Thursday, June 29, 2017

A New Scientific Study Came Out - And Deniers Immediately Lied About It

One of the more prevalent tactics of climate science deniers is to lie. They do this by cherry-picking, misrepresentation, straw men, and a number of other mechanisms of dishonesty. Sometimes they just outright lie. A case in point is how deniers reacted to a new scientific study by climate scientist Ben Santer and colleagues. 

A good review of the study and its meaning is presented in the Guardian by scientist and science writer Dana Nuccitelli. The Santer study can be see directly here. I recommend you read both, or if the science paper is too much, at least read the Nuccitelli article, which gives a great overview of how deniers have misrepresented the paper.

After discussing the false assertions of climate denier favorite John Christy, who has a habit of providing unsupported (and unsupportable) assertions in an attempt to discredit climate models (except, of course, his own), Nuccitelli notes that the Santer et al. study:

...effectively disproved Christy’s assertion that the discrepancy was due to models being too sensitive to the increased greenhouse effect. Instead, the main culprit seems to be incorrect inputs used in the climate model simulations.

Models, like any other tool used to study complex phenomena, provide a mechanism for learning. Actual climate scientists are constantly evaluating real world observations and assessing how well the models mimic those observations. Thus, models are constantly being improved. And here's one more critical point: models are used to assess projections based on known inputs. They don't "predict," and most certainly they don't predict on short-term variations. Models are designed to assess long-term trends. And evaluation of these models, as Nuccitelli notes, "are still quite accurate."

Deniers, on the other hand, take any short-term variation that seems to drift from the long-term trend and claim it means the models are worthless. That is akin to claiming we have no idea if summer is on average much colder than winter in the northern U.S. just because we get an unusually cold day in June. The deniers' claims are absolutely ridiculous, and it is incredibly dishonest to say so. While most deniers are ignorant of the science (reading Facebook and a denier blog does not make you a climate scientist), actual climate scientists like John Christy and Roy Spencer have no excuse for routinely saying things they most certainly should know not to be true.

Not surprisingly, lobbyists and their associated spokespeople like Christy and Spencer feed these misrepresentations of the Santer et al. paper into the blogosphere with the full knowledge that the falsehoods will grow into full-fledged lies. It fits the same pattern lobbyists have employed for many years - seed the paid blogs with falsehoods and misrepresentations, encourage ideological (and grossly ignorant) non-science bloggers to plagiarize and spread those falsehoods until they saturate the internet. Recent studies have also suggested that lobbyists and their cohorts (perhaps with Russian hacker help?) manipulate Google results to shift falsehoods to the top of the search display. 

All of this, of course, is dishonest. Lobbyists intentionally create misrepresentations (to put it mildly) and help spread those misrepresentations. There are lobbyist blog sites that do this directly, and there are thousands of willing ideologues who spread the lies further.

This is what they do.

Which is why scientists, science communicators, and the general public have to be aware of these tactics. Check the sources. Find the original articles. Learn the basics of climate science.