From the Whack-a-mole trenches.


(NOTE: Look out for the next podcast episode in the next fortnight. Dr Terrence Loomis, author of Petroleum Development and Environmental Conflict in Aoteraoa New Zealand)

People tell me not to do it – argue with out-and-out climate skeptics. But no one else wants to talk about the subject so I wind up there. Don’t do it. Probably. Honestly, I don’t know – not talking about it is worse, and staying in your echo chamber is not great either. If we’re talking, we’re learning, I suppose.

Let me tell you what I learned this week.

They need a new name.

They call us ‘warmists’ now. Which seems like a reasonable title. We still call them ‘skeptics’, which sounds anti-science, or ‘deniers’, which makes our cause sound like a religion. I’ll suggest something for now – see if you like it. Its based on the stages of grief:

  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

I’m going to name them by stage. This might sound a little patronising, but screw it, they’re wrong and it’s killing us.

I really like some of these guys.

Disagreements with stages one to three wind up turning into a trading of links to news sources. Winning in this battle is generally just a matter of staying in the ring. You don’t win, the other person typically runs out of points and goes off to do something else.

Yeah, I know. This is probably a pointless exercise. Almost as pointless as not talking about it.

Seeds of doubt can be cast in either direction. I never convinced an anti wind turbine campaigner that they were a Good Thing. But I made the point that the ‘noise’ argument is terrible and the environmental damage is not much better. This left him on some weird ground – that certain frequencies of sound not audible to the human ear were making people ill. There’s a hill to die on.

But hang in long enough and you find they are just people, and you are just sparring. The stakes may be immense and involve life and livelihood, but eventually you start hitting ‘like’ when they land something funny. And so do they. Congratulations. In this unbearably long game you are at least listening to each other.

They do matter. Even when they are clearly as mad as eels.

Seeds of doubt are all it takes. When Christopher (Lord) Monckton, a British toff with a BA in Classics, announced he had created cures for Graves disease, herpes, influenza, herpes and MS (also reducing the viral load of HIV) that was not enough for his claims about Global Warming to be dismissed. He toured this country to packed houses and people still quote him. I was referred to one of his ‘papers’ this week in an argument. He is still a thing.

To that note, people remember being told by their leaders that warming is hoax for decades. Even if those leaders have changed their minds, their original statement still applies. They simply don’t come out to the public and say ‘I was wrong, and this is really important’.

I like the people I spar with, to be fair, but there is a special place in hell for people who were trusted to know about these things and took too long to listen, then never came out about switching. The fact that many of them are still on podiums finding ways to capitalise on this crisis makes me question our viability as a species.

A scientist, when not doing science, is simply another person with an opinion.

The scientific method, from Collins:

British: a method of investigation in which a problem is first identified and observations, experiments, or other relevant data are then used to construct or test hypotheses that purport to solve it

American: a method of research in which a hypothesis is tested by means of a carefully documented control experiment that can be repeated by any other researcher

If someone with a background in science is telling you something that was not created using this method, then its just an opinion. These things are great when you want to decide what to learn. After that, do some science or save yourself some time and check out the science that is already there.

That’s pretty much what we do anytime we engage in any activities that the other mammals aren’t into. Actually, we use science to obtain food and hunt for a mate so maybe we’re just talking about breathing, digesting food and walking around at this point.

Some scientists NOT doing science when telling us about climate change include David Dilley and Doug Edmeades. There are many more but they came up this week. Telltale signs of ‘not doing science’ include:

  • Providing arguments based on too few observations
  • Not working the steps that turn observations into a hypothesis
  • Not submitting this work to other scientists for review

David Dilly noted three spikes in ocean temperature, 8 years apart, in the last 20 years, and turned that into a statement that dismissed pretty much all of other the science on the subject. To a scientist this is clearly absurd, but the man in the tweet buys it, because we respond to official titles and the presence of patterns.

Fictional characters can be scientists too.

One item making the rounds is the OISM petition project. This petition purports to be the opinions of over 31,000 scientists refuting the consensus on global warming. This is held up in response to the claim that over 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is caused by humans. The thing was, this is an online petition where anyone claiming to be a scientist could sign and it didn’t matter what kind of scientist they claimed to be. Only 39 claimed to be climate scientists.

To make the point that this petition was not legitimate some signatories used names of Star Wars characters and one signed up as Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. Attempts to locate and identify these and most of the contributors to this survey were fruitless.

Laugh all you like, but people confidently cite this petition as proof of warmist propaganda. Its sticks and it worked.

Still it matters.

So. Many. Moles. Still, they clearly do matter, since people really think the clearly insane. We should explore for more oil, gas is a transition fuel, fracking is safe, cows can be reverse engineered, industries can be trusted to regulate themselves, the temperatures will fall again, there’s more ice and polar bears reckon its a good time get into real estate.

Don’t think you’ll look back on changing your lightbulbs or recycling as appropriate responses.

Pick up a hammer. Better still, find something that makes more difference. Clearly we are all thrashing around at this point and our efforts seem hopeless. But start with the effort. You might get lucky.

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