Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Why They Deny

A fascinating study by Myanna Lahsen, "Experiences of modernity in the greenhouse: A cultural analysis of a physicist ‘‘trio’’ supporting the backlash against global warming", on how several first generation climate change deniers (specifically the trio of Frederick Seitz, Robert Jastrow, and William Nierenberg, with nods towards Fred S. "alien base" Singer and a few others) gravitated from the center of the American scientific establishment to the Marshall Institute, Cato Institute, and the fringe.

The short answer? After WWII, physicists, and in particular nuclear physicists associated the Manhattan project, assumed an elite position in both scientific and Washington policy making circles. However, as the decades passed this position was challenged by other scientists from other fields (among them environmental scientists). The participation of "the trio" in the "climate change backlash" can be seen as an effort to protect their elite status as well as to refocus U.S. Science policy on "basic science" (ie physics)--to take science policy "back to the 1950s", in other words.

My favorite passage (saying the same thing at greater length):

In the early 1970s, American environmental sociologists predicted that national efforts to solve widely perceived environmental problems would ‘‘run head-on into many traditional values and time-honored practices’’ (Dunlap et al., 1973). This paper confirms their prediction, revealing the role of associated struggles over meaning and values in US climate science and politics. In some respects Nierenberg, Seitz and Jastrow are representative of broader categories of which they are partly part. They share common characteristics with other physicists and with a particular subgroup of physicists and governmental advisors in particular, an older generation of elite physicists shaped by nuclear physicists. The Marshall Institute trio has lived through dramatic changes in popular attitudes towards science and the environment. Their engagement in US climate politics can be understood in part as a struggle to preserve their particular culturally and historically charged understandings of scientific and environmental reality, and an associated, particular normative order. The trio has found support for important dimensions of their worldviews and policy preferences within the backlash and among Congressional Republicans, but they must continuously contend with challenges to the privilege to which they had grown accustomed in science and government.

All sorts of interesting tid-bits along the way to this conclusion. For example, Lahsen confirms the "old fart" nature of the Denialist movement, and suggests that there will not be a second wave once this one has passed:

...the dissenting side has encountered difficulties in terms of attracting new Ph.D.s to their ranks. I base this statement on ten years of research involving monitoring of media articles and events on the climate issue as well as more than a hundred interviews among US scientists involved with the climate issue or knowledgeable about US climate science and politics. This research suggests that only few new actors have joined the ranks of the staunch scientific skeptics on the climate issue since it gained widespread attention in the late 1980s.

Lakatos Law: No New PHDs = A deteriorating research program.

Also, how I signed Seitz's Oregon Petition.

h/t Pielke Jr.

17 comments:

wilbefore said...

The IPCC will be coming out with significant admissions that its models are in error, and that in fact the earth has not actually been warming since the first IPCC report predicted it would (let alone the corresponding hysteria that coastal cities should be starting to flood by now - ten years since the first predictions of gloom).

I would give you a link (which is already widely disseminated in the blogosphere) but you apparently have no interest in anything other than reaffirmations of your beliefs.

It is becoming increasingly apparent to those studying the causes of the earth's warming and cooling (studying it in totality and not a snippet of the earth's history with a predetermined perspective that it must be man made) that the sun's variability has been the principle driver.

That theory explains the Earth's recent cooling, the last increase in temperature(the latest in a long cycle of warming/cooling), and the "little ice age" which occurred a few hundred years ago.

The IPCC computer models explain nothing, as they've proved to be (as predicted by those who are experts in computer modeling) completely wrong.

It will continue to get cooler for the next several decades, according to those studying the solar cycles.

stick to it said...

"For example, Lahsen confirms the "old fart" nature of the Denialist movement, and suggests that there will not be a second wave once this one has passed:"

Unlike that young buck and GW zealot leader David Suzuki who will go on forever I suppose. Marxism has always been the wave of the future. Fortunately, the future for Marxism never seems to arrive.

Ding Dong Kyoto's dead said...

It's over, get with the program.

Corrupted by the pursuit of fame and money and encouraged by the environmental industry in need of the "Killer App", and entire branch of scientists pushed and lied their support for the AGW theory.

In hindsight, it was a ridiculous, preposterous claim - that a minor, trace level GHG could drive the entire climate system.

But then, the best scams often are built on the wildest claims - seems to appeal to human nature.

By the way, I have a bridge for sale, only used a few times, by old ladies on Sundays.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'll tell you why I'm not a sucker. Because I can read a particular group's scientific report and I can compare it to the appended Summary for Policymakers, and I can see that the recommendations in the Summary are not supported by the findings in the report.

Simple.
As.
That.

Anonymous said...

Why are you such a bigoted prick? Don't "old farts" have any rights to voice their opinions?

bigcitylib said...

Old farts tend to do bad science.

stick to it said...

"Old farts tend to do bad science." - BCL
Like that septuagenarian David Suzuki.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Here's another reason why we "deny".

http://www.igsoc.org/journal/54/184/j07J086.pdf

I know it's pointless to post these things here, as you closed-minded ecotards can't read a scientific report, let alone intend to read one.

Anonymous said...

How about you tell us why you are a believer?

Steve Bloom said...

anon 4:26 pm doesn't know how to read papers. Let's summarize for her/him:

The specific factors controlling the collapse of Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves are complex. Nonetheless, over the last thirty years a steady north to south progression of such collapses has been observed. This progression correlates to the steady warming of the AP. anon may wish to check yesterday's news:

'"One corner of it that's exposed to the ocean is shattering in a pattern that we've seen in a few places over the past 10 or 15 years. In every case, we've eventually concluded that it's a result of climate warming," Scambos added.

'(...)

'Scambos said this ice shelf has been in place for at least a few hundred years, but warm air and exposure to ocean waves are causing a breakup. In the past half century, the Antarctic Peninsula has witnessed a warming as fast as anywhere on the planet, according to scientists.

'"The warming that's going on in the peninsula is pretty clearly tied to greenhouse gas increases and the change that they have in the atmospheric circulation around the Antarctic," Scambos said.'

Let's see, would that be the same Ted Scambos who co-authored the paper anon linked? I think it would.

Anonymous said...

First there was the bogus story of the Tuvalu Islands "refugees".

Then the "Link to Global Warming in Frogs’ Disappearance Is Challenged".

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/science/25frog.html?8br

And now, Josh Willis of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratorysays, says this of the world's ocean temperatures, based on data from the 3000 Argo buoys:

"There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant,".

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88520025

Oceans cooling? Has the world gone crazy??

- Paul S

Hurleybird said...

Any paper with "Experiences of modernity" in the title is written by an idiot trying to sound smart. If that's not abundantly clear to you then you need to read George Orwell's essay on "Politics and the English Language"

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

Anonymous said...

On Earth Day, remember to crank up the furnace and turn on all the lights. I'll be heading off to the lake on the weekend to chainsaw up some firewood, and will hopefully get to try out my new SKS at the gun range on the way home.

Anonymous said...

Anony, Earth Day is so old school.
If you *really* want to save the earth, go for Earth Hour 2008.

http://www.earthhour.org/

- Paul S

Anonymous said...

I'll hold off then until Earth Minute becomes popular.