Thursday, 8 December 2016

Arctic Heatwave and Climate Change Denial

The Arctic climate is acting erratically, with the temperature of 20C above average.  Despite entering the polar night, the temperature is increasing.  It appears that the warm conditions entering the Arctic are displacing the cold air which is moving towards North America.

This is bad news for two reasons.  Firstly, the obvious fact that the Arctic ice is shrinking, and secondly, that the potential cold conditions will serve as "proof" to deniers.

There was a time when I took the sceptic camp seriously, and I was on the fence on the issue.  It wasn't a particularly long time, but I was receptive to the ideas.  This was largely due to people politically aligned with me at the time also being sceptics.

I quickly realised that its not scepticism, but denial.  Human beings consistently engage in denial of bad news and forecasts, and engage in 'motivated reasoning', filtering facts in order to support their interests.

While I have a scientific background, I'm not a climate scientist, so I can't judge the evidence directly.  Looking at the meta-politics and the nature of the arguments, one can still come to a conclusion that the sceptic position is untenable, and motivated by a desire to deny, than reveal a truth.

Below are the problems with the sceptical position...

1) Lack of predictive power:  One of the most effective way of determining the accuracy of a scientific model or theory, is its predictive power, both in forecasting, and hind-casting, fitting the model over historical data.  The predictions of the scientific community haven't been 100% accurate, and some have been quite wild, but they have been reasonably accurate.  Looking at aggregate predictions, what we are witnessing is more or less what is predicted.  Climate deniers like Bolt will focus on a very small number of more 'extreme' predictions and use this as proof.

The climate sceptics, who argue that the change is natural have offered NO competing theory.  We have heard climate change being caused by cosmic rays, the sun, vague natural cycles and coming out of an ice age.  None of these theories have been used to predict climate change to any reasonable degree.  It was the insistence several years ago that the sun was the cause of climate change which made me give up on giving sceptics my time.  At the time, climate sceptics said the world would cool, but it hasn't, despite there being a small decline in solar output.

2) There is no concern about lack of predictive power: The fact that sceptics put forward an alternate theory, then discard it for another, then another suggests that what they are looking for is not a better explanation of climate change, but an alternative theory.  Any alternative theory will do, as long as it doesn't implicate human behaviour.

3) The denier camp seems over represented by Conservatives and Capitalists: Enough said really.  Climate change caused by industrial activity is a direct threat to an economic model which relies on perpetual growth.  If the theory is true, the ideology is threatened.  To protect the ideology, the theory has to be shown not to be true, or at least enough doubt created to prevent action.

People usually determine their facts and model of how the world works based on their political, religious and ideological leanings, rather than people determining their religious, political or ideological leaning based on facts and observation.

That climate change is highly polarising based on economic and political views suggests that there is a high level of motivation.

One could argue that the "Left" are motivated to push climate change, and there are various rational sounding arguments, mostly to do with gaining funding, pushing Socialism and pushing an anti-human agenda.  There is probably a small degree of truth to this.  The economic and political views of those who accept AGW tend to be broader than those who reject it.

In short, it seems based on demographics, that there is a more specific motivation to reject AGW than accept it.

4) The science is sound:  Much like arguments against evolution, the arguments against AGW seem to quibble about little details, rather than the fundamentals.  That CO2 levels are rising is unquestionable.  That the world is warming is unquestionable (it was the denier position that the world wasn't warming at all, but this is no longer tenable).  That greenhouse gases result in heat being trapped is without question.  That greenhouse gases are being emitted by human activity at a level sufficient to change the percentage is without question.

These basic points go without any adequate refutation.  So all that is left is to create doubt, to point out the small gaps and focus on them.  In short, all the strategies that creationists use against the theory of evolution.  Magnify the insignificant, cast doubt without good reason and avoid the hard evidence, or explain the hard evidence as fraud.

5) The origins of climate change denial can be explained.  The origin of the "climate change hoax" can't:  There is documented evidence of attempts to create doubt.  The genealogy of climate change denial is somewhat documented and traced.  There is no real evidence of a coordinated hoax, fraud or scam, outside peoples impression that it is so.

If it is indeed a hoax by China, as Trump stated, where is the evidence of a hoax?

It is not reasonable to believe that such a large scale hoax and scam could have occured without serious leaks, yet there aren't.


  1. Hi Assembly Line Human.
    Congratulations on your blog, especially the climate change approach. I will use the apparently open and questioning environment you seem to create here to ask some questions that I am usually scared to ask publicly for fear of being denounced as a climate apostate.

    1. Can one place one's faith in the IPCC when they don't take population growth into account, or resource depletion, and when it includes economists?

    2. Are you able to tell me how the proportion that humans contribute to climate change is guauged alongside volcanos and natural climate trends over the ages?

    3. This is the most important: Are any of the central globalist policies signed off by Climate Change embracing governments actually effective or likely to be? I am thinking of the United States or Europe. Europe, particularly, has strong climate change policy, but it also has embraced the weapons industry and war. War contributes the worst of climate gases, to my knowledge.

    4. My opinion on 3 is that the most effective policies can only be local, regional and then national. I am extremely suspicious of global, international agreements becoming effective.

  2. Thanks,

    I'll address your questions, to the best of my knowledge.

    1) The IPCC's objective is to assess the the scientific, technical and economic information available and from that determine its impacts and potential mitigation measures. It doesn't formulate policy nor do research. It could be argued that resource depletion is outside of their scope. Population growth is factored into forecasts, but it is taken as a given that populations will grow as projected.

    2) Through modelling of the identified climate influencing trends. Immediate events such as a volcano will change the atmosphere slightly by introducing particulate matter, which will change the opacity of the atmosphere. Longer term trends such as the El Nino cycles are also modelled. Long term climate trends occur over very large periods of time, and would not be expected to result in significant changes over a short period of time.

    The argument that this change is 'natural' doesn't correspond to longer term climate trends, such as those caused by Milankovitch cycles. Human activity is currently the only viable explanation for rapid climate change.

    I recommend this infographic.

    3) No.

    People like to consume. People like to have new things. People like to eat hamburgers. People like to have newer cards, better iPhones. People prefer to have an over-abundance of cheap disposable crap than keep things maintain. People find it easier to dispose and but again, than keep, repair and store. People like to tear down perfectly good houses to build units so they can make a profit to buy another property, or a car, or whatever.

    Our political and economic system is geared towards giving people what they want. That is the point of Liberal Democracy and Capitalism. Meeting human demand. Conservatives go ballistic if you so much as limit someone one iota or make someone potentially miss out on a single dollars worth of profit, and Liberals love this stuff to.

    When I was young, we were bathed in propaganda about how "we would be the generation who cares for the plant". Now my generation is immersed in consumerism and consumption. After 30 years of "effort" to tackle climate change, we've gone essentially nowhere. Why should the next 30 years be any different?

    The only saving grace is technical development which has made renewable viable, but they aren't sufficient. The current global economic slowdown has probably done more to reduce CO2 output than government policy.

    There will have to be a significant change in our political and economic systems. I can't see any other way. This change wont come from national or international bodies, but from the people.


For the Global Warming Sceptics