Climate Change and Well-Informed Denial

Tue, 2011-05-03 08:52Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Climate Change and Well-Informed Denial

On climate change, we’re politically polarized—which would be bad enough, but that’s not all. The hole we’ve dug is even deeper—as new research clearly suggests.

There’s yet another study out on Democrats, Republicans, and climate change, this time from Lawrence Hamilton of the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Over the last two years, in a series of regional surveys, Hamilton asked nearly 9,500 people questions about climate change—from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast, and from New Hampshire to Alaska. 

Across all these regions, he consistently found the following phenomenon: Democrats and Republicans who claimed to know less about the climate issue were more like one another in terms of whether they accepted the science. Democrats and Republicans who claimed to know a lot about the issue, by contrast, were vastly polarized—with knowledgeable Democrats overwhelmingly accepting the science, and knowledgeable Republicans overwhelmingly denying it.

Political polarization is greatest among the Republicans and Democrats who are most confident that they understand this issue,” writes Hamilton. “Republicans and Democrats less sure about their understanding also tend to be less far apart in their beliefs.”

This core finding itself is not new—a 2008 Pew survey also found that Republicans with a college level of education were less likely to accept the science of climate than Republicans who lack such education. Other studies have also underscored this fundamental point. But for precisely that reason, Hamilton’s research kind of puts it in the realm of indisputable political fact. Not only are we polarized over climate change, but our knowledge and sophistication, when combined with our politics, make matters worse.

How could this be? For Hamilton, the explanation lies in the interaction between how we get information (from trusted news and Internet sources, we think, but we’re actually being selective) and our own biases in evaluating it (objectively, we think, but again, we’re actually being selective). “People increasingly choose news sources that match their own views,” Hamilton writes. “Moreover, they tend to selectively absorb information even from this biased flow, fitting it into their pre-existing beliefs.” In other words, we’re twice biased—based on our views and information sources—and moreover, twice biased in different directions.

Thus it really makes a lot of sense that those who are paying less attention to the climate issue, whether nominally Democrat or Republican, are less polarized and less sure of themselves. They’re not working nearly as hard at reaffirming their convictions, and refuting the convictions of the other side. (Hamilton’s study implies, though, that that they may have a different problem—they know so little that they may be more likely to be buffeted by the weather in terms of how they think about climate. If it’s hot out, maybe they’ll worry. If it’s cold, they’ll scoff.)

Overall, the big picture is that our society is not making up its mind in anything like a rational or scientific manner about climate change. That’s unfortunate–but it would be a form of denial itself at this point to reject the finding. 



no text for you, buddy.

that the actual science of Global Warming and Climate Change is not subject to party political orientation and the cryosphere care not whether you were red and are now blue or were blue and are now red just because you happened to cross the ever higher and warmer pond.

As somebody has already mentioned, Richard Alley, who understands the issue very well as one who has worked in hostile environments to gather data would, is an avowed republican. As this political orientation crap is just that CRAP! Although it would appear that the GOP is more ideologically inclined to play the denier and delayer. after all they, and their allies in 'The Institutes', get their funds from those who imagine they would be most hurt by legislation to ameliorate all the harmful effects of the pollution spewed by their products and the cavalier attitude to the environment that such show when collecting the stuff in the first instance.

Cheap energy is only cheap at the delivery end, those who happen to be near the source of that energy pay the price in poor health, shortened life spans and degraded living space.

Can you not see the elephants here?

You had better take this up with Phil M. He obviously needs some of your wisdom. From the note he wrote me which I directly replied to: Again to save you the trouble to find:
Conservative parties worldwide: AGW is a myth, we need to delay any policy, it will affect "us" too much.

Conservative voters: My party has said it's a myth, therefore it's a myth. Scientists are just trying to get grant money!!! They don't know what they are doing! I will search for blogs that support this point of view.

Conservative voter arrives at places like desmog blog & says :

"The earth is a poorly understood chaotic system."

And what's all this about "cheap energy"? How did that drop into the conversation?

Titus, you still don't get it. I agree with Lionel & Ian. Science is not political. The planet doesn't understand progressives & conservatives. It's either verifiable or it's not.

Yet Conservatives have chosen to go back on hundreds of years of trust we have put in science & scientists & totally mistrust their ability & advice. Why is science & scientists so wrong now? Yet we have benefited from their research & advice for hundreds of years now. It's no secret that the most wealthy corporations on the planet are the fossil fuel industries. It's no secret either that they donate & lobby to mostly the conservative parties.

Progressive parties are putting trust in scientists & are heeding their advice. Conservative parties are putting trust in their funding & are willing to ignore science.

"And what's all this about "cheap energy"? How did that drop into the conversation?"

Wow, it's really that hard?

Hi Phil again. You say

"Science is not political".

I have to then ask why did you paint me as a conservative with all those traits? Surely I can be allowed to make a reply.

I never brought the issue up. I guess you had an auto response to something.

Which, in any case, doesn't make the science political, it would just be YOU being political.

You aren't science, kid.

I never said it did. Please retract and apologize. Unless of course this was an unintential slip.

Please retract your demand and aplogise.

Unless of course you were honestly mistaken.

Didn't you say you currently vote conservative?

My last UK vote was labour for Tony Blair

'nuff said.

Here you go:

(note the lack of visible spectrum as you get cooler)

So you see, we observe the effects of GHG and we contribute to those GHG to the extent of a near 40% increase:

Being of anthropogenic origin (humans burn fossil fuels, or do you run yours of fairy dust?), the warming thereof is Anthropogenic GW.

The argument on post-modern science applies to AGW proponents very nicely.

I have a degree in Soviet Studies and am an expert on Soviet propaganda.

One poster claims that "the left" supports the science of climate change. The world's scientific organizations, the US agencies, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Vatican all say man is changing the climate.

The Republicans are on the same page as the Kremlin and their state-owned Gazprom. This is because both are financed by fossil-fuel interests.

In late 2009, Russians were broacasting propaganda against climate change in their domestic media. Right after Climategate, Russia's President Medvedev claimed that global warming was a "tricky campaign" (Time, 8-2-10):

Two months before Copenhagen, [Russia's] state-owned Channel One television aired a documentary called The History of a Deception: Global Warming, which argued that the notion of man-made climate change was the result of an international media conspiracy. A month later, hackers sparked the so-called Climategate scandal by stealing e-mails from European climate researchers. The hacked e-mails, which were then used to support the arguments of global-warming skeptics, appeared to have been distributed through a server in the Siberian oil town of Tomsk, raising suspicion among some environmental activists of Russia's involvement in the leak....

"Broadly speaking, the Russian position has always been that climate change is an invention of the West to try to bring Russia to its knees," says Vladimir Chuprov, director of the Greenpeace energy department in Moscow. Case in point: when Medvedev visited Tomsk last winter [early 2010], he called the global-warming debate "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects." That was two months after the Copenhagen talks.

Soviet propaganda campaigns often depict scientists as crafty and meretricious, although the leaders frequently publically re-evaluate their anti-scientific propaganda. Even in Russia, politicians eventually retract ridiculous lies about scientists because they need to deal with reality.

In his famous 1956 "Secret Speech" to the 20th Party Conference, Nikita Khrushchev stated:

Let us...recall the “affair of the doctor-plotters [who were falsely accused of taking money from the U.S. government to poison Soviet leaders].”

(Animation in the hall.)

Actually there was no “affair” outside of the declaration of the woman doctor [Lidiya] Timashuk [more here], who was probably influenced or ordered by someone (after all, she was an unofficial collaborator of the organs of state security) to write Stalin a letter in which she declared that doctors were applying supposedly improper methods of medical treatment.

Izvestiya (3-19-92) reported:

"[Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists' 'crafty' plots were fabricated in KGB offices."

During last summer's forest fires, Russia's President Medvedev reversed himself and stated that global warming is happening. RIA Novosti (7-31-10) reports that President Medvedev stated:

"What is happening to our planet's climate should motivate all of us, I mean, states and heads of non-governmental organizations, to take more active steps to resist global warming."

This affirmation of global warming is an about-face for President Medvedev, the former CEO of Gazprom. As noted above, when he visited Tomsk two months after the Copenhagen Climate Conference, President Medvedev characterized the global-warming debate as "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects."

It should be pretty obvious that President Medvedev's former views are shared by U.S., British, Canadian, and Australian global warming denialists. They are the same conspiracy theories that are spread by Fox News and many Republican politicians. I certainly hope that President Medvedev continues to listen to what the world's great scientists are saying about global warming. Even if the immediate cause of Russia's terrible forest fires is not due to global warming, the effects are a harbinger of things to come.

Apparently it does enhance paranoia

Or are you too trollish for us?

I just tried the one you referred to and it worked.

You write:

'Apparently it does enhance paranoia'

What increases paranoia? You mention no specifics.

Now as for:

You got to be kidding! A site of collected denier spiel and links.


'Joanne Nova's website offers a "Skeptics' Handbook" which is very worthwhile'


That tells me all I need to know about the quality of information comming from there go over to Deltoid and read through the comments (and watch the Climate Denial CRock videos whilst at it - enough there to settle Monckton self deluding lunacy - unless of courese you are yourself a lunatic of the self deluded variety, which I have to admit seems highly likely) to get an idea of how clever Nova is.


I see that site also mentions WUWT and Lubos Motl's blog. Sheesh a right pair of ideological driven crackpots there but I think Watts ideology is cash based with only Motl's being pure unadulterated crackpot ideology.

The only way that your people make sense is by being selective about the huge body of multidiciplinary facts that support the idea of AGW.

AS for The Hockey Schtick, one only has to look down the right hand side bar of links to realise that it is a site for those who do not have a grasp of the scale of evidence that backs our POV that AGW is real, dangerous and happening now. Besides opinion polls don't stop the ice melting.

Your response also told me all I need to know about you ! Coincidence?

It seems that many of the comments here serve to prove the article's point: people believing they "understand" something about science because they read pseudoscience blogs that fit their politics.

That was probably the only accurate comment on this thread.

Don't take anyones word for it... Go research it yourself...

Start here.

You see your link says "green agenda" whereas this is a science problem. Why then do you point people to a political site?

Go to

run by scientists.

Suzuki, what the hell is that site..greenagenda? I searched around for a while & could find nothing remotely related to what we are talking about.

It looks like a christian nutter site.

Are you saying in order for us to understand the science, we should read up on non climate science related sites? Non sequitur?

Definitely a wearing issue!
Another article of interest (by NewScientist):

Yes, the climate changes. There was probably some warming for a thirty-or-so-year period. CO2 might've caused a portion of that warming.

Two key sticking points: Catastrophic, as applied to global warming; and, climate sensitivity. Those who devise computer models tend to view sensitivity as positive. says: "There are some things about our climate we are pretty certain about...climate sensitivity isn’t one of them...if it is low, as some sceptics argue, then the planet isn’t going to warm up very much. If [it] is high...we could be in for a very bad time indeed."

CO2 as a villain is much like the God of the gaps. If you don't know WHAT caused a thing, just claim it was God, if you're a fan of Jesus. Or, claim it was CO2, if you're a warming enthusiast.

It's strange that leftward leaning Americans are all sure that CAGW is a fact. Could anyone name even one lefty who scoffs at CAGW?

"It's strange that leftward leaning Americans are all sure that CAGW is a fact. Could anyone name even one lefty who scoffs at CAGW?"

It's strange that right wingers are all sure that AGW is not happening & is a fact. Could anyone name a right winger that accepts AGW?

Well said, Phil. CAGW is settled only in the political world, not in the scientific.

Sorry, you need to read the science journals, not the newspapers. You see you're seeing only the newspapers and then, because you don't like the consequences, ASSUME that you're not being told about the science.

Try reading the IPCC reports. They contain the list of scientific papers they have synthesized to the report. Then you can read those papers yourself, which also refer to other papers.

Then you can see for yourself (if you have the courage) the scientific world is more certain than the political one over AGW.

PS funny how it's those proclaiming The End Of The World, A Communist New World Order, A Huge Conspiracy To Destroy The West who moan and whinge about "alarmist" IPCC and CAGW (which only they propose).

Try reading, which includes full references to 900+ studies involving some 40+ countries and hundreds of organizations showing that the Medieval Warming Period was as warm or warmer, and of longer duration. Incidentally, the studies are peer-reviewed, and new confirming studies are continuously arriving.

It all depends on which "science" you want to believe. Anything reported by the IPCC - everything - is politically motivated and NOT science.

And read the science in the literature not the conjectures of businessmen and lobbyists.

The IPCC reports synthesise over 100,000 papers in all 90+ countries that have input.

Your hand looks to be a seven high.

It turns out that there were really only about a handfull of scientists involved in the IPCC studies, and even that was vastly modified by the management.

I believe you were one card short. (It's probably on the floor).

There are thousands of papers and many thousand scientists in the papers that were used in the IPCC reports.

You are just going the Goebbels route and spreading the Big Lie in the hope that you can convince the gullible.

Votes don't really do the job in science. Most of the time it's only a few who are right (at least for awhile). You're looking at the usual trend right now. I suspect there's already more scientists than not who are skeptics at this point. (which is still not relevant, but should annoy you)

Phil, you really should use the "C" in front of AGW, just to let your compadres know you mean business. AGW is weak sounding, and besides, if it has no capacity to be catastrophic, perhaps mitigation would make sounder policy than shutting down the greedy, selfish, consumerist economies, such as the one (sorta kinda) in place here in the USA.

I was so hoping you'd say you were a lefty and unable to swallow the CAGW argument. Oh, well, my quest continues.

There are lots of right-leaning people in business who may not accept the truth of CAGW, but are only too happy to bow to the government, in hopes of being the least harmed by "climate pollution (what a misnomer!) legislation." Those business people disgust me, but at least I can see why they're doing it. Oil companies and power companies don't mind what taxes the government dreams up. They'll collect the taxes from their customers, hand the taxes over to the government, and continue to profit from their main endeavors. I salute them for doing so. Business people can't act purely on principle; their customers, stockholders and employees are stakeholders in the corporation, and the executive class can't compromise their stakeholders' interests.

"Phil, you really should use the "C" in front of AGW".

Seems like you have boarded the express train of exaggeration yourself HPJ. Why are you trying to imply such exaggeration? Notice it's mainly denialists that use that term?

the whole sorry bunch of amateur commentators and paid for scientists.

What Skeptical Science goes on to say is:


There are two ways of working out what climate sensitivity is (a third way – waiting a century – isn’t an option, but we’ll come to that in a moment). The first method is by modeling:

Climate models have predicted the least temperature rise would be on average 1.65°C (2.97°F) , but upper estimates vary a lot, averaging 5.2°C (9.36°F). Current best estimates are for a rise of around 3°C (5.4°F), with a likely maximum of 4.5°C (8.1°F).

The second method calculates climate sensitivity directly from physical evidence:

These calculations use data from sources like ice cores, paleoclimate records, ocean heat uptake and solar cycles, to work out how much additional heat the doubling of greenhouse gases will produce. The lowest estimate of warming is close to the models - 1.8°C (3.24°F ) on average - but the upper estimate is a little more consistent, at an average of around 3.5°C (6.3°F).

It’s all a matter of degree

To the lay person, the arguments are obscure and complicated by other factors, like the time the climate takes to respond. But climate sensitivity is not just an abstract exchange of statistics relevant only to scientists. It also tells us about the likely changes to the climate that today's children will inherit.


As for 'CO2 is the villain' then theory of thermodynamics, black body radiation, quantum physics all go to prove that GHGs trap infra-red wave length energy. Measurements in the real world on the ground, in the oceans and in the air using a variety of methods provides observational data that the world is warming and that as the troposphere warms the stratosphere cools - just what one would expect with GHGs as the forcing and not an increase in solar irradiance. It is nothing like the 'God of the gaps'.

Climate models of varying types from different countries produce this observed warming only if GHGs are included.

You are either ignorant of the science or deliberately obfuscating. Stop it. I don't care if you are an atheist you are still proffering untruths.

Cripes! Am I tired of having to repeatedly whack these moles but I will continue to answer bullshit with facts.

Unbelievable that you would even bring up climate models. Models are not evidence of anything; that is apart from reflecting the modelers' biases. None of them can account for the last decade of flat temperatures.

To argue that a model only works it GHGs are included is ludicrous.

Those hot spots in the troposphere needed by all the models ain't there, among other problems.

It looks as if posterity will have to figure out wich of us is in fact ignorant of science or deliberately obfuscating. (Also, I'm afraid your facts don't rise above b.s.)

Keep up the good work you are a great model for how anti-science AGW deniers are so ignorant of the "facts" they claim to know so well.

Your whole post (and most of your other posts) is just utter garbage.

For a start, the tropical tropospheric hot spot is predicted by any warming not just AGW. It has also been found but you dishonest deniers like to overlook "facts" when they disprove your pet "theories".

We don't have to wait for posterity to discover which posters on this blog are ignorant of science and are dishonest. You show this very clearly with everyone of your posts. Why anyone is stupid enough to believe the word of a scum-ball lawyer over that of scientists who have spent their lives working to understand climate science beats me.

It's funny, Chris Mooney, how you nearly avoided being slanderous; had you not thrown in the casual "Denier" while at the same time admitting that those "Deniers" ARE knowledgeable about the science, you would have managed to not come across as a total goon.

The "CAGW" acronym seems to be an invention of people in the 3rd stage of denialism.
1. The globe isn't warming! Well OK, it is.
2. But it's not anthropogenic! Well OK, it is.
3. But at least there's no catastrophe, so far!

Actually, the globe could continue to warm for another couple hundred years (hopefully), and still our warming period will be no longer in duration than the Medieval Warming Period (the MWP - even the mention of it causes the IPCC folks to quake).

But, as it turns out, the globe hasn't been warming for about the past decade, and while man and even a single butterfly's flapping wings can be blamed for having some impact on our current climate, there is no evidence (none, zero, nada) of how much (if any) impact that action has had. (Even the well known heat island effect, clearly caused by humans - appears to have no impact on the surrounding rural areas, let alone on the globe.)

The current level of CO2 is 390ppmv (parts per million by volume), and the IPCC projections bring that to 600 to 700 ppmv by the year 2100. Submariners live in a 3000 to 4000 ppmv atmosphere. Plants, meanwhile LOVE the extra CO2.

(None of this is to say that we shouldn't seek renewable energy sources. The warning here is that we must not permit politicians to frame this as a "crisis" to push flawed policy.)

Number one:

'But, as it turns out, the globe hasn't been warming for about the past decade,'


and note the 10 indicators of a warming world.

Number two:

'The current level of CO2 is 390ppmv (parts per million by volume), and the IPCC projections bring that to 600 to 700 ppmv by the year 2100.
Submariners live in a 3000 to 4000 ppmv atmosphere. Plants, meanwhile LOVE the extra CO2.'

Oh! Yeah!

Wheat gets worse as CO2 rises




you should also view all the other videos at:

Then consider why you believe made up stuff about CO2 being plant food. Connect these dots - CO2 Science ... The Greening Earth Society ... Western Fuels.

So GO FIGURE Go Figure.

Lionel; you say

"made up stuff about CO2 being plant food"

Without which life on this earth would not exist as we know it.

BTW: As CO2 increses different planets will come and go. As CO2 decreases different plants will come and go. In general planets will become more abundant as CO2 increases but it will depend on a variety of other factors like water and nutrients. All to do with the incredible natural change and adaption of nature. Amazing aye?

He doesn't seem to know the difference between a "plant" and a "planet". No wonder he knows nothing about climate science.

It is very disrespectful to readers to have so many errors in your posts. It shows that you feel we are unworthy of your time in making the extra effort to ensure your posts are as error free as possible.

Typical of AGW deniers and anti-science cranks.

I appreciate being corrected. Thank you for pointing it out in such a graceful manor. At the very least I'm pleased you read my comment in such detail. I got it right once:) Watch out for the plank in your own eye.......

Refer to the google doc at the end of my earlier response.

The recent claims of global warming (by such as Hansen)
1. Rely on such small changes that these are statistically insignificnt, and
2. Rely on surface temperature readings which are (to put it mildly)

I have done the figuring, whereas you have not.


You write:

'Refer to the google doc at the end of my earlier response.'

This one:

that you have repeated again and again.

I have read it at spat out the pieces, leaving a nasty taste in my mouth, in replies to you. Are you blind?

The trouble is that any figuring you do is based on distortions from the denialsphere, I pointed out some to you but hey let us ignore all that and consider what is happening in the real world.

Ice is melting.

Species are being displaced or going extinct in what has become known as the sixth great extinction and led some scientists to offer the name anthropocene as a name for the new biogeological age which humans are precipitating.

Despite the efforts of contrarian scientists the oceans are warming and sea levels are rising.

This is the result of warming, not because the solar insolation has increased of late but through the proven physics of thermodynamics, quantum physics and radiative heat balance.

These are the facts.

You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts and neither are those behind the sources cited in that truly awful 'google' document that you pointed to repeatedly.

"Ice is melting" NOT, but let us suppose that you are right.

When ice stops melting everywhere, and glaciers stop receding everywhere, then we're about to endure another 90,000 years of an ice age.

I am hoping our warming period continues to last for awhile.

More expert advice? How far are we into our current inter-glacial period & how long do you live?