Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain

by Andy West

Emotions and messaging about climate change.

Universal acknowledgement of emotional bias.

The psychological phenomena of emotional bias, a distortion in cognition and decision-making due to emotional factors, has been known of for millennia. I perhaps should say ‘enhanced’ emotional factors, because emotional reaction is a core part of our thinking machinery and hence wholly rational perceptions or decisions would likely be a rarity at best, and possibly non-existent. Yet as emotional factors increase to something that truly touches us, distortion away from what might be termed ‘regular’ (i.e. no strong emotions present) or ‘rational’ or ‘balanced’ thinking, becomes much more significant.

This distortion is so well known that consciously or sub-consciously, arguments often employ an appeal to emotion exactly because this significantly increases the chance of overcoming opposing views. From the link immediately above (warning, wiki; short summaries of this topic are hard to come by) we are told that Aristotle (died 322BC) in his treatise Rhetorica described emotional arousal as critical to persuasion, while Seneca (died AD 65) warned that “Reason herself, to whom the reins of power have been entrusted, remains mistress only so long as she is kept apart from the passions.”

Many studies in the modern era back this general understanding, adding more sophistication plus detail of the underlying mechanisms (though to date these are by no means fully understood). Apparently the role of ‘affect’, emotional reaction, underwent somewhat of a de-emphasis within social psychology for a time from the early 1970s, returning some thirty years later but on a wider stage, acknowledged to have other cognitive players with which emotional bias can interact or fuel to varying degrees. According to Daniel Kahneman, from his Nobel Prize in Economics Lecture, December 8 2002: ‘It is worth noting that in the early 1970’s the idea of purely cognitive biases appeared novel and distinctive, because the prevalence of motivated and emotional biases of judgment was taken for granted by the social psychologists of the time. There followed a period of intense emphasis on cognitive processes, in psychology generally and in the field of judgment in particular. It took another thirty years to achieve what now appears to be a more integrated view of the role of affect in intuitive judgment.

So, while the leading-edge understanding of emotional bias mechanisms is dynamic and ongoing, aided considerably by the recent assistance of MRI scans, in its very long wake is a general understanding that all psychologists and sociologists and associated disciplines have to be very familiar with. Along with professional communicators, probably most politicians and I should imagine a great many of the general public too, they will know at the very least about the power of appeal to emotion plus the danger that rationality will be compromised, or even derailed, when such an appeal is powerfully and / or repeatedly enacted. And while emotional bias has beneficial properties (e.g. condensing a large range of options and also promoting group cohesion / consensus), disrupting rationality can work out very badly indeed. For examples at various scales emotional bias can strongly contribute to: skewed jury / legal decisions and extremist politics, bad business practice and financial meltdowns, cults and the spread of misinformation, and yes the social hi-jacking of science too, for instance the Eugenics saga in the first half of the 20th century.

Hence there are increasing efforts to limit emotional bias effects in society. The business community have joined that campaign in recent times, not just to limit corporate damage from emotively driven negative culture, but also for reasons of direct profitability (See ‘Bottom Line’ at Investopedia).

Of all those masses of professionals who know about the characteristics of emotional bias, a subset are playing an active part in the climate change Consensus. This does not alter their knowledge of the former topic. Indeed a few of this subset are even helping to push forward our understanding of emotive bias mechanisms. For instance Stephan Lewandowsky has a string of papers (with associated authors) about cognitive bias impacts, which include insights on emotional bias. The paper Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing by Lewandowsky et al, posits that emotive content significantly increases the degree to which misinformation both spreads and persists. Resistance to vaccines based on emotive scare stories is an example Lewandowsky highlights. A similar point is made in Theoretical and empirical evidence for the impact of inductive biases on cultural evolution by Griffiths et al (one of the other authors is Lewandowsky). This paper supports the evidence that cultural concepts with an emotional component are easier to memorize, which in turn appears to result in them being retained for longer plus better transmitted to others in society, than is the case for similar concepts minus the emotional component. I.e. an emotive load provides arbitrary bias favoring the concept.

Lewandowsky is an ardent advocate for the certainty of dangerous man-made climate change, and at least some of the associated authors (e.g. Cook and Ecker) have comparable sentiments. So emotional bias is most certainly understood and accepted by the strongest end of the spectrum of CAGW support. Similarly the role of emotional bias, at least in broad-brush terms, is just as much a part of the mind-set of all the psychologists, sociologists, professional communicators, etc. who work in or actively support the climate Consensus, as it is for those belonging to these same professions who don’t happen to work within the climate Consensus. I.e. this knowledge is simply part of their job; they must all grasp both the power and danger of emotional bias independently of their climate domain credentials. Hence the understanding of emotional bias is absolutely not something that the climate Consensus supporters could abandon when inconvenient, nor something that could possibly be framed as some kind of climate skeptic invention.

The climate Consensus commonly deploys crafted emotional communication.

Along with a great deal of subconscious or unconsidered emotive communication advocating CAGW, deliberately emotive communication campaigns have been a feature of the Consensus (in its widest sense, i.e. including government agencies, NGOs, much of academia etc.) for many years. There doesn’t seem to have been any systemic effort to hide this approach. Quite the contrary; articles and papers discussing the various merits or otherwise of specific emotive crafting are easy to find, often with recommendations for improved efforts along the same lines. And this literature is clearly phrased in the context that such campaigns are, as self-perceived, a norm. Perhaps even more than just a norm; a gratifying achievement with an aspiration for more. Yet the relative lack of success of these campaigns (as assessed via surveys) has caused more reflection and analysis in recent years.

One analysis notes that ‘fear appeals have often been used’, and also confirms a long-term deployment of positive emotive messaging: ‘In another study, Hoijer examined how the Swedish media communicated emotions in the social construction of global warming risk and found that hope and compassion were used as emotional anchors to help people understand projected climate impacts. These results suggest that many people do not view hazards merely as something to avoid. On the contrary, interest and hope may motivate people to learn more about the hazard and to take or support mitigation or adaptation measures.’ This study is The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition, by Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz, 2014. The paper attempts to identify the impact on the public of specific discreet emotions like worry, fear, hope etc. with a focus on which ones will move the public most towards supporting climate change policies.

Unsurprisingly, the work discovers that fear based appeals are not helpful: ‘“Dire” fear-based messaging around extreme weather and other climate phenomena has been found to raise anxieties, but also to distance the public. O’Neill and Nicholson-Cole found that catastrophic and alarmist visual imagery actually decreased public engagement with the issue.’ Indeed there seems to be broad agreement about this finding in the Consensus lately, for example see The Breathrough article, or the acknowledgement by Joe Smith at the BBC, although this hasn’t as yet resulted in an end to fear-mongering (and probably won’t due to memetic inertia).

As the paper opens with what amounts to a short presentation of its solid climate Consensus credentials, perhaps one shouldn’t expect any questioning of whether deploying emotive appeals in the first place is highly ill-advised. At any rate, there is no such questioning. Yet in the abstract this is surprising when one considers the knowledge of the authors; among other skills both have training in psychology. As outlined in Section 1 this knowledge will therefore include the significant dangers of emotional bias. And while certain moderations are suggested with respect to the use of fear messaging, these are certainly not for the purpose of reducing likely bias effects, but instead to minimize distancing plus backlash, and hence to further optimize the emotional penetration. Other emotive optimizations are also suggested for climate communicators to achieve the ‘powerful motivations’ that emotional targeting delivers, for instance in the following three quotes:

[1]‘By contrast [with fear], worry was the strongest predictor of public support for global warming policies, suggesting that perhaps “worry appeals” should be a focus for risk communicators. “Worry appeals” might promote a more sustainable and constructive emotional engagement with the issue of global warming.’ [2] ‘Elaboration likelihood models of persuasion also suggest that positive rather than negative emotions are more persuasive and likely to sustain enduring attitudes over time for issues of low involvement, that is, for issues where people do not see themselves personally “at risk” or vulnerable. Given the general lack of public involvement with the issue of climate change, combined with the relationship between hope, interest, and policy support found in this investigation, developing communications that increase public interest, inspire hope, and encourage positive feelings when people act in climate-friendly ways may be more effective than fear or guilt appeals.’ [3] ‘In summary, this research found that discrete emotions—especially worry, interest, and hope—appear to have a large influence on American climate change policy preferences. The challenge for communication strategists is how best to cue these powerful motivations to promote public engagement with climate change solutions.

It is hardly a surprise that hitting on our ‘worry and hope hot-buttons’ has a powerful effect, especially when doing this repeatedly over years. Yet given policy makers have been embedded and maturing within the society to which this type of messaging has been directed for decades, how do we know that their climate change policy preferences aren’t as strongly influenced as those of the general public? The known danger of emotional bias says this is highly likely. And getting more likely; any chance that inefficient access to underlying emotions has allowed some folks to avoid significant bias in prior years, will soon disappear if various calls like that from Risk Educator David Ropiek at Big Think (2014), are heeded:

But caveats aside, what this new research clearly says is that risk communication that wants to shape how people feel about global warming, or any risk issue, must go beyond simply communicating the facts. It must respect the primary role that feelings play in how we see those facts. It must identify, with research, the particular emotional and instinctive characteristics that shape people’s feelings about the issue, and present information in ways that will resonate with those underlying emotions. Any climate change communicator who ignores that truth and thinks that just educating people is enough, is ignoring what an important and growing body of research tells us about the best way to get people to care, and act, about this immense threat to human and environmental health.’ This from the article Climate Change and Emotions. How We Feel Matters More Than What We Know.

Ropeik served for four years as the Director of Risk Communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. If further research leads as he hopes to optimizing still more the emotional engagement, then indeed outreach will go way beyond communicating the facts. Even at the high level of emotional engagement already in play, perception of such facts as may exist becomes fuzzy at best. The strongest forms of emotive messaging essentially become their own reality, displacing fact as objectivity is derailed. Ropeik and many others feel licensed for this call due their certainty of the ‘immense threat’. Yet how much of that certainty is a product not of rationality, but of earlier emotive messaging feeding back into the environmental science community, and impacting climate scientists in particular.

Everything it appears, hangs on that certainty of disaster. This has effectively provided a legitimate platform for social engineering, despite there is still enormous argument and uncertainty about what society should be changed to, about what behavior is necessary and appropriate, even should the certainty of a disaster (without intervention) be a given. And as perceived by the climate Consensus emotional targeting is a major tool, perhaps the major tool, with which to change behavior. The two quotes below from the conclusion of the paper THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ENVIRONMENTAL WORLDVIEWS, EMOTIONS AND PERSONAL EFFICACY IN CLIMATE CHANGE, provide another confirmation of this actuality; they are not about communication per se, they are about behavior change.

[1] ‘When crafting messages on climate change, policy makers will need to first ensure the climate change messages reflect the target audience’s environmental worldviews to successfully engage the public. Further, given that personal efficacy in the climate change domain is affected by affective processes, policy makers should place increasing emphasis on providing substantial visual climate change information focussing on emotive images to attract and hold people’s attention and motivate them to act. Strategies to promote affective components in climate change communication could include message development and delivery aimed at arousing positive motions which may bring about meaningful interpretations and stimulate public’s engagement in reducing the effects of climate change.’ [2] ‘Future researchers could build on the findings to build effectively on immediate psychological effects induced by climate change visuals. This will help to achieve public engagement and bridge the gap between information campaigning and personal actions on climate change. This will guide the design and adoption of viable solutions and ensure continued effectiveness of behaviour change polices in climate change mitigation. The communication challenge often lies in activating concern about climate change and catalysing the desired behaviour change.

The paper is by Haywantee (Rumi) Ramkissoon and Liam David Graham Smith, Monash University, Australia (2014). Among other skills Ramkissoon has training in psychology. She and likely Smith too will be well aware of the dangers of emotional bias, yet despite specific sections on emotions this danger is never mentioned. ‘Catalyzing the desired behavior change’ means still more loosed emotions, moving folks who may now feel broadly empowered, towards driving overlapping agendas. And indeed some other parts of the Consensus are encouraging the likelihood of serious mission overflow, by deliberately casting around for new frames in which to channel ‘climate communication’ to the public. This is an aspect of their earnest and seemingly endless attempts to optimize emotional engagement and minimize backlash. For instance, the following excerpt from a paper to which Leiserowitz is again a contributor:

Results show that across audience segments, the public health focus was the most likely to elicit emotional reactions consistent with support for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Findings also

indicated that the national security frame may possibly boomerang among audience seg-ments already doubtful or dismissive of the issue, eliciting unintended feelings of anger.’ From A public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change: A Letter in Climatic Change, January 2012. Perhaps this tactic underlies President Obama’s recent warnings about climate change and asthma.

Other techniques are discussed in the online guide The Psychology of Climate Change Communication from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. This tells communicators to ‘Beware the Overuse of Emotional Appeal’. Good; yet unfortunately not to avoid the dangers of emotional bias, but again merely to avoid any backlash from worst-case fear scenarios. The guide also advocates emotional / factual coupling: ‘As described in Section 3, balance information that triggers an emotional response with more analytic information, to leave a mark in more than one place in the brain.’ And ways in which the ‘issue fatigue’ barrier, or ‘numbing effect’ can be pushed upwards or avoided: ‘Gauge an audience’s degree of numbing (i.e., ask them questions about their levels of media exposure to climate change, show them well-known images associated with climate change and note their reaction), make them aware of the various effects of numbing, and encourage them to briefly consider their level of worry and potential numbness to climate change.

Issue fatigue is one of our natural defenses against narrative takeover. It may well be related to or a part of ‘innate skepticism’, or ‘the key to accuracy’ as Lewandowsky calls it. Attempting to circumvent this defense will not only increase the pressure to believe and act, it will reduce still further the ability for folks to be rational and objective about the information pushed upon them. The School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia noted the barrier of issue fatigue long ago. Sophie Nicholson-Cole’s paper from 2004 regarding the use of visual images in climate communication, says: ‘It [visual communication] needs to be managed carefully because responses to emotional visual appeals can simply end up triggering defensive psychological re-sponses, leaving the audience desensitised with a sense of ‘issue fatigue’ or leading to feelings of powerlessness to do anything to reduce the causes of climate change.’ In this context ‘managed carefully’ does not mean preserving rationality by minimizing emotion, it means maximizing emotion while not triggering the ‘undesirable’ effects.

In all these writings and more, I find no concern that such intense emotive targeting and psychological shepherding may not so much be communicating the case for certainty, as manufacturing it. Note: all the sources shown here are completely Consensus orientated; I find no hint of skeptic contribution in them.

Emotional message campaigns have considerably impacted scientists.

Social narratives, whether benign overall or otherwise, can cascade through society as emotional and other biases gain leverage each time topics are interpreted at functional boundaries. E.g. for CAGW, inappropriate extrapolation and amplification of worry as information passes from core climate scientists to other environmental scientists, from both of these groups to PR people and politicians, thence to policy makers and economists, and from all of the above groups to NGOs and the mass media, etc. So the level of emotional bias in all functional domains will matter, yet it is scientists who are meant to have better defenses; whose methodology is theoretically geared to remaining unemotional. So looking at emotional impact in climate and environmental scientists should be a worst case indicator. If emotionally crafted climate communication campaigns have created major affect in these guys, it is likely rampant elsewhere.

This series of letters from climate and environmental scientists, shows an astonishing level of personal revelation regarding thoughts about climate change. While 35 (at the time of writing) is not a huge sample, it seems to confirm a systemic emotional state within the mainstream scientific community, which according to the universally accepted knowledge from Section 1 cannot do other than create bias. Indeed the level of emotion does appear to trump reason; as far as I can tell many of the fears expressed have lost touch even with the orthodox view of science as presented by the IPPC in the AR5 technical papers. Neither is there any attempt to hide or moderate high emotions, quite the contrary, which implies both a powerful belief in the certainty of serious adverse impacts upon the world (many such are specified), plus a surprisingly strong confidence that this ‘truth’ must be self-evident, and thus all but a handful of ‘deniers’ will applaud an audacious emotive stance.

In a further series of personal messages, from Australian environmental scientists at Scared Scientists, the emotive outpouring shifts from a mixed bag of exasperation, worry, despair, anger and hope, to a much more focused pitch at fear, as one can gather from the website name. Each of eight messages (one from each scientist) is headlined in capitals ‘FEAR: XYZ’, where XYZ is the particular fear each scientist says is their own particular biggy. Summing the two series (three scientists appear in both and only their data from the first series is used), and also adding in professor Camille Parmesan who is mentioned in articles relating to the above letters and is ‘professionally depressed’ because of climate change, we get the table below that includes 41 scientists. This depicts percentages of expression for various emotive categories, accompanied by columns F and G that show whether any future danger / suffering / impacts etc. were expressed with respect to children, or not with respect to children. Bear in mind that some scientists have expressed themselves in more than one emotive category, and a few across several:

Slide1The raw data for these results is in Appendix – scientists emotions. The figures seem astoundingly high to me. While work-related frustration is hardly unique to climate / environmental scientists, I strongly suspect this type is rather worse than that caused by a bad boss. And eliminating multiple entries, the number of scientists showing in columns B to E is a huge 61%, with 44% across the more serious categories C to E, i.e. fear, despair and anger. Plus I’d say that those ‘worry and hope’ hot-buttons mentioned in Section 2 are most certainly being pushed in many of these scientists. The boundaries are loose and worry blurs into anxiety; B & C cover 49%. Those who study the psychology of religions might recognize this profile, excepting for the low score on guilt; but then again these are the ‘priests’ and not the ‘laity’, so maybe this is an expectation. And clearly, a constant hitting upon the ultimate emotional concern button by climate messaging, via the ‘threat to children’ meme, has found its mark too. Quite a few scientists from column F specifically cited not just children generally, but their own children. Overall, are these scientists going to be rational when working on, say, attribution studies? Or climate sensitivity?

Further to the above, Speaking from the heart features 20 personal video clips from 19 scientists working in climate and related disciplines. This series is more measured and constrained than the above letters. The participants focus mostly upon their interpretation of coming physical changes, yet largely still in the sense of ‘catastrophe is coming’ (indeed some stray into talk of political instability, migration, conflict and crises, while a few of the emotive words from the above table also get a mention or two). And as the promoting article itself emphasizes: ‘A common theme in the videos is the scientists’ concern for the future of their children.’ The somewhat more measured stance cannot disguise that this series is a straight emotive pitch, which whatever the original intent, ends up employing scientific authority to make folks afraid, and most specifically afraid for their own children. While the fears of the scientists themselves appear genuine, when they amplify emotional bias plus lend it yet more authority, what hope for rationality? Some of these contributors are young; were their original fears seeded by the emotive bias of older scientists? Or the professional communicators those scientists effectively enabled? How can they possibly be objective in their work while so short-circuited at a fundamental cognitive level? In the case of three scientists, they cite direct experience of extreme weather as a major motivator, one saying “this makes climate change personal”. But did prior biases about attribution seeded by the media (and so ultimately by other scientists yet again), prime them for this state?

The above letters and videos may represent a biased sample, because it’s possible that the most emotive individuals are choosing to make a contribution. However, impacts are reported right across the climate and ecological science domains, so the above data could in fact be the tip of an iceberg. In the article a climate of despair from the Syndey Morning Herald, we learn that climate depression (aka “ecoanxiety” or “doomer depression” or “apocalypse fatigue”) is not uncommon, and also on the rise. Psychologist Susie Burke is quoted in the article: ‘We can be very sure that many people in the field of climate change are distressed – highly distressed – and it can have a significant psychosocial impact on their wellbeing.

The article highlights the case of one sufferer, biologist and ecologist Nicole Thornton, who slid towards some kind of breakdown after the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. Fortunately Thornton sought help and is much improved, now using her experience to help others: ‘Thornton, 41, is currently on a break – of sorts. She is part of a fellowship program with the Centre for Sustainability Leadership, with 49 other aspiring change agents. She is using her time in that program to create an online health and wellbeing hub, catered to cases like her own. “Peers have talked to me about burnout, anxiety, panic attacks, complete disengagement, and frustration leading to despair and, when you think about it, this stuff is always around you in the environmental field. It’s notorious. They get so involved, and they’re so passionate and they don’t take breaks.

According to this article and others there appears to be a lot of professionals actually needing help. So it seems that long-term communication campaigns targeting our emotions have indeed had a major impact upon climate and other environmental science professionals. Enough to make many ill. In over-selling the certainty of apocalypse and engaging deep emotion to do so, the Consensus has spawned bewilderment and despair within its own ranks, as they see that the world is not reacting appropriately to the imminent disaster that is ‘certain’ to occur in emotionally biased minds. Scientists appear to be no more immune to such influence than anyone else. Referring to loss and damage in the environment due to Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD), and specifically in her case coral-reef damage, the above mentioned professor Parmesan apparently doesn’t know a single scientist who isn’t emotionally impacted. From Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process: ‘Take Professor Camille Parmesan, a climate researcher who says that ACD is the driving cause of her depression. “I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan said in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report.’ Yet assuming dominant ACD causation is both an effect of emotional impact (i.e. an act of bias with respect to attribution that obscures other causes, of which some are also anthropogenic like habitat encroachment / fragmentation, agricultural runoff and hunting etc. that can be much more usefully addressed), plus an amplifying feedback that will cause more bias in others.

Once again all the sources in this section are solidly Consensus orientated; the emotional impact is self-described. Given this case for scientists, i.e. those who ought to be most tooled-up for resisting emotional appeals, bias is likely endemic in other functional areas of society, such as politicians and policy makers. Indeed urgent emotional appeals regarding climate change are common from the former, including prime-ministers and presidents on downwards. Such appeals are often not backed up even by the orthodox IPCC technical position. Those who are emotionally convinced, will tend to deploy emotive arguments.

It is worth mentioning that some climate skeptic messaging has emotive content too (e.g. that which leans towards ‘scam’, ‘hoax’, or ‘left-wing conspiracy’ causation). Yet overall this is massively outgunned by the emotive CAGW storylines pouring out of mainstream sources, and especially the stronger fear memes such as (I paraphrase): “we’re all gonna fry”, “your coastal cities are gonna drown”, “only N days to save the planet”, “your grandkids are gonna die”, and “extreme weather is our fault”. Plus of course the attempted suppression of argument by deployment of the ‘denier’ term, which diverts huge and negative emotive power from a completely different narrative domain (Holocaust denial) and injects this into the climate arena. Overall skeptics tend to major on complex scientific issues and on not acting precipitously, which combination doesn’t make for a strong emotive pitch. And they have a comparatively small voice too; in a communication battle, volume matters.


Despite the universally accepted principle of emotional bias outlined in Section 1, the climate Consensus has deployed long-term emotionally crafted communication campaigns as described in Section 2, and is also calling for, and likely executing, research to optimize these campaigns still more. This seems to me to a staggering contradiction. The result is not only an emotional impact on much of (western) society, in which our politicians and policy makers etc. are all embedded, but as Section 3 shows, on environmental and climate scientists too. This can only result in enormous levels of bias at all stages of society’s climate related endeavors, from research and understanding to communication to action, and indeed everything else in-between.

The accepted principle that emotive messaging causes bias does not, as far as I can see, appear to have caused any alarm bells to ring in the minds of Consensus-aligned professionals regarding their long-term emotive messaging campaigns aimed at increasing the support for policy. And yet the climate Consensus cannot set aside the universally accepted dangers of emotional bias. Of all the disciplines involved, it is the psychologists who should have warned us; yet they are all too busy emotively channeling a socially enforced consensus, and attempting to change behavior.

Footnote [footnote]:

Caveat and Plug:

The knowledge that undesirably high levels of emotional bias about climate change exist not only in scientists but also in much of society too, tells us nothing whatever about what is happening in the physical climate, and whether this is good, bad, or indifferent. However coupled with the lessons of history, this knowledge does tells us that major social edifices fuelled by emotion will tend to dominate, and very likely prevent us from properly progressing our knowledge of the climate, perhaps for a very long time.

While emotional bias is a very important mechanism via which social narratives like CAGW can gain dominance, the bigger picture in which this mechanism operates can be seen much more clearly through the lens of cultural evolution. Also in my opinion, the stronger Darwinian end of that lens; in particular memetics. Due to common misunderstandings about memetics both in and out of academia, the very mention of that field can cause as much auto-defensive reaction as we see in the climate Consensus. However for those who are not afraid for their souls, see the (long!) essay here, published about 18 months back at Climate Etc and WUWT. This is a hypothesis and by no means fact, but the memetic explanation for CAGW does have the advantage of not resting upon any political or philosophical positions as a foundation, only upon value-neutral mechanisms such as the penetration of memes into the psyche (in part via emotional bias as described in this post) and the differential selection of successful narratives (which are not agential and not sentient). This doesn’t mean for instance that highly activist style politics isn’t an important factor. But it isn’t a root factor because this too is driven by value-neutral mechanisms beneath, which work in the same manner for any political stripe (and memetics is a useful way of perceiving those mechanisms). The memetic explanation also does not imply in any way whatsoever that Consensus folks are in the slightest degree deranged or delusional or ill or impaired. Due to common misconceptions a lot of folks appear to vector down that path the moment they see the word memetics, and stop reading any further. Memeplexes are normal territory for all humans.

 JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.

294 responses to “Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain

  1. Thanks, Judith.

    A couple of minor corrections:

    The ‘Speaking from the Heart’ article doesn’t lead straight to the 20 video clips. You have to click on the link ‘More Than Scientists’ a few paragraphs down, or just go straight where it leads which is .

    Since I catalogued the letters from climate scientists, two more have been added to the website for these. Hence my numbers in Appendix 1 now refer to letters 3 to 37, rather than 1 to 35 as labelled. My number 1 was Dr Ruth Motram, who is now the 3rd letter at the site. I should have labelled them by name!

    And some extras:

    Regarding emotional impact in the wider environmental community, also saw this from Rolly Montpellier writing recently at ‘The Green Divas’. “Climatologists, researchers, scientists, journalists and activists like me are struggling with the grief of witnessing the ongoing onslaught on our planet. Whether you call it eco-anxiety, climate depression, eco-fatigue or apocalypse fatigue, the emotional stress suffered by climate activists and environmentalists can cause long-term anxieties and mental health issues.” Most of this is put at the feet of ‘Anthropogenic Climate Disruption’, rather than other human impacts. And grandchildren are duly mentioned too.

    And regarding the emotional impact upon (and sometimes targeting of) children, plus featuring them in scary climate material, see the large collection of links here:

    Plus on the subject of emotive pitches, folks may recall from 2011 an ‘expletive filled’ one featuring 9 climate scientists. Very amusing but perhaps less informative, at any rate I didn’t include in the post. .

    What one learns researching this stuff is amazing. Or at least I found ‘Hug a climate scientist day’ pretty amazing. .
    As Judith was ‘pushed away’ from the establishment climate community, I suppose her share of those hugs was redistributed around the Consensus.

    • Referring to loss and damage in the environment due to Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD), and specifically in her case coral-reef damage, the above mentioned professor Parmesan apparently doesn’t know a single scientist who isn’t emotionally impacted. From Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process: ‘Take Professor Camille Parmesan, a climate researcher who says that ACD is the driving cause of her depression. “I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan said in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report.’ Yet assuming dominant ACD causation is both an effect of emotional impact (i.e. an act of bias with respect to attribution that obscures other causes, of which some are also anthropogenic like habitat encroachment / fragmentation, agricultural runoff and hunting etc. that can be much more usefully addressed), plus an amplifying feedback that will cause more bias in others.

      I did not know the situation was so bad. Recipients of government grants like Ms. Parmesan that are emotionally disturbed should be denied grants and referred to counselling. Emotional disturbance would adversely affect the science and is an indication of strong bias.

      Scientists that receive government grants should be tested for emotional or scientific bias on the subject they are investigating. Scientists who have more than an academic interest in the grant topic should not be funded.

  2. Andy –

    Do you have any empirical evidence that these factors are any more prevalent for “realists” than they are for “skeptics?”

    • David Wojick

      Given that both sides care deeply about these issues I guess on Andy’s theory that makes us equally irrational.

    • Joshua | April 24, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Reply
      Andy –

      Do you have any empirical evidence that these factors are any more prevalent for “realists” than they are for “skeptics?”

      I disagree with the characterization. Calling the “no-warmers” realists isn’t accurate in my estimation.

      Did you overlook the delusional-fantasists (global warmers) or was that a deliberate snub of the AGW community?

    • If you take a single ‘realist’, who also happens to be an average person, and a single ‘skeptic’, likewise an average person, they are no more or no less subject to emotional influence than each other. (Backgrounds and upbringing may still make folks more or less subject to different *types* of emotive messaging though).

      The same is true if you substitute say ‘atheist’ and ‘religious’ as the two average persons in question (in whichever order you feel the most pleasing :) The symmetry is the same.

      But this symmetry is not necessarily the case at a societal level. Emotively driven narratives can gain huge numbers of adherents, along with which will come aligned money and overlapping motives etc. So for instance until about say about a century or so ago, practically everyone on the planet was religious, and so under the influence of the emotive messaging that comes with the various religious flavors.

      Likewise CAGW is a powerful narrative that has attracted many adherents, and supports a vast volume of emotive messaging from most mainstream sources and many authority figures. Yet as the Consensus itself frequently and correctly points out, the number of active skeptics is by comparison tiny, and their voice is also very limited. As the essay says, volume matters.

      It’s also worth pointing out that no-one under the influence of an emotive narrative is either ill or impaired or deranged of abnormal in any way whatsoever. It is a normal human condition to be influenced in this way, and it is also domain orientated (may be influenced in one domain but not at all in another). Wiki says a big majority of the planet are still religious for instance, which means they are still open to the emotive messaging that domain delivers.

      • Steven Mosher

        “My question was whether you have any empirical evidence whether the factors your describing are any more in play ”

        Actually this was your question

        ” Do you have any empirical evidence that these factors are any more prevalent for “realists” than they are for “skeptics?”

        If you want an empirical answer you need to ask better questions.

      • ===========> You have me at a disadvantage, Mosher. I am locked up in the moderation carcel. And that’s in addition to all my other disadvantages. Anyway, it’s totally not fair.

    • Andy –

      My question was whether you have any empirical evidence whether the factors your describing are any more in play for “reallists” as a group than for “skeptics” as a group.

      Given the strong association between views on climate change and ideological orientation, it seems that you would have a very high bar to cross, empirically, to show some kind of causal mechanism in play with views on climate change that isn’t in play with other beliefs similarly associated with ideology. let alone more prevalent with the group on one side of the great climate change divide than with the group on the other side.

      Combatants on both sides make claims such as yours, ubiquitously, that the beliefs on the other side are inherently emotion-driven, or self-interest-driven, or ignorance-driven,or irrationality-driven blah, blah, blah- driven. Who knows, any of those claims may be correct.

      But with some empirical evidence to help in evaluating the claims, it seems pretty hard to know how to evaluate one of those claims relative to the others particularly when they are put forward by people in alignment with what would be an obvious influence of confirmation bias.

      The advantage of an empirical evidence-based approach is that it helps to control for emotional biases. So where’s your empirical evidence? What hypothesis can you use to test for the existence of a greater influence of these biases on the one side relative to the other in the climate wars?

      • Actually, seeing as I know you are familiar and visit there often, there is some fantastic evidence produced by Dan Kahan. The guest post linked below explains how this evidence perfectly fits the pattern of a highly influenced group. The emphasized polarization of the science literate is a great find, the icing on the cake :)

      • It’s hard to imagine a message that says: “Not a big problem” is emotionally laden. But when dire consequences are mentioned that seems much more emotional.

        And the AGW crowd has been working this lever for a long time. Here is a more recent example – Climate Ruin.


        “We need WWII-scale actions to transform our energy systems because energy “business as usual” will destroy our society.”

        “The terms “Climate Change” or “Global Warming,” or even “Climate Crisis” or “Climate Disruption” do not conjure the urgency to get up and go do something about it.”

        “The term “Climate Ruin” is much closer to the truth, and much more effective.”

    • Yet as the Consensus itself frequently and correctly points out, the number of active skeptics is by comparison tiny, and their voice is also very limited.

      There may a small minority of active “skeptic” scientists, but there are no shortage of “active” voices in the media especially among the right wing media and politicians in the US. And their message does include a fear based component (i.e. that reducing CO2 will lead to economic ruin).

      • Joseph:
        “This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.”
        Conservatism does have fear based arguments such as, We are losing our liberties. The above quote might be interpreted as suggesting the consensus message should be working on conservatives and even seems tailored to them. Why is it rejected by and large? The vagueness of the threat message that at times includes most unusual weather and the lack of solutions to this threat. I’d guess the conservatives might take a page from the liberals playbook and work on local adaptive solutions. To gain their order by call it strengthening local resiliency. Consider the California water shortages. Could/would have conservatives focused more on strengthening a consistent supply of water locally or would they have tried to save the World with CO2 reductions? Suppose conservatives are more fearful and therefore try to take care of their local situation in a kind of isolationist fortified approach. That may work better some of the time for them.

    • David Springer

      Joshua | April 24, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Reply

      Andy –

      Do you have any empirical evidence that these factors are any more prevalent for “realists” than they are for “skeptics?”


      Andy never used the term “realist”. This is just another example of the information-free trolling that we’ve come to expect from anonymous coward Joshua.

      • I guess Joshua thinks both sides are equal by default.

        No surprise he doesn’t get science.


      • I noticed a new trend toward the phrase “Realist”

        We have “no=warmers”, skeptics, and warmunists. Which is the real realist?

        1. Warming is bad
        a. NW: nope
        b. S: ?
        c. W: Yes
        d. Reality: Not so far.

        2. CO2 is bad:
        a. NW: nope
        b. S: ?
        c. W: yes
        d. Reality: 55% more growth so far since 1900 – doesn’t look bad yet.

        3. More CO2 causes warming
        a. NW: nope
        b. S: Less than IPCC
        c. W: IPCC rules
        d. Reality: by any standard – actual measurement, model performance CO2 forcing is 1/3 IPCC value.

        4. CO2 PPM could hit 940 by 2100 and 2000 by 2200
        a. NW: nope
        b. S: ?
        c. W: yes
        d. Reality: 500 PPM is the practical limit – absorption has increased past 30 years (180% vs 80%) more than twice as fast as emissions.

        5. 110% of past 65 years of warming is due to CO2
        a. NW: CO2 doesn’t warm
        b. S: half or less is due to CO2
        c. W: yes
        d. Reality: Less than half is due to CO2. Only about 0.24°C of GHG warming since 1900.

        6. CAGW is possible
        a. NW: nope
        b. S: ?
        c. W: yes
        d. Reality: Yup CAGW is possible – but so is an end-it-all asteroid strike and they are about equally likely.

        I’ll leave the judging (and any corrections) to the audience.

    • Joshua by “realists” one presumes you mean those who have no pre-formed opinions on climate and whose attitude is governed purely by reality, the reality being no warming for 18 years.

  3. David Wojick

    This essay is too long to read, but there is nothing irrational about emotions. Nor are emotions likely to make one irrational. There is a lot of ancient “common knowledge” stupidity about this idea, as though rationality were somehow independent of personality, which is impossible. Perhaps you should explain your theory of rationality, and irrationality. Unless it upsets you to do so.

    • Since you haven’t read it, you should be cautious about simplistic assumptions relating to what Andy says about the relationship between emotions and rationality.

      It seems that we can’t assume that emotions necessarily enhance irrationality – but it certainly seems that the association presented is stronger if you’re a “realist” than if you’re a “skeptic.” ::- )

    • Well, the global warming appeals are emotional and factually inaccurate.

      If we assume as you say, that emotions don’t necessarily make you irrational, stupid, (or dishonest); this suggests that global warmers were irrational, stupid, and dishonest before they got emotional about global warming.

      • ==> “this suggests that global warmers were irrational, stupid, and dishonest before they got emotional about global warming.”

        Yeah. That’s the kind of non-emotional, rational, and evidence-based reasoning I’ve come to expect from “skeptics.”

      • David Wojick

        So are many of the skeptical appeals, but that is because (1) people care deeply about this and (2) people disagree about what the facts are. Demonizing your opponent is both stupid and inaccurate.

      • ==> “Demonizing your opponent is both stupid and inaccurate.”


        Not to mention, usually, emotionally driven. (IOW, unintentional irony coming from our friend PA).

        A question for you though, David. assuming you agree that it is emotionally-driven, as well as stupid and accurate, would your perspective still be, though, that it isn’t particularly irrational (IOW, it serves a “rational” purpose)?

      • ========>Yeah, I’m still really mad about being put in moderation, while my big boy pants were at the cleaners. It was rough. I had to do all my silly yammering at my friend ATTP’s place.

      • Heh. Inaccurate.

      • Well, I’m going to thump global warmers as long as they make outrageous claims.

        The false claims “it makes more snow”, “it makes less snow”, “it makes things windier”, “it makes the ocean acid”, “it makes things warmer”, “it makes things colder”, “its killing starfish”, “its killing resident whales”, “its melting the sea ice”, etc. etc. ad nauseum, just annoy me.

        The fact that the measured TSR is 1/3 of estimated, that CO2 levels aren’t going over 500 PPM, and no one has bothered to simulate the baseline temperature of 2100 doesn’t seem to bother you guys at all.

        The 1/4 degree celsius difference in the 20th century, and the additional 1/4 degree celsius difference in the 21st century aren’t going to do jack and if anything will on net be beneficial.

    • Emotions are indeed a deep part of the thinking machinery of all of us, as noted in first the paragraph. Therefore to some extent they must be part of our rational selves too. But it is universally accepted that strongly and / or repeatedly hitting upon our emotions, does affect judgement.

      All individuals are different, hence it is better took at this in terms of a society. If a whole society is subject, repeatedly over years say, to powerful emotive messaging, then on average that society will be swayed, meaning most individuals within also will be, whether they happen to be scientists or policy makers or garage mechanics or violinists or whatever. Religions prosper from this mechanism.

      • ==> ” If a whole society is subject, repeatedly over years say, to powerful emotive messaging, ”

        :Like this?:

        The New Deal had passed a large number of measures that were regulating business in some ways for the first time, and it [had] empowered labor unions and given them a voice in the affairs of business. Corporate leaders resented both of these moves and so they launched a massive campaign of public relations designed to sell the values of free enterprise. The problem was that their naked appeals to the merits of capitalism were largely dismissed by the public.

        The most famous of these organizations was called The American Liberty League and it was heavily financed by leaders at DuPont, General Motors and other corporations. The problem was that it seemed like very obvious corporate propaganda. As Jim Farley, the head of the Democratic Party at the time, said: “They ought to call it The American Cellophane League, because No. 1: It’s a DuPont product, and No. 2: You can see right through it.”

        So when they realized that making this direct case for free enterprise was ineffective, they decided to find another way to do it. They decided to outsource the job. As they noted in their private correspondence, ministers were the most trusted men in America at the time, so who better to make the case to the American people than ministers?

      • David Wojick

        It is not universally accepted by me, and I have spent the last 45 years studying actual rationality in excruciating detail. Since your fundamental premise is false your conclusions probably are too. That is how reasoning works.

        A Benjamin Franklin is said to have said, nothing fixes the mind like the immediate prospect of hanging. Emotions tend to make us think harder, not worse.

        You apparently think people have “rational selves” that are somehow separate from their other(?) selves. Is this some sort of split personality? I have not observed this when people reason. It is always just them, not two (or more) of them.

      • David Wojick | April 24, 2015 at 3:13 pm
        No I don’t think we have split personalities; that’s just my poor expression I guess. But in the sense that the brain is essentially a highly sophisticated machine, it does have component functions, which in this case for instance neuroscientists and others are making progress in identifying. In that sense one can begin to see (especially from studies that try to isolate particular emotional effects say, and including the modern ones that look at the physicality of these effects using MRI scanners), how the outcome of our final responses are built up.

      • Joshua | April 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm

        Your link seems to go to a lot of detailed stuff about the recent history of religion and business in the US. You may or may not have some point but I don’t know what you’re asking and I’m afraid this stuff is right outside my domain, so I can’t comment.

    • “Nor are emotions likely to make one irrational.”

      Well rage, jealousy, humiliation to name three are often the emotional precursors of homicide. Unless you want to argue that homicide is rational…and I suppose you could in the sense that there’s a reason for it…I’d say your assertion is incorrect.

      WRT to whether emotions themselves are irrational or not, it seems to me they are irrational by definition. Emotions it seems to me can’t exist without physical concomitants. I’d go so far as to say emotions are in fact physical in nature. We come aware of them by feeling them. Rationality doesn’t really figure in.

  4. Will Janoschkas

    Dr. Curry,
    The principle of emotional bias is nowhere more evident than among arrogant academics that actually believe in what started out as a joke. That joke is of course “thermal radiative flux is proportional temperature to the fourth power, of the object”. This joke was originally used to try to distinguish thinking students from the others. In this day we have the
    others, now professors and college lecturers that actually teach this joke as scientific truth.
    Can not you, RGB, Roy Spencer, and several other notable academics, try to think and “get the joke”? It is not the uncertainty that is the monster, in AGW . The monster is the belief in this joke. :)

    • Will Janoschkas: That joke is of course “thermal radiative flux is proportional temperature to the fourth power, of the object”. This joke was originally used to try to distinguish thinking students from the others.

      Is that why it was named after Stefan and Boltzmann? Because they were jokers? Or someone was trying to impugn their competence? Do you have a link to some evidence that it is in fact inaccurate?

    • Curious George

      I contribute another joke: 3+1=4.

  5. This interesting post highlights the deep utility of polar bears to the CAGW meme.
    Dr. Susan Crockford assures us they are thriving. Amongst other reasons the 1970’s curtailment on hunting, and the fact that the main seal hunt is on spring ice, which has not declined. That has led to attacks on her, attacks on papers supporting her conclusions observationally, publication of obviously flawed ‘bear scare’ papers (Dr. Crockford’s blog deconstructs several), and deliberate deployment of knowing misinformation by NGO’s such as WWF (a specific example illustrated in essay Polar Bears in Blowing Smoke). Emotional propaganda in place of ‘science’.

    • Yes, the bear scare messaging does seem to hit folks surprisingly strongly. I have not talked about climate change very much at all in my pub quiz team; the subject often doesn’t make for the most harmonious interaction and might damage our all important scores. Yet a lady in the team offered recently that she was beginning to suspect a lot of it wasn’t really true. “However”, she added very earnestly, ” I’m sure the poor polar bears really are in trouble.” I advised her to get on the web and add the data from Dr Susan Crockford to her considerations.

      • I sort of intuited the emotional appeal angle before, at a kindergarten level. But your outstanding post was very educational (at least for me, a mere grubby businessman). Many thanks, again.

  6. When looking for something on science be rational and unemotional, I found this.
    “Emotions are normally associated with women and rationality is associated with men.” from Wikipedia “Feminsit Method”.

    Paradoxically, we have Judith arguing against a lot of emotional men about climate science.

  7. Thanks, Andy.

  8. Pingback: Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  9. Andy West, thank you for a good essay.

  10. I’m sorry Andy, your essay lost my interest when you appeared to take Lewandowsky’s research seriously. For all I know, some of his work may be solid, but at this point I’m not wasting any more of my time taking his stuff seriously, or troubling much with writing that appears to take his stuff seriously.
    I wasn’t wearing my tin foil hat while typing this, but I was secure inside a faraday cage. Nor was I at any point recursively furious during the process, as far as I could tell.

    • He did some reasonable work before jumping off the deep end into climate and conspiracy ideation.

      However, the real advantage of showing that even the papers of ardent CAGW advocates demonstrate the effects of emotional bias, is that no-one can *possibly* claim that the effect is a skeptic invention, or that the supporting papers are somehow ‘skeptic tainted’ :)

      You can rest easy; this is when Lewandowsky was doing mainstream stuff and pretty much the entire psychological world agrees with general conclusions of the type cited.

  11. Danny Thomas

    At the risk of showing my personal “emotional bias” for the life of me if “global warming” is “the greatest threat” how has it become such an exclusive conversation and not inclusive? There are courses of action which take in to account each side of the argument. The “right” is noted as a supporter of farmers, and land use/ag practice is a known contributor to GHG’s. Experience with discussions about this being an area of compromise is derided as “miniscule” and ineffective (as opposed to inaction?). All this takes place while the uncertainties of sensitivities discussion takes place extending the time for action. As one who sees no reason for alarm, I do see side benefits to improvements in our land use that relates to beautification, transportation, and urban location (all acceptable to the right). These have a side benefit of CO2 reduction on which the left should be jumping. This kind of thinking (Dr. C has called it “breakthrough”) is met with yawns and derision from the left and I’ve received zero resistance from the right (to repeat, that’s ZERO resistance from the right). From the left I perceive “I want it all, and I want it now” so when this observer sees the right digging in “their” heels I have no lack of understanding as to why.

  12. I did read it all, and thought it sensible and well argued. The take-home message for me is that the long-standing message of doom unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions a great deal, and our social failure to do so, everywhere in the world, has infected scientists and others with the feeling that it is all hopeless. Those who were immune from the message see no problem, and try to get on with their lives. But the message of doom has been there so long and is so powerful that it will be with us for much longer.

    Thanks to Andy West. I’ll read it again — and that’s a compliment!

    • Thanks Don, much appreciated.

    • ‘ Fear ‘n Guilt,’ say play it again, Sam. Oh, and ‘ Worry’
      seems ter work well as a focus fer risk communicating,
      say Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz in their
      study, ‘The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy
      Support and Opposition.’ Chilling advice, yer might say,
      fer ‘gaining support ‘ fer guvuhmint climate and energy
      policies. Quote, p 943.

  13. Andy West

    “Psychologist Susie Burke is quoted in the article: ‘We can be very sure that many people in the field of climate change are distressed – highly distressed – and it can have a significant psychosocial impact on their wellbeing.’”

    In another field, medicine, burnout is a real consequence of repetitive highly emotional experiences. In the Emergency Room, crisis is followed by crisis, tragedy, unfairness, mean people, impaired people, etc are usual and customary encountered. Early in a career, after the initial excitement of the charged environment begins to fade into dread: “I’ve seen this before.” The most common response is to withdraw: cut completely with medicine and do something else; decrease the frequency of these experiences and go to part time; drink or use drugs for escapism; even revert to the meanness one has confronted again and again. Not true for all of course, but burnout is a well worn path in repetitive high stress environments. Careful disentangling the emotive response with the reality by the conscious involvement of outsiders, can lead to improved functioning and wellbeing.

    Translating the careful disentangling the emotive response means turning down the volume of the experiences. Ramping up the volume (“volume matters”) without the regularly “coming down” opportunity, does lead to “stress”, and, when stress is experienced repetitively, and coping skills are not adequate to the task, body organs are impacted.

    Personally, I do not walk about daily wringing my hands over climate change although I do think out loud when I walk and my dog does not seem to mind my prattle. My estimate is that the harangue of: the climate is coming the climate is coming has already led to distancing, noncommittal, averting literal and figurative gaze and other withdrawal, avoidance, personal protection behaviors, which is good in my opinion.

    When your adolescent turns up the volume in their room, which is suppose to be their space, one has to decide if this is the moment to fight about loud noises and disrespect, or take your martini out onto the deck and continue to read the newspaper. Here’s to ya.

      • That is alarming and disturbing..

        It appears that some climate scientists have the climate equivalent of “Bush derangement syndrome”. They are so close the problem and so emotionally invested that they have lost all objectivity.

      • Danny Thomas

        Not only that, but extolling others to lose theirs based on fears of the unknown.

      • Judith Curry,

        Thank you for the link to the very public rant of Greg Craven

        While writing the above post, I couldn’t help think of Stephen Schneider and his unexpected death, I believe in a hotel room having just been at one meeting in Sweden and about to present at another meeting.

        We all remember Stephen Schneider’s much quoted:

        “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest”
        and his subsequent efforts to walk back from what had become iconic: the end justifies the means warmist position?

        Did the stress of the responsibility to articulate and implement his belief system plus a legacy of wavering scientific integrity lead to his demise?

      • From that emotion laden letter from Greg Craven:

        ‘And as a lifelong fan of science–having idolized scientists
        for so long as the paragons of rational thought, in defiance
        of the base human inclinations–you can perhaps understand
        the sense of betrayal I feel to hear what I did in the panel
        discussion. To realize with dawning horror that scientists
        are just as human, just as capable of dogma, unconscious assumptions, and irrational decision-making as the rest
        of us.’

        Three paragraphs on, post apology for ‘betrayal,’ he’s urging
        scientists to don other hats and communicate ‘your hopes
        for policy, and your fears for your children.’

      • Three attempts, three fails. Testing.

      • Steven Mosher

        “While writing the above post, I couldn’t help think of Stephen Schneider and his unexpected death, I believe in a hotel room having just been at one meeting in Sweden and about to present at another meeting.”

        see the session that craven spoke at

      • And when the emotional distress becomes overwhelming to the point of losing a sense of balance and proportion, where is the little voice that should be in your ear saying ” But what if I’m wrong.” Of all people, scientists should be guided by this one compass, that maybe they are wrong in becoming so despondent that they have lost their ability to view the world and the issue with greater rationality.

      • Steve Mosher

        I read what Judith Curry linked to in her 2010 blog post and I read your post at Anthony’s WUWT.

        I remember seeing the video clip of children exploding at the time it was first released. I then thought of some homemade movies to which I had been exposed and had walked out on.

        Had I been sitting in the front row at the 2010 AGU meeting I might have just stay put, averted my eyes and leaf through some program material. Had I been seated in the back row, I would have got up, politely excused myself as I passed seated members of the audience and headed to the exit.

        I usually am not able to divine motives of people who exhibit bad behavior, and, I am not really inclined to find out why they are behaving badly (a sorry lesson learned through the years). What does intrigue me is the context of the bad behavior,;historical, social, and how that bad behavior impacts myself. I don’t even worry about my children or grandchildren as they will evolve in different times than I have. If we as a family and society have done our jobs well, children will grow and thrive if they have had a mixture of timely protection and learn coping skills appropriate to their life’s circumstances. They will also need to learn coping skills that we collectively have not yet even thought of.

        As for people getting “bent out of shape” over climate change leading to self imposed high stress? Nature seems to have a way of dealing with that situation over time….Memorial Lectures and all that.

  14. Andy–This was a very interesting piece and really helps to explain much of what I have observed for years. Two comments:

    1. My takeaway is that the lack of civil discourse on AGW can be attributed to emotions felt by those who would otherwise behave differently. It seems that these emotions are generated by the fear of catastrophic outcomes. There is a long laundry list of those outcomes advertised by the CAGW advocates and, as someone else mentioned, there is also a fear of economic disaster that is common in the skeptic community. I would argue that there is also a smaller third group that fears the catastrophic effects on the science itself.

    2. It’s astonishing to see the degree to which CAGW has penetrated other fields. Sorry ’bout dat. :-)

    • “I would argue that there is also a smaller third group that fears the catastrophic effects on the science itself. ”

      Add me to that list.

  15. Interesting and thought-provoking, Andy.

    While reading your post, I had a sudden realization: since Lewandowsky is an expert on emotional bias, perhaps his famous “denier conspiracy ideation” paper was actually intended to provoke specific emotional responses: disdain among the anointed and shame amongst the so-called “deniers.”

    The above hypothesis would explain the shoddy nature of the research; its purpose was never to achieve objective truth, but instead to use emotional bias to achieve some other goal.

    Does that sound even remotely possible?

  16. Of course, Kahneman is a great patroniser of those sad creatures called climate skeptics. He feels they can’t help it, sort of. And Kahneman…he can’t help it either. When one is wedded to a bundle of theories which are rigidifying into ultra-chic dogma one clings hard to them. Poor fellow. It’s his assimilation bias or loss aversion. Or something.

  17. “this knowledge does tells us that major social edifices fuelled by emotion will tend to dominate, and very likely prevent us from properly progressing our knowledge of the climate, perhaps for a very long time.”

    Another load of silly pop-psycho-babble…..imagine our tragic linability to properly progress knowledge of childhood caner.

    • I’m not too familiar with the domain of medicine. But while we are clearly still far from a solution, cancer is a much more bounded and more tractable problem, involving relatively focused disciplines rather than the huge range involved in CC.

      And I’m not aware of systemic, widespread, powerful and repeated emotive messaging campaigns that so hugely emphasize the issue of childhood cancer to the whole of society over many years, as a danger to the whole of society, that objectivity has been compromised. If I’ve been unaware of such, please point out the links. I’ve seen occasional and reasonably phrased charitable appeals. I haven’t seen fear memes and regular exaggerations in mainstream media and presidents and prime ministers issuing dire emotive warnings on the topic, which for the case of CC do not even gel with the IPCC technical papers.

      The references to Lewandowsky are interesting to follow up. He has some interesting examples of emotive bias in medicine, including the scare stories about vaccines that are causing resistance to their use in some segments of the population. Now, scare stories about this topic I *have* seen myself from time to time, which have in essence described vaccines as a danger to all our children, hence to society itself. Lewandowsky clearly doesn’t think the emotional bias in play here is psycho-babble; neither do I.

      • Andy West

        To put the anti-vaccine story into perspective one has to envision a small religious sect, filtering all sources of information and fervently clinging to any news, no matter how obscure or grotesque, as confirming one’s view. If you pursuit the small religious sect theme, isolation and messianic cultism are bound together. In the extreme, one observes: Jonestown Guyana mass suicide. Do anything to avoid the pain of reality. This is not a lack of information. This is not the lack of alternatives. This is pain avoidance; the pain one is carrying in one’s head.

        The climate change cabal is desperately avoiding the pain of reality: there is a plateau in global temperature measurements. The world has moved on, emissions continue unabated, and the story…has become a side issue. How horrible it is to descend into irrelevancy. When things are not going right, then it is time to blame others for cheating, vigorously.

    • Michael, whoever you really are, you have an amazing ability to make inapt analogies and to mistate plain facts ( see bottom of last thread).
      Now, Andy’s emotional psych reasoning question is only (per Andy’s post) whether in your particularly well demonstrated case that is just an irrational emotional over-reaction, or a deliberately, cynical, and calculated Goebels/Lysenko thingy on your part. Me, I guess the later. Have you any evidence to prove me wrong?

  18. Andy,

    Thanks for another interesting and insightful essay. I continue to find your work well worth the time and effort to understand.

  19. Emtions andmessagig in climate ‘skepticism’ must also be interesting and insighful, guven the preponderance of fear-based memes in the denila-o-spere;
    – economic catastrophy,
    – loss of frredom of speech
    – threats to the very integrity of science
    – fascist one-workd government
    – Obama (see above)
    – the coming cold catastrophy (ie the next ice age) if we don’t burn more coal

    I’m sure Andy has more insights.

    • Yes, there’s a paragraph in the essay about these. And yes you’re right, some of these are certainly exaggerated into fear memes and other emotive strategies. But both quantitatively and qualitatively they are massively out-gunned by the emotive output of the climate consensus, which also benefits from emotive transmission from the highest authorities.

      Outside the US this is even more so (in most countries there isn’t mainstream party political opposition to CC policies), and the populous is subjected to the crafted campaigns discussed in section 2 through a wide range of mainstream sources. Bear in mind the discussion of those campaigns hasn’t got a skeptic line in them, it is all straight consensus material; the Consensus emotive pushing is self-described.

    • Wait, you missed a few:

      The end of the Enlightenment
      The end of the pursuit of truth in science
      Starving children in Africa
      Brainwashed children
      Consensus police

      • I think you over-cooked the tyranny ;)
        Just for fun you could list the opposite side too.

      • 1. Spread of disease 2. Warmer waters and more hurricanes 3. Increased probability and intensity of droughts and heat waves 4. Economic consequences 5. Polar ice caps melting 6. More floods 7. Fires and wildfires 8. Destructive storms 9. Death by smog 10. Desertification 11. Tsunamis 12. Cold Waves 13. Increased volcanic activity 14. More dangerous thunderstorms 15. Migration, conflict and wars 16. More outbreaks of deadly diseases 17. Loss of biodiversity and animal extinction 18. Death of ocean life 19. Animal attacks 20. Diminished food and water supplies
        Joshua’s list is about man hurting man to some extent. The above list is about nature hurting man because of man. One point of view is don’t tread on man and the other is, don’t tread on nature because nature will then tread on somebody else.

    • Danny Thomas

      Serious question. Have you evaluated all of these on your list and can you find no basis for at least some reasonable grounding?
      Sure, some of the over the top responses during emotional discussion of the topic of climate are in response to what is perceived as over the top projections on the part of those on the side of CAGW, but there are known (or knowable) costs associated with changing the global economy as one example.

      How about this?
      Economic Catastrophe vs. “the greatest threat”.
      Threats to the very integrity of science vs. Koonin being politically pushed out
      Fascist one world governments vs. IPCC summary for policymakers and U.N. representative such as:”“We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy. ” – Timothy Wirth quoted in Science Under Siege by Michael Fumento, 1993
      Obama (his administration) vs. well “settled science” like gravity and all…….

      • U.N. representative such as:”“We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy. ” – Timothy Wirth

        Is the theory of global warming wrong?

      • Danny Thomas

        A) Which one? There are several. Some more catastrophic than others. Some changing history. Some using high sensitivities, some low. Some with albedo having an effect, some not so much. Some with SLR inundating NYC about now, some later. And so on!
        B) Does it matter as it seems we need to “ride the issue” even if “it” is and “do the RIGHT thing” w/r/t the global economy policy and “environmental” policy (whatever those may be).

      • > Have you evaluated all of these on your list and can you find no basis for at least some reasonable grounding?

        What about you, Danny?

        Even denial has reasonable grounding.

      • Danny Thomas

        I will play one set of “climateball” with you, but it is your serve. If you’ll answer, I’m happy to volley. If not, then “fault”, and match is over.

      • Does it matter as it seems we need to “ride the issue” even if “it” is and “do the RIGHT thing” w/r/t the global economy policy and “environmental” policy

        Well if Timothy Wirth was the Svengali controlling the science and message behind global warming then I would be concerned. Otherwise not so much..

      • Danny Thomas

        Just one example: “Quote by John Holdren, President Obama’s science czar: “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States…De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation…Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided for every human being.”

        Quote by Robert Muller, former UN Assistant Secretary General: “In my view, after fifty years of service in the United National system, I perceive the utmost urgency and absolute necessity for proper Earth government. There is no shadow of a doubt that the present political and economic systems are no longer appropriate and will lead to the end of life evolution on this planet. We must therefore absolutely and urgently look for new ways.”

        Quote by Al Gore: “The fate of mankind, as well as religion, depends on the emergence of a new faith in the future. Armed with such a faith, we might find it possible to resanctify the earth.”

      • > [I]t is your serve.

        You can’t even answer your own question, Danny.

        You’re playing Columbo again.

      • Danny Thomas

        I already have answered “my own question” and as you still not responded showing me proof of how “global warming” stacked up against “global cooling” in mass media in the early 70’s I’ll keep my answer to myself, thank you.
        As you’ve told me in the past, you owe me nothing and I have no right to demand, but while I’m happy to participate in good faith, you’ve shown me none so I’ll wait.

      • So, Danny, without these individuals there would be no scientific consensus on climate change, no IPCC, and no call for action to address the problem? We all be skeptical like you

      • Danny Thomas

        A) That is not at all what I said, so those are your words?
        B) The discussion was an emotional response to a highly emotional “over the top” statement.
        You didn’t seem to care for the one example I provide (Tim Wirth) so I added a few more. Did you not follow that or was I really that unclear?

        Michael put forth a list of what I presume he perceives as “emotional skeptical” (and maybe in fact irrational?) reactions. Well a reaction begins with “re” so what may be the action source?

      • Ok, but I am not sure what any of these individuals might say really matters, except for maybe Al Gore. I wasn’t aware of any of these statements even Gore’s.

      • Danny Thomas

        Thank you. That’s exactly the point I’m (apparently poorly, once again) trying to state.
        I’m a lukewarmer (I gather that’s my label). But there are reasonable (from my view) emotional responses to (what I perceive as) unreasonable participants (on both sides). There are equally reasonable emotional responses for equally reasonable participants.
        “These people” have substantial enough voices to have been quoted, and the “skeptical” responses to those quotations which strike at the very heart of the economic and political portions frankly deserve to be responded to in kind. Who made them king of the world? Heck, who made Al Gore king? His actions frankly speak much more than his words to many, and that includes me. His actions are hypocritical and deserving of that being point out.
        And there are many, many more examples. (Don’t tell Willard, but I indeed have done the legwork and tons of reading).

      • > I already have answered “my own question” […]

        A dirty laundry list of talking points does not an answer make, Danny.

        Go slowly. Pick one item. Explain why you find any basis for at least some reasonable grounding for it. Articulate the grounding.

        Yet again, you’re asking your rivals to make your case for you. This is not the first time you use this ClimateBall ™ trick. Worse, you’re using the good ol’ ad superbiam, either by playing Columbo with or with more emotionally charged tricks like “I’m happy to participate in good faith, you’ve shown me none”

        Speaking of which, I think I could prove to you and to Denizens that you don’t participate in good faith. If I were you, I’d tone down the passive aggression. You’re starting to become less and less new here, and my patience has limits.

      • Danny Thomas

        Nope. You first. Show some good faith, I’ve seen none (that’s not passive).
        Your “patience” matters not to me.

      • Danny Thomas

        And Willard,
        Why do you see yourself as “my rival”? (Yet another question that I’m doubting you’ll answer).

      • These people” have substantial enough voices to have been quoted, and the “skeptical” responses to those quotations which strike at the very heart of the economic and political portions

        No Danny the only one with a “substantial” voice is Al Gore and none have the power to affect your life directly. Holdren might have some influence on science policy but I haven’t seen Obama say anything about de-development. He is right now promoting a trade agreement. Is that de-development?

      • Danny Thomas

        So the quotes don’t exist? I guess you don’t agree that an “emotional argument” from a bully pulpit is an effective tool. Holdren doesn’t speak for the administration? ( Why does he have his job, just for a free paycheck? Ce la vie.

      • > Show some good faith.

        Here are my comments so far, Danny, in this thread alone: I’ve asked you to answer you own question, and even offered a hint (the D word). I’ve told you you’re playing Columbo again. I’ve disputed your claim that you’ve answered your question, and told you how an answer to your question would look like. All this was made in good faith.


        You, on the other hand, are having a change of heart about having answered your own question:

        I’ll keep my answer to myself, thank you.

        right after rehashing this episode:

        you still not responded showing me proof of how “global warming” stacked up against “global cooling” in mass media in the early 70’s

        Notwithstanding that your story about you having answered your question has suddenly changed and what you think about those who change their minds, you rehash an episode where I made no commitment. In that episode too you changed your story: first your interest was about science, then it turned into the media, after which it returned to science with your CIA smoking gun about the word “cooling,” a word you could have read in the lichurchur anyway. Now, your interest seems to have returned to the media, a topic about which I made no commitment except by warning you to beware what you were wishing for.

        You are less forthright than you pretend to be, Danny.

      • Danny Thomas

        You see Willard, smart as you may think you are, I never said I answered the question here.
        Yes, you made no commitment to answer my question about global cooling, and I made and owe you no commitment on this topic. I will tell you this, you might as well move on as without a show of good faith on your part, this thread goes no further from my end. That is a forthright as I know how to be.
        Beware? What the heck does that mean? (Oh shoot, that’s another question and you don’t answer those as you obviously have “commitment” issues).
        G’nite W.

      • > You see Willard, smart as you may think you are, I never said I answered the question here.

        Right here, Columbo:

        I already have answered “my own question” […]

        This quote comes from a comment you made at 9:01 pm. This quote has been quoted at 9:18 pm too, and I responded to it.

        There’s no need to be smart to show that you’re not being fortright, Danny. I don’t even have to play Columbo to do so. All is needed is the patience to document all the things you say from one comment to the next.

      • Danny Thomas

        I have answered my own question, just didn’t bother to share it with you. But you can’t seem to grasp that, eh, W?

      • With one exception, every single reference to an ice age in my hometown paper, starting in 1972, was accompanied with a reference to global warming because of man’s activities. They were balanced.

        The lone exception was a headline which stated the ice age was 10,000 years away.

      • Danny Thomas

        Thank you for at least some effort. However, I don’t know where your hometown is and doubt it was equal to WaPo, Newsweek, Time, and L. Nimoy (h/t Mike) and his teevee show. Presuming it was me who was unclear, I was referring to national media. Catastrophe sells, and even you’d have to admit that I’m not the only one here who recalls cooling predominating in the media. I’ve checked, but prior to about 1976 I have been unable to find but a few references to warming nationally. Yes, in the academic literature but most folks didn’t (and still don’t?) read those.

      • > I have answered my own question, just didn’t bother to share it with you.

        You’re quite right, Danny. You were sharing it with Joseph:

        How about this?

        Economic Catastrophe vs. “the greatest threat”.

        Threats to the very integrity of science vs. Koonin being politically pushed out

        Fascist one world governments vs. IPCC summary for policymakers and U.N. representative such as:”“We’ve got to ride the global warming issue.

        Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy. ” – Timothy Wirth quoted in Science Under Siege by Michael Fumento, 1993

        Obama (his administration) vs. well “settled science” like gravity and all…….

        How about this dirty laudry list of talking points, Danny?

        Please, do try to argue that what follows “how about this” was not offered as an answer to your own question.

      • Danny Thomas

        That you think I’m that superficial almost hurts my feeling W. I’m not required to write a book of examples of both sides of the argument, just giving representative examples as an offset. That you’re apparently unable to glean that this was a simple blog post and not an in depth academic study says more about you than I. In no way am I taking a side, just offering a discussion. Unlike you, it doesn’t always have to be “climateball”.
        Just curious if that was the “ware” is was supposed to BE of?

      • > Catastrophe sells, and even you’d have to admit that I’m not the only one here who recalls cooling predominating in the media.

        It sells so well that, with emphasis that:

        [I]n the subsequent three decades, mass media coverage regarding climate change remained sparse. These pieces regarding human’s role in a changing climate served to be a rare instances of media coverage of climate science, as well as clarity regarding anthropogenic climate change. There was scant newspaper, radio and television news coverage on topics such as U.S. National Academy of Sciences reports in the 1960s and 1970s that made repeated reference to emergent climate science, and links to anthropogenic sources.

        Boykoff & Roberts do mention that “Media coverage of human contributions to climate change appeared more clearly in the 1950s,” however. Others note that the energy crisis in 1975 were more propitious to raise awareness. Others note that the discovery of multiple ice-ages and the creation of the first GCMs made a splash too.

        Come on, Danny. Bring up Pop’s list.

      • Danny Thomas

        Thank you for your effort. I posted that discussion the other day and take note that you’re kind enough to utilize it now. When they say coverage was sparse, do they indicate cooling vs. warming? I don’t see that. I see a paper from 1957, then skipping to the 1980’s. Aerosols are indeed in some cases “anthropogenic sources” (and suggested as potentially leading to cooling), are they not? For my final attempt. I’ve given Newsweek, Time, WaPo, CIA (unknown author) and a teevee show, and ask for a comparison of MSM discussion of warming. Can you provide MSM to MSM? Peterson took care of academia 42-7. But once again I state we didn’t read academic papers for the most part. Climateball still in your court, but thanks for the effort.

      • > In no way am I taking a side, just offering a discussion.

        Here we go again:

        I’m a lukewarmer (I gather that’s my label).

        Thank you for all the other excuses, D.

      • Danny Thomas

        Your point? (or do you want me to make it for you? But wait, we don’t want “our rivals” doing our work for us).

      • Our willy has graciously stepped in to fill the foolishness void resulting from joshie’s ignominious banishment to the moderation bin. He’s not used to working this hard, so we hope he can keep up.

      • Danny Thomas

        Please don’t mess this up with Willard. He’s actually doing some work (ignoring he’s used a link I provided and forgetting that aerosols can also be anthro) instead of linking just to comments and implying who knows what.

      • The articles were written by national news services like the AP and Ridder News Service, so the articles appeared the nation’s newspapers, both big and small, nationwide.

      • Danny Thomas

        Yes, but how many were warming vs. cooling? It’s a very simple question.
        I’ve offered (repeating to boredom of everyone else) Newsweek, Time, Wapo, and a teevee show on cooling. I cannot find them for warming. Links, please?

      • The treatment was equal. All articles except one mentioned both aerosols leading to cooling and man’s activities leading to warming. It was like, some scientists think this, and others think this – balanced. Nixon’s council presented both, and was undecided on which was right.

        The one article that was one-sided, which cited Lamb extensively, mentioned only an ice age – in 10,000 years.

        I called the local library, and they did the search and sent me the articles.

      • Danny Thomas

        Hard copy, or e-mail? Dates are important which is why I ask. I’ll trust you to provide if hard copy.

      • Good luck with reforming willy, Danny:)

      • Danny Thomas

        Thanks Don! (or is this Joshua?)

      • I would suggest you call the WaPo or the NYT and do your own research.

        Another place to try would be the AP or Ridder.

        I was surprised by how the language is about the same. I asked for a search of the 1970s, and the first hit was Nixon’s Council on Environmental Quality report:

        It’s on Google:

        <a href=",1246174&hl=en"It's on Google

      • Danny Thomas

        I have done my own internet research and came up empty except for after about 1976 on warming articles in MSM (not academic). You state you got them for MSM but won’t verify, that’s fine (and forgive my being skeptical).
        Even in the link you provide the first para discussion climate states ice age THEN melting ice caps. After that, it’s “land use, land use, land use” then uncertainty again of cooling vs. warming. So you’ve got one article from a paper called “The Day” in New London, Ct. (distributing an AP article)
        and I’ve found Time, Newsweek, WaPo, and TeeVee w/ L. Nimoy. In Willard’s climateball, if that’s all you got it’s game, set and match.

      • I asked the librarian to search the local paper for: ice age. I did not mention any other search term. She came up with the articles.

        Land use is going to melt the polar ice caps? It’s 1970.

        It’s fine if you are skeptical of me. Feelin”s mutual. I’m skeptical you are capable of honesty.

      • Danny Thomas

        Where have I been dishonest? I gave the links to several on cooling, you gave one on “maybe cooling/maybe warming”. I never went ad hom and called you dishonest. I’m skeptical that GW was a topic in MSM in the early 70’s, asked you to prove it was, and that’s all you provide. I’m skeptical of GW being as prominent as cooling in the early 70’s. You choosing to read more in to my words than that is your issue, not mine.
        Land use accounts for somewhere between 10 & 30% (more prior to 1950) of CO2/warming via deforestation, ag practice, UHE, and transportation issues. And it’s predominant in the like about Nixon which I remind you that YOU provided. That’s all I was saying.
        But as the saying goes, once it reaches a level of ad hom, it means YOU’VE lost the argument.

      • Ice age only

        Done with you.

      • Danny Thomas

        Wow! Prove my point about MSM indicating that an Ice age/global cooling was imminent in the early 70’s and you show agitation? Still no indication of an equal or predominant level of discussion of global warming during the same time frame. So who’s got a propensity for dishonesty? Me, or you?

      • Danny Thomas

        From wiki:”The mainstream news media at the time exaggerated the warnings of the minority who expected imminent cooling. For example, in 1975, Newsweek magazine published a story that warned of “ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change.”[30] The article continued by stating that evidence of global cooling was so strong that meteorologists were having “a hard time keeping up with it.”[30] On October 23, 2006, Newsweek issued an update stating that it had been “spectacularly wrong about the near-term future”.[31]”

        Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but during the time:”The mainstream news media at the time exaggerated the warnings of the minority who expected imminent cooling.”

        Such as it was, you can’t change it now.
        I’m not arguing accuracy, I’m arguing the message. It was much more so that the world would cool than warm, at that time. Again inviting you to prove me wrong, but you’ve not even come close so far.

      • JCH:

        The lone exception was a headline which stated the ice age was 10,000 years away.

        My memory from elementary school was just about ice age. My friends and I talked about it not in fear but as little scientists showing off important (dire) knowledge to friends and parents. Nobody reacted much to our authority and so it was just a one quickly fading episode. Later, about 1978, in HS there was a movie on warming, which at first was a relief because it sounded a lot better than ice age. Then they showed Florida going underwater along with a lot of the world coastline. Ah shucks, I thought, another problem. This was just after the China Syndrome of nuclear plant disaster scenario and just before the 1980 Jupiter Effect when planetary conjunction was to cause massive quakes. About the next year or two the Ozone and Aids took over the news doom spots.

        That 10,000 years was not correct info, as you know now, unless they were counting on AGW to counter the M-cycles. Thanks to the web we are the first generation to be able to inform ourselves better than the media ever could or would, Just hearing Kerry and Obama speak now should send off alarm bells to people here that know the true state of climate science.

        JCH, can you say the debate is over except to flat Earther’s?

      • Well Danny, you know you got ’em when they play the ‘debate is over’ card. Neutral observers from another planet watching the foolishness here are saying,”Hmm, that petulant joker with the three letter name just ran up a white flag.”

      • > Your point?

        That “in no way am I taking a side, just offering a discussion” shows an emotional bias regarding how you romancize your own stance in the climate domain, to keep up with the theme of the current post.


        > He’s actually doing some work (ignoring he’s used a link I provided […]

        Not ignoring that you already provided the link, Danny, makes me wonder why you ask:

        When they say coverage was sparse, do they indicate cooling vs. warming?

        Either you have not read the link you already provided, or you did. Whether you did or not, your loaded question deflects from the emphasis that the coverage was sparse. One does not simply sells catastrophes using a sparse coverage and expect to subdue Mordor.

        Scarcity kinda undermines the whole idea that there was a scare in the media in the 70s about global cooling, don’t you think?

      • Danny Thomas


        Sparse (def) thinly dispersed or scattered.
        Of note, if one topic is thinly dispersed or scattered and the other is non existent, which is more discussed.
        Scarcity in no way undermines the “cooling scare” of the the 70’s as it compares with the scare of “global warming” during the same time frame (which has been my argument all along).
        Nice try though, Mordor! Is this more of the “ware” I should be of? (ugh, more ending with a preposition).

      • What are you doing, willy? Didn’t you get the memo? Your little pal with the three letter name has played the ‘debate is over’ card. Your side has surrendered to Danny. You are supposed to pretend that he is unworthy of your time. Uneducable. Irrational. Etc.

        Is joshie OK? Hey, why did you censor that guy with the Nahuatl name, over on your home blog? Are you proud of yourself, willy?

      • Danny Thomas

        Thanks Don. While you’re at it please remind them I’m a lukewarmer and refer them back to this:


      • Fear ‘n guilt emotion sells, hot, cold, no worries,er, well
        yes, worries.Canberra press, May 16 1974, cooling
        attributed to volcanoes, man-made particulates and CO2.

      • His fascination with the 1970s is pointless. A wide majority of scientists at that time thought the world was going to get warmer. In the early 1970s the winters were usually bitterly cold. The warming trend since then is .16C per decade, and the 9-month trend is very similar to 1997 -1998.

      • Danny Thomas


        Sorry, but it was a bigger story than you make it out to be.
        I fear your response to me and calling me dishonest is nothing but………..well…………emotional bias.

      • ” Danny Thomas | April 24, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Reply
        Serious question. Have you evaluated all of these on your list and can you find no basis for at least some reasonable grounding?” – Danny

        No, just wondering, given the ‘skeptical’ aceptence of what AW has written,whether they’d pondered their own emotional biases.

        A silly question, of course.

        But it is a pretty silly and superficial post.

      • Michael,

        But it is a pretty silly and superficial post.

        On what basis do you say that? Compared with what? Cook? Lewandowski?

        Or is it because it doesn’t support your beliefs?

        My guess is the latter. Am I correct?

      • Of course you are correct Peter.

        My dissent can only be irrational.

      • Michael | April 25, 2015 at 7:17 am

        Skeptic emotional kick-back is mentioned in the post. But to challenge the precise level of this misses the point. All the quotes and material referenced in the post are solidly Consensus stuff. No skeptic sources. The situation regarding crafted emotional messaging that has targeted society for many years, and the impact of this, is all *self-described* by the Consensus. So to disagree with the conclusion of bias in our society regarding all climate endeavors, then you must either have significant material to rebut these many Consensus sources, or disagree with the principle of emotional bias per section 1 altogether. OTOH, you can just abandon any logical argument by saying it’s all ‘silly’.

      • you can just abandon any logical argument by saying it’s all ‘silly’.

        Of course, being a genuine skeptic, you’ve obviously recognised that someone who dismisses something as silly might have done so because they’ve evaluated what has been written, decided that it is indeed silly, and – consequently – decided that there isn’t much point in explaining why to someone who could write something so silly in the first place. This might not be the case, but genuine skepticism would seem to require at least considering it.

      • Andy,

        You’d think that the assembled throng of ‘skeptics’ here would have noticed one rather glaring anomoly in all this.

        You posit an apparently powerful force, so powerful that it will “…very likely prevent us from properly progressing our knowledge of the climate, perhaps for a very long time.” – AW (those with a keen sense of the absurd will probably wonder if this is the same as the IPCC’s ‘very likely’).

        Yet, despite this force, public support for action seems rather modest, and national governments have been slow to take action and the action that has occured has been piecemeal and tentative.

        We’ll just ignore how this rhetorical hyperbole emeged from nowhere at the end, the slew of conveniently vague and undefined definitions and logical leaps that had my eyes rolling so much that I was in danger of getting RSI of the eyeballs.

        It’s just another homeopathic beverage at Judith’s Weak Tea Saloon.

      • Michael | April 25, 2015 at 9:24 am |

        You’d think that the assembled throng of ‘skeptics’ here would have noticed one rather glaring anomoly in all this.

        You posit an apparently powerful force, so powerful that it will “…very likely prevent us from properly progressing our knowledge of the climate, perhaps for a very long time.” – AW (those with a keen sense of the absurd will probably wonder if this is the same as the IPCC’s ‘very likely’).

        Yet, despite this force, public support for action seems rather modest, and national governments have been slow to take action and the action that has occured has been piecemeal and tentative.

        The global warmers are abusive of the facts and the skeptics. They are rude, irrational, hyperbolic, illogical, and dishonest. They are such true believers that they don’t see that threatening skeptics and trying to win the day by bludgeoning or gagging their ideological/factual opponents is wrong.

        This is why the global warmers have been ineffective – the fact-free, heavy handed tactics promote a backlash. And further – these tactics are bad for honest science.

        The Cult of Anthropomorphic Global Warming has screwed up climate science – perhaps for decades.

        Perhaps if we debar CAGW grant recipients and purge CAGW members from the government bureaucracy we can restore order to climate science.

      • I emailed my hometown library and asked how many articles in the 1970s contained: ice age. A girl I do not know, and over 1000 miles away, did the search. She found that in ten years there were a tiny handful of articles written by national news services that included: ice age. With one exception, all articles mentioned man-made activities going in one of two directions: colder or warmer.

        In the one exception, an ice age was predicted in 10,000 years.

        You said you were skeptical, and acted like I had to prove I was honest. The pause has made fools of a very large number of people, most of them smarter than i am, which is the hilarious part.

      • Danny Thomas

        If I left the impression I was doubting your honesty, I do apologize. I’ve never seen an indication of such. My apparently poorly worded comment w/r/t skepticism was intended to refer to “a tiny handful of articles” which indeed turned out to be wildly inaccurate as evidenced:
        The entire discussion on the topic of the 70’s cooling is meant to present a case for WHY there is resistance from so many on the global warming.
        I truly cannot find an equal level of MSM articles on warming during the same time frame, and no one here has provided same.
        While I understand the “emotional bias” in your reaction to questioning my honesty it is unfounded. I’m not the brightest but I am a worker and do my own leg work. If you have good reason to question my honesty, I’d appreciate a reference. If not, another approach might be in order. This is up to you. Either way, my regards.

      • ATTP

        Of course, being a genuine skeptic, you’ve obviously recognised that someone who dismisses something as silly might have done so because they’ve evaluated what has been written, decided that it is indeed silly, and – consequently – decided that there isn’t much point in explaining why to someone who could write something so silly in the first place. This might not be the case, but genuine skepticism would seem to require at least considering it.

        I think all can agree that psychoanalysis of one’s argument is not persuasive to the person who you are trying to reveal as deluded. Let’s find areas all can agree and work from there.

        There are revelations of ominous dangers continuously from as far back as recorded history itself. Ex., The Book of Revelation, Nostradamus, more recently Aids and superbug pandemic, China Syndrome, MAD, GMOs.
        Most all alarms have a basis. They are true problems.
        Most problems looking back were not as insoluble as thought at the time. The inability to see a solution leads to the fear there is none. Only in hindsight does the solution look logical and foreseeable.
        All problems are relative. However good times are there will always be a wicked problem hanging out there. <AGW elevates as news when all else subsides. If one can think of a time when there was not I would like to know when.
        Like all predictions, as evidence of support fades the memory of the prediction fades. This leads to the illusion that the current set of problems are unique and long predicted. This is a well known psychological illusion used by fortune tellers to appear to have predictive powers.
        Given that all problems are legitimately evaluated on the current accumulated evidence when new evidence in support or opposition of the held beliefs there is opportunity to re-stake one’s position. Therefore there is a universal out for either side in the face of strong new evidence.
        Beliefs are hard to fast abandon.
        Religious beliefs are the hardest of the hard to abandon.
        For scientific hygiene a scientist should make a point to divorce emotional investment into ideas

      • Michael | April 25, 2015 at 9:24 am

        Ah, far more interesting. Here you have come upon an issue that has consumed much effort in the Consensus over recent years, and in fact is a motivating factor for many of the psychological studies mounted by consensus folks, including some of those quoted here. While in fact Governments are spending huge amounts of money on climate change issues, and along with NGOs and many other orgs have messaged very powerfully for CC policies for many years, there is indeed still considerable public reluctance to conform. Understanding why this is so has pretty much become the Holy Grail of climate psychologists, and attempts to figure out ‘why?’ pervade consensus literature, so far without an acknowledged answer yet with a great deal of speculation. They consider this especially puzzling because, per the post here, in many ways the messaging worked, in most western countries the science orgs and policy makers and most official bodies have long been persuaded by the emotive pitches (hence the resultant bias). Sometimes even public majorities claim belief in CAGW, and yet still when it comes to meaningful action, the issues mysteriously drops down the agenda. Or mysteriously if one is looking through the lens of consensus understanding. Traditionally, active skeptics have been blamed, and per pretty much all of the quotes in section 2 above, there are also reccomendations to emotively craft the communication campaigns still more (which will cause still more bias). I figure that’s a bit of a desperation tactic. However, some of those traditional explanations are now being questioned, which started with the realisation that fear memes are producing negative effects and should be moderated (per the head post), and are moving to more questions, albeit ‘more targeted communication’ remains the main trumpeted call in absence of a better policy (and you will have seen that discussed here before).

        The most likely reason for this public inaction is ‘innate skepticism’, an instinctive defense that Lewandowsky calls ‘the key to accuracy’. Being instinctive, it requires no topic knowledge, it may work via the style of narrative being fostered upon folks. It is also a kind of last ditch defense; it may build up more when folks are pushed by major bias and aggressive narrative all around them, which hence requires this to build to major levels first. It is therefore also a passive force, a reaction. And per my last guest post here at Climate Etc (referencing Dan Kahan’s work), this innate resistance can be overcome by increased formal learning; more aware folks will either move to immersion in climate orthodoxy, or to conscious skepticism. Hence this effect sits with the bulk of people who know very little about the climate domain, but will not exist for all the knowledgeable climate scientists, environmentalists, policy makers etc who will still be (in great majority) Consensus supporters, and emotively biased as they themselves have long been impacted by the messaging campaigns, per head post. Hence you can indeed have major bias and corruption of proper process, at the same time as a large rump of reluctance in the public domain.

        Now you may not agree with this explanation. Fine. But very many thinkers in the Consensus are expending a great deal of effort in chasing their own explanation. One consistent with Consensus principles, of course. They haven’t got an answer yet. So if you feel you have one better than mine, they’d probably be very keen indeed to hear from you.

      • > Scarcity in no way undermines the “cooling scare” of the the 70’s as it compares with the scare of “global warming” during the same time frame.

        The comparison is irrelevant for establishing a scare, Danny. A scare cannot be scarce. If newspapers and tee vee shows need to sell scare every day, you must see it everyday. It’s quite simple, really. Even Columbo could not hide that he gets that.

        Considering that news outlets need scares to sell, do you recall what was the daily scare the national media was trying to make you buy in the mid 70s, or is your memory selective enough (say by some kind of emotional bias) that you only recall the scarce news about global cooling?

      • So if you feel you have one better than mine, they’d probably be very keen indeed to hear from you.

        I doubt it. And I’m not really sure how different my answer is from yours (may be just saying the same thing in different terms).

        But, I’ll point out that humans have been engaging in social pressure manipulations, and the tactics involved, since before our lineage separated from Chimps, Bonobos, and Gorillas. The addition of language, and the use of language in such pressure manipulations, probably added considerable “sophistication” to the process. Certainly didn’t make it go away.

        IMO most people have a built-in BS detector that doesn’t depend on the details of what somebody’s trying to convince them of persuade them to do. They look at the methods used, and get reeeeeal skeptical.

        “Facts” don’t matter so much, and they’ll let you convince them there, but when it comes to action, unconscious, and probably innate, defenses rise up to protect them. IMO.

      • I knew you’d resort to Pop’s list, Danny.

        Now, please filter it according to your own criteria:

        Thank you for at least some effort. However, I don’t know where your hometown is and doubt it was equal to WaPo, Newsweek, Time, and L. Nimoy (h/t Mike) and his teevee show. Presuming it was me who was unclear, I was referring to national media.

        How many hits for WaPo, Newsweek, Time in what kind of time span, and why did you inject Leonard into that list?

      • Danny Thomas

        “Now, please filter it according to your own criteria:”
        Ya know, I’ll get right on that as soon as you show some work detailing the volume of global warming articles and teevee shows in mass media for the same time frames. But just to be clear, this is not a commitment as I don’t owe you anything (as you’ve so kindly taught me). But I can chose to do it if I want. And I miss your wiki links:

      • > this is not a commitment as I don’t owe you anything

        Not sure which “this” you have in mind, Danny, neither do I see why you’d need to owe me anything for you to have a commitment.

        Here’s a primer on commitments:

        The concept of commitment is the basic idea behind all dialogue as a form of reasoned argumentation – see Hamblin (1970), Hamblin (1971), Walton (1984), and Walton and Krabbe (1992). In a dialogue, each participant has a set of propositions called that participant’s commitment set. As the various speech acts of asserting, questioning, etc. are brought forward in turn by the participants, propositions are added to or deleted from the participants’ commitment sets. One simple rule, for example, is that when a participant asserts a proposition, it goes into her commitment set.

        Maybe you made that proposition earlier:

        Maybe, it wasn’t so scarce: […]

        So maybe, just maybe, you are committed to back up that claim.

        Just maybe.


        Oh, and speaking of good faith:

        Ya know, I’ll get right on that as soon as you show some work […]

        Why don’t you start showing the work you have made, Danny? I made no commitment regarding that work. On the other hand, you commited regarding to having made the work:

        I’ve offered (repeating to boredom of everyone else) Newsweek, Time, Wapo, and a teevee show on cooling. I cannot find them for warming. Links, please?

        What have you found regarding cooling, Danny?

        Links, please?

      • Danny Thomas

        From the link: “Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it and understand its meaning.”

        Ain’t climateball fun? No rules, just copy and paste excerpts, add links, click enter.
        No real good faith or work needed, and ever so entertaining for others.

      • JC delete. This discussion is pointless and taking up too much space.

      • Danny Thomas

        Sorry. I shoulda made it easier for ya:”Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it and understand its meaning. An individual’s ability to comprehend text is influenced by their traits and skills, one of which is the ability to make inferences. If word recognition is difficult, students use too much of their processing capacity to read individual words, which interferes with their ability to comprehend what is read. There are a number of approaches to improve reading comprehension, including improving one’s vocabulary and reading strategies.”
        (Just love those wiki links, eh?)
        Can lead a horse to water……………………………….

      • Oh lookie here, wee willy has stooped to playing the ‘debate is over card’. He’s thrown in the towel. Danny by TKO, 27th round. Willy’s legs gave out.

      • AK | April 25, 2015 at 12:33 pm

        Good observation. I agree the arms race between social pressure and resistance does indeed go back this far. In fact there have been *net* advantages to socially enforced consensus thus far, gets a large group singing off the same hymn-sheet and so delivers more leverage. But there are sizeable down-sides too, and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. CAGW being a case in point. ‘Innate skepticism’ is likely our safeguard and braking mechanism for such cases.

      • Andy,

        Your last comment only makes this statement stranger still;
        “…very likely prevent us from properly progressing our knowledge of the climate, perhaps for a very long time.”

        Was it just some throw-away empty rhetoric?

      • Michael | April 26, 2015 at 7:40 am

        Absolutely not. The IPCC is a prime example. Here at CE not least, you will have seen many texts from our host and others regarding how the IPCC is inhibiting the process of discovering the many complexities of the climate system, via group-think and other mechanisms. I agree with that view, and think this situation will continue ‘perhaps for a very long time’. Maybe decades, and certainly some years. The emotional strategies and impact, as self-described by the Consensus in the head post references, are a strong contribution to this situation.

      • andywest2012 | April 26, 2015 at 10:11 am

        P.S. this is completely consistent with the comment at 11.54 am / 25th, not sure what issue you are actually raising.

      • Andy,

        That previous comment just highligths the discrepancy between this powerful force that is stopping progress in science “for a very long time”, and yet has no great effect on the public or governments.

        That scientists are much more prone to this needs some explaining,especially seeing you don’t seem to argue for such a selective effect.

      • Michael | April 26, 2015 at 10:38 am

        I think (many) governments are very much affected, though fortunately in democracies these cannot outpace their publics by too much, or they won’t stay in power. The comment at 11.54am 25th briefly outlines the ‘innate skepticism’ of much of the public, who are largely unaware of detail, and why (in agreement with the findings of Dan Kahan), the more knowledgeable folks, including scientists, are much more affected. The more science aware folks are, then the more polarized they become on CAGW. The most science aware are wholly polarized. Innate skepticism either turns to conscious skepticism, or (currently for a majority of the domain), climate orthodoxy. Cannot demonstrate in a such a small space, but my last guest post overlaps this area a lot, and directly references Dan’s studies (plus some general surveys) showing this effect in the US; you can follow these up for all the graphs and figures.

        Also helpful is my last series at WUWT, which shows operation of various cognitive bias effects (including emotive bias) in the consensus, and also says a little more about innate skepticism, which Lewandowsky names ‘the key to accuracy’. The list of bias effects are all nicely described in papers by Lewandowsky and associated authors, so no possible skeptic taint, and all the other quotes and data supportive to the case are also taken from solidly Consensus quotes / papers.

        Head posts can only be so big (this one was already at Judith’s max count), so focuses only on 1) emotive bias the principle, 2) the fact of the Consensus deliberately crafting mass emotive communication over many years 3) the resulting impact upon scientists. The latter are obviously one of the most interesting groups (along maybe with policy makers), because if these guys have been pulled into the cyclic amplification of emotive scare stories, then objectivity is certainly lost. The other posts focus on other aspects, and the WUWT series is much wider in scope as I had 3 large posts to play with.

  20. Joshua | April 24, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Reply
    W/r/t Andy’s diminishing of the “emotive” messaging of “skeptics”

    I beg your pardon? No sir.

    Yes there is emotive messaging there and in other skeptic blogs too. Now despite WUWT’s wide readership, tell me the ratio of all that skeptic blog stuff added together, averaged over the last decade say, compared to the enormous world exposure to the heavy emotive messaging of CAGW from all possible media sources.

    Consensus folks themselves have said (sorry didn’t keep the link), that the message about critical danger from CC may well be the first single message to have reached all populations on the globe. That’s a pretty big number even compared to the impressive WUWT figures, perhaps Anthony can help with how how he stacks up against a few billion.

    • Faux New is the most watched news station in America, Andy. And you hear a constant stream of fear mongering about what will happen if we address climate change coming from that news outlet. Wake up..

      • see reply below, sorry mis-threaded.

      • hmmm… my threading gone wrong.

      • I deleted some comments, which unfortunately messes up the threading

      • Thanks for that, despite the threading problem that ensues.

      • Judith, it may be somewhat more work … but I believe the threading can be maintained if you simply delete the content of the comment(s).

        But (here’s a radical thought!) …. You might also want to consider deleting the content of those who persist in “feeding” such perennially attention-seeking posters by responding.

        To my mind, the latter are just as “guilty” of thread-pollution/diversion as the one(s) to whom they are responding. Notwithstanding the fact that they may well have the best of intentions!

        The initiator(s) may not learn from the experience, but my hope would be that those who choose to respond directly most certainly would.

        If a tree falls in the forest, and all that ;-)

      • Judith should also look at using the in-line comments option so that comments can be more easily kept on topic. I think that disqus offers a better comment system to manage than WordPress and can be used effectively on WordPress sites like Judith’s.

      • I’m sure there are better ways to manage a high traffic blog, but I am sufficiently computer dysfunctional that I think I need to stick with, now that I’ve figured it out

      • Although I might sympathise with much of what Joshua says, I also sympathise with you in terms of how difficult it can be to manage/moderate a blog – especially as yours probably has much more traffic than mine. I think fairly rigid/strong moderation is quite good, but often get criticised for mine, even here :-)

      • Thx, it is indeed a challenge. I am prepared to let pretty much ‘anything go’ on week in review and open threads, but definitely not on technical or guest posts.

        Note: no one is permanently banned here; I am merely putting them in moderation so I can check their comments before they are posting.

      • ATTP “Although I might sympathise with much of what Joshua says, I also sympathise with you in terms of how difficult it can be to manage/moderate a blog – especially as yours probably has much more traffic than mine. I think fairly rigid/strong moderation is quite good, but often get criticised for mine, even here :-)”

        I think the key is to be seen as being evenhanded.

      • I’m still hoping to cook up a decent automated solution for, but it’s not my day gig so it’s slow going.

      • well that would be wonderful if you can figure something out

      • + 10 In the last few months I’ve skipped almost all of the interminable sub-threads involving the usual suspects, whose motivation seems often to be attention-seeking rather than serious interchange. Stirring up CE must be the prime interest and activity of at least one poster, who I’ve found in the past did not engage in good faith. I’m no longer a CE addict but a casual dipper, often good head posts, but also often too much dross to wade through to find the nuggets. Faustino

      • This is probably a good idea, and if i’m deleting too many comments from a single individual, I will put them in moderation

      • I think you should just replace their comment with “Deleted by Moderator” so as not to mess up the threading. Pretty much everyone sees the necessity, so making it more obvious shouldn’t be an issue.

      • +1

      • Perhaps Fox is merely applying the “Precautionary Principle” to the precautionary proposals of CAGW advocates? It is a target-rich environment, given the prevalence of “availability cascade”s.

    • > Now despite WUWT’s wide readership, tell me the ratio of all that skeptic blog stuff added together, averaged over the last decade say, compared to the enormous world exposure to the heavy emotive messaging of CAGW from all possible media sources.

      You’re the one who made a claim about that earlier, Andy:

      Yet overall this is massively outgunned by the emotive CAGW storylines pouring out of mainstream sources […]

      Reversing the burden of proof might indicate an emotional bias.

      • David Springer

        I wonder if a universe exists where Willard and Joshua are even half as clever as they think?

    • You have fallen into the troll pit, andy.

    • Joseph | April 24, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Accepted. I have been to the US very many times and have even had some time to scan TV channels occasionally, and have seen FOX news, though I wouldn’t say enough to be familiar with it. I had I not however realized its viewer figures were so high. But I do not think opposition memes will help to reduce the emotive content of the Consensus. If anything, any highly exaggerated opposition (if this is indeed what FOX does) may help to ratchet up both sides in an arms race, which will do nothing to help a return of objectivity. And the Consensus side still easily outguns; while joined by the recent situation in Oz, long term party political opposition to CC policies is still more of a US thing.

      • Well it does make a difference, Andy, because, other than China, the US is by far the largest player in this whole issue. And your essay make absolutely no sense if you were aware of the political machinations that go on over the topic here.

      • Yes I’m pretty well aware of the CC play in the US, if not very familiar with FOX news itself. Follow Judith’s and other political threads v regular, have very many US colleagues. How does the existence of some opposition emotion there, reduce the emotive messaging and the resulting bias as described in the post?

      • Because your analysis was completely one sided. People often use emotional laden messaging to persuade. It’s nothing new, not going away, and is used in numerous politically charged issues. Each person has to be responsible for filtering out the facts.

      • joseph, “Each person has to be responsible for filtering out the facts.”

        Very true. I believe some call that filter a BS detector.

        Polar bears are on the verge of extinction because of Climate Change. beep beep.

        The Himalayan glaciers will be gone by 2035. beep beep

        Oh wait. If my beep beep and your beep beep are out of synch then we each have our on facts. beep beep beep beep….

      • Very interesting post Andy.

        Western society has been hit by a wave of emotion that has now crested. How many years until it will have subsided do you think?


      • wkernkamp | April 24, 2015 at 10:54 pm

        Decades still, is my guess. Although maybe will not retain entirely the current form, especially if the ‘hiatus’ seriously extends. Powerful and emotive social narratives have a tendency to evolve to a better fit if constraints should appear.

      • Well,

        There are between 25,000 and 30,000 polar bears (conservatively). They are at carrying capacity in a couple of areas (like Davis Strait).

        They live about 25 years on average.

        600-800 are killed legally every year.

        A bunch are killed not so legally.

        The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group appears to avoid counting polar bears in 2/3rds of the habitat completely, and where bears are increasing (to keep older low numbers). Perhaps the PBSG should be defunded if they keep refusing to do their job.

        It looks like the polar bear population is more or less in balance except possibly in Russia where there is some poaching.

      • The post already notes emotive kickback from skeptics. But if you really believe the above, then present how either section 1, 2, or 3 above, is not significant regarding the worldwide major and crafted emotive output of the Consensus.

      • andywest2012 | April 25, 2015 at 4:02 am

        ahhh… I think the deletions are still screwing some of my threading. This meant for Joseph at April 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm.

      • To respond to everything you wrote in your post would require another essay which I have no desire to do, but one thing you have to acknowledge is that the risks associated with climate change are by there very nature going to evoke emotional responses, So if someone says we will see more ocean acidification and this could put certain species at risk, how is someone supposed to react to that without also having an emotional response?

      • Joseph | April 25, 2015 at 9:26 pm

        But given that the emotive content has been *deliberately* targeted and maximized over many years, per section 2, and given scientists and policy makers et al are embedded within the targeted society, such that per section 3 they have been highly impacted too, how do we know any longer that the level of risk pronounced for the species (and other CC issues) is true, or rather a function of long-term emotional bias? Many of the dangers expressed in the emotive scientists letters seem to have left the IPCC technical position far behind, let alone anything more skeptical than this position.

        Now if the emotional aspects had been *minimized* for years until we had collected enough information for higher certainties regarding various aspects of the complex climate system (hence ensuring science can get on with its job), then your point would stand. Humans are emotional creatures and there’s no getting around that. But the exact opposite of this has occurred. And they are deliberately seeking to turn up the emotive knob still further. The more usual response of scientists and authority is indeed to minimize emotive output to society, until much more is known about relative risks. Unless this is done scare stories tend to spiral out of control, especially in a situation spanning decades. When scientists themselves get caught in the spiral, objectivity is lost.

        And there are no skeptic sourced references or quotes in the post. The entire strategy plus impact regarding emotions is *self-described* by the Consensus itself.

      • Many of the dangers expressed in the emotive scientists

        I think the emotive scientists are a small minority and my impression is in almost all cases scientists fairly represent their work and rarely exaggerate about their work. Now the media may sometimes exaggerate dangers for effect but even that seems to be sporadic and many politicians often exaggerate to some degree on almost every political issue.

      • Danny Thomas

        Wonder if this: “Now the media may sometimes exaggerate dangers for effect ” might have happened before. Say w/r/t some coming global cooling event of the early 1970’s?

      • Joseph | April 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

        I grant you there is no formal survey, nor would it be in the interests of the Consensus to mount one. But if the volunteered letters and videos keep coming in at the current rate, that may soon be possible by default. There are ~60 scientists listed in this post and I figure there’s some data around to get a view on over 100 with a bit more digging. Perhaps more to the point, per section 3, some scientists are openly saying they don’t know any colleagues who aren’t seriously impacted, and others are saying that this is strong enough to make illness / depression a real problem in the climate and environmental science domain. I have certainly counted this as a very strong indicator (bearing in mind such statements come from Consensus professionals – I wouldn’t trust assessments like this if they came from the skeptic side). It isn’t about whether they’re trying to represent their work fairly, I have assumed 100% of them are 100% honest in this respect. It’s about whether systemic emotive bias undermines their objectivity.

        Even cursory googling suggests that media exaggeration could only be described as sporadic in 20th Century (see footnote for examples) yet is systemic over last 12 to 15 years. On these kind of timescales, that will feed back as emotive amplification into the careers of scientists and policy makers etc.

      • Joseph | April 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

        In case you haven’t noticed, because of the weird threading my answer to this is just beneath Geoff Sherrington’s posts of the 28th.

        Agghhh my pointer ended up there too! Now randomly trying to find a place that will end up near your post of above date.

      • But speaking of being hyperbolic. what do you think of politicians like Jim Inhofe claiming that global warming was a “hoax?” I know that he seems to have toned down his views, but I think that someone in that position would have likely influenced the views of others on the right and in some cases permanently

      • Joseph | April 26, 2015 at 11:26 am | Reply
        But speaking of being hyperbolic. what do you think of politicians like Jim Inhofe claiming that global warming was a “hoax?”

        It is one of those things. If the Chinese (as appears likely) limited CO2 emissions to a little over current levels giving us say a global emission of 11 GT/year, the CO2 level will top out under 500 PPM and the rate of atmospheric CO2 annual increase will start declining a few years down the road.

        At current levels we have 76 years of fossil fuel total if we burn it all at 10 GT. A significant increase in consumption reduces the time until fossil resources are exhausted.

        So yeah, global warming, or at least CAGW is a hoax.

      • Joseph | April 26, 2015 at 11:26 am

        I say that CAGW is absolutely not a hoax. Conspiracies and hoaxes are small-scale events both temporally and geographically. CAGW is a major social phenomenon triggered by climate worries, albeit such phenomena throughout history can have hoaxes and money schemes bolted onto the side. I figure Inhofe and others may be grasping this truth more recently. Anyhow I think trumpeting hoax would most certainly be an emotive influence, although one that’s not gotten much traction outside the US, and even inside is still seriously emotively out-gunned by climate disruption scare stories and the certain danger to grandchildren etc (see head post for links / examples).

        But the relative level of emotive skeptic kickback misses the main point here. This is not going to reduce the Consensus emotive output that has deliberately been forged over many years and now further honed, as is self-described by the Consensus itself, per section 2. If anything, emotive kickback could make things worse by contributing to an emotive arms race.

      • This is not going to reduce the Consensus emotive output that has deliberately been forged over many years

        Andy, it the public believed those who exaggerate, then climate change would be a higher priority than it is. In the US it is very low, although polls show that a majority are willing to take actions to reduce emissions despite the Republican reticence. And I find it baffling that you think scientists would be less able to recognize exaggeration in the media and other outlets than the general public.

      • John Costigane


        I enjoyed your description on emotional bias – money for tears. There is also the opposite – leadership by smiles (narcissism writ large).

        Science should be about the pursuit of knowledge, unsoiled by political agenda or money considerations.

        ‘Closed/Open mind is an interest of mine. Have you looked at that issue?

      • Even if the US ceased all carbon emissions today, it wouldn’t make one iota of difference to the climate.

    • Waitin fer model projections,ter match observation is
      kinda’ like waitin’ fer Godot.
      Likewise waitin’ fer positive feedbacks ‘n hot spots ‘n that
      prediction of no more snow.

  21. Joshua | April 24, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Yes, the majority of the public not supporting CC policies worldwide (a very large majority if ‘top’ priority is used as a criteria), is likely driven by ‘innate skepticism’, the characteristic Lewandowsky calls ‘the key to accuracy’, because these folks are mainly unaware of the details of the issues in any case.

    I think this post is one extremely small but useful step forward, which doesn’t mean it isn’t challengeable. But if you want to extend my amateur work and that of the professional psychologists it calls up (here and also in other posts), which includes the rather nice evidence from Dan Kahan, by creating you own criteria for emotive measurement and assessment, then please go ahead :) If you don’t want to push forward towards the truth yourself in this manner, I don’t think you’re empowered to tell other folks ‘what they need to do’.

    Years ago, mainstream journalists and pundits introduced the denier term with explicit reference to the Holocaust – go look up!

    • That’s a lot of BS from the whiners about Fox news. Fox’s highest rated programs are in the neighborhood of 3 million viewers. The low-information drones watching the captive liberal “news” outlets dwarf that number day in and day out. But they want a monopoly on information and a one party state. You see how they try to swamp you here on this thread. So freaking obvious, it’s almost funny.

  22. Joshua,

    Please go away!

    • They ambushed poor andy. Like a pack of hyenas on a gazelle. Ugly thing to watch. Where’s Judith with her flyswatter.

      • I’ve deleted several of Joshua’s comments that I regard as ‘piling on’. I agree Joshua is dominating this thread too much. I am putting Joshua in moderation until morning, I will continue to check his comments this evening and post them if they are on a different thread or not ‘piling on’ to Andy

      • ============> Woe is me :( And my big boy pants are still at the cleaners.

      • I figured Josh would be all over this one as this seems to be his main focus WRT to climate science. And I say this even though it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

      • David Springer

        Until morning? You’ve had me in moderation for months. Granted I haven’t asked to be let out but that’s only because I can work around it with very little trouble.

    • Judith,

      What I would like to say is ban the little sob for life.

      However, my feminine side says that it would be like the French banning Holocaust denial.

  23. I dislike engaging with your nonsense. Exceptions prove rules.Here are some specific instructions to do your own homework before posting further inanities. A burden of proof shifting onto you. Null hypotheses, and all that.
    On the web, there are score keepers. There are also wamist/ lukewrmist/skeptic/denier sites. Make up your own set, perhaps diferent than hosted since years at CE, WUWT, CA, and many others who reference cr*p like SS, and also link to biased RC. Just say what set.
    Then go read and score them. Simple stuff. Alarmist, or not. Supported by facts, or not. Predictions came true, or not. You do this, and then come back with your scores. I did since ‘awakening’. The results were shockingly not pretty. Stop trolling, and start digging into the facts. Or, just go away, since your continual mental masturbations are decidedly unpleasant to witness.

  24. If you are in a field of science and find something about the future that causes an emotional negative response, you are more inclined to try to find ways out of the problem than to confirm the problem, so the thesis is backwards. The instinctive reaction to bad news is denial. The scientists, however, the more they find out objectively, the more it has gone towards confirming the impacts of humans on climate especially going forwards. If some of them are depressed, it is because they have seen enough evidence to be depressed, and not found enough that helps them out of that state. So I say, wrong, people are always more biased towards finding that a problem doesn’t exist than that it is worse than they thought. The good thing is that there is some hope left in mitigation.

  25. Don’t feed the trolls!

  26. Andy,

    Excellent post!

  27. I would like some readers to consider this subject from the perspective of a retired high school teacher who taught advanced placement chemistry and physics.

    I always had such great respect for the those who were so dedicated in the halls of higher scientific learning. Simply walking in the hallways of scientific buildings of Universities was kind of a retreat because it was, I thought, and I felt, a place where integrity was of the utmost importance of all that mattered.

    It was a place of brutal honesty in that every skeptical aspect of scientific adventure must be met head on with full disclosure of information.

    It was a place where full acknowledgement of the magnitude of errors are made available.

    It was a place where the scientific method is written in stone and full disclosure of all information allowing reproduction of investigations is a must for any validity.

    In the United States we are concerned about the lack of quality in education in science and math. We emphasize a method of doing science in things like Science Fair.
    Then we have something like the hockey stick, which countered hundreds of studies and just plain history. The methodology and raw data from which it and similar procedures were done were hidden. It was accepted without even an attempt to follow normal practices because, it fully seems, that it served a purpose.

    In emails made public some people literally stated something to the effect that ‘why should I give out this information when I have done so much work in gathering it’.
    So selfish, So narcissistic Choices are being made that will effect the entire human race! So childish.

    I always thought it was about the scientific work and not the person.

    My simple conclusions regarding anthropogenic warming. (Why have we bowed to calling it climate change when we already knew climate was going to change?) are this.

    1) there are many more unknowns and unknown unknowns than knowns.
    But additional warming due to CO2 and other greenhouse gases is probably much less than models show, I do not know how other conclusions can be reached. I think there are just too many negative feedbacks that have not been considered.

    Also, It seems that in the lower pressurized atmosphere,considering time between collisions and time for photon emission, the majority of energy transfer would be kinetic, Whenever I bring this concept up, of course with more detail, I get no response.

    2) Joshua, sometimes your negative feedback is overwhelming. I guess I am not adequately equipped to handle it. You would be the one in the classroom where someone would finally say; Shut UP
    Do you ever consider that you may have an emotional bias?. I have at times found that I have and I must take time daily to eliminate it. Just sayin’.

    • Good to read your perspective Darryl. A new face is always welcome here.
      I was interested in your views on the effect of lower pressurized atmospheres on molecular interactivity but do not recall reading them on Judith’s blog.

    • Darryl,

      Also, It seems that in the lower pressurized atmosphere,considering time between collisions and time for photon emission, the majority of energy transfer would be kinetic, Whenever I bring this concept up, of course with more detail, I get no response.

      Maybe you should read this. In particular

      Greenhouse gases, as well as absorbing IR radiation, emit it. It gets a bit complicated because almost none of the greenhouse gas molecules that absorb IR light emit it immediately. Instead the internal excited energy of the molecule is transformed into thermal motion of the molecules nearby through collisions. This takes about a microsecond, a millionth of a second and is roughly a million times more likely than the molecule directly emitting IR light.

      You should probably bear in mind that many of the explanations to explain the greenhouse effect are simplistic and – consequently – wrong. They’re simply meant to illustrate some of the basics and are not intended to delve into the actual details.

  28. Emotion and what-Seneca-said is going to be infect the thinking of us all. But it’s always good to look at at deliberate infection by hard interests.

    Consider how much gas and oil is rolling out of the ground and will continue to roll. Then consider that this lake of oil and gas has to compete very, very hard with coal and nukes, also in great supply. (It will be hard ever to get to the end of good quality, accessible Australian coal.) Then there’s hydro on the Congo etc.

    The pipeline investments/politics are of Big Oil are massive and fraught. (Checked out that new Israel-Cyprus-Greece axis? Whew!) Limited alternatives like wind and solar are a good foil for Big Oil’s products. Real alternatives like coal and nukes are the real enemy at its gates. So the good ol’ boy in the big hat is now being recast as the responsible retailer of green fossil fuels, no less.

    Is it any wonder that we are seeing Big Oil tilt to the green side? Think Russia and its funnel, the Netherlands, won’t be up for some green preaching, Norway-style, along with Exxon and anyone else who stands to be left with a lake of dirt-cheap oil and gas? Putin would have cracked open his best caviar when Germany decided to carpet Brandenburg, at 50 degrees north, with solar panels. No celebrations now, as Germany builds new brown coal plants (under the pretext that nukes are naughtier). Hey, Enron were finding much room in their hearts for Gaia till their operations were disrupted.

    Talk about reason versus emotion, by all means. But remember there’s a world of interests out there.

  29. David Springer

    Yup. About time.

    • Did you teach joshie that trick of yours, Springer? Somebody has been hijacking my name and sounds supsiciously like joshie.

      • I wish you hadn’t done that, David. It’s like handing the Jedi mind trick to the troll tribe. You’ll be sorry if he starts imitating you. Oh, the unintended irony! Better get out your big boy pants. Which reminds me:

        During the North Africa campaign in WWII, Rommel was having a meeting to plan a big tank battle with his staff and the Italian General staff. Rommel stresses that it’s going to be extremely vicious and bloody and an aside says to his aide, don’t forget to prepare my red jacket. The Italian commander says, ” Field Marshal, why you a’wear a red a jacket? Rommel explains that he will be in the lead tank, as he is sure will be the Italian commander, leading his troops into battle. He’s going to be wounded, if not killed outright, so he wears the red jacket so his troops won’t be demoralized seeing him bloodied. The Italian commander turns to his aide and says, “Getta ready my brown a pants.”

      • What is the shortest book in the library? The one about Italian war heroes.

      • Don’t know about Italians but…

        How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?

      • During WW1 France had a population of 40 million and lost 1.3 million.

  30. The timing of this essay is a delight. Over at RealClimate is the announcement of an online course on the cognitive liabilities that lead to denialism. The pairing looks like a great opportunity for cross-fertilization of different strains of psychology.

    • Writing carefully to ensure I didn’t slip into any impoliteness, I made the following comment there, but of course it ended up in the borehole:

      Stephan Lewandowsky has a very decent series of papers, with various associated authors, on cognitive bias effects. These effects underpin the Lewandowsky / Cook Debunker’s Guide, and likely are also employed as justification for this course per hints within the above intro. However, the series of posts below show how all the main bias effects described in the above papers apply to the climate Consensus, using only Consensus sources / quotes and extracts from the papers themselves. The only way for some to avoid a clash of worldview and reality which would be caused by an acknowledgement that all the above biases do actually apply to the climate Consensus, is to de-emphasize the uncertainties inherent in a wicked system and promote the socially-maintained Consensus as an unquestionable scientific certainty, thereby enabling a platform to also frame skeptics as deniers and deniers as conspiracy theorists, as is evident in this course and in later Lewandowsky papers re conspiracy ideation. This approach can only result in still more undesirable polarization. Acknowledgement of genuine uncertainties and indeed bias effects, will help to reduce polarization and allow the re-entry of a plurality of views, hence also encouraging the more productive advancement of proper science.

      for second part change ’11/06′ to ’11/08′ and ‘part1’ to ‘part2’.
      for third part change ’11/06′ to ’11/09′ and ‘part1’ to ‘part3’.

      • andywest2012: but of course it ended up in the borehole:

        Some of my comments went into the bore hole, and some others seem to have been suppressed outright. Maybe they’ll show up later.

  31. Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. – John Adams, Letter to J.H. Tiffany (31 March 1819).

  32. This comes a religious source, but it is good general advice:
    “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11 21st Century King James Version
    In other words, do your homework.

  33. Well I have to admit that I started to read Andy s article and found it tltr. Then I got sucked into Joshua’s trollin tollin trollin, keep the doggies movin, though WE’RE disaprovin — . Now I will read Joshua’s comments from time to time as long as they are not tltr. This thread hijacking, however, is a little to much to take. I like that Judy allows the range of views expressed and trys to be a fair moderator. I don’t really see how she can win when this good faith effort is taken advantage of by tools such as Josh, Michael, and Joseph who seem to have no self awareness and just practice the party line. On the other hand they do provide a dissenting view or if you like the consensus view so they should be allowed to speak up. I think that ATTP and a few others are probably better qualified to represent that view. Somehow it would be better for CE to have that type better represented here, I just dont know how that could be done. Just thinking out loud.

    Sorry Andy I was rather dismissive of your article, it’s just that I’m not all that interested in the psychology of Climate Science just trying to learn the science itself. I’ll give it another try later.

  34. Ocean ‘Acidification’.

    Enough said.

  35. Pingback: Appeals to fear gain little support for the Left on climate change. What next? | The Fabius Maximus website

  36. My 7.35 responded to Hilary @ 4.09

  37. It’s not emotional bias. It’s ratings and playing into ratings.

    The product of the news business isn’t news. It’s you. They sell your eyeballs to advertisers.

    There’s no market for hard news. Think of city council meetings. One-off events will draw eyeballs, but those won’t pay the daily news bills.

    One audience segment though is big enough to pay the bills and will tune in every day. That’s soap opera fans. They’ll tune in news or no news, so long as there is soap opera.

    So the news business will turn everything into soap opera, true or not, lest their audience tune away. Correct stories will be rewritten to be wrong to make it fit narratives that will not confuse the soap opera audience.

    Politicians and other seekers of power free-ride on this necessity of the news business, and supply soap opera narratives to get what they want into the public airwaves.

    These narratives will not die no matter what facts come up. It’s a fan base and a need to attract them that’s running.

    The fan base is about 20% of the population, but that’s all that’s needed to run the business.

    Climate catastrophe is just one of the narratives and it won’t go away. It’s an emotional appeal in a sense, but really a soap opera appeal. Most of the population simply ignores it, but never hear anything else either.

  38. Cognitive scientists recently reported that people believe what they want to believe.

    I call this the cognitive scientist effect.

  39. Wm. Kerrigan in 1997:

    Every period has its timidities. Do I dare read Ovid? Do I dare disbelieve in immortality? The threat of nuclear warfare may indeed spread anxiety; yet people have always dreaded an eschaton, a violent end to time. Still, after all the qualifications, there does seem to be an alarming cultivation of anxiety in our day. It seems part and parcel of this new open-ended proliferation of anxiety that we cannot pin down the reasons, which themselves proliferate like the spawning images in a state of panic. We might be inclined to connect our modern anxiety with the bustling chaos of urban life, as opposed to farming communities, where anxiety is annual, expected, ritualized. We might argue that a medieval worldview, with its clear distinctions, its sure sense of boundaries, managed anxiety better than the relativisms of the early modern and modern periods, with their two-edged gift of infinite human possibilities. With many qualifications, we must make such distinctions stick. But whatever the causes, anxiety is on us like a plague these days. Not long ago thrillers and murder mysteries were mostly about criminals with distinct motives. Now they feature the serial killer. Unlike the murderer who killed, fulfilled his purpose, and hoped to remain innocuous, the inexorable serial killer with his open-ended string of crimes hopes to become famous as a source of anxiety. News broadcasts, themselves great organizers of anxiety, regularly contain health segments in which the public is invited to become anxious about what it eats, what it buys, how it seeks pleasure. One set of experts steps forth to inculcate anxiety, another to teach us how to live with it. What do those in the know actually know? They always claim to know where our true concerns should lie…

    …This new space, “social anxiety,” seems to be an extensive one. There’s no housing shortage when it comes to social anxiety. Today we have environmental anxiety (the main subsets being clean air, clean water, clean sunlight); food anxiety; trash anxiety; hatred anxiety; dirt anxiety; dating anxiety; consumer anxiety; parenting anxiety (some of the subsets being toy, spanking, lessons, college, and money anxiety); academic anxiety; television anxiety; political anxiety (subsets too numerous to mention); fashion anxiety; hair anxiety; wealth anxiety; job anxiety; speech anxiety; endangered species anxiety; crime anxiety; medical anxiety; alcohol anxiety; smoking anxiety; and so on through every compartment of modern existence…”

    == Wm. Kerrigan, “Death and Anxiety,” _Raritan_ XVI:3 Winter 1997 p.74

  40. The battlefield is a) use of propaganda including emotional appeal vs. b) rational demonstration of the scientific facts (“truth”) is asymmetric and b) will always lose. Reason is the general public is malleable and responds to emotional appeal. And part of the emotional appeal is to discount and discredit rational debate. Oxford historian Norman Davies said: “Theorists of propaganda have identified five basic rule of propaganda:
    1. The rule of simplification: reducing all data to a simple confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Friend and Foe’.
    2. The rule of disfiguration: discrediting the opposition by crude smears and parodies.
    3. The rule of transfusion: manipulating the consensus values of the target audience for one’s own ends.
    4. The rule of unanimity: presenting one’s viewpoint as if it is the unanimous opinion of all right-thinking people; including drawing doubting individuals into agreement by the appeal of star-performers, social pressure and by ‘psychological contagion’ a.k.a. psy-ops.
    5. The rule of orchestration: endlessly repeating the same message; in different variations and combinations.”
    *in “Europe, a History,” Oxford Press, 1996, pp 500-501
    So the only way to level the playing field is to skillfully take control of the messaging using emotional appeals and propaganda to combat the opponent. To make the game symmetric requires use of same techniques in pursuing the goals.

  41. There is no such thing as emotional bias.

    (That’s what I think. So, you see, the acknowledgment is not universal.)

  42. “No one is accusing anyone of literally being a witch (in fact, that would count as religious bigotry today), but many of the accusations of witchcraft 500 years ago really weren’t about witchcraft either. Such charges were a way of tapping into powerful human emotions to hurt people. Don’t like your neighbor? Call them a witch. Suddenly the burden of proof is on the accused. Don’t like the way some guy lives? Thinks? Talks? Why, that’s because he’s a warlock, just like Rich Lowry.”

    Now instead of witch hunts, we hunt deniers. But the understanding of the effect of emotions on rational thought, and their use in convincing people to believe things they would otherwise never believe in a million years, has been around forever.

    Ask the victims of the day care center child abuse prosecutions in the 80s.

    There is nothing new in the climate debate.

  43. Just heard in an interview Thomas Sowell, of all folks…

    Ideological…differences based on beliefs about facts, causation, human nature, and the character and distribution of knowledge, are ultimately questions about different perceptions of the real world ldading to hypotheses which can be tested empirically.”

    Sowell argues that those who are the least interested in testing their hypotheses and theories against reality are ‘intellectuals” (e.g. “[those who] believe in saving the environment.”)…

    I’ll await your empirical evidence, Andy, lest someone think you’re an intellectual who believes in saving the environment.

    • Didn’t find your interview while searching, but I did find this: Who Trashes Liberal Arts?

      Liberal professors have trashed the liberal arts, by converting so many liberal arts courses into indoctrination centers for left-wing causes and fads, instead of courses where students learn how to weigh conflicting views of the world for themselves. Now a professor of English, one of the most fad-ridden of the liberal arts today, blames conservative critics for the low esteem in which liberal arts are held.

      Surely a professor of English cannot be unaware of how English departments, especially, have become hotbeds of self-indulgent, trendy fads such as trashing classic writings — using Shakespeare’s works as just another ideological playground for romping through with the current mantra of “race, class and gender.”


      And when our English professor uses a phrase like “critical thinking,” he must be at least dimly aware of how often those words have been perverted to mean uncritical negativism toward traditional values and uncritical acceptance of glittering catchwords of the left, such as “diversity.”


      The problem is not political, but educational. As John Stuart Mill pointed out, back in the 19th century, students must hear opposing views from people who actually believe them, not as presented by people who oppose them. In the 18th century, Edmund Burke warned against those who “teach the humours of the professor, rather than the principles of the science.”


      My survey of college bookstores across the country showed “The Communist Manifesto” virtually everywhere, often required reading in multiple courses — and “The Federalist” used virtually nowhere. Most college students will get only the left’s uncritical negativism toward the American form of government, under the rubric of “critical thinking.”


      The history of the 20th century shows soft-subject students and their professors among the biggest supporters of extremist movements, both fascist and communist — the former in central and eastern Europe before World War II and the latter in countries around the world, both before and after that war.

      Those who want liberal arts to be what they were supposed to be will have to profoundly change them from what they have become. Doing that will undoubtedly provoke more denunciations of critics for “trashing” the liberal arts by criticizing those who have in fact already trashed the liberal arts in practice.

    • Joshua | April 25, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      You talk an awful lot about what everyone else should do to prove themselves, for someone who doesn’t appear to contribute anything but endless and usually obscuring legalistic parsing. However, as noted up-thread I provided great evidence for my position based on the data and studies of Dan Kahan. But it is evidence you didn’t like. I think you enjoy the adversarial process much more than the prospect of any truth that may emerge, whichever side that truth may support.

  44. Perhaps a sequential index in WordPress goes missing. Is there any chance of WordPress ignoring/not displaying a “deleted” post, but keeping the index sequence?

  45. Pingback: Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain | We Are Narrative

  46. The problem with calling global warming catastrophism “a hoax” is that this implies its proponents don’t really believe it. I think it’s evident that they do most sincerely believe it. When catastrophists claim that skeptics are paid by the oil companies, they imply that skeptics don’t really believe the position they are advancing. I think it’s evident that skeptics do most sincerely believe it (and as a skeptic, I know that I do). Many people find it hard to accept that when people take up conflicting views, there may be genuine and sincere conviction on both sides. We often witness such clashes of belief systems: theism versus atheism; psychoanalysis versus skepticism about the unconscious; belief in socialism versus belief in capitalism; and so forth endlessly.
    Once someone has graduated to acceptance of the fact that there is sincere belief on both sides, the next distraction is the assumption that, since these other people believe something so patently false, there must be some disease in their thinking, and this disease needs to be diagnosed and cured. So we have all the nonsense about such imaginary entities as “emotional bias” or “irrationality”. But this too is just one more distraction. People do get emotional about their beliefs, but this is not a “bias”, it is just a normal part of what it means to hold a belief Believing is a passionate thing. Emotions are indispensable to cognition.
    People arrive at beliefs which we hold to be false because those beliefs strike them as true. Those beliefs are the ones that make sense to them in the light of their understanding of the world. So, in order to convince them of the error of their beliefs, we have to argue with them, debate with them, reason with them, which includes sensitively trying to ascertain why they think the way they do. There is no real alternative to this time-consuming and fallible process. It is merely distracting to make claims that they are insincere (which are usually false, but in the rare event that they are true, are irrelevant) or that they are somehow displaying “emotional bias” (which is an incoherent notion, but if we could make any sense of it, would also be completely immaterial).

    • David Ramsay Steele | April 26, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      Absolutely agree that CAGW is not a hoax and core proponents are most certainly sincere. In fact that sincerity is where much of the power of the movement comes from. But this does not imply any lack of emotive bias; beliefs are strongly coupled to emotion (or as you say yourself, ‘passion’). Nor does it imply any sort of ‘disease’.

      Regarding social memeplexes, of which CAGW is an example, see the very last paragraph of the head post, and specifically:
      “The memetic explanation also does not imply in any way whatsoever that Consensus folks are in the slightest degree deranged or delusional or ill or impaired.” And:
      “Memeplexes are normal territory for all humans.”

      And yes, calming down emotions, and returning to much less polarized debate and reason, is most certainly the way to go :)

      • I think we agree for the most part. Where we disagree is that you think certain features of belief systems apply to some of them but not all, whereas I think these features apply to all, including the most impeccable scientific theories. They are all memeplexes and they all involve emotions, but still, there is no such thing as emotional bias. I have criticized your ideas about memeplexes here:

        Ray Scott Percival, in his book The Myth of the Closed Mind, has a good account of the role of emotions in searching for the truth.

        What we give names like “emotional bias” are emotionally charged motivating factors in people’s search for the truth. Like any other part of a person’s theoretical apparatus, they may be unfortunate in some cases (and may be revised through experience), but they cannot be avoided. Furthermore, they can never be purely “emotional”; that would be meaningless because a pure emotion wouldn’t know what theoretical ideas to attach itself to. The fundamental mistake is to think of emotions as a disturbing factor that can somehow get in the way of the truth. Our emotions flow from our theories about the world, and these may be true or false.

      • David Ramsay Steele | April 26, 2015 at 6:35 pm

        From first pass through your critique, you appear to have made a serious error, enouh tt oinvalidate conclusions I think. Memes and memeplexes are completely different things, and your analysis seems to rest upon the fact that they are essentially the same thing. I presume from this writing you are not at all familiar with memetics?

      • David Ramsay Steele | April 26, 2015 at 6:35 pm

        P.S. I think the underlying features of belief systems are common to all of them.

    • Well…

      The problem that the typical global warmer graduated from a field where logic and reason are not encouraged or even considered necessary for the course material. Thinking is not their strong suit and they tend to avoid it because it makes their head hurt.

      They also don’t tend to like divergent viewpoints. They find echo-chamber environments more comfortable.

      Discussing climate change with a global warmer is like discussing house color schemes with a blind man. Just because he thinks blue would look good in your bedroom doesn’t mean blue will look good in your bedroom regardless of how sincere he is.

    • David Ramsay Steele: Once someone has graduated to acceptance of the fact that there is sincere belief on both sides,

      I would be interested to read the reaction should you post this comment at RealClimate, where they describe the upcoming course on the cognitive defects in the “climate” deniers. They assert that the consensus side is free of belief.

      • matthewrmarler | April 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        Yes indeed! And also where your and my perfectly reasonable comments on that course were exiled out of thread and into the borehole, possibly even dissapeared for some of yours.

      • That seems unlikely since what is there is practically as long was War and Peace.

      • I’ve encountered before people who say that they don’t believe the position they hold. But it’s not feasible to get rid of belief.
        I may say “I don’t believe such and such a position but I advance it because I think it best fits the facts (or whatever)”. This is perfectly reasonable, but the person taking this course does believe this is the theory that best fits the facts, therefore it’s the best theory. You can never get away from belief. You’re born with the appetite to believe; it’s genetically hard-wired (see Gopnik et al, The Scientist in the Crib). Someone without the urge to believe would be functionally a cretin who wouldn’t be able to survive without intensive care. Einstein didn’t believe in relativity (he said he was sure it would eventually be replaced by a better theory). Still, he did believe relativity was better than Newtonian gravitation, and the best currently available.

      • David Ramsay Steele: But it’s not feasible to get rid of belief.

        I am still interested in the responses you would elicit at Real Climate.

      • That is so true. Even science rests on belief.

  47. This is an interesting issue, the roles of emotion in ideological movements – no slur intended by using the word “ideological”. I agree with David Ramsay Steele. We can, fortunately, simply focus on the arguing about the facts. The emotions will come into line.

    You might like to consider the view that all thought is emotional and all emotion is thoughtful. Put another way: all cognition is emotional; all emotion is cognitive. Even the scientist’s curiosity is an emotion. The stoics had it right when they held that our emotions are a response to the way we think the world is and its relation to us, and therefore the way to change our emotions is to change what we think is the case. This approach is embedded in the reputable and effective practice of rational emotive behavioural therapy. See

    In my book The Myth of the Closed Mind, I apply the stoic insight to the analysis of ideological movements. Despite being infinitely ignorant, always prone to error and riddled with biases, people can correct their errors and then make indefinite progress. All beliefs are vulnerable to being abandoned when shown to be defective. Our evolutionary ancestors could not have survived had they been indifferent to the facts of their world. Two tigers goes into a cave; only one comes out. Guess which cave we’re not sleeping in tonight! They had to adjust moment by moment to a harsh, unforgiving world. Hence our beliefs are involuntary and change according to – often rapid – intellectual and sensory revision. This also means that we cannot rescind the impact of a good argument. You can choose not to read or listen to an argument, but once you have read or heard it and understand it, and it happens to be a sound argument, there’s no going back – you’re stuck with it; at least until you encounter a better argument.

    I can concede that strong emotion may – temporarily – inhibit the impact of good critical argument. But it’s typical of strong arousal that it is transient, and so we simply see that it sometimes takes time for the penny to drop. I have a chapter in my book specifically on this issue:
    Does Emotion Cloud our Resson

    Dr. Ray Scott Percival
    Philosopher and Author

    Founder of The Sir Karl Popper Web
    Organiser of the Annual Conference on the Philosophy of Sir Karl Popper. (1988 – 1998.)
    Producer of the YouTube channel: Ray Scott Percival

    • Ray, thanks for stopping by here, your work looks very interesting. If you have any interest in doing a guest post at Climate Etc., please let me know. curryja at

  48. Andy West writes:

    “From first pass through your critique, you appear to have made a serious error, enouh tt oinvalidate conclusions I think. Memes and memeplexes are completely different things, and your analysis seems to rest upon the fact that they are essentially the same thing. I presume from this writing you are not at all familiar with memetics?”

    Of course I don’t confuse memes with memeplexes. I think I’ll wait until Andy has read my criticism and responds to what it actually says.

    • David Ramsay Steele | April 26, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      So far I’ve had time to read down to the first occurrence of the word functionalism, and there seems to be far too many issues already at this point. Thus far you seem to be drawing various inferences about my position that are simply not the case, so I guess these will therefore invalidate your further steps.

      In summary, regarding your incorrect assessment of my position:

      1) As per upthread, you assert that I do not regard all belief systems to operate in the same way; this is wrong, I think the underlying mechanisms of all belief systems are identical.

      2) You assert that I regard memes as ‘something mindless, perhaps even irrational’. This doesn’t even make any sense as a definition, and I don’t really know what the ‘popular modification’ of meaning you mention is about, but as far as I can tell from your description it is not anything I employ. Memes are simple units of cultural transmission, and have no direct relationship to the concept of rationality / mind or mindless.

      3) I think somehow wrt above, you draw a comparison to genes and assert that I think some parts of our DNA are still to be called genes whereas some others (which I think you mean are physically still genes), apparently are not, with the implication being that these latter ones have mysteriously different characeristics. It is absolutely not the case that I think this, it would make no sense whatsoever. Nor is it the case for ‘different’ memes either e.g. within a narrative, per below…

      4) You assert that I regard only ideas / memes that spread for reasons other than their appeal to reason, as true ‘memes’ that are to be denoted this name. This is absolutely not the case. All memes are memes; all memes either spread a lot or a little identically depending on their selective value, analogously to all genes, which also have a selective value. There are no such thing as ‘non-memes’, as you phrase them.

      5) You assert that I say CAGW has nothing whatsoever to do with what’s going on with the climate, and cite global temperature rise and the impact of the pause as your examples on why there is in fact linkage. I use precisely these same examples to say that, while CAGW *the cultural phenomenon* is indeed not in general about what’s going on in the climate, it was indeed triggered by temperature / CO2 worries and has also been ‘dealt significant blows to the body’ by ‘the hiatus’. The many uncertainties in the science of the climate system are what gave the social phenomenon it’s window of opportunity to grow. I think a willingness to take such a literal black and white interpretation and at the same time ignore the linkages that I stated, in an essay that is clearly centred squarely on the climate domain, does not speak well of your objectivity here. You also transmute ‘little to do with the climate’ at one point in your text, where you ‘agree with the gist of Wests claim’, into later ‘nothing to do with the climate’. For such a bold claim, this is not even self-consistent.

      6) I agree with your ‘no exceptions’ rule about memes, whereas you claim I do not. It isn’t a very useful rule because regarding arbitrary belief systems it is the memes with high selective value that are interesting, but the rule stands fine and the essay stands with the rule. It is also so blindly obvious that it isn’t usually stated explicitly, that may be the case for me too, although the definitions in the intro and Appendix 1 would certainly imply this. Along the way, I do not refuse to recognize some transmissible beliefs as memes, which also you strongly posit on my behalf.

      Nor do I make any case for instance that some arbitrary belief systems have any more claim to reason and evidence than any other, assuming they are indeed full and arbitrary belief systems. Plus I think it likely there are more assertions still you have assumed on my behalf, if I could but root around a little more to dig them out. Nor are there any specific examples from the essay for most of this stuff; you simply state these assertions as though they are my assumptions without providing any real case for the reader as to why.

      While I appreciate very much folks who dig in and folks who think about stuff, this is much better than shallow engagement, I think you have kept your own conclusions too far front of mind here, and kind of worked backwards through my essay to try and arrive at the set of ‘mistakes’ I must have made in order not to arrive at your own conclusions regarding the climate domain. Suspending belief while one at least attempts to roll forward through the logic usually works out better. Now that you know I DO NOT subscribe to all those assertions of yours above, and probably a few more too, maybe you could do a rerun and see where that takes you.

      While on such complex topics there is rarely nothing at issue, at least until juggling of understanding regarding terms / definitions has taken place, along with a bit of compromise usually, I’m surprised at such a long list of fundamental miscomprehension. Certainly unique in my experience thus far. My initial thoughts are that this is driven by three things: a) The essay was written for the climate community and very much geared this way, terminology for the cultural evolutionary side is fairly lax and short-hand is common; so this is down to my fault. But I think bigger is b) while the critique has a couple of call-outs to memetics (essentially a sub-division of cultural evolution), there seems not to be proper context and basic understanding from that domain about a fundamental issue, which I thinks sets a wrong course throughout this first half at least of the critique, and one which likely results in at least some of the miscomprehensions above regarding my position on 1 to 6 and more. c) the style suggests you were far too keen to pitch in about what you thought I thought, and really just stated stuff without full consideration or evidence.

      Regarding b), the issue is one regarding individuals versus populations, and concerns both cultural and genetic domains in a similar way. Throughout the critique concepts that can only occur for a population, are conflated with concepts that can only occur for an individual, and vice versa. So an individual can be a vehicle for memes, but NOT for a memeplex. A memeplex, by definition, can only occur across a population, and has characteristics that can only be expressed in a population and are impossible for an individual. Not least of those characteristics is a specific evolutionary trajectory which may span many generations of individuals, for instance. As you seem somewhat familiar with Blackmore, she cites religion (and specifically Catholicism I think) as an example. There is a list of characteristics the Catholic memeplex possess, for instance an orthodox canon and defense of that canon and the trajectory, and others. An individual cannot possess or express these characteristics, he is only 1 billionth of the Catholic memeplex, and polymorphism across the whole Catholic population means each of the 1 billion is slightly different and that the total dynamic cultural frequencies determine the trajectory at any moment. This is analogous to a genetic individual and a population, e.g. a species. Genetic polymorphism means every individual in the population will be different (barring occasional identical twins), and grants the species characteristics for instance like protection from disease, at the expense of individuals, plus an adaptive pool no individual possesses. So a meme is to a memeplex as a gene is to the genetic pool of a population. Think of all the things a species is that an individual is not, to gain some insight into the cultural equivalent of the former, a memeplex. The 1 billion variants of Catholics plus all their canon and cultural infra-structure, cannot possibly fit into the head of a single man or woman. A memeplex cannot go inside an individual. And similarily while a meme will most certainly fit inside a population, it will not behave inside that population like a memeplex (of which it may be a part), because a memeplex has *structure* expressed over the social population, and the meme does not. That structure is supported by the co-evolution of (typically many) memes, in the same way that a gene-pool has gene frequencies and balanced polymorphism (the classic being the sickle-cell / malaria resistance balance, for instance), and so on.

      So although a memeplex is ‘an assemblage of memes’, it is also much much more than *only* an assemblage of memes. Your confusion on these issues runs right through everything. For instance you say I won’t agree that my theory, or for instance the theory of quantum mechanics, is a memeplex. Absolutely! These are both assemblages of memes but *only* assemblages of memes. They have not aquired the characteristics, a la Blackmore and Catholicism or Appendix 1 in the essay ‘The definition of a memeplex’ (Blackmore casts similar definition for Catholicism into religious terminology), across a population,to become a structured memeplex. In the case of quantum mechanics it is known of by a sizeable population, but being spread via the vector of science, a methodology that constrains memetic evolution, mostly, to physical reality, it has little evolutionary opportunity and few or no cohorts of co-operative memes to co-evolve into a memeplex. So for once where you are actually right, you say Andy West wants to exclude some assemblages of beliefs (let’s say understand ‘memes’ there) from ‘memeplexes’. Yes! That would be the ones that are plural memes, but are not Memeplexes according to definition, are NOT the coherent gene-pool ‘species’ equivalent across a population, but are just ‘some genes’.

      So you are right but for the wrong reason. I am not *arbitrarily* excluding some beliefs and including others regarding treatment by the theory, the ones that don’t get the treatment are those that do not operate as coherent co-evolved memeplexes across a population. In your translation to ‘belief’ and ‘belief system’ (such terms are in any case less exact and I’m not sure ‘belief system’ has a formal definition anyhow), you retain the same confusion, and if ‘belief system’ means anything I presume it means something like ‘Catholicisim’, and therefore is also the thing that is a social structure over a population and NOT at all an equivalent to an idea or belief an individual can hold. I presume this confusion underlies your assertions about arbitrary choices and maybe some of the other false assertions you claim on my behalf. But they are a feature of your confusion on this issue. Ironically, your own quoted definition from Speel contains the clues you have consistently ignored: a ‘co-adpated meme-complex’. You can only co-adapt over a population (where there is selection!) and ‘complex’ implies complexity, structure! which is only expressed across the population (a society). Yet you have completely ignored these defining terms for what a memeplex is and hence all the characteristics that go with them. THIS is what I meant up-thread when I pointed out that you have confused memes (merely plural) with memeplexes.

      It just so happens that the social phenomenon of CAGW ticks the boxes for a memeplex, and climate skepticism does not. This does NOT mean that climate skepticism (composed entirely of memes, of course) is devoid of highly selective memes that rely on the pushing of emotive hot buttons rather than veracity for their replication. But it doesn’t have enough of them, and they are not sufficiently coherent and co-evolved, to form a memeplex. One of the really big features in the memeplex characteristic list (albeit not always defined in quite the same way), is a socially enforced consensus. If you come here more often you will hear a great deal about the overwhelming fact of the CAGW consensus, and orthodox defense of it, which are classic memeplex characteristics. (Science properly aligned to physical realities needs no socially enforced consensus of course, via experiment it is self-evident, and where experiment cannot yet be done, uncertainties require acknowledging or they will be vulnerable to submersion in a socially enforced consensus). This split is therefore by no means an arbitrary choice. The enforced consensus (‘The Consensus’ is actually a term used for the climate change proponents side), is one of the biggest facts of the domain. The absence of similar structure on the other side, is equally apparent.

      It is only fair I explore an example of a) too. You have quoted one, where I mention ‘the lurking memetic content in Pascal Bruckner’s piece’. This is shorthand. Now it doesn’t mean that the piece isn’t made entirely of memes. Of course it is made entirely of memes!. We are not still in the kindergarten stage of the essay here. That was all in the prelude and the introduction, which link definitions and quite literally calls up ‘memetics101’, plus Appendix 1 definitions. We *know* it’s all memes by know. My phrasing means that narratives are often structured (by both conscious and unconscious processes) in such a way as to have more reasonable (science or logic aligned) memes, at the surface, presenting an impression which make us lower our internal guard, only for a much more emotive orientated meme (e.g. apocalypse or technology rejection, or ‘we are special’, or ‘the past is always better’, of fear memes or whatever) to slip in and get it’s replication hit. This is analogous to the genetic marker simulations that viruses and bacteria use to slip past our defenses; there are also the equivalent of vaccines which I think are called vaccimes. And regarding arbitrary and defended belief systems, i.e. memplexes, the emotive ones are far the most interesting, because these have such a high selective value and are not constrained (say like science memes) and sustain such systems.

      Incidentally I also agree with Blackmore regarding the science process, although a better way to phrase it is that this process constrains memes to evolve in a manner than reflects physical reality. A ‘true meme’ and ‘false meme’ terminology is subject to all sorts of ambiguities because people have used this for say political topics, where there is no absolute truth anyhow, and it just becomes another arbitrary arguing tactic. Many folks don’t like her emphasis on imitation as *the* method of memetic replication either; I guess I’m with that movement, although her story on meme / gene co-evolution is good and I quote this in ‘the CAGW Memeplex’ as I’m sure you know. Plus… ah enough enough.

      There’s a bunch more I could say about where you are wide of the mark, and to further explain *why* more of your various assumptions made on my behalf are wrong. But it is late already, the wheels of industry call tomorrow, already I shall have to skip answering Joseph downstream, and really, this ought to be enough. Surely you can see that you have misunderstood me big-time, and that while my essay is far from perfect and for instance does assume some knowledge, and flexibility too regarding shorthand, from the reader, it is also the case that you have misfired here. That may happen to us all from time to time, and I hope you regard it as positive that the many listed items above are *not* after all differences between us. Given so many misconceptions, and your confusion on memes / memeplexes, beliefs / belief systems, which ignore ‘co-evolve’ and ‘complex’ and thread confusion through your whole piece (to the point that I have read anyhow), it is very difficult to know quite what may be rescued, if anything, regarding your overall conclusions. Frankly, I don’t think anything can. Yet I hope you are able to re-evaluate in light of the above.

    • David Ramsay Steele | April 26, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      David, as your LA blog is not open for public comment and is a closed group with approved membership only, I respectfully request that you publish my response below next to your highly erroneous article, or remove the article, or alternatively, difficult as this would be, at least attempt to correct it. Thanks for your consideration.

      • um… response above not below.

      • I’m in touch with the LA blog administrator. I wasn’t aware you couldn’t reply at the LA blog, and if this is so and there’s no way around it, I will certainly oblige you in some of the ways you suggest.

      • David Ramsay Steele | May 5, 2015 at 8:11 pm


      • You have the same access to the LA blog as me or anyone else. You just login giving a username and password. (This may change in a few months but is the situation right now. There is no moderator or anything.)

      • David Ramsay Steele | May 12, 2015 at 2:35 am

        But to get a user name and password, don’t I have to ‘join’? It says in the general info that the forum is private and joining is subject to approval. Nor even if approval is granted do I particularly want to ‘join’ (no dislike of your blog implied at all, but I don’t want to join any politically orientated forum at this time). In essence, there appears to be no true public access therefore, as there is here for instance, unless simply a WordPress or Facebook or similar ID works (there’s no indication of that). If this is not the case, can you simply reflect my reply below your article or enact one of the other fixes please? Thanks.

  49. It’s about whether systemic emotive bias undermines their objectivity.

    I would like to see the evidence for this. I would also like to know how you can know whether it is “systemic” or not, And also there are thousands of individuals doing climate related research. I would definitely hesitate to extrapolate from your not so random sample

  50. Professor Curry’s lengthy post seemed to me a one sided discussion. It seems that in her mind, emotional bias coloring one’s perception of the science, is an affliction of the proponents of AGW, not something that also afflicts the opponents. Does it really make sense that such a common human condition is not a factor in those who oppose the idea of AGW and taking action against it? Not really. We know there is a strong association of hatred of government regulation, with opposition to the theory of AGW, which originated largely from right wing think tanks. One merely has to read the comments of bloggers on web sites that deal with climate to see this.

    One purpose of higher education is to learn how to draw valid conclusions from scientific analysis of facts , using logic and avoid discarding or ignoring facts that may be counter to what your emotions tell you to believe.
    This would lead one to accept the notion that scientists who do research in climate science are better judges of what is the correct way to handle this problem than politicians or the general public.

    The IPCC process is designed to discover what scientists who do research on climate believe about how much influence humans have on climate and what the consequences are likely to be. The only opinion research I know of which polled climate scientists on what they think of the IPCC output was done by Brown, Pielke and Annan. It showed that the iPCC report was right down the middle of the opinion of the climate scientists.

    So what do we make of this? Has the climate science community lost its objectivity because of emotional bias, or is the IPCC and the total body of research a cooperative hoax to get more funding for climate science? Or did the climate scientists come to their conclusions on the basis of properly done science, and the emotional reaction come afterwards? Is there data that can help us decide these questions?

    • Note: this is a guest post by Andy West

    • eadler2: It seems that in her mind, emotional bias coloring one’s perception of the science, is an affliction of the proponents of AGW, not something that also afflicts the opponents

      I don’t think that is what he (Andy West) wrote. The examples of those identified processes that he presented were all on the “pro consensus” side because those were the examples that he found. If you have examples of such processes from the “skeptical” side they would surely be read and possibly responded to if you put them up here. Over at RealClimate you can read of a complementary online course, dedicated to the proposition that specific cognitive impairments occur only among the “climate deniers” (as they call the CO2 skeptics.) You can read sincere assertions that “belief” does not occur among the pro-consensus rational beings, or any other limitation to scientific rationality. I wrote above that the coincidence in timing provides a great opportunity for cross-fertilization. But a bunch of our comments there have been suppresses or assigned to the borehole. What Andy West has written is a correction to the self-evaluation of the pro-consensus people, such as the RealClimate managers and denizens, that they are totally unmarred by emotion.

      • > I don’t think that is what he (Andy West) wrote.

        Here’s something that Andy wrote:

        So emotional bias is most certainly understood and accepted by the strongest end of the spectrum of CAGW support. Similarly the role of emotional bias, at least in broad-brush terms, is just as much a part of the mind-set of all the psychologists, sociologists, professional communicators, etc. who work in or actively support the climate Consensus, as it is for those belonging to these same professions who don’t happen to work within the climate Consensus. I.e. this knowledge is simply part of their job; they must all grasp both the power and danger of emotional bias independently of their climate domain credentials. Hence the understanding of emotional bias is absolutely not something that the climate Consensus supporters could abandon when inconvenient, nor something that could possibly be framed as some kind of climate skeptic invention.

        There’s a small (H/T Koonin) caveat at the end: “memeplexes are normal territory for all humans,” which may or may not imply that we revise everything that Andy wrote before.

      • Willard: So emotional bias is most certainly understood and accepted by the strongest end of the spectrum of CAGW support.

        Yes, he asserted that it was true of pro-consensus side, which contradicts the claim at RealClimate that the pro-consensus side is purely rational. He did not deny that it was true on the skeptic side; he only said that he did not have specific examples from the skeptic side of the specific strategies that he wrote about. Perhaps you have some.

        Have you read about the online course about cognitive deficits in “climate deniers”? Or the comments posted there? The pro-consensus writers there would have you believe that the pro-consensus promoters and advocates are completely free of cognitive liabilities. Andy West balanced the discussion somewhat.

      • Does imbalance on two sides of an issue create balance?

      • > Yes, he asserted that it was true of pro-consensus side, which contradicts the claim at RealClimate that the pro-consensus side is purely rational.

        There are six occurrences of “RealClimate” on this page, Matt. Guess who wrote them. An hypothesis: your memeplex is getting all emotional with “But RC moderation.”

        Andy would contradict the RC claim (which one, BTW) if and only if we conflate people with sides, we conflate scientific propositions with the means to promote them, and we dichotomize rationality and emotionality. These assumptions are dubious at best. For instance, I don’t think you are irrational in getting emotionally biased by your “but RC moderation.” Neither do I think it is your side that has the memeplex all cooked up. Nor is your peddling of the RC proposition all that relevant for the scientific proposition that is supposed to be representative of the sides involved.

        Sameol sameol, memeplex or not.

      • Willard: An hypothesis: your memeplex is getting all emotional with “But RC moderation.”

        Could be, but my examples demonstrate that they are are biased. Anybody going there for information (of which they present a lot), should be aware of their anti-intellectual attitude toward questions that they can not answer, and critiques that have no evidence-based counter. Look at their attempts over the past few days to avoid admitting that no one can accurately model atmospheric water vapor content.

        RealClimate is apropos right now because they put up the announcement of the online course about cognitive liabilities of deniers right at the same time as this essay by Andy West.

      • Willard: Nor is your peddling of the RC proposition all that relevant for the scientific proposition that is supposed to be representative of the sides involved.

        I think that doesn’t make any sense.

    • eadler2 | April 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      Eadler2, my essay, not Judith’s.

      Do you disagree with section 1) the concept of emotional bias? or 2) that the consensus has for years deliberately crafted emotive communication for world-side high volume consumption? or 3) that this is finding its mark, among many, on scientists? If so, you can only admit to systemic emotional bias on the Consensus side. Bear in mind *all* sources quoted are solid Consensus sources; this is completely self-described.

      For emotive bias, as other biases, strength (urgency, fear memes etc) and repetition matter, and this has been happening inncessantly for many years. And volume of communication matters too.

      I didn’t say there was no emotive memes and consequent impact from the skeptic side. In fact I explicitly said there was. But a) world-wide they are heavily outgunned, and b) how will skeptic emotive kickback reduce the emotional bias already in play from above? Likely this will increase it still further if anything, due to an arms race if that happens.

      Not to mention that all the science and orgs and government infra-structure and majority of the media channels and infra-structure that matters, until v recently anyhow, are owned by the Consensus. Still great majority now. So it is *their* emotional bias that will be in play, not the emotional bias of the folks who don’t currently own more than a cog or two of the machinery.

      A hoax is a ridiculous notion, but indeed the group-think within the IPCC has compromised objectivity, and this is enforced by emotional bias.

      BTW its worth scanning the scientists letters / video. How many of the disaster predictions do you think stay within the bounds of the IPCC technical papers?

      • There is overwhelming evidence that the descriptors of “skeptic” side and “realist” side are subsumed by and associated with ideological distinctions. The notion of a division of people across society, and hence their cognitive attributes, by their view on climate change is facile.

        Assuming that there is a direct biasing influence towards irrationality due to emotional engagement in one particulardies issue does not suffice to quantity the factors that govern the strength of that relationship for individuals let alone across some basically arbitrary distinguisher such as views in climate change.

    • Eadler 2, you make some strong statements which seem to me to be deeply flawed.

      You assert that: “We [and who is this “we”?] know there is a strong association of hatred of government regulation, with opposition to the theory of AGW, which originated largely from right wing think tanks.” In my case, I came from a strongly left region (Tyneside) and from a poor fatherless family, my grandfather founded a trade union and I studied at LSE. So I supported the UK Labour party, I even joined but was run down by a car two weeks later (divine justice?), so wasn’t active. My years of working as an economic policy adviser to the UK, Australian and Queensland governments, much of it on drivers of economic growth and including significant involvement in development and review of regulation, including competition policy and IR, led me to a strongly held view that government regulation was by and large very costly and ineffective and should be severely wound back. I don’t “hate” regulation, I hate nothing. I became interested in alleged CAGW in the ‘80s, was briefed on it in 1990 by the IPCC’s Chief Scientist, and when I was asked to advise government on the issue my view (accepted) was that there were grounds for caution, if the dire warnings were valid there were grounds for incurring costs to ameliorate them (I directed modelling of costs that would be incurred), but that there were great uncertainties and more work was needed to get a better handle on whether or not serious consequences were in prospect. The more I learned, the more sceptical I became, both of the alleged costs and, more particularly, of the effectiveness of the costly proposed solutions. Nothing right-wing about that, and not influenced by right-wing think tanks; although I did join Australia’s IPA, often called right-wing, two years ago, and 13 years after leaving work. I can safely assert that scepticism of alleged CAGW and of government regulation did not emanate from right-wing think tanks but arose independently of them.

      You also assert that: “This would lead one to accept the notion that scientists who do research in climate science are better judges of what is the correct way to handle this problem than politicians or the general public.” Absolutely not, their expertise in climate science (which some would query, as you know from this site) in no way qualifies them to determine appropriate policy. That is beyond their skill set, and when proposed changes involve massive economic and social change, they need to be examined and decided on by those with relevant expertise and a democratic mandate.

      Faustino aka Michael Cunningham

  51. Geoff Sherrington

    Thank you, Andy West. It is rare for me to read words that resonate as much in harmony with mine.
    Although I am not trained in psychology, it was commonly used by Australian resources corporations like mine was, to find and label emerging talent and to provide an excuse for a weekend away from the crowds, in comparative luxury.
    My colleagues and I cut some of our teeth on uranium issues following their 1969 discovery of the Ranger deposits, at the time the largest in the world by far.
    From my first meetings with deep greens – and there were many from the 1960s on – I thought that there was an anomalous mind set at work that was rather similar from person to person. Commonly, I would ask these people what motivated them, but seldom did I find one who had thought enough to realise that he/she was different to ‘my’ normal in the view of Life. In their view, they were main stream and I was the anomaly.
    Green motivation has become clearer after going back and reading more of your essays. This is an over simplification, but it seems that a primary motivation to think green could be the result of brainwashing, to insert into the brain a theme that more or less says “This is my Earth and that of my children and if you hurt it I will hurt you.” There are three big downsides – first, we who consider ourselves normal scientists are probably indoctrinated in other ways that we fail to recognise; second, polarisation is a near-inevitable consequence; and third, the conflict of indoctrinations can be sufficiently strong to cause hostilities, even warfare. That seems to be where are headed, IMO.
    The charts you have shown in the ‘Appendix – scientists emotions’ is interesting. Is there a methodology that takes the characteristics derived there into a questionnaire form that resembles (say) an I.Q. test? It would be nice to categorise people on meeting them, to add to their contact details some derivations from them writing similar letters to those you show for (mainly Australian) academics. It would be useful when meeting politicians and policy people to have them tagged as ‘similar to Prof XYZ’ and so on.
    The other concerning downside I see is evident when bloggers write ‘This green thinking is being taught to school children’, sometimes with the Jesuit quote about child to age 7 or so. It seems to me that they, the bloggers, have missed the boat. That type of education now seems to be the routine majority. However, in my mid 70s I can’t muster much personal opposition to it because I will not see the fruits of effort.
    It is all so sad. What better place for brainwashing than a school? Those hand written letters from cli sci people read like school kid essays, even to the handwriting style. Did they never mature?
    My generation was largely keeping the lid on the green machine, which seems to have expanded quietly but hugely after I retired. So Generation XXXOS can take the blame for that.
    When I start to get the heebies about miseducation, I often put on the video ‘Dr Strangelove’ and amuse myself by drawing comparisons with people I know. Like the POTUS for example, heard here, or applying to descendants of gloomy Malthus or the Ehrlichs:
    Strangelove: (Executes an about face from the big board to face the camera). Mr. President, I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy… heh heh… (rolls forward into the light) at the bottom of ah … some of our deeper mineshafts. The radioactivity would never penetrate a mine some thousands of feet deep. And in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvements in dwelling space could easily be provided.
    Muffley: How long would you have to stay down there?
    Strangelove: Well let’s see now ah, (searches within his lapel) cobalt thorium G. (notices circular slide rule in his gloved hand) aa… nn… Radioactive halflife of uh,… hmm.. I would think that uh… possibly uh… one hundred years. (On finishing his calculations, he pulls the slide rule roughly from his gloved hand, and returns it to within his jacket).
    Muffley: You mean, people could actually stay down there for a hundred years?
    Strangelove: It would not be difficult mein Fuhrer! Nuclear reactors could, heh… I’m sorry. Mr. President. Nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered. A quick survey would have to be made of all the available mine sites in the country. But I would guess… that ah, dwelling space for several hundred thousands of our people could easily be provided.
    Muffley: Well I… I would hate to have to decide.. who stays up and.. who goes down.
    Strangelove: Well, that would not be necessary Mr. President. It could easily be accomplished with a computer. And a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross section of necessary skills. Of course it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition. (Slams down left fist. Right arm rises in stiff Nazi salute). Arrrrr! (Restrains right arm with left). Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. But ah with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present gross national product within say, twenty years.
    Muffley: But look here doctor, wouldn’t this nucleus of survivors be so grief stricken and anguished that they’d, well, envy the dead and not want to go on living?
    Strangelove: No sir… (Right arm rolls his wheelchair backwards). Excuse me. (Struggles with wayward right arm, ultimately subduing it with a beating from his left).
    Also when… when they go down into the mine everyone would still be alive. There would be no shocking memories, and the prevailing emotion will be one of nostalgia for those left behind, combined with a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead! Ahhhh! (Right are reflexes into Nazi salute. He pulls it back into his lap and beats it again. Gloved hand attempts to strangle him).
    Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ration of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn’t that necessitate the abandonment of the so called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
    Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious… service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature…..

    • Geoff Sherrington | April 28, 2015 at 1:10 am

      Thanks for your interesting thoughts and history. I’m not trained in psychology either, and am coming in from the direction of cultural evolution, an interest of mine for decades and has some overlap with social psychology. In practice, the basics from many papers can quite easily be leveraged to demonstrate effects going on within the Consensus, but it is more effective to use papers from experts who happen also to be CAGW advocates, because then one’s sources cannot possibly be questioned as having skeptic taint or being from folks who ‘do not understand’ the climate domain. (Hence all source material in the head post, bar the intro wiki link, is exclusively and solidly Consensus material). Prior to jumping off the deep end on climate and conspiracy theory for instance, Lewandowsky’s works on cognitive bias seem pretty reasonable, and also pretty mainstream as it happens. So they are handy to use.

      I have a feeling that one day, when realization sinks in that the certainty of catastrophe is far from a scientific fact, psychologists who dabbled in the climate domain, actively supporting the Consensus, will be much berated by their many fellows who stayed out, but who then will get very busy with some objective analysis at last.

      I think it would be difficult to create an emotional analysis questionare of the type you suggest. Or rather, difficult if you want it accurate. Emotions are slippy things to characterize, and while a free-style letter also freely volunteered is going to be a good representation, any form of standard questioning tends to introduce difficulties, even if the questions are freely and properly answered let alone guestimated by an interviewer or compiled from general responses. Public surveys on this kind of thing tend to get wide ranging results, which thus are of less use. Nor do I think anyone of note in the Consensus would volunteer to answer anyhow, and scraping answers from generic statements they may have made is okay for useful point quotes, but hard to make systemic. Beyond my ability anyhow (let alone my time!)

  52. Geoff Sherrington

    Andy West,
    That group of 30+ letters – do you know if each letter is independent?. e.g. There are some styles that are repeated a few times, like listing emotions, underlined, as sub-headers (Byrne, Raupach, Richardson) that seem similar enough to worry whether guidelines were issued beforehand.
    If I showed these letters to policy makers, could I guarantee that they are 100% ok and would not be disowned by their authors as listed?

    • It’s an open invitation and letters appear to have come in at different dates (across 9 months so far, although not all dated), from different orgs and different countries too, though once again Oz is a big slice. And if one received 30+ letters on any single and serious topic, there would be some overlap in style, as you see. In fact, the full style variety and content is quite wide.

      But while above speaks to the likelihood that all are genuine, no, I don’t think there’s any way to *guarantee* that there wasn’t some guidelines. I doubt whether anyone is going to disown these, however. A handwritten signed letter is something folks generally stand behind.

      • Actually it’s NOT an open invitation; I recalled wrongly. But now I remember trying to find the invite text and couldn’t. Joe Duggan might provide this I guess, if asked.

  53. Joseph | April 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    A large rump of the public still know almost no detail about climate change or related policy, and hence have some protection from exaggeration and systemic bias, via ‘innate skepticism’, Lewandowksy’s ‘key to accuracy’.

    My last guest post here includes public surveys on belief and action. It is the case that Dem / Lib belief in CAGW is high, a clear majority, but their willingness for action is low, a clear minority, in every US poll that presents a priority list for actions relative to other issues. In contrast the Rep / Con belief is lower, yet while their willingness to act is lower still, the 2 figures are close, there is not such a big change. When the Dem / Lib and Rep / Con figures are combined, it is clear that the collapse in support for action from the much higher belief figures, comes from the Dem / Lib shift, NOT from the Rep / Cons, whose attitudes are much more consistent. The post goes into much more detail and explains why this is the case, but briefly this is a symptom of cultural and emotional bias. Dem / Lib party loyalty inflates the belief figure on an issue they feel they have to be counted on, but dissolves on the priority list when it comes down to really standing behind that position.

    Yes the scientists thing is counter-intuitive. But it isn’t just a climate thing. In other domains too, adherents to a culture (so with cultural bias) who are more educated / knowledgeable (with in-domain knowledge) become more emphatic in their support of the culture (on average), not less. With religion for instance. The ever useful data from Dan Kahan shows this effect with creationism. His data on the climate domain is unambiguous. The more science aware each side (Rep / Con versus Lib / Dem) becomes (on general science test and climate science test), the more polarized they are regarding their belief / disbelief in CAGW, to the extent that the most aware are not far from 100% polarized. Quite something. Now, *whichever* side you figure happens to be attached to the truth, it is still the case that the most science aware / science literate folks on the *opposite side*, are therefore more emphatic regarding their support of a biased position. So this result about science literate people doesn’t rely on who is who.

    It goes without saying that Dan Kahan, a Consensus man, figures the Dem / Libs are at the truth pole. But unfortunately, to make this work he has to speculate that millions of Rep / Cons are suffering from a very rare effect he calls ‘knowing disbelief’. He’s out there trying to get proof for that now. Good for him. OTOH, if one speculates that the Rep / Cons are at the truth pole, one only needs good old vanilla cultural and emotional bias, and no rare effects. The guest post mentioned above shows all the whys and wherefores, including why there are asymmetrical issues, and links Kahan’s work.

  54. Joseph | April 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    In case you haven’t noticed, because of the weird threading my answer to this is just beneath Geoff Sherrington’s posts of the 28th.

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