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The Socio Cultural Phenomenon of Climate Change “Skepticism”

There is multiple misrepresentation and error in mainstream media climate change “refutation” pieces, regarding what climate change actually is, and why it presents a great challenge.

Additionally, “misinformed” climate change pieces are even more prevalent on the Internet and in social media – where most people get much of their information – than in mainstream media sources, and so the claims that comprise climate change “skepticism” remain well more than relevant news, since they have profound influence relative to the facts.

This, in turn, is greatly affecting general public perception on and understanding of the so called (anthropogenic) climate change issue, where a rather incredible gap now exists between what most practicing climate scientists know, and the general public perceives.

The answer to the dilemma is not to say (as some have ill advisedly, and almost anti democratcially- if as with most ideas, with “good intentions”), the media or any sources should simply stop publishing “anti-climate change” pieces and claims. Intelligent conversation – the disparate opinions required for democracy, basic liberty, and good science – require that all views and claims be available.

The answer, for better information and journalism – which better response to the problem (and one similarly needed years ago) requires (just as it required years ago), is to publish and cover misinformed claims, in the context of the relevant facts; which requires showing both the relevant facts and why they are relevant.

This, however, is not being done.

As a result, the striking pattern underlying the misinformation skewing our discussion and perception on the “climate change” issue, is simply not being given the objective, non politically biased coverage, it warrants and requires.

Take for instance pieces by ultracrepidarian Christopher Booker, whom the U.K’s Telegraph continues to publish (with the claims then republished all over the globe), and whose work serves as a striking and influential example.

Several months ago, courtesy of the Telegraph, Booker, among many others, published a few pieces claiming that international temperature data was a fraud – yes, fraud: not “wrong,” but “fraud”-purposefully perpetrated by NOAA and NASA, and with scientific community complicity.

As we’ll see clearly below, these claims are similar to, if – in level of recklessness and error – not even well beyond, the creation of climategate a few years back.”Climategate” itself was a largely made up scandal, created by (illegally) pilfering stacks of private emails, in order to try find something that out of context sounded bad.

Nevertheless, it was a (faux, but widely believed and influential)”scandal” that dominated international climate headlines for two years, and greatly undermined public confidence in climate scientists and understanding of climate change as a result.

Yet on the other hand, the far more real “climate gate-gate” – the scandal of stealing private emails to wildly cherry pick out of context phrases to create an erroneous perception that nevertheless helped to reinforce “skeptic” belief and greatly undermine public confidence in simple general, basic, climate science, and climate scientists – was barely covered.

And in almost the same way, these newest “NASA data tampering” claims now making the rounds worldwide – including in multiple media sources and thousands of secondary Internet sources – offer Booker and other skeptics another rationale to dismiss anything conflicting with their belief:

Namely, the belief that man is not changing earth’s climate: intense, now multi-million year level of atmospheric alteration compressed into an astonishingly short geological time frame, the geophysical record, the risk ranges presented, or the intense, and increasing, record of geophysical signs of beginning change notwithstanding.

Though climate is “sensitive” – in fact this idea is implicitly one of the main skeptic arguments as to why we’re not changing it; because climate changes so easily, it therefore “isn’t us who are changing it now” – this belief is accomplished in large part through the idea that climate is otherwise extremely insensitive.

Specifically, it is sensitive and changes easily; except to man’s influence. In response to man’s influence, instead, it “self regulates,” as if for our specific benefit. And it does so even though it’s not an organism with something to “self regulate,” but a ball of rock hurtling through space that reflects the geophysical forces acting upon it.

Yet when some highly influential AGW denouncers skeptics recently managed to get a paper published in a Chinese science journal (in a piece the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for space studies called “complete trash“), they elected to simply make up and assume the direct opposite of the mainstay – and otherwise irrelevant – “climate changes” skeptic argument.

And thus, they decided to decide that climate barely changes, is very stable, and is insensitive to even major external forcings upon it. So long as, again, those forcings are human caused, that is.

It’s apparently extremely sensitive, however,  to anything “natural” that can be asserted, in order to ignore the far more geologically profound – yet man caused – sudden yet multi-million year increase in earth’s long term atmospheric insulation layer.

But that wasn’t all. In addition to ignoring almost all known climate modeling understanding, and neglecting to explain why what was known was “wrong” and they were discarding it, and once again following the same pattern of using any argument possible in order to reinforce an already arrived at conclusion, the  authors of the Chinese science journal paper also simply made up the idea that any climate change effect is near instantaneous, which is a preposterous assumption. (It’s the atmospheric alteration equivalent of asserting that because it’s a clear day and the sun is at 40 degrees in the sky, the temperature, wherever we are on the globe, and whenever, will be the exact same, and not a reflection of the long term acccumulation of factors that affect and drive climate.)

All of this, and more, was done in a paper absolutely “riddled with fundamental errors.” And one that, by this same pattern of machinations, naturally, arrived at the pre-determined belief or desire driven conclusion that “skeptic” authors Willie Soon, Christopher Monckton,  David Legates, and William Briggs clearly needed to reach.

Booker’s claims also serve as example of the same pattern; that is, of not only practicing outright advocacy to reach a desired conclusion, but advocacy that manufactures claims flatly contradicted by the facts. Even doing so when those claims are wild accusations, which Booker is seemingly fond of. And the Telegraph, and thousands of other if sometimes lesser sources, are willing to repeat as if it’s news or information.

Not, again, the news of what Booker is actually doing – which is more important and yet essentially not covered. But, instead, the claims themselves: with key omissions, mistake, error, fraud, misrepresentation, and zealotry, all un-assessed, and largely ignored.

As for Booker’s claim of NOAA fraud he called the “biggest science scandal ever” – leading to over 30,000 comments on one piece alone  – here’s the shocking reality of what was left out: The “data tampering” of which this biggest scandal consisted was routine raw data recalibration from lesser maintained and older weather stations. And not only is there no controversy in science over conducting such recalibrations, it’s considered poor science not to when warranted.

Were some of the temperature recalibrations possibly in errror? Though there doesn’t seem to be much strong evidence suggesting this – and recalibration arbitration is also imperfect – they might have been. But if so, addressing them is part of what science is: the ongoing process of learning, adjusting, correcting mistakes.

Yet a big part of what climate change “skepticism” or far more accurately, disavowal, consists of, is taking the ongoing process of science itself as a basis for arguing that what is known isn’t known either, or is incorrect or worse, or that risk isn’t real if exact outcome can’t be predicted in advance (and if it could it would no longer be “risk,” and the concept would cease to exist). Which arguments, when generalized as on climate chamge, and with the exact same semantics earnestly employed on this subject, could also be used to rhetorically invalidate any and all pieces of knowledge in existence, and make all knowledge – except the knowledge one wants to use to support what one wants to believe – useless or dimissable.

Moreover, Booker and many other hard core climate change disavowers also didn’t suggest the recalibrations were in error, nor add to the possible body of science by suggesting why and offer corrections or improvements therein.

That wouldn’t be consistent with climate change skepticism – namely, finding ways, under the belief of self reinforcing “logic,” to perpetuate the belief of skepticism, and undermine climate scientists and climate science wherever possible. So instead we have, voila, NOAA and NASA “fraud.” “Data tampering.”

And now, even the most popularly accessible of the many key signs of a potentially shifting climate – global ambient average air temperatures – can be dismissed.

And of course, the “Telegraph” – itself driven by ideology and poor climate change “awareness” – published the original claims, giving it some sort of journalistic credibility, along with countless other sources both major and minor giving further credence and global exposure to the claims. (This is not to say that looking at issues such as data recalibration, or even climate change advocacy groupthink or presumption, and of course the various uncertainties in terms of what we know,  aren’t valid. But this not what climate change skepticism – a very, very, different, if extremely prevalent, and pronounced, phenomenon – is.)

Most importantly, despite the enormous global influence of the alleged data tampering scandal, most of this story, and the most relevant part of it, hasn’t even been touched by mainstream media, who continue to miss one of the biggest psychosocio cultural as well as climate change stories of the 21st century.

The most relevant part, is that the claims of fraud are not only in error – if not themselves, fraudulent – but in error on every fundamental level, and fit the same broader pattern of self reinforcing belief that constitutes the psychosocio cultural phenomenon of climate change “skepticism” – and one that should be far more accurately called “disavowal.” Because it is not skepticism, but rather its opposite – embrace of almost any idea, claim or assertion that supports the desired or pre determined belief that mankind is not relevantly changing our future climate.

(Note: psychosocio doesn’t mean “pyscho.” It refers to psychology and the psychological and sociological processes culturally at play with respect to this pure geophysical issue of climate change, which nevertheless has not only a lot of passionate feeling surrounding it, but indirect political ramificatinos, as well as a huge amount of economic connection and massive presumption.)

Temperature data recalibration is normal. And it’s considered bad science not to do it. The “scandal of the century” actually, if rather fantastically, refers to precisely this routine recalibration; and which, if done mistakenly or in error, is not being pointed out for correction or improvement as such, and as part of the process of science.

And, even if that were the case, it’s not a fraud, but a suggestion or illustration of mistake in science, which, after observation, is nearly as fundamental a part of science as there is:  Yet climate change “skepticism” has literally managed to turn one of the most basic ongoing parts of science itself into a “scandal” – even, in Booker’s eyes, the “biggest science scandal ever.” (Just as climate skepticism managed to turn part of private human communications and routine data problems or imperfections, into the other “biggest science scandal” ever.)

But something else extremely key was also not only left out, but as a result the issue was falsely represented in an even more basic way:

The whole claim rests on the dual assertions that NOAA, NASA and other major parties fraudulently “changed” or knew of fraudulent change to basic temperature readings, using the process of recalibration as the excuse, and pretending that the basic process of recalibration – part of good science – doesn’t even exist. And that, moreover, these changes were only done in an upward direction.

But they weren’t done only in an upward direction. They were done in both directions. But some ideological blogger – Paul Homewood (covered in relation to Booker’s pieces part way down) – cherry picked and cherry picked until he could find seeming evidence to support his theory that climate change isn’t real. And Booker – who directly and extensively relied on this work for both of his major pieces on the issue, that were then in turned picked up by thousands of other sources – turned him into a climate change skeptic star.

And, the ensuing claims of scandal, in addition to falsely conflating basic and normal recalibration or even (if so), basic and normal recalibration error, with “fraud” -let alone “biggest science scandal ever” – falsely informed the world that temperatures were only adjusted upward. This is also patently false; yet also basic to the entire claim as well.

In essence, it’s a two part claim – both are required for the claim to have any merit – and both parts are patently false. And while the former – recalibrations aren’t routine, but fraud – can be an attributed to zealous interpretation – e.g, “your recalibration or recalibration errors (if any) must have been fraudulently done because they don’t support our views but do support the idea of warming!” What can the latter be attributed to?

(Also, while not really relevant, but interesting, had no recalibrations been done at all, total surface air warming would be essentially the same.)

Intentional, or far more likely not, Booker essentially engages in a multiple fraud – the fraud of representing recalibrations as some sort of huge scandal, with no evidence of any deliberate attempt to purposefully manipulate overall global temperatures; the fraud of representing that temperatures were only adjusted upward, when as part of the recalibration process they were adjusted in both directions; and even the implicit fraud of representing that temperature data only suggests a warming trend due to this recalibration.

And he blatantly and rather aggresively “projects” that fraud directly onto others – in this case climate scientists.

So now this month, also courtesy of the Telegraph, and in a clever but also contrived piece of, yes, projection, Booker ironically claims those concerned about climate change (not himself ), “project.” Namely, in that they project their own denial of the true “climate change facts” onto those – such as Booker – who disavow that man is relevantly changing our climate.

In other words, those concerned about climate change – whom Booker seems to like calling warmists, and conflate with prediction of imminent global catastrophe and not just increasing negative climate impacts and relevant risks of potentially major impacts – project out that others, like Booker are “deniers,” when it is they themselves who “deny.”

Not deny the fact that most skeptics largely believe what they say. (Which many climate change advocates unfortunately have a hard time believing or understanding the extensive influence of on popular discussion and assessment.) But “deny” skeptic reality “fact” that mankind’s actions aren’t relevantly impacting our long term climate or presenting a signifcant risk range of so doing.

These projectors include over 97% of the climate scientists who actually and professionally study climate change.

Though of course hard core “skeptics” have a way of rationalizing this away also, saying this fairly broad climate scientist consensus doesn’t exist by substituting in something else for it: Somewhat like a magician does with his hands; “here, see how these aren’t apples,” before, while you’re not looking, switching the bag of apples to a bag of oranges, but with climate scientist consensus. (And which is what famous and also influential climate change skeptic Ross McKittrick all but literally does here.)

What’s remarkable about this is that in labeling non climate change skeptics as “projectors,” Booker is engaging in about as classic a bit of projection as one can: He is projecting his “denialism” (or confusion over, or “disavowal” of climate change), outward onto climate scientists and those concerned about the issue.

But not only that: He is then, irony of ironies, calling it “projection” in others. And then supports his assertion by not only engaging in exactly the same pattern of cherry picking that the article he now attacks originally pointed out as the key pattern of climate change “skeptics” (or “denialism”), but by following a meandering course of prose that has almost nothing to do with climate change.

For instance, much of his article on how climate change isn’t real focuses on sporadic polar bear increases, while omitting the facts that polar bears were being hunted to extinction, and a resulting 1973 treaty signed by the five countries with land in polar bear territory essentially banned their hunting.

And to the extent it does have to do with climate change, his piece on how climate change isn’t real, remarkably misconstrues the issue: Such as, ignoring the fact that arctic ice is only one small component and extremely variable and climate change is a long term phenomenon and only imprecisely predictable, and cherry picking out large increases in arctic ice following an unmentioned 2012 record low that also demolished a record low set only 5 years earlier by almost another twenty percent, and that 2015 just set a record for lowest winter arctic ice extent ever and this summer is again tracking to be one of the lowest on record, to argue that the artic isn’t changing, and thus climate change isn’t real. (Which it would be even if arctic sea ice was the same – as the issue is total global heat energy changes, so what’s relevant is the total picture, including the fact that different regions are changing differently, or even slightly cooling.)

But it does fit a pattern, of, for lack of a better term, “denying it.” Or not getting it. Or not wanting to get it – easily reinforced by the wide spread prevalance of this pattern, and the near avalanche of cherry picked “information” and basic issue misconstruction it creates.

As well as the attendant lack of major illumination – instead mistakenly taking it for granted that this is all “obvious” to everybody – by many climate change advocacy leaders, and our mainstream media. And in the process, not just doing an injustice to decent basic coverage of the broader issues and phenomenon of climate change and our response to it, but missing one of the bigger, and more important, stories of our times.

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9 Comments

  1. […] among other things, to believe that the issue isn’t significant or real. And leading to a remarkable and still not properly illuminated widespread socio cultural phenomenon of advocacy driven climate change […]

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  2. […] great bulk of the U.S. and other Western countries and leading Internet media, for instance, still doesn’t assess the actual claims of the so called and very ironically named and very heavily s… “skepticism” movement, let alone do so in the context of the actual relevant facts on […]

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  3. […] great bulk of the U.S. and other Western countries and leading Internet media, for instance, still doesn’t assess the actual claims of the so called, ironically named, and self reinforcing beli… “skepticism” movement, let alone do so in the context of the actual relevant facts on […]

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  4. […] great bulk of the U.S. and other Western countries and leading Internet media, for instance, still don’t assess the actual claims of the so called, ironically named, and self reinforcing belief… “skepticism” movement; let alone do so in the context of the actual relevant facts on […]

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  5. […] change “skepticism,” among other examples of the same pattern, relies on the basic idea that since climate change models haven’t perfectly mapped the exact […]

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  6. […] Climate change “skepticism” relies on the basic idea that since climate change models haven’t perfectly mapped the exact path of ambient atmospheric temperature change, anthropogenic – or human caused – climate change is thus not a real or significant phenomenon; it’s a key, if not central example on the one hand, yet on the other also sits among countless other examples of the very same pattern by almost any means of advocacy that can be concocted and seemingly reasonably present…. […]

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  7. […] This wildly misplaced idea that climate change, in the common sense (aka, mankind’s activities are impacting our long term climate) isn’t real or significant because models can’t tell us an exact global average of any generic measurement, such as ambient air temperature, or exactly what climate will be in any one region of the globe, on any particular specified date well in the future, is a key example of the aforementioned pattern of climate change relevant fact “denial.” Yet it also sits among countless other examples of the very same pattern of trying to ‘refute’ the idea that anthropogenic induced net increases to …. […]

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