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The truth is out there – so how do you debunk a myth?

Debunking myths requires an understanding of the psychological research into misinformation. But getting your refutation out in front of lots of eyeballs is a whole other matter. Here, I look at two contrasting…

The truth is out there. Flickr/J, CC BY-NC

Debunking myths requires an understanding of the psychological research into misinformation. But getting your refutation out in front of lots of eyeballs is a whole other matter.

Here, I look at two contrasting case studies in debunking climate myths.

If you don’t do it right, you run the risk of actually reinforcing the myth. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to avoid any potential backfire effects.

Facts vs myths

First and foremost, you need to emphasise the key facts you wish to communicate rather than the myth. Otherwise, you risk making people more familiar with the myth than with the correct facts.

Duty calls. xkcd.com, CC BY-NC

That doesn’t mean avoid mentioning the myth altogether. You have to activate it in people’s minds before they can label it as wrong.

Secondly, you need to replace the myth with an alternate narrative. This is usually an explanation of why the myth is wrong or how it came about. Essentially, debunking is creating a gap in people’s minds (removing the myth) then filling that gap (with the correct explanation).

If you had to boil down all the psychological research into six words then it can be summed up as follows:

fight sticky ideas with stickier ideas.

Myths are persistent, stubborn and memorable. To dislodge a myth, you need to counter it with an even more compelling, memorable fact.

The skeptical plan

With that principle in mind, the Skeptical Science team set out to debunk two climate myths in 2013. We were guided by cognitive psychology as we constructed our rebuttals.

In both cases, we sought a different path to our usual social media practice of immediate blogging, tweeting and Facebook and looked for something that would have a long-term impact.

Case Study 1: Communicating the scientific consensus on climate change

We decided to tackle arguably the most destructive climate myth of all, that there is no scientific consensus about human-caused global warming.

This misconception has grave consequences for society. When the public think that scientists don’t agree on human-caused global warming, they’re less likely to support policies to mitigate climate change.

We decided to increase awareness of the scientific consensus with a three-pronged approach:

  1. scholarly research
  2. mainstream media coverage
  3. social media outreach.

The Skeptical Science team spent about a year doing the scholarly research - reading the abstracts of 12,000 climate papers published from 1991 to 2011. We identified around 4000 abstracts stating a position on human-caused global warming and among those papers, more than 97% endorsed the consensus.

The media message

When our research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters, the University of Queensland and the universities of my co-authors issued media releases describing our work.

The release was constructed with the psychology of misinformation in mind. The emphasis was on the key fact we wished to communicate: 97% agreement among relevant climate papers.

But we also activated the misconception by mentioning survey data finding low public perception of scientific agreement.

Consensus on human caused global warming. Skeptical Science, CC BY

The result was media coverage all over the world, including many non-English speaking countries.

At the same time, we launched The Consensus Project website that explained the results of our paper with clear, simple animations. We released a series of shareable infographics, making it easy for people to share our results on social media.

Our goal was for the message of scientific consensus to push beyond people already engaged with the climate issue, and raise awareness among people who had no idea that there was 97% agreement among climate scientists.

Obama hears the message

We achieved this goal beyond our expectations when President Obama tweeted our research to 31-million followers.

Obama tweet on 97 per cent.

His tweet was retweeted over 2,500 times. Several weeks after the tweet, Obama gave a landmark speech on climate change in which he acknowledged the 97% consensus.

This exercise taught us that while social media is the future, old media isn’t dead yet. And perhaps the sum of the two are greater than their individual parts.

Case Study 2: Communicating our planet’s heat build-up

The second myth we tackled was the mistaken belief that global warming has stopped. This myth has many variants, such as “global warming stopped 15, 16 or 17 years ago” (the time period varies) or “no statistically significant warming since 1998”.

Typically, scientists respond to the “no warming” myth using statistical explanations that go over the heads of most people. How do you debunk this myth in a compelling, memorable way?

Global warming is a build up in heat. Greenhouse gases are trapping heat which is building up in our oceans, warming the land and air and melting ice. When scientists add up all the energy accumulating in our climate system, they find the heat build-up hasn’t slowed since 1998.

The greenhouse effect continues to blaze away. It turns out the laws of physics didn’t go on hiatus 16 years ago.

Creating a metaphor

To communicate this, we used a metaphor. We toyed with many metaphor ideas but found none able to conceptualise the heat build-up in a stickier manner more than this:

Since 1998, our planet has been building up heat at a rate of 4 Hiroshima A-bombs per second.

We released a website with an animated ticker widget to show how much heat our planet is building up each second. The widget, which can be freely embeded on other websites, also includes a number of other metrics such as the amount of energy in hurricane Sandy, an earthquake and a million lightning bolts.

A snapshot of the widget showing the planetary heat imbalance using Hiroshima A-bombs. Skeptical Science

Unlike traditional social media campaigns that flare brightly then quickly fade away, the widget steadily and incrementally increases the number of people it reaches.

Since it was released in November it has been embedded in a number of blogs. The figures continue to grow with latest showing it used by more than 80 blogs and viewed more than 2-million times.

We knew the Hiroshima metaphor would be controversial but several factors influenced our decision to use it. One was that distinguished climate scientist James Hansen had been using the metaphor for years.

Another was an article by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a prestigious journal founded in the 1950s to warn of the dangers of nuclear weapons. The Bulletin endorsed the use of the Hiroshima metaphor as a compelling way to communicate the reality of global warming.

But ultimately, the cognitive science told us this was the most compelling way to refute the “hiatus” myth.

As expected, the widget provoked a strong reaction, predominantly from those already dismissive of climate science (and keen to prop up the “global warming stopped in 1998” myth).

A less explosive metaphor

I put the challenge out there to come up with a better metaphor to conceptualise the amount of heat that our planet is accumulating. No viable alternatives have come forward.

However, at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December, I proposed a tongue-in-cheek metaphor that I thought may get away with offending no one: kitten sneezes!

Showing the planetary heat imbalance in units of kitten sneezes. Skeptical Science

Two communication outreaches by Skeptical Science in 2013 took wildly different approaches but with the same goal. One adopted a top-down approach, attempting to reach the public through scholarly research and mainstream media. The other took a bottom-up approach, raising awareness through a widget embedded on a wide range of blogs.

Both were based on the psychological research into debunking. Both were conceived as slow burn communication, with both achieving long-term impact.

This is an edited version of John Cook’s presentation Combating a two decade misinformation against the scientific consensus on climate change, delivered this week at the Australian Science Communicators national conference in Brisbane.

Join the conversation

187 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Phil Dolan

    Viticulturist

    Well, the deniers will be out in force today no doubt.

    Top of the list will probably be the need for research grants. Weather stations have been moved. Bankers and lawyers cashing in. One world government. Al Qaeda, (although that has dropped off). Lefties of course. The cause of most problems conspiracy theorists battle with. I love the Thatcher one but that seems to have been forgotten...........

    But anyway, good article and let's hope some see sense.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to have a conversation about how to debunk myths and get the truth out there.

      But this won't happen is the comments get swamped by deniers disputing the science and defenders responding.

      So this would be a great topic where questioning the facts of climate change should be deemed off topic and such posts deleted.

      Lets discuss the article - how can we do better to get the message out?

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I'm not psychologist, so cannot contribute toanswering the question of how best to get the myths debunked, but I will continue to rebut egregious disinformation wherever I encounter it, in the hope of catching the undecided before the denialospheroids swamp the conversation.

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    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      "The truth is out there – so how do you debunk a myth?"

      Well what you would not do is setup a website with the charter of

      "* Give experts a greater voice in shaping scientific, cultural and intellectual agendas by providing a trusted platform that values and promotes new thinking and evidence-based research.
      * Unlock the knowledge and expertise of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems."

      and then allow every anti-science crank in the universe carte blanche in spamming their drivel in the comments.

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    4. Kerry List

      Writer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I think most reasonable people can accept climate change.

      The problem is that this issue is used politically - the solutions presented are simply unacceptible to the right, which is a good 50% of the population.

      Broadly speaking the solutions presented involve high levels of taxation, and an increase in goverment size to administer programs and that funding...

      What we don't have is direct approaches to tackle carbon emissions, eg. replacing power plants, subsidised electric cars, etc. The compensation to industry to change over their plants... You can't just rob a company of its profitabiilty and previous capital investments because the the regulatory arragements keep changing.

      I think the biggest thing for Australia is getting cheaper energy. I would like to see the green movement embrace nuclear as a much lesser of 2 evils. No carbon emissions ! A constant supply of energy.

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  2. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    John, the question that matters most isn't answered - has the widespread dissemination of your myth busters worked? Or has it simply been circulating in where the same tired arguments continue to take place?

    A second question relates to the need for myth busting. Myths always exist. There are still far too many people that don't believe in evolution - but it doesn't matter (exceptions I know in the US where creation 'science' is on the curriculum). Did you mythbusting approach look at who…

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    1. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Thats a great point, whilst we as society continue to tell people that faith, belief without evidence, is a virtue....we are going to continue to see this type of ignorance.

      I have been saying it for a while, but we need to teach kids that belief should be apportioned to evidence, that beliefs are important as they inform actions which have consequences which have more consequences, that they should not to make claims to knowledge you either do no or could not possibly know, etc

      basic stuff that not many people understand

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    2. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      The most pernicious myth – the one that holds sway with around 40 per cent of Australians – is "yes, it's happening, but it's natural and there's nothing we can do about it."

      One that none of these terrific pieces of communication overcome.

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    3. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      With respect John, this is a time value issue, the memes will die out as those carrying unevolved values do. Our concern is raising the awareness of those generations coming on. So the work outlined in your article has been crucial for the later generations still being educated and this is appreciated.

      Many personal and group value systems that are raging against climate change are not grounded in lines of logic.

      In fact a scan of their core values shows they are based around Abrahamic beliefs…

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    4. John Cook

      Climate Communication Research Fellow at University of Queensland

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Good questions, Jeremy. While I would love to have addressed them in the article, I was already way over my word length!

      I think you've narrowed in on a key issue for refuting misinformation (and definitely a topic for a future Conversation article). Who is it for? I've come to the conclusion that its predominantly about inoculation, not cure. The audience is the undecided majority who are vulnerable to being influenced by misinformation. It is not for people dismissive of science due to ideological biases, for whom any evidence is treated with suspicion and denial.

      As for the headline, well, my suggested headline was quite different. But my headlines often get changed by editors. I think I simply don't write sexy enough headlines.

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    5. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to John Newton

      A variation on that pernicious myth is "the climate is always changing" mantra.

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    6. Greg Wood

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      People essentially are not rational beings. They are primarily motivated upon a much more opaque and shifting basis. Rationality is a no more than a construct upon this primal base, and is only ever more or less so respective of the particular individual, the issue and the circumstance.

      Expecting this to be otherwise is irrational, yet those who hold themselves to be eminently rational continue to do so. Now there's a conundrum.

      People respond to stories. Crafting and popularising stories that reflect the facts most relevant to the truth of any matter is the best that can be done. How to do that is the question.

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  3. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    Here's the problem. To the average person, a scientific fact is an immutable law, agreed and accepted by everyone.

    Telling the public that 97% of scientists say climate change is real is the SAME THING as saying "there's valid doubt that it's real".

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    1. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to John Crest

      So really, to convince the public climate change is real doesn't so much require myth debunking (like "man didn't really land on the moon") as educating people about what a "scientific fact" actually is (something that's seen as contingently true within a reasonable margin of error).

      If you can do this, perhaps you'll succeed.

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    2. John Cook

      Climate Communication Research Fellow at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Crest

      A couple of things about that.

      Firstly, the current public perception of scientific agreement is 58%. If you think 97% communicates valid doubt, what does 58% communicate?

      Secondly, its been empirically shown in a number of studies that perception of consensus predicts acceptance of the scince and support for climate policy. Conversely, experiments that lower perception of consensus (e.g., by showing a news report of a scientist arguing with contrarian) have also found lowered acceptance of the scince and lowered support for climate policy.

      So there's a growing body of evidence for the importance of raising awareness of the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.

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    3. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to John Cook

      I honestly find that hard to believe.

      Everyone I know who harbours what they believe to be valid doubts (in their own mind) is aware of the 97% number.

      Telling them something they already know won't change their mind.

      They need something else.

      If you're right, time will tell I guess...

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    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Cook

      And this is why those lobbying for inaction on climate change make such a fuss about the scientific consensus figures - they know it is important to try to shoot these down.

      They don't need to prove climate change is wrong - they are just trying to cast enough doubt on everything so that nothing gets done.

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  4. Michael Shand
    Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Software Tester

    Great work and thanks for sharing, keep it up guys, your not done yet....now where is grumpy john, dale bloom, jim inglis, tony abbott and the rest

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  5. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    Very useful article. Much more important to understand the psychology of denial than to spend useless energy attacking it, only to further entrench the denialist brigade.

    But I would have liked to see a couple of non climate examples. When it boils down to it even the most well grounded, rational humans are prone to accepting a few myths.

    Lately I've been trying out a question: what's more risky nuclear power or burning hydrocarbons? This is a hugely challenging question for many because though…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Nuclear or burning hydrocarbons is a vital question for Germany at the moment as, if I'm up to date, they are turning off their nuclear and increasing carbon emissions.

      If the German nuclear plants don't suffer from the problems that arise when corners are cut, then keeping the German plants going might well be the right answer.

      But in Australia nuclear is a distraction because we don't have any plants and as well as a long technical process to go through there would be amazing political changes…

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    2. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Good, Michael,

      Then there is that other very popular myth, that we can replace dense hydrocarbon energy just using dilute energy sources whilst keeping our basic consumer, growth culture on the rails. I find this myth more dangerous than climate denial in many respects because it is an unfounded belief that is owned by the vast majority.

      I'm aware that you are not in this brigade, Michael, and appreciate your many intelligent comments, but starry eyed advocacy of solar panels and wind turbines without addressing the much more important issues of fundamental societal change is rampant. I've sold solar panels to wealthy folk who then flit around the world and burn up 100 times their quota of resources as if there are no limits.

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    3. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Hi Chris

      In a similar vein I have become involved in discussions re Robocars (driverless) versus coventional, human driven cars.
      In terms of overall safety, Robocars in time should be safer, but many of the tech enthusiasts are using over-simplified comparisons, and glossing over the complexity of the road-use environment.
      There's also belief they will significantly reduce emissions and traffic congestion. But is that better than reducing overall travel and uisng mode shift to other forms of transport?
      And many other questions that we should be debating now, not just putting on rosy-coloured glasses abou the supposed benefits.

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    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris, I think the hippy movement back in the sixties was in part a reaction to the worry about what mankind with his modern technology was doing to the earth. I can't see that movement growing. It has been as far back as the fifties that the ordinary working person was forced to buy a car in order to get to work mostly in industrial areas far from public transport amenities. And of course the consumer society has continued on from there. Can we make it possible for people to provide for their families and transition them across to living a lifestyle (still comfortable) that does not harm the earth, and not repeat the mistakes of the past when life could become exceedingly difficult?

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    5. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      I think if we can start to show viable approaches to future living then we won't even have to debunk these present myths. We will just have a way into a positive future. It is the conservatives who have a black arm band view of the future. A balanced, viable view of the future is what is needed, not doom and gloom. A balanced yet viable positive view will make it possible and will carry on with it the waiverers and doubters.

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    6. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Yes, Chris, that's the 64 million dollar question? The answer is: 'probably, but it will take an immense cultural shift, that probably being forced on us'.

      By the way, I asked the question whether nuclear energy risk is greater or less than fossil fuel risk, because answering that question forces many people to come to terms with the stark gravity of climate change. Answering the question, for many people, transfers their deeply held foreboding of nuclear energy (however rational or irrational that may be) onto our society's active burning fossil fuels.

      The answer for me is that burning fossil fuels is the much greater risk. We can arrive at that point without coming to any policy conclusion, it's just an awareness raising exercise that helps to overcome a popular myth.

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    7. Michelle Singh

      Tutor in Gender Studies & Sociology at Griffith University

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris, that's an uncomfortable and valid point you've raised right there. I've been subjecting my (previously) reflexive opposition to nuclear power to some grilling - like you, I'm not an advocate, but I've moved away from absolute rejection of it.
      In any case, the underground fairies in the Artemis Fowl books use nuclear power - and they're the greenest of the green. And these books were written by the wonderful Eoin Colfer, who also wrote an addition to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so ... you know, case closed :)

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    8. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Well, Chris you can see where your post headed me. Are you saying that in the new world there would be no international travel, no cars, no tractors, no international trade? Or have you a more easy going view e.g. that we can retool immediately to robotcars as talked about by Peter above as a quick route to lessening emissions, and other similar moves? I mean any change would preferably be controllable and largely supported rather than enforced change. We have seen recently how the introduction of a carbon price was so strongly rejected. Accords do work whether or not everyone agrees or likes them. Can we work on accords: not just between government, business and worker, but industry and industry; country and country?

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    9. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Nuclear is not just Nuclear, there are different types and if you advocate for just blanket Nuclear then, no, it's a bad idea

      If you are suggesting development of a LFTR then you will find you get a much better response - however whilst this is proven technology, the development time in australia means even if we started tomorrow, it's likely to be a decade before the first plant is built.

      We don't have the time, if we run in parallel with a strong renewable plan then sure, why not. but to rely just on nuclear is bad.

      Also when you frame it as Nuke or Coal...then of course coal wins, likewise if you frame it Gas v coal...gas wins but this is a false diachotomy

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    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris, you question is very biased. Assuming that nuclear risk is less than fossil fuel doesn't mean that nuclear is the best or most efficient way of ending fossil fuel use.

      We don't need nuclear to get to 100% renewable.

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    11. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      All good questions and I can't be prescriptive.

      A predicament is by way of definition there is no surefire solution to a predicament, just possible ways to move forward.

      Some believe there is no 'solution' and an inevitable collapse awaits us. I wouldn't be absolute about that either, but they may be correct.

      Avoiding such an outcome will require a huge effort, arguably like no society has ever done before.

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

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Indeed we don't MWH

      We already have sufficient technology to move off completely from our fossil fuel addiction.

      "The study found all fossil-fuelled power stations in Australia’s National Electricity Market could be phased out and replaced economically and reliably with commercially available renewable energy technologies by increasing the carbon price to this “medium” level.

      To obtain their results, the team performed thousands of computer simulations using actual hourly data on electricity demand and matching this with hourly input from solar and wind power for the year 2010."

      http://bze.org.au/media/radio/mark-disendorf-130511

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    13. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Michelle Singh

      I will only support nuclear power for this country- if it is demonstrated that renewable energy cannot meet our energy needs. So far I see no reasons to change my opposition to it.

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    14. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, you've missed the point of the exercise.

      My end point is that nuclear energy is less risky than burning coal and oil. That's not an advocacy for nuclear energy, but it is a defining idea.

      The point of the exercise is to highlight the seriousness of climate change. Nothing else.

      Many thousands of Australians fear nuclear energy with a fierce passion but are, on the other hand, complacent about our role in burning fossil fuels. We flippantly buy large cars and take our liberties…

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  6. Michael Paton

    Honorary Associate School of Economics at University of Sydney

    Excellent article and great work John.

    I came across this yesterday. It may stick:

    "We are currently walking over an ecological precipice wearing headphones and Google glasses".

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  7. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    John Cook, the problem is that advocates for a belief, such as 'catastrophic man made climate change' commonly called CAGW, cannot recognise the difference between science and belief.

    The very people who are the extremists in their advocacy for CAGW, and call those who don't accept thelr beliefs "deniers" and other pejorative names, are the same types of people, mostly, who deny the science on health effects of radiation and of nuclear power compared with the viable alternatives to nuclear power…

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    1. In reply to Peter Lang

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. In reply to Peter Lang

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter Lang claims that people "deny the science on health effects of radiation" and as evidence provides a homespun brochure.

      As usual he provides no references to any science.

      These are the "people" who support the current LNT model.

      In 2004 the United States National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences) supported the linear no threshold model

      In 2005 the United States National Academies' National Research Council published its comprehensive meta-analysis of low-dose…

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    4. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Peter Lang

      A lot of assertions but no evidence of any sort. Nothing to see here, best to move on.

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    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Lang

      That's a new meme from the denialospheroids: "They are not scientists, they are advocates for a cause". This pits the opinion of a retired geologist (and, don't forget, engineer) against the ongoing research being conducted by thousands of scientists world wide. Another denier, another myth to debunk. One common trait of most such myths is they are not anchored in any credible research, but that only makes them more attractive to the hard-core contrarians who have already dismissed science. It will never end, sadly.

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    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, I'm what you would call a climate extremist. And thank you, but I now don't see the need to shy away from embracing such a term, because I read science and articles written by scientists who do the research themselves, who conclude that we have now run out of time to do anything but start reducing emissions now and keep doing so incrementally so that we can avoid dangerous climate change. Now you may use this term in a pejorative sense, I no longer care if this is the case.
      I've come to the…

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  8. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. In reply to Peter Lang

      Comment removed by moderator.

  9. Shona Gallagher

    Communicator

    We should remind ourselves that this is a story primarily about communication and secondly about climate change. It demonstrates the power of of an integrated communication strategy, regardless of the message, designed to work with 30 second sound bites and 140 character tweets. This is useful to circulate a rational message which preserves links with, and supports the authority of, the author. Myths, however, are more than just rational stories with debatable components of misinformation. Their power lies with the emotional components woven within and the trust levels in the relationships between those who share them. The facts alone will be enough for some but not for all. "Did it work?" can only be answered by asking "Who were you trying to influence?".

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Shona Gallagher

      Good article John and an interesting project. I agree with Jeremy above though, you need to show that your message is getting through the right people. Have you persuaded anyone? We don't know. Your point Shona is perhaps the most important one. How many of our convictions are the result of 'rational' thinking? Dr Will Grant, a contributor to 'The Conversation', has tried to rationally communicate that rationality does not drive our political convictions. 'Emotions', trust, family traditions, personal…

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    2. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff
      I wonder how many people who contribute to TC and believe climate change is the most pressing issue we and the planet faces are prepared to go to the barricades? Are prepared to be arrested? Prepared to lose some of the comforts they have accumulated over many years of a middle class life...
      I am - but not without fear - and not without doubts that sufficient Australians would join to make this happen...because in my mind there is no doubt that this is the only way this change is going to happen.

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      It's interesting to have so much talk of going to the barricades.

      The latest issue of Habitat - the magazine of the ACF - has an article "A look at Revolution" which also suggests marching in the streets.

      I suspect that most people who marched for climate change action at the last rallies voted Labor and some even voted Liberal.

      We seem to have this strange idea in Australia that the way to get change is to vote for what we don't want and then get upset when we get what we voted for…

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    4. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Shona Gallagher

      The power of myths 'lies with the emotional components woven within and the trust levels in the relationships between those who share them. The facts alone will be enough for some but not for all.'

      Is there something more as well Shona - we use any particular issue to reinforce our world view?

      Many of the strongest advocates for and against action on climate change from Clive Hamilton to Andrew Bolt have little expertise in relevant science. But it's the perfect evidence for a belief that either humans are stuffing up the world, or big government is trying to control our lives, depending on your philosophy.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Yes, James, it's a fair point that some advocates are not scientists, though many are, but there actualy IS real scientific evidence and it clearly supports Hamilton's position and discredits Bolt's.

      Of course, it COULD be the case that all the world's scientific bodies and meteorologists and even the World Bank and IMF are part of some vast, byzantinenment' conspiracy but, if that's the case, there's no point worrying about resistance as they have the whole world well and truly sown up. Hell, even the US Marine Corps is in on the conspiracy!

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    6. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, my comment on the barricades was a throw away line. I'm a bit long in the tooth for barricades. My point was simply that politics is not always 'rational', indeed, we may have to rethink what we even mean to be rational. This being said you do have a lot of faith in LIBERAL democracy. The way that liberal democracy works is that it tries to marginal most political issues and make them appear as though they are necessary. One tool that it uses to achieve this is economics. Economics is political…

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff - thanks for the long reply.

      A democracy requires a free and fair election with fully informed voters. My view is that most voters are now so poorly informed that we no longer live in a democracy :(

      I think your points apply to the two major parties, but I don't see them in The Greens. Only the Greens have said that the economy should be for the people, not the people for the economy.

      The system isn't designed for a two party system - though it could be better designed for better representation…

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  10. Seán McNally

    Market and Social Researcher at eris strategy

    There is a lot about this article that I found useful. Reading about how people communicate science and translating complex arguments into truthful retelling helps to further our understanding of both science and the value it brings to society.

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  11. Warwick Rowell

    Permaculturist

    Peter Lang asks a valid question: Can anyone point to any authoritative analyses that evaluate the probability that the mitigation policies proposed by their advocates would succeed in delivering the claimed benefits?

    This is important but a totally different issue from the subject matter of this article.

    This article is about the science, and people's acceptance of the science; the structure of their paradigm..

    David Suzuki recently admitted as a mistake the fact that he and his colleagues…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      You raise the very good point that there is no point in getting the truth of the science out unless this inspires adequate action to avoid the worst of climate change.

      I've written before that even more dangerous than the myths that scientists disagree or the world has stopped warming is the myth that Labor had put into place appropriate actions to deal with climate change.

      Unfortunately another myth is that lots of little local actions will make a difference. With a carbon tax little local actions will make only a negligible difference, and under an ETS they won't make any difference at all.

      I've never seen denier posting here change the mind of a regular poster. But they have not wasted their time - any discussion on what actions should be done and how to get this to happen politically have been swamped by the denier/defender debate, and stopping this debate I suspect is one of the deniers key objectives.

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    2. Sarah Glass

      Retired scientist/technologist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Good point Michael, which is why I feel we should all stop engaging with the deniers. It is a waste of energy, which could be put to a far more productive discussion.

      Also, we play into their hands engaging in a meaningless argument that neither can win.

      It would be much more useful and more fun, to talk about the very good moves forward being made by some countries, and how we might convince Australian's that we can do as well or better.

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    3. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      Warwick,
      "Managers have to act on the precautionary principle: a phrase that fits is "hope for the best, plan for the worst.""
      ...................
      Sorry, buddy, I know no managers who give credence to the PP.
      I was a senior manager myself for many years, mixing with many hundreds of other over my career.

      The PP is most commonly seen as a late, desperate plea for more funds or more recognition or both for hypotheses that are seen to be crashing.

      There are next to no significant examples of the PP being applied, let alone successfully.
      Some past actions that were taken were later captured by PP advocates as examples, but in reality they were not.

      It follows that it is a piece of dangerous self-invention to assert that managers have to act on the PP, especially when you give no evidence, and they don't.

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    4. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH,
      I've never seen a regular poster here change the mind of a denier (undefined). So, 50:50?

      OTOH, how do you account for the high popularity of blogs that are dedicated to a critical view of establishment science (mostly University stuff), with examples and proofs? The deniers who give essays to those blogs might have converted some people on their rise of popularity, wouldn't you think?

      The Skeptical Science blog that Cook assists has a declining set of readership statistics. Blogs like WUWT are on the ascendancy. Huh?? Please explain??

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Warwick Rowell

      “Here, I look at two contrasting case studies in debunking climate myths.”

      This is all based on the authors assumption he knows what are myths and that those who d not accept his beliefs are wrong. The author thinks he knows what’s right and that those who do not accept his beliefs are wrong.

      It’s not about science. It’s about beliefs. The fact ‘the Conversation’ feels it has to censor comments that do not accept the ‘white hats’ beliefs is a clear demonstration that it all about belief, not science.

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    6. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Sorry. Posted in wrong place. This was supposed to be posted as a new comment, since my previous comments have been deleted, as per the standard Conversation censorship policy.

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey - As I catch up with posts after going out for lunch I've been extremely pleased to find that most of yours have already been deleted.

      I think this remaining post of yours is trolling because I believe you are deliberately distorting what I said.

      I made it very clear that I was talking about people who post regularly on this site (ie here). My point is that I've never seen one of the regular posters here who has defended the science change their mind as a result of information posted here by the deniers.

      Of course I don't mean that a defender hasn't conceded a point or two. I mean that a defender has never changed sides.

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    8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Peter Lang

      The deniers always accuse the other side of what they themselves are guilty of.

      The deniers have never posted any science based on evidence which casts any doubt on climate change, and they again and again ignore the evidence provided to refute their nonsense.

      I don't believe in climate change - I accept the science.

      Peter Lang doesn't accept the evidence - all he has is belief.

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    9. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Warning: new myth being started by contrarian - "The PP is most commonly seen as a late, desperate plea for more funds or more recognition or both for hypotheses that are seen to be crashing". In fact, the Precautionary Principle is what guides thousands of daily decisions, such as paying the insurance premium on your home, or car. Perhaps the contrarians are going to tell us insurance is a hypothesis that is seen to be crashing?

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    10. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, the fact that The Conversation moderators delete comments that are either off topic, or blatant rubbish, is a matter of moderation, not belief. The fact that your posts are more frequently deleted may mean that you are more frequently off topic, or more frequently talking rubbish.

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  12. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey Sherrington wrote; "The author appears not to have realised that his work has been debunked."

      Creating unfalsifiable lines of logic is not 'debunking'. But respect your value system and altitude, grok the worldview.

      ...

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    2. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Paul,
      It looks like the ministry of truth has censored me again. I'll reword.
      I observed that senior climate warmist Mike Hulme has noted recently -

      "The now infamous paper by John Cook and colleagues published in May 2013 claimed that of the 4,000 peer-reviewed papers they surveyed expressing a position on anthropogenic global warming, “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”."

      This is not the only criticism of this Cook work.
      See, for example, a study…

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    3. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Since you're quoting an article from The Conversation (linked below) I daresay the answer to your question is "Yes, we knew Hulme said that".

      https://theconversation.com/science-cant-settle-what-should-be-done-about-climate-change-22727

      And as this article isn't a defence of the "97% study" I don't see how it's "damage control".

      Geoffery, if you'd like to contribute to a discussion about communicating scientific ideas effectively you're more than welcome to do so. However, further attempts to smear Cook won't be allowed.

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    4. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Appreciate the converstion and points. Grok your values in context and respect them as they were once held.
      Geoffrey Sherrington wrote; " I observed that senior climate warmist Mike Hulme has noted recently ..."
      That quote although accurate, is out of context so is contrary to Hulme's intended illustration.

      What you left out of the comment is the 'context it was made' by Mike Hulme as he went on to say ;
      "But merely enumerating the strength of consensus around the fact that humans cause…

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    5. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Labelling those who have legitimate questions about the theory of CAGW as 'deniers' is using smear tactics. If you apply the community standards evenly, then any posts containing the word 'denier' should be removed, shouldn't they?

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    6. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      To describe those who lie as liars is not a smear

      To describe those who dance as dancers is not a smear

      To describe those who promote creationism in place of science as creationists is not a smear

      And to describe those who actively deny and spread mis-information about climate change as deniers is not a smear

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    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff - Pretending that the term denier is not well defined is spin.

      Deniers are those who have shown again and again that they will ignore any evidence contrary to their beliefs. So deniers are not asking 'legitimate questions' but are repeating lies and distortions with the aim to lobby for their cause.

      And even worse, deniers post their nonsense and non-science repeatedly.

      I strongly support the deletion of post by deniers because I want to open up the conversation to those who are genuinely skeptical or uninformed and wanting to learn.

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    8. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey you do not endear yourself or further your argument by railing against the moderators as "the ministry of truth".

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    9. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael Shand wrote; " ... spread mis-information about climate change as deniers is not a smear" well put.

      They just hate the handle of denial, but it is what it is.

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    10. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "deniers liars, psycopaths and fools" - advocate for change around issues in most domains and more than once on your journey, you'll find them blocking the way to change.

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    11. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      What annoys with the deniers angst against censorship is that we all know that we can't get our views published in the Murdoch Press, I can't insist on my views getting onto the Bolt report, and likewise The Conversation has the right to decide what type of content they want on their site.

      We all agree that all genuine views should be heard.

      But this doesn't mean that The Conversation should become a forum for deniers and lobbyists.

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    12. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH,
      So fine then, the definition of 'deniers' convenient to you does not include me.
      Are you a denier if you tell others not to look at sceptic blogs?

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    13. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry,
      There was no better description. Nothing I had written was against the code. Nobody told me it was.

      It seems I got deleted for no more than expressing a view contrary to that of another.

      Many times I offer references to support my arguments.
      Not many others do that.
      Why do the good guys (scientifically speaking) get snipped more often?

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    14. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      How dare you, I know plenty of christians that are scientists themselves

      grouping people together based on their religion and making massive generalisations about them is almost the definition of bigotry

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    15. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory,
      Am I allowed to post, as I have started to do, other work in the public domain that does call Cook's reputation or ability into question?
      Or do you run on a cheer squad principle?

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    16. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Don't you recognise sarcasm when you see it? A number of highly credentialed scientists are creationists. Who is the bigot now?

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    17. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey, that irrefutable source, wikipedia, says "Skepticism or scepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge". One who genuinely asks questions and seeks evidence to arrive at the truth is a sceptic. This includes scientists, of course. On the other hand, wikepedia says of denialism that is it "the rejection of propositions on which a scientific or scholarly consensus exists". So, a sceptic is interested in arriving at the truth, but a denier is interested in rejecting the truth.
      Nowhere on TC have you demonstrated an interest in asking genuine questions, or seeking the truth. On the contrary, you have made it your business to spread and inflate the sort of myth this article is talking about. What do you think that makes you?

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    18. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey, does an author's reputation or ability, as attacked in the public domain, affect the truth of what they write? Perhaps you just want to shoot the messenger, because you have nothing to attack the message with. That's one way myths are spread.

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    19. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Are you a denier if you tell someone that, enjoyable as it may be, 'The Lord of the Rings' is actually fiction?

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    20. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      How about setting up a conversation where the deniers and defenders can post back and forth as much as they wish, and then leaving the rest of us to discuss the article without nonsense and non-science?

      Otherwise, if I had any say, I would just block Geoff's new account.

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    21. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael Shand wrote; " ... grouping people together based on their religion and making massive generalisations about them is almost the definition of bigotry.." Interesting comment. But wrong.

      If you chase the source of conservative think tank backers there is a elite Abrahamic level of thought behind the campaign. The lines of unfalsifiable logic and memes supporting them is deliberate strategy. THese backers themselves often are completely convinced of their divine calling to set people on…

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    22. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey, this article talks of a peer-reviewed paper published in an expert journal. Your attacks are supported with unpublished personal comments and blogs. When you have replicated the research, arrived at a different conclusion and had your work published in the same journal, I will give you more credence: until then, I will assume you are merely spreading another myth.

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    23. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, I am sure The Conversation and especially www.skepticalscience.com would welcome those legitimate questions you refer to. What are those legitimate questions (as distinct from unsupported assertions and arm waving)?

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    24. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Appreciate the comment.
      Doug Hutcheson ; "... would welcome those legitimate questions you refer to."
      That's it.
      Anyone getting close to challenging 'faith' is just ignored. I have yet to see anyone challenge the EIS Extreme Ice Survey and personally can't remember having any other converstion with a denier.
      Other than recommending they watch it and the outcome of the EIS as it continues. Nada, none ever returns.

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    25. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Who is the bigot now? - You

      do I win a prize? you will have to forgive me, text has no tone and so I didn't recognise that you were being sarcastic

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    26. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Richards

      I agree that wishful thinking is harmful and that evidence should be apportioned to belief and such - but this trait whilst common in religion is not exclusive to religion, it seems to be larger.

      I think we largely agree though

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Clearly the agenda of these evil scientists is to inspire a mass killing of all kittens.

      This is a conspiracy of dog lovers to rid the world of cats.

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  13. Comment removed by moderator.

  14. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff Henley wrote; " What he doesn't tell you is that the 97% includes anybody who believes that human activities have some effect on the global climate."

      Little changes from year to year does it? Repeating the same unfalsifiable lines of logic is the very same strategy used by the Heartland Institute.

      It failed in the long run with denial of tobacco harm, and it does now with the sheer weight of evidence mounting ever higher.

      This headline is the best description and byline so far about denial;
      "Climate change sceptics are 'headless chickens', says Prince Charles"* Priceless.
      _______________
      * http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/31/climate-change-sceptics-headless-chickens-prince-charles
      Just a small sample of the 2014 weight of opinion overwhelming this denial worldview;
      http://phys.org/news/2014-01-climate-major-vegetation.html
      http://phys.org/news/2014-01-human-global-certainty.html
      http://phys.org/news/2014-02-sixth-hottest-year.html

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  15. Jim Inglis

    retired

    The truth is out there somewhere.

    Only not in this truth-constructing article.

    Converting unmeasurable OHC in unmeasured ocean depths due to an unexplained mechanism, to Hiroshima atom bombs to counter the measured cooling for the last 17 years:

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1997/trend/plot/esrl-co2/from:1997/normalise:0.5/scale:0.5/offset:0.34

    is not only pseudoscience, it's myth-constructing as well.

    And then to infer that 97% of climate scientists endorse this sort of logic is more myth-constructing.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      So, 97% of qualified, publishing climate scientists are actually pseudo-scientists?

      Thanks Jim - always nice to get a quantitative handle on the paranoia.

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      Warning: Gish Gallop - "unmeasurable OHC in unmeasured ocean depths due to an unexplained mechanism".
      1) OHC is being measured, ergo it is not unmeasurable.
      2) Ocean depths have been measured, ergo they are not unmeasurable.
      3) The mechanisms for OHC are well explained, erog they are not unexplained.
      The original comment reads like a myth in the making.

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  16. Bronwyn OBrien

    Admin Assistant

    In my opinion the deniers are not as bad as those who don't deny it but simply don't care. When I talk to people about global warming or climate change, the general response is," Yeah it's terrible isn't it. But you can't live your life worrying about it. What happens happens. There's really nothing we can do about it". They accept the science but they just don't care enough to take it all that seriously.

    Even after watching the frightening documentaries on how our world will look in the near…

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    1. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Bronwyn OBrien

      Thank you so much for that Bronwyn. I call it secondary denial. Technically it is called cognitive dissonance.

      There are many levels of denial, other than outright denial of the problem.

      Most of the messages that people receive from society (through advertising, our education system and many other avenues) tell us that all is okay and not to worry. Every now and again we get jolted by a contrary, disturbing message, but for the most part citizens are appeased again and again. And we are creatures of habit so it's hard to make us budge.

      It shouldn't be the slightest bit surprising that the majority of people respond to the main signals that come their way. And it would take very strong leadership to change those appeasing messages and allert society to face up to the threat. There's so much at stake, economically, so that leadership is not forthcoming.

      Political leaders are also human beings and they also receive the reinforcing signals that all is fine.

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    2. Bronwyn OBrien

      Admin Assistant

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Yes. Thinking about it now, I realise that the amount of information streaming into households that manipulate us to consume more far outweighs the amount of information coming in that advises us to consume less. As you said, there's a lot at stake economically. The 'bottom line' really seems to be controlling factor in the whole scheme of things.

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    3. Michelle Singh

      Tutor in Gender Studies & Sociology at Griffith University

      In reply to Bronwyn OBrien

      Agree, Bronwyn and Chris. This partly explains why I get all "Grinchy" when my son's school makes a huge deal out of Earth Hour every year - I know some of them are very committed, but others turn their lights off for an hour and feel good about it, and then life goes back to normal, complete with driving everywhere in their 'tanks', plastic bags for everything, etc. I'm far from perfect myself (like you admitted, Bronwyn!), but .....
      But I'll stop now because I've gone off the actual topic of the article - which I found extremely interesting.

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    4. Bronwyn OBrien

      Admin Assistant

      In reply to Michelle Singh

      I'm with you Michelle. I'm sure my neighbors think I'm weird when they see me occasionally cart buckets of used washing water out and throw it on my lawn or water the garden with it. I have this crazy idea that water should go back into the earth instead of down a drain pipe.

      OK now I'll stop too. :)

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Bronwyn OBrien

      Bronwyn - I see those who actively campaign against the science and against taking action as far worse than those who have just given up or don't care.

      And one reason that many have given up or don't care is due to the very successful campaign by the deniers.

      It is also relevant to your point that when the media, including the ABC, report on the extreme weather this is almost always done without reference to climate change, and the pretence that this is just a normal weather extreme is made…

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    6. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Bronwyn OBrien

      All your points are well made and valid. One area that I disagree however is with the comment;
      " ... a lot more effort needs to be directed towards getting people to actually care about it." Bronwyn OBrien.

      The frustration is grasped as my awareness of climate change started in the 1970s and has grown acutely since. So have understand your altitude on this one, having felt the same. This thread is dealing with the communication issue and you point correct in part.

      But I must say as an long…

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    7. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Hi Chris
      These days I use the words dissonance and disconnection together, as that covers a lot of thinking. Since I adopted dissonance from your writings, I owe you for that, thanks.

      What I mean by "disconnection" thinking is when people just unintentionally don't link the dots from one bit of thinking to another.

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    8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Richards

      One of the reasons Australia is doing so badly in accepting climate change (esp when compared to Europe) is that I don't think Labor ever tried to sell the threat and the real need to act.

      Rather Labor tried to sell the message that they were taking action and that this action would compensate most households more than the cost. The leaflet sent to all households is a great example of this.

      If Labor had tried to sell the reality of the threat then it would have become apparent that there was…

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    9. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Appreciate the altitude on the comment.

      Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH) ; " ... environmental movement have also made a huge blunder by supporting the carbon tax so strongly" The Greens supported an tax, point taken.

      The issue had more to do with a large handouts of 'corporate welfare', than railing against emission trading schemes however. Because of the probability of projecting cost onto non corporate energy users.

      The sad truth is the centre of gravity politically is not evolved enough to…

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    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Paul Richards

      I wish I could share your optimism about the young doing better.

      Unfortunately I can think of several examples to show that the young, those bought up under the right wing views of Howard, Rudd, and Gillard, are now more conservative than my generation (I'm 55).

      Howard started the process of teaching nationalism and turning Anzac day into a sacred day - I'm now a radical to all those who were at school when Howard was PM.

      Another example is us becoming a republic. It is inconceivable to me that this isn't hugely supported by most people younger than me.

      Bolt has said that his aim is to move the centre to the right. Unfortunately many of those younger than me see the centre as being between the right of the LNP and the less extreme right of the ALP.

      So I'm pessimistic.

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    11. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Bronwyn OBrien

      Bronwyn, I concur with much of what you say. What we are lacking is clear and, if necessary, charismatic leadership in the fight against global warming. If those at the top of the heap seem to be doing nothing, then we should not be surprised nobody else is doing much either.

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  17. Comment removed by moderator.

  18. Geoff Henley

    Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

    What you aren’t told is that the 97% includes anybody who believes that human activities have some effect on the global climate. In other words the 97% includes a large proportion of those with a range of sceptical views.

    Did you realise that of the 12,000 studies included in Cook's study, the authors of ONLY 65 (0.5%) of these studies explicitly stated that they believed human activities were responsible for more than 50% of the recently observed warming.

    None of studies often cited to support…

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    1. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Perhaps the article doesn't get into that level of detail about the "97% study" because it (the article) is first and foremost about the communication of information in a "sticky" way.

      As such, I ask that comments follow suit and discuss the same (first and foremost).

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    2. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory,
      Cook's article lends heavily on the so-called 'scientific consensus' and evokes the 97% figure. My post points that Cook has never clearly defined what the consensus actually means nor what the 97% actually stands for. In this respect, it is totally relevant to the debate here.

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    3. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory, are you saying that comments [whether humorous or otherwise] on the debunked 97% consensus that the author uses to make his point here, are irrelevant or inappropriate?

      Like this one you removed?

      "Geoff, 97% of scientists are 95% certain that the global warming which isn’t happening, would be your fault – if it was happening.

      In 2007, they were only 9o% certain that non-existent climate change was your fault. Another six years of spectacularly failed predictions has bumped up their certainly level to almost 100% percent.

      Truth triumphs over myth."

      Please explain.

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "My post points that Cook has never clearly defined what the consensus actually means nor what the 97% actually stands for."

      That is bullshit and you spamming every article on climate science here with the same claim does not make it true.

      Here is the paper
      http://www.skepticalscience.com/docs/Cook_2013_consensus.pdf

      Here is the supporting web site
      http://theconsensusproject.com/

      How about pointing to some peer reviewed science that refutes Cook et al. instead of making unfounded claims and smears. You have had plenty of opportunity but as usual you are long on hand waving, short on substance.

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    5. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory,

      Will you allow Jo Nova, Anthony Watts, Jennifer Marohasy or some other sceptic to respond?

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    6. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      "debunked 97% consensus" in Inglis-speak means that he read a climate crank blog which attacked the paper.

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    7. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Cook's paper merely defines the consensus as "... that humans are causing global warming". This definition is completely meaningless in that a large proportion of sceptics believe that human activities cause some global warming.

      The debate is not about 'whether humans are causing global warming'. The debate is about whether human contributions are causing the Earth to heat dangerously.

      The oft-touted 97% claim only refers to those who believe humans contribute in some way to global warming, it does not relate to those who believe that humans are causing the Earth to heat dangerously and hence this figure is rather meaningless.

      As I have said repeatedly, the 97% is not based on a random selection process and hence is not statistically. Valid this is a basic statistical concept.

      Why must you use offensive language? Where are your manners?

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    8. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      As I said Geoff – this article uses the 97% study as an example. This article is about the communication of an idea, not the idea itself. As such, I perceive your attempt to discredit the article by focusing on the study itself is an attempt to derail discussion.

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    9. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Why must you lie? Where are your manners?

      For those who are interested, here is a detailed debunking of all the acusations levelled against the consensus paper by the climate cranks by co author Dana Nuccitelli.

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/may/28/global-warming-consensus-climate-denialism-characteristics

      Again - note that the cranks have attacked this paper repeatedly and hysterically **on blogs** because this paper highlights that their bluff and bluster takes place outside science.

      Not one of them has had the wherewithall to respond in the peer reviewed literature.

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    10. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      "Will you allow Jo Nova, Anthony Watts, Jennifer Marohasy or some other sceptic to respond?"

      As I've told you before Jim, posts aren't removed because they come from "sceptics". They're removed because of the way the ideas are expressed. Any implication otherwise is disingenuous.

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    11. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory,

      Thanks for actively holding responses to the topic and clearly tidying up the naysayer devil's advocates from distracting from the focus.

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    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      Jim, if Father Christmas joins The Conversation (using his real name :) then he can post a response.

      Stop pretending that this is a closed shop.

      As for posting articles, their restrictions mean that I can't post an article and so they could well mean that others you list cannot do so either.

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    13. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Gee Cory, did I miss something or did this article contain a section entitled “Case Study 1: Communicating the scientific consensus on climate change” replete with a colourful graphic showing “97% agree” and an Obama tweet in big bold letters proclaiming the 97% figure.

      Did I miss something or did this article contain the phrases:

      “…more than 97% endorsed the consensus….”

      “…97% agreement among relevant climate papers…”

      “….there was 97% agreement among climate scientists ….”

      “…in which he acknowledged the 97% consensus….”

      And for daring to show that the 97% figure is not all that it is cracked up to be, I’m accused of derailing the discussion. Huh?

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    14. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      The Guardian? In the words of John Patrick McEnroe "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!!!!"

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    15. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff you will have to supply some source for your claims otherwise it is nothing more and nothing but unsubstantiated assertions.

      Supplying sources will allow us reading your posts to evaluate you claims.

      The challenge is yours to accept!

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    16. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      I would support that as long as they can produce peer-reviewed science to back up their assertions.

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    17. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      It might be good for a laugh Mike. But I think they will not meet the "smell" test. To have a credible article you need credible science. BS science should not be aired in the interests of "balance".

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    18. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      "I would support that as long as they can produce peer-reviewed science to back up their assertions."

      Oh, I don't think that will be a problem.

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    19. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      "Joanne Nova and Anthony Watts are part of Cook's 97%."

      No they are not.

      But I can see where you are going wrong. One more time for you and Inglis - climate crank blogs are not peer reviewed science journals.

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    20. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      When the Hansens of this world seriously consider this 97% consensus paper to be science, it really reflects on their understanding of real science.

      It's the perfect example of pseudoscience.

      AKA shooting yourself in the foot.

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    21. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory,
      You didn't answer Jim's question. Will you allow someone from the sceptical side to respond?

      Joanne Nova was an Associate Lecturer of Science Communication at Australian National University for three years.

      How 'bout it?

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    22. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      https://theconversation.com/the-truth-is-out-there-so-how-do-you-debunk-a-myth-22641#comment_305054

      To extrapolate: there's no reason they can't.

      If they want to comment here all they have to do is sign up.

      If they want to write an article and they're currently associated with a university, they're welcome to pitch to our editors. You're more than welcome to do the same if there are topics you want to see covered. https://theconversation.com/pitches/new

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    23. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff Henley wrote; " Will you allow someone from the sceptical side to respond? ... Joanne Nova...]
      That would be great, it would give everyone a chance to establish her value system and uncover her personal beleifs.
      The last Western Australian female molecular biologist I had a conversation with believed in homeopathy. That was enlightening, her values were interesting indeed.
      However desirable her exposure is carefully managed and unlikely.

      My intuition tells me Joanne Codling has an Abrahamic value set that the core of her personal values.

      So the whole concept of humans affecting the climate an anathema to personal belief in Gods divine plan of earth domination by worthy humans and the demise of imperfect unfaithful humans in a dystopian end at Armageddon.

      But then again I could be wrong. Joanne Codling may just believe she is right and majority of actual earth climate scientist are wrong. Be interesting to discover though.

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    24. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Anyone who has followed the endless back and forth here between deniers and defenders will know that the deniers debate different things whenever it suits them.

      The consensus science is best summarized by the IPCC and this report makes clear that there is a very high probability that humans are causing the Earth to heat dangerously.

      As predicted at the very top of this thread, this article brings out the deniers sprouting their usual nonsense and nonscience.

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    25. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      That would be Joanne Codling.

      "Nova runs the Australian company Science Speak,[2] the main aim of which is to promote AGW denialism."
      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Joanne_Nova

      An article from here would certainly draw a crowd. There would be no shortage of Australian scientists who like to point out that she promotes pseudo-science.

      But there is a reason the fake skeptic bloggers do not publish in the peer reviewed journals.

      You cannot usually publish science articles based on lies, cherry picking data and conspiracy theories.

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    26. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff is deliberately derailing this conversation because he has not taken into account what has been said to rebut his views in early conversations, and he failing to answer the rebuttals in this conversation.

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    27. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "You cannot usually publish science articles based on lies, cherry picking data and conspiracy theories."

      Nothing's happened yet but you have already condemned the possible respondent.

      How do you get away with this sort of evidence-free misrepresentation when we get deleted for relevant comments?

      With the manners you exhibit I wouldn't blame any climate sceptic for not wanting to write an article.

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    28. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      What I find very sad, and scary, is that we now have many people on the right who just support what their team says and who think everyone else is biased.

      Unlike The Age, in its news reporting the Guardian gives the views of the Greens a fair hearing. But I think the Guardian is balanced because it also gives the LNP a fair hearing.

      I know that Geoff is just trolling, so we won't get a real answer. But I would love to know if Geoff really believes all that he is told by Bolt and the Australian is true and if he genuinely thinks that any 'facts' or 'evidence' presented elsewhere that disagrees with these views must be biased?

      Because if he really thinks this way, then sensible rational conversation is no longer possible.

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    29. Michelle Singh

      Tutor in Gender Studies & Sociology at Griffith University

      In reply to Paul Richards

      An interesting snippet from Joanne Nova/Codling's partner David Evans, explaining the rationale for a paper he wrote for "lay people", to convince them that AGW is rubbish. He says:
      "To win the political aspect of the climate debate, we have to lower the western climate establishment's credibility with the lay person. And this paper shows how you do it. It simply assembles the most easily understood points that show they are not to be entirely trusted, with lots of pictures and a minimum of text and details. It omits lots of relevant facts and is excruciatingly economical with words simply because the lay person has a very short attention span for climate arguments."
      http://nzclimatescience.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=684&Itemid=1
      Charming.

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    30. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff - how to the denier blogs and websites deal with those who want to post articles and comments defending the science?

      Let us all know if there is a website where the science can be defended and I'm sure that a few here would pay it a visit to have their say.

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    31. John Cook

      Climate Communication Research Fellow at University of Queensland

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, I suggest you read our paper (or if you have read it, go back and reread it). We provide three very specific definitions for consensus. We use three because different authors endorse the consensus in different ways. But here's the thing. No matter which definition you use, you get overwhelming agreement. The consensus is so robust, that whether you look at it front-ways, side-ways or backwards, you still get an overwhelming agreement that humans are causing global warming.

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    32. John Cook

      Climate Communication Research Fellow at University of Queensland

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, as I state in another comment, I suggest you read (or reread) our paper. That is not how we defined consensus. I would appreciate if you didn't misrepresent our paper.

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    33. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Cory,
      What, then, do you encourage as the best further course of action when an earnest, reasoned, experienced person goes to sign in and finds an brown "Account blocked" tag?

      How about showing some good faith and lifting the block of Geoffrey Sherrington Boss?

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    34. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH,
      If you were a good scientist, you would question in forums like this, the manner in which the IPCC core group came to assign increased confidence while the scientists in the body of the report were drawing away from earlier, confident conclusions with measures such as declining to put a value on ECS.
      The relevance to Cook is that there is little point in discussing how to convey a message when the message is not being composed fairly.
      Indeed, if the message is known to be wrong, in part or…

      Read more
    35. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Michelle Singh

      Well spotted Michelle that keyword is a 'tell' if ever I saw one.
      "establishment's credibility with the lay person"
      Probabilities are anyone using the language of evolved Abrahamic thinkers, is they are.
      Evans has used the keyword many times in this article, the tone is clear, the values becoming evident.
      How can anyone fight 'faith in ideas', feelings simply are not facts.
      The only hope is to fight back with an equally intense feeling and no line of logic about climate change except…

      Read more
    36. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey, You are a lobbyist who is working hard to misinform and disrupt this conversation.

      Just like a restaurant has the right to throw out a very rowdy and disruptive customer - for the benefit of everyone else at the restaurant - The Conversation has the right to throw people like you out.

      Blocking just a very few accounts would make a huge difference to this conversation - a difference that 98.45% of readers will appreciate.

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    37. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Geoffrey - I didn't even read all of your post.

      I just reported it as off-topic with the sincere hope that it will thus just go away.

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    38. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to John Cook

      John,
      As I have said repeatedly, the debate is NOT about whether humans are causing global warming, the debate is about whether human activities are causing the Earth to warm dangerously. This distinction is not addressed in your paper or any other paper for that matter. The fact is that a significant proportion of those labelled as 'sceptics' also believe that humans cause global warming to some degree.

      A number of people have accessed your database and they all come up with the same answer. Only 65 of the 12,000 papers explicitly endorse the view that humans are responsible for more than 50% of the recently observed warming.

      I am not misrepresenting anything here and I reject the implication that I am.

      By the way, why do you have 7 rating categories in the methods section, but collapse these down to 3 catergories in the results. I think the results didn't turn out the way you had hoped, so you wanted to hide this fact.

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    39. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      My opinions are not based on the views expressed by Bolt or the Australian. They are based on accessing a wide range of websites and databases containing empirical data on all different aspects of the global climate.

      And hell still hasn't frozen over.

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    40. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      I expect that if any of these people have relevant research they have been actually doing according to their level of expertise within an area of research then they should be able to submit their research to nature etc for peer review and publication, or another publication. I would say that most contributors here do submit papers for publication or are undertaking research or both.
      As far as I can tell none of the three you mention do peer reviewed study, the first is a microbiologist and molecular biologist, the second is a broadcast meteorologist, the third is a biologist. They have blogs. The difference here is that there is a standard benchmark I doubt any of the three could attain. That's why they do blogs, peers question validity of argument.

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    41. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      I would love her to write one here, because the audience would include climate scientists and many people who know enough to find her articles littered with holes caverns grottos and the like. Not the usual fawning old white gullible science illiterate types who inhabit her habitat.

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    42. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Appreciate the comment.
      This is why no high profile denier has ever stepped up and posted here, you nailed the principle completely.
      Alice Kelly wrote ; "The difference here is that there is a standard benchmark I doubt any of the three could attain" Quite simple really, all we ever get from deniers on The Converstion is regurgitated keywords and memes for the North American Think Tanks.
      First scan of any reference for the aware is to drop keywords into a google search, then scan for values systems in play.
      So far the Abrahamic value set pops into sight every time, kinked back to known agencies supporting the right wing groups. Interesting that.
      Recognised peer reviewed science papers published in legitimate science publications is how any critical thinker sorts out the biases.
      The benchmark, not blogs with obscure references to pseudoscience masquerading as legitimate sources.

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  19. Sam Douglas

    PhD student (Philosophy) at University of Newcastle

    What I am really curious about is whether or not these methods are actually achieving their aim of changing people's beliefs and attitudes? This isn't a question about climate change, rather about how effective these particular strategies are, and who they are more (or less) likely to influence.

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    1. John Cook

      Climate Communication Research Fellow at University of Queensland

      In reply to Sam Douglas

      Generally speaking, experiments in the lab that test the effect of consensus messaging have been shown to be effective in increasing acceptance of climate change. Whether my particular packaging of the content are effective hasn't been measured.

      One academic asked me if I'd spent any of our budget on testing our messages on test groups. What budget, I replied. Skeptical Science is a volunteer-run website. The fee to make our paper open-access was raised through paypal donations.

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