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Sep
18

I spent a long fruitless hour yesterday trying to convince a denier

His position was that climate change is an ideologically driven pile of crap designed to steal peoples liberty and force us all to eliminate fossil energy so that a small group of oligarchs could seize control of our society. No arguments to critical thinking, rationality, scientific literature or common sense would shake him from his position.

What are you supposed to do with that?

Nothing is as impenetrable as an armor wrought from fervent ideology.

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Why Debunk Climate Change Deniers? Because We Have To.
I recently posted yet another debunking of a climate change denial post. The claims made by the writer, David Rose, were not just flatly wrong, but actually ridiculous. He quoted scientist Myles Allen grossly out of context (confirmed by Allen himself), making it seems as if Allen were saying something…

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25 comments

  1. laurie corzett
    laurie corzett says:

    agree that the real disasters of climate change are being used by ideological groups to promote their agendas
    so, we have to undermine those groups by becoming clear on the facts, and their actual real world implications

  2. Chris George
    Chris George says:

    At one point he said "nature does nothing, mankind is the driver of everything meaningful in our world." He couldn't conceive of the physical world having any impact at all on our economy or our society. Everything, including the recent extreme weather, is a sign of human agency. And then he went off on chemtrails.

    Sigh.

  3. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    Hmm, the guy denies that the trainloads of coal that go up the world's smokestack don't have an effect and then he went off on chemtrails? 

    That's total-batshit-crazy, right there.

  4. Edward Morbius
    Edward Morbius says:

    +Chris George First, you can't win 'em all.  Some people are just beyond reaching.  Accept that.

    My own policy is:  I don't particularly see it as my job to change any given person's mind on things.  I'll give them the tools to change their own mind, but that's only if they choose to do so.

    I like to ask people why they believe what they do.  Rather than try to beat your beliefs into them, draw their beliefs out of them, possibly to the point that they see the contradiction (or you're convinced that they can't or won't).

    I like to point out that the fundamentals of CO2, greenhouse effects, atmospheric warming, and data showing these, date back well into the 19th century.

    And there's the rather interesting fact that leaders of denialism in terms of political and propaganda generation institutions (sometimes mislabled "think tanks") tend to be a tightly clustered set of organizations with strong ties to the very same people, in many cases, who were key to the tobacco industry's attempts to fight health claims and regulation.  +Peter Gleick managed to turn up some interesting funding information about the Heritage Institute, a key denial center.

    But generally, I try to draw people out:  do they believe the climate is warming / changing?  Have they seen data on icepack coverage / glacial melting / growing zones?  Do they believe that CO2 levels are rising?  That the levels indicate human-generated output (isotope levels are one signifier here)?

    And if not: why don't they believe the science, why do they trust the sources they do believe, and/or what do they fear?

    At times it's helpful to understand broken things.  Including people and their minds.

  5. Edward Morbius
    Edward Morbius says:

    +Chris George Update — might steal a page from the Chinese:

    http://atroche.org/post/61633164818/how-china-brainwashed-american-pows-using-a-classic

    American POWs held by the Chinese during the Korean War were often significantly brainwashed.  How?

    So what did the Chinese do differently? Here’s an example (from Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion):

    “Prisoners were frequently asked to make statements so mildly anti-American or pro-Communist as to seem inconsequential (e.g. ‘The United States is not perfect.’). But once these minor requests were complied with, the men found themselves pushed to submit to related yet more substantive requests.”

    It’s called the foot-in-the-door technique. They were asked to be more specific about America’s problems, and to write out a list. Slowly but surely they’d be asked to sign their name to the statements, join in a discussion group, and enter an essay competition. And they found it hard to refuse, despite not being threatened.

    After we’ve committed to something, even trivially, we start to support it. We have a need to think of ourselves as being consistent in our thoughts and actions. If our behaviour shows one thing and our beliefs another, one of them has got to change. And it’s a lot easier to turn our back on ephemeral thoughts than a signed statement.

    Cialdini summarises the contributing factors:

    “Commitments are most effective in changing a person’s self-image and future behaviour when they are active, public and effortful.”

    More discussion at H/N:
    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6409202

  6. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    It's really very simple:

    We need clean air and clean water, otherwise we will die.  Therefore, we should do our best to decrease pollutants in the air and water, so we don't die.  So, from that perspective, I'm pro-environment.

    We shouldn't need a Michael Bay-style disaster scenario to convince people that we need clean air and water.  Most people breathe multiple times a minute and consume water (or a beverage of which water is a component) multiple times a day, otherwise they'd be dead.

    My primary issue with "climate change" is that it detracts attention from a number of other environmental issues.  The over-nutritioning (?) of  waterways with all sorts of pharmaceuticals and multivitamins, the continued depletion of the rainforest and other eco-systems, over-fishing, the encroachment of "civilization" and townships into the territories of untold numbers of roaming species, and so on, are all serious issues that don't get proper play because "climate change" has become the center of public debate.

    Besides which, it doesn't help that some of us have memories.  Al Gore, for example, was travelling around in the late 1980s giving the exact same lecture he famously did in "An Inconvenient Truth"…but he changed the dates of all of his predictions when it became obvious to him that the predictions were incorrect and that he could make a bunch of money if he made a movie.  When I was 10-years-old, the same public figures that touted "global warming" then also predicted that we'd be completely out of oil by 1999, and we're still not out of oil, even though global use has only increased…

    …AND there are some serious holes in the currently accepted version of "climate change" – my understanding is that the previous 2-3 years has shown a drop in global temperature, not an increase.  The computer-based models used to predict climate change don't factor in underwater geo-thermal activity – or any geothermal activity in some cases, nor any solar activity.

    We know volcanoes under water are going to affect the chemical composition of the oceans.  How?  Because bong water smells different that normal water.  We know the chemical composition of the oceans affects the air.  How?  Because of the water cycle.  We know solar activity affects the temperatures of the Earth.  How?  Because solar flares affect the atmosphere.

    And when any model – many models of climate change included – have holes in them that are that huge and gaping and, frankly, don't even take into account 4th-grade level science (or the contents of the secret box under a 9th-grader's bed), they become very easy to disbelieve.

    So…yeah, next time some disagrees with climate change, just remind them that if they don't have clean air, they are going to die of cancer a lot sooner, and if they don't have clean water, they are going to die of cancer a lot sooner, and that you can argue climate change all day…but if you want to live, or if you want your kids to live, or your pets, we should really focus on making sure they can breathe outside so entire cities don't have to cancel school due to air quality alerts.  Remind them that, not long ago, no one in the U.S. ever had to ask the question "Is this water safe…?" before filling a glass up from the tap.  Because that's the disturbing sh-t that is self evident that no one in their right mind can possibly discount.

  7. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    +Joe DiMinico That was an amazing pile of complete bullshit. It's not even worth refuting.

  8. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    +John Poteet

    Okay.  You just stop breathing and consuming liquids, and see whether it's bullshit or not for yourself.

  9. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    +Joe DiMinico Really? Go over to Colorado and if you can find anybody who isn't exhausted by this summer's fires or washed out by last week's floods tell them that "climate change is not a real problem."

    If you really believe your bullshit you won't even duck after you say that. No skipping backwards or running away either.

  10. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    +John Poteet

    I never said "it wasn't a real problem."  I said that the best way to counter arguments that it isn't a real problem is to circumvent the argument with common sense observations that are more difficult to dispute.

    In other words: we blame climate change on CO2 (which is a pollutant.)  CO2=dirty air.  Dirty air eventually = dead people.  Dirty air eventually = dead people is a less complex, less nuanced concept, and is therefore harder to argue with, which makes it a more politically sound stance.

    Besides, IF what you seem to believe about climate change is true, THEN cleaning up the air and water will slow or halt climate change, so why are you angry that we both want cleaner air and cleaner water?

    Btw…do you even know what the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is?

  11. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    +Joe DiMinico Why not just refer to the actual science? Skip the whining about Al Gore. Skip the misdirection and the climate denier talking points and go straight to the known science of climate change. 

    Or you could go with basic math. An exponential growth economy is impossible to maintain so we have to learn within the Earth's solar income sooner or later. 

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/

  12. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    +John Poteet

    "Actual science?"

    Every time you breathe in and out, it is keeping you alive.  This is basic biology.  (Here's an experiment: If you do not believe me, try and stop breathing while staying alive and conscious.)

    If you breathe in poison, it is, by definition, bad for you.  This is basic biology.

    Most greenhouse gasses are considered poisonous to the human animal.  This is a combination of basic biology and earth science.  (Here's an experiment: If you do not believe me, try running a car in an enclosed garage while you stand there to observe the effects for 2-4 hours.)

    If you are unsuccessful in your attempt at the first experiment, and are unwilling to attempt the second experiment because you know there is a high probability you will die, then you already, essentially, understand that I am correct.  The rest is unnecessary political baggage that over-complicates what should be a very simple issue: survival.

    Now consider your garage to be a scale model of the planet.

    See!  Science!

    Besides, my point is that no one in favor of environmental issues should have to resort to referencing "Science".  The proof that we need a clean, healthy environment is self-evident with every breath you take and every sip of nourishing liquid you consume.

    When you resort to external references in an argument where all the evidence you need is that a) you and the person you are arguing with are both alive, and b) that poison is bad for living things, then there's not really much point in continuing the discussion.

  13. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    +Joe DiMinico You're either a conservative troll or a total fucking idiot. The mechanisms of anthropogenic climate change are totally different than carbon monoxide poisoning.

  14. Edward Morbius
    Edward Morbius says:

    +Joe DiMinico Just quit while you're behind, really.

    The principle greenhouse gasses, especially water and CO2, are not directly harmful to humans in levels which do pose a hazard for long-term climate change.  They're not "poisons", they're causal agents to changing the energy balance of the biosphere.  You're simply confusing and confounding issues, and exposing your own ignorance and/or incoherence.

    The problem with an automobile (assuming it's burning hydrocarbons) isn't CO2 or water vapor.  It's carbon monoxide.

    Oh, and while water vapor and methane are far more potent greenhouse gases than CO2, both have residence times in the atmosphere which are far shorter.  For H2O it's a matter of days or weeks, for methane a handful of years.  Water simply precipitates out as rain or snow, methane breaks down in the atmosphere (forming CO2, as it happens) or is taken up by soil:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane#Removal_processes

    For CO2, models suggest somewhere between decades and centuries, with the added twist that the primary sink appears to be ocean waters, in which you've now got the problem of increasing the acidity of the oceans.  Occasionally you'll encounter a mouth-breathing denier who retorts "but the oceans aren't acidic and CO2 doesn't make them acidic".  No, but just as raising the temperature of a cold room from 0F to 32F makes it less cold, which is to say, _warmer but not warm, we've got a similar situation with the oceans.

    Acidity is measured by pH, and measures range from 0 to 14, the lower the level the more acid, the higher the more alkaline.  A pH of 7 is considered neutral.  Historically, ocean acidity has been around 8.25, levels are now around 8.15.  Just as a our cold room became less cold, our alkaline oceans are becoming less alkaline.  Or, equivalently, more acid.

    Also, sadly, stopping carbon emissions now won't halt climate change, though it should keep it from being as bad as it would be if we don't.  Because CO2 hangs around for so long, and secondary and tertiary effects (such as sea ice and glacial melting, and ocean acidification) take time to develop, we'll still see changes developing over the course of one or more centuries as CO2 levels stabilize and, with luck, return to historical levels.  The process doesn't simply stop on a dime, no more than you can stand in front of a speeding train and stop it with your hands (please do not try this either at home or on your neighborhood, or any other, railroad tracks).

  15. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    +Edward Morbius It's just sad that you felt it necessary to add that caveat on the end there. Yet, I agree it was needed in this case.

  16. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

     …

  17. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    +John Poteet
    I'm neither.  I was baiting you into another "ad hominem":

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

    Also: my example regarding the car and the garage was a tongue-in-cheek, which is self evident by the grammar displayed in the line "See!  Science!"

    I understand you are passionate about the issue.  What I do not understand is why you haven't answered my questions when I have calmly responded to yours, particularly since we seem to have similar political agendas, albeit based on difference reasoning.

    My questions:

    "Besides, IF what you seem to believe about climate change is true, THEN cleaning up the air and water will slow or halt climate change, so why are you angry that we both want cleaner air and cleaner water?

    "Btw…do you even know what the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is?"

  18. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    Edward Morbius clearly and correctly detailed the basics of greenhouse gas balance. You're trolling denialist talking points. 

    CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas because without CO2 in the atmosphere the water vapor would freeze out in months and we'd have a big snowball to try and live on. 

    Of course, it's the balance of gasses that allows the ecosystem we have to survive. A balance that is currently upset by fossil fuel burning.

  19. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    +Edward Morbius

    1) Equating CO2 was a mistake on my part.  While I could note that water and CO2 are most certainly harmful to the human being in known concentrations (water has an established human toxicity limit, as well as CO2), I'll also note that I said "most greenhouse gasses".  There are a variety of them.  Methane, carbon monoxide, tetrafluoromethane, hexafluoroethane, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, carbon tetrachloride, and many others are most certainly known to be poisonous to the human animal.  My fault for being lazy on that one.

    2) I didn't say "halting emissions", I said "cleaning up the air and water."  And this is, in fact, possible.  In addition to halting emissions, you can also plant fields and fields of plants with a high oxygen yield (such as hemp) as well create multiple vapor-distillation centers focused on cleaning water living things need to survive that are powered by solar and wind.  At no point did I say it would be an easy or instant process.  I said "Besides, IF what you seem to believe about climate change is true, THEN cleaning up the air and water will slow or halt climate change, so why are you angry that we both want cleaner air and cleaner water?…"  (This is also a perfectly valid question that still hasn't been answered.)

    3) Other than that no one has actually responded to my core argument, yet seem to insist on referring to me in derogation instead, which everyone is more than welcome to do…and would be unable to do if they weren't breathing or had consumed nourishing liquid within the last 2-3 days.

    Anyone think maybe, just maybe being unnecessarily inflammatory is part of how this subject got so politicized to begin with, and that maybe, just maybe, it's a rather counter-productive method to attack someone who wants the same thing you do, just for different reasons?  Maybe?

    You think maybe, just maybe, if you spent less time calling names and more time producing writing of substance, you might be more persuasive in your arguments?

    Do you think calling someone stupid is going to make decide to agree with you?

    And isn't the point to get contrary views to agree with you so that there's more people who…agree with you?  And if that's the point, why are you calling people stupid?

    Do you call me stupid because you expect me to care, or because it makes you feel better?

  20. John Poteet
    John Poteet says:

    You don't have an argument based upon anything real.

  21. Edward Morbius
    Edward Morbius says:

    +Joe DiMinico  in known concentrations   Completely orthogonal to my statement:  "levels which do pose a hazard for long-term climate change."  That is, far below ANY harmful concentration known to be lethal to humans (350 ppm, that is, 0.035% is the climate goal, 9% – 12% is considered lethal range, some 250-340x higher).

    Which is to say:  you're wasting my fucking time and that of everyone on this thread with your babble, Joe.  It's annoying and frankly grossly inconsiderate.  And it only reinforces my adding you to my "Idiots" and "Trolls" circles.

    Now, I'm not sure if this is deliberate on your part or you just can't help it, but frankly, I don't much care.

    As to CO2 "remediation" (clearing it from the atmosphere after putting it there in the first place), rates of uptake, costs, energy requirements, and competition with other needs (such as, say, feeding people, watering crops, meeting energy demands with diffuse and intermittent means) are vast and complex.  _Not putting the stuff out there in the first place is a hugely more effective option._

    Core argument

    I'm sorry, but in all the misdirectional misfire, I've somewhat lost track of that.  Or was that your highly irrelevant comment about needing clean water and air?  Sure we do.  However the problems which are leading to anthropogenic climate change have nothing to with the basic health qualities of water and air to humans.  You see:  there are a bunch of ways to screw up an ecosystem.  Acute toxification of air and water are one, but gently heating the planet and changing ocean pH levels to the point that, take your pick, huge social disruptions / a global economic catastrophe / the end of technological society / human extinction — we're somewhere on that scale — occurs, doesn't require actually rendering air unbreathable or water undrinkable.   Which is to say:  your point is pretty much totally irrelevant.

    Something I suspect you're getting accustomed to hearing, and might possibly consider doing something about.

    Or perhaps you were referring to your comment that climate change seems to have stolen all of the debate oxygen as regards potential calamities facing humans.  Again:  there are lots of ways to screw up an ecosystem — and to put humans and modern civilization in a tight spot.

    I even have a small amount of sympathy for your view.  I see overall population and resource demand as the fundamental driver of most of the problems humans are facing, and meeting energy needs in a carbon-neutral (and otherwise environmentally benign manner) as critical to getting past the next 20-200 years or so.  If you look up folks such as Joseph Tainter, you'll find the notion of a confluence of converging problems facing humans.  Among them are:

    1. Short and long term financial crises (economy, retirement & benefits entitlements).
    2. Decaying infrastructure, its maintenance and replacement.
    3. Adapting to and repairing climate change & other environmental damage.
    4. Developing new, carbon-neutral, low-impact, sustainable sources of energy, and enhancing conservation.
    5. Facing increasing costs and diminishing returns to innovation.
    6. Other societal costs including healthcare and military expenses.
    7. Breakdowns and failures in institutions, social structures, and intellectual models for dealing with all of the above.
    8. Emergent phenomena (e.g., secondary, tertiary, etc., effects) resulting from all of the above:  social, economic, political, and technological disruption, war and conflict, disease, famine, extreme weather events, population dislocation, ecosystem damage, etc.

    And again, I'd put at the head of that list:

    0. Dealing with population, and with per-capita and total resource demands.

    That said, of the bunch, failing to address human-triggered climate change is going to put a crimp in our style for quite some time, probably measured in centuries and billions of lives.

    And in the slate of horribles, it comes in as not quite being on many peoples' radar, so is a good theme to hammer, while at the same time it's not such an utter doomsday issue that people shut down entirely (though many do).

    Frankly my own view is that I'm starting to see the world as a bit more similar to Men in Black than I'd like.  Not that we're being attacked by aliens daily, but that we are and do face existential threats, many of our own making, which we've got to deal with.  And we've just barely squeaked by a few too many times in the past already.

    Upshot:  yes, get people thinking about CO2 and global warming.  It's a real problem, a possible civilization-ender, and good practice for some of the others out there.  I don't feel the focus takes away from those either, at least not enough to matter.

    Do you think calling someone stupid is going to make decide to agree with you?

    Do you think my not calling you stupid makes you somehow smart?

    John Cleese Carefully Considers Your Futile Comments

    I'm really not concerned for how I appear.  What I'll try to do is post correct information, and admit error / correct myself if I don't.  I've long ago adopted a policy of not insisting on being wrong.  I don't claim any exclusive right to this, you're welcome to to use it yourself.

    If you're merely misinformed, this may light a fire under your ass to change that situation.  If you're as stupid as your comments here suggest, the best we can hope is that others become aware of this and stop wasting their time with you.

    I'd also encourage +Chris George to exercise moderator's prerogative here at least going forward.

    And with that said, I'm done.

  22. Joe DiMinico
    Joe DiMinico says:

    +Edward Morbius

    Just up late and having a conversation man.  And trying to stay civil.

    Also: Chris' original question was "What are you supposed to do with that?"

    And my original post was a response to his question:

    "It's really very simple: We need clean air and clean water, otherwise we will die.  Therefore, we should do our best to decrease pollutants in the air and water, so we don't die.  So, from that perspective, I'm pro-environment."

    Certainly, I could be more well informed.  And certainly, I have been doing research this night on climate change, and will be doing more, and would have done moreso if I hadn't made the choice to sit here with my insomnia in-between bouts of Tetris and TEDTalks and marvel at how truly, needlessly rude people can be when they aren't looking someone in the face.  (Something I myself, admittedly, have to work on.)

    Also, isn't it ironic that, for some reason, I'm still not calling anyone names?  I thought the "troll" concept, as it related to the internet, was intertwined with being insulting and rude and contrary for the sake of being contrary, not in simply being ill-informed.

    And while you could certainly consider me a bit smug or condescending, I have responded with care and consideration to those things posted at me, admitted fault in my own words where I have found it, admitted openly when I felt or realized my own words were wrong, and so on.

    That's not being a troll.  That's being an adult with a differing opinion.

    Besides which, I've only responded to posts aimed at me.  If posting at me is a waste of your "f=cking" time, maybe you should consider…not doing that to begin with?

    And how am I wasting anyone's time?  Do they not have a scroll button and the ability to just skip by posts that bore them?

    At no point in this thread have I said that climate change isn't real.  It is.  There are just really big, disgusting holes in the currently accepted model that are easy to exploit.

    Isn't it interesting that people approach politics and religion with the same fervor and equal measure of disdain for differing views?

  23. Chris George
    Chris George says:

    This spring I ran for a provincial position in our government for the Green Party. This was my first serious foray into the global heating argument. I had studiously ignored until now as the steps required to mitigate were identical to the steps required to mitigate Peak Oil. I brought myself up to speed because the party has a platform on the climate but not on Peak Oil.

    There is an entire nest of denial that is baked into our economic system that people simply will not acknowledge. We will go to great lengths to ensure that the gravy keeps flowing our way, our dependence on this system for our food and shelter guarantees that. My opponents in the election framed the debate on climate as being either jobs or steps to mitigate, no middle ground. The pro-jobs, pro-fossil energy party won handily, just as they did here federally, just as they did in Australia last week. We can keep nibbling around the edges until Taleb's Black Swan comes swooping in for the kill or we can start examining the core issue, which is that industrial civilization itself is irredeemable and the sooner we find something to replace it with, the more likely we are to minimize the pain and suffering when the inevitable energy crunch puts the rest of us on the street.

    No amount of logic, reason, rational thinking, thick scientific papers, professional opinion or even emotional pleas to ethics or morality will make any difference to people whose biases will not allow them to even consider the writing on the wall. Most won't even acknowledge the wall.

  24. Edward Morbius
    Edward Morbius says:

    +Chris George  No amount of logic, reason, rational thinking

    Willful ignorance / tactical stupidity:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Willful_ignorance

  25. Chris George
    Chris George says:

    I had conservatives ask me when my party was going to wake up and start pandering to the voters like every other party.

    "Until then you will never get elected, therefore your POV is invalid."

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