Tag Archives: Environment

Extreme confirmation bias in action

How’s this for an egregious example of confirmation bias. This morning the local blog Whale oil presents this graphic to “prove” his assertions that current climate science is a “hoax’ and those who accept the science are either fools or worse (see Chart of the Day – Proof of global warming).

guide_2505022cThe chart is taken from well-known climate denying journalist Christopher Booker’s Telegraph article Look at the graph to see the evidence of global warming. Trouble is, one has to do a lot of ignoring of facts to produce such charts. In fact he has taken only two data points (and drawn a vague sort of line between them). Isn’t Booker’s little chart somewhat misleading when you see what he ignores in the total data set:

compare_datasets_new

Global near-surface temperatures from 1850 to 2012 from Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit HadCRUT4, NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC

I discuss this sort of cherry picking in my recent post :

“There’s a lot of noise in that graph but it does sort of support the conclusion that global temperatures have increased in the last 100 years. Mind you, if you want to create a contrary impression you can easily take a short time period – say around 1950, 1960 – 1980, 1985 – 1995 – or even the last 16 years. Cherry picking is a great thing – if your aim is to support a predetermined conclusion, and avoid (or even hide) evidence to the contrary.’

I know, I’m hardly likely to change this blogger’s position. He is operating under the completely human process of confirmation denial. Will Storr, in his recently published book The Heretics describes confirmation bias this way:

“When confronted by a new fact, we first feel an instantaneous, emotional hunch. It is a raw instinct for whether the fact is right or wrong and it pulls us helplessly in the direction of an opinion. Then we look for evidence that supports our hunch. The moment we find some, we think ‘Aha!’ and happily conclude that we are, indeed, correct. The thinking then ceases.

Psychologists know this as the ‘makes sense stopping rule’. We ignore anything that runs counter to our hunch, grab for the first thing that matches, think, Yep that makes sense, and then we rest, satisfied by the peerless powers of our fantastic wisdom. Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of confirmation bias is the fact that we mistake the process of searching for favourable evidence as a fair survey of both sides of the argument.”

You see this psychological phenomena again and again in internet articles and comments on climate change. But what is becoming clearer and clearer is that the prejudice underlying this particular confirmation bias is an extreme right-wing political position of the sort promoted by Chris Monckton and his “Agenda 21″ myth.

Perhaps the fact that these extreme distortions and misrepresentation of current climate change science is becoming so obviously associated with this sort of politics is one reason more and more people are refusing to subscribe to the “climate change hoax” myth.

Similar articles

Troll training

You may have seen this before – but it’s worth repeating. We need reminding from time to time of the tactics used by those who seek to discredit science. Particularly, at the moment, climate science.

It’s a short video – but you get the picture. These people are carrying out a political campaign – they are not interested in truth or science. Their whole approach is to smear and attempt to discredit.

Remind you of anyone?

Thanks to: Americans Against the Tea Party who offer this description:

This video was filmed in Nashville TN. A group tied to the Koch Brothers associate Howie Rich trains Tea Partiers in “guerilla internet tactics.” The presenter instructs his audience to put up false book reviews, as well as give “bad ratings” to documentary films that are embarrassing to the Tea Party. This clip shows us just how twisted, and pathologically dishonest the Tea Party really is.

Training Tea Party Activists In Guerilla Internet Tactics – BUSTED!.

See also: (Astro) Turf Wars

Is your region warming?

New Scientist has produced a little tool which enables you to access regional temperature data illustrating how the world has warmed. Just enter your city and you get an indication of current temperature change from the 1951-1980 average. Together with a plot of that difference over time.

Go to Climate Change or click on the image below to check out your city.

Wellington

Similar articles

More damage from megastorm Sandy

Here’s an appropriate cartoon from ThinkProgress (see Open Thread And Climate Cartoon Of The Week).

Denying Climate Change Is Putting Us in Danger

By Lee Judge of the Cartoonist Group

 

Scepticism, denial and the high court

Currently the NZ High Court is hearing a case brought against NIWA by a local climate change denial group.* You can catch up with the background and progress at When asses go to court, When asses go to law, Exclusive: Flat Earth Society appeal to NZ climate sceptics – join us! and Niwa breaching its duties with figures – sceptics group

The most interesting aspect of this trial will be the judge’s verdict and reasons. But at this stage I just want to justify my description of the complainants as climate change deniers rather than sceptics (a term I know they prefer – although one of them is objecting even to that (see Four go a-court, with a hey, nonny-no). To me it all boils down to questions of  “good faith.”

We have plenty of debates in science – and sometimes these can become heated. But they are important to the whole enterprise. Ideas and theories must be tested against reality, and that testing should be done collectively – individuals are too prone to bias. So argument, debate and testing against reality is what keeps us honest.

But of course that debate must be carried out in “good faith.” With the intention of exposing errors and coming to a resolution which provides a better picture of reality. From my perspective scepticism is part of the process and there is plenty of room for sceptics in science – including climate science. Honest, good faith, scepticism can only be good.

So what about “deniers.” Well, the difference here is that their “scepticism” is not aimed at improving our knowledge, or of furthering truth, but in discrediting that knowledge. By now we have all become used to the climate change denial activity, its sneering attitude towards science and the facts, and the support it gets from the fossil fuel industry and extreme right-wing and conservative politicians.

But here’s a little guide I came across which helps illustration the difference between scepticism and denial. It’s from Get Energy Smart! NOW! and the post is titled “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire …” Differentiating Skeptic from Denier. (I sort of think the childishness of the title is appropriate in this case).

The post contrasts Legitimate scientific scepticism with denialism. Here’s an extract:

Legitimate scientific skepticism:

“I found a flaw in one of your statistical methods. Here’s a better way to do it, and here are my results using the new method.”

Denialism:

“I found a flaw in one of your statistical methods. Therefore, you’re a liar liar pants on fire.”

Legitimate scientific skepticism:

“I think one of your data sets is questionable. Here’s an analysis of how that data set impacts your overall result.”

Denialism:

“I think one of your data sets is questionable. Therefore, you’re a liar liar pants on fire.”

Legitimate scientific skepticism:

“I think your model fails to account for a factor that I believe is significant. Here’s a modified model that accounts for the factor you left out, and here are my results with the new model.”

Denialism:

“I think your model fails to account for a factor that I believe is significant. Therefore, you’re a liar liar pants on fire.”

Get it yet?

Actually, for anyone who has delved into the blogs, comments sections and forums of the climate change denial echo chamber the spite and sneering is not far from “liar, liar, pants on fire!”

I look forward to the High Court verdict.


*This denier group is rather weird. It calls itself the “New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust,” and is known as a branch of the NZ Climate Science Coalition – a local denier group with links to the US Heartland Institute and other right-wing think tanks. It originally attempted to register as a charity and was actually listed for a short time in the NZ Charities register. Now it has been removed!

Perhaps their registration was rejected, possibly because of its political nature or its unwillingness to provide financial reports. Or perhaps they decided that there was little mileage (and little support) from going down the charity road and it has fallen back on deeper financial pockets.

It might need them.

Image credit: Dirty Bandits

Similar articles

Christmas gift ideas: Why we deny climate change

Books are ideal Christmas presents. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

Another one on climate change – but this time discussing the science, politics and psychology of science denialism.


Book Review: Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change by Clive Hamilton

Price: USD$16.47; AUD $24.99; NZD$29.99

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Earthscan Publications Ltd. (May 2010); Allen & Unwin (March 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1849710813
# ISBN-13: 978-1849710817

I think this book has three messages, but two of them resonated strongly with me. Effectively these are the title and subtitle.

The problems presented by global warming are so large we may never solve them (hence Requiem for a Species – us). The more I discover about the science of climate change the more I become aware that if we don’t take protection measures soon the results for our species will be dramatic.

Socially and psychologically we want to deny the problem (Hence Why we Resist the Truth About Climate change). Psychological and sociologically, as individuals and collectively, we are in denial. This inhibits our capacity to take the actions needed to protect us from the results of human induced climate change.

Those messages come through strongly. The third message, ideas and suggestions for getting us out of these problems is far weaker, probably because it is less specific.

Continue reading

440 FOI requests in one day! From one person!

The Australian Age has highlighted the practice by climate change deniers/contrarians/skeptics of using freedom of information requests to harrass scientists ansd insitutions invovled in climate change research (see Think tank warned over climate information requests).

“RIGHT-WING think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has received a warning from the Department of Climate Change after it submitted more than 750 freedom-of-information requests in four months.

The institute, which strongly opposes carbon pricing, has made more than 95 per cent of FOI requests lodged with the department since April.

The department last week wrote to the institute’s director of climate change policy, Tim Wilson, and asked that he stop submitting requests so it could deal with the backlog.”

The shear numbers of  these FOI requests show that they are uses as harassment and are politcally motivated.

“It is believed Mr Wilson submitted about 440 information requests on one day in late July and more than 140 on one day last week.

A government source said it took about 39 hours of staff time to process each application.

”He is conducting a political campaign against the government’s policy on climate change and this is coming at significant cost to taxpayers,” the source said.”

The local, New Zealand, equivalent of The Institute of Public Affairs is The NZ Centre for Political Research. They are closely aligned with the NZ ACT Party and local climate change denier/contrarian groups like The Climate Conversation Group and the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. These last groups have been doing a little FOI harrassment of their own. Of course, they also hope this sort of activity will create an illusion that the scientists or their insitutions are guilty of something. A sort of “When are you going to stop beatin g your wife?” type tactic.

With thanks to Graham Readfearn (@readfearn)

Similar articles

Background Briefing for Mockton’s NZ visit

Christopher Monckton speaking in Melbourne last year. (Photo: Australian Conservative.)

Apparently Christopher Monckton will visit New Zealand for a few days (August 4 – 7) at the end of his Australian tour. His fanboys in the local climate change denier/contrarian/sceptic groups will obviously do their best to make as much publicity out of the visit as possible.

Others who want a more balanced assessment of Monckton might like to listen to the Backgrounder prepared by the Australian ABC (see Background Briefing – 17 July 2011 – The Lord Monckton roadshow). It includes extensive recordings of Monckton’s statements plus checking of many of his claims (he is often completely wrong and misrepresents science and scientists). There is also information on his mining industry financial backers.

The backgrounder illustrates how Monckton is attempting to whip up an anti-science and anti-scientists campaign (listen to him present his aim to prosecute and imprison scientists). The experience of the reporter who was exposed to the hysterical anti-media campaign at one of his meetings is also enlightening.

Download Audio – 17072011
Listen Now – 2011-07-17

See also:
Background Briefing on Monckton
Monckton’s Nazi jibe over the top: Abbott
A letter to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the Clerk of the Parliaments
Astroturfing works, and it’s a major challenge to climate change
Monckton requires religious certification for scientists?

Similar articles

Science has the real debate

Christopher Monckton - Credit: abc

Stephan Lewandowsky from the University of Western Australia has a very topical opinion piece in The Drum (see  The difference between scientific debate and phoney talkfests). Topical here as well as Australia because some local climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics are attempting to finance a visit from Lord Monckton at the end of his current Australian tour. That may not come off (they are currently attempting to find a few donors willing to put in large amounts of cash) but the article is still relevant.

Stephan compares two events:

1: “The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) General Assembly, which attracted 3,200 of the world’s leading experts to Melbourne earlier this month to debate the state of the planet and its future,” and

2: The Australian visit of Vaudevillian climate “sceptic” Lord Monckton, who is currently scouring Australia for venues for his theatrical performances but has given wide berth to the IUGG meeting.”

And we should keep this comparison in mind when these local organisers demand that scientists debate Monckton at public venues. We should recognise this is just their way of attempting to get credibility for minority ideas be getting a place on stage with the real experts. After all, aren’t we justified to ask – if Monckton has any credible point to make why did he not attend, and contribute to, the IUGG General Assembly?

As Stephan says; “For scientists, there is no reason to engage with individuals in an academic setting who refuse scientific debate and accountability, and who demonstrably have nothing to bring to a debate.”

But Stephan finishes with an excellent point:

“Does this mean no debate is ever possible?

No, of course not.

Science is debate.

And the door to scientific debate, on climate or HIV/AIDS or Prospect Theory, is wide open to anyone, even occasional travel photographers: all they have to do is to become knowledgeable in a field and subject their ideas to scrutiny by publishing in the peer-reviewed literature.

If their ideas survive scrutiny, they are then worthy of the public recognition that deniers so crave but which they cannot responsibly be given until then.”

See also:
A letter to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the Clerk of the Parliaments
Astroturfing works, and it’s a major challenge to climate change

Similar articles

Painted into a corner?

Looks like the local climate change deniers/sceptics/contrarians have painted themselves into a corner. Their bluff has been called and any honest person would now acknowledge their error, apologise and move on.

This all started with the local “Climate Science Coalition” and their blog site “Climate Conversation Group” releasing a report, “Are we getting warmer yet?” last year to coincide with all the media hype over “climategate”.  This report was shoddy – the author Richard Treadgold first denied any scientific input or review and then claimed he had a team of scientists who “wished to remain anonymous.” One of the Coalition’s members, Vincent Gray, acknowledged reviewing the document but admitted that he had missed the basic error in the report – the claim that no adjustments were required for site and other changes.

Continue reading