Constraining Climate Contrarians


I tend to write long posts. This isn’t one of those. It’s a simple pointer to a monumental study.

The Denier Industrial Complex (DICs) have worked overtime to convince the public—particularly Americans—that the climate isn’t changing. Or if it is, we’re not doing it. Or if we are, it’s no big deal. Or if it is, it’d be too expensive to fix. Or at least more expensive than just letting it happen. None of that is true, of course.

One of the ways they’ve been merchandizing doubt is by spreading the lie that there is doubt. If there is, there should be a way to prove it.

It’s likely we’ve all heard about the studies showing 97% of papers on climate-related topics endorse the global scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. There have been multiple independent studies of scientific papers, using different methodologies, done by different people, all of which show the same thing. Around 97% of climate scientists and of published papers explicitly or implicitly agree that climate change is happening, it’s dangerous, and we’re doing it.

What’s up with the other 3%?

Of the remainder, about 1/3 — 1% of the total — take no position. But what’s in the final 2% of papers? They opposed accepted theories, and advanced some competing ideas. Though it seems unlikely they’re right and the 97% are wrong, this does remain a possibility. This is science after all, not a popularity contest. Thorough investigation demands even unpopular ideas must be fairly considered.

About a year ago, a research team looked into the most-visible half of that 2%, and tried to reproduce the findings of 38 climate contrarian papers. Science is, after all, about what can be reproduced. If the findings of a research project cannot be duplicated by other researchers, then there was something wrong with the research. If the findings can be duplicated, then the research must be taken seriously, no matter how odd it seems.

It is possible that this 2% of climate contrarian papers would outline some other theory that explained observed climate phenomena, perhaps better than what is today accepted by the scientific consensus. From an article by Dana Nuccitelli about the research on the research:

“Such a sound theory would convince scientific experts, and a [new] consensus would begin to form. Instead, as our paper shows, the contrarians have presented a variety of contradictory alternatives based on methodological flaws, which therefore have failed to convince scientific experts.”

Get that? The 2% of papers trying to come up with some other explanation for observed changes to the climate were seriously flawed (read: internally inconsistent), could not be duplicated, and contradicted each other.

The paper itself that described efforts to reproduce the “findings” of climate contrarians can be found here.  The paper is pretty readable, even for non-specialists. It’s a year old already, but not a lot of people know about it, despite it being a vitally important study.

Not only is there immense proof that we are dangerously altering the climate, but there is no other explanation for what is happening.

Don’t let the Denier Industrial Complex fool you. Don’t be a DIC.


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