Arguing with the climate change deniers over the 97% consensus

I find myself spending more and more time arguing with climate change deniers online. I know that it is an utter waste of my time, since the vast majority of online deniers aren’t seeking truth, but rather validation of their ideological agenda, so it is impossible to convince them no matter how much contrary evidence I present. It is so frustrating visiting web sites like Watts Up With That and that oppose the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, because most people with any knowledge of the field of climate science don’t bother weighing in or have been banned, so the skeptics are largely uncontested when they post utter nonsense. They would get torn to shreds and dismissed as crackpots if they bothered to post their garbage in a legitimate scientific forum, but they are free to spew their specious arguments uncontested on their web sites and an army of ignoramuses online then “like” their posts and vociferously support what they don’t understand. Whenever you get into an argument with one of these ignoramuses, they will link endlessly to these articles as “proof,” which they believe to be just as valid as my links to peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals.

What is even more frustrating is that the deniers appear to be winning the battle online. If you go to YouTube and type in “global warming”, the majority of the videos which are returned by the search will contest the scientific consensus on climate change, and probably also try to convince you that most climate scientists and their supporters are are nefarious people with hidden agendas.

What is most frustrating is the fact that very few climate scientists are engaged in the battle of ideas in the popular media. I have watched clip after clip on YouTube of a partisan attack dog like Tucker Carlson on Fox News questioning the science. Carlson rarely interviews actual climate scientists. Instead, he interviews people like the anti-fracking activist Josh Fox and the science educator Bill Nye, who aren’t always well versed in the details of the science. I frequently think to myself when watching a clip of Fox or Nye on TV that I could have answered the questions better than either of them, and I’m hardly an expert on the topic. Either Fox News is purposely inviting unqualified people who do a poor job of explaining the science to be interviewed on their shows or no reputable scientists are willing to go through the public torture of trying to talk to a bad actor like Carlson who has no interest in truth. Given how many climate scientists there are in the world, I suspect the former is probably the case, and people like Fox and Nye are so sincere in their concern about climate change that they take the bait of trying to argue their position on TV.

Carlson is masterful at making his opponents look like fools on TV. He pretends that he takes no position on the debate over anthropogenic climate change and is just asking legitimate questions. Then, he asks a question which would take 30 minutes to answer fully, but only gives them 30 seconds and then cuts them off continuously so they can’t finish completing their argument and they look ridiculous. Trying to explain the supposed pause in global warming since 1998 or why climate change can cause more snow fall is not something that can be explained in 10 second sound bites. Alternatively, Carlson takes a statement from some random climate activist, and turns into a ludicrous position, like “if they don’t agree with you, should they die if they are deniers?” or “global warming was going to end snow,” and demands that the interviewee try to defend it. When they refuse to answer an obviously ludicrous question or ignore the second question to try to finish answering the first question, Carlson starts yelling at them for not answering his questions.

Most climate change deniers aren’t really keeping abreast of the science that they denounce. They only focus on a few key topics like Micheal Mann’s hockey stick curve or the effect of the urban heat islands on temperature collection and they keep hammering home on those same topics over and over, even when they have been proven irrefutably wrong long ago. I rarely see a new argument from them–it is just an endless rehashing of the same tired points ad naseum.

One of their favorite talking points is arguing that there is no 97% consensus on anthropogenic climate change. Originally that percentage was taken from a January 2009 study by the University of Illinois, that surveyed 3,146 earth scientists and asked two questions: Was global warming occurring? Was human activity a “significant contributing factor” for changes in the Earth’s temperatures? The percentage who answered in the affirmative rose according to the amount of their expertise in the field of climate science. Among the climate change researchers who actively published, 75 of the 77 or 97.4% answered “yes” to both questions.

Climate change deniers questioned the small number of climate scientists in the 2009 survey and how well it represented the opinion of climate scientists as a whole. They also argued that a poll of people’s opinions doesn’t prove that there is truly a consensus in the field. Cook et al (2013) addressed these arguments by doing a survey of every journal article published in peer-reviewed science journals that was found in the Web of Science under the search topics of “global warming” or “global climate change” between 1991 and 2011. 97.1% or 3896 of the articles which express a position on anthropogenic global warming support the consensus, whereas 1.9% or 78 articles oppose it and 1.0% or 40 articles are uncertain.

Most rational people would have looked at the numbers in Cook et al and decided that it was pointless to keep arguing that there was not a consensus in climate science. The climate change deniers, however, have made it an article of faith in their dogma that that Cook et al cooked the numbers and there is no 97% consensus in climate science.

Watts Up With That recently published an article by Thomas Williams, entitled “‘The 97% climate consensus’ starts to crumble with 485 new papers in 2017 that question it“. Williams claims to have found 485 articles in 2017 that challenge the consensus position on anthropogenic global warming. I posted a critical comment calling out his highly dubious interpretation of the papers:

I started looking through the list of the papers and their summaries. The vast majority of the papers don’t fundamentally challenge the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. The compiler of this list interpreted their conclusions to say that they challenge the consensus, but the authors don’t say that in their abstracts. I bet if you emailed the authors as Cook et al (2013) did and asked them if they believe their papers challenge the consensus on anthropogenic climate change, the vast majority would say “no”. For example, I didn’t see a single paper in the list about the influence of solar irradiance on the climate that fundamentally challenges the IPCC AR5 (2013) estimate that solar irradiance has only caused 0.05 W/m2 of radiative forcing between 1750 and 2011. Whether the estimate is 0.05 or 0.3 W/m2, that doesn’t really challenge the scientific consensus, when the total forcing is 2.83 W/m2 and 2.3 W/m2 of that is anthropogenic. It is easy to fool people who don’t know anything about the science that this list of papers is significant, but it isn’t once you start looking into the details of the papers.

At least Williams is making some sort of claim based on published scientific papers that is verifiable by looking at the literature. Most deniers, however, are largely unconcerned with evidence to support their claims. The vast majority of the supporters of climate change denial who post comments online have no idea where the 97% consensus number comes from and have never read the article by Cook et al, yet they are thoroughly convinced that the number is fraudulent and is one more example of the scientific community hoodwinking the public.

The degree to which climate change deniers refuse to accept reality is evident in the way that they are still attacking the 97% consensus 5 years after the publication of Cook et al. A month ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video entitled “‘But 97% of Scientists Agree!!’ Climate Change Activist vs Tucker Carlson” which consists of Carlson playing his usual oratorical tricks on hapless defenders of the scientific consensus.

In the video Carlson baldly states: “There is not a 97% consensus that this is the only way that, for example the Paris Accord is the only way to reverse global warming. That’s just not true. There’s all kinds of opinions. This is a political question.”

Carlson is deliberately trying to confuse the issue, by trying to call into question the consensus on the science by confusing it with a wholly different question of what to do to address the problem. The expert Carlson is interviewing, Joe Romm, rightly calls out Carlson for trying to sow confusion by turning it into a political question of how to address it, but he points out that there is also a consensus on this political question as evidenced by the fact that 190 countries signed onto the Paris Accord and only President Trump among national leaders has rejected it.

In disgust at all the comments supporting Carlson’s dirty tactics, I posted the following comment on the YouTube video:

Tucker may good at debating, but he is flat wrong on the science. Cook et al (2013) found that 97.1% of peered reviewed scientific articles published between 1991 and 2012 that expressed an opinion on the topic agreed with the consensus on anthropogenic global warming. Benestad et al (2016) analyzed 38 of the articles which disagreed with anthropogenic global warming which had raw data and tried to reproduce their results. In every case, they found problems in how the data was analyzed or collected and in many cases, they found that the data actually supports anthropogenic global warming. The climatic data doesn’t support any the alternative theories (increasing volcanic emissions, increasing solar irradiation, increasing cosmic rays, more heat radiating from the planet core, etc), so the deniers don’t even have a consistent theory to explain what is happening. If you deny anthropogenic global warming like Tucker Carlson, then you are frankly a scientific illiterate and the only hope is for you to die off, because you are preventing rational people from implementing solutions to deal with the problem.

I have to admit that the end of my comment was unnecessary and callous, but it was in response to Carlson claiming that climate change activists wanted the deniers to die. My comment must have gotten under people’s skin, because it has since generated 35 responses, which is the most of any comment on the video.

The responses I received are a fascinating sampling of typical climate change denialism. Some of the comments were flippant like this one:

Gremy Saint 1 week ago
Explain the record low on new years ??? I’m begging for global warming .

I was highly surprised by the nature of this criticism from a denier:

Eric Mcoo 1 week ago
John Cook is a born again Christian loony. He is NOT a scientist.

ctl6985 1 week ago
Eric Mcoo I doubt a Christian Looney would be agruing for climate change

Eric Mcoo 1 week ago
John Cook of Skeptical Science is a born again Christian loony who isn’t even a scientist. . “I’m a Christian and find myself strongly challenged by passages in the Bible like Amos 5 and Matthew 25”, he wrote. “… I care about the same things that the God I believe in cares about – the plight of the poor and vulnerable.” Talk about unexpected – faith is hardly the de rigueur mindset in scientific circles, particularly when it is so frequently associated with US right-wing Fox punditry, anti-science rhetoric, creationism and – bizarrely, in the case of climate change – the Rapture.

I have to admit that a denier attacking the impartiality of a climate researcher because he is influenced by his Christian beliefs is a pretty novel approach. It is definitely a case of the kettle calling the pot black, since many deniers are right-wing Christians.

This criticism from Space Monkey was more typical of the kind of denialism that you typically see online:

Space Monkey 1 week ago
Amos Batto John Cooks study has been widely criticized and debunked. It borders on fraud.

Space Monkey 1 week ago
Amos Batto Oh, and while we are at it how come satalite data, the best data available, has shown no increase in global temperature in the last 18 years? Further, Jerry D Mahlmans so called “hockey stick graph” is also a fraud. It shows global temperature over the last 1000 years based on tree ring data but dumps the data post 1961 as it showed global temperature actually decreasing. And btw I’m a paleoclimatologist and am not scientifically illiterate.

Shreem 1 week ago
Space Monkey being a paleoclimatologist would you say there was evidence to support solar minimum cycles…50, 100, 500, and 1000 year cycles? Such as the Maunder minimum? Personally I believe it’s all directly related to the activity of the sun.

Amos Batto 10 hours ago
The radiative forcing from solar irradiance was 0.05 W/m2 out of a total forcing of 2.83 W/m2 between 1750 and 2011, so the sun has been responsible for 1.8% of global warming, according to the IPCC AR5. The highest credible estimate that I have been able to find for forcing from solar irradiance is 0.3 W/m2, and that estimate is over a decade old. All recent estimates are close to what the IPCC says. We have very precise satellite measurements from solar irradiance and there hasn’t been enough variance to explain global warming.

VeryEvilPettingZoo 1 week ago (edited)
Space Monkey Re: “John Cooks study has been widely criticized and debunked. It borders on fraud.”
Criticized = true
Widely criticized = false (well, excluding the herd effect of the legions of drooling half-wit deniers who mindless parrot talking points they know nothing about.)
Debunked = pure bullshit
Borders on fraud = You bordering on libel.
Your claim is utter and complete bullshit.

VeryEvilPettingZoo 1 week ago (edited)
Space Monkey Re: “And btw I’m a paleoclimatologist and am not scientifically illiterate.” Yeah… and I’m the King of England. (FYI: Your comments in that post – the ones prior to you lying about your occupation – prove that you’re scientifically illiterate.)

Space Monkey 1 week ago
VeryEvilPettingZoo Informal logical falacies will get you nowhere. So far you have used argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad populum and argumentum ad verecundiam. You also have no clue of the facts, do your homework, listen to opposing points of view and maybe you will realise the climate change hysteria is a castle built on sand. A good place to start would be the e-mails sent by Cook to his researchers; “It’s essential that the public understands that there’s a scientific consensus on AGW. So [Skeptical Science activists] Jim Powell, Dana [Nucitelli] and I have been working on something over the last few months that we hope will have a game changing impact on the public perception of consensus. Basically, we hope to establish that not only is there a consensus, there is a strengthening consensus.” In other words Cook had decided the outcome of his research before the research had been done. In the field of science that is pretty close to fraud.

Space Monkey 1 week ago
Shreem Thanks for the question. It is logical to assume that solar activity, being the largest input of energy into the Earths atmosphere will have a material effect on the climate. However don’t forget the other half of the equation, the Earths possition relative to the Sun also has a fundemental effect. We are all familiar with the seasonal variations throughout the year which are entirely driven by the Earths possition. Look up the Milankovitch cycles for more information. Also its worth noting that geological activity also plays a part in global climate change, indeed if it were not for volcanic activity in the pre-cambrian the Earth would have been a frozen snowball. Then there is human activity. Its a matter of fact that all other things being equal, cities are warmer than rural areas. Micro-climates are formed by various factors but are a neat example of how human activity can alter the climate. The question is, to what extent has human activity driven climate change? Personally I think its likely to be less than 50% and have seen no actual hard facts to suggest otherwise.

Space Monkey 1 week ago
VeryEvilPettingZoo Excuse me your Royal Highness but I never claimed to be a profesional paleoclimatologist, I’m actually a profesional petroleum geologist and have been for the last 30 years. However I did study a good ammount of paleoclimatology at university for my geology degree.

Over and over I see deniers claiming to have some special expertise in the field, although it is obvious that they don’t. What is rare is that someone calls them out on their claims to expertise as VeryEvilPettingZoo did. I get so frustrated with the deniers I meet online that I often have the urge to respond just like VeryEvilPettingZoo to the downright nuttiness of some of the denier’s arguments:

VeryEvilPettingZoo 1 week ago
Space Monkey Re: “The climate change narrative is yet another attack on Western Civilisation, something else white men are responsible for. It is all post modernist bullshit.” You just might be the dumbest mother-fucker who ever lived.

Generally, the deniers’ claims of conspiracy and fraud go unanswered, and they often don’t get any effective pushback online. What VeryEvilPettingZoo did next was astounding to people like me who have watched the deniers repeatedly winning the battle online because nobody takes the time to call them out on their bullshit. VeryEvilPettyZoo, however, did take the time and it was beautiful to read:

VeryEvilPettingZoo 1 week ago
Space Monkey
Re: “Informal logical fallacies will get you nowhere. So far you have used argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad populum and argumentum ad verecundiam.”
You shouldn’t use terms you don’t understand. I committed no fallacy, and your claim to the contrary isn’t so much wrong as is just gibberish. Why? Because a fallacy, to be a fallacy, is always a fallacy of reasoning/argument/justification/inference. So if you’re going to accuse me of a fallacy, you have to be able to point to some kind of argument I made, and say “there, that argument is fallacious.” Fallacies apply to arguments. If you can’t point to an argument of some kind on which to apply your fallacy charge, then your fallacy charge is incoherent gibberish. It’s like saying “Your car is fallacious” (or “your argument is the color silver”). It’s nonsense. But I presented no argument, neither implicitly nor explicitly, and so I committed no fallacy.

I made assertions, not arguments. I simply asserted where your claims were bullshit. I made those assertions – that your bullshit is bullshit – because I know the facts, but why I made them is irrelevant to this. The only thing that matters in showing that your fallacy charges are nonsensical & incoherent is that I presented no type of argument. I only made assertions, and assertions are not arguments. Thus it’s gibberish for you to accuse me of having committed a fallacy (much less three different kinds of fallacies), because I gave no argument.

I’ve been dealing with deniers for decades, so I’m sure I know why you think I committed an ad hominem, ad populum, and ad verecundiam fallacies. You guys are parrots; it’s always the same. Understand that you’d be wrong there even if I had made the arguments that you’ve delusionally imagined that I’d made, but it’s not my concern to educate you on the basics of rhetoric. I’ll simply recommend that you do some reading on this subject before you make any future claims about fallacies.

Re: “You also have no clue of the facts, do your homework, listen to opposing points of view…”
Oh sweet sweet irony. I not only know the actual science far better than you, but I bet I also know most of the denier arguments better than you too.

Re: “… and maybe you will realise the climate change hysteria is a castle built on sand.”
Yeah, the empirical findings of the physical sciences are “hysteria” and “a castle built on sand.” Brilliant insights you’ve got there. Compelling!

Re: “A good place to start would be the e-mails sent by Cook to his researchers”
In yet another display of your cluelessness, the truth is that few things could be more irrelevant to the status of climate science than Cook’s private correspondences. But whatever, I’ll play along.

Re: “It’s essential that the public understands that there’s a scientific consensus on AGW. So [Skeptical Science activists] Jim Powell, Dana [Nucitelli] and I have been working on something over the last few months that we hope will have a game changing impact on the public perception of consensus. Basically, we hope to establish that not only is there a consensus, there is a strengthening consensus.”
To my knowledge, that’s the endpoint of the following chain: Anonymous hacker to anonymous data grabber (the same person? who knows…) to Russian server to Tom Nelson to citing links which are now dead. Given my past checks on the veracity of Tom Nelson to PopularTechnology, there’s not a single link in that chain that’s anywhere close to credible, and so your quote is entirely unreliable. Now Cook’s website was hacked, but that doesn’t mean that what’s posted – and what you’re citing – are the actual contents of those stolen emails. Cook would have to verify it before I’d actually accept it as authentic.
However, given that your thoroughly unreliable “evidence” from some criminal deed fails to establish the point you’re trying to make which would be irrelevant to climatology even if it were established, I’ll play along. I’ll pretend this is one of the authentic stolen emails, but always bearing in mind that there’s no good reason to accept that.

The (purported) context of that quote within the emails can be found here:

Re: “In other words Cook had decided the outcome of his research before the research had been done. In the field of science that is pretty close to fraud.?”
Okay, and so now here are some of the ways that your analysis is garbage:

1. You don’t know how to read very well. He didn’t state that he’s decided what the outcome would be; he stated what he hoped would happen. He wrote “… that we hope will have a game changing impact…”, and “… we hope to establish that …”. Read! The word “hope” and the word “decide” are not the same word. They are different. They have different meanings. They are not interchangeable. They are not synonymous. Clear?

Remember that these are the purported private and secret communications between conspirators, so isn’t it rather odd and surprising that he’s repeatedly referring to what he hopes to find, rather than boasting about what his intended upcoming fraud is guaranteed to find? There’s no need to hope when the fix is in and the outcome already decided (your word). (If you were both a smarter and more honorable man, you might have at least chosen a word closer in meaning to “hope” – maybe like the word “expect” – instead of your dishonorable misrepresentation using the word “decide”.)

Now, here’s another big insight about reality that you’ve perhaps missed: scientists are human beings. In fact, they sometimes even have hopes, and – I shit you not – sometimes even privately tell their friends and collegues what they hope. Hoping can even extend to hopes about what the outcome of their research efforts will be. Seriously dude, if having a desired research outcome counts as “borderline fraud”, as you apparently believe, then every research scientist alive has been guilty of “borderline fraud” on virtually every one of their research efforts. Which makes me wonder, just what the fuck did you think you’d found in those emails? Evidence of fraud?

2. Let’s take it a step further and try to really stretch our brains here: if you’re writing an email to invite someone to join your conspiracy, shouldn’t you let them know that… well… that there’s a conspiracy? There’s sure a lot of non-fraud non-conspiracy type-talk in that email for an email that’s intended to invite someone into a conspiracy to commit research fraud. And there’s nothing claiming any intent to create a conspiracy to perform a fraud. Isn’t that a bit odd if your implied sinister theory were true? Why would one conspirator privately communicate his guesses about the ultimate results to a co-conspirator, much less having those guesses being based on the non-fraudulent evidence, if these fraudsters had already decided (your word) what the outcome would be ahead of time?
We can analyse this data in a variety of ways… but what I’m guessing from what I’ve rated so far is we’ll find is around 50% of the papers are explicit or implicit endorsements and the rest are neutral (with the tiniest fraction being rejection)

So it’s not merely the case that what’s found in the (purported) emails fails to be incriminating in the way you’re suggesting, but also, if your suggestion were correct, we would expect those private communications to include other types of conspiratorial comments which simply aren’t there. In fact, those (purported) private emails sound very much like what people would write if they were not intending to commit research fraud.

3. You claimed that your citation was “before the research had been done”, but that’s just outright wrong. Some preliminary research had already been done. You can see that in the quote above (“… I’m guessing from what I’ve rated so far…”). In fact, they had even already submitted “a short Brevia article” to Science.
We ended up with 12,272 papers. I imported the details of each paper (including abstracts) into the SkS database and set up a simple crowd sourcing system allowing us to rate the category of each paper using Naomi’s initial categories (impacts, mitigation, paleoclimate, methods, rejection, opinion). We did find some rejection papers in the larger sample but the amount was negligible. The amount of citations the rejection papers received were even smaller proportionally, indicating the negligible impact of AGW denial in the peer-reviewed literature. Jim and I wrote these initial results up into a short Brevia article that we just submitted to Science (so please don’t mention these results outside of this forum yet, lest it spook Science who freak out if there’s any mention of a submitted paper before publication). Of course, Science have a 92% rejection rate so the chances are very slim – we’ll try other journals if rejected there.

4. I suspect that by this point it’s dawned on you that perhaps your damning evidence and “borderline fraud” charge are, well, nonsense. (For your sake, I hope that’s the case, because otherwise you really are a complete imbecile.) But let’s seal the deal here by considering a couple scenarios that are parallel to this, but that aren’t burdened by your denier paranoia/indoctrination, and watch how removing your insane biases and delusions and group-think reveals an entirely different story. First, a hypothetical:

4A. Suppose you live in a small town where, in recent years, you begin to notice rats for the first time. There didn’t use to be any, but now you see them on a fairly regular basis, and their numbers appear to be growing. You believe – with damn good reason – that your town has a pest problem and you think the town should spend the money necessary to deal with it. But the city council doesn’t want to spend that money, and they just keep telling you “no, we don’t see any rat problem – so go away”. Well, perhaps you could do some research to justify your claim that that the town has a rat problem. Maybe you’d go neighborhood by neighborhood, putting out traps and counting how many rats per week were caught in each area. You might get some preliminary results, making it pretty clear that your full experiment will end up catching a LOT of rats. Maybe you’d ask some of your friends to come help you with your research program. You tell your friends “Look, we can see that there’s a rat problem, but there are people out there who don’t believe it, so we’re going to collect data to have the evidence to prove it, and then make sure that our results are widely known. Maybe we’ll write a blurb in the town’s weekly paper saying how many rats we caught that week in each neighborhood.” Or maybe there’s an email to friends, asking them to help, would read something like this:

It’s essential that the town and city council understands that there’s a now rat problem. So Jim, Dana and I have been working on something over the last few months that we hope will have a game changing impact on the public perception of the rat problem. Basically, we hope to establish that not only is there a rat problem, there is worsening rat problem.

Now let me ask you, is there anything sinister in those words? Anything conspiratorial? Anything bordering on fraud? Any indication that anyone intends to fraudulently skew the rat-data somehow? No, of course not. Researchers are often pretty sure that they know what their results are going to roughly be even before they do the research (ahem… scientific method and whatnot) – whether via their preliminary results, or prior research (Naomi Oreskes’ survey), or by just making qualitative or anecdotal observations that their research is intends to more rigorously establish. Sometimes researchers are looking forward to sharing what their results will be, because they’re pretty sure that they know what their results will roughly be, and they think it’s important that others hear about this. Is there anything sinister about any of that? Anything conspiratorial? Anything bordering on fraud? Any indication that anyone intends to inappropriately tamper with the data somehow? No, of course not.

4B. Now for a real world example. Do you know about CERN’s LHC and its detection of the Higgs boson? ( ) To say that this was a big deal in the world of high energy physics would be a gross understatement. It was the biggest deal. Here are some things to keep in mind about that event: The scientists doing the experiment fully expected to find the Higgs. Of course, you haven’t found it until you’ve found it, but everything they thought they understood about particle physics – which is a LOT – indicated that it should be there, and that the LHC should detect it. So they thought they knew what the results would be long before they even first broke ground to build the LHC. Also, essentially everyone involved in that engineering marvel – the scientists, engineers, technicians, managers, and all the rest – emphatically and unabashedly hoped that it would find the Higgs. Moreover, for an undertaking of that scale, you can be damn sure that there was some kind of CERN/LHC communications division, which made plans and laid out procedures for how and when and where to announce the discovery that they all hoped and assumed would happen. It’s entirely possible that those procedures were in place before the LHC was even turned on for the first time.

It’s essential that the human race expands its knowledge of the basic realities and laws of the universe. So Jim, Dana and I – and thousands of others – have been working on something over the last few years called the LHC that we hope will have a game changing impact humanity’s knowledge about elementary particle physics. Basically, we hope to establish that the Higgs boson exists.

Is there anything sinister about any of that? Anything conspiratorial? Anything bordering on fraud? Any indication that anyone intends to fraudulently handle the data somehow? No, of course not.

4C. On a tangential note, the preceding example can serve to highlight the tragedy that you, and millions like you, represent. Suppose that, for some unstated hypothetical reason, the discovery of the Higgs boson would’ve led to regulatory pressures threatening the profits of the global multi-trillion dollar fossil fuel industry. What would be the consequences? Well, we already know, don’t we? Money would start pouring into rightwing & free-market & anti-environmental “think tanks” to generate arguments to influence the scientifically ignorant public that the Higgs particle doesn’t exist. Billionaires, and their foundations, and the various fossil fuel CEOs and upper echelon executives and industry advocacy groups, and all the free-market/anti-government/anti-regulation “true believers” and ideologues, would all send money flowing into this propaganda campaign. It would be a campaign intended to shift public perceptions just enough to reduce, mitigate, or even eliminate, the profit-harming regulations that they knew would follow from the discovery of the Higgs. That shift in public perceptions would provide political cover for their political pawns (in the USA, that’s the Republican Party) to be able to fight against any regulatory consequences to the discovery of the Higgs. (The obedience of the Republican Party leadership would be a given, since unleashing a literal army of lobbyists (THOUSANDS) and cash money donations is always guaranteed to buy their positions.) Especially among rightwingers, who are virtually defined as such by their mindless herd loyalty behavior (shall I cite studies?), the combined affect of the propaganda campaign and the activation of these political pawns makes it virtually certain that nearly the whole herd will soon internalize adherence to the-Higgs-does-not-exist position as virtually part of their self-identity. You think the Higgs exists? What’s wrong with you? You’re not one of us.

Thus we’d have a Higgs-denier phenomenon. Millions of ignorant weak-minded herd animals – such as you – would run around blathering about how the scientists are stupid, don’t know anything about how REAL science works, are only pushing this Higgs theory for grant money (to get rich, to keep their jobs etc.), how it’s all part of a decades-spanning global conspiracy of tens of thousands to fulfill the sinister agenda of the NWO/Agenda-21/Commies/Illuminati/Jews/our-alien-overlords/whatever, and how, unlike the science-savvy Higg’s deniers (aka hillbillies and truck drivers), the so-called real scientists don’t really understand quantum field correctly. And you’d be on a video like, blessing us all with your brilliant insight that the scientists hoping to find the Higgs shows that the scientists are committing scientific fraud.

That my friend, is a tragedy – not only for science, but by revealing how effortlessly the weak ignorant and stupid can have their minds owned by monied interests. My little hypothetical here isn’t some ridiculous fantasy about what would happen if discovery of the Higgs threatened monied interests, but rather is what we KNOW with virtual certainty would happen. Why? Because that’s exactly what has happened with climate science and it’s profit-threatening findings that human CO2 emissions are driving a dangerous climate change.

5. “Borderline fraud” is like “a little pregnant” – either an intentional deception/misconduct/lie about the data & analysis was committed by the researchers, or it wasn’t. Is there any evidence of scientific fraud here? No. Moreover, reading those (purported) emails at face value, meaning actually respecting what’s written in those (purported) emails, you simply find nothing suggesting any research misconduct. “Borderline fraud” is a serious allegation to raise against a professional researcher. Do you have any evidence for it? These dubious emails are not only no evidence, whatsoever, for your noxious claim, but they’re actually evidence against it. You have to be a real piece of shit as a human being to level such charges against others without substantive justification (and especially if it’s motivated by motivated by something as petty as seeking a “win” for team science-denial)… so what’s your excuse?

So, like the every other posts I’ve seen from you, everything you attempted to argue was just a horrible embarrassing failure on your part. I’ve read a few of your other posts, and it’s the same there too. Your efforts to argue this subject are like some kind of fail-machine… if you’re arguing it, it’s going to be wrong, ignorant, and probably pretty damn stupid too. So WTF is wrong with you? Just STOP already.

I was deeply gratified to see how VeryEvilPettingZoo tore apart Space Monkey’s assertions in such detail. To see this sort of response is very rare. I don’t know if this kind of elaborate rebuttal really helps win the battle of ideas in the public sphere, but I feel like the deniers have gotten a free pass to peddle their baloney for too long. People who don’t know much about the topic think that their fallacious assertions are true when they see nobody challenging them. Kudos to VeryEvilPettingZoo for putting in the effort. I just wish that we had millions more VeryEvilPettingZoos on our side with his time and his passion.

The most interesting response in my opinion was this comment comparing my comment to Hitler’s “final solution”:

Betty Swollocks 1 week ago
WOW Amos, “the only hope is for you to die off, because you are preventing rational people from implementing solutions to deal with the problem”. There was a group of guys in 30’s Europe who had a similar attitude, using the word solution fraudulent slip eh?

VeryEvilPettingZoo’s response had just the right amount of snarky humor to match the silliness of Betty Swollock’s comment:

VeryEvilPettingZoo 1 week ago (edited)
Betty Swollocks No, your comparison fails. Today, we’re just waiting for you imbeciles to die off; those guys in the 1930’s were more pro-active. But thanks for the idea.

Space Monkey wasn’t the only YouTube commenter claiming that Cook et al. had been debunked and was a fraudulent study. Another commenter, Josh Mallas, made a similar claim and even provided a link to a peer-reviewed article to back it up.

Josh Mallas 1 week ago
Apparently you haven’t heard but, the Cook (2013) review wasn’t just debunked it was shit on. This article while posted on a .com website is peer reviewed and accepted. I just did a quick search because I didn’t want to dig in the journal to find it: So, slow down with the climate denier bullshit.

Josh Mallas 1 week ago
Here’s the actual article. Ya know… just in case.

I felt compelled to write a long response, although I knew I was wasting my time:

Amos Batto 3 hours ago
Josh Mallas, I have read the Cook et al (2013) paper and the methodology is very sound. I can’t read Legates et al because it is paid access, but I don’t know why you would take it seriously.

First of all, Cook et al is published in Environmental Research Letters, which is a highly respected journal among climate scientists. In science, there are tiers of journals where Nature and Science are considered the best journals to get published in, and Env. Res. Lett. would be in the second best tier of journals for climate science. I have seen a number of ground-breaking articles in it like Bond et al’s article on black carbon. In contrast, a journal like Science & Education which published the article by Legates et al doesn’t even rate among climate scientists. Unlike Env. Res. Lett., Sci. & Ed. doesn’t publish original research on climate change and doesn’t have many people on its staff or among its reviewers who are experts on the topic. A journal for educators is not the same as a journal for research scientists, and the standards of peer review are not as rigorous. Sci. & Ed. isn’t going to scrutinize methodology and question the data like Env. Res. Lett. does.

Second, Legates et al argues that you can’t trust Cook et al’s conclusion, because 66.7% of the 11,944 articles it reviewed don’t state a position either for or against anthropogenic global warming. In statistics, conclusions are often questioned if a large proportion of the data set has to thrown out, but that critique is not valid in this situation. When dealing with a consensus theory in science, it is normal for most papers on the topic to not express a position on the validity of the theory, because everyone already accepts it. Why waste time rehashing what is already known? If you surveyed the scientific journal articles on relativity, evolution, plate tectonics, or any other theory that has reached scientific consensus, you will find that the majority of articles don’t express an opinion either for or against the theory, because there is no need to keep arguing about something which was settled decades ago and is widely-accepted among people in the field. In a consensus, the people who disagree need to state that they disagree with the accepted theory, whereas those who do agree don’t need to bother stating an opinion. At any rate, the papers which don’t state a position are not included in the 97.1% figure, so Legates et al is making a pointless argument. You have 3896 articles that support the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and 78 that oppose it.

Third, Legates et al argues that only 41 out of the 11,944 articles (whereas Cook et al find 64) show that the majority of climate change since 1950 is anthropogenic (i.e., caused by human activity). This is not surprising because quantifying radiative forcing is a highly technical field, and there are only a handful of research institutions around the world that have the equipment and budget to do it properly. You need access to satellites, monitoring stations that measure a very diverse set of data and a large staff of experts to examine and quantify that data. NASA GISS is one of the few institutions in the world which can do it well, and very few peer-reviewed articles are going to explicitly state that the majority of climate change or global warming since 1950 has been caused by human activity unless the article is focused on the quantification of radiative forcing over time. However, it is worth pointing out that not a single article that opposes AGW has bothered to quantify radiative forcing over time. So the tally is 41 versus 0. Anyone who knows the science, knows that Legates et al’s argument is very weak once you examine the field of quantifying radiative forcing and the fact that there isn’t a single credible skeptic who is publishing in the field.

At the end of the day, it is hard to know whether posts like mine which try to focus on the scientific findings from reputable sources or those from VeryEvilPettingZoo which use sarcasm and focus more on refuting the logic of the denier’s arguments are more effective. As a rule of thumb, most people on YouTube won’t even bother expanding a comment thread to see the responses and will skip reading any comment longer than three lines long. The only people who are likely to read the rebuttals I posted are the people involved in the debate who are already too ideologically committed to change their minds. Still, they might think twice about spreading misinformation online, if they are constantly rebutted every time they try. On the other hand, some of them are clearly thrilled by the verbal sparing and the flinging of insults, so we may be encouraging them to keep posting.

It is hard for me to get into the head of climate change deniers and understand what motivates them to spew their patently false claims on the internet. Some appear to be paid trolls, but many of them like Space Monkey appear to be real people, who are evidently convinced by the misinformation campaigns financed by wealthy interests like the Koch Brothers. It is hard for me to judge how much damage they are doing and who takes them seriously. I try my best to not insult their humanity and not attribute nefarious purposes to their posts, since I believe that attacking them this way demeans me more than them. Nonetheless, they increasingly try my patience and I find myself in a deep quandary as to how to effectively counter their misinformation.

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