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Nature v technology: climate ‘belief’ is politics, not science

It is hard to imagine a scientific breakthrough more abstract and less politically contentious than Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Yet in Weimar Germany in the 1920s it attracted fierce controversy…

Remember the Theory of Relativity sceptics? As with the Einstein debate, the modern climate debate is based on politics and strawmen, not facts and details. Flick/beautyredefined

It is hard to imagine a scientific breakthrough more abstract and less politically contentious than Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Yet in Weimar Germany in the 1920s it attracted fierce controversy, with conservatives and ultra-nationalists reading it as a vindication of their opponents – liberals, socialists, pacifists and Jews. They could not separate Einstein’s political views – he was an internationalist and pacifist – from his scientific breakthroughs, and his extraordinary fame made him a prime target in a period of political turmoil.

There was a turning point in 1920. A year earlier a British scientific expedition had used observations of an eclipse to provide empirical confirmation of Einstein’s prediction that light could be bent by the gravitational pull of the Sun. Little known to the general public beforehand, Einstein was instantly elevated to the status of the genius who outshone Galileo and Newton. But conservative newspapers provided an outlet for anti-relativity activists and scientists with an axe to grind, stoking nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment among those predisposed to it.

In a similar way today, conservative news outlets promote the views of climate deniers and publish stories designed to discredit climate scientists, all with a view to defending an established order seen to be threatened by evidence of a warming globe. As in the Wiemar Republic, the effect has been to fuel suspicion of liberals and “elites” by inviting the public to view science through political lenses.

At the height of the storm in 1920, a bemused Einstein wrote to a friend:

This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.

The controversy was not confined to Germany. In France a citizen’s attitude to the new theory could be guessed from the stance he or she took on the Dreyfus affair, the scandal surrounding the Jewish army officer falsely convicted of spying in 1894, whose fate divided French society. Anti-Dreyfusards were inclined to reject relativity on political grounds.

In Britain, suspicions were less politically grounded but relativity’s subversion of Newton was a sensitive issue, leading Einstein to write an encomium for the great English scientist prior to a lecture tour.

Like Einstein’s opponents, who denied relativity because of its perceived association with progressive politics, conservative climate deniers follow the maxim that “my enemy’s friend is my enemy”. Scientists whose research strengthens the claims of environmentalism must be opposed.

Conservative climate deniers often link their repudiation of climate science to fears that cultural values are under attack from “liberals” and progressives. In Weimar Germany the threat to the cultural order apparently posed by relativity saw Einstein accused of “scientific dadaism”, after the anarchistic cultural and artistic movement then at its peak. The epithet is revealing because it reflected anxiety that Einstein’s theory would overthrow the established Newtonian understanding of the world, a destabilisation of the physical world that mirrored the subversion of the social order then underway.

Relativity’s apparent repudiation of absolutes was interpreted by some as yet another sign of moral and intellectual decay. There could not have been a worse time for Einstein’s theory to have received such emphatic empirical validation than in the chaotic years after the First World War.

Although not to be overstated, the turmoil of Weimar Germany has some similarities with the political ferment that characterises the United States today – deep-rooted resentments, the sense of a nation in decline, the fragility of liberal forces, and the rise of an angry populist right. Environmental policy and science have become battlegrounds in a deep ideological divide that emerged as a backlash against the gains of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Marrying science to politics was a calculated strategy of conservative activists in the 1990s, opening up a gulf between Republican and Democratic voters over their attitudes to climate science. Both anti-relativists and climate deniers justifiably feared that science would enhance the standing of their opponents. They responded by tarnishing science with politics.

Einstein’s work was often accused of being un-German, and National Socialist ideology would soon be drawing a distinction between Jewish and Aryan mathematics. Although anti-Semitism plays no part in climate denial, “Jewish mathematics” served the same political function that the charge of “left-wing science” does in the climate debate today.

In the United States, the notion of left-wing science dates to the rise in the 1960s of what has been called “environmental-social impact” science which, at least implicitly, questioned the unalloyed benefits of “technological-production” science. Thus in 1975 Jacob Needleman could write:

Once the hope of mankind, modern science has now become the object of such mistrust and disappointment that it will probably never again speak with its old authority.

The apparent paradox of denialist think tanks supporting geoengineering solutions to the global warming problem that does not exist can be understood as a reassertion of technological-production science over environmental impact science. Thus the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute – the leading denialist organisation that has hosted a series of conferences at which climate science is denounced as a hoax and a communist conspiracy – has enthusiastically endorsed geoengineering as the answer to the problem that does not exist.

The association between “left-wing” opinion and climate science has now been made so strongly that politically conservative scientists who accept the evidence for climate change typically withdraw from public debate. So do those conservative politicians who remain faithful to science.

The motives of Einstein’s opponents were various but differences were overlooked in pursuit of the common foe. Today among the enemies of climate science we find grouped together activists in free market think tanks, politicians pandering to popular fears, conservative media outlets like the Sunday Times and Fox News, a handful of disgruntled scientists, right-wing philanthropists including the Scaifes and Kochs, and sundry opportunists such as Christopher Monckton and Bjorn Lomborg.

While Einstein’s theory posed no economic threat and industrialists were absent from the constellation of anti-relativity forces, the way in which climate denial was initially organised and promoted by fossil fuel interests is now well-documented. In the last several years, climate denial has developed into a political and cultural movement. Beneath the Astroturf grass grew.

This is an edited extract from Earthmasters by Clive Hamilton, published by Allen & Unwin.

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78 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    No doubt Clive is right. A lot of skeptics don't have any knowledge of climate science. They simply don't want human-caused climate change to be true. Many assume it's a scam to increase state power.

    However the same applies to many advocates for climate action. Many want climate change to be true, as it's obviously a sign of what's wrong with human development. They may have no particular respect for science in other areas - Western medicine, food production, energy production, economics - but suddenlly on this issue we have to 'listen to the scientists'.

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    1. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Yep. some will listen to the scientists on this then take homeopathy seriously!
      I know successful scientists who conduct experiments Mon-Fri, yet appear to believe in an interventionist god on Sundays. I don't know how they reconcile that-probably they just don't think about it.
      How many neo-liberal economists fail to act entirely rationally in the market place at a personal level?
      So, sure, life is messy and humans are fallible and inconsistent. That is what science is for, a formalised, self-correcting process to improve our chances of getting it right when the questions move beyond what can be safely addressed with gut feeling.

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    2. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Interesting!

      In the newsagent recently there was a guy buying hundreds of dollars of Tattslotto tickets. Then I saw his lanyard - he worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics!

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, I think the point is, as Peter Campbell implies, that it doesn't matter whether everyone is always 100% consistent (of course, as we all know, one of the few things you pretty much can be 100% sure of is that people will NOT be 100% consistent!) - the trick is to examine each issues case-by-case, based on the best available evidence.

      The fact that it is statistically true that climate science deniers (and I thoroughly agree with Mike that the people discussed in Clive's article absolutely…

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, I think there might be an explanation in some of the recent work applying psychology to economic theory (sorry, can't quote you chaper and verse, but it's not that hard to find) - in typical psychologucal terms, the thing is that the lotto tickets don't cost that much (the poor old ABS employee, even on a fairly basic salary, can cover the cost without much grief) and the possible reward - no matter how unlikely - is so great that it FEELS like it's worth having a go.

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mr Swinbourne, the observations of climate science are sufficiently well-established to eliminate all doubt.

      Observation 1. Sun irradiates earth with short-wave energy.

      Observation 2. Earth re-radiates long-wave energy.

      Observation 3. Greenhouse gases retard transmission of long-wave energy, not short-wave energy.

      Observation 4. Satellite observations show decreasing emission to space of this long-wave energy, at EXACTLY THE SAME WAVELENGTHS as CO2 absorbs long-wave energy.

      Observation…

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    6. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Excellent point - 'Lord' Monckton, Andrew Bolt, the entire Heartland Institute, IPA and other sundry deniers take note.

      Scientists in order to simply do their work HAVE to be skeptical.

      Obtaining peer review and approval requires a combination of jumping through bureaucratic hoops while crossing a bed of hot coals made up of other scientists. Particularly when a claim is likely to be controversial.

      Science is not for the faint of heart.

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      G'day Ms A...

      There's another factor at play in the addled minds of contrarian cranks. They look to science for Certainty... facts ma'am nuttin but the facts. They really cannot deal with the reality that - at the pointy end - science doesn't produce certainty in the first instance ... it produces complex difficult facts and doubts which must be chewed over and turned into a theoretical framework that explains them.

      I think this might explain the attraction of contrarian denial to geologists and chemists and the like - predictable, final and certain - that's how they like their science. It is a thinking common to disciples and followers rather than those who work at the leading edge of science. The second eleven ... no great ideas, no breakthrough theories... just the application of certainties developed by greater souls. Their careers demonstrate it consistently. And that indeed is part of their outrage and annoyance.

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    8. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Who wouldn't wish for a predictable world, one where the best laid plans do not go astray?

      I can understand why people (including some scientists - far too many geologists and chemists) can only deal with certainty. May be they should consider careers as accountants or mathematicians (probably best to avoid physics, especially quantum).

      Certainty - humans strive for it, however it remains conversely elusive. Explains the belief in religion/supernatural. Would be harmless if the 'infallible' did not wield so much influence in MSM, schools, government, business and so on.

      I guess that's the cost of free speech - having to tolerant the deliberately ignorant.

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    9. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Yes, I know what you mean Felix (and Peter) - it's whether a particular argument is sound, not whether someone is 100% consistent. (Who is? I'm the worst, probably.)

      However, if someone is ambivalent about science, but uses 'we have to trust science' to support an argument, you can suspect their case is not thought through.

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    10. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      David,

      No argument from me. It's the non-'sceptics' who you have to convince - but who will never be convinced no matter how much evidence or reason you provide.

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    11. Gavin Melles

      Lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Hi. Further to this, for a reasonable account of where economics is, including behavioural economics alluded to above, and the general force of biology as a model for many (not all) sciences also involved in informing policy and action, Read and listen to Rosenberg on Econtalk http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/09/rosenberg_on_th.html. On another note, some of the replies on this thread show little or understanding of current climate science, forecasting and predictions, modelling etc... The so-called debate sounds like the factless parliamentary debates on ABC where people try desperately to attribute error to the other party and use any available one liner explanations to do so

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  2. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    I am somewhat bemused by author's use of the public's reaction to Einstein's Theory of Relativity as a thread to illustrate how conservatives view climate science.

    Whilst Einstein was a brilliant theoretical physicist he was as guilty as the rest of us when it came to acceptance of new physics theories that did no agree with his own.

    When the young Neils Bohr first raised the concept of Quantum Physics, Einstein dismissed him with the quote, "I, at any rate, am convinced that He [God] does…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Like the your knowledge of climate science Gerard, you have fallen for the comic book version of Einstein and quantum physics.

      Einstein "spent the rest of his life trying to discredit Bohr". This is simply not true.

      "...in the end Bohring Quantum Physics won out." This is not true either. What is called the "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics is the most widely known of the various interpretations of quantum mechanics but it is not the only one and among physicists it is not even necessarily the most popular.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretation_of_quantum_mechanics

      I am not a quantum physicist so I defer to those who are. I am not a climate scientist so I defer to those who are.

      You are neither climate scientist or quantum physicist so you defer to Andrew Bolt.

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    2. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Thanks Mike - I was about to post similar.

      I don't know what site Gerard googled his info from but it was almost all wrong according to my recollection of both Einstein's and Bohr's biographies.

      A moments googling reveals this quote attributed to Einstein writing to his lifelong friend Bohr - from a presentation of Brian Greenes:

      "Not often in life has a human being caused me such joy by his mere presence as you did,"

      Bohr was six years younger than Einstein - this is hardly the "grandfather figure at Princeton University who had it in for young physicists who believed in quantum physics".

      Gerard ... you might want to spend a moment checking your recollections before posting what is instantly verifiable as tripe.

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, you are surely aware that Einstein did not believe in God as most commonly conceived; the closest he came was to see an awesome grandeur in nature and "nature" was for him a proxy for "god". He found it hard to accept the probabilistic nature of quantum theory and was convinced of the deep deterministic nature of the universe.

      However, science is not one man or woman and scientists tend to be sometimes become committed to a theory that is later discredited. But in the end, despite the "left wing plots" or the "right wing denialists efforts the evidence comes up trumps.

      This is what I think will ultimately happen with climate change: the evidence will become (is already) increasingly strong and contrarians and denialists will be shown to have backed the wrong horse.

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry. I am not sure what you say is entirely correct.

      Einstein's views were much more nuanced and his skepticism that the "Copenhagen interpretation" was the last word on quantum mechanics is still driving research today.

      "Einstein's refusal to accept the revolution as complete reflected his desire to see developed a model for the underlying causes from which these apparent random statistical methods resulted. He did not reject the idea that positions in space-time could never be completely…

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  3. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    The author describes Einstein as, ' He was an internationalist and a pacifist.'

    I don't think so and neither does Wikipedia.

    "He settled in the U.S., becoming a citizen in 1940.[7] On the eve of World War II, he helped alert President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Germany might be developing an atomic weapon, and recommended that the U.S. begin similar research; this eventually led to what would become the Manhattan Project.'

    In the early years of WWII when Germany looked unbeatable, a scared Einstein encouraged the US to develop a nuclear bomb. However, when it became obvious that the allies would win the war, the duplicitous physicist warned against nuclear weapons.

    Einstein is not the best vehicle to carry climate science forward.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "Einstein is not the best vehicle to carry climate science forward." Probably because he is dead.

      So Gerard, in your comic book version of the world, the fact that Einstein could promote the Manhattan project but also be concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons makes your head explode. I see why you prefer to get you news from Andrew Bolt where "good" and "evil" is clearly marked out for the faithful.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, this is science not footy - it's about evidence, not tribes.

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  4. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I suspect that if we go back to the obviously bolshevik round worlders or the heretical nonsense spread by Galileo we will find that the cast iron tyrrany of common sense has always resisted new ideas, new facts, new science.

    There are empires, power structures, institutional and vested interests built on the status quo - the common sense of the time and they will act to defend themselves against nonsense.

    New ideas are always politically received and the bigger and more "nonsensical…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter - we need to raise Lyell to the pantheon, alongside Darwin (where he absolutely belongs) - maybe that would calm the paranoic elements within the otherwise-generally-sane rock-hopper community.

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  5. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    This appears to be a puff for Professor Hamilton's latest book about his current obsession, 'climate deniers', whoever they may be. Like so much of what he writes about this subject, I can't make out what he is on about, and Einstein, as others have already said, is a strange vehicle for his fuzzy purpose. As time goes on, there is more an more evidence that we know much less about what causes climate to change than was thought twenty years ago, and that the prophesied doom for us all is even less likely.

    It's time that Professor Hamilton caught up what the data and evidence, and looked at this whole issue with some scepticism.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Like this?

      Observation 1. Sun irradiates earth with short-wave energy.

      Observation 2. Earth re-radiates long-wave energy.

      Observation 3. Greenhouse gases retard transmission of long-wave energy, not short-wave energy.

      Observation 4. Satellite observations show decreasing emission to space of this long-wave energy, at EXACTLY THE SAME WAVELENGTHS as CO2 absorbs long-wave energy.

      Observation 5. Arctic sea ice is melting, so that summertime sunlight is being absorped in exposed ocean…

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      No Don, au contraire, the evidence grows clearer with each passing year and the knowledge, though still having some gaps, becomes stronger, clearer and more precise.

      Are you actually able to advance any substantive evidence for your claim or are you just indulging in wishful thinking?

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    3. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Don Aitkin,

      >"It's time that Professor Hamilton caught up what the data and evidence, and looked at this whole issue with some scepticism."

      True - and others too!

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  6. Gavin Melles

    Lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology

    Dear Cive
    Thanks for raising the issue. Indeed consensus is that the IPCC estimates are conservative and it should be noted that not all feedbacks are included by them in reports. Regional variability and state of affairs are hard to model and such uncertainties tend on the whole to show again that most estimates are underestimates. The business as usual approach, which is included in various of the SRES modeled for forecasts to 2100 shows very serious global and other consequences. A major problem…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gavin Melles

      I think 'miso erection' sounds like quite a good explanation for Monckton, Bolt, Nova and Watt.

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  7. Andrew Vincent

    Marketing . Communications . Multimedia

    The Conservapedia entry for "e=mc2" is a cracker.

    http://www.conservapedia.com/E%3Dmc²

    "The claim that E=mc² has never yielded anything of value and it has often been used as a redefinition of "energy" for pseudo-scientific purposes by non-scientific journals...."

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andrew Vincent

      Conservapedia!!!! I love it ... but I am sceptical Andrew.... I have my doubts. Or as the American colonials would put it "dowts".

      Surely a truly conservative approach would make the effort to spell it with the appropriate god-given dithong "Conservapaedia" ... I am sensing the brash sweeping hand of the New sweeping away all that is Proper and True. It'd be the thin end of the wedge... where the rot sets in... the first broken window in my Zero Tolerance on thought crime.

      I am bookmarking Conservapedia immediately. Just excellent.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Stephen Pritchard

      Precisely Stephen. Everyone knows that Galileo didn't mean it when he retracted his outlandish lies ... and science has been a tool of left-wing mind control ever since.

      Bring back Cubits! Bring back Leviticus.

      Atoms! Pshaw ... Greek pagan nonsense!

      Bring back good solid Alcan foil! Put it on the PBS!

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  8. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    thanks clive

    if you wanted discussion - you got it

    enistein, schmeinstein - it becoming a bohr.

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  9. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Gee I'm pissed off with these "community standards" here ...

    I've just had a whole slab of quite decent - if robust - posts expunged from history without explanation from a thread being astroturfed by the usual denialist suspects.

    Seems that community standards are quite OK with denouncing scientists and researchers as liars, fools or corrupt but upset the stone throwers' delicate sensibilities, score a few points, and one finds oneself beyond the pale. And then comments are shut down…

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    1. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Interestingly I had the same thing happen recently when a complete comment stream by a whole bunch of folks was deleted.

      I politiely asked the editors for some explanation of what community standards "I" had breached. I have not yet recieved a response.

      It's hard to learn from ones mistakes if there remains no record of the mistake and no editorial clues are given.

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    2. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      Mr O & Mr P

      Have had similar. I made a completely innocuous post (from memory) deleted for breaching "community standards" but without a copy of the 'errant' post still don't understand why it was deleted. I have also asked, politely, why - this was some months ago, still no reply.

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  10. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    Hamilton's article is offensive and ridiculous, and mostly simply wrong in the way the media has treated skeptics. The vast, overwhelming bulk of media stories has been to promote the global warming story. There have been a few skeptics in there mainly because journalists thought they should give them some space for form's sake.

    Now there has been a swing back to skepticism in recent months in part over the climate gate affair but also because the climate guys still can't point to any convincing…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Hamilton's article is on the money. As many others have pointed out the climate science "debate" is a proxy for a political debate - that is why the climate science deniers argue their case in op eds and not in science journals.

      Mark - your other claims do not even pass the laugh test.

      "The vast, overwhelming bulk of media stories has been to promote the global warming story."

      Seriously? I am not sure that even the hardcore climate cranks believe that.

      https://theconversation.edu.au/news-ltd-carbon-coverage-campaigning-not-reporting-new-report-news-response-4530

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      G'day Patrick ...

      About an hours ago I marked this fella's "contribution" as "personal abuse" ... no response.

      These "community standards" seem to be a very movable feast indeed - and authors of articles - as opposed to mere commenters - seem to receive no protection whatsoever from this sort of abusive insult.

      Very short sighted approach really, Mr Jaspan. I'd be making certain they found the experience of writing for the Conversation useful and engaging rather than allowing these sludge-peddlers free rein.

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    3. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark Lawson,

      Thank you for an injection of reality. I am impressed that MSM is starting to become a bit more appropriately sceptical.

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    4. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Further to your injection of reality, I'd like to make a few points as to why I believe the general public in the western Democracies are becoming more sceptical of the extreme claims about dangerous and catastrophic climate change.

      Climate sensitivity is highly uncertain, but probably overstated. The uncertainty has changed little in 20 years, despite all the research effort and funding.

      The Damage Function is even more uncertain. There is next nothing known about it. As Professor William…

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      More astroturfing here Ms Rawson.

      Has the Conversation decided that its "community standards" should be based on the likes of Alan Jones and Andrew Blot"? Is Grattan simply leading the charge to a tabloid transformation?

      Clean this tripe out - it is not worthy of a serious publication - well below "our community standards". Cuts, pastes and grinding crankery.

      We come here for ideas and argument not this ignorant carpet laying.

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    6. Tim Niven
      Tim Niven is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Student at Tzu Chi University

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      It would have been interesting if the tobacco industry responded to the science around smoking and cancer by saying: yeah, our best science tells us that our product kills half its loyal customers, and furthermore as believers in markets we want them to be aware of this fact to ensure markets function properly by creating informed consumers who can rationally weigh their choices based on reliable information...

      And we all know what the tobacco industry did - you can read their internal documentation…

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    7. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      >"though I can't see them being terribly good from a moral perspective. "

      And there in lies the problem. Your argument is based on your moral values. But your moral values are repugnant to many people.

      You don't seem to be capable of weighing up the effect of reduced global GDP growth rate versus your beliefs. You don;t seem to appreciate that the policies you advocate if implemented (like global carbon pricing) would cause slower rate of emergence from poverty, millions more fatalities…

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    8. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark

      If you are a journalist then you should start by reporting the facts - you know, journalism. So you have it correct when you state that there are few sceptics in the media. Most of the stories in the rag that you write for are by deniers.

      The sceptics - ie the scientists - never get a mention when your whole worldview is devoted to Murdoch press spin and lies.

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    9. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mike - go and look at the first of your links. It refers to the carbon price policy, not climate, and unquestionably there was a lot to contest in the carbon price, such as "why are we doing it", quite independently of climate itself. No, pound it into your head, the overwhelming bulk of articles on climate have been in favor of the warming side.

      Now that I think of it, a closer analogy is with Freudian psychiatry. That was not supported by any clinical proof, yet gained wide currency for decades. Psychiatrists seriously tried to analyse the dreams of patients. It even infected other disciplines. The bulk of it was later dumped but only after decades of nonsense.. climate theory is on the same trajectory..

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    10. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter Lang,

      I love this statement of yours:

      ".....Climate sensitivity is highly uncertain, but probably overstated...."

      Given that you claim to be a geologist and an engineer, you must have studied science and statistics and some time in the past. Then you should be able to see that you have just contradicted yourself. If something is 'highly uncertain', it can't, by definition, be 'probably overstated'. But then, if you were half the 'sceptic' and 'engineer' you claim to be, you would know that.

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    11. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick - yes, fundamentally absurd.. If Hamilton can cite science history, so can I.. A much closer analogy with the climate theory is that of Freudian psychiatry. That was not supported by any clinical proof, yet gained wide currency for decades. Psychiatrists seriously tried to analyse the dreams of patients. It even infected other disciplines. The bulk of it was later dumped but only after decades of nonsense.. climate theory is on the same trajectory.. In any case, the vast bulk of climate theory does not much to do with science. the emissions scenarios depend on economics, as does the analysis of whether it is worth doing anything about it.. also the scientists are dealing in forecasting systems, and forecasting is a business subject, its not in science at all.. and there is every indication that they've totally stuffed it up.. trying to verify forecasting systems by back testing, for example.. I would save your lectures..

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    12. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter - I don't have the time to look at your links .. but, yes, now that I think of it, overstatement of claims is probably a major point.. whether there is anything to it all or not, the proponents have certainly wildely and constantly over-stated their claims

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    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      That's not Peter Lang - that's from Nordhaus's book "A Question of Balance" - the one that Peter read once - sorry a paper - no it was a book ...

      Pretty much all of Peter's "work" is a direct filch actually... I'm just re-reading it as we speak.

      Peter's actually given me something useful - he linked elsewhere here to a 2nd proof draft of the final [ http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/Balance_2nd_proofs.pdf ] so I'm having a look at what he's revised between this and the final.

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    14. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Strewth -0 someone tell the Bureau of Meteorology ... all that rubbish Gavin spouts on TV every night ... all bulldust - yep no science anywhere in it... all lies....

      Has this bloke actually got a BSc - even a 35 year old one? really?

      All those models used in the space program? All that modelling that goes into building a nuclear power plant? All rubbish?

      This bloke's ignorance is astounding.

      You reading this Mike Stutchbury?

      I've extended the offer ... twice the column inches for half his AJA grade. Makes Alan Jones look like a journalist.

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  11. Jack Bloomfield

    Retired Engineer

    This extracted article rings true to me.

    Though it’s not directly related to the contents of this article, the control today of western mass media by self serving right wing corporations provides an eerily similar environment to that which existed when the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Europe during the 1920’s - 1930’s succeeded.
    Facts and truth are treated with disdain – repeat ideologically based constructs and lies often enough and the masses will eventually perceive it as an incontrovertible truth, reinforced each time challengers are loudly dismissed as 'radicals', ‘lefties’ or 'alarmists' by high profile media propagandists.

    I fear for the future of humanity as the growth juggernaut proceeds to voraciously consume and pollute our common natural life sustaining environment.
    A World War 2 like correction event cannot save us this time - nature is playing for keeps this time round.

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  12. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this, Dr Hamilton.

    I summarise the description of climate science Deniers as people who believe climate change is a commie/greenie/hippie/druggie/poofter/atheist plot.

    What's ironic is, when the work of Gilbert Plass and Charles Keeling first alerted the Enlightened world to the potential of climate change back in the 1950's, it was such Republicans as President Eisenhower who paid attention to the issue. It was in the Communist bloc that any such concerns were rejected as a capitalist plot.

    Although sober young Republicans such as James Hansen continued the study in the 1970's, it was only much later that the post-WW2 cessation of warming (which continued for much longer than the much-fabled "17 years" of Mail on Sunday infamy) was attributed to sunlight reflection off clouds of non-condensible air pollution.

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  13. Jeremy Samuel

    Consultant

    I always get a little worried when someone has to back their argument with reference to "The Nazis"... probably a hold-over from university debating days where such intellectual paucity was treated with distain.

    I think the inference that the current crop of right-wing folk are akin to the SS is a bit of a stretch.

    Seems that both "sides" of the "climate debate" like to accuse the other of "playing the man" (which is pretty much what I got out of this article). Neither side seems much interested…

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Jeremy Samuel

      "I always get a little worried when someone has to back their argument with reference to "The Nazis"..."

      Perhaps because the article was discussing Albert Einstein?

      I am always happy to cry "Godwyn's Law' but only when applicable. Rather tricky discussing events in the Weimar Republic without mentioning the "N" word.

      As for 'sides' in this debate, you are implying that deniers have credible science to support their claims?

      Mr Hamilton's article was clearly trying to explain the difference between 'sceptic' and 'denier'.

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    2. Jeremy Samuel

      Consultant

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Sorry Dianna, but you are a part of the problem that makes so many people so frustrated with this "debate".

      I assume people like Ian Plimer (a noted scientist) and Monckton, et al have some credible science behind them. They present data and references in their books and articles.

      So I'm not implying anything. That's their claim. Show me some evidence their claims are wrong and the scientists you believe are right and I'll use that as part of my consideration of the issue.

      I just wonder…

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Jeremy Samuel

      "I assume people like Ian Plimer (a noted scientist) and Monckton, et al have some credible science behind them..."

      Now why would you be assuming that Jeremy?

      Here's a succinct review of Plimer's book Heaven and Earth ... "No science in Plimers primer" ... its from the Australian ... can't get more objective than that.
      [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/ian-plimer-heaven-and-earth/story-e6frg8no-1225710387147]

      Bit more difficult with Crown Prince Regent Monckton because he actually is…

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Jeremy Samuel

      You should be sorry, Mr Samuel, Ian Plimer is a well known geologist as opposed to "noted" scientist. He is fond of sleight of hand:
      http://www.readfearn.com/2011/12/climate-science-denier-ian-plimer-telling-porkies-on-primetime-telly/

      As for his most emminent highness Monckton, may I humbly suggest you conduct some research? I am even magnanimous enough to aid you upon your quest for truth:

      http://www.zimbio.com/Christopher+Monckton/articles/r-HzB0Vj_ZW/UKIP+serial+liar+bad+December

      However, you can find out for yourself - "We have the technology..." all that is required is a inquiring mind.

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  14. Spiro Vlachos

    AL

    What a distorted analogy you bring to these pages. You are left-wing and you push climate alarmism. You have also advocated the "suspension of democracy". So tell me why we should not reject your alarmism as being merely a scientific veil from which the left wish to use to bring us their anachronistic controls on our society.

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Spiro Vlachos

      Well said. Nearly all those who push climate alarmism are left-wing.

      However, they also block rational policies to address and hate people and political parties that offer rational policies.

      It seems clear they are far more interested in trying to impose their ideology by implementing command and control policies, taxes, regulations, etc than in doing anything rational about real risks.

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    2. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Richard Nile

      The British Met Office made no statement about a "pause", and this is made clear at http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/met-office-in-the-media-14-october-2012/

      Can Richard Nile provide the Pachauri quote? Graham Lloyd wrote an article for The Australian that paraphrased Pachauri, but did not provide the relevant quote. This is discussed at http://www.skepticalscience.com/australian-pachauri-global-warming.html which provides links to other interviews with Pachauri that differ significantly from The Australian's spin.

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  15. Andrew Page

    Professor, Psychology, UWA

    The article is a salutory reminder abdout the dangers of letting political views blind a person, but do not forget that scientists are not immune. Some scientists had difficulty accepting the idea of an expanding universe, proposed by Georges Lemaître, because of his religious affiliation.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Andrew Page

      "Einstein at first dismissed Friedmann, and then (privately) Lemaître, out of hand, saying that not all mathematics lead to correct theories. After Hubble's discovery was published, Einstein quickly and publicly endorsed Lemaître's theory, helping both the theory and its proposer get fast recognition."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

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    2. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Andrew Page

      Andrew - if everyone is quoting science history then perhaps I can point to Freudian psychiatry. That was not supported by any clinical proof when it was proposed, yet gained wide currency for decades because, for various reason,s it was an attractive theory. Psychiatrists seriously tried to analyse the dreams of patients. It even infected other disciplines, and is still very much in evidence today in the form of analysts. The bulk of it was later dumped by psychiatrists but only after decades of nonsense.. Climate theory may be the same trajectory..

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    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark Lawson continues to provide excellent validation for Clive's thesis "climate ‘belief’ is politics, not science".

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  16. Rod Simpson

    self employed

    Lock yourself in a small room with a few people..turn the light on.....each have a few cigarettes....watch the smoke rise and collect up round the ceiling for it cannot escape....enough smoke will cause a haze which will cause the light in the room to dim a little....thats how climate change works....simple cause and effect......cheers

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