The Irrationality of Climate Skeptics and Public Opinion

From Yahoo News:

“We get emails to say we’re destroying the Australian economy, we get emails to say it will be our fault when no one in Australia can get a job. We get emails just basically accusing us of direct fraud and lying on the science,” said Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“My personal reaction to them is personal recognition that this means we are a threat to the sorts of people who would be trying to prevent the finding of solutions to global warming.”

Pitman said a major problem was trying to satisfy demands for absolute proof of human-induced global warming.

“There is no proof in the context that they want it, that the earth goes around the sun. They are demanding a level of proof that doesn’t exist in science.

“And then they say when you can’t prove it to the extent that they want, then clearly that means there isn’t any evidence, which of course is a logical fallacy.”

Better communication about the science is key, scientists say, even if they complain that many Skeptics are reluctant to debate the science on a level playing field.

“One of the ways I describe it (the debate) is it’s very asymmetric,” said Roger Wakimoto, director of NCAR in Colorado.

“It’s very difficult to counter someone who just says ‘you’re wrong. I think this is a scam’. How do you respond to that? … They haven’t done any research, they haven’t spent years looking into the problem. This is why it’s asymmetric,” he said.

“We like to go into a scientific debate, show us you’re evidence and we’ll tell why we agree or disagree with you. But that’s not what the naysayers are doing,” Wakimoto added.

“We’ve never experienced this sort of thing before,” he said of the intense challenges to climate science and the level of email and Internet traffic.

All the climate change scientists with whom Reuters spoke said they were determined to continue their research despite the barrage of nasty emails and threats. Some expressed concern the argument could turn violent.

“My wife has made it very clear, if the threats become personalized, I cease to interact with the media. We have kids,” said one scientist who did not want to be identified.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Wow. It’s worrying and sad that such a level of vitriol can be directed against a profession.

    Reply

  2. Posted by klem on April 26, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Hate to say this but he’s correct, they have not been good comminicators. The scientists have simply been doing their sceicne, writing their reports, getting them published and continuing their science. They have been letting the politicians do the speaking for them, big mistake. Look at A Gore, he has no credibility now as he was caught exaggerating climate stories at Copenhegebn, and he even threw Obama under the bus at a recent Montreal speech. The UN IPCC made stuff up for their 2007 Ar4 report, and stated that all their references were peer reviewed, when actually about 30% (about 5000 references) were not peer reviewed at all. No wonder these scientists have been getting hate mail, the public feels decieved and ‘had’. It’s been the politicians fault not the climate scientists.

    The other part of this is there is no big hammer, no big evidence which slams the case shut for AGW. Instead they say AGW is real due to a preponderence of evidence. This is not enough, they must arrive at the big proof or AGW will remain doubtful.

    Reply

  3. “The other part of this is there is no big hammer, no big evidence which slams the case shut for AGW. Instead they say AGW is real due to a preponderence of evidence. This is not enough, they must arrive at the big proof or AGW will remain doubtful.”

    Unfortuantely science does not work that way. Nothing is really proven, per se, in science. All theories in science are established on the preponderence of evidence. There will always remain some uncertainity in science and one can find at least one scientist that will disagree with the preponderence of evidence no matter how convincing it may be. The real question is, given the preponderence of evidence, is AGW highly probable? I think, looking at it in that light, we can answer yes? As the article quotes above:

    “There is no proof in the context that they want it, that the earth goes around the sun. They are demanding a level of proof that doesn’t exist in science.”

    Reply

  4. Klem, if you’re talking about that ‘citizen audit’ project about the IPCC references, it was a fairly sad attempt to discredit the IPCC. The IPCC states specifically and clearly the types of references it uses, and it is not limited to peer-reviewed studies, but also uses technical and government reports etc. The audit didn’t show any evidence of misrepresentation or wrongdoing by the IPCC – if you can point to even a hundred (of the claimed 5000) references which do not back up the relevant statement in the main text, then you might be on to something.

    The fact that there’s no big hammer simply means it’s easier for people to dismiss AGW theory, because one actually needs to learn a reasonable amount about it to understand the lines of evidence. It’s similar to evolutionary theory in that respect, with similar types of demands for ‘hard evidence’ to those made by creationists.

    Reply

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