Climate ‘Denialism’ Through Eyes of U.C. Davis Political Scientist


Stop calling them ‘denialists,’ a U.C. San Diego poli sci professor advises in outlining his three ‘species’ of climate skepticism. And, he says, get used to them … they’re not going away any time soon.

“Bizarre and threatening” is the term U.C. San Diego political science professor David G. Victor uses to describe how many in the climate science community view what some call climate “denialism.”

But Victor thinks a big part of the problem involves just how scientists and their supporters approach the subject — beginning with the use of the term “denialism.”

“If you really want to understand what motivates these people and what motivates the captains of industry and voters who listen to them,” says Victor, “stop calling them denialists.”

Victor, author of the 2011 book Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet made his remarks at a series of Scripps Institution of Oceanography sessions on rejection — Note: no “denialism” here — of the so-called “consensus” climate science. (A hat-tip here to Andy Revkin and his Dotearth blog for flagging Victor’s presentation.)

Victor said he considers himself to be “part of the mainstream scientific community on climate change.” But he characterized as “naive” the approaches being taken by climate scientists and their backers to challenge those steadfastly resisting the consensus view on the science.

‘Shills, Skeptics, and Hobbyists’

Acknowledging the inevitable imprecision of such characterizations, Victor described what he sees as  “three species” in this ecosystem of climate science resistance: “Shills,” “Skeptics,” and “Hobbyists.”

He said “shills” pass themselves off as “dispassionate analysts but are actually on the payroll of big carbon.” More than a few have previously “shilled on other topics, as well, where the science had big policy and commercial implications,” such as tobacco use and health effects. “Omnipresent” through the 1980s and 1990s, this group has been “the easiest” to understand, but they now are “becoming a lot more rare,” in part because follow-the-money tracking has become much easier nowadays.

David Victor: Issues of broad agreement among scientists differ from issues most relevant to policy makers.

“Maybe it still exists but is less readily observed: my sense is that it has all but disappeared,” Victor said.

Victor said he finds current worry over the influence of money in climate discussions to be “probably over-stated.” He continues: “The kinds of dissent that matter for politics — namely, the ability to create some plausible reason why voters or other decision makers might not trust science — is [sic.] very cheap.”

Another point: “Real scientists are, frankly, bad bets for anyone who has a narrow commercial interest in the outcome. Even with a ton of money on the table, you never know what good scientists will actually discover.” But he allowed that “self-interested money” exists also in campaigns to support renewable power.

“And there’s now money — probably a lot of money — that comes mainly from foundations and is aimed at countering the denialists,” Victor said, there using the term he said should be avoided. “Like it or not, directed money is a feature of modern politics and has also now suffused through the interface between political self-interest and many aspects of academia.”

2+2=4. But Beyond That, All Bets Are Off

Victor’s second flavor of climate rejectionism, “skepticism,” benefits from the critical role of responsible skepticism for scientists. “Nobody has ever won a Nobel Prize by agreeing,” he said, and “excellence in science comes from being disagreeable and from looking at agreed propositions with fresh eyes.”

Scientists by their very nature are “a disagreeable bunch of people,” he continued, even involving “mundane topics.” He contrasted the approach of scientists with the get along/go along mentality he said thrives in much of the corporate world.

“That makes it hard for us to talk about skeptics,” Victor said. “There is a consensus that 2+2=4. After that, we are in shades of grey.”

All the same, Victor finds “impressive” the zone of agreement about climate science from scientists in the field. “But we must face the reality that those aren’t the questions that really matter for policy.” He pointed to various questions important from a policy perspective, and added “On these, we have few crisp answers.”

Want Consensus Builders? Go Hire an Accountant

He pointed to their “instinctual unease with consensus” as helping to explain why some scientists and some in the public aren’t on board with the consensus. “If you want to find people who agree, then hire an accountant,” and not a scientist, Victor said.

“Most interesting” to Victor among the three flavors of climate science rejection are those he calls “hobbyists … people who disagree because it gives them something to do,” because they “want to be relevant” by challenging the establishment and using the internet as a “megaphone.”

Climate change isn’t unique in this respect, according to Victor: “There are hobbyists in every walk of life.”

As Importance of Issue Grows, So Will Denialism

Overall, Victor said he finds views on the influence of climate “skeptics” to be “largely incorrect.” Data-driven scientists may well feel that public resistance to climate change science “drive[s] us nuts,” Victor said. But in his mind it relates much more to political attitudes and faith, or lack of faith, in government … and to motivated reasoning: “People hear about something they abhor and they find reasons to justify their dissent. Believing that the science is ‘uncertain’ is one of those reasons.”

“Denialism is here to stay,” Victor said, and “as the importance of the topic rises so will denialism.”

He concluded pointing to what he sees as “four implications” of his arguments:

  • “We in the scientific community need to acknowledge that the science is softer than we like to portray.” The science is “in” in important areas, “but not for the steps that actually matter for policy,” he said, pointing to impacts, ease of adaptation, mitigation of emissions, and other areas “surrounded by error and uncertainty.”
  • Dwelling on scientific “consensus” is itself “fundamentally unscientific” and can be counterproductive. He favors less talk about consensus and more about potentially “grave” consequences for human beings, and the “possibility of extreme catastrophic impacts … and about lower-probability but high-consequence outcomes.”
  • Those rejecting climate science evidence “are driven by different motivating forces, and they won’t go away just because we speak more loudly, more often, or with bigger decks of slides … their population won’t be swayed by the normal modes of debate we use in science.”
  • Again, “motivated reasoning.” Some hold views on climate science “that strike us expert scientists as totally irrational.” They do so “because they are actually afraid of the consequences of belief…. That’s a hard problem to fix because it means that dealing with denialism isn’t really about denialism at all — it is about convincing people that we can manage the climate problem in a way that respects boundaries on government, honors liberties, and keeps costs in check.”
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27 Responses to Climate ‘Denialism’ Through Eyes of U.C. Davis Political Scientist

  1. My view. There is no will. There are darn few resources. There is no time. And there is a fear that acknowledging the great danger we are subjecting humanity to will require change of beliefs and change of lifestyles.

    First, some highly visible scientists in the climate community have documented how threatened they were when advancing and describing what will eventually happen. Even Victor’s “skeptics” will admit that, in time, all that’s predicted will come true. They argue, however, that it is beyond 2100 and, so, does not need to be dealt with as soon as some say. That asymptotic response depends upon total carbon contributions to the atmosphere, and nothing else. Thus, I would say, if these “skeptics” believe that, they are awaiting a technological or economic miracle to fix things. That’s not scientific or even rational.

    Second, the scientific community has seen the anti-intellectualism of creationists take political hold of communities, and isolate secondary school science teachers who wanted nothing more than to teach what science says. NCSE document their irrationality. While not all climate disruption doubters are the same, it is fair to say that quite a number of doubters do so either because they feel Earth is too big for humanity to affect, or that their Creator, who has a special place in the Cosmos for humanity, would not allow this to happen. They feel prayer actually affects the physical world. There is no arguing with them. It is reasonably, I think, to question whether those attitudes are a proper basis for decades long and centuries long policy.

    Third, as far as central planning of a response goes, environmental rules and regulations impose a huge cost on the economy if they are not coordinated. Even in Massachusetts, businesses complain that rules are different from town to town, and learning and adjusting practices to comply incur for them large costs. Renewables investors complain that they can’t optimize to a market for their energy because policy feints make these prices fluctuate, and, while supporting renewables, government also subsidizes fossil fuels. It is disingenuous to argue that the advance of climate change mitigating regulation represents a new, big intrusion onto the energy landscape by government. Businesses only object to government intrusion when it costs them, not when it favors them. The same, to some extent, applies to citizens like homeowners. Look at the supposed climate change-concerned liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren who, along with coastal residents, objects to FEMA’s imposition of true risk cost in flood insurance. The increases are large only because they have been delayed for many years. Not only must cost of carbon match true risk and cost, but cost of living needs to represent true risk and cost, and not exploit the good will of fellow citizens to subsidize risky living.

    Fourth, while we piddle, twiddle, and resolve how best to do this, the climate clock is ticking, and economic costs for mitigating or building resilience are increasing. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. Or, in other words, there appear to be problems which our Constitutional representative democracy simply does not know how to solve.

    Fifth, it is a difficult question how to convey the complexity of climate choices to a public which lacks scientific erudition and prefers dramatic debates to learning. With respect to Alan Alda and his efforts to improve scientific communications, ultimately this requires work on both sides of the discussion.

    And finally, scientists may, as Victor says, mischaracterize some who express doubts regarding climate disruption. But there is also a big fatigue factor on the part of scientists …. Many are devoted and continually engaged with public and policymakers. But scientists have personal lives, too, and not everyone is going to be able to be as devoted as the late great professor Stephen Schneider.

    • Dave Baldwin says:

      I very much agree with you on every point but one: The recent changes in flood insurance were driven as much by politicized tampering with maps as they were by a desire to pass the true costs on to homeowners. I’m one of those homeowners who now must have flood insurance. It’s probably not a bad idea… our back yard floods, and it’s probably only a matter of time before the lowest floor of our house is damaged. However, there are wealthy individuals who live a stone’s throw from the ocean, practically at sea level and at extreme risk from hurricane storm surges, who pay next to nothing in premiums.

    • Jim Hodgen says:

      All will come true? You mean like the “ice-free arctic in 2014…”? You mean like the reduction of the icecaps by 2020 (when there is a new satellite-era extent of polar ice (and the polar ice is thicker than in he last 15 years)?

      You mean the predictions from the GC models that haven’t tracked to recorded weather in the last 25 years? You mean like the mid-troposphere/mid-tropics ‘heat band’ that was supposed to be pushing tropical heat to latitude 50 degrees by 2010? You mean the 3.7 W/meter squared with a sensitivity of 2.2 that was going to be driving over 0.7 deg C increases per decade?

      If you would look objectively around you would find that the two or three mechanisms (if such sloppy constructions can be called that) that were supposed to be the drivers for CAGW have all been falsified… but the hypothesis lives on in funding and derivative works.

      There are NO quantitative predictions fro 1998 that have even come close to being verified by repeatable observation. THAT is where the skepticism is coming from.

      The anger an passion comes from the people using ‘consensus’ to start taking money away for themselves… or in their words “for the good of the world”. That is the ‘not credible part’… the solutions are not believable and the problem has not materialized except in models that would never be accepted for anything life-threatening (drug trials, building bridges) and data manipulation in surface temperature records that got people from ENRON thrown in jail

      Instead of jail, the CAGW heroes are given cash grants from non-profits while they were government employees… especially the government employees and grantees that say the results of research paid for by taxpayers is proprietary and secret.

      For example, you want us to trust Mike Mann’s secret data while we implement massive taxes and impoverishment. We paid for it, so why is it secret? And if the data is that slid, why not put it out there?

      Because every prediction that the CAGW clique has published has been shredded by people that can think and read and act independently. That’s the process that the ‘scientists’ have failed to do… genuine skeptical, inquiring peer review. That’s why no one trusts ‘climate scientists’ any more. And then there’s the auxiliary groupies like John Cook and the University of Queensland’s 97% consensus…

      Can you wonder why we dismiss defenders of lies and mistruths like his paper? A lie in a ‘good cause’ is still a lie. And when scientists lie about things that affect everyone we all suffer… that ‘s reality that being part of the ‘right’ group and tenured can’t change. The world the rest of us live in doesn’t provide those guarantees and we are a lot more prone to look hard than the so-called investigators and guardians of ‘truth’ have proven themselves to be.

      And those are the reasons why we don’t believe a word you say now.

  2. Thank you for outlining an important approach to this political issue.

    But Victor may suffer from an optimism bias that clouds the issue. And Yale Forum might mention that the source of the original article, Revkin’s DotEarth, is highly targeted by shills and hobbyists. Serious discussions are better placed at or SkepticalScience.

    Opinion politics weakly interacts with the laws thermodynamics. This is a discussion of human interactions, and is removed from discussing the mechanics of climate change mitigation.

    It might be important to reiterate that global warming will unfold as it must according to science. Climate science is just a way of discovering, quantifying and modeling the changes to come.

    It is as if we are all passengers in an airplane that has run out of gas. The sciences of gravity and aerodynamics tells us we are going down, but all the science in the world can’t really tell us when and how hard we will crash. The crew, working hard toward an optimal survival plan, correctly ignores irrational, unhelpful messages – no matter what group presents them. Denialists is an easy, fitting moniker.

    I hope you, and readers will commit to staying well-informed about current studies of climate changes that are in process. Because I don’t get the feeling that Victor thinks it is THAT serious.

    The human squabbles might be about how we choose to face the future: palliative care, adaptation or mitigation. Of course, another choice is to ignore the problem completely, but that has proven to be the most ineffectual approach of all. Such intransigence amounts to an obstacle that is simply ignored or bypassed. The invitation we can accept is either to work smartly together or die out sooner.

    All life is lessons, lessons not learned will be repeated. We just get to choose whether to learn lessons before we leave. A very evangelical sounding statement, actually.

    Thank you for this posting.

    • Jim Hodgen says:

      Except that if you disagree with the authors at so-called ‘skeptical science’ or ‘’ you get removed from the posting. That is a nice safe place to hug the consensus… but if you point out that Cook’s paper was so badly flawed as to call into question the capabilities and ethics of anyone that would cite it, you disappear.

      What kind of ‘discussion’ is that?

      Yes there are lessons to be learned, but there are some profound disagreements about what those lessons are… and the people like Gavin Schmidt there is only approved discussion. Truth, especially in quantitative sciences is easy to defend over a thirty year period because that is a lot of time to gather data.

      The 17 year gap in any surface temp increase (probably due to the cessation of daily max temp inflation from the data set adjustments as much as the actual climate) is awkward.

      The untimely recovery of the Arctic ice sheet and the even more inconvenient expansion of the Antarctic ice (it’s the driest place on earth… it would be a perfect place to see the effect of CO2 accumulation’s heating effect) and it’s complete lack of increasing temp (actual 50 year trend is slightly downwards except for Stieg’s buried thermometers) are also devastating to the ‘lessons promoted’ by those two sites.

      You want real discussion try or There are no sycophants there.

  3. Peter Gleick says:

    So, I’m confused. It’s ok to call the issue “denialism” but not the practitioners “denialists?”

    There are true “deniers” out there. And they often even self-label as such. I like the “shills,” “skeptics,” and “hobbyist” identifications, but truly, the “skeptics” category is different — true skeptics are not in the denialism realm but (as you note) are all true scientists. Set them aside. So we really have deniers, shills, and hobbyists, with overlap among them?

    Finally, you argue that we should acknowledge the “science” is softer than is sometimes portrayed. Scientists talk about scientific uncertainty all the time — and those are the exciting places where research and inquiry take place. But what you’re really talking about is not soft “science” but soft “policy” — where what do DO about the strong scientific consensus is in question.

  4. Gail Combs says:

    Brother are you way out in left field on this topic.

    Yes I am a Skeptic. I also have a degree in chemistry from a big ten college and worked in industry as a QC chem lab manager for decades until I was black balled for being honest. I have learned the hard way that honesty doesn’t pay worth crap. If you have a mortgage and kids you will be a ‘Team Player’ for whatever team or lose promotions and sometimes jobs. In Academia that means you kowtow to those who are handing out grants.

    That is reality and scientists are no more honest that the guys on the plant floor. Actually the guys on the plant floor are more honest from what I have witnessed.

    Second there is no big well funded denial machine. We laugh our heads off whenever we see that idiocy trotted out. YOU are the well funded political machine not us. Billions of dollars in grants, and the magic words to get those grants are “Global Warming” “Carbon Dioxide” or “Climate Change” If you can manage to tie what you are studying such as the love life of coach roaches to Climate Change you are golden. The tax payers money flows straight into your pocket.

    Who are the skeptics?

    Most I have kept track of are scientists and engineers with other fields also represented. Anything from lawyers to truck drivers. Truck drivers BTW are not dumb and they see a heck of a lot when it comes to weather and climate. They also can smell a scammer a mile away or they do not last in trucking. (And yes I also have a CDL.)

    However keep on with projecting your faults on us and we will keep laughing at you.

    Well I got to go. I want to write a bunch of letters to my congressman and senators demanding all funds for science and academia be stopped because the fraud and abuse is out of control. Seventy years ago we did not fund science and it is time to return to that policy.

    I suggest you listen to Dr. Arthur Roberts song Take Away Your Billion Dollars ~ (published in Physics Today 1, (7) 1946)

    • Dave Baldwin says:

      Methinks you don’t know much about the grant-writing process.

      First, legitimate grants (as opposed to those handed out by industry groups looking to support their political positions) aren’t tied to specific outcomes. Believe me, the scientists, activists and others I know who are concerned about climate change would like nothing better than to find evidence that it’s all going to be okay. That would make a scientist’s career, far more than joining the thousands who keep finding the exact opposite.

      Second, I suppose you’ve never heard of the Koch brothers? how about Fox News? One funds pseudoscience. The other makes sure everyone hears about it (the pseudoresults, not the fatc that it’s pseudoscience).

      As for truckers, I have a great deal of respect for them. I know I couldn’t do what they do. I also know that they couldn’t do what I do all day, any more than I could have 15 years ago before I learned the necessary skills. Similarly, neither they nor I have the necessary skills, education, and knowledge that would be required to truly understand the intricacies of climate science. I understand the basics. For the rest, I’ll take the word of the man (or woman) who has dedicated their adult life to understanding it.

      • Jim Hodgen says:

        The review process for the grants is where the censorship comes in… you are being disingenuous (lying).

        When the ‘consensus’ is so strongly enforced that to not agree is to cease to exist in the community you have an echo chamber, not a science department. The Wegener report laid it out and it has been spot on.

        And your shamanism is on display when you invoke the Koch brothers but not the flip side supporters that have poured far more money into manipulating ‘scientists’ as if they were public opinion polls.

        Skip the peripheral stuff… it’s a distraction. Where is the falsifiable hypothesis with step by step physical mechanism that tells us how CAGW will occur? No models, no speculative stuff… just the stuff that can be examined and verified.

        And finally, before you start citing un-named 20 year old consensus, there is no paper or papers that can provide that chain of logic… they don’t exist.

        There is no verifiable/falsifiable hypothesis… just consensus.

        Falsify my statement with a real hypothesis… or try to cover it with drivel like the above faith-based statements about the different types of angels (types of believers) and demons(types of deniers).

        Will your response provide an hypothesis or will it be about your faith? Let’s see.

      • Larry Logan says:

        Dave, your comment, “Believe me, the scientists, activists and others I know who are concerned about climate change would like nothing better than to find evidence that it’s all going to be okay. That would make a scientist’s career, far more than joining the thousands who keep finding the exact opposite.”

        Actually, no. You don’t get published for a null hypothesis. And go shop these two titles, “The sexual modes of ground squirrels,” and “The effects of climate change on the sexual modes of ground squirrels.” Guess which one gets funded!

        Yes, I’ve heard of the Koch brothers, but I haven’t seen where they’ve funded pseudoscience. But I have heard also of George Soro and funding of the Real Climate website by Fenton Publications — you know, the alar apple scare peddlers.

    • Dave Baldwin says:

      Oh, and you say we didn’t fund science 70 years ago? By my math, that would be 1944. The Manhattan Project, one of the largest research projects of all time, was in full swing, and was most definitely funded by the government. Don’t even get me started on the land-grant universities, funded by the government (in the form of those land grants) and responsible for much of the scientific progress of the 19th and 20th centuries.

  5. Spanky says:

    I’ll just leave this here, because nothing is more entertaining than one of your own founding deities calling you to account:

    I haven’t seen this much histrionics from the Liberal Elite since Hollyweed Started seeing defections from Scientology!

    Popcorn time!


    I’d have tried to have a rational discussion with you guys but you seem to spend more time labeling, massaging, and managing consensus than on practicing the empirical method. And, I don’t want my email hacked or words put in my mouth either.


  6. Mike Mangan says:

    There are “paid shills” preventing our world-saving fantasies from coming to fruition. Although it’s very important, we won’t actually name them, their paymasters, or how much money is actually involved. Nor will we enumerate the enormous army of paid shills promoting climate alarmism. Pathetic conspiracy ideation.

  7. Bob Koss says:

    Victor talks about “three species” in this ecosystem of climate science resistance: “Shills,” “Skeptics,” and “Hobbyists.” Yet he doesn’t examine the people on the other side by dividing them into any such bins. I for one would be interested in seeing how he groups and examines people on his favored side. For example: Which group would be a good fit for people like Joe Romm?

    He puts “motivated reasoning” in a bullet point as if there is something psychologically wrong with it. Was he motivated to make his remarks at Scripps? Did he do it for a reason? If the answer to either of those last two sentences is “no” then he did not use motivated reasoning, otherwise he did. Would using both motivation and reason for his remarks make him actually “… afraid of the consequences of belief …”?

  8. Russel Seitz says:

    While the three species of true or paid disbelievers Victor describes all exist and are oversubscribed, he neglects a fourth, more encouraging category which almost excludes the first three:

    Those who actually try to read and keep up with the scientific literature

    The odd thing about this genus is that the more they read, the harder they are to categorize, and each of the best is sui generis

    Their reluctance to speak in cliches drives politicians and environmental journalists to despair.

  9. I find the article and discussion very interesting and informative. However, in our present climate change we have a subject so profound that it surely ranks in science with Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and many seminal writings of other authors, or perhaps it has an even “higher”ranking since the ramifications of Global Warming will control the destinies of entire populations and their activities. Therefore, it’s not surprising that opinions differ, producing shills, skeptics, and hobbyists (among other categories)….it comes with the territory. Get used to it and rise to the challenge of the moment. Paraphrasing the words of Buddha (circa 550 BC), “Believe nothing of the sayings of your masters and priests. Believe only that which, after testing, you find reasonable.”

  10. The article states:

    He said “shills” pass themselves off as “dispassionate analysts but are actually on the payroll of big carbon.” More than a few have previously “shilled on other topics, as well, where the science had big policy and commercial implications,” such as tobacco use and health effects. “Omnipresent” through the 1980s and 1990s, this group has been “the easiest” to understand, but they now are “becoming a lot more rare,” in part because follow-the-money tracking has become much easier nowadays.

    I was rather surprised to hear this. For one thing, the media typically pays very little attention to how wrong a given scientist, such as Lindzen, Christy or Spencer have been in the past. They typically report the claims of such individuals as if they were dispassionate investigators, taking what they have to say at face value, independently of how many front groups such scientists belong to. As such, unlike David Victor, I expect the givings to actually increase over time.

    However, I decided to check, specifically by looking at Donors Trust, a shell organization that the Koch brothers created so that wealthy individuals can make contributions without having the money that goes to a specific organization that receives money from the trust traced back to them.

    I am able to get the numbers for each year from:

    However, it doesn’t make sense to look at 2014, since charitable contributions do not show up in tax returns until the following year — and this is where the numbers come from. Furthermore, we can’t get accurate numbers for 2013, either, since some wealthy contributors will ask for an extension and file taxes a year late. Charles Koch does this. I know since I have looked up his tax return online before.

    So we should only be looking up to 2012. And for the purpose of comparison I was only looking at 2003 on up, since 2003 is the first year that any money is shown for Donors Trust. Then I selected a list of organizations I recognized from the list of Exxon’s disinformation network as identified by Greenpeace in their website and sorted according to total amount for all years. Then I took the top fifteen organizations: Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Mercatus Center, Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks Foundation, Reason Foundation, Heartland Institute, Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Independence Institute, Cato Institute, Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, Energy & Environment Legal Institute, The Heritage Foundation.

    Now there are fluctuations from year to year, so my hypothesis was that if these organizations are still being used as front organizations the majority of organizations should have either 2011 or 2012 as the year in which they received the most money. I figure that is more than fair. The years during which they received the most from Donors Trust were: 2012, 2012, 2012, 2012, 2011, 2012, 2009, 2012, 2011, 2012, 2011, 2011, 2012, 2012, and 2011. As such out of the top fifteen organizations 9 received the maximum amount in 2012, 5 in 2011 and 1 in 2009. No other years were represented.

    As a percent of the next highest amount for any given year, the receivings were 288.4%, 414.3%, 134.7%, 381%, 261.9%, 108.7%, 512.9%, 182.9%, 170.4%, 125%, 125.9%, 214.5%, 298.0%, N/A, 106.0%. The average was 237.5%. Therefore it would appear that the amount these organizations are receiving isn’t simply going up but going up quickly.

    As such my hypothesis appears to have been confirmed in spades.

    However, setting this aside, there is another criticism. Victor divides up the contrarians into shills, skeptics and hobbyists. As such he omits the category that I suspect is by far the largest: those that are opposed on the basis of political ideology. It is not necessarily in their financial interest to oppose action on climate change. They typically are not true skeptics. And the term “hobbyists” is at best a poor characterization as they needn’t take much of an interest in climate science at all other than popping up in comment sections to repeat zombie arguments which have been killed long ago but keep coming back due to the ideology of those that use them. Typically, these are the foot soldiers in the war on climate science. The shills, those who actually get paid to spread misinformation, are rare. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that of the 32 front organizations I found that have been involved in both the disinformation campaign surrounding the health effects of tobacco and those that have been involved in the disinformation campaign surrounding AGW, 22 make an appeal to either libertarianism or some other form of free market ideology.

    Please see:

    I link to my sources.

    • Jim Hodgen says:

      Fascinating but one-sided and peripheral. Since it is so clear and so well laid out, please provide the hypothesis that has been defended from falsification that links CO2 in the atmosphere to Catastrophic and unprecedented warming.

      If you cannot provide that clear, well-researched and the overwhelming experimental and observational verification you say exists, the funding argument is irrelevant.

      If you can’t show me the hypothesis, then simply admit that your emperor has no clothes and that you are actually evangelizing for a new religion… that is constitutionally protected in the USA so it’s OK to admit it… really.

      • Jim Holdren wrote:

        Since it is so clear and so well laid out, please provide the hypothesis that has been defended from falsification that links CO2 in the atmosphere to Catastrophic and unprecedented warming.

        First, the evidence that CO2 causes warming is something that was established as far back as 1859 and published in:

        Tyndall, John, 1861. On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connection of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction. ‘Philosophical Magazine ser. 4, vol. 22, 169-94, 273-85

        It is well-established science. For a great deal more on the physics, including satellite imaging of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to its absorption of infrared radiation and the basis for this absorption at the molecular level please follow the link in my name.

        Second, Karl Popper’s principle of falsifiability was relegated to the history of the philosophy of science as far back as the 1950s. The issue with it is that it assumes that a given scientific theory can be tested independently of an background assumptions, but with modern science one must almost inevitably make use of other assumptions, oftentimes the physical theories that form the basis for the scientific instruments one uses to test the theory. And in the attempt to falsify the theory that is in the foreground one assumes that the theories in the background are true. But according to Popper’s principle of falsifiability, it is never possible to demonstrate that a theory is true, only that it is false. Therefore his principle is inapplicable to modern science. For more please see my A Critique of the Principle of Falsifiability…

        Third, the term “catastrophic” isn’t itself a matter of fact but normative, a value judgment. As such, even if one were to assume that Popper’s principle of falsifiability were applicable to science, it most certainly wouldn’t be applicable to the question of whether something is “catastrophic.”

        Fourth, nevertheless, by any human standard, the consequences of global warming due to carbon emissions have been “catastrophic” in the past. Flood basalt eruptions due to supervolcanoes associated with major plate tectonic activity (e.g., the breakup and formation of continents) have been responsible rapid global warming at various points in the past that have resulted in mass extinction events.

        For a list of eighteen different flood basalt eruptions and the extinction events that appear to be associated with them, please see:

        Vincent E. Courtillot and Paul R. Renne (2003) On the ages of flood basalt events, C. R. Geoscience 335, 113–140

        For a more recent commentary, please see:

        Michael R. Rampino (April 13, 2010) Mass extinctions of life and catastrophic flood basalt volcanism, PNAS, vol. 107, no. 15, pp. 6555-6556

        For a recent study that directly links the eruption of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province with the end Triassic Extinction 201 million years ago, please see:

        Jessica H. Whiteside (April 13, 2010) Compound-specific carbon isotopes from Earth’s largest flood basalt eruptions directly linked to the end-Triassic mass extinction, PNAS, vol. 107, no. 15, pp 6721-6725

        Fifth, the warming that we will experience if emissions continue unabated most certainly isn’t without precedent. However, the precedents are from millions of years ago, namely, the mass extinction events.

  11. Jim Hodgen says:

    Amazing how the contrarian posts are all awaiting moderation… and the supportive ones have gone through like lightning. What ever do we have here?

    • My comments await moderation. Besides, how would the software behind a website be able to distinguish between comments by proponents of science and those by climate “skeptics”?

      • Bud Ward says:

        Timothy Chase: Oh but if only there were sortware here moderating people from trolls, etc. That’s not the case. It’s human moderation, and even humans sometimes — get this now, folks — have a life and even get some sleep.
        During which time (guess what), comment moderation waits.

  12. Jon R Salmi says:

    As an amateur observer of climate science I have become strongly opposed to the notion of AGW as any kind of a real problem. Why?

    1. The vile nature of some of the comments about naturalists such as my self even by scientists (e.g. as the equivalent of child molesters).

    2. Why are so many warmists eager to say the debate is over or that there is a consensus – when debating various theories is the very essence of science. What are warmists afraid of?

    3. The official temperature data set of the UN IPCC shows no warming for the last 16-17 years. While the CO2 level goes merrily upward. No one has yet to demonstrate that it is hiding in the ocean.

    4. I find that warmist scientists tend to elide over uncertainty too quickly.

    5. Finally, all should read the papers that have come out, especially by psychologists, that conclude that presenting a rational, achievable solution to AGW would bring the average citizen aboard. Attempts to scare them just shut them out.


  13. Jill Osiecki says:

    I wish there were just a few open minded people left in the human race who could have a reasoned conversation with one another. The author puts forth some wise advice that you can’t really converse with or persuade someone if you are actively insulting them. I don’t buy the “follow the money” argument by Mr. Chase above. He looks only at dollars and organizations. The vast majority of those organizations are interested in a far greater depth of public policy concerns than CO2 emissions, as are the donor organizations. Even the Koch brothers have more pressing concerns than CO2. But you can prove anything with a few statistics if you already believe it anyway. That’s why it is such a nasty debate–everyone has made up their mind one way or another and now it is just a matter of out shouting your opponents. The public is tired of it and losing interest fast.

    • Jill Osiecki wrote:

      I don’t buy the “follow the money” argument by Mr. Chase above.

      According to the article, David Victor claims that while shills have been active in the past they are quite rare nowadays because it is so easy to follow the money trail. First of all, it does not seem to be the case that the major media is that interested in how often a given “skeptic” scientist has been wrong or how many organizations tied to Exxon or the Koch brothers they belong to.

      Although I did not go into it, what actually matters, it would seem, is whether a given reporter, newspaper or journal is sympathetic towards climate skepticism, and if not, whether they at least seek false balance. If so they are likely treat the “skeptic” scientist with respect, either as an expert who does not require an opposing viewpoint or as representative of one of two “equal sides”. For example, Lindzen quite regularly appears in the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh provides a platform for Roy Spencer, the Washington Post has its George Will, the Daily Telegraph in England has Christopher Booker and until recently James Delingpole, Fox News had specifically told its reporters that anytime they reported rising global temperatures they were to immediately qualify the statement by stating that it is subject to dispute, etc..

      “Follow the money” was simply another argument, although one that I followed up in some detail.

      Perhaps somewhat more telling as far as David Victor’s argument that it is too easy to follow the money, we find:

      Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

      Those same groups are now mobilising against Obama’s efforts to act on climate change in his second term. A top recipient of the secret funds on Wednesday put out a point-by-point critique of the climate content in the president’s state of the union address.

      Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks
      Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, 2013-02-14

      According to the article, much of the money is being funneled through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which make the donors anonymous and the funding laregely untraceable.

      Jill Osiecki continues:

      The vast majority of those organizations are interested in a far greater depth of public policy concerns than CO2 emissions, as are the donor organizations. Even the Koch brothers have more pressing concerns than CO2.

      No doubt there are other interests, but I would suggest that opposition towards addressing climate change a major point for these organizations, for the Koch brothers and, at the the federal level, the Republican Party.

      As of four years ago, NPR reported:

      As climate change emerged as a top issue on the national scene a few years ago, it had one unusual quality: The response to it showed surprising signs of bipartisan support….

      No more. Climate hasn’t yet become as partisan an issue as, say, health care and taxes. But it’s getting there.

      How Republicans Learned To Reject Climate Change
      by Alan Greenblatt, NPR, 2010-03-25

      Today Republican politicians at the federal level appear lockstep on this issue. Can you name more than three such politicians currently in office that have come out in support of addressing climate change within the past year?

      Why such unanimity? Looking at what industries gave in the federal elections, the amount each industry gave to democrats from what it gave to republicans. This is what you may refer to as “Republican tilted donations”. The industry that gave the most such donations was Securities and Investment. This is understandable since as the result of the Great Recession they are trying to avoid the regulation of sectors that played a major role in the economic crisis. (In line with this, the five largest contributors to the Romney campaign were all from the financial sector.) The second industry is fossil fuel. Please see OpenSecrets/Politicians & Elections/Top Industries/Election Cycle 2012.Nevertheless, it is of course true that the astroturf organizations I listed have other purposes. I state as much in “Blowing Smoke”:

      Doubt is their product. Tobacco and a host of health problems, CFCs and the destruction of the ozone layer, DDT and cancer, dioxins and both birth defects and cancer, asbestos and lung disease, fossil fuel and global warming, etc.. The ability to sow doubt has helped companies avoid or at least postpone regulation by government. Organizations have been funded to sow that doubt.

      Blowing Smoke: 32 Organizations…

      However, funding is just one part of it. There is also the question of ideology, the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress has been largely controlled by Tea Party Republicans where the Tea Party itself is largely the creation of the Koch brothers via Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

      Jill Osiecki continues:

      That’s why it is such a nasty debate–everyone has made up their mind one way or another and now it is just a matter of out shouting your opponents.

      No one’s mind is more made up than someone who is ideologically opposed to accepting established science, some of which has been understood for over 150 years. Every major scientific organization that has seen fit to take a position on climate change has come down on the same side as the IPCC: that climate change is happening, we are causing it, and that it is a matter of some urgency that it should be addressed. Please see for example Signatories of Statements Supporting the Need to Address Climate Change.

  14. Larry Logan says:

    “Study suggesting global warming is exaggerated was rejected for publication in respected journal because it was ‘less than helpful’ to the climate cause, claims professor”
    * Professor Lennart Bengtsson claims his study on global warming has been rejected as it might fuel climate skepticism
    * Says he suspects an intolerance of dissenting views on climate science
    * Paper suggests that climate is less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought

    Read more:

    • Most papers get rejected by Environmental Research Letters. For a paper to be published it generally has to represent some sort of advance.

      Please see:

      A large number of the scientific papers submitted to peer-reviewed journals are rejected, usually because of criticisms of the scientific methods used or because the research does not represent a major new advance in thinking. Environmental Research Letters told the Guardian that it rejects about 65-70% of the papers submitted to it.

      Rejected climate science paper contained errors, says publisher
      Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 2014-05-16

      The paper was largely a rehash of earlier material, and to the extent that it did added to earlier work its innovations were flawed.

      From the reviews themselves, please see:

      The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low, as the calculations made to compare the three studies are already available within each of the sources, most directly in Otto et al….

      The comparison between observation based estimates… and model based estimates is comparing apples and pears, as the models are calculating true global means, whereas the observations have limited coverage. This difference has been emphasised in a recent contribution by Kevin Cowtan, 2013.

      Statement from IOP Publishing on story in The Times
      IOP Publishing, 16 May 2014

      The rise in temperature has been slower over the past decade and a half. However, once you take into account the effects of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, volcanic aerosols and variations in solar radiance, it would seem there has been no appreciable deviation from a rising linear temperature trend over the period 1979-2010.

      Please see:

      Foster and Rahmstorf Measure the Global Warming Signal
      Dana Nuccitelli, Skeptical Science, 2011-12-20

      … and the technical paper:

      Foster, Grant, and Stefan Rahmstorf. Global temperature evolution 1979–2010. Environmental Research Letters 6.4 (2011): 044022.

      And as suggested by the reviewer, it appears that we were underestimating the rate of warming.

      For something informal, please see:

      Global warming since 1997 more than twice as fast as previously estimated, new study shows
      Dana Nuccitelli, Kevin Cowtan, Robert Way, 2013-11-13

      As for the technical paper, they refered to, it is available here:

      Cowtan, Kevin, and Robert G. Way. Coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature series and its impact on recent temperature trends. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (2013).

      Performing a hindcast with the models that where we take into account the natural variability which must necessarily be left out of the forecasts, we find that the models have done surprisingly well.

      Please see:

      Climate Models Show Remarkable Agreement with Recent Surface Warming
      Rob Painting, Skeptical Science, 2014-03-28