Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Last Gasp of Climate Denial Groups

The headline in the Guardian says it all: "No longer taken seriously, we're seeing the last gasp of climate denial groups." Written by scientist and regular Guardian contributor, Dana Nuccitelli, explores the recent lecture given by "Lord" Matt Ridley, a somewhat journalist known for his misleading (to be kind) support of climate change denial lobbyists. Most specifically in this regard is the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), an anti-science climate denial policy lobbying organization in the UK.

Click on the link above to read Nuccitelli's debunking of Ridley's repetition of the usual denier talking points, all of which have been debunked over and over and over before.

In a nutshell, Ridley is wrong to claim that environmental predictions are "always exaggerated." The examples he gives weren't exaggerated (in fact, they were likely underestimated) AND they were corrected by taking appropriate policy action. We took responsibility for them and fixed them.

Ridley is also wrong to claim "model predictions have been consistently wrong." In fact, models have been remarkably accurate. If anything, they have underpredicted the rate and magnitude of man-made climate change.

Ridley is absolutely wrong to claim "the best evidence" indicates climate sensitivity is "relatively low." In fact, he's carefully, and dishonestly, cherry picked the handful of studies he likes and ignored all the majority of studies that he doesn't like.

Finally, Ridley is wrong again when he suggests that all the world's scientists for the last 100+ years are in on some grand conspiracy. Frankly, when you have to have global, multigenerational conspiracies to "explain" your position, you know you have no scientific evidence.

Again, these points are discussed in detail in Nuccitelli's excellent debunking.

Why was this talk even given?

But let's step back and explore the "last gasp" part of the title. The Ridley talk was given on the premises of the Royal Society, which is the UK's version of the National  Academy of Sciences. The obvious question is why would the Royal Society open up its conference facility to such a person as Matt Ridley, especially as he was there representing the GWPF lobbying organization? Many scientists asked this question as well, rightly concerned that the GWPF was attempting to garner some undue credibility by having the talk in such a prestigious location.

Like most scientific organizations, the Royal Society (RS) is underfunded and often rents out its conference rooms to outside groups. Once a contract is signed they can't really cancel the event without cause. Apparently the RS initially thought that since the science is unequivocal, having a "policy" oriented talk would focus on policy options for addressing the science.

Not surprisingly, that isn't what Ridley did. As usual for GWPF, he spent the majority of his lecture denying the science rather than proposing policy measures. That is par for the course for denial lobbyists, who prefer to deny the existence of reality instead of take responsibility for addressing it.

And so the "last gasp." Denial lobbyists have painted themselves into the corner of their own rhetoric. They've been denying the unequivocal science of man-made climate change for so long and with such clearly divorced-from-reality deception that they have no honest way of shifting to actual policy discussions. Given that their denial is so obviously dishonest, they have nothing left than to try stunts like this. "Ooh, what a coup. We're at the Royal Society. That will get us some credibility!"

Dana Nuccitelli's Guardian article shows the result is the opposite. Other than their ideological Facebook spammers, no one takes the denial lobbyists and their spokespeople seriously any more. The Paris climate agreement recently went into force earlier than expected because the nations of the world understand the necessity of dealing with the unequivocal science. Deniers are becoming more and more pathetic and alone in their denial.

Denial lobbying groups like GWPF, Heartland Institute, Cato Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, and all the other fossil fuel- and libertarian-funded lobbyists and their hired spokespeople have devolved into self-parody, much like, as Nuccitelli notes, the Trump-led Republican party in the United States.


S. Lawrence Parrish said...

So Paul Erlich got it right? So we had an ice age? So there's been horrible hurricanes like Katrina (since Katrina)? Seriously. . . .

The Dake Page said...

As everyone knows, Ehrlich did not represent the consensus of scientific view at the time, though his warnings did lead to changes in how we looked at food production and population. In some ways he was correct as more than 10% of the world's population today is undernourished, with estimates of about 21,000 people dying from poverty-related caused each day.

Also as everyone knows, your "ice age" comment is uninformed, relying on a lack of understanding of the state of the science in the 1970s, where the overwhelming consensus was that our emissions of carbon dioxide was warming the climate much more than any potential cooling from aerosols. Of course, once we took care of air pollutants (which were killing people), the aerosol effect was reduced and CO2 effects of warming the climate were unmasked.

As for hurricanes like Katrina, the U.S. has had a remarkable run of not being hit by hurricanes in the usual places, but typhoons in the rest of the world have reached epic proportions that go beyond even our "Category 5" limits of labels. And of course Hurricane Sandy, while officially only a Category 2 storm, was the deadliest and most destructive storm in 2012. Other storms not labeled hurricanes have decimated the U.S., as have droughts in other parts of the country.

There is no question that man-made climate change is having impacts already on climate-based events, and, of course, will continue to have even harsher, more destructive effects as CO2 and temperatures continue to rise (as will sea level, ocean acidification, and Arctic melting).

Learning this isn't hard once you decide you want to learn.

S. Lawrence Parrish said...

Thanks for the response! However, 285 papers from the 60s and 70s supported the impending ice age hysteria. Please don't simply ad hom the source. The papers are linked. Leonard Nimoy hosted a special about it ( ), as did Walter Cronkite ( ). Apparently they also knew nothing about the state of the science. To say Paul Erlich got anything right is like saying The Book of Revelations got some stuff right. Malnutrition has been on the downturn since the advent of fossil fuels. This fact is prima facie. As a percentage of population, fewer people starve to death now than since records were begun. This does not support Erlich's prophecy. Disasters of epic proportions have been happening forever. And they're still happening now. We've kept good records about such things for too short of a time to say the rate of them occurring in recent times is unprecedented. But I equivocate. . . .

The Dake Page said...

False. The consensus at the end of the 1970s was that the warming of CO2 far overwhelmed any cooling effects of aerosols.

Do not comment if you are going to rely on the repeated falsehoods of non-science accountants supported by fossil fuel and political lobbying groups. If you're going to insist on ignoring all of the science and cherry picking falsely "reinterpreted" sound bites, you've shown yourself to be intellectually dishonest and incapable of discussion.

The Dake Page said...

Those interested in correct information about the 1970s can start here:

For a comprehensive discussion of the state of knowledge on climate change, read the latest IPCC reports: