As warming slows, denunciation grows

Two little essays, both published on The Conversation (13 and 14 March*), and a compilation of surveys, provide the basis for this post. I’ll start with the surveys first, which come courtesy of Donna Laframboise, who has written an amusing little piece on surveys about ‘climate change’. Imagine, she asks, that you are on a transcontinental rail journey. You go to eat in the buffet car, and at every meal you are asked what you would like — but, whatever you ask for, the food is always vegetarian. She says opinion surveys and political oratory about global warming are like that.

American surveys routinely place global warming or ‘climate change’ last in the list of important issues, so far as the electorate is concerned, and the same is largely true both of the UK, and of the United Nations’ own global surveys. In Australia the poll evidence is that Australians are more concerned than Americans, but there are no truly equivalent poll results. Ms Laframboise points out that despite this lack of interest, politicians and the ‘concerned’ go on telling us that we are wrong: we should be concerned like them, and must be deficient in sense and altruism for not being so. She lists Secretary of State John Kerry as a Cassandra example, pointing to the same speech that I wrote about three weeks ago.

So the orthodox go on waiting impatiently for the warming to return, and becoming even louder and more aggressive in their contempt for those of us who ask for good argument and good data and point out what seem to be problems in the orthodoxy. The decline in interest in AGW is certainly connected to the lack of significant warming to match the increase in carbon dioxide, but there is a lot more to it, I think. So to the first of these  articles, which is by Rod Lamberts, Deputy Director of the ANU’s National Centre for Public Awareness of Science. What do you think of this?

The fact is that the time for fact-based arguments is over. We all know what the overwhelmingly vast majority of climate science is telling us. I’m not going to regurgitate the details here, in part because the facts are available everywhere, but more importantly, because this tactic is a core reason why climate messages often don’t resonate or penetrate. If, like me, you’re convinced that human activity is having a hugely damaging effect on the global climate, then your only responsible option is to prioritise action.

I don’t think that what he proposes is at all a ‘responsible option’. The most responsible surely would be to look hard at what you think are the facts. Like Bernie Fraser, however, of whom he speaks well in this essay, Mr Lamberts knows what ‘the vast majority of climate science’ is telling him, though he won’t tell his readers. I’m certainly not sure what it is, and I think by now I have a reasonable understanding of ‘the science’. We don’t need any more facts, he says, we need action. Nor is it clear what sort of action he has in mind, other than noisy behaviour.  But then we get this: What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means.

That really worries me, and it should worry anyone. That is not how democracies should behave, and indeed it is what people object to about people who think they know The Truth: they are always telling the rest of us what to do. Mr Lamberts says that deniers should just be disregarded.  Ignore them, step around them, or walk over them. I object to this sort of talk, especially from an academic at the ANU, from which I have my PhD. It is stormtrooper stuff, and has no place either in universities or in a website funded by universities.

The second essay is by Lawrence Torcello, an American academic who teaches philosophy in the USA. It is not in any way a sensible article, and while I wonder why it was accepted for publication in Australia it is certainly another good illustration of the aggressive style which you can find from the ‘believers’. Here is a sample:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus… What are we to make of those behind the well documented corporate funding of global warming denial? Those who purposefully strive to make sure “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” is given to the public? I believe we understand them correctly when we know them to be not only corrupt and deceitful, but criminally negligent in their willful disregard for human life. It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems accordingly.

Nowhere in this is any attempt to define anything; apparently it’s not needed by philosophers like Mr Torcello, though I would have thought ‘climate denial’ at least needs some kind of explanation if funding it is to be regarded as criminal behaviour. As I’ve said a few times, I am simply unaware of any funding that flows to me or to the others with whom I discuss AGW. Nor can I see any ‘sustained campaign to undermine the the public’s understanding of scientific consensus’. What does Mr Torcello have in mind?

No matter. Any innocent reading this will come away with the view that ‘climate deniers’, whoever they are, should be jailed. It’s different stormtrooper talk, and just as objectionable. Neither Lamberts nor Torcello deserves much respect, on the evidence of these essays, but I put to them that it is indeed time for a debate, a real debate, the kind that I mentioned in my piece on Bernie Fraser last week. The more they denounce citizens who ask questions about ‘climate change’ the weaker their position becomes. Let us discuss these ‘facts that are available everywhere’, and in public. And soon.

* I don’t seem able, at least at the moment, to provide a direct link to these essays. [Update: But see Baa Humbug’s comment below, which does provide the links,]

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Tumshie says:

    A very good and insightful essay highlighting some despicable writings by Lamberts and Torcello. Their rotten thoughts come from a rotten campaign based on rotten science and rotten political opportunism. It will take a long time for science to recover some decent level of integrity given the debacle over CO2 alarmism. A very sorry episode.

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Lamberts and Torcello are simply abiding by KLOPP (Kemmis Law of Public Persuasion). Assuming a required constant stream of output,

    Volume of output = (# of committed) * (stridency of comment)

    According to KLOPP, as the number of those who accept the CAGW theories declines, stridency must increase to maintain the constant value of output.

    There is evidently a theory that the volume of output correlates to the numbers of committed; this theory appears to hold for some period, but breaks down after some time, so should not be relied upon for the durability of public policy.

  • PeterE says:

    You are right. It is ‘stormtrooper stuff’, of the kind that is giving universities a bad name.

  • Colin Davidson says:

    I think you have done a great service by drawing attention to academics wanting, nay advocating, the shutting down of free speech, and the sanctioning of anyone who dares to oppose their own beliefs.
    And I would also add that skeptics in general, and I in particular, do not want to stop the proponents of action from having their say. The nasty sentminent that opponents must be coerced into agreement is coming almost wholly from the proponents of action. Dictators to a man. Lovers of concentration/extermination camps. Nazis.
    There is no other way to say it. That group represents a group which does not believe in the rule of law, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press. It believes in slavery for us all, and is working hard to achieve that.
    Cut their funding, I say. I’m happy for them to be whackos, play with their doodles, boil their sweets. But not on the public purse. Let them exist on the funding that skeptics receive – as I think Jo Nova pointed out skeptics receive very little funding, and certaimnly no public monies. On the orther side there are vast rivers of Government Gold pouring into the coffers and funding halfwits like the two turkeys you mention.
    Let them fund their beliefs by themselves. I hate it that my taxes are going to academics who, rather than being seekers after the truth, are just ill-educated, lazy thinkers, full of themselves up to the hilt.
    Amazing that they can walk.

  • margaret says:

    Don, your banner states many topics that you are intellectually, (and emotionally ?), invested in – and then, Oh, and ‘climate change’ – I suggest that it is this topic that is your overriding interest and to put it last is to lessen its credibility in your view as a topic of any concern to (hu)mankind.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      I suppose that I am emotionally interested in them all, and putting ‘climate change’ at the end was a piece of irony when I was planning the header. The global warming topic picks up many of the others, as you’ll see if you go into the categories. But you’re probably right: it’s time that I had a look at the header to see if that’s what I really do!

      • margaret says:

        Maybe. I had had a couple of glasses of wine when I wrote that. It seems a bit ‘playful’ though. I find it not such an interesting subject, but am glad there are people who do because I know it’s an important one.

  • DaveW says:

    I just finished re-reading Robert Paddle’s “The Last Tasmanian Tiger (The history and extinction of the Thylacine)” (Cambridge Univ Press 2000) and he finishes with a call similar to Lambert’s for scientists to become activists.

    I fully understand Paddle’s frustration, but I disagree on principle with this idea, because I think scientists must remain objective and will only erode whatever credibility they might have by taking sides. You can see the problem in Paddle’s own arguments, e.g. he has moderate inference that one pair of Thylacines in the Melbourne Zoo were successfully bred in captivity. From this he leaps to the conclusion that if only scientists had been more committed, they could have saved the Thylacine from extinction. That is wishful thinking and not supported by the facts. If scientists had been better able to bring the facts about the Thylacine’s behaviour and rarity to the public’s attention, then perhaps they would have been able to make a difference, but by waffling and compromise they lost their credibility.

    The Thylacine Extinction has some similarities to CAGW. In both you see a coalition of government, press and commercial interest groups bent on the destruction of the animal (gas) for no real reason. They cherry picked the ‘science’ that supported their goal, endlessly repeating false claims of thylacine vampirism and sheep destruction, and disparage scientists who disagree. To them the Thylacine was always worse than you thought.

    Hate to be in agreement with Flannery, but what the CAGW people need is facts that support their position, not models and (what Craig Loehle in his WUWT essay ‘Climate Change and the Biodiversity Crisis’ calls ) a whack-a-mole game of specious studies never-endingly claiming ‘it’s worse than we thought’. They certainly don’t need anymore intellectual thuggery Lambert is just another narcissistic bully (nice to see him rubbish Flannery, though). Why are bullies so common among the CAWG supporters?

  • Lysander says:

    Don; I always enjoy your ‘ramblings.’ I wonder if there would be any chance of a climate realist such as yourself making VC these days?

  • John Morland says:

    Another good posting Don. You have just shown further evidence to support Dr Roy Spencer’s view. They are global warming Nazis.

  • Mike O'Ceirin says:

    There is much talk by people about “the science”. Dr Rod Lamberts is deputy director of the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the ANU. He has BA from the ANU and a Post Grad Diploma, Applied Psychology from UCAN. He is very successful but it appears he knows little about science nor does he care. He ought to know his audience and is seeking to confirm their belief. He appeals to authority does not make any effort to understand the skepticism. I wonder if he was told one of the pillars of science is skepticism what he would say? There are many like this a narrow view means they survive and earn a livelihood by never doubting anything and focusing on that which fits the belief system of their peers.

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