Part 1: Big Bang to Present
Science says that climate change, which is real, is caused by human activities.
But not everyone is convinced science exists. Some even call it a hoax—a story told to frighten young children and academics.
The history of this fascinating controversy has been told before. Unfortunately, all previous attempts (see Part I and Part II) are undermined by their almost tongue-in-cheek tone, which verges at times on the semi-facetious. At CliScep we believe the past is no giggling matter, so we’re proud to present the first truly scholarly timeline of the intractable tragedy that is the climate debate thus far.
c. 4.1–3.8 bya
As the Hadean gives way to the Archaean, the Earth begins to cool; the autotrophs begin to drool.
c. 200,000 BC
The first humans act, causing human activity which then changes the Earth’s previously-immutable climate.
1642–1727 AD: Newton, Sir Isaac
“MY RÔLE model? Newton, no question. There’s an old saying in science, which we came up with in 2009 after our emails were publicly leaked:
“‘Hey, gravity doesn’t stop working just because Newton was an asshole!’
“My illustrious countryman taught me all I know about being a decent person, and why it’s unnecessary.”
Prof. Phil Jones
First ‘Green Revolution’
The last whale ever murdered to fuel a lantern is laid to rest.
From now on, civilized people can rest assured that every drop of oil they use will come from ethical, eco-friendly dinosaur juice.
Like all human progress, this is a bad thing. The new “fossil fuel” industry may have solved one problem for the planet but it will ultimately create a much graver one: anthropogenic global warming (also known as man-made climate change) skepticism.
1880–1930: Wegener, Alfred Lothar
“MY BIGGEST inspiration? I’d have to say Alfred Wegener, the father of the scientific consensus on plate tectonics.
“Wegener’s faith in mainstream geology was so unwavering that he stood up for our ruling paradigm even when all around him ridiculed it—a lone voice for accepted science in a sea of contrarian rejection. His example teaches us the preciousness of majority science, a flame we must never suffer to be extinguished.
“Speaking out for the consensus can be lonely work, as Alfred Wegener learned the hard way.”
Harvard Professor of Majority Opinion in the Earth Sciences
Author, ‘Wegener: How One Man (Eventually) Won the War on Geology Deniers‘
In a “jabbering” address to Lords, Victorian pseudonaturalists warn that with brillig brilling earlier each day, mome raths may be forced to grib farther outwards in search of the toves that make up the bulk of their yearly snatch. An air of uffish mimsy whiffles through the House as Little Timmy, the leading orphan of the period, gimbles forth to perform An Ode To Silent Spring for the edification of the Marquesses and Marquessesses in attendance. The song pre-mourns the chortle of the last Jub Jub, explain scholars of Late Middle Gibberish.
Naomi Oreskes shat from Beelzebub’s cloaca, already fully-malformed and 5000 years old.
1951–1953: Search for the Double Helix
“MY FAVORITE lesson from history? The power of positive visualization.
“That’s what I take from the amazing story of Watson and Crick, who dubbed themselves the Double Helix Team and embarked on a 3-year scientific quest for the shape of DNA… which turned out to be a double helix!
“What I wouldn’t give to be at that Cambridge pub when the dynamic duo burst in to announce drinks were on them—they’d found the sought-after spiral at last, and it was right under their noses the whole time: in the nuclei of their nasal epithelia!
“Conceive It, Believe It, Prove It: if there’s a better definition of the Scientific Method, I’ve never been taught it.”
Prof. Michael E. Mann
Captain of paleoclimatology’s Hockey Team
Trouble on Twisted Tree Heartrot Hill!
The primeval bristlecone pine trees of the American desert, nature’s ’canary in the goldmine,’ have acted as a proxy for climate constancy since time immemorial—until their physiology suddenly “flips” during the Kennedy administration.
Climate skeptics can’t explain the inversion, which should be taken as an admission that the theory of climate skepticism is wrong. Meanwhile, the tortuous xerophytes remain the best-known casualty of climate change.
John Cook conceived
Stephan Lewandowsky, a Wisconsin psychologist, ingests a neurotoxic potion that makes the vilest gorgon look like the fairest maiden in the land, allowing her to seduce him.
By the time the alcohol wears off, Lewandowsky is alone in his bedchamber. The succubus—who gave her name only as Naomi Oreskes—has stolen silently away, carrying his precious seed within her. He never even knew her academic title.
The fruit of their drunken coupling, a boy-child named John Lewandowsky-Oreskes, will change his initials to those of the Antichrist when he comes of blogging age. Thus will the ancient projections be validated.
Lewandowsky tries to put the tryst behind him, but it’s futile; his fate is entwined with Oreskes’ forever. The lovers are destined to lie together again, and again, and again, and again (mainly in the peer-reviewed literature).
In the severest case of science denial in the annals of psychiatry, Tennessee preacher A. A. Gore persists in selling tobacco despite his own sister’s death from lung cancer.
Climate science discovered
Thanks to testimony by James Hansen—who tampered with the air conditioning last night in order to emphasize the facts—Americans become aware of something called climate science. Loosely based on the natural sciences, this can be defined as the human attempt to understand the atmosphere by surveying the beliefs of humans who believe they understand the atmosphere.
Tasked with producing new science from nothing but existing science, IPCC authors will eschew such traditional solutions as meta-analysis and systematic review, finding they can achieve higher levels of science per gram via novel processes like ‘Summary,’ ‘Synthesis’ and other forms of stapling.
Heads of state everywhere worry that the science may be too heavy to hold aloft whilst saying “this is the science,” so the IPCC will issue an ergonomic ‘Policymaker’s Digest’ of each report before writing it.
Conservative War on Science hatched
Wartime consiglieres for North America’s oil, ivory and landmine-dealing families today announce a major summit to conspire against science. The strategy sitdown, at an unnamed family restaurant, is thought to be the first time all five bosses have ever met in one McDonalds.
What emerges is a plan—in the argot of organized crime—to “make them an argument they can’t refute.”
In what pundits describe as “an idea so crazy it just won’t work,” all five families will spend the next 40 years concentrating their entire firepower on science’s strongest point—climatology—knowing that once it falls, the other, less-solid fields will put up little resistance.
Glaciers, icecaps and other ice-based objects continue to melt—a disturbing and unprecedented phenomenon we can only explain by admitting The Science™ is right.
When a neighbor’s cat leaves its half-eaten prey on Dr Ben Santer’s porch, decades of hilarious paranoia, misunderstanding and climate hatred ensue!
Clinton, Gore re-elected
Vice President Gore’s last-minute blueprint for saving the atmosphere has to be postponed for another 4 years when America refuses to let him leave the White House.
Behind the scenes, Gore is said to be furious at the planet’s setback, chewing his campaign staff out for making him “so goddamn f___ing likeable.”
(Pollsters, however, believe the real draw-card for Dem voters was the Clinton ticket’s law and order platform, Sex Molesters Should Get Four More Years.)
Opponents of the climate—unable to counter the increasingly overwhelming evidence pointing to the fact that science is real—resort to the OISM Petition.
This naked appeal to numbers (the ad populum or ad consensum fallacy), a manoeuvre to which no self-respecting scientist has stooped since the Lysenkoists, becomes the butt of immediate ridicule. Everyone from mainstream climate scientists to up-and-coming comedian Jon Stewart lambasts the gambit as “a sign of desperation” and “the mating call of the evidentially bankrupt.”
Start of hiatus
Global warming—an incontrovertible, paradigmatic truth of nature on par with gravity or evolution—temporarily stops being true.
Fearing a collapse of public trust in science itself, climatologists have no choice but to keep quiet about the ‘pause.’ Concealing the truth goes against every fibre of their being, but their courage is today credited with having prevented a worldwide orgy of looting and arson.
Michael Mann is the first victim, as well as the discoverer, of what he calls the ‘Serengeti Strategy.’ The besieged scientist takes comfort in the little-known fact that predators never go after the lame runt, the invalid gimp or any other vulnerable member of the herd, so it stands to reason that nobody would audit a paper to bloody shreds if they thought it was sub-par in any way.
Contrary to the widespread lie, it isn’t the climate establishment but Frank Luntz—the Wunderkind of Republican propagandology—who this year tricks the world into using ‘climate change’ as a euphemism for ‘global warming.’ Luntz’ coinage is such a stroke of memetic genius that it even propagates backwards through time, convincing the United Nations to set up the IPCC (not the IPGW) twelve years ago.
First reports emerge of a new, ahypothetical form of evidence. Scientists believe this substance—dubbed simply ‘the evidence’—may be capable of ‘piling up,’ gaining ‘weight’ and ‘pointing to’ various scientific and political conclusions.
Well-known secret Bush operative Rajendra Pachauri obtains strategic control of the IPCC, placing him perfectly to take down the climate-political process from within. But you have to get up pretty early in the morning to trick the world’s 2500 top scientists, who spring into action and give Pachauri the boot within days of discovering he’s a text predator in 2015.
Mann broken but not bent
It’s back to the drawing-board for a demoralized Hockey Team, whose eponymous graph has somehow been invalidated by a work of “pure scientific fraud.” At their lowest ebb they joke about changing their name to The Happy With Any Signal We Find In Nature So Long As It’s The Truth Team.
In the end, though, the decision not to throw out their team T-shirts will prove remarkably prescient when new, improved science happens to find the same, hockey-stickish curve that their old, spurious methods had spat out, more or less!
It’s one of those coincidences you couldn’t possibly make up (because you’re not qualified in the relevant earth sciences).
Naomi Oreskes, intellectual superstar of the climate movement, publishes her most profound thinking in a one-page essay on the mystery that has exercised some of history’s greatest minds: Do most scientists reject the majority view within science? Her finding—that they don’t—can only be described as “remarkable,” so she does.
Hurricane Katrina ushers in the misleadingly-named Age of Superstorms. Some of North America’s more excitable meteorologists even call her the continent’s “hurricane to end all hurricanes,” which will turn out to be accurate, if not necessarily in the way they think.
At the Movies: You can’t handle the Inconvenience
Al Gore releases An Inconvenient Truth. The film’s most iconic graph indelibly burns into our consciousness the synchronized dance of CO2 levels with global temperatures. (To avoid confusing viewers, Gore uses Mike’s Nature trick to hide the lag.)
Evidence has officially jumped the ‘field barrier’: scientists everywhere go to the cinema only to learn that their papers have answered a question they didn’t ask.
The documentary is an instant hit with school teachers. Unfortunately, skeptics seize on a number of isolated lies to imply they somehow discredit the whole movie.
When asked to explain “the scientific purpose” of his new expedition, oceanographer Steve Zissou says simply, “revenge.” The one-word answer provides a good laugh to moviegoers, a meme to the Internet and several grant applications to Stephan Lewandowsky.
Justice Burton of the High Court of England and Wales finds it unlawful to show An Inconvenient Truth in UK schools without ‘guidance notes’ alerting children to the film’s “political bias” and “errors of science.” Eager to win back the British education market, Gore’s editing team experiments with cutting all falsehoods and/or dishonest statements from the film. But the new, deception-free version tests poorly with teachers, who complain that its 12-minute run-time isn’t even enough to waste a school period.
At the movies: Mainstream science finally hits the mainstream
Filmmaker and skeptic-hater James Cameron brings us the story of a band of noble savages and their fight to save a global web of teleconnected trees from the rapacity of an evil mining executive. Not only does it make mad money, Avatar also dethrones An Inconvenient Truth as the most scientifically-accurate movie about the Hockey Stick to date.
Australians scandalized, misinformed when Gillard Government Chief Climate Commissioner Distinguished Panasonic Sustainability Professor Timothy J. Flannery, PhD denies the last decade of climate change, claiming on national TV that “there hasn’t been a continuation of that [former] warming trend.”
Computer scientist Andy Pitman is forced to write an op-ed explaining that the Hauptklimakommissar was being “silly,” and reminding the public not to trust anyone but a climate scientist.
Climategate is committed
The so-called Climategate affair (a nontroversy whipped up by the right-wing media) succeeds only in revealing the impeccably kosher and professional quality of the work done by scientists at the University of East Anglia, which is why almost none of them consider killing themselves.
Fundamentalist Feynmanites, Popperian puritans and other Methodist groups—adherents to a discipline they call ‘the scientific method‘—insist the IPCC must abandon its hypothesis in the wake of revelations that it made a false prediction about the Himalayan glaciers.
But legal spokesmen for the IPCC counter that—with its headquarters on international soil—the Turtle Bay, N.Y. organization has diplomatic immunity to the rules of science, in light of which “our clients wouldn’t reconsider their hypothesis even if they remembered what it was.”
Stephan Lewandowsky has absolutely no preconceptions about “deniers” until he makes a remarkable find during a dig in Ethiopia: a human skull with prominent bulging of the conspirativeness faculty (an organ of the ideational lobe).
Climate communicators’ jobs just became easier with today’s invention, by the obscure Australian scientist David Karoly, of an “organised campaign of death threats” being waged by the skeptical community. (At the risk of explaining the self-explanatory, Karoly explains that this massive criminal conspiracy is motivated “to discourage scientists from presenting the best available climate science.”) In a cruel irony, Karoly is too scared to hand over any proof of this plot to Federal Police, because he’s also received “an organised campaign of death threats to discourage me from presenting evidence that I’ve received an organised campaign of death threats.”
Operation Nonspiracy launched
The climate leadership begins a concerted drive to hose down conspiracist ideation by removing all appearance of secrecy about its ambitions to re-engineer the world.
Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, explains in precise German that, “we are in fact redistributing the world’s wealth by climate policy… one must free oneself of the delusion that climate policy is [about] environmental policy.” It’s a message repeated ad nauseam by public figures from Tim Flannery and Christina Figueres to Pentti Linkola, Gina McCarthy and Jacques Chirac. But it seems that no matter how openly the agenda is spelled out, how often, or in how many languages, skeptics will continue to portray it as some sort of clandestine plot.
Last year’s so-called Climategate emails revealed nothing suspicious at all, which is why thirty-seven independent inquiries have been held to make sure.
Their resounding conclusion is that “quotes from” the emails “have been [cherry-]picked [out of context] by” skeptics “of [climate] change,” who “are… wrong” (source: SkepticalScience).
Most importantly, the science is “…not. Corrupt…,” in the verdict of wind-farm millionaire Lord Ron Oxburgh.
In the Literature: Merchants of Doubt discovers, corrects flaw in Western knowledge
It’s almost laughable today, but just a few years ago, before Naomi Oreskes’ revelation that knowledge is nothing but ‘the ideas accepted by the fellowship of experts,’ most people fell for Aristotle’s lies about ‘justified true belief.’
Penn State leaves scandal behind for good
Penn State University—the corporation for which ‘Climategater’ Michael Mann works—carries out a thorough investigation into his conduct, methods, data and publications, concluding that they’ve brought in $4.1 million.
In The Literature: The Hockey Stick & The Climate Wars launched
Despite the denialist preoccupation with Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick, the groundbreaking graph is actually a minor footnote, and the conversation urgently needs to move on from Hockey-Stick-this, Hockey-Stick-that—a point to which Mann devotes several chapters of The Hockey Stick & The Climate Wars, his new bestseller about the unimportance of the Hockey Stick.
Look for it in the autohagiography section of your local legitimate bookstore.
A blog post by Chris Mooney dated June 27 makes the earliest known mention of the theory that “better math and science education” would only make climate skepticism worse. Perversely, perplexingly and paradoxically, ‘the science’ (mainstream opinion in climatology) is thought to be the only correct belief system that’s less convincing the more you know about it—with the possible exception of religion, with which it has nothing else in common whatsoever.
BackwashGate washes back on Gore
In a secretly-recorded, profanity-laden address to the Aspen Institute in Colorado, former Vice President Gore pronounces the top three skeptical arguments as listed at SkepticalScience.com to be “bullshit!” and blows the lid on perhaps the most diabolical plot in history: “They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists!”
The claims are immediately rejected by peak pseudoscience groups, who threaten to sue over the aspersion on their integrity.
“Mr Gore, we are not for sale,” reads a Union of Insouciant Pseudoscientists press release. “We ‘pretend to be scientists’ for one reason and one reason only: because that’s what it means to be a pseudoscientist. We have never asked for a cent, though we’re happy to accept a small gratuity if a client feels our imitation is particularly lifelike.”
In a letter to the Huffington Post, Prof. Richard Müller admits that “I was never a climate skeptic”—debunking his own claim to be the first scientist ever cured by a closer examination of the evidence.
Senator Barbara Boxer [Dem., pro-science] treats fellow lawmakers to an oration on the devastating effects of atmospheric CO2 on our children’s ability to breathe, an issue the world’s scientists and doctors have managed to keep secret… until now. Babs earns the seal of approval from the RealClimate team, who find that she Gets The Science Right, Give Or Take—the highest category of praise a non-scientist is eligible to win.
Climategate 2.0 perpetrated
The reprise of 2009’s cyber-probing traumatises the climate community afresh. “It feels like being violated, scrutinized and gloriously exonerated all over again,” says one climate scientist, who feels too dirty to give his or her name.
In Delhi’s Habitat Centre, Rajendra Pachauri—”the world’s top climate scientist“—briefly wonders if he should cheer his staff up by announcing that every day is henceforth Hug A Climate Scientist Day. But the mere thought of it is enough to send a tingle up his entire staff, so he doesn’t bother sharing the idea.
Keenly aware of the power of a catchy title, Stephan Lewandowsky seeks funding for a study he plans to call ‘NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax.’
Panic breaks out at the ANU Climate Change Department after a retiree wields a document at a dinner event. Staff demand relocation to a “more secure” facility.
In The Literature: The Republican Brain published
Scientifically-illiterate English grads everywhere marvel at neuroscientist Chris Mooney’s ability to somehow speak at their level.
Bodyguard of Lies doctrine unveiled
“Truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies,” argues Stephan Lewandowsky by way of Winston Churchill in a seminal Conversation piece. The article goes on to recommend between 12 and 20 lies per truth, depending on the monetary preciousness of the latter.
The relevance of the Churchill quote practically speaks for itself, since—much like climate scientists today—the great man was engaged in a total war of mechanised murder against a population of millions.
Readers vote Lewandowsky’s piece as one of The Conversation’s most thought-provoking stories this year. “I’ll have to think twice, three times before believing anything a climate scientist says now,” reads a typical comment.
The core thesis—that science is war, and war is deception—is now considered mainstream Science Communication.
Setting aside our differences for the first and last time in the Climate Wars, the two camps come together to tut-tut Heartland’s Unabomber billboard. The beautiful, short-lived truce attracts comparisons to Christmas Day soccer in no man’s land 98 years earlier.
And lo, he saw a pillar of fire
In what scientists are calling “the new normal,” a Biblical vortex of flame that springs up from the shrublands of Curtin Springs, NT, Australia is captured by TV cameraman Chris Tangey.
While ordinary twisters are definitely a thing of the past, scientists warn that it may not always be possible to say in advance whether a given freaknado is made of fire or sharks.
In the Literature: The Brain That Changes Itself published, deplored
Legitimate scientists condemn the neurology bestseller by Norman Doidge, MD as “empowering” and “chang[ing] the way we think about the way we think.”
Vocal critic Naomi Oreskes warns that most people’s brains aren’t qualified to change themselves, adding, “I’m a legitimate scholar and I still get my brain changed by professionals.”
Chris Mooney, who says he gave up at the title, pans the book as “lazy.”
Mooney, the man-child behind such science-communication hits as The Wrong Right: What Science Says About the Science of Why They Don’t Believe in Science, points out that credible authors always use subtitles, allowing them to convey the nuances, complexities and qualifications they can’t fit in the main title.
For people living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS], especially those still reeling from a diagnosis of ALS—not to mention the army of unsung heroes who care for ALS sufferers—there’s probably no bigger problem in life than climate change. That’s what John Cook tells himself as he prepares to empty a bucket of polar icewater over his head, with all proceeds going to help struggling climate researchers.
Rapid polar weirding ensnares the Akademik Shokalskiy, whose precious cargo includes the UNSW climate scientist Chris Turney, in a blanket of unseasonal sea ice.
Turney’s expedition, which was supposed to find evidence of a record melt, is seen as a major embarrassment to those who deny that we’re making the planet weirder. The science of man-made global weirding [MMGW] predicts such unpredictable data points in black and white, Turney gloats in hindsight.
On September 22, thousands march to send a simple message: that the world is ignoring the climate issue. The demonstration is more successful than intended.
TataGate bursts wide open
The previously scandal-free climate world is now rocked by reports that forgers unconnected to Peter Gleick have been impersonating Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, while sending lascivious texts to his female staff.
In Delhi’s Lodhi Colony Police Station, a special task force (codename: Denuded Slopes) is sworn in and charged with bringing Pachauri’s extortionists to justice. The 20-detective squad starts by looking into groups that might feel threatened by the science of railway engineering.
Anti-inoxxer movement born
Drawing on the latest findings from the quasiscience of immunoanalogy, John Cook announces the ‘inoculation’ principle of climate communication: that you should only expose readers to an attenuated, or ‘straw-man,’ form of the arguments you’re trying to rebut. Pro-science bloggers take their lead from SkepticalScience, scrupulously pre-nerfing the virulent ideas they disagree with.
The science-doubting community, by contrast, proves to be every bit as anti-inoculation as it is anti-climate. The conclusions of pseudovirology pose an obvious threat to their libertarian faith in the primacy of rational discourse, honesty and individual deliberation, so skeptics refuse to stop quoting and accurately paraphrasing live opponents (an unhygienic practice that continues to this day).
Peter Gleick is mistakenly awarded the 2018 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.
It is retracted in response to widespread mockery and re-awarded without the extraneous ‘pu’ in the word Popularization.
When we continue: what does the future hold for the climate debate? We can finally tell you, thanks to the latest in Forecasting The Facts technology.