Lies, damn lies and polls.
Some time ago and in the context of climategate, I put forward the opinion that it would eventually produce two big losers and one big winner. The two losers were going to be climate science and the mainstream media (MSM), while the big winner was going to be the blogosphere. Climategate, important though it was, was just a fracture point in that larger conflict between climate alarmists and climate realists, and the same observation can be made upon that whole conflict. Some things that have happened of late illustrate that shifting of power.
All the dire predictions of catastrophic global warming originate from computer models of the world’s climate and all those models are predicated on the increasingly dubious proposition that more CO2 in the air will produce run away warming, with the help of a theoretical forcing mechanism, which nobody yet has ever seen in the real world. However, what physical evidence we do have from ice core data, indicates that a rise in global temperature precedes a rise in atmospheric CO2 by roughly 800 years. If you go by real world data, then all the models are wrong.
This physical data is a very inconvenient truth for the alarmists. A recent paper by Shakun et al attempted, by the use of some extremely dubious statistical methods, to reestablish the CO2 preceding warming theory, but this time using real data for a change. The paper was torn to pieces by the blogosphere, most especially at Anthony Watts’ site WUWT by several contributing guest bloggers. It was such a fundamentally flawed paper, you could nearly feel the queue of people jostling for position, just to get at it.
While it may be an uncomfortable experience to have one’s paper criticised in a specialist journal covering your own quiet little area of endeavour in science, getting reamed on the world’s most read climate science website, which also just happens to have won the best science blog award for two years in succession, is in a whole different ballpark of pain. Orders of magnitude, baby, orders of magnitude.
The message for climate scientists of the alarmist ilk is quite stark; if a paper is sloppy or simply baloney, it’s going to be savaged in broad daylight and in full view of a world audience. Those happy days of surreptitiously slipping past some pal-reviewed alarmist claptrap, masquerading as hard science, are now long gone.
In the long run, such bruising experiences will inevitably improve the quality of climate science. Mainstream climate science, as it currently stands, is pathological science. It’s a leap backwards to the middle ages and those passionate but pointless debates about precisely how many angels could dance on a pinhead, never mind asking the basic questions about the existence of angels or why on earth they’d ever be bothered dancing on pinheads in the first place. As the global warming hysteria becomes a forgotten thing, what will be remembered by the general public is that it was scientists, who they once trusted implicitly, warning them of catastrophic events going to happen, which never did. The real tragedy, is that the impact will be on the credibility of science in general, not just climate science.
In the deafening silence following the demolition of the Shakun paper, a new type of alarmist campaign was launched. It essentially involved a poll of people’s subjective impression of how extreme the weather was becoming, with a view to implicating global warming as the culprit. Given that the public have been on the receiving end of nothing but doom and gloom stories about the climate for nearly two decades and some subtly framed questions, the results were predictably pessimistic and were duly released to the usual cooperative elements of the MSM. As is usual on the alarmist side, it was a well-coordinated campaign, with several sites simultaneously running with the same story and most tellingly, even using the same catch phrases.
The central catchphrase of the campaign is “connect the dots”, which is a rather neat piece of infowar. When you can’t construct any rational chain of logic to connect an event with a cause, just fall back on the old six degrees of separation ploy, that’s beloved of by all true conspiracy theorists.
What is new about the campaign, is that they’ve had to manufacture the scare using a poll rather than basing it on their interpretation of some new research paper’s findings. What does it mean? To my mind, it means they’ve given up trying to push the flawed science, because as the Shakun case illustrates quite graphically, the skeptic blogosphere can not only take down shaky papers but also garner more publicity by doing so. They’ve essentially ceded the field to us in that area and have had to resort to pure propaganda, without even the fig leaf of any science.
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of these campaigns based on “polls”, not least because after the Shakun mauling and a few others like it more recently, it’d take a brave climate scientist to come up with a suitably alarming paper, which was so bullet proof, it couldn’t be torn to pieces in public. Apart from the usual headline seeking celebrity scientists, the rest are keeping their head down. The alarmists, being gradually stripped of any bogus scientific authority, will increasingly turn to pure propaganda.
In my opinion, we won the battle for the science some time ago, by essentially exposing how weak it actually was and in certain instances, simply wrong. Since you cannot prove any theory is right, proving theories wrong is how science actually advances, negative though that sounds. On a more positive note, the recent paper by Henrik Svensmark, about the effect of supernovas on the Earth’s climate, does provide an interesting alternative to the usual CO2 rules the planet orthodoxy. Being a new and controversial paper, it’s currently undergoing some robust reviewing in the climate blogosphere, so time will tell whether it’s the paradigm change it could potentially be.
The MSM take up of the story, apart from the usual avidly green suspects, has been tepid. Sure, it got a mention but it was small beer. At the end of the day, the MSM has to actually sell a product and climate scares are simply not selling any more. People have more pressing concerns and are terminally fed up with being told about yet another looming end of the world event. We’re moving into the second dip of a double dip recession and saving the planet is far down people’s priority list. Certainly, if they’re out of work, the only saving they’re thinking of is how long their savings can last and my heart goes out to them.
A significant response to this pure propaganda campaign is Anthony Watts’ call to his blog’s readership to write a letter of protest about it to the editor of their local newspaper or magazine. I’ve certainly sent my letter out and if you’re fortunate enough to still have a local newspaper, I’d encourage you to do the same. Incidentally, having gone to the trouble of composing a decent letter, I also sent it to a selection of national newspapers. While not many of the letters might be printed, receiving enough of them may have an influence on the person making the editorial decisions for the publication. By the way, I’d keep your letter handy for use in response to the next poll campaign. You can find Anthony’s call to arms here.
This is a time of transition. The public’s concern about and belief in global warming is on the wane. The tide has turned our way and the blogosphere should use the opportunity to broaden its audience. It’s been obvious for some time, that increasing numbers of people, wanting the real story on global warming, are bypassing the MSM in favour of going directly to the blogosphere. The Watts’ initiative is a welcome sign of the blogosphere beginning to flex its muscles and moving out of cyberspace.
In the real world, the alarmists are in retreat but it’s not just confined to there. In the blogosphere, the statistics on the number of hits their sites have been receiving have been moving steadily downwards for some time. Indeed, they’ve already started folding some of the deserted sites together, in the hope of boosting their visitors. In ten years time, a few of those sites may still be around; moribund, largely deserted except for a few depressed activists bemoaning the death of the green dream and occasionally sallying out to have a squabble at what will be by then mainstream realist sites, if only to relieve the tedium. I don’t know about you, but by that time, I’ll be long gone, out in the real world, working to reverse the damage caused by eco-activism.
There is simply no point in just fighting them to a standstill and then, when they’re in full retreat, not advancing to claim the spoils of victory. There are harmful policies in place, both domestic and international, that need to be reversed, not only to put the world economy back on a lightly regulated and high energy track to prosperity but also to stop the needless loss of lives in the developing world. This phase of the struggle is coming to an end.
It’s time for the guerillas to start moving out of the jungle.
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