by Andy West
Climate psychologists have for years now puzzled over public inaction on climate change and also what makes skeptics tick (or sick), apparently making little progress on these issues.
Their lengthening list of possibilities includes plausible candidates that are nevertheless weak or narrow in scope – attempting to stretch them to match survey data always causes a conundrum of some kind to be exposed – and the implausible such as conspiracy ideation, which appears not stretchable to the data at all.
I believe the systemic error behind the puzzlement of climate psychologists is readily identifiable. The error is that the climate psychologists do not perceive that a culture dominates environmentalism. A culture based upon misinformation about the certainty of catastrophe (from CO2). A culture which enforces a Consensus, as strong cultures do, upon scientific endeavor that is nowhere near mature enough to have reached consensus without enforcement.
The climate psychologists come in two groups, which I call the Bad Cops and Good Cops, and who intentionally or not end up policing the Consensus. Both appear to view climate change as essentially flat fact, purely settled science, not as a culture.
I’m sure we all know the archetypal bad cop. Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky’s ‘conspiracy ideation’ papers (‘Moon hoax’ and ‘Recursive Fury’) that link climate skeptics to generic belief in ‘way out there’ conspiracies, have generated a great deal of traffic in the climate blogosphere and the media. Not least regarding pretty much inarguable challenges to their detailed methodology and data collection, the legitimacy of such approval procedures as occurred, and even the ethics of the papers; essentially the entire validity of these works. Indeed ‘Recursive Fury’ was eventually withdrawn from the journal Frontiers of Psychology on ethical grounds. My posts AW1 to AW3 at Watts Up With That describe the likely route of Lewandowsky into the cognitive-dissonance avoidance which appears to be driving his psychological policing of climate orthodoxy. This avoidance stems from much reasonable work on cognitive bias, largely prior to his jumping off the deep end in the climate domain, which if applied to this domain shows that the CAGW Consensus absolutely has to be soaked in bias.
So much for our archetypal bad climate cop. What about good climate cops? Just like real cops, these are the ones who don’t work backwards from a gross assumption of guilt for the crime, who don’t end up force-fitting the evidence while loudly proclaiming “he did it, bang him up!” (The ‘crime’ in question being psychological dysfunction expressed within the climate domain). The ones who actually try to figure out what the data about public attitudes is telling them, the ones with a reasonable approach, the ones who can still be surprised, the ones who do actually want to investigate this ‘crime’, rather than simply pinning it on the guys who everyone ‘knows’ are bad and loudly proclaiming that ‘result’ to the public (thereby ‘saving’ everyone from further bad influence). One such good cop is Dan Kahan. And indeed, our good cop expressed surprise at the results of a survey that was part of his investigation. I was alerted to this surprise by a Climate Etc post, which I followed back to Dan’s post What is going on inside their heads? (DK1) on the blog at the cultural cognition project, which post is in turn the main source of my ‘good cop’ analysis here.
Dan’s surprise comes from a noble attempt to separate identity from knowledge in a survey crafted to gather what he hopes are genuine public attitudes to climate change, on the basis that the wording of questions in many previous surveys caused respondents to identify with and promote ‘their side’, rather than reveal what they truly think about particular aspects of the climate debate. See some detail on this new approach at another of Dan’s posts (DK2). He says towards the end of DK1: ‘The thing to be explained took me by surprise, and I don’t feel that I actually have figured out the significance of it for other things that I do feel I know.’
So what caused this surprise? What needs to be explained? Well unlike in the UK, in the US mainstream politics is split over attitudes to climate change. And the split is ugly, as Dan himself notes. However in his DK2 survey regarding scary climate possibilities, which is theoretically geared to eliminate identity issues (the main one here being political allegiance), the responses of both the Republicans and Democrats are very similar. The response differences are reduced to ‘trivial’, Dan says, the big majority of both groups believing all the scary possibilities. Dan claims this implies a common attitude, a ‘widespread apprehension of danger’ in both the Democrats and the Republicans.
Part 2 comes from direct questioning about whether the world is warming ‘mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels’, or ‘mostly because of natural patterns in the Earth’s environment’. As expected, this head-on style questioning invokes identity issues and so yields responses that differ significantly due to political allegiance (Republican / Conservative or Democrat / Liberal). Respondents perceive this question as a political one and so respond accordingly. Yet the more science-aware the responders are (established by other questions), the wider the gulf is between the two political groups. Science-aware Republicans / Conservatives almost all answer ‘natural patterns’ whereas science-aware Democrats / Liberals almost all answer ‘human activity’; the gulf between these two is nowhere near so large for the science unaware, to the extent that there is even a small overlap. Dan says: ‘…these citizens—the ones, again, who display the highest degree of science comprehension generally & of the mechanisms of climate change in particular—are also the most politically polarized on whether global warming is occurring at all.’ Note: the science questions come in an Ordinary Science Intelligence survey (DK3) and an Ordinary Climate Science Intelligence survey (DK4).
Dan then logically adds part 1 to part 2 and comes up with ‘what needs to be explained’. He expresses this in DK1 by quoting a question from one his audience at a lecture, as the man’s question perfectly expressed his own puzzlement: ‘How, he [the member of the audience] asked, can someone simultaneously display comprehension of human-caused global warming and say he or she doesn’t “believe in” it? In fact, this was exactly what Yoshi and I had been struggling with…’ Hence the title of Dan’s DK1 post: ‘What is going on inside their heads?’
While clearly unsettled about this apparently bizarre contradiction, Dan bulls on and attempts to explain this contradiction in psychological terms. He comes up with four possibilities, which he names FYATHYRIO (F*ck you and the horse you rode in on), Compartmentalization, Partition, and Dualism. Well I’m not going into detail on each of these, follow them up at DK1 if you’re interested. Suffice to say that while these are all effects that can be found somewhere in society, each only occurs for a small minority within extremely specific circumstances, and there is no evidence at all that these circumstances could apply across such a wide and varied swathe of the population expressing skepticism on climate change. This is still more the case in countries like the UK, where all the three main political parties fully back climate change policies to combat CO2 emissions, yet public skepticism (which therefore is necessarily far less tribal, much less aligned to particular political parties that is) is nevertheless still rife. While Dan’s surveys cover the US only, even within this more tribal subset case he is turning over very small stones indeed to try and discover a psychological profile for his culprits. Adding panto to good cop / bad cop metaphor, I was tempted in my original reading to shout “its behind you”.
To be fair to our good cop, he rapidly rules out 3 of his 4 possibilities, settling uncomfortably on Dualism. He uses the example of a religious medical doctor (I think based on a real case) to illustrate what happens in this effect. The doctor does not believe in evolution, yet he simultaneously uses the theory to achieve success in his job (for instance in stem cell research). This apparently grave mental contradiction can work without the doctor becoming schizophrenic or being otherwise impaired (and even unaware of his bizarre position), as long as the domains of his social and religious life remain strictly separate from his career domain. While no doubt this effect could occur outside of religion, would anyone like to guess what the odds are of about half of America’s science-aware population being subject to this same kind of effect regarding their belief in climate change? That’s probably tens of millions of people (the Commerce Department claims that about 15 million US residents hold a STEM major, and to be merely ‘science aware’ must be a very much larger figure indeed). This ‘dualism’ is after all an extraordinary condition; one that requires a strict maintenance of specific circumstances, plus I think also a pretty damn unusual developmental path to arrive at. To his credit, I don’t think that in his heart Dan really believes in this answer anyhow. He says: ‘But I do not feel particularly confident about this account—in part because even after constructing it, I still myself am left wondering, “But what exactly is going on in their heads?”’
A number of commenters at DK1 have attempted to point out to Dan that his investigation is flawed and / or that he’s chasing the wrong scent. And Dan is very accommodating and eminently reasonable in reply. He’s a good cop after all, and it seems a hard working one too. He makes some useful points, such as the fact that the science literate in a debate (or those possessing other forms of literacy or critical thinking) can magnify a disposition to fit the evidence to cultural predispositions. (This would appear as a symmetrical motivated reasoning effect for both sides, although in various ways the climate debate is far from symmetrical).
Yet he constantly slips very politely away from any suggestion that his own bias, or indeed possible bias within Consensus science generally, could have materially affected either his suspect list or the basis of his investigation. For instance in reply to several folks, Dan says: ‘…whether the evidence is “clear” or “unclear” etc. doesn’t affect any of the inferences I’m drawing on… maybe the problem is that people don’t understand what I’m drawing inferences about (public opinion formation– not whether the evidence supports human-caused global warming or whether scientists are biased, etc).’ To Paul Matthews pointing out that there isn’t any contradiction implied by science aware Rep/Cons rejecting the views of [orthodox] climate scientists on Global Warming, Dan’s main response is that he doesn’t think this ‘plausibly explains the patterns of public opinion I am examining’. He also admits that there are (maybe many) possibilities that could explain the data, but in reply to commenter Paul says (among other things): ‘The puzzle — if there is one– is a consequence of the thing to be explained being the opposite of what one would have expected.’ But what one expects depends upon one’s biases and assumptions.
As a pre-cursor to looking at his results, I figured to check what bias or ambiguity may exist in Dan’s survey questions, which might possibly have tilted respondents results in some way. (If so, there may be nothing to be done about that in retrospect, no analytical fix, but it’s always good to be aware). In DK2 / DK4 some of the questions are meant to be wrong, but ambiguity in the wrong questions could potentially still be a problem too. For instance ‘false’ is the appropriate response to the question ‘If the North Pole icecap melted as a result of human caused global-warming, global sea levels would rise.’ While this is technically the right response, there have been many scare stories about sea level rise due to melting ‘in the Arctic’ or ‘in Greenland’. How many folks wouldn’t be able to distinguish between ‘the North Pole’, and ‘the Arctic’? Especially when the term ‘icecap’ is rarely used for sea-ice, as ‘Rob’ points out. Maybe a bit too ambiguous even for a science comprehension test. In practice this ambiguity truly may not matter in the context in which it is set; given a big majority of both camps believed all the scare stories whether they were true or not, the responses would likely be very similar. Likewise for a question incorporating a core value that one is trying to explore in the first place: ‘human-caused global warming will result in flooding of many coastal region’. Dan’s appropriate response is ‘true’, but this response is really only true if human caused global warming is sufficient of a problem, which is what the entire debate and the entire scientific effort is still engaged upon finding out. Given the context and the DK2 / DK4 results that did occur, I wouldn’t expect a big impact, yet the latter issue reveals a mindset that might bring bias to more critical parts of the investigation.
Indeed there’s a bigger problem with the main (directly phrased) question in DK1: ‘[is the Earth] getting warmer (a) mostly because of human activity like burning fossil fuels, or (b) mostly because of natural patterns in the Earth’s environment?’ While various surveys in recent years have used almost this exact same wording, and indeed until a belated acceptance of ‘The Pause’, (a) was the only officially available line, it’s hard to forgive Dan for not digging deeper and understanding that much of the real debate in fact centers upon the relative weights of (a) and (b). Especially after that acceptance, when the much greater role of natural patterns (up to ~50:50 weighting) is a front runner in the various mainstream offerings trying to explain why the real-world failed to get warmer over the last ~15 to 18 years, as projected by climate models. The absence of an option (c) no-one knows yet, will surely increase polarization and the ‘identity defense’ nature of responses, which may have dominated anyhow yet now we won’t know that.
This all suggests that Dan’s instruments are somewhat weighted off centre, constructed using parts from orthodox climate science . For instance in DK4 he seems to suggest that the ‘decreased rate at which temperatures increased’ over the last 15 years, is still supportive re the Consensus position, rather than a rate that’s on the edge of invalidating the models, not to mention is effectively zero (within statistical significance and across multiple temp series, with some data ‘paused’ for more years than 15). These are the very same models from which the conclusion of serious danger regarding AGW were drawn. This is a hint that Dan’s subsequent analysis may biased this way too. On the upside and despite an orthodox framework, Dan has tried to tempt equally those of either affective orientation (i.e. skeptic or orthodox) into the wrong answers (another device that may help to separate knowledge from identity defense).
Despite all this there is some great data here, especially on the ‘science aware’ people, albeit we need to look at it within the context of other surveys. And indeed focusing so intensely on the left/right political polarizations makes the effects we see through that particular lens appear more important than they are. The place of those effects within the whole context will be better fixed by looking through other lenses too. In this respect at least, Dan’s plan to remove political identity seemed good. Appendix 1 looks at the results of a few other surveys, which rank Global Warming within other environmental issues, and also within all US National issues of importance. This is a way of diluting left/right identity challenge within a larger context, and assessing the true importance of Global Warming to the respondents. And it is clear that the strong majority support from Democrats regarding belief in man-made Global Warming (typically in the 60-85% range), drops to minority support (typically 20-45%) regarding the mandate to make it the top priority, causing this ‘ultimate’ issue to sink very low or dead last on all priority polls. Republican figures shrink much less (typically 10-15%), though far less believe in man-made GW in the first place. But it is the Democrat loss of resolve that largely drives the collapse in support for action on Global Warming.
This provides a very strong clue about what’s going on that can be used in analysis of Dan’s results, as executed in Appendix 2. This analysis finds that the assumption of an independent culture inspired by the concept of climate change, i.e. one not spawned from left-wing or right-wing politics, provides a much better fit to Dan’s survey results. This culture has an interaction, a relationship, with both political left and right, but in the US at least its alliance with the left happens to be far stronger (causing more cultural steering here than for the Republicans). The large percentage drop in Democrat responses (depending on what questions are asked) mentioned above, represent those in alliance with, but not personally committed to the belief and cause of man-made Global Warming. These ‘shifters’ only ‘believe’ when their party allegiance calls upon them to believe. The analysis in Appendix 2 rests upon only mainstream cognitive bias mechanisms, not anything unusual such as ‘duality’. No common ‘widespread apprehension of danger’ is found, but a widespread lack of faith in climate science pronouncements, is.
It’s easier to visualize the cultural landscape on a diagram. Here’s a tentative one I knocked up for this post, with suggested figures for the present US scenario taken from the quoted polls in Appendix 1 (which figures are pretty fuzzy anyhow as different polls show quite some variance). It’s for concept not accuracy, though may have representational problems I haven’t thought about yet…
It sinks in rather more when looking at this map that CAGW has adherents on the political right too; cultures will wow and woo anyone they can. I haven’t yet checked surveys for other countries, but in some (e.g. the UK), the slope of the left to right rising lines should be much shallower, with climate culture and alliance encompassing much more of the right. The Consensus narrative on climate change is officially supported by the UK Conservatives, although there are probably a few more rebels than on the left. But the same generic principles hold. Those in the ‘alliance’ band are the respondents who shift allegiance depending upon the questions asked, per above and explanations in Appendix 2. Note that the right has a few shifters too. In the US these can’t be defending their identity in terms of simple party allegiance; they may be in alliance due to other social drives. E.g. falling to peer pressure about seeming stupid or uncaring on this trendy / moral issue, or expressing more complex political motives, e.g. from the Republican left wing and not wanting to seem like a ‘tea-party dinosaur’, maybe even leveraging climate change as a platform to ‘modernize’ local Republicans (see GOP deeply divided over climate change).
This suggests that at least some shifters on the left may also have more complex motivations, which likely are not fully conscious. The lack of trust arrow on the left (it won’t necessarily be contiguous in this representation, hence the dashed part), taken from the Rasmussen survey (see Appendix 2) about falsification of global warming data, must penetrate very deep into shifter territory, suggesting that many Democrats allied to climate culture not only don’t believe all the scary stories, they even believe some of the science is deliberately fixed. Their alliance is simply to further a personal social / political agenda in some way.
Note: According to Dan’s data, if we could visualize the graph separately for the science unaware and science aware folks, as indicated by the colored arrows that show which way the slopes tilt, they would be shallower for the former and steeper for the latter. See Appendix 2 for more context. ‘Innate’ in the ‘innate skeptics’ refers to the instinctive protections that can be triggered against misinformation and cultural bulldozing, Lewandowksy’s key to accuracy, see AW1 to AW3 for reference.
With typical insight and brevity, Judith Curry captures a big part of the implication from Dan’s data with a single sentence: ‘The issue is this: the public sees a vociferous debate about climate change in the media and on blogs, and people that are actually paying attention to science see reasons to question the consensus.’ But Dan doesn’t see this skepticism as valid. Recall that summary of his puzzlement Dan gave, of ‘what needs to be explained’, as expressed by one of his audience at a lecture: ‘How, he asked, can someone simultaneously display comprehension of human-caused global warming and say he or she doesn’t “believe in” it?’ Dan is rebranding skepticism as disbelief. He comes to the conclusion that the science aware Rep/Cons are culturally steered and so trapped in ‘dualism’. I think this is key to Dan’s investigation veering off course. The above assumption of disbelief comes in turn from assuming that the (science aware) Dem/Libs must be ‘right’ in the polarized chart in DK1, essentially pinning them to an absolute truth that he personally believes exists. Everything else in the investigation had to flow backwards from this fixed position. This is pretty much bound to cause puzzles and inconsistencies, and ultimately ends up with the same result as the bad cop, i.e. with the entire psychological case essentially turned upside-down. I guess a difference between the bad and good cops is that the latter don’t know that they’re policing the Consensus, are unaware that they’re under its influence. But CAGW culture is effectively steering Dan’s investigation.
In comments Dan summarizes his assumption about puzzling Rep/Con behavior as a ‘knowing disbelief’, thus showing that he thinks the subjects in question have access to an absolute knowledge, which contradicts their disbelief. But there is no such knowledge. At the opposite pole, neither does overlapping knowledge provide any absolutes confirming the Dem/Lib belief. As Professor Judith Curry points out in comments regarding the DK1 survey question on Global Warming (i.e. is it man-made or natural): ‘I don’t know how to answer this question. Given the inadequate evidence (lack of knowledge about solar impacts, inability to adequately model the network of multidecadal internal variability, etc) my current best assessment is 50-50. And this is something I have studied carefully for the past 5 years and have published papers on.’
A good psychological analysis ought to be (at least somewhat) robust to where the truth lies regarding disputed scientific pronouncements. Whether these eventually turn out to be right or not, psychological effects can occur independently of real-world constraints, potentially for several generations while once nascent science spreads to mature and accepted science, or alternatively withers in the face of better theories. Yet I think Dan’s interpretation completely falls apart if one does not pin the Dem/Libs to an absolute correctness. By this act he has effectively ruled out the (genuine) uncertainty that is providing the platform for the potentially amplified cultural positions of both political camps. I happen to believe that by virtue of alliance to CAGW culture, i.e. the culture of belief in the certainty of catastrophe, the science aware Dem/Lib pole is far more culturally driven than the equivalent Rep/Con pole. But to some extent the truth can float in my analysis, certainly from an outcome of the Consensus ending up dead wrong, to the position of the Luke-warmers and somewhat beyond; this just means different strengths of bias have arisen as culture has outstripped science.
Essentially the culture of the certainty of catastrophe that was triggered by CO2 worry, has long ago outstripped the constraints of current science. Hence its psychological influence shows now, whatever degree of veracity eventually turns out to be present within those worries, from none to significant to an increasingly unlikely major percentage. And so we come to the generic, to the underlying flaw in Dan’s investigation. Not acknowledging the strong cultural nature of the Consensus will result in seeing apparent behaviors from the data that seem peculiar to say the least, including Dan’s highly unlikely proposal of ‘dualism’. Further, not acknowledging that despite an alliance with the left (stronger in some countries than in others) this culture has its own independent drivers, which have not grown out of the left / right spectrum, will create still more apparent oddities. This culture will serve its own interests and will flirt or spat with all other major players, e.g. religions, if any advantage can be gained, or indeed even with the political right (in which it has some dedicated adherents even in the US) if in some country or period this move offers a better deal than that with the left. The UK Conservative prime minister’s promise of ‘the greenest government ever’ is a real example; a deal that helped him get into power and then benefited climate culture in return.
An unrecognized cultural dimension explains puzzles raised in many of Dan’s comments. For instance in reply to ‘Evan’, Dan says: ‘Therefore I wouldn’t infer from polarization on any particular issues that it is one on which the evidence is unclear. On the contrary, I’d conclude that if the issue has that quality, then an inordinately high number of people will continue to think the evidence is unclear no matter what.’ Well if a strong culture is not involved, of course! But this is exactly what strong cultures do best, they maintain enforced consensuses about the unclear and the unknowable. And because Dan himself is influenced by this culture that is enforcing a consensus, then his inferences (via weighted instruments and biased analysis) are affected by the (same) cultural bias as in the (orthodox) scientists.
In other text below that led from a DK1 comment, Dan says: ‘But I don’t see skeptics grappling in the earnest—even obsessive, anxious—way that climate-change policy advocates are with the task of how to promote better public understanding. That seems weird to me. After all, there is a symmetry in the position of “believers” and “skeptics” in this regard. They disagree about what conclusion the best scientific evidence on climate change supports, obviously. But they both have to confront that approximately 50% of the U.S. public disagrees with their position on that.’ This is not weird at all! It is the strong climate culture that fosters anxious and obsessive behavior, as many insistent cultures do. Those who are not (or who are much less) influenced by this culture, will overall exhibit much less of these behaviors. Nor are the positions really symmetrical in regard of climate culture; an apparent rough symmetry on core questions that challenge identity is an artifact of the big Dem/Libs alliance. In truth climate culture has a very long way to go indeed to become invulnerable and dominant in the US; the alliance could let it down at any time. This is very likely to result in anxiety from its cultural adherents. And promoting ‘better public understanding’, especially when conducted through deliberately emotive campaigns (see AW2), is usually tantamount to promoting climate culture rather than promoting science. Those outside of a culture do not communally and systemically try to project their anxieties, like these Ozzie environmental scientists and their Scared Scientists colleagues do.
And recall Dan’s comment from above: ‘The puzzle — if there is one– is a consequence of the thing to be explained being the opposite of what one would have expected.’ By which he means that he would have expected the Rep/Cons to become less polarized as their science awareness rises, not more so. Yet with a strong (climate) culture in play, one expects more polarization with more awareness. The more aware on one side are drawn into defense of cultural orthodoxy; the more aware on the other side have better ammunition with which to oppose orthodoxy. The Dem/Libs are on the side of orthodoxy, which may or may not be shown (when cultural bonds are eventually shrugged off and true science returns) to hold some truths, yet whose currently enforced ‘truths’ are more a narrative / social feature than a scientific one.
The climate psychologists make complex twists and turns in order to avoid looking at rampant bias effects in the Consensus. Regarding what should be happening, Judith Curry is once more right on the money. She says in DK1 comments (in reply to Evan): ‘Bingo Evan… Claiming a scientific consensus with extremely likely confidence level seems ludicrous, given these ambiguities and uncertainties. Dan should focus some effort to understand exactly why so many scientists actually believe this (i.e. what are they thinking and how are they thinking).’ In practice this kind of belief has been rather well understood by overlapping disciplines (including psychology and cultural evolution) essentially for decades. But the climate psychologists are all embedded in the climate culture, which blinds good cops and bad cops alike. In Dan’s case it seems rather ironic that a failure to even consider the effects of a strong (climate) culture, should occur within the online investigation at a site called ‘the cultural cognition project’. And not only is climate culture obvious, it is also self-admitted (see AW2, including the Appendix).
There is no big puzzle in Dan’s data. The effects shaping the climate culture are not at all unusual and frequently occur across whole societies or major portions thereof. Some of these (cognitive bias) effects as detailed in literature from Lewandowsky and colleagues (mainstream stuff largely prior to his very controversial and contested conspiracy ideation papers), are discussed with respect to the Consensus in AW1 to AW3. Considering the authors, this literature cannot possible be subject to skeptic bias.
The material in these Lew and Crew papers is very much in tune with material at the cultural cognition blog, at least as discovered in my brief sorties there. For instance the clip below from Dan, which I found from a link in the comments at DK1 (my number references added): ‘Cognitive-dissonance avoidance will steel individuals to resist empirical data that either threatens practices they revere  or bolsters ones they despise , particularly when accepting such data would force them to disagree with individuals they respect . The cultural judgments embedded in affect will speak more authoritatively than contrary data as individuals gauge what practices are dangerous and what practices are not . And the culturally partisan foundation of trust will make them dismiss contrary data as unreliable if they perceive that it originates from persons who don’t harbor their own cultural commitments . This picture is borne out by additional well-established psychological and social mechanisms.’
I couldn’t agree more! Applying this to the climate domain, we find:  In just one example of many, empirical evidence on ‘The Pause’ was acknowledged very late and very grudgingly, even then with implausible caveats that (in so many words), “it doesn’t really make any difference”. This powerful resistance is because the data gets very close indeed to invalidating the climate models (a core scientific ‘practice’ underpinning climate orthodoxy itself). Plus  it bolsters the arguments of the despised skeptics and bolsters the despised practices (e.g. fossil fuel consumption) that are opposed by climate culture.  A very wide range of environmental topics are tied to the central narrative of imminent (on decadal to one century scale) catastrophe, and accepting skeptical data upon any of them these days, has come to be seen by climate culture as a betrayal of (depending upon country and affiliations), government leaders and policy, many celebrities, scientific leaders and bodies, moral leaders (the Pope may be the latest), even one’s children and one’s grandchildren plus most of the life on Earth and the planet itself. This is a far more cogent barrier to acceptance than mere disagreement!  Climate cultural judgments based on misinformation about the certainty of catastrophe are underwriting dangerous practices that are draining economies worldwide, increasing the price of energy (causing consequent poverty and excess deaths), plus enabling the bio-fuel debacle. The latter is both harming the environment and also hitting the poor by pushing up the cost of food production (hence yet more hardship and a potential increase in starvation). Meanwhile the practice of emitting CO2 is defined as very dangerous, when there isn’t yet evidence that the danger ranks (relative to all the other dangers we face anyhow), or even has net downsides (there are upsides to increased CO2 and warmth and some economists for instance argue this side up). And ; Could there be a better description of how the culturally biased Consensus network treats skeptics? Including (once) respected scientists who are brave enough to offer data that challenges the Consensus line in any way.
A failure to acknowledge the climate culture results in these kind of concepts (with which psychologists are very familiar), from ever being applied to the Consensus in their analyses.
At the beginning of this post I said: ‘The ‘crime’ in question being psychological dysfunction expressed within the climate domain’. I say dysfunction because, while we all have ‘behavior’, even the good cops are arriving at the conclusion that there must be something ‘wrong’ with skeptics, i.e. behavior that is abnormal. Our example bad cop calls it conspiracy ideation and many bad cops and some good ones too implicitly compare skeptic behavior to the (abnormal) denial of the Holocaust, via their use of the ‘denier’ term. Our example good cop has plumped for dualism. Yet the endless search for this crime is vain. There is no abnormal behavior, so there is no ‘crime’. While investigations remain rooted in the bias of climate culture, itself driven by emotive misinformation on the certainty of catastrophe, they will nevertheless keep on searching and turn up only more puzzlement. Meanwhile despite best intentions, the good cops are propagating almost as much myth as the bad cops. They are both just a short step away from saying that the skeptics are crazy; an accusation made throughout history at those who don’t share blind bias.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t abnormal behavior within the Consensus either; cultural hi-jacking and the enforcement of consensuses is practically as common in humans societies as sleeping and eating, and certainly more common than the common cold. All the climate psychology cops need to do is to turn around; it’s behind you!
Appendix 1: Evidence from other polls on attitudes to climate change [Appendix 1]
Appendix 2: An analysis of poll results [Appendix 2]
My time is pretty pressured so it’s taken me quite a while to get this cranked out, some months after the Climate Etc post that alerted me (September 2014), which itself was after the featured Dan Kahan posts (June to August). I haven’t revisited Dan’s investigation to see how it’s going lately, so this is essentially a snapshot in time, yet not I think with diminished relevance for that. Unless Dan has had a St. Paul style revelation in the interim, I guess the same principles exist and hence my same disagreements. I’ve read very little Dan Kahan material indeed before this time; have to say in peeking at the Cultural Cognition Project while putting this together, I’ve become very impressed with the huge efforts he’s investing in this area plus his deep knowledge, despite I think that in the climate domain those have both been seriously deflected by cultural bias. In an attempt to stay focused and also to make best use of my available time, I’ve stuck mainly to absorbing DK1 / DK2, many of the comments there including all of Dan’s, plus more briefly the support at DK3 / DK4 and a couple of other pages as linked. I had to resist following up most of his many very interesting and spider-like links that are so tempting to explore at the Cultural Cognition Project.
Andy West : www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com
JC note: This article was submitted via email. Andy’s previous Climate Etc. post is CAGW Memeplex. As with all guests posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.