The framing of the “contradictions” in Wonderland

alice-in-wonderland framing

In previous post I wrote about how skeptics were treated in a different way than the consensus scientists when it comes to how they have been cited. This post will build on that and I will demonstrate the mechanisms how skeptics were painted as having contradictory, incoherent beliefs. Not necessarily because that is true in reality, but because it was framed that way by the researchers who looked in a biased way to the skeptic position.

Let’s pick up with previous story in which there was the example of the statement “Future climate cannot be predicted”, which makes the suggestion that skeptics believe that any future climate at any time-scale can not be predicted.

However, the actual claim in the cited (newspaper) article was: “mathematical models can’t predict what the average global temperature will be in 100 years”. That is a completely different ball game and this generic “future climate can not be predicted” is not representative for the actual statement. In this case we saw that, when looking at their own example, there were two scientists who made observations, connected this with known cycles and made an extrapolation for the close future.

Using the generic “future climate can not be predicted” claim would indeed be contradictory with the prediction of a coming ice age, but in the example (that the authors provided themselves) there was no contradiction at all. The claim was about the predictive power of the mathematical model over 100 years, not about what could happen over the next decades on the basis of observations and known cycles.

When we look at the other examples in table 1, then we see the same principle coming back. The example statements were very generic and many, if not all, could be in agreement with each other, depending on the context they were used in. This makes this list basically useless for the purposes it was compiled.

Another of such an example is in the next row: “Greenhouse effect has been falsifed” sic. Probably they meant “falsified” (this typo was present in two places in table 1, probably a copy/paste issue). Anyway, the question is: what is the context of that statement? Does it mean that there is no greenhouse effect? Or that it is too small to have the assumed effect? Or that CO2 is less sensitive? Or … Some of them could perfectly coincide with “Water vapour is the most powerful greenhouse gas”. Depending on the context “Greenhouse effect has been falsified” can mean about anything and nowhere is explained in what context it was used.

Most of the examples in table 1 were copied from the skepticalscience website. That was quite interesting to see. Interesting because it was clear that this generic approach originated there and injected in this paper.

Additionally, skeptics, as well as alarmists, are a diverse bunch of people in all ranges of understanding the subject of Global Warming/Cimate Change. It is therefor very easy to make a list of contradicting statements of things being said by different people with different understanding of the matter. But, as I already said, it is not uniquely limited to skeptics. If we would compare the statement of Al Gore about Earth’s core temperature with those from a geologist, then these would also be contradicting statements…

That wouldn’t prove that the consensus position is incoherent, it is just an unfair comparison. But it is exactly this technique that has been used in this paper.

The paper went even further and compared statements from members of the public in newspapers with statements of consensus scientists in scientific journals. Combine this with the non-nuanced, generic statements without context and it is not difficult to understand that this would paint the skeptics as people that have incoherent beliefs and therefor contradict each other.

This is just framing. It would be just as easy to use newspaper clipping containing short-sighed statements from climate activists and compare them with scientific papers from skeptical scientists to then declare that the alarmist view is incoherent and contradictory.

This framing makes the paper inconclusive. They try to show that skeptic beliefs are incoherent and contradictory, but in fact it is not possible to know whether this comes from skeptic beliefs actually being incoherent or because they were framed that way.


3 thoughts on “The framing of the “contradictions” in Wonderland

  1. Barry Woods

    this the goal —

    leaked forum…. (where Plimer vs Plimer contradictoin wer discussed (20110

    Point of this article
    John Cook

    “Plimer is still around, having an influence. George Pell just posted a piece in The Australian, citing Plimer and is heavily influenced by him. I suspect many Aussie liberal politicians are still influenced by him. And he has a new book coming out targeted at children.

    My goal is primarily to discredit him, have him considered an unreliable source of information. And provide a resource (Plimer vs Plimer) for people to refer to whenever he rears his ugly head.” – Cook has nothing to do with sceicne.. the mistake is to treat this paper as science, worthY of rebuttal vs pure propaganda against an opponent, and a whole group of people that Cook opposes..

  2. DreadUK

    HI, I’m new here. Forgive me for the intrusion but the concept of your blog appeals to me. A site where laymen can try to understand what’s going on with climate change/global warming.

    Like some of you, I was around in the 70’s when the planet was supposedly destined for another ice age. Looking back, and to be fair to the global warming theory supporters, it was probably more media hype than anything else. A rogue scientific paper, perhaps, swooped on by journalist’s hungry for the next scoop.

    Interestingly, however, I was as skeptical of global cooling then, as I am of global warming now; and I suspect the media may have as much to do with the phenomenon now, as it did then.

    With that all said, I must declare I am not a scientist. I’m not even particularly well-educated, secondary school ‘O’ and ‘H’ grade qualifications before some years in the police, then starting a business career, specifically, sales and marketing. So I’m now an old geezer with no axe to grind with anyone, but with an abiding interest in the phenomenon of climate change.

    I must also declare that I am barely even a sceptic. I am open to persuasion that CO2 is 1) the villain of AGW and that, 2) Global warming is a bad/good thing.

    But my questions are simple. I pose them to laymen and, depending on their appreciation of the subject, which is usually minimal, their reactions are usually “Oh yea, I hadn’t thought of that”. If I pose them to the more ‘knowledgable’ amongst us, I’m usually met with the same, derision, or condemnation for being a heretic. The last is particularly true of the AGW supporting community who, short of making death threats, would rather I didn’t exist at all.

    My understanding is that CO2 is a trace gas. As far as I can gather, it forms a small proportion of all atmospheric greenhouse gases, my schoolboy science supportes that contention. However, I had to find a definitive answer to just how much actually exists in the atmosphere before I could draw my simplistic conclusions. The best I could come up with was this site (only because it explained things at my level)

    It’s an old site, but I believe the figures are reasonably accurate.

    So without going into too much detail, relative to other greenhouse gases, CO2 is, by any other scientific standard, inconsequential. Please correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding from the site in question is that CO2 is around 3.618% of greenhouse gases (Table 3) including water vapour.

    Move down to table 5 and it appears that man’s contribution to CO2 derived global warming is 0.117%. We are now approaching the realms of Homeopathy where ‘drugs’ are administered with the effective element being measured in Parts Per Million. I’m happy to believe they work, but ask a ‘conventional’ scientist about them and they are usually dismissed. But Co2 isn’t.

    So I went on another tack, only because I stumbled on this graph which illustrates a paleogeological trace of CO2 Vs temperature since around when the earth and it’s atmosphere was formed.

    Please ignore the rest of the site, it’s not relevant to my simple questions because it seems to be a sceptics view of AGW.

    Three things sprung out to me from this graph.

    1) The planet is, now, almost at the coldest point it has ever been in its history.
    2) Atmospheric CO2 seems to bear no relation to temperature.
    3) All the science on climate change and AGW seems to be based on the last 400,000 years of temperature/CO2 fluctuations. All ‘credible’ scientific sites like NASA etc. focus on that period, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

    If, when CO2 was at levels consistently approaching 4,000 ppm (as opposed to our current 400ppm), why wasn’t the planets temperatures through the roof? Assuming CO2 is the culprit of global warming.

    Has CO2 somehow, mysteriously, changed its chemical composition over the last 400,000 years, that changes its influence on the climate? I find that very difficult to believe. My abiding belief and understanding is that the earth, thanks to gravity (which is also barely understood) is a tennis ball, surrounded by a balloon of atmospheric gas which neither escapes, or is contributed to, by a sterile universe, catastrophic meteor strikes notwithstanding. Thanks to gravity, what we have, has been here for billions of years, unless, of course, the atmosphere has sprung a leak.

    Now, assuming, for a moment, that man’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 is as destructive as we are led to believe, my very crude calculations suggest that we are adding around 12ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, over the last 30 years. Not a lot really (we’re again into the realms of homeopathy) but I have been assured by AGW supporters that CO2 is cumulative.

    If that’s the case, by my, again, crude calculations, it appears we have added 360ppm to the atmosphere. Being that we were around 380ppm 30 years ago (and I am generalising here) atmospheric CO2 should be around 740ppm. But we are only at 400ppm.

    So where has all the CO2 gone? Evidently, the sea and plant life mop up all the extra we contribute and sequester it deep in the oceans for, perhaps, a catastrophic release of the stuff.

    But I don’t get why the sea and plant life would be precise enough to absorb almost precisely 11ppm every year whilst ignoring the bounty of the remaining 400ppm.

    And here’s a curve ball. Whilst scientists all delight in their successful measurement of every overland volcanic eruption and subsequent CO2 emission calculations, how many undersea eruptions are taking place? We are sitting on a ball of molten magma which has the self destructive desire to cool down in the face of a frozen universe. It is a conventional scientific fact that heat will be transferrd to cold, not the other way around.

    So the planet is on its way to global cooling, it is inevitable, it is a scientific fact, it is a natural phenomenom and it is utterly ignored, in my belief, by every climate scientist.

    Whether that makes a meaningful difference to the earths climate in the short term, I have no idea. But perhaps we should take global cooling more seriously than we do global warming.

    After all, if the earth’s temperature rises, vast tracts of the northern hemisphere will be released from the grip of frozen Tundra. Productive, fertile land across Russia and Canada (to name but two) available for agriculture.

    Will the equatorial regins then become barren, unproductive wastelands? Judging by the success of some existing areas, probably not. We can irrigate with flowing water, frozen water does not lend itself to free distribution. And with technology e.g. underground pipes to protect against evaporation, even lands threatened by GW can grow produce.

    On another note, it seems to me the value of polar regions lie more in their scientific historical records than they do in any meaningful humanitarian sense. They are barren, sterile and worthless to the human race. I assume they didn’t exist at all when the earth was considerably hotter. So what is their purpose?

    If they melt, what’s the worse that could happen? Sea levels rise? We lose coastline and cities? Seriously? Big deal. Our plantes history is littered with examples of cities engulfed by the sea, it’s a natural progression of the ebb and flow of our planets life.

    But it seems that’s what people are scared of, thanks to politicians, the media and people who have the belief that we can resist the sands of time.

    I won’t go into the political nor commercial mileage to be made from the GW community. I will, however, point out that naturally sequestered CO2, being burned as fossil fuel, releasing CO2 seems rather natural. Perhaps we should put our natural resources to better use rather than condemning a natural cycle in earth’s history.

    It’s late, I’m tired. Thanks for reading if you got ths far.

    1. trustyetverify Post author

      DreadUK, thanks for passing by and commenting

      My youth situated in the 1960s and 1970s and I also remember the “new ice age” scare in the 1970s. Unlike you, I believed it at face value back then. In the 1990s and almost the first decade into the millennium, I also believed that global warming was basically true (however I also believed that scientists were exaggerating it in order to get more attention from the media). It was only a coincidence that I looked into the matter late 2008 and slowly came to the conclusion that things were not exactly the way how they were reported. After another 4 year of study how it worked, I felt strong enough to create this blog and started blogging on the topic of climate communication. To my surprise I am still doing it now.

      CO2 is indeed a trace gas in the atmosphere, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t have an effect. There are substances in nature that have a large effect in minute amounts. Whether CO2 has such an effect is another story.


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