New Data: 81 Percent of Climate Deniers Think Scientists Are In It “For Their Own Interests"

Wed, 2012-02-29 04:39Chris Mooney
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New Data: 81 Percent of Climate Deniers Think Scientists Are In It “For Their Own Interests"

The Brookings Institution has a new report out on the public's views about global warming, and most commentators are going for the predictable headline. It's this: Following the post-ClimateGate decline in belief that global warming is happening, we're now seeing a bit of a rebound. More people believe the planet is warming than they did in early 2010—probably in part due to warm weather.

That is good news—not great news by any means, but surely something. People certainly seem remarkably fickle and malleable on this topic, but then, they always are in polls.

To me, though, what you’ve just read is not really the headline. I dug into the Brookings data, and found something much juicier (and newer).

In the poll, 42 percent of Republicans say there isn’t solid evidence that the Earth is warming, and another 11 percent say they are unsure. In contrast, only 15 % of Democrats are out and out deniers. (Note: People were not being asked whether humans are causing global warming, which would have made these numbers much worse.) 

And here’s the thing: Of the deniers–Democrat or Republican, but mostly Republican–81 percent also think that “scientists are overstating evidence about global warming for their own interests.” That's a finding I've never seen before–and a very disturbing one.

Granted, in one sense this is not so terribly surprising. If you don’t agree with scientists about global warming, you are probably naturally inclined to impute nefarious motives to them—assuming there’s a self-interested reason why they’re wrong, and you’re right.

On the other hand, to find that 80 plus percent of deniers think so poorly of climate scientists is just plain alarming. What kind of “interests” must they think these scientists are pursuing?

Some deniers, surely, are going all in for the global warming conspiracy theory. They think scientists and NGOs are colluding to pull the wool over our eyes and advance a socialist, constrictive economic agenda on the global scale.

But let’s assume most of the deniers are more reasonable, and not so far gone. Nonetheless, they might be thinking that scientists are interested in getting government research grants, and know that they have to kowtow to global warming dogma to keep the money flowing.

That’s no conspiracy theory, but it sure shows an awful lot of disdain for the integrity of climate scientists–as well as for the peer review process and the norms of the scientific community.

In my opinion, anyone who thinks such things can be fairly called “anti-science,” in the sense of having a deep distrust of the scientific process and the capacity of scientists to produce reliable and trustworthy findings. Thus, these new data go hand in hand with other recent evidence suggesting that Republicans distrust environmental science across the board.

There was a time when I could argue that everybody's basically pro-science–it's just that Republicans reject it on a few pet issues. Now, though, I’m not so sure. The kinds of sentiments being expressed in these surveys suggest that trust in science itself is becoming partisan.

Previous Comments

I’ve just had a look at the report and it does indeed make interesting reading. What struck me was how much individual experience (weather?) was influencing people’s perceptions. Observable changes, reduction of polar ice and glacier area, polar bears and penguin numbers, and extreme weather events all counted highly. The science did not seem to be an important factor.

The top two reasons (equal on 24%) for believing that climate change was happening were “Warmer temperatures observed” and “Weather changes observed”. Interestingly “Scientific Research” as a reason had declined from 14%, after ‘climategate’, to 8% in the fall of last year.

In a list of 10 major factors that had a large effect on people’s view “Computer modelling” and “IPCC reports” were 9th and 10th respectively.

Even 28% of those “who think global warming is occurring” believe “scientists are overstating evidence about global warming for their own interests.”; much less than the 81% among non-believers but still significant.

PS. I’ve just come across a reference to the Dunning-Kruger effect as it applies to democracy.  The theory says that people are unable to judge the competence of those who are more competent than themselves but, and this is an important corollary, are unaware of it. This might go some way to explaining why the public forms and holds views which are at odds with the facts.

“It’s this: Following the post-ClimateGate decline in belief that global warming is happening, we’re now seeing a bit of a rebound. More people believe the planet is warming than they did in early 2010—probably in part due to warm weather.”

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2011/

However, the cool La Niña phase of the cyclically variable Southern Oscillation of tropical temperatures has been dominant in the past three years, and the deepest solar minimum in the period of satellite data occurred over the past half dozen years. We conclude that the slowdown of warming is likely to prove illusory, with more rapid warming appearing over the next few years.

 

Sadly the fossil fuel industry is playing an active role, in attacking science and scientists,using the comment sections  online ,and the environmental groups are not responding , they simply have ceded the ground to deniers . maybe the big players think that comment sections are beneath them,  but that is where the war is being lost,and I don’t see the big NGO’s getting their case in front of the public at all.  There is  more  than enough disinformation to overwhelm the casual observer .

No  one wants to accept that the status quo is non-sustainable, that’s human nature .  As an environmentalists,I never felt the need to educate the public about climate change,because by the time I had read about it, Canada was already leading the fight against climate change. Encountering deniers on the Internet was a shock,and I resisted restudying the science to tackle their lies.

So  the deniers echo  chamber  of lies reverberates unchallenged .

It looks like the oil companies are less apt to fund denialism these days. After all, they are not all insane; but the rich old cranks seem to have taken over.

VJ, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the “anonymous donors” were big cheeses in the oil and other fossil fuel industries. Instead of the companies donating $500,000 or so directly, the big cheeses add it to their bonus or salary (it’s tax deductible) and get it donated anonymously.

That is why they get itchy at the thought of their cover being blown since they have claimed to have stopped funding denier activities.

Just a wanna be or a has been.  Maybe a ‘once was’.

Can you state and back up a SINGLE email you believe to be some sort of conspiracy?  One.  Just one.  I always ask you guys for this kind of evidence, but you can never provide it.  Ever.

As an engineer you will of course know how to provide a citation, and you of course know what one is.  Right?  Just provide it.  That’s all I ask.

The numbers do and always have pointed the way to green house gases holding heat in our atmosphere.  There is no science saying otherwise. (Or rather, GHG’s are the dominant effect.)

As usual, according to the true believers like ‘oilman’,  if you don’t believe in CAGW the burden of proof is on YOU, not the scientist and activists that are pushing the warmist mantra.

Total BS if you ask me.

Yes, the burden of proof rests on those who deny what climate scientists have published in peer reviewed journals for the past 30 years showing the rising trend in average global emperatures. The evidence has been put forward, published, debated, and hung on a tree for all to examine.

And the burden of proof also lies with those who claim “climategate” was a “scandal” proving scientists were negligent, unethical or malfeasant in their work.

Oilman is simply asking for any shred of evidence that supports the claims of filthy engineer.

In the case of the former, that’s how science works, in the latter case, that’s how democratic due process works.

As much as I want to hand you 100s of PHDs in a blog post…  I can’t, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t help.

As an engineer there are many ways to look at or prove something without getting into every single detail.

For example, there is no way in your world to prove that aircraft carriers work. You couldn’t even read the operator’s manuals in your life time.  Maybe you’d get half way before you die. (Maybe if you got started now, you wouldn’t be bothering us here.)

Using Science in Practice:

As an engineer I use published peer reviewed science for my engineering work.  (I am authorized by law in Canada to do so.)  I look at the sources of the documents and check that they appear legit.  What is the quality of journal I’m looking at?  Is this sound science?

I then apply that science to produce something.  But that’s not all.  How to I verify that my solution is correct and accurately reflects the peer reviewed science?  I conduct an engineering peer review with MY peers.  (Also, real world testing of the solution is imperative, especially in oil and gas, where conditions are more extreme than the space industry, but the budgets are not.  http://extenv.jpl.nasa.gov/presentations/)

How does management know they have a good solution?  They make sure they have sufficient processes in place to verify that their engineers have done their job correctly.

Verifying it all after the fact:

There are many common techniques for verifying results for even the most complex projects.

First, verify that proper processes are in place.  Are Peer reviews being conducted properly?  (ISO does this.)

Second, what level of testing has been employed?  Can you measure how well the project has been completed?  (For example the Canadian air traffice control system developed in Vancouver hooked up a measurement system to verify percentage of lines executed in their code.  First try showed 20% code coverage… not good.)

Third, have an independent auditor bore down through a few parts of the system and verify processes and quality of testing.  (One auditor was called in to help fix a military air to ground targeting system because it kept missing. http://www-01.ibm.com/software/rational/leadership/thought/brucedouglass.html   It was 500,000 lines of undocumented machine code.  No reviews.  The auditor told the military it was a redo.)

The third kind of review is done quite a lot, and all over the place.  Like so;

http://www.desmogblog.com/fake-heartland-scientist-infiltrates-canadian-university

For my part I have bored down through bits and pieces of climate science and come back satisfied.  Furthermore I have bored down through as many counter arguements as I can and come back realizing they are not using good practice or sound facts.

Almost exclusively the counter arguements are from opinion pieces and bloggers, and not based on fact.  Why you aren’t trying to make hay of this bit when Heartland and its sounding boards are is simply beyond me;

http://www.leif.org/EOS/2011GL050713.pdf

This is the kind of stuff I keep asking you for.  Personally I don’t think that paper means much… scientists have in fact been going back and forth over what is happening in Antarctica for some time now.  The effects at the North Pole have consistently been clearer;

http://www.ec.gc.ca/adsc-cmda/default.asp?lang=En&n=77842065-1

All you need to use to understand the counter arguements is this;

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Debunking-Handbook-now-freely-available-download.html

If you want a nice summary of climate science read this;

http://www.skepticalscience.com/The-Scientific-Guide-to-Global-Warming-Skepticism.html

The Salem hypothesis plays out again.

has the only vote.

A large portion of the people sway with the weather, this makes sense however for climate change to become enacted into policy we will likely need to see increased warming. On the other hand should the field of science regain some trust with the public perhaps the warming may not be required.

scared.

Ok, why is this term, “denier,” used to describe anyone? Those called “deniers” take some offense to it.

“Ok, why is this term, “denier,” used to describe anyone?”

Because they deny *insert subject matter*? I would have thought that was pretty self explanatory.

Why are the terms “warmist” and “alarmist” used?

 

That’s what I get for reading scientific journals and papers…