back to article The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

Trick-cyclists in America have come out with research which could explain why the debate on climate change continues to rumble on, even though there is a solid consensus on the facts of the matter. Essentially, according to the researchers, people tend to live in "echo chambers" as far as climate matters go, seeking out …

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  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "US National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center"

    Is that really a thing?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Go

      National Socialist Environmental Synthesis Center?

      Eco-nazis!!! Run for your lives!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sigh...

      The Apollo missions to the Moon were not interrupted by the protestations from the Flat Earth Society.

      Why not transition from the Endlessly Debate phase to the Actually Get On With It phase?

      Blaming the loony 'Skeptics' and 'Deniers' for the inadequate progress is somewhere between delusion and fraud.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Sigh...

        Considering that the "Skeptics" and "Deniers" control the funding for these things... kinda' tough, you know. IMHO, a Skeptic can change belief... a Denier will take it to their grave. Luckily, our CongressCritters are, for the most part, getting on in years.

        The same applies to those CongressCritters who are religious fundies and keep NASA tied in knots for certain projects. There's others, but you get the idea.

        1. MondoMan
          Flame

          Re: Sigh...

          What exactly are "these things"? Pro-alarmist climate "science" gets funded just fine and seemingly needs no proper statistical evaluation to reach publication in even formerly respected journals such as Science and Nature. Most authors still genuflect to climate alarmism, at least in the abstract -- the only part of the paper most non-scientists even look at.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Sigh...

            In the States, the heads of various science committees in the Congress ultimately control the funding. There's a ton of deniers present as both heads and members of these committees.

            There's also many fundamentalists (for lack of a better term) who believe that NASA and any group using money for paleontology or looking back into space further than 6000 years is a waste of money.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sigh...

          There seems to be plenty of money being spent. It's just not being spent efficiently. Frankly, there's a mindless contest to see how much money can be spent... e.g. "My e-car is more expensive than your e-car." Or "My 100MW solar plant cost $5 billion, because obviously there's an infinite amount of money available. So $50/watt is fine..."

          Waaay past time to stop blaming the 'deniers' and 'skeptics'. They're a noisy distraction, not an obstruction. The blame lies solely on poor project management skills in the top level management of the whole effort. The basic human condition of not being very clever.

      2. Bob Armstrong

        Re: Sigh...

        I've met 2 astronauts who have actually seen , from the moon , that the earth is indeed a sphere . They resent being called "flat earthers" for simply being good enough scientists , along with many of their NASA peers , to reject this ever more thoroughly debunked global statist stupidity that an extra molecule or two per 10k of air of the source of carbon to carbon based life is anything but a boon to the biosphere .

        1. Ralph 4

          Re: Sigh...

          What do you mean by "an extra molecule or two per 10k of air"? What is 10k?

        2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Sigh...

          An extra molecule or two?

          Can we have some real scientific details instead please?

          Do you live in the 1800's when the ocean was an inexhaustible dumping ground, and other resources could NEVER get scarce by human consumption? Like whales, cod, etc.

          I bet the people on the Easter Islands weren't really all that concerned either, with trees being counted in the hundreds still.

          People do not like to cut back or limit their consumption. But why not at least acknowledge that there may be a cost down the line, instead of just pretending there couldn't possibly be one?

          1. Simon Enefer

            Re: Sigh...

            Of course their is a cost. But what point is their in the West shivering in our homes will India and China increase their emmission faster than we reduce ours whislt expecting the West to pay for their move to clean technology. Isn't it bad enough that both countries have made stealing technology and ignoring patents a major industry.

            But Climate "Liars" or "Criers" ignore or are ignorant of basic sciencitifc principles. Try making accurate predictions for a non-linear system with a dozen variables, and you will fail. Climate must have thousands, most of which will interact in ways which will do not understand, until we do we Climate change is nothing more than guesswork, support by simulations or models that have proven to be consistently inaccurate at predicting future climate and unable to model past changes. Guess work based on elaborate models, is still guess work!

      3. Simon Enefer

        Re: Sigh...

        The endless debate exists because of the fact that climatologists will not admit that the "Science" they use to state their case isn't science, but glorified guess work. Using a computer model to predict what climate change will take place is pointless when you have no detailed understanding of a) All the factors that effect climate and b) how those factors interact, to pretend as they do that is science is to ignore the last five hundred years of progress.

        The models (More than 40 plus at last count) can't even be used to replicate past climate behavior, so how can they be used to predict future behavior? And the claimed accuracy of their prediction 0.1C, is beyond ridiculous, especially when based on 150 year old data? Could you read a an old style thermometer to a tenth of a degree accurately day after day?

        The Financ sector based trillions of dollars of transactions on computer models. The models confidently predicted that a "credit event" would be the ultimate "black swan" event, occuring once every six or seven million years, so the finance sector confidently ignore every instinct and fact that pointed to a crash and came within a hairs breadth of sinking the entire world economy.

        When the climate "liars" are exposed, after costing developed economies trillions of dollars in lost jobs, high energy costs and "aid" to developing countries, what terrible damage will they have done to the single most beneficial manner of thought in human history, Science?

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Holmes

    Duh!

    ...people tend to live in "echo chambers" ... seeking out information and advisers who agree with what they already believe. Thus, they may persist in deluded views regardless of what others think.

    That's why I come to El Reg. To be challenged. As well as reassured.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Duh!

      That's why I come to El Reg. To be challenged. As well as reassured.

      Which challenge is that then?

      This is/won't be THE year of Linux on the desktop?

      Microsoft make great/awful software

      If your point of view is different to mine, you should be <insert punishment>

      My iDroid is better than yours, because <insert reason>

      You are obviously a shill for <insert company>

      It's not really challenging when it's the same thing over and over. And pretty much the same echo effect because the minds are closed.

      (Semi joke/semi serious note)

      1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Duh!

        Which challenge is that then?

        Being challenged on my assumption that posting here would lead me to being challenged for starters.

        Troll icon because...

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: Duh!

          "Being challenged on my assumption that posting here would lead me to being challenged for starters."

          Nope. Too much inception if we go down that route.

  3. ratfox Silver badge
    Facepalm

    On a larger scale it's been repeatedly established in recent surveys that most people don't agree with the idea that climate change is mainly caused by human activities.

    Because a population-wide survey is the proper way to know whether something is correct, as opposed to doing a scientific study, right? …Right?

    I mean, I also harbour doubts on the question, but that's because I doubt the quality of scientific studies done so far, not because the majority of the population thinks this way or the other.

    1. Just Enough
      Boffin

      Truth

      Uh uh! If enough people say something isn't true, it becomes not true.

      Especially if they say it lots of times, with vigour. Has the internet taught us nothing?

    2. AceRimmer

      This was a study about peoples belief in climate change it was not a study about climate change

      HTH

    3. Swarthy Silver badge

      Well, when the argument is "The consensus is that..." It helps to know what the consensus is.

      I agree that the majority held view has no bearing on the science, if that were true than the sun would have revolved around the earth until Galileo.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Coat

        "...the sun would have revolved around the earth until Galileo."

        It was an Earth-shaking discovery, don't you know?

    4. tmTM

      but

      When the scientific studys start to contradict themselves who do you ask for 'the truth'??

    5. The Dude

      I'm not so sure that "majority consensus" is not relevant with this one. Not the blogging consensus (where people are trying to look smart and trendy) but the real consensus, where people observe and act on those observations. In essence, the majority consensus is the result of millions of separate observations and conclusions. The basic question here is, how many people actually observe any significant warming (or cooling) that appears to be outside the normal variability or has any characteristics that reliably identify it as "man made". Further, among those who observe anything whatsoever, how many see any dangers in it?

      All those observers and all those unbiased observations might actually be providing a better consensus than the politically-influenced climate scientists.

      I'm sure I will get some down-votes for this, but the fact is that a lot of people are making observations and they simply do not see any serious problem. A few (in the grand scheme of things) scientists whose lifeblood of grant money, see a problem that requires more grant money to solve and a tax regime to supply that money. Regardless of the "climate skeptic" stuff, we should always be skeptical of anyone chasing more tax dollars.

      1. Decade
        Boffin

        Humans are defective

        I'm sure I will get some down-votes for this, but the fact is that a lot of people are making observations and they simply do not see any serious problem.

        That’s because humans are seriously flawed. From an alarmist perspective, the rising temperature, the rising sea levels, the rising acidification of the oceans; Future Me is quite inconvenienced by the decisions of Present-tense Society.

        But Present-tense Society is like, I can’t afford the $30,000 for an electric vehicle, or $15,000 for solar panels, the payoff time is forever, I’ll just keep putting a liter of carbon into the air for my daily commute and hoping my electricity will turn green just because. I can’t afford new car payments; the main reason I don’t burn gasoline is because I can’t afford a used car, either. (Also, downtown, the “freedom” of driving a car is the “freedom” to crawl bumper-to-bumper looking for a parking space. No thanks!) I don’t see the problems that my use of energy is causing.

        Same reason almost nobody’s behavior changed, following the Edward Snowden revelations. We’ve “always known” that the Five Eyes spy, so we’ll keep doing what we were doing before. We techies need to be making decisions on these sorts of things for the rest of the population, so they can concentrate their decision-making energies on stuff that matters to them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Humans are defective

          Decade, '...a liter of carbon...'

          I'm not sure volume is the best measurement scheme.

          1. asiaseen

            Re: Humans are defective

            Nor is "carbon" the right word

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        "The basic question here is, how many people actually observe any significant warming (or cooling) that appears to be outside the normal variability or has any characteristics that reliably identify it as "man made". "

        That's just preposterous.

        Do you really think that global warming would result in something like "ahh, this summer was a lot colder/warmer than I expected, so perhaps this global warming thing could be real, we better use less petrol, dear" before the long term effects were irreversible?

        Do you realise the range of temperature zones humans can inhabit, vs. the small average change needed to make global warming a disaster?

        The reason we have SCIENCE is so we don't make these mistakes.

    6. Al Black

      A population-wide survey is the proper way to know whether something is believed to be correct, and goes to show that the average voter also "doubts the quality of scientific studies done so far." A skeptic's view of Climate Change is the only logical one while CO2 concentrations continue to soar but temperatures stubbornly refuse to increase in the 17 years since the climate model's first predicts "Runaway Global Warming"!

      1. NomNomNom

        The majority of climate researchers accept that man is warming the world through greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence is quite convincing.

        1. Bob Armstrong

          "The evidence is quite convincing."

          No it isn't .

          A geologically unremarkable 0.3% variation in our temperature associated with a 40% increase in the molecule which bounces along only a few times the minimum level to support life and whose most recent 10% increase is associated with no detectable increase in temperature , is not convincing .

        2. Apriori

          Convincing evidence? Eh?

          The evidence being a complete lack of rise in temperature despite a significant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide? The fact that all of the models have failed to get anywhere near a reasonable forecast? The fact that extreme weather events have declined in frequency despite the forecast that they would increase?

          Not to mention the actual benefits which do come from increased carbon dioxide - reforestation, better, faster growing crops - and those which would come from increased temperatures - fewer deaths from cold (which massively outnumber those from heat), less use of energy producing natural resources to warm us.

          The bunch at CERN have stated that even though they have found results in line with predictions to a very high degree (in 2102 they were talking about 7 standard deviations-reliable) they were not claiming certainty until further research is done.

          Sorry, reality deniers, when the results don't support your theory, it belongs with phlogiston, phrenology and homeopathy. In the dustbin.

    7. itzman

      Re: Ratfox

      Because a population-wide survey is the proper way to know whether something is correct, as opposed to doing a scientific study, right? …Right?

      Wrong: The point about that is to illustrate the articles main thesis, that what people believe is more a function of social organisation peer pressure and so on, than it is of the truth necessarily.

      Without coming down on one or another side of the argument I would like to perhaps add clarification.

      Science is ultimately one hopes about ascertaining - if not the Truth - at least a model of things that is not measurably inconsistent with it, whatever it may be.

      Politics seeks to arrive at a group consensus of moulded opinion, such that what people believe becomes far far more important than what the truth actually is.

      E.g one can see that studies that elicit the conclusions that '97% of people believe...' are in fact market surveys - political marketing, not science.

      Whereas a study that claims 'in the last 27/21 years temperature changes did not correlate at all with CO2 increases to a 97% confidence level' is in fact trying to be science, in that it asserts a claim that can be refuted by data and its purpose is at least superficially to elicit truth in the world as opposed to what people believe to be the truth.

      Climate science is an unholy mix of political marketing and some basic science: Its important to distinguish in which camp any of the statements made, lie.

    8. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      Quite so. Either way you cut this it's worth remembering that consensus != science; it's closer to faith.

  4. Abel Adamski

    Gonna be fun to watch the comments and excuses and blame shifting over the next few years.

    Watch and weep

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Why?

      When it gets warm enough, again, clothing will become a thing of the past.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        Ever been to a Wal-Mart in the States? You would regret that wish real fast....

      2. Al Black

        Re: Why?

        Heard of UV, Sunburn and skin cancer? Think again.

        1. Martin Budden
          Angel

          Re: Why?

          We've heard of those things here in Australia, that's why we slip-slop-slap.

  5. W Donelson

    Simple hatred of science and liberals drives the denial.

    Republican leaders in the pockets of Big Oil are paid campaign contributions to slow down any change, just like Big Tobacco did for 50 years to stop cigarette legislation.

    1. Nigel 13

      Why liberals?

      1. PNGuinn
        Boffin

        Why not liberals?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Go

        why liberals

        because they are believed to be godless commies who want to destroy capatalisism and mums apple pie - not so much the hairy sandal wearers (both sexes) and failed electioneers of the UK. Of course few have even met a marxist so have no idea what they are blabbling on about - a bit like the climate change debate

    2. Arctic fox
      Headmaster

      @W Donelson Re: "Simple hatred of science and liberals drives the denial."

      It is ironic that your posting so perfectly demonstrates the echo effect they refer to. Whilst it is obvious that some of the opposition to the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis comes from people driven by hatred of science or liberals, it is also perfectly possible to disagree with that hypothesis without being motivated by such views. In other words I suggest you stop arguing that anyone who disagrees with you is a villain.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge
      FAIL

      Simple hatred of science and liberals drives the denial.

      I love science. But I don't believe in MMGW, simply because it doesn't exist - there is no credible science to show that it exists and none of the models work if you run them with historic data. Warmist predictions have been wrong the whole of my life and they continue to be wrong year after year.

      Show me anything that credibly even approaches real scientific consensus on the issue and my mind remains open. Unfortunately, global warming has more in common with religion that it ever had with objective science.

      The longer warmists persist with panicky predictions that fail to occur, the fewer people will believe them next time. 30 years ago I was warned that if I continued driving we'd have the climate of Portugal by now. Well, I continued driving, and low and behold, no climate of Portugal; No significant change at all in fact.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > I love science. But I don't believe in MMGW, simply because it doesn't exist - there is no credible science to show that it exists and none of the models work if you run them with historic data.

        I would add further to that.

        A lot of the vociferous debate about climate "science" is about "deniers" and "believers", but almost no debate is about what is being denied and I blame a lot of the established terminology surrounding the issue. Do you believe in climate change or are you a climate denier? Well, for one, I don't disbelieve in "climate": we demonstrably have one. I don't disbelieve that the climate is changing: it has always changed. But what is really at the heart is who or what is currently driving it and I think there is still some uncertainty in this area as there always should be in any relatively new scientific field.

        Secondly, we're still not forgotten "climategate". Remember that?

        - the much lauded, then roundly panned, hockey stick graph which can apparently be produced by the underlying model with random data

        - the secrecy surrounding the model used, no peer review for them

        - the alleged leaked emails proclaiming that the source data should be disappeared or at the very least suppressed from release because others might use it to refute or challenge their findings, no reproduction of the findings there either

        - the "loss" of key underlying data

        Everything that follows from that sorry episode is tarnished by those shenanigans.

        1. inventorjim

          No peer review, that's hilarious? Human-induced climate change is an established scientific theory. It matches well with observed data. This has been independently verified by scientists around the world.

          The idea that 'humans are not affecting the climate', is not an established theory and it has not been peer reviewed by any credible scientist...anywhere.

          By the way, science is not a belief system; you would know this if you truly 'loved science'. To truly love science you need to put aside your pride and let your preconceived notions (beliefs) go.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        To be a skeptic is a good thing. For example, skeptical of any new OS until after Service Pack 1. Yet, in the climate arena, if you're a skeptic and question... usually both sides of the argument, you get lumped either into the "denier" or "believer" turf. There is no middle ground in their minds. Reality... yes there is. There's always a middle ground in these debates until proven. Science is usually not hard, fast, unchanging answers. The situation changes as do the methods of research.

      3. TheVogon Silver badge

        "simply because it doesn't exist - there is no credible science to show that it exists"

        97% of climate scientists and the overwhelming majority of scientific papers on the subject would disagree with you.

        "Warmist predictions have been wrong the whole of my life and they continue to be wrong year after year"

        Well no, it is certainly getting warmer unless you cherry pick specific time ranges of sub 20 years. The ice keeps melting. Sea levels keep rising. Temperature records keep getting broken. We are currently on target to beat 2014 - which was the warmest on record as defined by NOAA, UK Met Office and several others. Some previously forecast possibilities might have not yet occurred, but there a) no scientific doubt that the planet is warming at a historically very fast rate, and b) no scientific doubt that manmade emissions of CO2 are at least significantly to blame and highly likely are the primary cause.

        "Show me anything that credibly even approaches real scientific consensus on the issue"

        That say every scientific representative to the UN from every single country on the planet agrees with points a) and b) above?

        "No significant change at all in fact"

        Actually lots of significant change. For instance the Arctic has warmed by several degrees. Major permanent ice sheets have thinned significantly. Vast areas of permafrost are starting to thaw. Many glaciers have retreated, etc. etc.

        Bearing in mind that all of the above has overwhelming observable evidence, I can only assume you are trolling - or are very outdated or poorly informed in your information - your position isn't even remotely supportable, and hasn't been for at least a decade.

    4. Al Black

      Political Bullshit

      I am a scientist with a degree in chemistry, not the pseudoscience of so-called "Climate Scientists" and I am skeptical of the claims of global warming for a very simple reason. Science is about putting forward a hypothesis and then testing it by making predictions based on your theory, then checking those predictions against the real world observations. Since 1998 the IPCC climate models have all predicted various rates of warming, the average being 1 degree warmer by 2015. The actual warming over this time is zero degrees, in spite of record increases in CO2 concentration over this time. Clearly the correlation of global warming with CO2 concentration has been disproved, and the hypothesis must be rejected. I am impressed with the logical thinking of the general public who have grasped this fact far better than the Climate Science community.

      "Simple hatred of science" and socialist world-views appear to drive the Warmist point of view, which is a political one, rather than a scientific conclusion.

      1. Eric Olson

        Re: Political Bullshit

        Does anyone else hear the echo?

      2. kyza

        Re: Political Bullshit

        'Socialist world views'.

        That pretty much nails you politically, and compromises your 'scientific' position in the same way you attempt to paint climate science as politically compromised.

      3. NomNomNom

        Re: Political Bullshit

        "Since 1998 the IPCC climate models have all predicted various rates of warming, the average being 1 degree warmer by 2015"

        nope.

        "The actual warming over this time is zero degrees"

        also wrong

        "Clearly the correlation of global warming with CO2 concentration has been disproved"

        bad logic

        "I am impressed with the logical thinking of the general public who have grasped this fact far better than the Climate Science community."

        It really makes no sense. Why would a field of experts around the world be convinced that CO2 emissions are driving up global temperature if it's so obviously wrong?

        I am afraid you are in a position of error and you can't see that you are.

        1. itzman

          Re: Political Bullshit

          Why would a field of experts around the world be convinced that CO2 emissions are driving up global temperature if it's so obviously wrong?

          How many are convinced? Really?

          How expert really, are these experts?

          How many would keep their jobs if they refuted Climate Orthodoxy?

          Nearly all the scientists and engineers I know are DEEPLY skeptical. But they cannot speak out for fear of their pensions and their jobs.

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: Political Bullshit

            I've seen the content of their conferences and their textbooks. There is a clear consensus among people of expertise that man is driving the planet warmer. I don't think calling them liars or idiots is a particularly convincing argument, being the same argument the creationists and anti-vaxxers resort to to explain away the consensus in those particular fields.

            And the expertise part cannot be emphasised enough - climate skeptics tend to overestimate their own knowledge on the subject. 9/10 when I bump into a person skeptical of manmade global warming I find them throwing out simplistic arguments that don't hold up, and having reached a conclusion on the matter via those arguments.

            1. Apriori

              Re: Political Bullshit

              In fact your argument is completely inverted and incorrect.

              The "anti-vaxxers" are those who hold that disasters will results from vaccination. The evidence is the opposite and demonstrates that the benefits of vaccination are such that the occasional real bad outcome is massively outweighed.

              In climate science, the alarmists hold that disasters will result from tiny amounts of a trace gas being added to the atmosphere. However, the evidence is quite to the contrary, and the real benefits of carbon dioxide (the greening of the planet, the increases in food production) appear, at current volumes, to outweigh any apparent bad outcome.

              Similarly, the alarmists seem to regard the statements of their high priests (Mann, Gore etc) as holy writ which cannot be undermined by evidence, just like the creationists who say the earth is 6000 years old. Thus any evidence which fails to support the 2 degree (or is it 4 degree, it changes rather a lot) agenda, needs to be disputed and, usually, the evidence and interpretation changed so that it conforms with the prevailing orthodoxy.

              Finally, the not-too-infrequent calls for punishment (even capital punishment) for non-believers have a certain strong similarities to the similar punishments for apostasy which we hear from some of the more rationality-challenged leaders of certain religious groups.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Political Bullshit

          > It really makes no sense. Why would a field of experts around the world be convinced that CO2 emissions are driving up global temperature if it's so obviously wrong?

          For that matter, why would a large proportion of the world's population, including many noted scientists, have religious belief in a supernatural creator for which there is no evidence? We're talking about human beings here. We have the scientific method specifically because we are fallible, heuristically-driven, animalistic beings that are especially good at deluding ourselves.

          And this is exactly why we should pour scorn on any scientific claims that do not follow the proper process. The fact that there is consensus on the AGW hypothesis means that it is more difficult culturally to consider a dissenting view. That's just the way it is I'm afraid.

      4. inventorjim

        Re: Political Bullshit

        Your conclusions are as confused as your understanding of the facts.

        The Earth has indeed warmed 1.53 F since 1880 - NOAA

        Following your own simplistic black-and-white logic: Human-generated CO2 is causing the Earth to warm.

        For the record:

        1) There are no legitimate scientists in doubt of the fact that the Earth is warming.

        2) There is no debate among the educated that this warming is caused by human activity.

        3) This sensational need to deny facts, is clear evidence that our educational system is failing.

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Political Bullshit

          I agree. We should immediately execute dissenters who threaten humanity by questioning what experts tell them. It's for their own good.

      5. A13C

        Re: Political Bullshit

        The IPCC and their models is like a gambling addict: "No, look! I have a perfect system now! I only need to change this a silght bit and now I'll be rich, please lend me another 10K, I'm sure I have it right now and if you don't lend me the money they'll break my legs".

    5. MondoMan
      WTF?

      slowing change

      To be fair, you got so caught up in denialism that you forgot about all the Democratic leaders and President paid by Big Alarmism to slow down/stop new oil and gas exploration, put restrictions or bans on fracking, pay big subsidies to wind and solar power equipment and power producers, and so forth.

      I always thought de Nile was driven by Isis' tears of sorrow over the loss of her husband, Osiris.

    6. asiaseen

      Well done

      for demonstrating the point of the study so succinctly

  6. codejunky Silver badge

    Echo chambers

    As with most debates there is a spectrum with absolute denier of any form of climate change on one side and fanatical MMCC co2 theory nut job on the other. I feel sorry for the scientists involved who now have their profession devalued by the 2 extremes who cherry pick and politicise the subject.

    The climate debate isnt a scientific one. The science is ongoing. The only people who are certain of the outcome are the followers of the 2 cults at either extreme end. It really does remind me of the various attempts of religion to subvert science to 'prove' they are right.

    1. MondoMan

      Re: Echo chambers

      I wouldn't feel too sad for climate scientists -- they brought much of this upon themselves by not standing up for full data disclosure, proper statistics vetting, and by trying to retroactively justify the childish actions of some scientists in e.g. Climategate. Any field in which one prominent scientist publicly calls another prominent scientist a "denier" is bound to have major problems...

      1. John Sager

        Re: Echo chambers

        "Any field in which one prominent scientist publicly calls another prominent scientist a "denier" is bound to have major problems"

        Scientific arguments can get very vicious, especially when the protagonists feel their reputation is at stake. Dawkins relates an anecdote about a conference where, after one presentation, a respected scientist stood up and, to paraphrase, thanked the presenter for showing how he had been wrong all these years. So everyone applauded mightily. That's how scientific discourse should be, but I suspect that it doesn't happen very often. I've also heard it said that paradigm change only happens when the supporters of the old thinking die off.

        There will be a lot of egg on face for many in the 'Climate Consensus' if things turn out to be nowhere near as bad as has been predicted.

        1. MondoMan
          FAIL

          Re:how scientific discourse should be

          JS notes "Dawkins relates an anecdote about a conference where, after one presentation, a respected scientist stood up and, to paraphrase, thanked the presenter for showing how he had been wrong all these years. So everyone applauded mightily. That's how scientific discourse should be, but I suspect that it doesn't happen very often..."

          In fact, in real scientific disciplines, that IS how it works. For example, biologists didn't try to shout down Warren and Marshall when they showed that H. pylori bacteria, not the previous consensus "stress", caused most stomach ulcers. They didn't try to get them fired from their positions. They didn't concoct new, poorly-understood statistical techniques whose only virtue was to put a fancy gloss on poor-quality anti-H. pylori data.

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: Re:how scientific discourse should be

            Given Dawkin's has been mentioned I would think the obvious parallel with climate science would be the theory of evolution. Dawkin's himself isn't particularly kind to some of the creationist scientists is he?

            "H. pylori" was a small matter contained within a small field of science. Evolution and climate change are fully blown issues which threaten the ideologies of vast segments of the public. There really is no comparison.

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Re:how scientific discourse should be

              "creationist scientists"

              What's that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Echo chambers

      It annoys me when those defending the science use the vocabulary of religion.

      "DO YE BELIEVE? DOES THOU HAVE FAITH IN THE UNFAILING GODS OF SCIENCE? OR SHALL YE BE DAMNED TO HELL AS A HERETIC? DENIER! DENIER! DENIER! BURN HIM!!"

      It's enough to make some people change sides. I'm more aligned with the concept of always engaging in skeptical thinking as a firm policy (hint: that's called 'science'), than being seen to be aligned with the screeching mobs of quasi-religious defenders of the faith. They're an embarrassment.

      Even if climate change is real (which it certainly is).

    3. Apriori

      Re: Echo chambers

      And the really bad news is that in the hysterical one-issue politicization of this, we have seen the seas fished into deserts, forests destroyed, great and wonderful habitats destroyed (Amazon, Indonesia, Africa) because organisations which used to campaign to "Save the whale", have now been taken over by "CEOs" on half a million a year who wish to stay in London, New York and Paris and "lobby" about a harmless gas.

  7. Daz555

    This is one of the broader problems of online social interaction. Now we are connected to "everybody" it is very easy to find large groups of people who share your views on a particular issue - no matter how bizarre or misinformed they may be.

    You can now have your crazy views validated by a social group online, but in pre-internet days you'd just have been laughed out of the pub or branded the village idiot.

    1. graeme leggett

      "but in pre-internet days you'd just have been laughed out of the pub or branded the village idiot"

      I thought then you just bought the tabloid/redtop newspaper that fitted with your world view. Hence polarization of British press into areas with any newsprint that tries to fit middle ground getting rubbish sales (Independent, Today)

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        The Indy may have started out trying to occupy the middle ground but in recent years it's made the Daily Mirror look like a frothy-mouthed bastion of fascism.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge
          Holmes

          The Indy may have started out trying to occupy the middle ground but in recent years it's made the Daily Mirror look like a frothy-mouthed bastion of fascism

          Quite. Anyone who believes the Indy is centrist is most definately a left winger. I'll admit I'm struggling to think of a paper that IS centre ground..... which is slightly sad. Possibly the Times, but that isn't as clear as it once was.

          Perhaps all newspapers should be gaffered to their positional opposite to encourage wider reading?

          Buy the Sun and you get the Mirror stuck to the back. Buy the Guardian and you get the Daily Mail too.

    2. Gary Bickford

      Political definitions

      These apply to more than climate change, can be applied generally, or with regard to specific topics:

      "Moderate" :== "Agrees with me"

      "Commie Leftwing Wackjob" :== "more liberal than me"

      "Fascist Rightwing Nutcase" :== "more conservative than me"

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Echo Chamber

    This is why Twitter and Facebook delude their members.

    "Individuals who get their information from the same sources with the same perspective may be under the impression that theirs is the dominant perspective, regardless of what the science says,"

    People need to use a wide range of news and other sources. The BBC etc need to stop dumbing down their journalism to recycled Tweets. BBC shouldn't be allowed to promote or use proprietary services like Twitter at all.

    The Internet has increased the Echo Chamber syndrome far more than favourite newspapers, Radio or TV ever did.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Echo Chamber

      These users tend to choose what they see in front of them.

      You still get to see stuff sent by others to you but those are there to be argued over.

      I 'follow' Britain Furst and don't feel that Britain First have influenced me (other than firming up my belief they are useless tools of the highest order)

      Oh, you also used 'dumbing down' -- now, what influenced you to use that phrase, where did you get it from?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Echo Chamber

        > These users tend to choose what they see in front of them.

        The machines do that for you now. Search for "XYZ" a lot, the algorithms promote that type of search to the top of the list because you click on it more often than "ABC". The modern machine-lead learning experience of internet generally entrenches your own prejudices unless you really make an effort to dig our both sides of the debate (which most people don't).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consensus is not science

    As a physicist I am painfully aware of instances of consensus that when exposed to an actual experiment fell completely apart.

    For 2000 years there was consensus that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones (as postulated by Aristotle) this was never challenged until Galileo proved otherwise.

    In the 19th century there was consensus that the aether filled space (instead of a vacuum) and again consensus failed.

    Again the photoelectric effect overturned hypothesis's about light that again were the consesus.

    When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory.

    Remember that the Emperor's new clothes had consensus that they were wonderful, when he was in fact naked (duped by a bunch of charlatans).

    This is why people are attacked for challenging consensus as when the scientific method is used a lot of eggs end up on a lot of faces.

    Beware!!!

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Consensus is not science

      Quite. I suspect that a good deal of "consensus" comes from the fact that most, if not all, funding programmes for scientific research are predicated on the assumption than man-made climate change is a done deal. So, if you want the money, you have to sing from that hymn sheet.

      Example - if you are a newt studier and apply for funding under the heading, say, "Impact of man-made climate change on newt populations" you increase your chances of getting the dosh. And, incidentally, become part of the "concessus".

    2. dogged

      Re: Consensus is not science

      Or, as a friend of mine puts it -

      "Most people are pretty stupid. Therefore, gaining consensus on a subject is a lot easier than actually being right about it".

    3. joeW

      Re: Consensus is not science

      "They laughed at Galileo! They laughed at Copernicus!"

      "Yes, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown"

      1. BobRocket

        Re: Consensus is not science

        Yes but Bozo the Clown understood the science of crowds and the power of populism

      2. Myself-NZ

        Re: Consensus is not science

        Yes, and the consensus was that Bozo was funny.....

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Consensus is not science

        > "They laughed at Galileo!

        No, they arrested that one.

    4. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Consensus is not science

      It's a shame you posted as A/C. That is perhaps the best point to be made in all of this debacle.

      Consensus is not science, and if you have to rely on it as a persuasion tool, you are not in a scientific debate, but rather a social one.

      1. DN4

        Re: Consensus is not science

        > Consensus is not science, and if you have to rely on it as a persuasion tool, you are not in a scientific debate, but rather a social one.

        Well, this is unfortunately true only if we can reasonably falsify the statements by experiments. Which covers lots of science but not all.

        For instance in pure mathematics, the purest of sciences, the consensus is everything. Yes, the theorems and proofs may be objectively correct or wrong. But that is something we cannot readily verify (leaving aside some simple cases). The only known method for checking them is that the original author tries to explain as well as he can and other people try to understand, go through and reproduce the proof. So at the end, mathematical proof is a social construct. It is verified by consensus, nothing else.

        1. Apriori

          Re: Consensus is not science

          Mathematics is not a science. The subject matter of all sciences is the objective world, and while mathematics, for reasons unknown and possibly unknowable, is unbelievably successful in providing tools which help us to deal with reality, there are no '1's, or 'i's or cosines lying about the landscape, even if things in reality often conform to statements involving both things and numbers.

          Also, there is no absolute correctness in science, whereas there is in mathematics. In a Euclidean universe, it is true always, at all times and at all places that Pythagoras' theorem is correct; is is similarly true that Fermat's Last theorem turned into Wiles' law of integer indices in around May 1995. Wiles' law always was, is and will be true (unless he boobed and someone finds the error). Einstein's General Relativity is very good but, thanks to quantum mechanics, cannot be the last word.

          (The refutation of my opening comments may lie in Max Tegmark's book, but I can't understand it).

    5. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Consensus is not science

      One of those responses that I wish I could upvote more than once.

      1. Michael M

        Re: Consensus is not science

        Science is 100% about consensus. It's about you being right and everybody else being wrong. About having the only theory that explains all the experimental data. It's about everybody else slowly discarding their pet theories and accepting the one you thought of. It's about challenging the current consensus with a new idea, such as Barry Marshall showing the connection between Helicobacter pylori and stomach ulcers. to become the newer, better consensus.

        In religion, art, politics and sport and all other forms of human endeavour you will not find consensus. Science is the one activity we do that you can find consensus. Consensus is never immediate but it eventually happens and science does not move forward without it. It doesn't mean 100% consensus, I imagine Fred Hoyle went to his grave believing in the Steady State model but those outside the consensus get sidelined and forgotten. If we are going to bet on the future it'd be advisable to bet on the 19/1 on favourite aka the consensus.

        1. Al Black

          Re: Consensus is not science

          Consensus is about politics, not science. Science is about proof or disproof of a theory, the consensus comes later when the hypothesis become accepted as a Law of Science that is taught in Schools.

    6. Palpy

      Re: Consensus is not science

      Yes, and I upvoted.

      However, we must respond intelligently to hypotheses. For instance, general relativity is an hypothesis which is accepted as correct by a majority of scientists. Some people -- the late astronomer Tom Van Flandern, for instance -- have at one time or another challenged the consensus on GR. But we still use the equations of GR despite these non-mainstream challenges.

      The physics of CO2 (and other gases) and their relevance to atmospheric heat balance was investigated by Fourier, Tyndall, and Arrhenius in the late 1800s. The physics involved here is not new science. And of course the physics governing infrared absorption by CO2 can be challenged by skeptics. And the challenges can be met by experiment -- just as challenges to general relativity can be met by experiment.

      But again, we need science to inform action in the real world. We simply can't say, "Well, the consensus on gravitation is just an hypothesis, and we can't base a rocket trajectory on a mere hypothesis... so we have no way to implement space exploration." In a similar way, we cannot say "Well, the modification of atmospheric infrared absorption by rising CO2 levels is merely an hypothesis, and we can't base policy for CO2 emission on mere hypothesis... so we have no way to implement social policy with regard to CO2."

      Or, rather, we CAN say that. And currently, that's what the right-wing "echo chamber" has us doing.

      1. Gary Bickford

        Re: Consensus is not science

        It's easy to say we know how CO2 works, but that is not the whole story. You left out the effects of, among other things, H2O, whose effects in both directions on climate are IIRC actually at least two orders of magnitude stronger than CO2, and whose effects are still poorly understood and modeled, with significant drivers of cloud cover at different elevations still not included in most models. A 1% variance in predicted cloud cover has a much greater influence on the heat equation than any projected variance in CO2.

      2. Chris Miller

        @Palpy

        There are legitimate doubts about GR - we know, because of conflicts with quantum observations, that it must break down at some suitably tiny scale; and there are serious cosmologists investigating modified gravitational theories, since there's still no sign of a suitable candidate to constitute 'dark matter'. But no-one believes that it could be replaced by some theory following an inverse cube law - any modification must be infinitesimal on most human scales to avoid conflict with day-to-day experience.

        Similarly, despite your straw man, no-one seriously doubts that increased CO2 emissions will tend to cause global temperatures to rise. But the legitimate questions this raises are "rise by how much?" and "what are the effects of that?" - and no-one has any solid answers to these questions. So before we commit to actions which will significantly diminish developed economies and condemn many millions in developing economies to a continuing miserable existence, it's reasonable to question the scientific consensus.

      3. Diogenes

        Re: Consensus is not science

        Yes the physics of Co2 absorption of heat are known and there is an actual real consensus. But, and here is the big but, Co2 is not the ONLY driver of climate, and one has to think of the old "yes my theory works , but only for the apocryphal spherical chicken in a vacuum". Nearly every prediction made by the models has proved to wrong, and Armageddon (the so called "tipping point" ) has been delayed several years.

        I feel sorry for those in the Northern Hemisphere, it looks like its going to get colder - I refer to

        Gerard D. McCarthy, Ivan D. Haigh, Joël J.-M. Hirschi, Jeremy P. Grist, David A. Smeed. (2015) Ocean impact on decadal Atlantic climate variability revealed by sea-level observations. Nature; 521 (7553): 508 DOI: 10.1038/nature14491 which refers to the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) which looks like it is entering a cooling phase (hang about - if it is now cooling , could that mean it was warming at one point and was responsible for the warming seen until 1998?)

        As for the echo chamber effect, it is assumed by our acquaintances, that because I am a teacher I am progressive, and so my inbox is full of "conservatives are weird/stupid because ..." stuff.

        Sadly we are seeing more & more of this at a university level, where instead of healthy debate, and students being exposed to ideas that may offend see the rise of "trigger warnings", that expose them to controversial history (eg the fact that before the US Civil War there were a large number of black slave owners, and the man generally regarded as treating his slaves the worst was black, and an ex-slave to boot) or to the poor thinking of the "idiots' (usually whichever group or person is currently on the end of a twatter storm, or who has incurred the wrath of an NGO) "no platform". Is this because of the paucity of their own argument or the "idiot" actually has a better case ?

      4. Al Black

        Re: Consensus is not science

        Well, the modification of atmospheric infrared absorption by rising CO2 levels is merely an hypothesis, and we can't base policy for CO2 emission on mere hypothesis... so we have no way to implement social policy with regard to CO2." Yes, we can say that. Abandoning the use of Fossil Fuels and refusing to use Nuclear power as an alternative means dismantling our modern industrialised civilisation, and replacing it with a "sustainable" one based on "renewable" power sources like wind and solar. That sustainable powered civilisation could support maybe 500 million humans on the planet, so before I support policies that will starve 6.5 billion of my fellow humans I demand proof that it is necessary. For the last 17 years there have been zero increases in global Temperatures while CO2 output has soared by 30%: it is clear that beyond 280ppm, increases in CO2 have no further effect on infrared absorption, so the correlation theory breaks down. In short, you are wrong and only listening to what the left-wing "echo chamber" has been telling you.

        1. NomNomNom

          Re: Consensus is not science

          There is a consensus - the best human minds on the subject of climate are unanimous that man is driving up the temperature of the earth and will continue doing so. They are best placed to analyse the evidence and have been convinced by that evidence. This is a strong indicator that the idea has merit.

          1. itzman
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: Consensus is not science

            the best human minds on the subject of climate are unanimous.....

            Romeo Oscar Foxtrot Lima Mike Alpha Oscar....

            I Lurve a good 'appeal to authority' with my elevenses..

          2. Apriori

            Re: Consensus is not science

            There is a consensus - the best human minds on the subject of demonic possession are unanimous that man can be possessed by devils and that this will cause many people to be cast into a fiery pit for eternity. They are best placed to analyse the evidence and have been convinced by that evidence. This is a strong indicator that the idea has merit.

            Certainly, the priest of 1500s Spain were the smartest guys around. Schizophrenics and similar certainly act as though they are possessed by devils (sometimes). And the priests examned them and found the signs which were taken to prove demonic possession.

            Sadly neither group could produce actual evidence. And quite a few people died/are dying horribly as a result

      5. Bob Armstrong

        Re: Consensus is not science

        I know no "realist" who rejects the work of Fourier, Tyndall, and Arrhenius . But also Lambert and Beer . And it is the latter who explain why CO2's absorption spectrum is rather fully saturated at levels too low to support life , and therefore why our additions have had an essentially undetectable effect .

        The difference here between laws such as GR and "climate science" is that GR is verified to be correct to many decimal places with various proposed emendations not yet being observationally resolvable .

        "Climate Science" continually spouts just qualitative neither provable nor disprovable fuzz .

        And exception is James Hansen's claim that Venus is an example of a "runaway greenhouse" which is trivially DISPROVED by basic undergraduate calculations of radiative balance .

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consensus is not science

      "As a physicist I am painfully aware of instances of consensus that when exposed to an actual experiment fell completely apart."

      Yes, we get it. All "knowledge" is provisional and subject to revision in the light of evidence.

      We can all produce examples of scientific knowledge that got modified. These range from the frankly comic assertions of Aristotle that got blown away by the first real test (although the internal inconsistencies should have been a clue) to the much more nuanced example of the nature of light.

      Unlike the way that you have presented it there was not a universal naive assumption about light. Instead there was an enormous volume of observational evidence that light was a wave phenomenon. Alongside this was the theory of James Clerk Maxwell that unified observational evidence from electricity and magnetism and through an elegant set of equations showed that light was consistent with being an electomagnetic wave. Not only that, but the theory predicted the existence of waves of other frequencies, such as radio waves. Later, these waves were actually observed by Hertz. Fantastic!

      The issue of what the medium was that carried the wave was the subject of debate as it did not appear to fit in fully with other understanding. It was the Michelson-Morley experiment that finally killed the aether concept, but it did not dismiss the idea of the wave nature of light. Maxwell's equations continued to work. Later, the photoelectric effect showed that light also appeared to have particle-like behaviour. However, even that could not overturn the vast amount of experimental observation of the wave-like properties of light. Let's not forget that physics students continue to observe the wave effects each and every day in labs all over the world. The result of all this is, instead, quantum theory which allows for *both* wave like and particle like manifestations of the underlying behaviour.

      This is a far cry from "Ho ho, weren't they stupid for thinking light was a wave in a universal aether". This is a constant tactic used to dismiss a current state of knowledge that someone does not like. "We were a bit wrong before so therefore we could be, and probably are, completely and utterly wrong now". Well, maybe we are completely and utterly wrong now, but only actual evidence will back this up.

      You said:

      "When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory."

      Nonsense. Consensus can and, in this situation, does mean a censensus interpretation of all the available hypotheses, theories and *observational* evidence.

      Oh, and yes, I am a physicist too.

      1. Rob Moss

        Re: Consensus is not science

        Consensus is achieved through peer review. In climatology, this doesn't happen, because too much is covered up and hidden away. Therefore, there can be no consensus. I don't see quantum or nuclear physicists saying "you can't see this evidence in case you make me look silly" - they're rarely wrong, and when they are wrong, everyone can prove they're wrong because everyone has all the data. Climate scientists are wrong all the time, but hide their data in case someone embarrasses them and swings the debate. I'm neither an advocate nor a denier of MMCC or whatever you want to call it - I just think that the entire business circling around it is genuinely offensive and refuse to get involved either way until people start acting like scientists.

    8. Ian K
      Headmaster

      Re: Consensus is not science

      "When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory."

      I do not think that word means what you think it means.

      "Consensus" means there's general agreement over some issue, no more and no less. Why there's agreement is a different issue - it might be because people have just assumed things without actually investigating, it might be a working hypothesis, but it might also be because the investigations have been done and everyone got the same result.

      To extend one of your examples, the consensus is now that heavy and light objects fall at the same speed [in a vacuum]. And that is very much not an opinion that cannot be backed up by experiment.

      So, your subject is correct; consensus is not science, but at the same time it's also not a indication that something's only a hypothesis.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Consensus is not science

        > So, your subject is correct; consensus is not science, but at the same time it's also not a indication that something's only a hypothesis.

        So why use the word consensus at all?

        We used to say things like "evidence and experiment strongly suggest...". I can get behind a quote like that.

        Saying that there is "strong consensus" is an immediate turn off for me and a lot of other people.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consensus is not science

      @ac

      A physics experiment fail, surely not.

      As the old adage goes:

      If it crawls it's biology, if it stinks it's chemistry and if it doesn't work it's physics.

      1. itzman

        Re: If it crawls it's biology, if it stinks it's chemistry and if it doesn't work it's physics

        And if it bears no relation to reality at all its an over-simplistic mathematical model extrapolated way beyond valid limits and if it does work, its probably rule-of-thumb engineering.

  10. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Basically, people prefer opinions that support their own, already existing opinions? That's kind of new. And I'm really surprised that this also holds true in the area of climate change. Not.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Nothing really to do with the debate on climate change

    You could substitute evolution, gun control. mass-snooping, etc. and get the same results. So, where is the relevance to climate change?

  12. Edwin

    Catalysts?

    Anyone who's spent time on social media is able to see the echo chamber effect quite easily.

    I wonder though if in this case the effect was strengthened by the apparent inability of the media to put down a balanced story. The relentless spindoctoring by politicians, activists and business have probably left a large part of the population unclear on who they can trust. And in that insecurity, they hold on to whatever belief they've formed for themselves.

  13. frank ly Silver badge

    I'm waiting

    "... even though there is a solid consensus on the facts of the matter."

    It shouldn't take long.

  14. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Why oh Why

    Did Lewis have to bias an otherwise interesting news piece with his particular perspective on climate change?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We don't need no stinkin' trick cyclists...

    to tell us that people believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts.

    Proof, if proof were needed, is the existence of "young earth creationism" etc.

  16. Thought About IT

    Words mean just what Lewis chooses them to mean

    FFS, why does Lewis keep peddling this nonsense? It makes The Register look ridiculous.

  17. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    To Boff or not to Boff

    "We have not used the word "boffin" in this article as the researchers involved - sociologists, and as such from the soft-studies sector - do not qualify for that noble appellation."

    Thank you for keeping in mind that to be a Boffin you need a pipe and they not only billow out clouds of poisonous smoke but also indicate the user to be a slave of Big Tobacco.

    (not sure if there are enough CAPS used for it to be seen as THE TRUTH[tm])

  18. Tom 38 Silver badge

    "Convicted criminal"

    I have no opinion on the gent, or the blogs he funds, but he was only convicted of circumventing ridiculous online gambling laws. These seem to exist only to ensure that online gambling "takes place" in places where the politicos get kickbacks can tax it properly.

  19. Permidion

    A problem you dont (want to) see ...

    is a problem that doesn't exist.

    especially when it would cost a lot of money doing anything to solve it.

  20. Gwaptiva

    As others have already pointed out, the issue is with actually finding out what the facts are, not just the facts we are being given. If nothing else, the Climategate affair demonstrated data is being withheld. I don't care about the reasons for this, it is not the way science should be done, and has dragged this science into the area of homeopathy and iriscopy: cherrypicked results to prove a position

  21. eesiginfo

    Before all talk of 'human driven climate change'...... I remember an Horizon program looking at polar ice cores.

    The scientists then had no political axe to grind...... they simply stated that the earth's climate, in earlier times, regularly flipped from hot to cold.

    What was interesting was that we said to be living in an unusually stable period, and that climate change was long overdue, and could happen at any time....... not if, but when.

    The mechanisms that initiate climate change, don't require humans, but are very difficult to define, other than to state that our weather is completely chaotic.

    Within such chaos, it is possible to develop pretty much any theory you want, and 'develop' statistics to back up your case.

    Massive computer modelling producing consumer accessible graphics, are wonderful, because they can be programmed to produce chosen outcomes....... yet are impossible to verify.

    However, such models can generate much greater funding for the teams that produced them...... and the same goes for much of the research that has been done in this field.

    It really does appear to have become a perfect gravy train, as the research has no end..... certainly it has legs for many decades to come.

    Add to that, the star studded social pressures on politicians, who then echo those sentiments, to gain approval....... and we have a recipe for short term scientific conclusions, that simply deliver what people want to hear.

    For the public..... we can't do the science, and we can't verify any claims.

    So I can say, that I don't know if humanity has driven this potential climate change.

    However, I'm fairly certain, that if a climate change flip is coming........ the current efforts to stop it, will be like a pin prick in a dinosaur.

    If it is coming...... then I reckon it's going to keep on coming. ;)

  22. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

    To date, most of the reports on climate change seem to be of the form:

    Alarmist headline

    Unfounded series of assertions.

    Complicated waffle involving computers, and appeals to authority

    Solution which involves me giving someone else lots of money.

    Almost unheard of is the concept of simply improving technology to the point at which we are using low-carbon technologies and emitting less fossil carbon than is locked up by natural processes. Also seldom heard is the point that much of the trouble stems from there being so many humans on the planet, and that the solution is to raise everyone's living standards so breeding like rabbits no longer looks like such a good idea.

    No, mostly what we hear is doom-saying, together with rent-seeking and assorted magical thinking. Oh, and attempted raids on one's wallet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

      "...the solution is to raise everyone's living standards so breeding like rabbits no longer looks like such a good idea."

      That's already underway. Humans population might not even reach ten billion at the peak. At this point, the peak at about 2050 is simply demographics playing forward.

      Great post. Your points are bang on.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

      "Almost unheard of is the concept of simply improving technology to the point at which we are using low-carbon technologies and emitting less fossil carbon than is locked up by natural processes"

      Really? You've never heard of the concept of replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

        But can it be done at the same power levels? That's always been the 6-billion-human question. Because last I checked, very few are going to volunteer to be culled just because the cleanest tech available only provides 10% the power of today.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

          "...the cleanest tech available only provides 10% the power of today."

          Why the assumption that it has to be "the cleanest"?

          Natural gas to replace coal is capable of providing the same power. It's 'only' half the CO2 of coal, which might be a nice step forward in the interim.

          Doesn't it make sense that our giant windmill factories should not be powered by coal?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not even wrong

    Not even wrong

  24. Red Bren

    All lies and jest

    Paul Simon summed it up perfectly - "Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

  25. Ru'

    I agree with the consensus. The models prove it. And when they don't, we change them. Er...

  26. Alistair Silver badge
    Alert

    Social media "echo chambers"

    Yes - there are huge pools of stupid out there that folks get stuck in, and tend to have a hard time wading their way out of.

    Yes - folks that don't like to think too hard will tend not to wade their way out and will be vociferous in defending their pool of stupid.

    Personally I tend to look at positions and read about them because they are different from mine. I don't tend to brand folks outright simply because they hold a different opinion or perspective than mine. My balance is logic. If there is *some* logic in place its worth looking at the perspective. If I can find no trace of logic in the perspective I move on. However, since our governments have been slaughtering education for 40 years, I've found that many, many folks don't comprehend logic.

    I cannot even shoot down some of the most vociferous "Climate Change" deniers, nor can I shoot down the most panicked "Climate Change" proponents, as they use *some* logic, and have *some* evidence to back them up, especially when you can trace the path to the backing/funding that supports them. In reality, you cannot call someone who is a virulent CC denier *stupid* if they are earning dinner and a pension from the BigOilConglomerate -- shortsighted perhaps, but not stupid. You read the article and it inflamed you didn't it? -- The same can be said of the "Oh My God, New York will drown in 15 years" crowd. -- typically you can't call them stupid, they have some facts ,they have some logic and there is a source for their income, likely with a vested interest in RenewableSourcesofEnergy.

    Sadly - my take on the use of the word "consensus" is that it is a typical cop out to "I've heard this somewhere once". Or that the consensus was based on three people getting drunk one night on a deck in the back yard.

    My largest problem with the entire "climate change" debate is that the science makes it clear that there are changes happening, but we (as a species, not us Reg Readers) don't have sufficient knowledge, computing power, or data to concretely correlate what sequence of events puts this change in place. And, as such, we as a species, have to put hard logic in place, and point out that we can make some changes in what we are doing to remove the deltas we as a species apply, but that those changes may or may NOT have any affect at all on the changes that our climate is undergoing. We simply do not have sufficient knowledge or correlation.

    You find your car takes longer to stop at stop lights, you change the brakes right? Does this fix the problem if you've added a 7,000lb trailer to your car? Possibly, possibly only for a short time, possibly not at all.

    < hmmmmmm /endrant>

  27. Patrician

    "On a larger scale it's been repeatedly established in recent surveys that most people don't agree with the idea that climate change is mainly caused by human activities"

    Of course, the more people that don't agree with something then it's automatically the truth? Really? Does scientific evidence not count at all then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but..

      that's the definition of "consensus", isn't it?

      consensus is good when it's OUR consensus, but not when it's theirs...

      ignore the volcanoes, and the Chinese, focus on the American tailpipe. Makes sense when you can't make money off of volcanic output

      1. John Hughes

        Re: but..

        Ignore the volcanoes?

        What on earth are you blathering on about?

        1. itzman
          Headmaster

          Re: but..

          I suspect that volcanoes being deep climate modifiers and emitters of carbon dioxide, was the point..

          1. John Hughes

            Re: but..

            Large volcanic eruptions have a short term cooling effect on climate, true.

            Volcanic action emits a bit less CO2 than Turkey, true.

            But so what? There is no trend in volcanic activity, so it has no effect on climate trends, it's just noise.

  28. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    " economically painful action"

    Well now, there's the rub, innit? Who want to be the first gubmint through the gates to take their country back to the dark ages. They'll be the ones tarred, feathered, and hung along the carriageways.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Irony alert!

    Speaking of an echo chamber, I note with amusement that comments on this article are "moderated" to create the illusion of a substantial majority in agreement with Page.

  30. WalterAlter
    Thumb Down

    Liberals are herd animals

    Fattened and fleeced by their ideological border collies for the issue du jour. What ever happened to "protect the rain forest", "acid rain", "save the oceans", "Occupy", "meat is murder" and a dozen other examples of cognitive rock skipping. Having become more bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie, comfort and convenience pretty much dictate the parameters of their activism..

  31. marturion

    Of course we should always accept consensus--bring back lobotomy as a treatment for mental health problems--after all the originator of it won a Nobel Prize.

  32. Uncle Ron

    Not Just Climate Change

    The "echo chamber effect" is not only misleading people on climate change, but on all kinds of topics and issues from politics, foreign relations, trade agreements, religion, human rights and more. Just about every topic from settled science to feeding your cat has become controversial--because of, wait for it, THE INTERNET.

    Hitler once famously said, "Give me a thousand followers, and I can take over the world." With the internet, it's now -very- easy to get a thousand crackpot followers. I'm not saying get rid of it, or censor it, just that humanity needs better education on this topic.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Not Just Climate Change

      "I'm not saying get rid of it, or censor it, just that humanity needs better education on this topic."

      And if people don't WANT to learn? That trying to drag them kicking and screaming will bring their buddies and start a riot?

  33. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Headmaster

    Ah, So That's Why Dogs Chase Their Tails

    The consensus is that dogs are convinced that their tails present a clear threat......

  34. David Goadby

    Re: Echo Chamber

    Surely the so-called echo Chamber effect works both ways? Our Government seems to act this way and just use the argument that totally supports more taxes.

    Mind you, the huge loss of Liberal Democrat MP's, including the loony Ed Davey, does indicate the some of us were fed up of their "ideas"

    1. Diogenes

      Re: Echo Chamber

      Yep, and self created as well.

      Government gives "Big Green" a grant, "Big Green" uses that that grant to campaign for more regulation/banning/taxation of .....

  35. another_vulture

    Consensus (on evolution)

    Less than half of Americans believe that Humans evolved from animals:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_support_for_evolution

    Why should we consider the "consensus" when we are evaluating a scientific theory?

    Note: I have not seen a specific study, but my gut feeling is that there is a very high correlation between creationist thinking and environmental skepticism, and a quick google search turns up lots of support for this: e.g.:

    http://religiondispatches.org/creationism-and-global-warming-denial-anti-sciences-kissing-cousins/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consensus (on evolution)

      "Less than half of Americans believe that Humans evolved from animals:"

      Wow that's an amazing level of ignorance. I guess that explains why the Scientologists and the Republicans do so well over there...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Consensus (on evolution)

        And the greens

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consensus (on evolution)

      If (as the majority of creationists hold) the uniformitarian timescale (whichever version is "scientific fact" today) is not just incorrect but out by many orders of magnitude, it follows that there should be no surprise whatsoever that the climate is changing much more rapidly than models based on uniformitarian timescales say it should be.

      Whether some of that change is related to emissions caused by human activity is another matter altogether of course, and nobody on earth _knows_ that, regardless of what they may fervently believe.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consensus (on evolution)

      I heard that half of Europeans still think wealth comes out of government fiat.

      It must be true, I saw it on the same Internet site where you get your opinion.

    4. Col_Panek

      Re: Consensus (on evolution)

      There are plenty more. Chemtrails, free energy, copper bracelets, crystals, Orgonite, homeopathy, astrology. HAARP and NEXRAD cause earthquakes/tornadoes/hurricanes/drought. (Not an exhaustive list by any means.)

      Pointing out problems with their beliefs based on scientific principles gets you labeled a shill. The echoes reverberate still.

  36. DJ
    FAIL

    Change is good

    You go first. :)

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    first rule of science:

    There IS no "consensus". Nor "arguments from authority". When you've fallen back to that, you're on "faith". Challenge EVERYTHING, ALWAYS.

    Especially the "interpretation". A series of numbers is data. deciding what leads who requires experimentation and backup. and ALWAYS should be looking for data that can contradict the current theory.

    when you REJECT anything because it doesn't fit current "consensus" you're a religion, hiding your priesthood under some generic "scientist" label.

  38. Bleu

    I am no authority.

    I like Mr. Page's points on this, whether he is correct or not, I am not 100% sure. He was not 100% accurate about Fukushima Number One, but his comments about it at the time were appreciated. Colleagues who don't usually read news in English were happier to hear of the valid points he was making and to be pointed to a couple of the articles.

    As for the climate alarmists, where to start? You have a gang of fanatics who hate science, engineering, and mathematics, running around screaming about 'the science'!

    Those and other silly people do not understand that bureaucrat 'scientists' are generally not scientists at all as most would understand the word, and are awarded master's degrees and PhDs for works that are on a level with a middling high school essay, albeit much more verbose. The same goes for many bureaucratic fields other than 'climate science'.

    That said, I think the concept of 'fracking' is hideous and dangerous, and we, as a species, should move to other sources of energy ASAP, the hydrocarbons are too valuable for chemistry and materials to simply burn them all, and there is no proof that burning all will not lead to disaster. At the very least, it would be a disaster in terms of the ability to make things.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heads I win, Tails you lose!

    Of course there's consensus that there's climate change. It's a "heads I win, tail you lose" phrase.

    There is disagreement whether that climate change (because it always is) is anthropomophic, how much sensitivity is related to anthropomorphic change in CO2 balance, and whether anyone can collectively do much about it if climate is really all that sensitive to CO2 balance, and what other factors (aerosols, solar radiance) have more effect.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's be honest...

    Most of us reading here are IT people...and we know the reality of what "computer-based models of climate" / "this software will transform your business without any impact" / "this new systems will lead to efficiency savings" means.

    i.e. Computing is still, at best, an inexact science.

    Basing our belief of human-led climate change on computer models is ridiculous. I'm all for being shown exact scientific proof that climate [change | warming | cooling] is due to human interaction with the environment, but please, don't claim computer modelling as proof.

    Much love to El Reg for publishing challenging articles, as always.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Let's be honest...

      "Computing is still, at best, an inexact science."

      what. does. that. mean. ?

      1. itzman
        Holmes

        Re: Let's be honest...

        "Computing is still, at best, an inexact science."

        what. does. that. mean. ?

        Its meaning free statement actually.

        Computing isn't a science. Which is probably why computer scientists make such appalling programmers.

        I suspect what was really meant was GIGO.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Let's be honest...

          When I studied computer science it was a lot of theory (information theory etc) which is in the scientific domain, and the science needed to actually create computer processors (CPUs), and so on. Real science. Then there is the art of programming, which is an engineering discipline with room for artistry, just like many engineering disciplines. We did some of that too. I suspect it's much more geared towards engineering today, which is fine. We got fantastic hardware already nowadays.

  41. billat29

    I used to be a climate scientist but now I'm better

    Really. Well it wasn't called that back then, but I used to study reactions of excited oxygen species in the upper atmosphere. We worried that all those nasty supersonic Concordes were chucking out nitorogen oxides into the stratosphere and that would remove, gasp!, the ozone layer.

    Now, we could tell you what sort of reactions were occuring and all their vital statistics. We could even tell you that we needed to be more worried about chlorine compounds as they were far more reactive. But what we couldn't prove was whether it would make a difference to the amount of ozone present in the atmosphere.

    Now, you could chuck all your numbers into a computer and stir them, but it didn't prove things one way or the other because, of course, it all starts with which numbers you start with, what calculations you are going to perform and, sadly, how well you actually code.

    And this is my problem with computer model based studies. It is relatively easy to bend your starting conditions and models to perform "post-dictions" - where you know what the answer is before you start, but that doesn't mean that you will be able to make accurate pre-dictions.

    And that's the problem. There is no conclusive evidence either way.

    But there's big money in it. And there's almost religious fervour attached to the extreme views either way. So much that supposedly respectable journals just publish anything that apparently supports the case (see here...http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article4212524.ece) but will drag their feet over the case against.

    And the crazy thing? While we are all running around over this, we are missing (or rather failing to tackle) the real problem.

    I weep.

  42. Diogenes

    And coincidentally from the editor of the Lancet

    "A lot of what is published is incorrect.” I’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules. We were also asked not to take photographs of slides. Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially remain unquoted . . . this symposium—on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research, held at the Wellcome Trust in London last week—touched on one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.

    The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."

    Whilst many may read the conflict of interest of being the nasty Koch Brothers, or "Big Oil" having paid an organisation some money in the past, why should research funded by "Big Green" be any more clean ? - Even more ironic when "Big Oil" actually gives more grants to CAGW believers than others.

  43. camnai

    You mean that echo chamber of scientists who know what they're talking about? Or the ones that are fossil-fuel funded? We stand to lose much less if 98% of the scientist are wrong than we do if they're right. It's called 'risk management'.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Anyway

    we shall find out who was right after the Greenland ice cap melts or does not melt and a lot of people find an extra 7 metres in sea level inconvenient, or not. But, if it does happen it is too late and it could occur in your childrens lifetime.

    Wether true or not. I have invested in solar panels and would dearly like a reliable electrc car that I can actually use and afford, and would like the Government to build them damed thorium reactors (as fusion seems never to get any closer) so we dont have blackouts. Save petoleum for plastics and the like - at least some of them can be recycled to extend usage.

    This isnt about climate change as pollution for me though CC does give it an extra push.

    On balance I think CC is happening, it always does as the record shows, it is a dynamic system after all. Is man having an affect? It is likely given the evidence, but more like turbocharging what could have happened anyway.

    As for the echo chamber effect, Yes on both sides. But I prefer to believe actual boffins than politicos, big business & their lackeys

    1. Diogenes

      Re: Anyway

      When the actual boffins release their data, and/or code then I might believe them. When they actually start behaving like there is a problem, then I might believe there is a problem (why fly business class for a conference , why not telecommute?, When Greenpeace execs stop flying their kids around the world (whilst wagging their fingers at others doing the same) or commute home by plane every weekend then I might believe them.

      That said I am all in favour of real environmental outcomes, like cleaning up China's smog problem (modern coal fired power stations are a vast improvement on charcoal stoves), or the pollution lakes of Baotou - where rare earths required by our "clean" windmills & solar panels are processed.

      1. John Hughes

        Re: Anyway

        When the actual boffins release their data, and/or code then I might believe them.

        That you are unable to use google is your problem, not climate scientists.

  45. Don_in_Odessa

    Consensus? Man caused? No!

    No, there is no consensus other than the climate is changing; As it has since the beginning of time. Man caused climate change is an entirely different matter and an unproven theory. For every scientist who says climate change is man's doing, there is another saying man has only a miniscule effect if any at all.

  46. Angry Bunyip

    Hmm very odd

    "simply because it doesn't exist - there is no credible science to show that it exists"

    What a strange statement. The overwhelming scientific consensus would contradict you on that.

    The following organisations accept the evidence that the world’s climate is warming, principally due to the release of greenhouse gases by humans:

    • Australian Academy of Science

    • NASA

    • Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    • CSIRO

    • The Royal Society

    • The US National Academy of Sciences

    • Bureau of Meteorology (Australian and dozens of foreign equivalents).

    • NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

    • World Meteorological Organization

    • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

    • The US National Academy of Sciences

    • American Meteorological Society

    • American Association for the Advancement of Science

    • American Geophysical Union

    • American Chemical Society

    • American Institute of Biological Sciences

    • American Society of Agronomy

    • American Society of Plant Biologists

    • American Statistical Association

    • Association of Ecosystem Research Centers

    • Botanical Society of America

    • Crop Science Society of America

    • Ecological Society of America

    • Natural Science Collections Alliance (America)

    • Organization of Biological Field Stations (America)

    If you want to make decisions about the future of society based on "belief" go ahead that's what politicians seem to be best suited to - satisfying the belief of the majority for their own short term benefit. But if you want those decisions based on the best evidence available then ask the scientific community, evaluating evidence is what they do for a living and there are thousands of them that have spent their whole lives doing that just studying "the climate" alone. If they are being extra good at their jobs they will also give you the uncertainty in their position (this is science and empiricism after all and we are dealing with the real world here, not mathematical proofs). Sure they can get it wrong but if I was going to bet I would back the opinion of the scientific community against Joe Bloggs who doesn't "believe" in climate change any day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm very odd

      And what of those who believe everyone in the organizations listed are in on a conspiracy, paid for by Western governments, to keep the balance of power from shifting? After all, none of those organizations listed are African, Russian, or Asian, are they?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So can one of those warmist castartophists tell me what was the CO2 concentration during that period with scarce life known Jurassic? Just out of curiosity.

  48. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "On a larger scale it's been repeatedly established in recent surveys that most people don't agree with the idea that climate change is mainly caused by human activities."

    So? It's utterly irrelevant what a majority of ordinary people think about the matter. Utterly and totally irrelevant. Why even mention it?

    Either it is real, or it's not. It does not matter what someone's opinion on the matter is. That's what SCIENCE is.

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