The Five Stages of Climate Change Denial

This Guardian article details at least one set of layers of Denialism about Anthropic Global Warming (AGW). I dropped the phrase climate change for most part when I learned that Frank Luntz had coined it in order to obfuscate the direction of the change. Rather than just re-iterate the Guardian article which is a good read, I will annotate my opinions on the stages.

Stage 1: Deny the Problem Exists

Most people are beyond this stage. There is too much anecdotal evidence out there such as melting glaciers rising high tide lines to completely dispute the phenomenon. But every winter some congressman brings a snowball into the chambers to have a good laugh at all those pointy headed on-the-take climate scientists.

Stage 2: Deny We’re the Cause

The key word in AGW is “anthropic”. Climate changes all the time because of long term patterns, volcanic activity, sunspots, etc. What is more important to recognize is that for at least a century now we have been pumping ever increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the atmosphere.

Stage 3: Deny It’s a Problem

Here is where we start hitting regions of debateability. Clearly the Bangladeshi are fucked. But they always have been. This is just one more reason that being poor in southern Asia is a bad lifestyle choice. However the people in Miami Beach, Norfolk, and eventually Manhattan’s Lower East Side are going to realize that being near navigable bodies of water is no longer the economic benefit it used to be. However we do have a lot of sunk economic infrastructure in areas which will eventually be under water.

Stage 4: Deny We can Solve It

Many of these arguments start to delve into the geopolitical realm. Without China and India getting on board, there isn’t much traction that can be made. And they are rightfully suspicious in claims that they need to curtail their climb up the prosperity curve for our sake. And also, some of the geo-engineering ideas such as large scale sequestration are just scary.

Stage 5: It’s too Late

Here is the argument I am most sympathetic to. We may have already passed the point of no return on some parameters. There are djinnis which just can’t be put back in the bottle. However, we really don’t know where the irreversible catastrophic lines in the sand are. Both climate and weather are chaotic systems and responses are non-linear. But fatalism is never a good look.

Personally I feel that climate change denialism is an astroturfed phenomenon created by the resource extraction industries to obfuscate their role in the unfunded externalities disaster which is impending. But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

On a philosophical level, dealing with AGW requires cooperation on a global governmental level which is anathema to certain political philosophies. And some can be rightfully fearful of AGW as a camel nose under the tent way to impose radical systemic political change. But in the past we have accepted environmental regulation as qualified benefits to society. Clean air and water are luxury goods but we should allow ourselves to afford them. And a stable (if changing) climate is perhaps the biggest factor of life on earth we have taken for granted hitherto.

Recommended Reading

Climate change as a science fiction topic has been around for decades depending on how far back you want to take it. Lots of post-apocalyptic nuclear novels are easily translatable to the current crisis. But here are some which have focused on contemporary interpretations.

Earth by David Brin. Here the metaphor is a scientist-caused event which could destroy the earth, but the surrounding world-building of the near future is amazingly prescient for a novel written in 1991.

Science in the Capitol” series by Kim Stanley Robinson. This trilogy envisions ever greater calamities being inflicted on Washington, D.C. In Forty Signs of Rain the region is flooded with rains of Biblical rage. The follow-up Fifty Degrees Below envisions near-Day After Tomorrow levels of cold. The final volume Sixty Days And Counting is just pure geo-engineering porn once world politicians realize Something Must Be Done.

While not directly climate change related, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi takes place along the Louisiana coast after New Orleans has drowned and the remaining area has devolved to a scavenging economy similar to the ship breaking yards in India.

Not The Morning Update

Why, exactly, is climate not weather?

Today, on the day Paul Krugman tells us that a bunch of politicians getting together and posing for photographs and brunching excessively has saved the planet, I feel motivated to ask this question:

What do people mean when they tell us, repeatedly, that climate is not weather? Or if you wonder how we’re predicting the climate and its effects 100 years from now, when we can’t reliably predict the weather 12 hours from now, and sometimes cannot accurately predict the weather as it’s happening, why does someone shake their head sadly about what a moron you are and explains: weather and climate are not the same thing, you sad, mentally-limited man-child.

I mean, why is the answer to the observation that we are not good at predicting the future for complex systems even in the near term essentially: “Well, the stock market is not the same thing as a large river with many tributaries”. I am aware that a watermelon is not a football, but if I want to say something about the shape of the football, the watermelon might still have some relevance. Just saying: “a watermelon is not a football” does not suddenly make a watermelon a trapezoid.

The official explanation is that climate is simple while weather is complex. Which, summarized thusly, seems an absurd statement. What they actually say, in their own words:

Weather is chaotic, making prediction difficult. However, climate takes a long term view, averaging weather out over time. This removes the chaotic element, enabling climate models to successfully predict future climate change.

… isn’t much better. There is very little evidence that climate models are able to successfully predict future climate change. And I find it interesting that a site that calls itself “skeptical science” blithely asserts that the climate models are predicting the future without the most basic evidence—the actual prediction of the future.

Also, you cannot reduce the complexity of a million or a billion inputs by averaging. Again, where are the skeptics (not to mention the mathematicians) at Skeptical Science? The assertion that climate can be accurately predicted (because averaging!) while the weather 12 hours from now, much less 3 days from now, cannot reminds me of that cartoon. You know the one.


I would also observe that every time there is a severe or unusual weather event, climate suddenly becomes the cause for the weather. Which, to me, begs the question why we cannot use our infinitely accurate climate models to start predicting the weather. Wait, I know! Because we’ve tried it, and it turns out those predictions were wrong, too.

I have come to the not unreasonable conclusion that climate ≠ weather in the context of anthropogenic climate change because we have ample, daily evidence that the behaviors of a complex system cannot be predicted with any degree of accuracy. The predictions of climate change are always far in the future, and evidence of inaccuracy of such predictions so far in the past they can be dismissed, or the data massaged. Harder the argue that, yes, it was sunny yesterday, even though the leaves are still wet from all the rain.

Tangentially related, even mainstream, largely liberal news organs like Time and Newsweek had to observe that the Paris talks were far less about climate or “saving the planet” than they were about making money, creating markets, and allocating capital.

Off the mainstream, WND says the same thing with more chutzpah.

Finally, How Climate Change Deniers Sound to Normal People:


Because anybody who doesn’t agree with me ideologically is abnormal. And sounds like an idiot to all the normal people. Conform, you abberants! Conform!

How Different Are Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same Sex Relationships? Comment on a study

The starting point for this thread is a comment written by QB on the gay marriage thread. To quote: “Recently a study came out, greeted by a firestorm from the left, refuting claims that children do equally well raised by either a mother and father or by same-sex couples.

I presume that QB is referring to M. Regnerus, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study”, Social Science Research 41 (2012) 752 – 7750. As my institution has a subscription to Elsevier journals, I was able to download the original article. This is copyrighted material, so I cannot post it in full here. I think it’s fair use to post the abstract as Harvard does that.


The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is a social-science data-collection project that fielded a survey to a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18–39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements. In this debut article of the NFSS, I compare how the young-adult children of a parent who has had a same-sex romantic rela- tionship fare on 40 different social, emotional, and relational outcome variables when com- pared with six other family-of-origin types. The results reveal numerous, consistent differences, especially between the children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents. The results are typically robust in multivariate contexts as well, suggesting far greater diversity in lesbian-parent household experiences than convenience-sample studies of lesbian families have revealed. The NFSS proves to be an illuminating, versatile dataset that can assist family scholars in understanding the long reach of family structure and transitions.

This is an excellent example of something worth addressing in greater detail. That is, a non-specialist citing current research. [Edit. I recognize this post is doing exactly the same thing. I can drill down a bit further and have familiarity with the publishing process, so have attempted to discuss it in those terms.] One paper cannot simply refute such claims. Then again, the author doesn’t attempt to do so in this paper. Regnerus does raise some interesting questions.

In my science post some time ago, I discussed the pecking order of journals. SSR has an impact factor of 1.57, a bit on the low side. The author’s decision to submit to SSR rather than a higher profile journal may indicate anticipation of a backlash or that he had trouble getting it into a more highly cited journal such as American Sociological Review (3.7). Elsevier is a highly regarded publisher, so he didn’t just put it in a fly by night journal. The paper was accepted within 4 weeks of being submitted. Also, it usually takes an editor a week or two to assign a paper and get a referee to review it. I seriously doubt this paper had more than a cursory review. That doesn’t mean it’s bad research, but it raises a caution flag when it comes to drawing sweeping conclusions.

There are some legitimate questions that can be raised about this study. Principle among these is false equivalence. The comparison is between “intact biological families” (IBFs) and children who report a parent as having a same sex relationship. These are not directly equivalent. As a classic example, a case where a father comes out of the closet and divorces the mother. A better comparison would be with a failed, heterosexual marriage. The author concedes this point. Quoting from the paper: “Child outcomes in stable, ‘‘planned’’ GLB families and those that are the product of previous heterosexual unions are quite likely distinctive, as previous studies’ conclusions would suggest.” He did not attempt to draw this direct parallel or control for other factors (see below). He does make a strong point in that other opposite sex relationships (step parent, cohabitating) fail to achieve the same outcome as IBFs.

Much of the paper is a data dump. It’s useful as a starting point, but drawing conclusions is challenging. There’s a few oddities. For example, only 61% of children with a lesbian mother identify as heterosexual and 71% of children with a gay father. Only 82% of children of non-IBF or non-GLB parents identify as entirely heterosexual. [Note: this is adoptive, step, single parent or other.] Those are far higher numbers than generally accepted (probably 3% – 5%). Are we talking bi-curious? Having had a same sex encounter at some point? I’m a little suspicious. I don’t know if there’s some sample bias (the author worked very hard to get a large sample size, by the way) or something else is operative. If truly a random sample, a tenfold increase suggests a biological connection or there may be issues with the sample. I’d be interested in seeing how those numbers compare for children in which the parent with custody is homosexual.

Another number. 23% of respondents with a lesbian mother report having been sexually touched by a parent or other adult. This compares with 2% for children of IBFs. Contrast this with the overall estimation for the population of 10% or more. I’d like to see how this particular study compares with other studies, independent of the sexuality of the parent. Heck, 69% of children of lesbian mothers report having been on welfare. There’s some really surprising data there, but no follow through. I don’t think the author performed adequate control checks on his sample. That’s probably an issue of resources.

I’m not questioning the accuracy of Regnerus’s reporting, but rather the depth of the study. Overall, this is interesting work, but far from conclusive. The author makes a strong point that studies need to be performed with larger sample sizes. It does open the prospect to me that there may be statistically different outcomes between a planned GLB family and an IBF.

There are also some strong points for proponents of gay marriage in the study. Regnerus cites previous research that outcomes are better for children of a married, heterosexual couple than for cohabiting couples. I quote from the introduction:

“Social scientists of family transitions have until recently commonly noted the elevated stability and social benefits of the two-parent (heterosexual) married household, when contrasted to single mothers, cohabiting couples, adoptive parents, and ex-spouses sharing custody (Brown, 2004; Manning et al., 2004; McLanahan and Sandefur, 1994).”

Those opposing same sex marriage should consider this point. Opposing it apparently condemns children of those relationships to inferior outcomes, to the detriment of society. I suspect there will be interesting research in the decades to come, particularly when it comes to the outcomes of children of married gay or lesbian parents as opposed to those who can only cohabit due to the laws of their state.


Morning links

A few links that may be of interest…

Climate alarmist James Lovelock admits to being, well, a bit alarmist.

Voter ID laws? We don’t need no stinkin’ voter ID laws.

A Chinese company markets a new pair of sunglasses by naming them after Helen Keller.

The Obama admin embraces the implied racism of disparate impact laws.

Cool time lapse video of girl growing up, from infant to 12 years old.

Bits & Pieces (Tuesday Night Open Mic)

"I can tell you exactly how this will look in one hundred years."

Climate Models Need Revising. And those will need revising. And then those will need revising. Because the climate is god-awful complicated and the predictive power of computer modeling on god-awful complicated systems is still in its infancy. Which is why deniers often bring up our inability to accurately predict the weather a few days (sometimes a few hours) in advance: not because climate = weather, but predicting outcomes in both cases is god-awful complicated, and using them for forecasting the future has, at least currently, very little efficacy.

These results are significant as until now projections of the possible effects of predicted climate change have assumed that droughts and heat waves would always have an effect on ecosystems – and that in turn would lead on to carbon level changes leading to more temperature rises and so on. These assumptions may now have to be revisited.

Also in Climate News: Leaked Climate Gate emails are good and wholesome and totally whistleblowingly appropriate, if they are the emails of climate change skeptics. But could one of them be plant?


The 4 Reasons Why Human Beings Will Never Understand Each Other.

… It’s harder to think that these are human beings who probably don’t arbitrarily decide on a hobby of being wrong about things because it is fun, and that they’re being driven by basic human qualities that we also have, like fear or ego. Or that they feel the need to make larger-than-life monsters and heroes out of real people (throwing away facts to do so) in order to make sense out of the confusing and painful situation our country has been going through (the economy, the release of the Ghost Rider sequel, etc.).

They’re not good reasons, but they are reasons, beyond just “They’re bad people, that’s what bad people do.”

One of the most poorly used words to describe why bad people do what they do is “hate.” Everything from racial attacks to bullying to terrorism to political rhetoric is driven by “hate,” which has pretty much become a catch-all word to cover any kind of conflict.

Unfortunately, sometimes this gives the wrong impression that all the racists, sexists and demagogues are basically the same — they have some kind of burning anger against people who are different and just want to lash out against them. Who knows where it comes from, and who cares?

… But no fucking human being wakes up in the morning and schemes about how they are going to “destroy America” for the sake of evil. No matter how awful you think abortion supporters or opponents are, they’ve convinced themselves that the side they picked is really the right thing to do or, at the very least, they are getting money or positive attention by lobbying for it.

Even people who worship Satan do it because they think it will make them look cool. People do what they do because they think it’s right, or to benefit themselves, or both. Nobody pursues evil like some kind of charitable cause …

And plenty other good points.


A review of Apple’s upcoming release of OS X 10.8 (or Mountain Lion).

No new news on ancient Japanese scrolls that depict the incredible ninja-warrior powers of flatulence. Alas.

A bizarre write-in campaign to keep the Democrats from running anyone against Scott Walker by writing in Scott Walker as his challenger in the primary. How does that work legally? Since Walker cannot run against himself, why not just dismiss the votes clearly intended to sabotage the election? I have a hard time seeing this working.


A vote for Rick Santorum is a vote against Satan. I’m having a hard time getting the audio through the net nanny, but this does not seem smart.

Also, Rick apparently believes that “pursuit of happiness” exclusively means “doing the will of God”. Given that “pursuit of happiness” was at one point the more specific “right to own property”, I think Santorum has that almost exactly backwards. He’s at least 172° out of phase.

And that’s that for me! — KW


For the Calvin and Hobbes fans: Pants are overrated

— Mike

Bits & Pieces (Monday Night Open Mic)

How to cope with severe weather events, thanks to anthropogenic climate change? Get yourself a Black Umbrella.

Get dumb and bang a wizard. Snoop Dogg informs on the advantages of wind power.

Given recent news about ClimateGate 2.0, it’s interesting to discuss where “the truth” is in highly charge or highly emotional issues. And a recent Freakonomics podcast does just that.

A few observations from the podcast: being smarter is not actually helpful to arriving at the truth, and that you’re simply not going to make any progress if you characterize your opposition as dumb, or anti-science, or incapable if thinking for themselves. Also, conspiracy theorists will always believe “the truth is out there”.

Also: the Washington Post says dire global warming forecasts are now off the table. O-kay.


I watched It’s a Wonderful Life again this Thanksgiving. Gosh, I love that movie. God bless Jimmy Stewart, and Lionel Barrymore.

Koch Brothers Prove Global Warming

As if we didn’t already have enough evidence of the evil and perfidy of those diabolical Koch brothers. Turns out, they funded a study by a climate change skeptic that ends up confirming previous temperature studies cited as proof for global warming.

John Stewart covers the scam of science.

“Pretty soon, you’ll be hooked on that grant money. Looking for that next big score. Is that what you want?”


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