BBC - Climate science: Sceptical about bias

Thu, 2007-11-15 13:26Emily Murgatroyd
Emily Murgatroyd's picture

BBC - Climate science: Sceptical about bias

Great article by the BBC today on the so-called climate change “skeptics.”

Environmental correspondent, Richard Black invited sceptics to put their cards on the table, and to send him documentation or other firm evidence of “research bias” that is so often a complaint by the flat-earthers. As Black explains, he

…anticipated drowning in a torrent of accusations of research grants turned down, membership of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) denied, scientific papers refused by journals, job applications refused, and invitations to speak at conferences drying up.”

The resulting claims Black received were less than impressive:

The sum total of evidence obtained through this open invitation, then, is one first-hand claim of bias in scientific journals, not backed up by documentary evidence; and three second-hand claims, two well-known and one that the scientist in question does not consider evidence of anti-sceptic feeling.”

Comments

That’s an excellent article! It is refreshing to find someone from outside the primarily American yes-it-is/no-it-isn’t battleground of skepticism deconstruct the case (or non-case) so clearly.

Wonder how our local trolls will spin that one. Probably some incoherent rant that goes like this: “BBC…Al Gore…socialist…David Suzuki…”’

Regardless, it’s a great article. Thanks for posting it.

Hopefully someone can do the same thing on this side of the pond.

Thank you, Ms Murgatroyd, for alerting me to the BBC article “Climate Science: Skeptical of Bias” by Richard Black. I was very heartened to learn, through the article, that Black was not able to verify “a torrent of…research grants turned down, membership of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) denied, scientific papers refused by journals, job applications refused, and invitations to speak at conferences drying up”.

I can think of a number of reasons why there might be some confounding factors skewing Black’s analysis - not least of which being Black’s very apparent personal disdain for points of view that stray too far from “consensus reality” on this subject. Victims of the “bias” he is describing might not see him as a sincerely neutral observer willing to document & air their greivances fairly.

Nevertheless, I have little hard evidence that unrecorded ‘victims of bias’ exist - and therefore Black’s analysis heartens me because it demonstrates that those within the environmental movement who would dearly like to deny GW skeptics access to research grants, membership in the IPCC, the ability to publish, the ability to work, and participation in national & international conferences have largely failed to enact such an eco-inquisition to this point.

I remain concerned by what appears to me to be continuing efforts TO enact some kind of quasi-inquisition against persons who dare to publicly express opinions critical of or contrary to the consensus reality and its more fanatical proponents, but if Richard Black is right than it may not be too late to stand up for an environmental movement that embraces the consensus reality on human contribution to global warming AND academic freedom/ freedom of speech/ tolerance for dissenters or heretics on any subject having access to the means for presenting their views to the public.

I am sympathetic to the excitement and sense of bonding that can come from playing info-detectives and righteous exposers of corporate or anti-reality/anti-science plotting & deceptions - I’ve been involved in networks/movements of righteous truth exposers myself - and I applaud (unpaid, grassroots) people taking the time and making the effort to document and reveal anything that corporations, governments or social elites are trying to conceal and hide from the public.

I just wish to discourage “ends justify the means” mentality among those engaged in ferreting out deception and falsehoods regarding global warming issues, discourage resorting to any means of suppression or censorship of dissenting views, discourage mean-spiritness, discourage unwarranted paranoia or witch-hunting.

I was pleased to discover, also, that there have been discussions about all of these issues going on in various places across the ‘net. I’m not the only person voicing such concerns, nor am I the only global warming “believer” to voice them.

“The Real Thing” is definitely a concern troll; you nailed that one, Ian.

Look at the loaded language and assumptions in this post:

…Black’s very apparent personal disdain for points of view that stray too far from “consensus reality” on this subject…
Coming from one who is absolutely neutral, NOT.

…Victims of the “bias” he is describing might not see him as a sincerely neutral observer willing to document & air their greivances fairly…
So they can make all sorts of vague claims that “skeptic” scientists are being perscuted, but when asked to provide evidence they suddenly turn all delicate and afraid of having their feelings hurt?

…Black’s analysis heartens me because it demonstrates that those within the environmental movement who would dearly like to deny GW skeptics access to research grants, membership in the IPCC, the ability to publish, the ability to work, and participation in national & international conferences have largely failed to enact such an eco-inquisition to this point…
Here TRT makes the egregious assumption that members of the environmental movement want to establish an “eco-inquisition” to persecute scientists, and have even tried to do so, without success. But don’t ask him to provide evidence of this because he will turn all delicate and afraid of having his feelings hurt. Somebody might even call him a liar.

…I am sympathetic to the excitement and sense of bonding that can come from playing info-detectives and righteous exposers of corporate or anti-reality/anti-science plotting & deceptions - I’ve been involved in networks/movements of righteous truth exposers myself - and I applaud (unpaid, grassroots) people taking the time and making the effort to document and reveal anything that corporations, governments or social elites are trying to conceal and hide from the public…
Pompous, condescending asininity.

…I just wish to discourage “ends justify the means” mentality among those engaged in ferreting out deception and falsehoods regarding global warming issues, discourage resorting to any means of suppression or censorship of dissenting views, discourage mean-spiritness, discourage unwarranted paranoia or witch-hunting…
Longwinded. If you oppose censorship, then say so. If you know of specific instances bring them forward. Or are you going to turn all delicate?

…I remain concerned by what appears to me to be continuing efforts TO enact some kind of quasi-inquisition against persons who dare to publicly express opinions critical of or contrary to the consensus reality and its more fanatical proponents…
Who would you call a “more fanatical proponent”? What’s your definition of the “consensus reality”? Provide names and examples.

…I remain concerned…
Concern troll. QED.

I just thought he was an idiot…

I have no wish to attack individuals or even to create an impression of doing that, so I will decline to single out people by “naming names”. You’re welcome to ‘spin’ that (and I know you will), but that’s not my purpose in raising these issues and I’m not going to let you bait me into doing that.

I will give some examples of specific behaviour or patterns of behaviour that lead me to believe some members of a self-appointed watchdog movement,(NOT “members of the environmental movement” generally, as you wish to portray my belief to be), would be delighted to deny GW skeptics access to research grants, membership in the IPCC, the ability to publish, the ability to work, and participation in national & international conferences if they really had the power to do such things.

- The use of the term “denier” rather than “skeptic” or even “industry PR agent” or “misinformed evangelist of misinformation”. “Denier” implies ‘heretic’, and heretics were traditionally viewed as possessing points of view so dangerous to a person’s soul that they had to be segregated from the pure & righteous if not slain outright.

- The public pillory of a “denier’s gallery”. Exposing climate change skeptic’s industry associations and/or funding is good work - in conjunction with detailed analysis of the flawed science they may be promoting - but a denier’s gallery could also be seen as a weapon or threat for intimidating others into shutting up…lest they too end up targets for public vilification.

- The gleeful tone of articles discussing climate change critic’s losing a job, title, posting, etc. or being rejected for publication in scientific journals or the popular press -
ala Schulte
or Pat Michaels, “whose utility industry funding, private research and controversial views on global warming made him a lightning rod on climate change issues, left the office too politicized, according to officials at the University of Virgina.
As a result, Michaels is no longer the state’s climatologist”
or Delaware climatologist David Legates, who “must stop using his title in any public statements on climate change, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) said last week.
“Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration,” Minner wrote. “In light of my position and due to the confusion surrounding your role with the state, I am directing you to offer any future statements on this or other public policy matters only on behalf of yourself or the University of Delaware, and not as state climatologist”

or this: “Pity the Poor Skeptics: Nobody’s Listening Any More! - Scientists who doubt the scope and cause of climate change have trouble getting funding and academic posts unless they conform to an “alarmist scenario,” said Roger Helmer, a British member of the European Parliament, at a panel discussion on appropriate responses to rising global temperatures”.
etc, etc.

It seems highly probable that these people are the authors of their own misfortune and may in fact deserve to be fired or refused publication or whatever, but the public rejoicing over such occurrences smacks of witch-hunting.

- Repeated assertions that journalists and media outlets ought to engage in self-censorship or otherwise effectively blacklist “deniers”, “skeptics”, industry reps/agents or plain old misinformed bigmouths expressing opinions contrary to the scientific concensus, to avoid “confusing” the public:
“But when the Academies of Science of every major developed country in the world agree that the science is solid, it is frivolous at best - misleading at worst - to present their conclusion “on the one hand/on the other hand.”
The media has been so cowed by accusations of bias that they have tended to present “both sides” of the climate change “debate,” playing into the hands of those who can’t win the debate but wish to sew doubt for as long as they can.”

- Blatant scapegoating and inferences that people who express dissenting opinions are the equivalent of mass-murders: “Furthermore, I understand that you are attempting to cloud the issue of greenhouse emissions, and that, at least indirectly, you will be contributing to the deaths of at least hundreds of millions of people and more likely upwards of a billion people in this century alone”.

None of this is necessary, in my opinion. Human contributions to global warming are indeed supported by the vast majority of genuine scientific experts working in this field, and everyone is aware of this fact even if they have reasons to refuse to accept it. There seems little point to campaigns for utter eradication of expression of contradictory opinions.

The “mean-spirited” attitude I referred to wasn’t a personal issue, by the way. I see the obsession with pointing fingers of blame at others around us as mean-spirited. Global warming and most other threats to the global ecosystem are problems generated by humanity collectively and need to be addressed through acceptance of personal responsibility, not seeking out scapegoats to avoid a hard look at our own behaviour.

Posting exposes of professional propagandist’s former ties to the tobacco industry on a website reduces greenhouse gas emissions by…ZERO.

Parking your car for good will eliminate 4080 - 19200 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Every $10,000 that you reduce your yearly expenditures by eliminates one ton of industrial emissions.

I’m the one advocating removing millions of dollars of revenue from gas and other polluting industries by not buying their products. You seem to think I’m some kind of apologist for industry propagandists, but if I were what could I possibly have to gain by advocating minimalist, anti-consumerist lifestyle?

How delicate of you.

You have not, in fact, advocated a minimalist lifestyle here; you have not described it, or explained how it is done, or shown the advantages of it.

You have simply posted vague criticisms of this website and have suggested that it does no good to expose liars for what they are. You have invented a conspiracy to establish an “eco-inquisition” but have not provided evidence.

Your actions belie your words.

I don’t know whether he is a troll or not. I suspect he’s just a self-righteous windbag. It’s all well and good to go on about parking your car for good, not buying oil and living in a 10x10ft space. But real people who have lives, children, jobs etc. can’t do that. TRT is not offering any practical solutions. Petroleum has insinuated itself into all aspects of our lives – everything from filling the gas tank to the production of dish soap and pharmaceuticals is connected in some way to the use of fossil fuels. It will take serious planning and imagination to develop alternatives. If everyone did what TRT is advocating right this minute, the world would grind to a halt, followed swiftly by total anarchy. But if it works for him, fine.

I don’t live in a 10’ by 10’ space - but my possessions could fit into such a space. I live in an old townhouse, with two other adults and three cats.

I did raise two stepchildren while living a car-less, minimal possessions lifestyle. (I have no biological children, in part because Paul Ehrlich’s book and the population reductionists of those times persuaded me that choosing to help raise existing children rather than creating my own was more ecologically and socially responsible). The kids were not traumatized by such an upbringing.

I work. I pay taxes. I’m a “real people” (and so are you).

No, society won’t collapse if people stop driving gas-powered vehicles and reduce their level of expenditure or income & expenditure. There are persistent, systemic problems with our economic and social justice models and so there are genuinely impoverished people even here in Canada - but the overwhelming majority of North Americans have both income and expenditures far in excess of what they actually need to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. $64,800/year is our average family income in Canada. With the right choices, decisions and attitude a family of four can easily live comfortably on expenditures of half that amount (we raised the kids on expenditure of less than $20,000/year).

I was born into a well-to-do family, which declined to a lower income family after my father passed away, and then I lived without a permanent home or much more than the clothes on my back during my late teens. I committed myself to minimal-impact living while I had practically nothing, and just resisted the temptation to increase my consumption patterns regardless of my increasing income.

People who have been living the full corporate-consumerist nightmare and want to free themselves from it or just live more responsibly might find writings on “down-shifting” to be of greater value and relevance to them than my life story. I recommend this study as a good beginning discussion of all aspects and angles of a reduced income-expenditure lifestyle:

tai.org.au/documents/dp_fulltext/DP62.pdf
“Getting A Life”

VJ said: “You have not, in fact, advocated a minimalist lifestyle here; you have not described it, or explained how it is done, or shown the advantages of it.”

Very true. My bad.
I’m also sometimes guilty of being arrogant, self-righteous and judgemental - and a hypocrite because I criticize others for similar faults.

There’s a great piece on Gristmill that held a revealing mirror to my face, also:
gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/4/19/02722/9290

I can’t take credit for inventing a conspiracy to establish an eco-inquisition, however. Do a google for ‘global warming religion’ and you’ll find the environmental movement being accused of exactly that -over and over and over again. Yes, its primarily “the usual suspects” making these characterizations, yes some of them have vested interests in attempting to discredit us.

Nevertheless, its a devastating perception and one that I feel we must avoid feeding. I have given my honest feedback - that my own initial impression of this site was: “Oh my gosh, it’s true! There really is an eco-inquisition” and that this impression wasn’t alleviated by taking the time to read through a sampling of 15 or more articles posted over the past 18 months or so. I’m not saying that impression has turned out to be entirely fair or accurate, after further investigation and reflection on my part - but judging from some of the comments I’ve sifted through I’m not the only person to have such a negative first impression.

I could have kept quiet about my experience as a new visitor, or I could have shared my impressions only with the site’s administration - but I prefer open, public dialogue where everyone can see what’s being said, have a chance to respond, set me straight when I’m mistaken and even slap me around if they think I’m being a twit.

You’re being a twit.

Walked right into that one …

[x]

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