Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Climate Deniers Create Fake Experts

In a high-expertise area of science like man-made climate change we by necessity have to rely on experts. But what is an expert? For most people, including the scientific community, a climate expert is someone who is trained in one or more aspects of climate science, has conducted substantial and substantive research in climate science, and has published significant and voluminous findings in climate science. That seems reasonable - climate experts must have substantial research expertise in climate science.

But climate deniers appear to have a different definition of "expert." To climate deniers, the vast majority of climate scientists are arbitrarily deemed to be insufficiently knowledgeable about the science most of them have spent their lives studying. To climate deniers, an "expert" appears to be defined as "whomever says something that goes against the body of climate science," no matter how unqualified they are or how unsupportable their views might be.

This climate denier version of "expert" was reiterated recently as someone (a non-scientist claiming that all scientists are religious zealots, etc.) offered up the following:

To reiterate, this was a list provided by a climate denier as "proof" that there were respected "skeptics" out there who refuted the undeniable consensus among climate scientists that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and humans are the dominant cause of that warming. Supposedly this is the best deniers can offer to counter all the world's climate scientists, scientific research organizations, peer-reviewed publications, and physics. These are the "10 Most-Respected Skeptics" out there, according to the climate deniers themselves.

Not one of them is an active climate scientist.

In fact, almost half aren't scientists at all. Here's a quick run-down:

Bjorn Lomborg: Economist. Zero climate research. Ironically, he actually agrees with the scientific consensus; his beef is that he doesn't like the policy options.

Myron Ebell: Economist. Zero climate research. Corporate executive at a libertarian lobbying group (CEI) and several of its front groups.

Alan Carlin: Economist. Zero climate research. "Borrowed" extensively from serial denialists like Fred Singer, "Lord" Christopher Monckton, and Pat Michaels.

Michael Crichton: Science Fiction writer. Zero climate research. Seriously, unless you think Jurassic Park was real too.

Ian Plimer: Professor of Mining Geology and former Director of several mining companies. Zero climate research. Affiliated with various non-science climate denier lobbying groups.

Freeman Dyson: Retired Physicist (Electromagnetics). Zero climate research. He actually agrees with the scientific consensus but thinks climate models (none of which he's ever worked with) are "too simplistic."

Kiminori Itoh: Retired Industrial Chemist. Zero climate research. Affiliated with Heartland Institute, an infamous non-science climate denier lobbying group.

Ivar Giaever: Retired Physicist (Tunneling in Superconductors). Zero climate research. Hilariously announced he was a "skeptic" after admitting he had "googled the internet for 15 minutes" to find out what man-made climate change meant.

William Happer: Physicist (Atomic, Optics, Spectroscopy). Zero climate research. Chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute, the infamous science denier lobbying group profiled in "Merchants of Doubt." Affiliated with other climate denial lobbyists as well.

Patrick Michaels:  Former State Climatologist. Climate research? Michaels is the closest thing to a climate scientist in this "10 Most-Respected" list. He did do some climate research many years ago, but for the last two decades has largely been a climate denial spokesperson for the libertarian CATO Institute. He famously admitted that he receives a large percentage of his funding from fossil fuel interests to advocate on their behalf.

Remember that this is a list provided by an amateur climate denier and published in one of the climate denier media outlets. It's revealing both that amateur deniers would cite such a list of people with zero climate research expertise as "experts" and that the professional denialists would think that such a list is somehow not damning of their own disregard for science.

This list isn't an exception to the rule; it is the rule. Deniers routinely raise up to "expert" level people with absolutely no climate research expertise. Non-scientists like the political activist "Lord" Christopher Monckton, the pseudonymous comic book writer Joanna Nova, the ex-weather presenter Anthony Watts, the Heartland Institute lawyer/lobbyist James Taylor, and the aforementioned science fiction writer Michael Crichton are routinely touted as "experts" in a field that they have no actual expertise.

These same climate deniers then
dismiss actual scientific organizations like NASA, NOAA, the IPCC, the National Academies of Science, the UK Royal Academy, and all the other scientific organizations and active climate researchers.

No wonder amateur denialists remain ignorant of the state-of-the-science. And no wonder the professional climate denialist lobbies continue to feed falsehoods to the blogosphere knowing that there are plenty of amateurs out there to unskeptically saturate the internet with those falsehoods.

Meanwhile, the science is undeniable: warming of the climate system is unequivocal and humans are the dominant cause of that warming. Responsible people are offering policy options to deal with the science. To deny the science in an effort to avoid making policy choices is simply irresponsible.