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A Wrong Parody of Climate Denial

From time to time we’ve had fun on this blog with the comical attempts of academics in sociology and psychology to understand, deal with, and convert to the true faith, “climate deniers”.  Here is a new classic of the genre, from the highly prestigious Stanford University.

The press release is Pathways to changing the minds of climate deniers, and the paper is Understanding and countering the motivated roots of climate change denial, published in a journal called Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

The press release starts off with

Want to sway the opinion of climate deniers? Start by acknowledging and respecting people’s beliefs.

Yes, that’s the way to do it, show them respect by referring to them as “climate deniers”!

The lead author of this work is, apparently, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi. At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole thing is a Sokal-style parody, ridiculing the idiocy of social psychology and the climate cult.

But no, like the feminist glaciology paper, this is real. Wong-Parodi does exist and has her own lab – though it does seem to have a bit of a diversity problem, and it isn’t clear whether the “lab” does much more than express its own opinions.

The press release continues with

However, the researchers found that those who deny human causes for climate change can be swayed through conversations that appeal to their different identities, reframe solutions – or even embrace their climate views.

“I think in the climate change sphere there’s this thinking of, ‘there’s the deniers over there, let’s just not even engage with them – it’s not worth it,’” said behavioral scientist Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, lead author of the paper published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability Jan. 8. “A lot of the tactics and strategies start from the point that something is wrong with the climate deniers, rather than trying to acknowledge that they have a belief and opinion and it matters. But I think there is an opportunity to keep trying to understand one another, especially now.”

Great. So what conversations did the researchers have with climate deniers? To what extent did Dr Wong-Parodi engage with them?  How did she try to understand them? What studies or surveys did they undertake?

The answer is — they did nothing at all. Zero engagement. Zilch.  All they did was read the literature, from the usual clueless suspects – Brulle, Dunlap, Maibach, McCright, Oreskes, etc, and regurgitate their conclusions. The abstract of the paper says

We draw largely on studies conducted in the United States, whose population is exceptionally high on climate denial and disengagement.

The press release and the paper show a nice example of psychological projection from the researchers, exhibiting their own obsession with identity politics. From the press release,

“I think we often forget that people can have many identities – there might be a political identity, but there is also an identity as a mother, or an identity as a friend or an identity as a student,” said Wong-Parodi, who is also a fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “You can elicit other identities when you’re talking about climate change that may be more effective.”

The paper has a whole section on identity, include such wisdom as

… people form opinions based not on facts or information, but on the need to affiliate with and be accepted by groups they identify with. Importantly, people also have strong group affiliations and identities based on their gender, race, ethnicity, and other personal or social facets of their lives, as well as a sense of identity with the environment. These identities can contribute to attitudes toward climate change, and be powerful drivers of connection, concern, and engagement.

Of course, anyone with an iota of understanding of the issue will be aware that it is the self-righteous, middle-class, modern-left climate activists who are driven by their identity and their group membership. A glance at their own twitter account shows their obsession with gender (or blatant sexism) which I’ve already alluded to.  Climate skeptics don’t have a group identity – we’re a random bunch of eccentric misfits with little in common at all, besides perhaps a healthy disrespect for authority and an ability to think for ourselves. Do any of you feel the “need to be accepted by groups you identify with”? Me neither. Our “group” includes a retired ex-pat magazine illustrator who campaigns for the Communist Party, a female animal rights campaigner, a nerdy maths lecturer, an Australian satirist… not much group identity there.

The paper claims that their approaches “provide insight into underlying psychological dynamics”. Well, it provides no insight whatsoever into climate scepticism, but it does provide insight into the muddled thinking and groupthink of the insulated echo chamber in which the authors live.

 

 

20 thoughts on “A Wrong Parody of Climate Denial

  1. Hmmmm….
    The identity of the lead author lives down to a name worthy of ‘The Daily Onion”. The writing is circular, trivial, derivative and self defeating as to be more of a parody. It reads like some theological school paper of the 19th century. It is as if Ms. Wong-Parodi is wriying about the pagan heathen of some remote tropical land. A land she has never been to, and whose people she never actually wishes to meet. She comes across as a naive bigot, declaring to her evangelism class her great love and understanding of the heathen she actually despises and has no desire to actually know.
    In the case of Ms. Wong-Parodi, she becomes the butt of a pointed own goal.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. While you are right that this research relies mainly on work done by others, they plainly do their own surveys in other cases.
    From the faceplant page:

    “Here’s Francisca, one of our PhD students, collecting data in #Maui. She surveyed both local residents and tourists to understand what motivates the protection of #CoralReefs and the coastal environment.”

    The importance of this kind of work can hardly be overestimated. We should probably all commit to replicating it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As per usual, these studies tell us far more about the authors than they do about their supposed subjects.

    In August 2019 Gabrielle Wong-Parodi took part in a forum of experts ostensibly discussing what motivates people about climate change:
    https://eos.org/articles/forum-explores-motivating-different-people-about-climate-change

    The following, from Brett Jenks, CEO of an organisation promoting “climate-smart solutions”:

    ‘There are a growing number of Republicans who know that climate change is happening and “would benefit from a very soft off-ramp—intellectually, socially, culturally—that would enable them to move forward with the herd to begin to address this challenge,” Jenks said, noting that people are “herd-like” and tribal and often don’t want to be left behind socially or morally.

    Jenks said that there are a few behaviors that individuals can take to make a personal difference about climate change, including reducing food waste, adopting a plant-rich diet, purchasing green energy, buying carbon offsets, and telling everybody what you are doing.

    Jenks’s sentiments were echoed by Margaret Walls, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.–based research institution that employs economic research and policy engagement to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions. “When we’re talking about climate, the climate problem, and mitigation and the changes we need people to make, we need everybody to be doing things,” she said.’

    So, don’t be awkward – stop questioning climate science and move with the herd! But be an individual. Be an individual in the herd.

    For some reason, this scene came to mind:

    Brian: “You’re all individuals!”

    Followers: “Yes, we’re all individuals!”

    Well, I’m not. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hilarious. Wong Parody writes paper beyond parody. I never knew that the US population was high on climate denial. Did you? Maybe some people are high on something but I don’t think it’s climate denial.

    Unbelievably condescending. Sceptics have a ‘belief’ so AGW ‘believers’ (in the truer sense of the word) should work hard at trying to respect their beliefs whilst appealing to their ‘other’ identities. Well I don’t know about you but I don’t have have any ‘other’ identities, do you? Thought not. We’re rounded human beings here who have a wide range of interests and opinions which necessarily diverge greatly from person to person, it being a very complex, big wide world and us having very different lives and personal experiences. But what we do not do, hopefully, is isolate our thoughts and opinions in other areas of our lives to create a separate ‘identity’ which might be appealed to in order for us to be welcomed into the Ninety Seven Percenter Climate Club!

    We also don’t need ‘climate denial’ as some sort of gel to create a group identity so we can feel part of something. We question the received wisdom of the climate science and climate action community on the basis that its conclusions, at times, seem highly questionable. That’s it. That’s why we find ourselves drawn together in one place – that and the fact that many ‘other’ places actively reject and censor our attempts to question the prevailing wisdom.

    So, another case of ‘mistaken identity’, wong parody, wong paradigm, I’m afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t see the article without forking out 31 dollars, but the abstract looks promising, beginning:

    “Action on climate change is currently minimal, and woefully inadequate…”

    If trillions of dollars constitute “minimal action,” what would “adequate” action look like?

    The “findings” as described in the press release, look identical to those found by Corner, Marshall &co at the British government-funded Climate Outreach Project. They do their research in India (“tailoring individual messages to non-smoking Sikhs and non-drinking Hindus”) and Cardiff (“200 respondents were interviewed, 90% of them 18-year-old female students of handsome, dynamic blue-wigged green activist Adam Corner”) whereas Wong Parodi relied on studies in the US. So it’s a case of scientific confirmation rather than plagiarism.

    They might like to contact Corner and his mates about their visual material, something the Outreach crowd has done a lot of work on. The group photo of the lab scientists has them half facing camera in order of descending height, like air hostesses or Miss World contestants, whiled Stanford Earth’s banner photo, repeated in their tweet about the study, shows a male from behind, hopelessly protecting his head with an umbrella while his genitals are underwater – a fitting symbol of our plight. (Well, not my plight, but the plight of your average denier.)

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  6. The elephant in the room is what makes social scientists with no professional skin in the climate game at all trip over themselves to write poorly thought out out crap like this?
    Lewandowsky, of course, sets the lowest bar for this genre of claptrap dressed up as science.
    Wong-Paordi’s self parody, however, works hard to find that low standard in her own way.
    She combines Lewandowsky’s manipulative arrogance with Kayho’es false charity and compassion.
    Note the use of defined terms, the shallow and derivative virtue signalling and the utter absence of actually finding “deniers” to talk to.
    She is intellectually no different from an South racist who dressed up their racism about African Americans with intellectual verbiage and faux scientific claims.
    As far as this paper is concerned, she is just a cheap poseur bigot hustling for grant money.

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  7. What they said:

    Understanding and countering the motivated roots of climate change denial

    What I read:

    Understanding and countering the motivated roots of heretical doctrines and practices

    Dr W.-P. could try having a coffee with an intelligent denier, maybe get a handle on why they think what they think. If she asked me, I’d say sommat like:

    “Hi, Doc! I’ll have a latte. No, not almond milk. Why am I a denier? Well, that’s your label, not mine, but I’m not ashamed to embrace it. Fact is, I accept that CO2 concentrations are increasing in the atmosphere and that it will get a bit warmer accordingly. I’m in the 97%, or 99%, or whatever the consensus is now. The predictions of doom though? Grossly exaggerated, and it seems like they’re getting more exaggerated every minute. Reminds me a lot of hellfire preaching – you know, it’s a psychological ploy, right? You’ve done a tad of psychology, haven’t you? Well, people change their behaviour if you give them a teeny-tiny punishment. But it has to be bam, instant. Like a slap when you reach for the cookie jar. If the promises of punishment are faaaaaar away, they have to be bigger. That’s why in hell they flay your skin off and glue it back on. Of course, you can try bringing the punishment nearer, but then you have the risk of all the failed predictions of doom we’ve already had. So that part of it is obviously cobblers, and no-one with a brain would believe it for a second. As to the proposed remedies in terms of cutting CO2 emissions, in almost all cases they are prescriptions that are worse than the disease, like giving yourself malaria to cure syphilis, or is it the other way around? Anyway, that’s all cobblers too. Ta for the drink. Must do this again soon.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Geoff, it is no surprise that the “findings” look identical to those of Corner and co – though in fact they don’t cite Corner. As stated in the article quoted by Alex “Jenks’s sentiments were echoed by Margaret Walls”.

    Papers that they do cite include:

    The dragons of inaction: psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation.

    Responding to Climate Change Skepticism and the Ideological Divide

    Promoting pro-environmental action in climate change deniers.

    The first two of these are themselves opinion/review articles! So this paper which the official Stanford twitter account describes as “new work” is largely a review of reviews.

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  9. Another thing the paper gets completely wrong is an entire section on “Social norms”:

    Another identity-related motivation is the need to align with the norms and standards of the groups one belongs to. Social norms are one of the most powerful means of influencing perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors towards contentious scientific topics, such as climate change. Social norms are rules or principles that specify which actions are required, permissible, or forbidden in a social group [35,36]. Injunctive norms are beliefs about behaviors that are approved of by the social group, whereas descriptive norms are beliefs about which behaviors group members typically engage in. People tend to adjust and align their behavior toward the norm in order to avoid social judgments or marginalization [37], and feelings of guilt and shame.

    Again, this is pure projection, and upside-down. What they’ve written applies to them, not us. The “social norm” on climate is to say that you are concerned about it. For example, virtually all MPs voted for the climate act, and virtually all say that they support a “net-zero” target. To be a sceptic you have to be prepared to un-align yourself from the social norm.

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  10. The acknowledgements section says:

    This work was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation (Grant #s DBI-1052875 and DBI-1639145).

    Yes, apparently this is “science”.

    You can look those grants up. The first is for $28M, the second a mere $18M.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I find this repetitive psychoburble hugely boring. Except for one thing. The $46m, as part of Geoff’s multiple trillions of ‘minimal action’. I want to know about the money and let every voter know about the money. My resolution for 2020. With the benefit of er, hindsight.

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  12. I once had an opportunity to help a social science researcher. Here is how that went:

    Christel · October 18, 2018
    Hi Ron, I would like to get in touch with you. I am a PhD researcher of Wageningen University. My email address is christel1.vaneck@wur.nl. Many thanks, Christel van Eck

    Ron Clutz · October 18, 2018
    Hi Christel, I see that you are a social scientist with a mission to help the IPCC push its agenda more persuasively. Despite having the commanding attention of most of mass media, politicians and celebrities, skepticism is increasing, and rightfully so.

    However, the problem with IPCC is not a failure to communicate. Rather, the organization itself is corrupted and its practices in need of radical reform. It will remain unbelievable so long as it ignores science and scientists with valid disagreements from “consensus” science.

    A good summary of what is wrong with IPCC, see About the IPCC http://climatechangereconsidered.org/about-the-ipcc/
    For examples of how IPCC has subverted rational and objective research into the climate system,
    See Rise and Fall of CAGW https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/rise-and-fall-of-cagw/
    and See Rise and Fall of the Modern Warming Spike https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/rise-and-fall-of-the-modern-warming-spike/
    Christel, you need to dig into the systematic perversion of science by IPCC in service of a political agenda. That is the real story hidden from the general population.

    I am still waiting for a response.

    Anyway, two wongs don’t it right.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ron C, the resulting paper by van Eck et al is fairly inoffensive as such things go.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378019302493

    Its first two sentences are a bit odd, though.

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” (IPCC, 2018). Indeed, the scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change has become stronger over the last decades.

    What’s that ‘Indeed’ doing there? I can’t make any sense of it at all.

    The likelihood that achieving a recent (stupid) target would cause massive societal damage is strengthened by a gradual strengthening over several decades of the scientific consensus that was (ab)used as justification for the recent (stupid) target?

    Gibberish, so that can’t be it.

    Answers on a postcard…

    ===
    Irrelevant footnote: The UK’s new XR-inspired, sort-of-sortition-based Climate Assembly will be advised by a panel of twelve academics. One of those twelve will be Benjamin ‘Bats are Birds’ Sovacool, an academic who has long been notorious for pulling numbers out of his bum.

    How did that happen? You’d almost think they wanted the thing to fail. (If you were a conspiracy theorist.)

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  14. Vinny, here’s a list of everyone in the Climate Assembly’s three “groups of experts”, including the academic panel of which Benjamin Sovacool is a member:
    https://networks.online/gphsn/news/1001954/expert-team-advise-citizens-assembly-climate-change

    Some familiar names amongst the “experts” – Greenpeace’s Doug Parr, for example. Googling a few of the others, it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that these are more like “groups of activists”.

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  15. Why aren’t cognitive psychologists and social scientists as interested in exploring the roots of motivated climate hysteria as they are in the roots of motivated climate denial?

    Here’s a classic textbook case of Climate Derangement Syndrome by Weather Proxy:

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  16. One reason might be because the psychologists themselves are succumbing to the same hysteria. For instance, here’s psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren:

    https://www.momscleanairforce.org/interview-lise-van-susteren-talks-mental-health-impacts-climate-change/

    “I am required by law, in all 50 states, to report evidence of child abuse in all its forms – physical, sexual, emotional, or by negligence. I have seen child abuse. I know it when I see it. I see it. I can say without the slightest hesitation that inaction on climate is both emotional abuse and it’s abuse from negligence – abandonment of our children. Reporting is mandatory.”

    Perhaps not the most helpful frame of mind…

    Like

  17. @Paul

    “You can look those grants up. The first is for $28M, the second a mere $18M”

    $46M !!! – from your link

    This award establishes a new environmental synthesis center that will stimulate research, education, and outreach at the interface of the natural and social sciences in order to develop novel and effective solutions to global environmental challenges. The center’s founding plan requires mutual engagement of social and natural scientists in a facilitated process that leads to joint refinement of synthesis projects and the framing of questions that transcend disciplinary boundaries. This plan is grounded in four key goals: the creation of new coalitions; learning at all levels; expansion and improvement of the synthesis process; and creation of a flexible, adaptive institution. These goals will be achieved through community-driven activities that encourage diverse methods of collaboration including distributed interactions, the use of social media to consolidate collective knowledge from a broad constituency, data visualization, and design charrettes. Through engagement of multiple disciplines in innovative activities, the center promises a fundamental reorganization in how synthesis is accomplished and put into practice.”

    if I was young & looking for a job with prospects can you guess where I might go?

    from an old engineer.

    Like

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