The myth of a climate crisis

Over at Spiked magazine, Ben Pile has a new article on The myth of a climate crisis. It’s mostly a review of Roger Pielke Jr’s book on The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change, originally published in 2014 but now updated in a new edition. In the Introduction, that you can read at the Amazon link above, Pielke says that a lot has happened in the intervening four years, mentioning increasing political polarisation and vilification of those who don’t promote the alarmist line.

Ben writes

At the beginning of every autumn, as we approach the peak of the hurricane season and the lowest Arctic sea-ice extent, we have to endure a deluge of media hysteria and doom-laden reports about climate change.

and gives the recent “New Climate Economy” report as an example.

He goes on to discuss how someone like Pielke, who, far from being a climate sceptic, presents the mainstream IPCC view, is nevertheless often attacked simply because he dares to question the narrative of imminent climate disaster.

Pielke is quoted as saying

‘I’m less worried about politicians who cherry-pick and select facts to support a particular narrative’, he says, ‘than I am about us supposed experts who decide to go along with them because they see it as politically convenient… Being an expert and an academic, I have far more hope that we can control how we behave and what we do in public debates than we can control what elected officials do in democracies.’

I’m often struck by how the UK climate science community howls with outrage when Nigel Lawson is allowed to say something every year or two, but remains silent when newspapers such as the Guardian make misleading claims about the effects of climate change.

The article ends with this intriguing point:

 Pielke points out that countries where there has been an active sceptic voice are the ones that have made the most progress on reducing CO2 emissions.



  1. “Climate-change advocates are now adopting a new strategy, which, Pielke argues, marks a comprehensive departure from the scientific consensus. Rather than empirical analyses, they are now making probabilistic claims to link anthropogenic climate change to extreme weather and natural disasters. These claims are produced by entering extreme-weather stats into two climate simulations: one in which there has been no increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, and one in which CO2 concentration is the same as it is in today’s atmosphere. By comparing the occurrence of extreme events in the two simulations, they can come up with an estimate of climate change’s influence.

    But, as Pielke writes, ‘the use of highly uncertain and malleable methods, with essentially no predictive skill, to associate essentially any extreme event to climate change is a recipe for headlines and advocacy’.”

    This is the extreme weather attribution ‘science’ (based on the probabilistic Fraction of Attributable Risk – FAR) pioneered by Peter Stott at the UK Met Office and now carried forward as a viable commercial enterprise in the form of World Weather Attribution. Friederike Otto, a physicist at the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University, is one of the principal partners. WWA purport to be able to carry out ‘rapid attribution’ of extreme weather events and their hope is to develop their business idea along lines very similar to private weather forecasts, the main difference being, instead of forecasting the weather hours or days in advance, they’ll tell you hours or days afterwards whether it was man-made climate change wot dunnit. An analysis of Otto’s rapid attribution of the hot summer in northern Europe can be found on this blog – decide for yourself if you think it’s credible or not.

    As Pielke says, this is where climate alarmists are going now, because that’s where the greatest opportunities for grabbing headlines and promoting unscientific propaganda are. Meanwhile, Mann, Otto and others are still promoting the unsubstantiated myth that climate change played a significant role in this summer’s ‘global heatwave’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that the attribution industry provides for a new source of attention-grabbing headlines to keep the hapless masses on their toes. However, it goes a little deeper than that. For a long time now the alarmists have been frustrated by a lack of action to tackle climate change, which cognitive scientists attribute to the brain’s inability to properly evaluate risk (for example, Daniel Kahneman has spoken of the pernicious influence of loss aversion). I see the recent attention paid towards attribution as an attempt to overcome this inertia. If framing the problem as one of risk isn’t having the desired effect, why not frame it as one of historical impact? Loss is no longer a hypothetical that the brain struggles to apprehend, it becomes a concrete reality – Apocalypse Now, rather than Apocalypse Tomorrow, if you will. Alarmists can also silence all those critics who questioned the predictive skill of the climate models. The critics said nothing bad would happen, but look how wrong they were! It contributes to the ‘deniers are no longer worth talking to’ narrative.

    The problem with all of this is that the downplaying of uncertainty is every bit as important for retrodiction as it is for prediction. We are still dealing with probabilistic jiggery-pokery that doesn’t survive close inspection.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article by Ben at Spiked! Except for one small error:

    Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance

    Not for the past two and a half years he hasn’t. He blogs here, and it would be great if the lefty readers of Spiked! knew about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jaime Jessop (26 Sep 18 at 3:35 pm)

    Meanwhile, Mann, Otto and others are still promoting the unsubstantiated myth that climate change played a significant role in this summer’s ‘global heatwave’.

    How does that work? Haven’t average global temperatures been dropping over the past year and a bit? So if our heatwave was caused by global warming, what caused the cooling elsewhere on the planet that more than offset it?


  5. Geoff,

    It works thus:

    1. Global mean surface temperatures have dropped significantly since Feb 2016, but the long term trend is positive and remains unaffected – climate change is real and ongoing.
    2. More intense and more frequent heatwaves are predicted to occur with climate change. The heatwaves in the US, Japan and northern Europe are perfect examples – climate change is real and happening now.
    3. Extreme cold in South America and Australia this winter is just weather.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pielke says: ‘a recipe for headlines and advocacy’.

    But that’s what the alarmists are mostly interested in – creating noise and getting their favoured policies adopted.


  7. JAIME JESSOP (26 Sep 18 at 7:46 pm)

    Yes, I know that’s how it works, but what I don’t understand is: How does it work? I mean, if you’re an environmental correspondent with several degrees (though everyone knows that anything over two degrees is dangerous) the first thing you say to yourself when it’s announced that global warming has caused this year’s heatwave / drought / mass migration is: “Of course. And the proof lies in the current global warming which is … Oh, a drop of half a degree on average. Well I can’t write that then. The editor will catch me out and I’ll be sacked.”

    But people have been writing this stuff for twenty years now, and no-one has been sacked as far as I know. No-one except Roger Pielke, who wasn’t exactly sacked, but made to feel so uncomfortable that I believe he now specialises in the statistics of sport. That’s what used to happen to truth tellers in the Soviet Union.


  8. Jaime (26 Sep 18 at 7:46 pm)
    4. 97% of those who know anything about climate change (and almost 100% of those knowing nothing) accept without any reservation that climate change is definitively happening.
    5. 100% of those denying climate change are saddoes in the pay of the fossil fuel industry who refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening, is getting worse and needs to be prevented at ANY cost.

    Are you a saddo like me?


  9. Geoff,

    “Yes, I know that’s how it works, but what I don’t understand is: How does it work? I mean, if you’re an environmental correspondent with several degrees . . . . . ”

    It’s called the Art of Thinking Without Thinking. It’s called Truncated Reason.

    Basically, Auntie BBC (or Grandpa Sky, or whatever) issues you with a lovely, brand new, completely blank Dot to Dot Book of Climate Change and you go away and you join some dots and you think, “Ooh, that looks nice and it conforms to Auntie’s Crib Sheet on climate change reporting, so I’ll write it up straight away as Fact”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Alan, I’m an even sadder saddo – I actually pay the fossil fuel companies for oil for my boiler, coal for my stove, and petrol for my car and I’m still waiting for them to send me a nice, big fat cheque in the post for Denial services rendered!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Geoff: ‘But people have been writing this stuff for twenty years now, and no-one has been sacked as far as I know.’

    Because cultural bias. With respect to your journalists’ behaviour, see especially point 9 in the main list, and point g) in the ‘morals and the law’ list, here:

    Beyond Jaime’s proximate answer, if one really wants to know ‘how it works’ at the most fundamental level, i.e. how ‘words that think for us’ emerge via emotive selection, and how ‘reason is truncated’ by strong belief in cultural narratives, one unfortunately has to know how cultures themselves work. This turns out not to be so simple, especially as a constant turnover of cultures have themselves evolved in tandem with brain architecture, meaning the two work hand in glove. To bypass all that, one can instead simply understand by comparison; would journalists in Germany anywhere between about 1930 and 1945 be fired for writing untrue stuff about say Jewish influence in the country? Or for writing untrue stuff about scientific support (i.e. way outside even the central science position of the time) for Aryan racial purity? Would journalists poking fun at Darwin’s theories even in say 1890, decades after his main publication, similarly be fired? Even though science was firmly on-board by then (though fundamental arguments raged, these were about the mechanisms). But I think you are very familiar with all such comparisons, so I’m afraid it’s the former trail, which is very long, I’m only part way in myself ): And likely full explanations will elude humanity for some time yet too. Cultural belief is like a blind-fold; ultimately believers don’t see that they are doing anything wrong – quite the reverse. A minority not subscribed to the dominant cultural rise, who thus can see, or can partially see, may not wish to risk their position so stay quiet. I think Alan has mentioned this wrt to climate change orthodoxy.


  12. Jaime the full extent of one’s saddoism is commonly repressed. Have you forgotten one’s use and disposal of plastic – the new ecocrimes. Not only do they use fossil fuels but they contaminate the environment. I have qualms about every straw I suck.


  13. LOL – How do we bring back truthfulness

    “Unsurprisingly, signers include prominent leaders in the misinformation-fighting movement, and one of the most prominent scholars of misinformation, Stephan Lewandowsky, is on the Advisory Board of the organization running the Pro-Truth Pledge project, Intentional Insights”

    The Pro Truth Pledge.

    I Pledge My Earnest Efforts To:

    Share truth
    Verify: fact-check information to confirm it is true before accepting and sharing it
    Balance: share the whole truth, even if some aspects do not support my opinion
    Cite: share my sources so that others can verify my information
    Clarify: distinguish between my opinion and the facts

    Honor truth
    Acknowledge: acknowledge when others share true information, even when we disagree otherwise
    Reevaluate: reevaluate if my information is challenged, retract it if I cannot verify it
    Defend: defend others when they come under attack for sharing true information, even when we disagree otherwise
    Align: align my opinions and my actions with true information

    Encourage truth
    Fix: ask people to retract information that reliable sources have disproved even if they are my allies
    Educate: compassionately inform those around me to stop using unreliable sources even if these sources support my opinion
    Defer: recognize the opinions of experts as more likely to be accurate when the facts are disputed
    Celebrate: celebrate those who retract incorrect statements and update their beliefs toward the truth

    Take the Pledge



  14. @Barry

    Their sample sizes for pledge effectiveness seem remarkably small. At any rate, the premise that such a pledge would work in reality appears to be founded upon the presumption that misinformation is consciously propagated. But most misinformation is sub-consciously propagated, i.e. when folks already think that they have been unbiased and fair, and checked sources (which of course will favour those that they culturally trust). But if it dramatically improves the modus operandi of the notable pledge taker you reference above, then I guess I’m going to believe that it works after all 0:


  15. “I mean, if you’re an environmental correspondent with several degrees…”

    Nice one, Geoff.. And how many of them have degrees in subjects where you can buy essays on the internet, I wonder? Buying essays on the internet isn’t much help with organic synthesis, and I’m sure quite a few other STEM graduates would express similar opinions about their undergraduate degrees.
    When I went to study in the USA I found it quite refreshing to find that a lot of people there (certainly more than in BBC-land) didn’t regard non-STEM degrees as any kind of a degree at all.


  16. Lewandowsky signing a pledge for truthfulness sounds like a notorious drunk signing a non-drinking pledge while at an open bar happy hour.


  17. Barry,

    From your link:

    The very popular far-right website The Daily Caller published a positive story about the pledge.

    This from a psychologist who is actively promoting the promulgation of The Truth! What is the basis for his epithet ‘far right’? Wiki describes the Daily Caller thus:

    The Daily Caller is a conservative American news and opinion website based in Washington, D.C. It was founded by political pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The site’s coverage includes politics, business, world news, entertainment, sports, education, technology, outdoors, and energy. Several past writers of the website have had ties to white supremacist, racist and anti-semitic groups and espoused theories promulgated by such bodies.

    Under the heading ‘Political Stance’ we find this:

    In an interview with The New York Times, Carlson said that the vast majority of traditional reporting comes from a liberal point of view and called The Daily Caller’s reporting “the balance against the rest of the conventional press”.

    Therefore the sole basis for attributing a ‘far right’ political ideology to the Daily Caller appears to be that a very few contributors previously contributed to far right websites. These few contributors appear to have resigned from the Daily Caller:

    In August 2018, The Atlantic reported that Scott Greer, then deputy editor of The Daily Caller, had written pieces under a pseudonym in the white supremacist publication Radix Journal from 2014 to 2015. In articles for Radix Journal, Greer expressed racist and antisemitic views. Upon being confronted with his past white supremacist writings, Greer resigned from any affiliation with The Daily Caller . . . . . The Daily Caller has also posted articles by Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who organized a rally of hundreds of white nationalists in Charlottesville. Before Kessler posted his article, he had spoken at white supremacist gatherings. After Kessler received attention for his organizing of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, the Daily Caller removed his articles from its website, but The Daily Caller executive editor defended Kessler’s articles.



  18. At the Lewandowsky article cited by Barry above:
    Lew outlines his two papers demonstrating the effectivenes of taking his truth pledge. The first one is based on a survey of 24 informants. The second one “… to address the weakness of the first study’s reliance on self-reporting… sampled 21 people…”

    Which just goes to show you can be utterly truthful and spout complete bollocks. At least, you can at Psychology Today.


  19. If I choose my 21 carefully enough I could get them to agree with any old bolloc¢s. Think I’ll return to academia and increase my publication record.


  20. BARRY
    Could you or someone turn your comments on the Truth Pledge into a post, with an invitation to everyone to sign up? I’ll certainly sign, and I’m sure Anthony Watts’ dog will too.


  21. More Pro-Truth truth: that 2-week-old article says Tsipursky is an assistant prof at Ohio State but he left Ohio State in May, forced out, he says, because of his anxiety disorder and perhaps because people thought his Pro-Truth Pledge might adversely affect funding for his department. (Conspiracy theory or wot?) The article in which he discusses his firing…

    …ends with him saying that he welcomes expressions of support (as long as they don’t come with a presumption that he will respond to them) but ‘I DO NOT appreciate any advice’ – ‘offering advice would lower my opinion of the person who does so’ – and ‘I especially DO NOT appreciate negative comments about my course of action’.

    So much for his Pro-Truth Pledge, which welcomes all inputs as long as they are true.

    Since the disastrous end to his academic career he has relaunched himself as a ‘disaster avoidance expert’ who helps ‘leaders, organizations, and our society as a whole use science-based decision-making and emotional and social intelligence to avoid disaster.’

    Nutter? Chancer? A bit of both?

    (His academic speciality is state-funded Soviet youth culture. That actually sounds quite interesting. More interesting than peddling pietistic pledges and bafflegab about disaster-avoidance, anyway.)


  22. In the article Vinny links to, he claims that

    “My research is outstanding, and is an objective metric that is hard to falsify.”

    No evidence or objective metric is provided. An objective metric might be his google scholar profile that reveals that his most cited paper has been cited only 19 times.

    Compared with, say Roger Pielke’s google scholar profile, Tsipursky’s research doesn’t look very outstanding at all.

    I wonder whether he made that claim before or after signing the Truth Pledge?


  23. This “Truth Pledge” reminds me of documents circulating within academia, asking us to sign up in solidarity with the Climategate many. This was distributed even before CRU acknowledged that the emails were genuine. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, signed (I didn’t). Sign up to something you don’t have full knowledge of.
    Are we sure this Pledge has not been instigated by Lew as a precursor to a new definitive paper, this time with a cast of thousands?


  24. From Ben’s article, quoted by Paul:

    Pielke points out that countries where there has been an active sceptic voice are the ones that have made the most progress on reducing CO2 emissions.

    The main one being the USA, of course. Having just wasted about six hours of my life following the senate judicial committee hearings on CNN, I’m struck by how fresh and original democracy in action looks. Of course, 80% of Americans won’t agree with me, being “drain the swamp” Trumpites, or “We wuzz robbed” Clintonians. But so what? The majority can be wrong.

    What’s brought down US emissions, of course, is fracked gas replacing coal, and good old technological progress in emissions reduction by the evil automobile industry, egged on by the environmentalists. Rather like events on the Senate committee, which is in the process of saving its reputation, thanks to a Republican conceding the reasonableness of the Democrat demand for a (short) FBI investigation, egged on by Democrats embarrassed by their own leaders’ manipulation of a fragile “human asset” in an obvious attempt at wrecking the nomination process. Sometimes it only takes one or two to admit that the other side has a point to break the log jam and find a solution.

    We’re not there yet on the climate front, because of course there’s no dialogue, and no forum for a dialogue. Roger Pielke’s intelligent observation might as well not exist, because no-one will quote it, examine it, or challenge it. Should it ever become common knowledge that Spiked! is an intelligent, popular leftwing news medium, the first line of attack from the rest of the British left will be that they publish climate contrarian articles by Ben Pile which quote US conservative academic Roger Pielke.


  25. A big victory for lefties was in equating conservative with evil and not getting laughed out if the room in disgust.
    That Tipursky is promoting this execrable pledge is not surprising when one considers that his focus of study was brainwashing kids to be reliable supporters of a totalitarian state.
    Good little Komsomol kids took lots of pledges.
    A kooky loser of a professor who studies how the Soviets ruined their youth wants to apply similar techniques to academia.
    Notice in the link how the Komsomol leaders knew they were promoting the *scientific* truth of socialism.
    Tyrants are apparently convinced of the scientific truth behind their tyrannies.


  26. from the link –

    Gleb states –

    “I learned much and improved myself from these activities, and so did my wife, Agnes Vishnevkin, an experienced nonprofit professional. Based on our mutual passion to share this knowledge broadly, we decided in the spring of 2014 to co-found a nonprofit, Intentional Insights (, dedicated to popularizing research-based strategies for improving our thinking, feeling and behavior patterns.

    Unfortunately, Agnes experienced a nervous breakdown in July 2014. At first, we did not realize its severity. We collaborated together to apply many of the research-based methods promoted by Intentional Insights to her mental health condition, and when she visited a therapist three weeks after her nervous breakdown, the therapist recommended keeping 90 percent of what we’d developed together for Agnes going, because it worked really well for her needs.”

    then adds

    “I found myself in a tough situation in the fall 2014 semester. I spent a great deal of attention and efforts to help Agnes along her way to improvement. I lost count of the many nights we stayed up until 5 a.m., talking through the issues she was experiencing, or with me simply holding her as she sobbed in my arms. I helped her with many daily life activities, such as getting food when she was too weak to walk. I took over the vast majority of our household activities, areas that she had managed previously. I knew I was doing the right thing for my wife and for our family, but this was an incredibly draining experience for me.

    I take great pride in my teaching and responsibility for the experience of my students, always striving to balance teaching them in a way concordant with the latest research in educational psychology while also helping them have a positive and satisfying experience conducive to their well-being. While maintaining my focus on teaching, I dropped some intended scholarly projects and some minor service commitments. I also took over the day-to-day operations of Intentional Insights, which Agnes had previously managed.”

    my heart goes out to the guy & his wife.

    but can’t help but wonder if they/he just pushed the workload a bit to far.


  27. Ref.. deferential.. gosh, different perspectives.. I wad just being polite and cautious because calling a total stranger on a contentious issue, who may have had some bad experience with other people. (Wierdly, I didn’t even remember making the call, such a long time ago) At the time, I would have thought i was being very patient with someone who lived in a science bubble and.was perhaps a bit naive. sorry no..Anyone that knows me, I think.would chuckle at that description (including a certain Theresa May, our meeting was an ‘experience’ I also tried and obviously failed to get her deselected) [Tamsin did give me a private heads up about her blog post]


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