorous regulatory testing before being proscribed to the public.

  3. ManicBeancounter at 06:59 AM on 24 March, 2014

    My comments as 57 and 70 should be viewed in the context of the opening comment in the “The Debunking Handbook”, written by John Cook and Stephen Lewandowsky and accessible on the right column.

    “It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.”

    By any independent measure the “Hoax” and “Recursive Fury” papers are full of misinformation. The authors aim at establishing a monopoly on truth, but by their very words, and subsequent behaviour, show that they are the last people you would entrust with that monopoly. There is no better example for the need of democratic societies to promote pluralism through competition in their universities to prevent the establishment of dogma. This is particularly true in Australia and the UK, where Government’s would like their universities to be World-leading.


  1. This includes Steve McIntyre, Barry Woods, Geoff Chambers and “Foxgoose”.
  2. See BishopHill (here and here), Geoff Chambers, Steve McIntyre, Australian Climate Madness (here and here), and the Guardian.
  3. This is the same John Cook who thinks he can define the meaning of words better than a dictionary.

Kevin Marshall

Stephan Lewandowsky – a self-confessed danger to democracy

Australian Climate Madness takes a swipe at Stephan Lewandowsky’s latest taxpayer-funded polemic. This is an extended version of my comment.

Lewandowsky’s sneaky request “to mention only my assistant’s name, Charles Hanich, on the online survey” has particular relevance to what followed. Before Joanne Nova published her “Lewandowsky show skeptics are nutters… post, she contacted a number of skeptic bloggers to search their inbox for Lewandowsky’s survey. There was no mention of his research assistant in the paper, so naturally all the resultant searches drew a blank. On this basis I wrote on 03.09.12:-

The claim in the paper that they contacted five sceptical blogs to improve the spread of views is highly suspect.

It turns out that my suspicions were correct. Stephen Lewandowsky had not contacted any of the skeptic sites, and deliberately kept people in the dark as to this fact.

Lewandowsky posted on 10.09.12 at Shaping Tomorrow’s World

1. When will an apology be forthcoming for the accusations launched against me? And how many individuals should now be issuing a public apology?

To explore the magnitude of this question we must take stock of public statements that have been made about my research. For example, one blogger considered it “highly suspect” whether I had contacted any “skeptic” sites. (emphasis mine)

Linking to my comment, Prof. Lewandowsky, knowing my suspicions to be true, brazenly demands that I apologize for daring to suspect him.

He digs himself a deeper hole by saying later

we now know that the presumed lack of evidence was actually evidence for a measure of carelessness or shoddy record keeping among the individuals contacted.

It gets worse. Prof Lewandowsky co-wrote with John Cook a short pamphlet called The Debunking Handbook.

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

What Lewandowsky engaged in was misinformation. He asked to keep secret his identity, gave obscure (or non-existent) clues to emails and then claimed bloggers “amnesia” when they failed to find emails sent to them by unidentified individual. He did this whilst believing that such misinformation would work to the advantage of himself and his unsupported beliefs, whilst undermining democracy.

He later went onto attack my simple analysis using pivot tables. Yet such analysis revealed much the LOG12 paper omitted. For example

- how few skeptic responses there were (c.15%)

- how few supported many of the conspiracy theories (e.g. Moon landing hoax = 10/1145, AIDS created by US Govt = 9/1145)

- That key to the higher proportion of skeptics supporting conspiracy theories were two rogue responses.

The whole paper is misinformation, aimed at getting an alleged majority to discriminate against those who have alternative points of view. Lack of any counter-balance is the major factor that makes people vulnerable to misinformation. Further research on belief in conspiracy theories would reveal that they are more predominant in communities where there are strong belief systems with enforced dominance.

Kevin Marshall

Anyone who wishes to contact me can do so through the comments. I will not publish any such request made in a non-threatening fashion. I will publish counter-arguments, so that others might compare and contrast for themselves.

Blocked by the Great Firewall of China?

One of the advantages of using WordPress is that they provide details of the countries where hits originate from. It is fascinating to see that in the last 18 months I have received hits from well over 100 countries.

As I have only posted in English, it is not surprising that the top three countries, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all hits are Australia, United States, UK (where I live). Yet there are fully 23 nations where I have received just one hit. As I have never mentioned countries such as Laos, Saint Lucia, Papua New Guinea or Ghana, Given that they have small numbers of people and/or with limited internet access, and having mentioned these countries, then this is not surprising. But there is one glaring anomaly in these 23 nations – China. With over 20% of the world’s population, and having mentioned the country at least once – on China’s Coal to Oil Policy – this is at first surprising. Maybe it is the Great Firewall of China that is blocking me. However, there is a site The results show that my site is not blocked. This is further confirmed by over half my spam is from China, often with Chinese script.

The explanation might be that the Great Chinese Fire Wall acts like Google incognito window.

I tested some other sites and got mixed results. and wattsupwiththat are not blocked. Amongst those blocked are, and

There is a couple of lesson’s here. First is that no matter how good you consider the data, (and WordPress has, I am sure, site stats to the highest standards) it may not capture everything. Secondly, when statistics do not add up, it is easy to come to a conspiracy conclusion. It might be that you are ignored because you are not recognized, or in being recognized others do not give two hoots to your opinions. Below is the Chinese translation, to act as a test. A further test is to mention Tiananmen Square Massacre 1989, and post the posting in Chinese – See below.




测试了其他一些网站,并得到了好坏参半的结果。 wattsupwiththat没有阻塞。当中那些阻塞


Fundamentals that Climate Science Ignores

Updated 08/09/13 am

Updated 08/09/13 pm – M The Null Hypothesis

Climate Science is a hugely complex subject, dealing with phenomena that are essentially chaotic, with vague patterns. Yet the promotion of that science is banal and superficial. Below are some of the fundamentals that have been addressed in established areas like economics, philosophy and English Common Law, but which the Climate Science community ignores. Most overlap, or are different ways of looking at the same thing.

A Positive and Normative

I do not hold with the logical positivism in vogue in the early parts of the C20th and later underpinning the “positive economics” ideas of Milton Friedman that was popular in the 1950s to 1980s. But it made the useful distinction between positive statements (empirically based statements) and normative statements (what ought to be). The language of climate science is heavily value-laden. There is not attempt to distinguish positive from normative in language, nor highlight that competency in the sphere of positive statements is not necessarily an indication of competency in normative ones.  For instance, when scientists make statements about the moral imperative for policy, they may overemphasize the moral questions raised as they may be too close to the subject. In fact believing that that rising greenhouse gas levels causes a worsening of climate can lead to a bias towards the simplified solution to constrain that growth. It takes understanding of the entirely separate fields of economics and public policy-making to determine whether this is achievable, or the best solution.

B Boundary conditions

There is no clear definition of science in general or the study of climate in particular. The only underlying definitions are tantamount to saying that science is what scientists do, and scientific statements are those made by scientists. Without a clear definition of science, scientists end up making unsupported statements, outside their area of competency. For instance, scientists often make statements about the economic case for policy. With the term “climate change” encompassing both, the general public are misled into believing that “climate scientists” cover both areas.

C Open and closed questions

A closed question can by answered by a single word. The narrowest closed questions are those can be answered “Yes/No” or “True/False”. Open questions need fuller answers. Climate change is not just about closed questions. It is about how much, how likely, when and where. If terms of boundary, there is not a closed question of science versus non-science – with the boundary in actual work being between that published in a peer-reviewed journal and that published outside. That leads onto non-triviality and quality conditions and relevancy

D Trivial v. Non-trivial

The strongest evidence for global warming suggests a trivial issue. In one aspect this is true by definition. The non-trivial part – the potential climate catastrophe that policy seeks to avert – relies upon future projections. This relies on temperature rises many times greater than so far experienced. Projections will always be, weaker that the actual evidence. But there is an empirical aspect as well. If the actual trends are far below those predicted (surface temperature warming trends), or fail to show a switch to a path pointing to catastrophe (acceleration in the rate of sea level rise)

E Quality

There is good quality science and poor quality. Peer review should help, but (as suggested in the Climategate emails) acceptance/rejection can be based on criteria other than science. In most areas of science, and indeed in many professions, efforts have been made to improve the quality of results. One minor step towards improvement of quality is the insistence on publishing the data behind peer-reviewed articles. This has led to the quick exposure of shoddy work like Gergis et al 2012 and LOG12 papers, whereas it took many years of persistence by Steve McIntyre to get the full data on Keith Briffa’s deeply flawed Yamal tree-ring temperature proxy. However, as the forthcoming UNIPCC AR5 report will demonstrate, increasing quality is sacrificed in promoting climate catastrophism.

F False Positives and False Negatives

A particular subset of the quality issue is that of false positives and false negatives. With activists pressuring governments and scientific bodies to agree with the dogma, and promotion of pejorative language (e.g. deniers, fake skeptics), misattribution of significant weather events to climate change is a consequence. Whilst in cancer screening there have been efforts made to reduce the number of false positives and false negatives, in climate science there seems to be every effort to increase the numbers of false positives. (Superstorm Sandy that hit New York state last year, the extreme heat wave in Europe in 2003, the low sea ice point in September 2012).

G Relevancy and significance

Some pieces of information, or scientific papers, are more important than others. The vast majority of papers published are on trivial issues and/or fail to make a lasting impact. In terms of catastrophic global warming, most papers in the field are tangential to the subject. The same is true of items of information, statistics and opinions.

H Necessary and Sufficient

For a climate policy to give net benefits, a number of conditions are necessary, both in the science (greenhouse gas effect, significant warming, adverse consequences) and in policy area (policy with theoretical net benefits > costs of doing nothing, large enough policy area, effective policy management). Sufficient for policy success (net policy benefits > costs of doing nothing) all are to some extent necessary. For policy failure, it is only sufficient for one of the necessary conditions to fail. It does not matter whether this is

-       climate sensitivity being much lower than assumed

-       or adaptation at the non-governmental local level is much more effective than assumed

-       or the net adverse consequences of any given amount of warming are grossly exaggerated

-       or the theoretical economic case for policy is flawed (such as demand for energy is far more inelastic with respect to price over time than assumed, or that renewable energy is not a close substitute to fossil fuel energy)

-       or the actual policy enacted does not encapsulate the economic theory, diluting or nullifying the effectiveness

-       or unilateralist policy where success requires that the vast majority of the biggest economies to participate

-       or the policy on paper is potentially successful, but it is not project managed to drive through the maximum benefits at least cost

I Levels of evidence

In the legal systems, especially in criminal law, it has long been recognized that there are different qualities of evidence. The strongest is DNA, fingerprints, or catching somebody in the act. There is then secondary evidence from witnesses. There is then circumstantial evidence, such as the accused being near to the scene at the time, with no clear reason to be there. The lowest form of evidence, and usually rejected, is hearsay evidence. That is opinions of people with little interest in the case, giving unsupported opinions. The judicial process also views more highly evidence that is corroborated by other pieces of evidence, and evidence that on its own seems quite strong is downgraded or ruled out by contrary evidence, or alternative explanations.

J Values of the Legal Process in Reverse

Climate science, fails to grapple with the grading of evidence, as some its strongest arguments – consensus amongst scientists – is actually hearsay. Improving the quality of evidence would mean critically examining past forecasts in the light of evidence. In the judicial process, creating prejudice in the eyes of the jury against the defendants, or seeking to deny the accused a defence, is forcefully dealt with. Creating prejudice and denying a voice to those who question the climate change dogmas is viewed as part of the cause.

K Underdetermination Thesis

“The underdetermination thesis – the idea that any body of evidence can be explained by any number of mutually incompatible theories”

Quote from Kuhn vs Popper – Steve Fuller 2003

The global warming hypothesis is but one of a number of hypotheses trying to explain why climate changes over time. The problem is not just of a potential number of competing theories. It is that there might be a number of different elements influencing climate, with the various weightings dependent on the method and assumptions in analysis. It is not just trying to determine which one, but which ones and to what extent that they interplay.

L Vulnerability

Every scientific hypothesis is vulnerable to being refuted. Human-caused catastrophic global warming (CAGW) is based on extremely tentative assumptions, and is a forecast of future events. As the warming the past one hundred years is tiny compared that forecast to happen in the future, and that warming is partly obscured by natural variations, then the signal of future catastrophe will be weak. The issue is further clouded by the lack of long periods of data on climate variability before when human emissions became significant. That is data prior to 1945, when the post war economic boom led to a huge increase in human emissions. Assuming the forecasts of CAGW are correct, the hypothesis becomes incredibly vulnerable to rejection.
But if CAGW is false, or massively exaggerated, then the hypothesis is deeply susceptible to confirmation bias by those who only look to find evidence of its truth. The core belief of climate science is that the catastrophist hypothesis is true and the job of the “science” is to reveal this truth. The core mission of many co-believers is to stop any questioning of these core beliefs. The alternative view is that evidence for CAGW has become stronger over the last twenty-five years, making the hypothesis less vulnerable over time. This can be tested by looking at the success of the short-term predictions.

M The Null Hypothesis

Wikipedia’s definition is

In statistical inference of observed data of a scientific experiment, the null hypothesis refers to a general or default position: that there is no relationship between two measured phenomena,…… Rejecting or disproving the null hypothesis – and thus concluding that there are grounds for believing that there is a relationship between two phenomena …………….. – is a central task in the modern practice of science, and gives a precise sense in which a claim is capable of being proven false.

It applies to AGW theory, as the hypotheses are empirical relationships. With highly complex, and essentially chaotic, systems it is only by confronting the data using a battery of statistical tests that you can disprove the null hypothesis. Without the null hypothesis, and without such rigorous testing, all the data and observations will only confirm what you want to believe. Some of the best established empirically-based hypotheses, like “HIV causes AIDS” and “long-term heavy smoking significantly reduces life expectancy” have been confronted with the null hypothesis many times against large, high quality data sets. At extremely high levels of significance, the null hypothesis of no relationship can be rejected.

It could be claimed that the null hypothesis in not applicable to AGW theory as it forecasts something much worse happening than has so far been experienced. However, it is more important because of this. There is no bridge between reality and the theoretical relationships (with assumed magnitudes) in the climate models. The null hypothesis (general or default position) for testing against actual data is not that there is no relationship, but the double-negative of no non-trivial relationship. So the null hypothesis for testing “CO2 causes warming”, is not “CO2 does not affect temperature”, but “CO2 has no non-trivial impact on warming”. The reason is that the claimed requirement for policy is avoidance of a climate catastrophe, with relationships being non-trivial in magnitude.

Ed Davey’s anti-science, anti-British and anti-Liberal attack on Climate Sceptics

Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Climate and Energy has, according to the Telegraph recently said

“Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue.

I agree that there are uncertainties with climate science. But if you only allow believers in that “science” to contribute, without any training in decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, then the conclusions drawn out of that research will be wrong.

“But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups,”

Such as the Guardian, the BBC, or central government departments? It can work both ways.

“This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing.”

Are you speaking of sceptics or of climatology? You must first establish that climatology is not just a science, but is a science of the highest standards.

“This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.”

Matthew 7:3-5 says

Why do you stare at the splinter in your neighbour’s eye, but ignore the plank in your own? How can you say to your neighbour “Here – let me get the splinter out of your eye,” when you’ve got the plank in your own? You’re just play-acting! First take the plank out of your own eye, then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your neighbour’s eye.”

These two thousand year old words, translated by Tom Wright (Britain’s leading New Testament Scholar and former Bishop of Durham), show the issue of climatology. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky or Bob Ward, or desmogblog are some of the “planks” that deliberately blind and prejudice people from examining the evidence, moral and political arguments for themselves. Putting in a milder fashion, you cannot say that people are wrong, or have a massively inferior argument, if you cannot first demonstrate that you are on the side of truth, or encourage others compare and contrast your arguments with the opponents. As I posted last week, there is a strong lack of a positive case for the science. As I posted last week, this should be a combination of trumpeting the short-term predictive successes, showing that climate science build on the traditions of the greatest scientists and philosophies of science and also of the moral case covered below.

“This tendency will seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty and portray it as proof that all climate change policy is hopelessly misguided.”

Rubbish. Criticism of policy is often for separate reasons to scientific uncertainty. The argument is that the costs of policy are far greater than then benefits. Some of the policy might be totally ineffective, or in trying to reduce CO2 emissions may make people less capable of dealing with the impacts, through making them poorer.

He added: “By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped so we can all relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want without a care.”

Sceptics say that climatologists selectively read the evidence. Many would say that increased CO2 provides net benefits, and I do not come across any blog that we should create general pollution without a care. Many of the leading sceptic blogs (WUWT, BishopHill, Jo Nova) accept that increased greenhouse gases will lead to some level of warming, but not a significant one. As put by Warren Meyer, most sceptics deny the catastrophe, not the basic science.

“Those who argue against all the actions we are taking to reduce emissions, without any serious and viable alternative, are asking us to take a massive gamble with the planet our children will inherit, in the face of all the evidence, against overwhelming odds.”

I believe that morally politicians should act like medical professionals. They should have a duty of care towards the patient. That duty should be based on the reasonable expectation that treatment will leave the patient better off than not being treated at all. If anyone claims that climatology and public-policy making have the same level of knowledge of diagnosis and treatment as medical professionals and pharmacy on such ailments as common cancers or arthritis, then they are wrong. I would say that climate “ethics” needs to catch up with medical ethics as well.

Finally, let me point to four areas where Ed Davey is severely out of line.

First, my late father voted for the Liberal Party for over 50 years at every election – bar at one local election where no Liberal was standing. Then he voted for the underdog Conservative candidate. He believed in the consensus through seeking the middle ground, a thoroughly British trait. This middle ground was the opposite of the extremism of climatology, which is increasingly about demeaning the opposition and denying them a platform to speak.

Second, a virtue of English Common Law is that of letting the accused have the same rights of presentation, and to have the same rules of evidence as for the prosecution. This is not in the belief that the most notorious criminals can get off scot free. It is because the most guilty who proclaim their innocence will most convince an independent jury of their guilt as their lies and ridiculous stories unravel. On the other side, if the prosecution, convinced of the guilt of the accused perverts or supresses the evidence, the later unravelling of the case will undermine the rule of law. It did with the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, men falsely sentenced for heinous crimes that they did not commit. Another example is that I strongly believe that those who do not accept that around six million Jews were massacred in the Nazi genocide should not be silenced. Rather, comparing their evidence will the overwhelming evidence of the historical truth will demonstrated that there is no debate, and those deniers are have an inability to assess the evidence. Silencing such views will lead to false conspiracy theories that there is something to hide.

Third, is the British sense of fair play. The very British idea of having a level playing field is not unconnected to the fact that most major sports are British inventions, or have been strongly influenced by British rule-making. Winning is not at any cost is not the point. It is playing the game to the best of one’s ability. There is a lesson in life as well. Somebody might be far superior in a sport, or in science, or in any intellectual field, than anyone else alive. But it is only by going head-to-head with others that everyone will be convinced. But in losing in sport, we go back and try harder. If we are beaten in science, we are forced to re-examine our conclusions, and may improve. Finding out where we went wrong, or how to improve from failures is a general lesson in life. Within wider society it leads to improvement.

Fourth is something very anti-British. The most evil powers, whether governments, religious cults or tribal gangs, are those who assert their power by belittling and silencing others. Ed Davey and climatologists are not in their league by any means. But they fall into a false sense of superiority by demeaning others. It is a very human trait to practice this, but has mostly held back humanity.

The previous Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, earlier this year convicted of perverting the course of justice, was similarly dogmatic. Why there should be two ministers so at odds with the older philosophy of the moderate Liberal Party traditions is the subject of the next post.

Dehumanizing Climate Sceptics

Steve Mcintyre did some research on Dr Paul Bain – the same who Jo Nova had a long correspondence with a few months ago.

Dehumanizing Language
A few months ago, in an article in Nature Climate Change, Paul Bain, another Australian psychologist, repeatedly used the term “denier” to refer to climate skeptics. Bain defended this usage at Judy Curry’s on the basis that it would “activate the strongest confirming stereotypes” in his target audience:
By using the term “denier” we wanted to start with something that would activate the strongest confirming stereotypes in this audience
Bain’s usage was sharply criticized by skeptic blogs (though it was not an issue that I bothered with.) Judy Curry made the following interesting suggestion:

Somebody needs to research the sociology and psychology of people that insist that anyone that does not accept AGW as a rationale for massive CO2 mitigation efforts is a “denier.”

Judy’s invitation unfortunately was not followed up in the comments. Had this been done, people would have made the surprising discovery that, in his “day job”, Bain primarily wrote about the use and function of derogatory epithets (e.g. cockroach in the Hutu-Tutsi and other racially charged terms). Bain observed that a primary function of dehumanizing language is to reinforce the self-esteem of the “in group”:
For example, Bain observed

Subtle forms of dehumanization are often explained with reference to …the idea that the in group is attributed “the human essence” more than outgroups, and hence outgroups are implicitly seen as “non-human”. ..

People typically evaluate their in-groups more favorably than out-groups and themselves more favorably than others…

such labeling has the effect of denying full humanness to the out group, reinforcing the self-esteem of the in-group..

The denial of full humanness to others, and the cruelty and suffering that accompany it, is an all-too familiar phenomenon…

Despite Bain’s prolific writing on the use and abuse of dehumanizing epithets, he was oddly oblivious to the function of the term “denier” as a means of dehumanizing IPCC critics.

My interpretation of Bains’ scientific research is that likening sceptics to Nazis or pedophiles shows the collective insecurities and feelings of inadequacy of those making the comments. Deep down they know that their beliefs are built on sand, and are desperately finding ways not to acknowledge this. Dehumanizing those who challenge their beliefs is nothing new. It is an easy position to fall into, and takes courage to challenge.

The Calculus of Climate Change morality

A couple of days ago Jo Nova highlighted another example of an environmentalist, Jonathan Moylan, who thought that to save the planet they were morally justified in committing criminal acts. My posting is on one journalist’s opinion that Moylan should be applauded, not prosecuted.

Katherine Wilson in the Age opinion says

Moylan’s hoax asks us to consider a broader category of victims: the world’s citizens and environments who are facing the real consequence of big polluters such as coal companies.

When asked by the Newcastle Herald whether his actions were justified, Moylan said

 My intention was to get ANZ Bank to expose themselves as the backers of the Maules Creek project. Some media organisations have used the word ”justify” – this is not my word. My prime concern is the local community, which has been feeling very despondent – the forest, our health and our water.

That is Moylan does not think he is saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. Or at least he claiming not to do have done so after the event. Let us, however, assume that Katherine Wilson is correct in assuming Moylan’s actions were more to do global climate change than local environmental issues.

The moral case is that the harms caused in the necessary publicizing of an issue are insignificant compared to beside larger damage occurring. It we were able to go back in a time machine to April 20th 1889, and strangle the newly born son of Klara and Alois Hitler, would we be justified in doing so. One death could have saved the life of millions, as without a charismatic leader the extremist nationalist elements in Weimar Germany would never have come to the fore. But what if the communists had come to power in Germany instead? They were certainly the main opposition that the Nazis staged street battles with in the 1920s. Suppose that they joined with the Soviets to invade Poland and then the rest of Europe? With the many millions of people that died in the Gulags, along with the tens of millions that had died in the collectivisation of agriculture, could the death of an infant conceivably have caused even greater misery?

I use this example, not to ponder nor the morality of killing infants (or later killing the Adolf Hitler once he became the charismatic leader of the Nazi party). It is to consider whether, for climate change, such a calculus of causing a small harm will lead to the prevention of a larger harm. With respect to climate change, this depends on three factors. First, the likely harm from future unimpeded climate change will have catastrophic consequences. Second, the likely harm of the action to highlight awareness of the issue is trivial compared to the impending climate catastrophe. Third, that will be significant success in getting the issue recognised.

If climate change is vastly exaggerated then there is a risk that Moylan is campaigning for policies that are not justified. The treatment is more harmful than the ailment. If the harm caused by the action is vastly greater than anticipated, or the full extent is not recognised post the event (“you’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette” mentality), then there is an element of recklessness. If there are already policies in place to optimally tackle the issue, and the media is already on the side of the consensus opinion, then aggressive action to further highlight the cause is that is already more than fully recognised is positively harmful to society. It could lead to policies not justified by the scientific evidence, however construed.

Consider the following from Katherine Wilson’s argument.

At the parliamentary level, Greens senator Christine Milne has applauded his actions as being ”part of a long and proud history of civil disobedience, potentially breaking the law, to highlight something wrong”.

Read more:

Like the Nazis smashing up the shops of Jews, or beating up communists to highlight that their great nation is being over-run? Most people will now accept that the racist laws that existed in America’s Deep South in the 1950s, or the denial of universal suffrage for all adults in Britain prior to 1918 were immoral, and therefore at least some of the protests were justified. But most sane people will accept that the cause of the Nazis was evil, so any sort of illegal actions to promote their ideas is wrong. Wilson and Milne are assuming they stand on the moral high ground. Whilst not considering them as bad as the Nazis, I do believe them morally to be nearer to that position than of Martin Luther King, or Emmeline Pankhurst, as the points below will demonstrate.

For those citizens who have not given up on the conviction that taking action is ”the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”, there is little choice but to pull off hoaxes of this kind.

Read more:

Again, others may disagree. Al Qaeda sees the greatest challenge as spreading Islam. For millions in Southern Europe finding a job, or being paid for their work, is far more important. Dr Indur Goklany. looking at the consensus projections of climate impacts thinks that in the next few decades there are far more important issues facing humanity.

Moylan’s hoax asks us to consider a broader category of victims: the world’s citizens and environments who are facing the real consequence of big polluters such as coal companies.

Read more:

For more than two billion people in Asia, any environmental problems of rapid development may seem trivial to the huge benefits of being able to eat better, or having access to ever-increasing levels of healthcare and education.

For all the ”free market of ideas” posturing, the media and finance marketplace that Moylan sought to disrupt is not some equal playing field operating under rules of fair play. As countless journalism academics have documented, news agendas are set by public servants, PR agents, politicians and business leaders.

Read more:

It would be nice to know where Moylan’s views are under-represented. I know that I live on the other side of the planet here so I may have the wrong perspective. Did the Gillard Government enact a carbon tax last July to look tackle the problem of climate change? Was this policy one of the most stringent in the world? Does the “Age” publish the opinions environmentalists? Does the “Age” give fair coverage of both sides, or does it give voice to those deliberately misrepresent the sceptic position? Does the major TV network give impartial coverage, deliberately misrepresent one side? For example, when Jo Nova was interviewed for a “debate” on climate.

This is why Moylan orchestrated his hoax at a time when the Australian Securities Exchange is operating at a fraction of normal levels.

Read more:

Wilson is implying that Moylan planned the attacked to minimize the potential damage. But Jonathan Moylan has said

“.. it has had a much bigger impact than I expected.”

It looks like Katherine Wilson is trying to make Moylan out as somebody who understood the cost-benefit calculus of minimal damage for maximum effect, whereas Moylan is claiming the opposite.

True, his action may have affected the sort of ”ordinary” people who have blind faith that finance markets are based on trust and immutable laws. But are the people who gamble their spare funds in coal industry investments really the victims here?

Read more:

Wilson in effect condemns Moylan. Finance markets are based on trust. If the hoax has consequences for undermining peoples trust in making contracts, then the consequential costs are far greater than the short-term losses. She would have to show that she has in place an alternative system where trust is not important. I can think of some, but these are inferior to a market-based system, both morally (based on rule by fear) and economically. Wilson then makes an assumption about the investors. It might be people’s pensions that are at stake here. It might be from people who do not share environmentalist’s morality, or who simply think that the Labor Government is doing sufficient from the carbon tax.

To charge Moylan on the basis of fraud would also be disingenuous. As Fairfax journalist Eric Johnston reported on Tuesday, the ASX is subject to frequent hoaxes. How many rogue traders have used false takeover bids or issued statements to profit illegally from movements in the market? How many finance journalists and PR agents were complicit in deceiving finance markets in the lead-up to the global financial crisis?

Read more:

My reading of the law is that Moylan should be charged just the same as those who hoax for personal gain, or simply to cause damage for non-ideological reasons. The motives should be taken into account in deciding the severity of the charge, and if found guilty, the severity of the punishment. It could be argued that his hoax should be treated far more seriously than a fraud for personal gain, as it could viewed as an act of economic sabotage. In fact Wilson in effect condemns him For instance, burning down an empty building to instil fear should be viewed far more seriously than an arsonist who has a fixation with seeing buildings burn. In the first case, it undermines the rule of law, along with the other causes

In summary, none of the three conditions to say that there is a moral benefit in breaking the law are met. First. the climate change issue is likely to be grossly exaggerated. Second. the hoax may have had huge harm. Third, climate change policies have already been enacted and the media presence is considerable. For a journalist to claim otherwise is the sign of a blinkered extremist.

Kevin Marshall

My opinions are my own. If they are in error, then I will consider reasoned replies. If anyone would like a right of reply, I would be happy to publish it, so that people can compare the arguments. I reserve the right to publish a counter argument. If you wish to contact me, please do so through the comments. I will not publish any approach for debate, but reserve the right to publish any approach that uses threats to shut-off my counter-arguments, despite due warning.

Lewandowsky on Radio 4 – missing out basic human psychology

Mike Haseler comments upon the appearance of Prof Stephan Lewandowsky on Radio 4 this week.

Lewandowski is a nasty piece of work who set out to fabricate data using bogus questions by which he attempted to prove sceptics are conspiracy theorists. All he managed to prove is that he is incapable of admitting the poor quality of his work. So, imagine my disgust tonight when I heard the BBC were broadcasting some of his material:

“Why do we continue to believe information even when we are told it’s wrong? Claudia Hammond discovers how the brain stores facts and why we don’t erase erroneous explanations.” (all in the mind)

That section of the program wasn’t very interesting (I fell asleep listening) but having had the misfortune to read the scenario before, the gist of it was that sometimes people will use ideas that they have been explicitly told are wrong showing that most people do not trust academics like Lewandowski.

Obviously that’s not what he intended the result to be.

The scenario given was that subjects were told there was a fire in a barn. They were told oil paints were stored in the barn. They were then told they were not stored in the barn (at which point is anyone going to believe the researcher?). Then they are asked why the fire had thick smoke. Lewandowski is trying to prove “false memories” or some such junk, by showing people still use the information that there was oil paints which they have been told is false. The reality is that what he proves is that very often people don’t believe the information the academics force down their throat and they come up with quite plausible explanations (the smoke was caused by the oil paints the researcher told them wasn’t present) which don’t agree with the “truth” ordained to them by academics like Lewandowski. What this clearly shows is that the general public is more inclined to trust their own ideas of what happened rather than rely on academics like Lewandowski when they are so untrustworthy they can’t make up their mind whether there is or is not paint in the barn.

My comment was

Your point about not believing somebody who has fed you false information is an enormously important part of human psychology. In close relationships, such as with one’s partner or a close friend we trust the other implicitly. If that trust is betrayed – such as a wife finding out after many years of marriage that the husband has a mistress – then it is not easily regained. A lot of distrust in climate science is that when the science gets it wrong, or is found giving false certainties (such as Glaciergate and Climategate), the reaction has not been to confess to error, but to sweep the issue under the carpet, or blame others.

Another aspect is that people tend to trust new information from people that they trust and respect, rather than people that they are prejudiced against. However hard we try to be neutral, people tend to more easily accept the words of the politicians that have their world view, than those of the opposite party. A life-long Tory from Haslemere has similar prejudices to a Labour supporter from Middlesbrough. They would far sooner trust a politician from their party than from the other side.

The problem with Lewandowsky is he fails to understand the problems of regaining trust when it has been breached, but instead tries to create prejudice against those who question his dogmatic views.


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