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.