Is climate ‘misinformation’ criminal negligence?

Wants to apply criminal sanctions to scientific argument

Torcello – criminal sanctions to scientific argument

An assistant professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawrence Torcello, claims that climate ‘misinformation’ should be treated as criminal negligence.

Writing at the taxpayer-funded, and invariably Left-wing, Conversation site, Torcello compares the dissemination of climate ‘misinformation’ with the liability of scientists in relation to the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009:

The earthquake that rocked L’Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”. As one citizen stated:

We all know that the earthquake could not be predicted, and that evacuation was not an option. All we wanted was clearer information on risks in order to make our choices.

Torcello links to the inevitable ‘97% of climate scientists believe…’ myth and continutes:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists. (source)

But as with all those overcome with such totalitarian instincts, the arguments could quite easily be turned around. For example, the 97% figure Torcello cites is itself a blatant example of climate misinformation. It may be that 97% of scientists accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that an increase in the proportion of that molecule in the atmosphere will increase warming. But to claim that 97% of scientists subscribe to the alarmism of catastrophic AGW vastly overstates the certainty of the science.

As a result of that overconfidence in the apocalyptic projections of climate models, many of the poorest in society will be denied access to cheap electricity as a result of harsh emissions reduction measures, and will be prevented from enjoying the economic growth from which others have benefitted. If those emission reduction measures are eventually shown to be unnecessary, and that many have suffered as a result, should those responsible for the 97% figure be held criminally negligent as well?

Or perhaps these too:

  • Those who intentionally play down any natural influence on the climate (e.g. casually ignoring or dismissing solar effects), with the same end result? Should they also be held criminally negligent?
  • All those environmental activists who have ensured that piles of grey literature have been incorporated into the IPCC reports, to ensure that the worst possible scenarios are always communicated to the public? Them too?
  • The IPCC scientists themselves, perhaps, for intentionally offering up ‘scary scenarios‘ in order to capture the public’s attention and force governments to take action? That’s pretty shocking.
  • Those who engaged in blatant scientific misconduct, as evidenced by the Climategate emails? Hiding the decline sounds like intentional misrepresentation to me. That’s not just negligent, it’s wilful.
  • Those who use climate change as a Trojan horse for their own political ends, e.g. advocating a return to socialism, or to force through social justice reform? Surely that is climate misrepresentation as well?
  • The Greens, who shamelessly exaggerate the risks of climate change for their own political advantage?
  • Even the governments that have relied on so-called ‘independent’ climate advisers, such as David Karoly and Clive Hamilton (no, don’t laugh), on their climate panels, such as the Australian government’s Climate Change Authority? Ditto?

I could go on…

Once again, we see the double standards that are applied to the consensus and those that challenge it. The moral here is that those in glass houses should not throw stones.

‘Flat Earthers’? I rather think not…

No sceptic would be a member…

Flat Earth Society: No sceptic would be a member…

One of the favourite ad hominem terms employed by climate headbangers is “Flat Earther” – someone stuck in the ignorance of the past, tied up in a belief system that has long since been abandoned.

But for climate zealots like Cook ‘n’ Lew, it’s far easier to portray their critics as uneducated rednecks with psychological issues (with a bit of name-calling thrown in) than to engage with their arguments and respond to them.

The reality, as usual, is very different, as the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum discovered (h/t Bishop Hill):

A sceptical consensus: the science is right but catastrophic global warming is not going to happen

A recent survey of those participating in on-line forums showed that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals most degree qualified and around a third with post graduate qualifications. The survey, carried out by the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum, asked respondents for their views on CO2 and the effect it might have on global temperatures. The results were surprising. 96% of respondents said that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with 79% attributing the increase to man-made sources. 81% agreed that global temperatures had increased over the 20th century and 81% also agreed that CO2 is a warming gas. But only 2% believed that increases in CO2 would cause catastrophic global warming.

So what’s going on?

Above all, these highly qualified people – experts in their own spheres – look at the published data and trust their own analysis, so their views match the available data. They agree that the climate warmed over the 20th century (this has been measured), that CO2 levels are increasing (this too has been measured) and that CO2 is a warming gas (it helps trap heat in the atmosphere and the effects can be measured). Beyond this, the survey found that 98% of respondents believe that the climate varies naturally and that increasing CO2 levels won’t cause catastrophic warming.

So not only are sceptics a scientifically literate, highly educated and very well informed bunch (far more so than the majority of arts-degree journalists, politicians and inner-city green activists), but also nearly four-fifths of respondents would pass the standard test for “belief” in anthropogenic global warming (myself included, by the way). It’s the ‘C’ that prefaces the ‘AGW’ that sceptics take issue with – the magnitude of the warming and whether it’s a problem, whether there is any point in trying to mitigate, or whether we just do what all of life has done for that past three billion years, and adapt.

Yes, a very small minority of sceptics do not believe that man has caused at least some warming through the burning of fossil fuels. One could possibly argue that this very small minority should perhaps be less offended by the term ‘denier’ than the rest of us. But to label the entire sceptic community as ignorant deniers is 100% wrong – on both counts. But don’t expect the headbangers to take any notice…

We could do a little survey here as well – put your area of expertise and qualifications in the comments – no names required. Let’s see what we come up with.

Jo Nova has more here.

Note: By the way, I have a Masters Degree in Engineering from the University of Cambridge (1990), and am admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. So there.

Alarmists’ zeal causes more climate scepticism

Skeptical Smears

Skeptical Smears

The alarmists refuse to budge on global warming. Despite widespread head-scratching regarding the cause of the current 15-plus year pause or slowdown in warming (and the obvious failings of climate models to predict it) the alarmists don’t ever want to give an inch.

Over the years, they have painted themselves into a corner – any admission of uncertainty or doubt would now be regarded as weakness, at least in their minds. So they plough on with the wilful blindness, misrepresentation and name-calling.

The image shows how Skeptical Science used to smear its opponents, with links to “Christie Crocks” [a "crock" in Australian slang is short for "crock of sh*t"], “Monckton Myths”, “Spencer Slip Ups” etc.

SkS has now removed them, but they have since been replaced with a stream of psycho-babble which attempts to medicalise “denial”  by branding anyone who queries their version of the “consensus” as a conspiracy theorist. And anyone who questions that assertion is themselves also a conspiracy theorist… and so on and so on.

Ben Pile, writing at Climate Resistance, analyses this polarising effect, with reference to the Guardian, but equally applicable to SkS (my emphasis):

The Guardian’s [and SkS's] regular coverage of the climate debate is notable for two reasons. One: its attempts to sustain the climate change narrative is unremittingly alarmist and increasingly shrill. Two: it polarises the debate into binary, opposing categories of scientist versus denier, truth verses falsehood, good vs bad, thus excluding any nuance, complexity or middle ground from the debate.

The problem for the Guardian is that, when you divide and polarise the debate as it does, when the alarmist story you tell turns out to be nonsense, you force people with the sense or intuition to see it as nonsense to the other, opposing camp. In other words, if you do not let people assent to the climate story by degree, you alienate yourself in an attempt to alienate ‘denial’. And the view that the climate has not warmed for over a decade and a half is no longer controversial — only people assembled at the Guardian [SkS] argue otherwise, albeit they argue the point with (far too much) vehemence. The Guardian’s [and SkS's] ire is too much for science to sustain, even if there are plausible hypotheses about where the warming is going. Those who are making the argument that the non-warming of the surface of the planet is not a problem for the climate narrative of 2006 — the ‘travesty’, to use the word of the most vocal proponent of the ocean warming theory of the missing heat — are simply shifting the goalposts, and the whole world can see them being hoist by their own noxious petards: bogus surveys intended to shine a light into the mechanisms of the sceptical mind, to measure the consensus, and to ‘frame’ the debate in such a way as to gently coerce non-believers into ‘behaviour change’ and ‘attitudinal adjustment’. They don’t recognise themselves as the cause of so much climate scepticism. 

That last sentence is the key: SkS and the Guardian are themselves responsible for a great deal of the scepticism. By requiring followers to subscribe 100% to every aspect of their position on climate, no matter how extreme, with no dissent brooked, rational thinking people will say no. Suddenly, they are unclean and labelled “deniers”. If you dare to suggest that perhaps Roy Spencer “might” have a point on something, or Lindzen is a highly qualified scientist and may have something to add to the debate, that’s sufficient to have you thrown out of the club.

There is no middle ground, no room for debate. It’s black and white. So rather than be white (as defined by the Guardian and Skeptical Science) people choose black. In a vicious circle, the alarmists are helping to create the very enemy they then go on to demonise. Pile concludes, all equally applicable to our friends over at SkS:

The question that remains then, is, how come all this emphasis on ‘science’ — calls to put ‘science’ at the heart of policy-making and information provided to the public — hasn’t been able to change the quality of the pronouncements made by the likes of Stern and the Guardian? Why hasn’t it been able to challenge alarmist memes finding their way into cheap and shrill Guardian copy? And why is pointing out that the climate change pudding has been over-egged is still dismissed as ‘denial’ by the climate Great and Good? The reason the public switch off is that it is by now completely obvious that there is more to the climate debate than science vs denial, and anyone claiming otherwise is pulling your leg. The only people who don’t understand this are writing for the Guardian.

If the Guardian and SkS toned down their smears and preaching, they may find “deniers” more willing to engage with their arguments.

Environmentalists regarded as ‘borderline communists’



And the Pope is Catholic. Now tell us something we didn’t know.

It’s unfortunately true that most environmentalists hail from the Left of the political spectrum – that’s simply a fact. Why else are climate protests peppered with banners from the Socialist Workers’ Party and other extreme left organisations, that the Greens are a party of the left and there is a publication entitled Green Left Weekly?

Environmentalism and socialism go together like… windmills and solar panels.

It is a widely held belief, based on plenty of supporting evidence, that environmentalists are using a green agenda as a Trojan Horse to achieve the political goals of more regulation, higher taxes, wealth distribution and global government.

As reports:

MANY climate sceptics do not trust environmentalists because they consider them “borderline communists” who want to curtail people’s freedom, a leading US social scientist says.

Speaking on Wednesday night, the University of Michigan’s Andy Hoffman said US global warming sceptics had “a serious distrust of the political ideology behind its proponents”.

“The fear is that environmentalists are left-leaning, they are socialist, borderline communists, and they are using the government to try to control your freedom,” Prof Hoffman said in the Sydney Ideas lecture at the University of Sydney.

“The expression for environmentalists is watermelons, they’re green on the outside, but they’re red on the inside. That really represents their feeling.”

Mr Hoffman said a scientific consensus that humans contribute to climate change had failed to lead to action on the issue because it was really a “debate over values”.

He said despite compelling science, just 40 per cent of Australians believed humans contributed to a hotter planet.

Who can disagree so far? But then it goes downhill, with Hoffman then claiming that it is because of the sceptics “values” that they are sceptical:

“It’s not about CO2, it’s not about climate models, it’s about values, it’s about world views,” the business and environment academic said.

“It’s because deeply held beliefs that they hold dear are under threat.”

Climate change was such a “thorny issue” because it represented “an existential challenge to our world views”, he said.

In that context, he said giving climate deniers [red card for that - Ed] more scientific evidence was like “finding yourself talking to a wall, they’re not going to hear it”.

Professor Hoffman said a “social consensus” to fight climate change needed to be built, similar to that created in the past to combat smoking and slavery.

Hoffman has flipped the argument 180 degrees. Sceptics doubt the pronouncements of environmentalists and climate change activists because of their political leanings AND because they fudge data, massage results, “offer up scary scenarios” as Stephen Schneider once said, delete emails (ClimateGate) and avoid FOI requests.

If the science were genuinely impartial and beyond reproach, then “sceptics” wouldn’t need to search for ulterior motives to explain the environmentalists’ desire to railroad through their agenda.

As it is, however, they are their own worst enemy.

“One of the most important first steps in engaging the debate is not to blame or mock or ridicule,” he said.

You could start by acknowledging the true reasons for climate scepticism.

'Climate deniers are extreme free marketeers or conspiracy theorists' – Lewandowsky

Lewandowsky shares a platform with Anna Rose (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) and Naomi Oreskes (Merchants of Doubt) – says it all really…

UPDATE 2: Jo Nova says it could be the worst paper she has ever seen:

an ad hom argument taken to its absurd extreme, rebadged as “science”

UPDATE: As expected, the eight “pro-science” web sites included some of the most vociferous “denier smear machines” – Deltoid, Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science, Tamino, Scott Mandia and a handful of others. So, Prof Lewandowsky, precisely how many “deniers” did you actually find visiting those sites? As one commenter at Tamino stated:

“Yeah, those con­spiracy theory ques­tions were pretty funny, but does anyone think that hard­core den­iers are going to be fooled by such a trans­parent attempt to paint them as paranoids?”

In other words, as we expected, it’s a complete crock, and a desperate attempt to portray genuine, educated and well-informed sceptics as nut-jobs. TOTAL FAIL. (h/t Bishop Hill)

More deeply offensive nonsense from Stephan Lewandowsky, polarising the debate further and successfully ensuring that reasonableness and the prized middle ground is never threatened. It just shows the desperation to which “The Cause” is reduced in order to try to silence dissent and win the argument by default:

An Australian study says avid climate change deniers tend to be either extreme free marketeers or conspiracy theorists who believe the moon landing was faked or Princess Diana was murdered.

The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, also found that those who reject the scientific consensus on the human contribution to climate change are more likely to to reject other scientific findings such as the linkage between tobacco and lung cancer or between HIV and Aids.

The paper, titled “NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”, was based on a survey of more than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to discussion of climate change.

“We find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science,” the paper says. “We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings.”

The paper says that a staunch belief in free markets was an overwhelmingly strong factor in the rejection of climate science and was a stronger factor than conspiratorial thinking.

It surveyed people on attitudes to a range of conspiracy theories, including that the United States allowed the September 11 attacks to occur and that SARS was produced in a laboratory as a biological weapon. (source)

Lewandowsky is a true believer and regularly smears anyone who dares to question the “consensus” (see here, for example, and at The Conversation here), so it’s hardly a surprise that the results are as they are. In the real world, the caricature of a ‘denier’ presented here applies to a tiny fraction of those who question some aspect of the alarmist position. This crude and offensive assessment is then extrapolated to anyone who challenges any part of the Gospel according to Gore.

It’s a tired old tactic – rather than acknowledge that there exists a spectrum of scepticism, the majority of which is entirely valid, this study is yet another attempt to tar all realists and sceptics as extremist fruitcakes.

The paper (which can be found here – PDF) does not list the blogs from which the survey results were taken (why not?). It states that respondents were self selected from 8 “pro-science” [by which it means pro-consensus science] climate blog web sites, but that no “skeptic” sites chose to post the request (ACM wasn’t asked). So I assume that the blogs which did post the link were mainly populated by those accepting the consensus position – if so, what was the actual size of the sample that were classified as “deniers”?

In the same week as the death of Neil Armstrong, I am deeply offended by the suggestion that anyone who questions the alarmist and politicised consensus must therefore believe the moon landings were faked. Lewandowsky should get out of his ivory tower and talk to some genuine sceptics, rather than paint this idiotic, one-dimensional picture of “denialism”.

ABC Environment on Muller and crumbling scepticism

Sara Phillips

This article, by ABC’s environment editor, Sara Phillips (pictured), encapsulates all that is wrong with the national broadcaster’s treatment of the climate debate. Written, as always, from a position of belief, and institutionally critical of any dissent, Phillips attempts to show that scepticism is crumbling in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary:

American physicist Richard Muller is one climate sceptic who has recently changed his mind after reviewing the evidence.

Muller crunched a bunch of numbers to do with global temperatures and announced in the New York Times that he is a “converted sceptic”. It was this opinion piece in arguably the world’s most influential paper that set tongues wagging about climate change all over again.

Muller had previously been claimed by those unconvinced by the science as one of their own, because he questioned the validity of Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ graph, used by Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth.

Muller was never a sceptic, and there are plenty of rusted on believers who have problems with both Mann’s hockey stick and AIT, which is nothing more than a propaganda film. Muller’s subsequent evidence-free claim of attribution to human causes has led to widespread ridicule from within the warmist community.

She then attempts to frame Bjorn Lomborg as a convert from scepticism, using some highly selective quotes from past newspaper interviews:

Bjorn Lomborg is another high-profile climate sceptic who changed his mind after reviewing the evidence. He now believes climate change is real, but that it won’t be the calamity predicted by some.

However, Lomborg directly addressed his alleged switch in a Guardian article cited indirectly:

He reiterates that he has never denied anthropogenic global warming, and insists that he long ago accepted the cost of damage would be between 2% and 3% of world wealth by the end of this century. This estimate is the same, he says, as that quoted by Lord Stern, whose report for the British government argued that the world should spend 1-2% of gross domestic product on tackling climate change to avoid future damage. (source)

He has never doubted the role of CO2, but has rightly questioned the cost-benefit analysis of the proposed solutions. Phillips then describes Alan Jones as “frothing” to David Karoly. Whether you agree with Jones or not, Phillips would never describe a consensus climate scientist as “frothing”, a highly inappropriate term to use. But it just helps to paint the picture of “deniers” as being deluded and crazy.

Of course there is a spectrum of views on climate – as she points out – which range from outright disbelief that temperatures are rising at all to acceptance of a measurable human signal in the global temperature record. However, she portrays this range of views in a very simplistic manner in an attempt to ridicule those who dare question the consensus.

Her conclusion appears to be that scepticism is on the wane and that “denial” is harder to sustain. But her view, distorted as it is by the prism of belief in AGW, fails to appreciate that the majority of sceptics accept the role of CO2 and that there is a human contribution to warming.

However, the reality is that there are problems with the surface temperature record, and there are problems with feedbacks in climate models, and there are serious questions to be answered regarding the proposed mitigation policies in response. Nothing in Muller’s alleged conversion changes any of those issues.

More importantly, she completely ignores the fact that, due in part to an endless barrage of scare stories which have failed to eventuate, scepticism of the alarmist claims of The Cause™ has increased substantially over the past decade, to the point where a significant proportion of the public are now highly suspicious of the pronouncements of climate scientists and government advisers such as Tim Flannery.

Unfortunately, the article is just the latest in a very long line of examples of ABC’s climate groupthink, where the utterances of climate scientists are beyond reproach and questioning of the consensus is frowned upon. That is not how science works: the motto, which the ABC, our taxpayer-funded and supposedly impartial national broadcaster, would do well to remember, is “question everything”.

Read it here.

Why conservatives 'deny' global warming

Amateur shrink?

Don’t bother with those tedious irritations known as scientific facts or evidence, or even, heaven forbid, finding out exactly what sceptics take issue with, just attack the messenger  – it’s so much easier.

So Chris Mooney’s psychological assessment of anyone who disagrees with the global warming narrative (particularly those on the right of politics) is worth a look, if only for a few chuckles:

So first off, let’s start with the facts about climate change — facts that you’d think (or you’d hope) any human being ought to accept.

It turns out that the case for human-caused global warming is based on simple and fundamental physics. We’ve known about the greenhouse effect for over one hundred years. And we’ve known that carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas, a greenhouse gas. Some of the key experiments on this, by the Irishman John Tyndall, actually occurred in the year 1859, which is the same year that Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

We also know that if we do nothing, seriously bad stuff starts happening. If we melt Greenland and West Antarctica, we’re looking at 40 feet of sea level rise. This is, like, bye bye to key parts of Florida.

So firstly we go from CO2 being a greenhouse gas (which we all agree on) to the catastrophic melting of the Greenland Ice sheet, without even a pause for breath. So what are we denying here?

So then, the question is, why do people deny this? And why, might I add, do Republicans in particular deny this so strongly?

And if your answer to that question is, “oh, because they’re stupid” — well, you’re wrong. That’s what liberals want to think, but it doesn’t seem be correct. In fact, it seems to be precisely the opposite — smarter (or more educated) Republicans turn out to be worse science deniers on this topic.

This is a phenomenon that I like to call the “smart idiot” effect, and I just wrote about it for AlterNet and

Let me tell you how I stumbled upon this effect — which is really what set the book in motion. I think the key moment came in the year 2008 when I came upon Pew data showing:

  • That if you’re a Republican, then the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to accept scientific reality — which is, that global warming is human caused.
  • If you’re a Democrat or Independent, precisely the opposite is the case.

This is actually a consistent finding now across the social science literature on the resistance to climate change. So, for that matter, is the finding that the denial is the worst among conservative white males — so it has a gender aspect to it — and among the Tea Party.

So seriously: What’s going on here? More education leading to worse denial, but only among Republicans? How can you explain that?

And the rest is all the same kind of psychobabble. Conservative “morality” impels denial, that kind of thing.

It’s not that sceptics of any political shade ‘deny’ the basic science of global warming, they are suspicious of politically-motivated and corrupted organisations like the IPCC (and conservatives are generally opposed to big government and the UN in general), they feel betrayed and misled when climate scientists massage data and fudge results in order to strengthen their case and they are deeply concerned about the embedded environmental groups such as WWF and Greenpeace who have a clear agenda. And so on and so on.

And they are particularly offended by suggestions that they are in a psychological state of denial. Quite the reverse, those more educated and informed about the current climate debate are in a far better position to see through the lies, spin and misrepresentations of mainstream climate science than those who are less so.

Maybe Chris could apply the same industry as he has in this article to the sorry state of mainstream climate science, instead of attacking those who call it out.

Read it here.


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