Getting a Temperature Reading on Climate Change Politics


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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202 Responses

  1. Avatar Jack Wolf says:

    Obviously you don’t get how dangerous this is since you consider it a “litmus-test political issue”.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      So, is that a vote for criminalization?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        No. But it puts the appropriate context to the argument that it should and makes it sound less bat-shit crazy when taken out of context. I mean, for lots of people the science behind AGW is settled, and the predictions of its consequences go from alarming to catastrophic. So for folks who think this way are taking the evidence and predictions seriously is a moral imperative. So I agree with Jack that you’re making a fundamental error when you reduce belief in AGW to a litmus test. I mean, you can think of it that way if you want to, but only if you yourself reject that the evidence is relevant.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Hmmm. Maybe; I’m not sure, though.

        I do absolutely agree that climate change science is not a political litmus test. It’s science; moreover, it’s science that has pretty close to universal consensus amongst the scientific community — especially those branches of science that are most relevant.

        But the political issue of climate change? I’m not convinced that it isn’t a litmus test. I tend to think that it is.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But the political issue of climate change? I’m not convinced that it isn’t a litmus test. I tend to think that it is.

        But again, only by denying that the evidence is relevant to people’s political beliefs.

        (Dude, I’ve said it before, but I think you’re really searching for evidence to fit a theory in all this. But we’ll see, eh?)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Does “litmus test” really discount or contraindicate “moral imperative”? I assume it means “requirement to get me to support you” regardless of the merits of the case but not at all indicating that it is anything less than serious. At least to the speaker, the indication are that it is considered an issue of great significance.

        By way of example, when doing a search on the term to see if my understanding of it was wrong, on the first page was this editorial by the Washington post referring to a litmus test for supporting gay marriage, very much dressed in “moral imperative” clothing.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        This would resonate with me more if I hadn’t just seen Pielke savaged for being a man-made climate believer who disagreed with a single economic measurement.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        If that was to me Tod, I’m gonna reserve judgment on Peilke a bit, even since James’ comments clarifying his actual views (ie, that he’s not a denier). As I’ve read more about it, there seems to be enough disagreement about his views that I don’t think it reduces to litmus tests. I think there’s substantive differences going on there, myself.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        That above comment to Still, obviously.

        Will: I do not believe I have come across “contraindicate” before and had to look it up. Awesome word, thanks for the introduction.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I do not believe I have come across “contraindicate” before and had to look it up.

        I expect you’d have known it if you were married to a doctor.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Heh. The exact same thing occurred to me as I was reading the definition.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        a litmus test for supporting gay marriage

        Obviously, supporting SSM is blue and opposing it is red. So being pro-SSM is basic.Report

      • Man, it was such a perfect comment, you should have just closed the comments section after it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Also, it’s basic that we should all root for the Tigers, because of Al Kaline.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Tod: “And although it’s tempting to add this data point somewhat forcefully to either my Right Path or Ideology Is the Enemy series, it seems a bit premature. ”

        No, not by your previous standards. One professor + one (online) tabloid writer makes a mass movement, does it not?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Tod, here’s a response to Pielke’s inaugural climate change piece at 538. FWIW!

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      The problem with criminalizing speech is that this becomes a double-edge sword.

      This is what happened in the early Republic and during WWI with the Alien and Sedition Acts. The only way to protect your speech is to protect the speech that you hate.

      You can have free speech or you can have no speech. You can’t have “Freedom of Speech for me but not for thee.”Report

      • Avatar Neil Obstat says:

        I would advocate for criminalization of the concept of unfettered money under the false flag of free speech in regard to Climate change denial , or (fill in hotbutton issue here).

        But I believe that would require a couple of high court decision reversals.Report

  2. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I think they are idiots who don’t understand free speech and what a dangerous double-edged sword they are creating.

    This is the biggest problem with civil liberties, people don’t seem to understand what can be done to your enemies can also be done to you.

    Today we jail climate change deniers. Tomorrow we will jail NSA and Drug War critics.

    My theory is that the Internet can often work as the unrestrained ID of people. Gawker is the channel of the unrestrained ID of the left along with For every valuable thing they publish like the letters from Death Row or the letters from the long-term unemployed or pushing the Rob Ford thing or exposing ViolentAcrz, they publish at least 10 “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore rants.”

    On the internet, everyone can be Howard Beale.

    It is hard to tell how serious Gawker or the RIT guy is (I imagine the RIT guy is more serious) but I will be charitable and say they are voicing their frustrations and climate change people have a lot of frustrations because no one seems to listen.Report

    • Avatar James K says:


      I strongly agree. There’s a certain kind of person who finds it impossible to understand that they won’t be the ones deciding who this new power gets used on.

      I honestly don’t know how to improve education on this point. Even teaching people the merits of civil rights seems to just induce a superficial allegiance to the concept.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I’m going to seize this opportunity to agree with New Dealer on every point he raised. I’d also double down on these people being idiots part.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      This is the biggest problem with civil liberties, people don’t seem to understand what can be done to your enemies can also be done to you

      This, a thousand times this. These are people who know and care a great deal about a particular set of issues, but spend little time thinking about political dynamics or about the power of precedent. They unwisely think that there is some mechanism by which we can ban only bad things, rather than things a critical mass of people think are bad.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        @jm3z-aitch : “They unwisely think that there is some mechanism by which we can ban only bad things, rather than things a critical mass of people think are bad.

        And yet we have plenty of instances where “you know it when you see it” laws restricting civil-liberties are the best we can do and those laws continue to stay narrowly defined. Child-pornography laws, for example, can lead to banning books the majority doesn’t like; regulations against false-advertising can lead to banning political ads the majority doesn’t like; etc. So I think it’s presumptuous to assume that decades of legal and ethical debate has lead to these laws only because the people involved were too ignorant to think about the power of the precedent. The more likely explanation is that our society has chosen to accept a certain risk of abuse and place their trust in the judiciary in exchange for laws that are flexible enough to work most of the time and with significant safe-guards when they fail.

        A relevant question is weather the historical record shows that these types of “benevolent” encroachments on civil-liberties necessarily converge to egregious laws. In the case of extremes – Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Kim Il-Sung, Khomeini, etc. – their rise was not preceded by a gradual curtailing of civil-liberties (often the opposite) nor were their actions justified by “benevolent” laws in the past. They simply swept into power with full-throated support of authoritarianism and clamped down on civil liberties without needing any liberal cover. On the other side of the spectrum, many countries have regulations banning denial of genocide (as was pointed out up-thread) and yet, as far as I’m aware, this has not exploded into rampant prohibition of unpopular minority opinions. On average, when people attempt to ban only bad things, how often does this lead to the banning of things a critical mass of people think are bad (that are not, in fact, bad)?Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I’m giving my 2 cents to Saul here.Report

  3. Avatar Griff says:

    While we’re at it, let’s also jail everyone who isn’t sufficiently outspoken about supporting the proposal to criminalize climate change denial.Report

    • Avatar Griff says:

      Also, everyone who doesn’t drive a Prius should be sent to jail. And prisons should have to get all their electricity from windmills and inmate treadmills.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      And while we are at that…

      Let’s also jail all those exaggerating global warming and making it into catastrophic fear mongering. Then we can jail those who try to use it for an excuse for political power and control to justify master planning of humanity and of the global thermostat.

      If we jail everyone on the far right and the far left….Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I will note that it was filed under rants so I will use that as evidence for my unrestrained ID theory.

    The issue with environmentalists is that they treat a lot of things as sacred goods as our James K said once and this makes it hard for them to compromise. They want everyone to consume less but won’t say how much and are always seemingly willing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Climate Change is a serious issue but the environmental movement needs to stop being doom and gloom Malthusians and starting coming up with equitable solutions. Composting everywhere could help and I would support it. I’d support a ban on plastic bottles. We also need more public transport, etc.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “I will note that it was filed under rants so I will use that as evidence for my unrestrained ID theory.”

      Yeah, but a quick glance shows the guy also files under “Rants” his countering of the lie that Obamacare will cast 2 mil jobs and talking about Scott Walker’s voting for Reagan canard, but not his “The Theme Song for Sarah Palin’s New Show Sounds Like Nickelback Puked” post.

      So I don’t know how much that really means.Report

  5. Avatar Don Zeko says:

    I’m genuinely shocked that this argument is being made. To describe it is to refute it, if one has any commitment to the value of free speech at all.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      I must not believe my prior comment, because I have a question for the proponents of this stupid idea. If you’re frustrated with the lack of political will to do something about climate change, how is the same Congress that won’t pass Cap-and-Trade going to pass this (obviously unconstitutional) ban? This proposal has the appeal of being even more politically impossible than simply dealing with the problem, while not actually accomplishing anything.Report

      • Avatar Caleb says:

        This is a very good point.

        It also helps “global warming is a naked power grab” conspiracy theorists sell their narrative. Not very politically astute…Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    This is a remarkably dumb idea and will work just as well as outlawing Holocaust denial. That is to say not very well. Climate change deniers will just go underground and see the outlawing of climate change denial as evidence as they are right and that the truth is being suppressed. You don’t outlaw ideas even incredibly idiotic or evil ideas. Everybody has freedom of speech.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Just about the only place where there are significant majorities against the criminalisation of holocaust denial is the US. They may in fact be wrong (and I tend to think so too), but outside of America, it is not obvious that they are.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I can see an argument that in Germany holocaust denial should be illegal. To deny their history, however ugly, would be running a risk of repeat and making them essentially an accessory after the fact of the crime.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Iran too.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        True but it ends up leading to situations like this:

        And the whole situation in France with Dieudonné M’bala M’bala who is a Holocaust denier and everyone knows it.

        I don’t see how the bans exactly help and I say this as a Jewish person.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I’m not saying the bans a correct (apologies if it came across that way). I’m saying that outside of America, it is not clear to everyone else that the bans a wrong. Just about every other place in the world has a more relaxed attitude towards censorship than Americans do. Now, this does not mean that the rest of the world is right about this. In fact I don’t think they are. But that makes me a radical in pretty much everywhere in the world except the US. Americans have very huge priors about the appropriateness of censorship. And this prior is conditioned by how first amendment jurisprudence took shape.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @murali, this is a relatively new development. Before the 1960s, the First Amendment received a more limited reading. Anthony Comstock was American and moral panics over various things like comic books, music, and movies are as American as apple pie. Its just that in the 1960s, the Supreme Court and other courts decided to give the First Amendment a wider interpretation than they previously did.

        Like ND said, censorship, especially in the form of hate speech laws does not work. The haters always seem to find a way around them. Sometimes glaringly and obviously so. The quenelle movement is a good example of this.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I agree that they don’t work, but their lack of workability hasn’t stopped governments everywhere else from pursuing them. It would seem odd (i.e. highly questionable) to attribute the prevalence of anti-censorship attitudes in America to its correctness when correctness has not effected similar attitudes elsewhere.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        their lack of workability hasn’t stopped governments everywhere else from pursuing them.

        Reason 72 why we’re libertarians, no?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Australia’s anti-free-speech laws don’t actually help matter either. They just result in Australia banning useful people from entering its turf.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe says:

    The actual most illiberal thing about Weinstein’s argument is that is actively argues for inequality under the law; bringing back (formally) class-based justice that was the norm in the pre-Enlightenment era.Report

  8. Avatar Caleb says:

    It’s quickly becoming a rule-of-thumb that anyone who quotes Justice Holmes’ ‘fire in a theater’ dicta will then proceed to show that they are a mendacious, censorious twit who has no understanding of the First Amendment.

    Ken White does a thorough and entertaining job of explaining why that particular pernicious quote needs to be burried:

  9. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I think Weinstein is either dangerously ignorant on free speech or is trolling for hits, but I’m curious about this portion of Tod’s post:

    And should we limit this type of “for-the-betterment-of-soceity” criminalization at the borders of climate science, or is it worth looking further to other anti-science beliefs that have a dangerously detrimental effect — say, the anti-vacciine crowd, or the circumcision-to-control-AIDS crowd?

    Is it not already illegal for a doctor to knowingly provide misinformation to a patient? And doesn’t this already extend to speech in other fields: a contractor who lies about the safety of a building; a fireman who lies about the danger of a fire; an ordinary businessman who hears about a bomb-plot at a major landmarks and doesn’t report it. We already have public safety exceptions to free speech, and it seems to me that Torcello – at least – is arguing that the impact of global warming on public safety is now so conclusive as to qualify. Summarizing this argument as “jailing people who disagree with you” seems glib.

    Thinking about it another way, do you believe that the Tobacco Master Settlement was an egregious free speech violation against the people running the Tobacco Institute, the Center for Indoor Air Research, etc.? If it were demonstrated that burning fossil fuels contributed to global warming that lead to deaths (epidemiologically speaking); and the oil industry had bankrolled scientists that willfully spread misinformation about this connection, would you be against a similar lawsuit against oil companies?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      As to your first question: You’d need to double check with Russell, but I do not believe that it is illegal for a physician to recommend against vaccinating because he or she thinks there is a link to autism. And there certainly isn’t a law against public figures doing so.

      As to the second: Absolutely. In fact, I would argue that even if you couldn’t prove that it lead directly to deaths (which I believe would be a really, really high bar with something like this), there should be punitive amounts that could be gotten through a lawsuit.Report

      • Just within the past day or so, Mother Jones published a (skeptical) interview with a vaccine-delaying-autism-linking pediatrician. (My fingers can barely stand to type those words in that order.) She’s also into homeopathy, which tells you all you really need to know about her.

        It is perfectly legal to be vaccine-denying medical provider. The medical establishment allows for all manner of quakery, and it takes a great deal of outright fraud or incompetence to actually cross into legally actionable territory.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        @russell-saunders “It is perfectly legal to be vaccine-denying medical provider. The medical establishment allows for all manner of quakery, and it takes a great deal of outright fraud or incompetence to actually cross into legally actionable territory.

        I guess I’ve been very naive about medical licensing but this came as a complete surprise to me. I honestly can’t believe that a physician can be hit with negligence for accidentally looking at the wrong chart prior to a surgery but not for providing unscientific medical advice. Is the pediatrician you referenced getting away with it because of weasel words, or can she explicitly say “The science is 100% settled, vaccines cause autism, never get vaccinated” and still maintain her medical license? Can a homeopathist freely tell his patient to take a lethal dose of arsenic to deal with food poisoning (“like cures like!”)? Is there any honestly held but misinformed proscription that crosses into actionable negligence territory?Report

      • @trizzlor Without straying too far into legal expertise, which is outside of my ambit, in order for a license to be revoked or a legal case to be filed you’d need:

        1) Harm done. No matter the level of quackery, if there is no actual physical or financial harm you can prove, no case
        2) Fraud. Claiming something will work while knowing it will not. That provides a lot of wiggle room for idiots who believe in what they’re selling.

        I could see a case going forward if a child died of measles or suffered irreparable neurological damage as a result, and the doctor told parents the vaccine would not prevent the infection. Maybe a vaccine skeptic who oversold the (non-existent) threat of autism could face a legal claim, but my understanding is that there’s enough crap out there to give them something to stand on. But it would, in my legal lay opinion, be hard to prove.

        Action via a board of licensure usually tends to be more inappropriate behavior-related than woo-related. Keep in mind, these parents are usually all too pleased with their fellow traveler “doctors,” and the first step would be filing a complaint.

        Would I support making vaccine-denial an impediment to licensure? Perhaps, though I’m sure that would be a burr under the saddle of my libertarian friends who consider licensure a rent-seeking cartel in the first place.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Good comment trizz!Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @trizzlor Digging a bit further into your second paragraph, because I think these are excellent enough points that they should be addressed:

      There is a material difference between a pundit or politician who rejects climate science and your other examples.

      A builder who whose building falls apart or catches fire due to negligence on his part is directly liable for their own actions; whether or not they “believed” or “knew” that those things would occur does not enter into their liability. They are experts in a particular profession, and are expected to know. Someone waking by the building as it’s being built who thinks it is being built poorly is actually not legally liable for the building’s performance if they do not attempt to stop operations, even if they themselves happen to be a professional builder.

      Do we hold people who were suspicious of someone who set off a bomb later criminally liable if that person didn’t act? I want to say that we don’t, but since you brought it up I’m now wondering, is there something in the Patriot Act that allows for that? I’m certainly not aware of any cases where someone has been prosecuted for “should-have-reported.”

      That leaves fraud — and we certainly do hold that builder liable for fraud as well as negligence, but we only do so if we can prove that the builder knowingly and willfully conspired to mislead the public; we don’t charge people with fraud just because we think they should have known something was false.

      Pundits and politicians are an entirely different matter, though. We do not make them liable for being wrong (except that they might lose their job, of course). Nor can we do so, really. The assumption we have always operated with those professions on is “buyer beware.” We could change that, I suppose, but I wonder what that would look like.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        Thanks for unpacking this, Tod. I implicitly tailored my examples towards experts (where the argument is easier) but I absolutely agree that pundits and pols are in a different position. It gets a bit dicey if a company that’s committing fraudulent activity lends financial support to a pundit for propping up their claims. But I would say that the liability should rest almost entirely with the company, just because the alternative is so hard to get right.

        My charitable read on Weinstein (or more likely his supporters) is that they are seeing this as an eminent/ongoing terrorist attack being denied. I imagine that in a scenario where somebody is absolutely certain that an attack is going to happen and actively encourages people to attend the site (say they have a personal profit motive) they would be charged as a co-conspirator, and Weinstein wants the same for global warming denialists.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        “That leaves fraud — and we certainly do hold that builder liable for fraud as well as negligence, but we only do so if we can prove that the builder knowingly and willfully conspired to mislead the public; we don’t charge people with fraud just because we think they should have known something was false.”

        This is not quite true. The common-law tort of fraud (also known as “deceit”) is generally considered to not require an element of “intent to deceive”, but rather of mere “recklessness” as to the truth of the representation:

        “Thus courts often say that a deceit plaintiff must show, inter alia, that the defendant made a misrepresentation and that she intended to deceive the plaintiff. See RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 552 (1977). In practice, however, courts rarely insist on separate proof of an intent to deceive. It is usually enough to show that the defendant knew that her statement did not accord with the facts, or that she was recklessly indifferent to its truth.”

        There are lots of cases where reckless disregard for the truth of a statement was held sufficient to find liability for fraud. This view is even codified in certain areas (such as securities fraud) where the elements of fraud are statutorily spelled-out but do not include an element of intent to deceive.

        However, there is still a problem with using this tort to thwack AGW-deniers: Any plaintiff would need to prove that they relied on the misrepresentation and were thereby harmed. Given the diffuse nature of most of AGW’s harms, the typical Fox News viewer would not be a good plaintiff to assert such a tort claim, because the element of causation would be difficult to prove. However, it is not impossible to conceive of unusual scenarios where a viewer would in fact be able to show causation, and if they were able to do so, there would be no direct legal impediment to their bringing a claim of fraud.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @robert-greer Great add & clarification. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Only a libertarian would find false speech for the purpose of Fraud to be more worth prosecuting than False Speech in the active pursuit of genocide.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Anyone who pays cash for an (otherwise unbuyable) house in a flood plain would be able to show active harm, particularly if they don’t buy flood insurance because they don’t believe the revised maps.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        Where’ve you been? Good to see you back.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:


        I took a break from Internet commenting to focus on law school and the bar. Thanks for the welcome! It’s nice to have more free time for this stuff.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @robert-greer Oh, have you not been reading Burt’s posts on law school?

        Commenting here is a much better use of your time. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        @tod-kelly Too late!!Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Dude, you could have been making a good use of your time, say hookers and blow, but no, you had to waste it on law school.Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    Going back to Torcello’s original suggestion, I find this, which is not quite the same thing as outlawing climate-change denials:

    Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists.

    My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.

    So my question is this: If a company — say one with an herbalife style business model, with ‘natural products’ that are supposed to prevent or treat measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio, etc. — was found to be funding an ongoing antivaxer campaign, would that be ‘free speech,’ or harm?

    I’m not sure that I agree with the suggestion; but I at least think it’s worth putting forth honestly — a suggestion to hold well-funded propagandists responsible for potential harm instead of letting them get away with fleecing customers (as the tobacco industry did for decades) about the dangers of their products, not necessarily outlawing specific kind of speech so much as outlawing purposely misleading and deceitful speech, orchestrated over time, when you’ve got a financial benefit from the deception.Report

    • I might, in cases where a harm can be shown to have been caused directly and knowingly by the speech, be willing to allow for civil suits from the damaged parties. (And even then, I’m not sure what the lines should be.)

      I wouldn’t criminalize is.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        So it’s okay to promote disinformation that causes known harm for profit, so long as this is done under the guise of freedom of speech?Report

      • No, it’s not okay. But it ought not be a crime. And I’m open in some cases to making it actionable as a matter of civil law.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “So it’s okay to promote disinformation that causes known harm for profit, so long as this is done under the guise of freedom of speech?”

        I understand the instinct to criminalize it, actually. I do think that, practically speaking, our entire government would become one long battle of what policies did and didn’t harm who, and who profited from those policies.

        The underlying problem isn’t ever the pols and the pundits, I would argue. Sheesh, who at this point puts any credit in those in TV, radio, and politics who deny climate change, with everything else they say.

        The underlying problem is that at the end of the day, people are OK with being fooled.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @tod-kelly my issue with this post:
        The underlying problem isn’t ever the pols and the pundits, I would argue. Sheesh, who at this point puts any credit in those in TV, radio, and politics who deny climate change, with everything else they say.

        My read on the original suggestion wasn’t about pols and pundits, though Weinstein’s piece is poorly enough written that this isn’t as obvious.

        Like I said, the post is a arguing with a straw man; not the original suggestion.

        And I have the same qualms about the original as everyone else; but it was not a ‘lock the deniers up’ call.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @zic I’m not exactly sure how this post straw-manned Weinstein.

        I noted in my first paragraph that he wasn’t looking to lock all all deniers, only those in the public eye; then I let the majority of my post be his description of who should be jailed and why. Calling that straw manning Weinstein seems odd.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I was, in some part, going back to the original post, which actually says (I’ll quote it again): Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour.

        This does not suggest pols and politicians and those who speak publicly denying climate change are committing a crime, the crime’s the junk science and misleading rhetoric, provided by those funding climate denial campaigns that the bobble-headed rhetoric rests upon.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I apologize. Weinstein’s post is suggseting a 1st Amendment violation.

        But I don not feel that way about the original argument from Torcello; which is what I am trying to at least say deserves thought. I don’t know if it’s also a violation, but it’s much more subtle than locking Rush up for being an a$$hat.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @zic I agree, or at least up to a point.

        As I said above (or maybe below? I get lost) to @trizzlor , I actually think if you can prove that various interests cooked books (a la Phillip Morris) that have led to either harm or public policy changes/non-changes, than I say fair game.

        My problem with Torcello’s piece is that he think he skips too many steps.

        For one thing, he falls into what I’ve come to think of as the Van Dyke Fallacy: The only options are that you are not smart enough to know I”m right, or you are a sophist — and since you are smart, you are by definition a sophist.” I think most of us (I’m including myself here) too often assume that of course EVERYONE knows man-made climate change is obviously true, so if you don’t buy it you must be lying. I think we’re more often than not wrong about this.

        But the other thing is that, as I’ve said elsewhere, I have the unpopular opinion that the real villains about lack of public policy change when it comes to CC isn’t the denialists; it’s us.

        We use denialists on air to make us feel better about being comfortable. Or we prop up CC-believer politicians that tell us all we need to do is make slight changes/punishments to a few unpopular industries and all will be well — *we* need not be inconvenienced at all. So the thought of jailing any number of people who “made us” not do something we really were never going to do anyway doesn’t feel much like justice to me, so much as one more thing we can do to feel better about ourselves while we continue to live our lives unhampered by change we ain’t really interested in making.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        “So it’s okay to promote disinformation that causes known harm for profit, so long as this is done under the guise of freedom of speech?”

        1. We already have a problem with mass incarceration in the United States. Calls for more criminalization and more jailing isn’t going to stop this. The fact that liberals can easily call for more criminalization just shows that we might all just be too punitive as Americans. We need to think of ways of solving problems and disagreements that don’t involve criminalization.

        2. Climate Change is easy but there are more motives than profit. Environmentalists say we need to consume less but they won’t tell us how much less and how many people really want to change their way of life. If environmentalists offered solutions and alternatives and real things to do except “consume less” which is vague. People might listen more. Also the US is not alone in being bad for climate change. All things considered we are okayish on this front. The real nations to worry about are developing ones who cry foul at things like the Kyoto Protocol because they want to catch up with the Industrialized West.

        3. How do we determine misinformation in more gray areas and those areas exist? It is not always easy to determine this in political debates.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Or, you know, you could Do Something Today:

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’d tailor my suggestions to where people are at.
        You’re in a state with a severe drought. Buy one of those toto “nearly waterless” toilets.
        Other folks just need to “weatherize” their houses… (not recommending that nearly as strongly in bloody San Fran, with your gorgeous weather — yes, I’m jealous!)
        I want people off the bloody flood plains, NOW, before we pay more money to rebuild them.
        I want more public transportation, and less transportation period.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        We should be more careful here than to conflate Weinstein’s generic proposal with “criminalizing” dissent from the AGW mainstream. Fraud can be a crime, but it can also be a simple tort, not requiring jail time but instead just payments of damages. Under the latter framework, people can say what they want without fear of the government locking them up (or edging too closely to prior restraint), but if others are harmed as a result, then the purveyors can still be held to account by plaintiffs in the civil court system.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        Who decides when the science is solid enough and/or the issue is important enough to legitimate punishing dissenters?

        Do you trust them with that power?Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        Who decides when the science is solid enough and/or the issue is important enough to legitimate punishing dissenters?

        I thought I’d personally appoint you Bad-Science Czar.

        Do you trust them with that power?

        Hell no.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        I thought I’d personally appoint you Bad-Science Czar.

        I thought Patrick had that job.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        I’m like Gandalf and Dumbledore; don’t trust me with power.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I’d have picked Tom Bombadil; with Johanna as Goldberry.Report

    • That’s still clearly viewpoint discrimination, and no less a violation of free speech whatever one thinks of Citizens United.Report

  11. Avatar veronica dire says:

    Before we dig into this, is anyone anywhere taking these dudes seriously, or are these a couple ranting weirdos who don’t even have Wikipedia pages? I mean, what I am asking is should we give these jokers any more attention than we give Timecube?

    Okay, I see folks on the right will play this up, fodder for the Fox masses, but will these opinions ever be voiced by a (for example) Democratic senatorial candidate, or a “top shelf” journalists, or really anyone of note?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      This seems relevant:

      Over 56 percent — 130 members — of the current Republican caucus in the House of Representatives deny the basic tenets of climate science. 65 percent (30 members) of the Senate Republican caucus also deny climate change.

      90 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny climate change
      17 out of 22 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 77 percent, are climate deniers
      22 out of 30 Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, or 73 percent deny the reality of climate change
      100 percent of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans have said climate change is not happening or that humans do not cause it

    • Avatar North says:

      Yes it definitely bears asserting that unless the left-o-sphere actually rallies to these guys defense their idiotic opinions do not characterize the general opinion on the left.Report

  12. Avatar Cathy says:

    This is a terrible idea. Not only because free speech is more important than that, and law like this swing back around like a boomerang on their creators eventually, but also because it wouldn’t even work.

    I presume the idea behind banning such speech from public figures is that if you take away the megaphone the idea will diminish in credibility and support, as Joe the Plumber gets information from other sources to replace it. But this is not what would happen, at all. Take Rush; if the Democrats passed a law (because the Republicans never would) to the effect that denying climate change was illegal and anyone who did so would go to jail, Rush would go to jail. Or if not him specifically, someone of that ilk would, in protest. The Streisand effect on a national scale is what would result from this; twitter use up 138% in Turkey, etc.

    Everyone wants to read banned books.Report

  13. Avatar zic says:

    Okay, so almost every comment on this thread is a response to ‘outlaw climate-change deniers,” which is a straw man.

    Just sayin’Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      We’re responding to the question Tod specifically asked, zic.Report

    • Maybe “outlaw climate change deniers” is a straw man, but the following argument doesn’t appear to be a straw man and is not much better:

      “Outlaw climate change deniers who make a lot of money doing it and who are influential in their denial.” For good measure, we can add “and who are not bona fide scientists because only scientists ought to question the truth of a scientific consensus as part of their duty [privilege?] to ‘constantly hypo-test our existing assumptions about the world in order to check their accuracy'”

      At least that’s what I get from Weinstein’s argument. Maybe as someone else suggested here, Tocello is arguing something a bit more nuanced.

      So the idiot on the street is not going to be rounded up and imprisoned. But if he comes into some money, and decides to print flyers and buy TV and radio ads to promote his views, then he can be arrested. And then if it’s shown he’s insincere and doing it just because it will somehow get him more money, then we can keep him in jail longer.

      Or if a scientist is just testing a hypo because that’s how the scientific method works, he or she might first have to show their science card and perhaps tag an asterisk to the hypo saying “for fact-checking purposes only….because we already know the answer.”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “Or if a scientist is just testing a hypo because that’s how the scientific method works, he or she might first have to show their science card and perhaps tag an asterisk to the hypo saying “for fact-checking purposes only….because we already know the answer.””

        Actually, Weinstein advocates making allowances for scientists trying to test the accuracy of previous findings.Report

      • I know and that’s part of my objection. Presumably one has to be a bona fide scientist and, Weinstein might hope, clearly say that they’re only testing a hypo. To me that introduces a degree of credentialism required in order to engage in a certain type of speech.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I think ExxonSecrets does a good enough job of skewering the skeptics.
        *disclaimer: I am biased*Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I know and that’s part of my objection. Presumably one has to be a bona fide scientist

        As Kolohe said above, it brings back “class based justice.”Report

  14. Avatar greginak says:

    Jumping Jehoshaphat Weinstein is a mucking foron.Report

  15. From the Knox trial, the Italian justice system seems like a literal Kafkafest, and therefore I’m not sure that saying “Italy does it too” is an argument in favor of anything.

    Now, part of Weinstein’s and Tocello’s argument–and the part that’s supposedly illustrated by the Italian example–is that people in charge, whose job it is to speak up or whose job it is to know and implement the consensus view of science, can and should be punished for not doing their job. But that’s really not an issue of speech so much as it’s an issue of actions: state actors who are charged with doing something and who don’t do it or do it poorly and in a way that has already been decided is criminal ought to be punished accordingly.

    I think manslaughter is a bit much, as there appear to be a few more degrees of separation from the act and the consequence. And I’m not sure it was exactly settled law that a manslaughter charge could result from such failure of professional duties (if that is actually what happened). And finally, I have a hard time seeing those convictions as anything other than the need to find a scapegoat. But then, I don’t know all the facts.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I agree with Trizzlor up above. I think the guy is trolling for hits.

    With regards to climate change though I think the issue is far more murky than other areas of science. We know climate change is happening and we know that humans are doing some major things to the earth and there is a likely connection but there is still a LOT of disagreement on the specifics even among those who agree on the broad points.

    While I would never advocate jailing anyone for their opinions, no matter what their position, I see far more harm being done by those who promote ID in schools. I think there is some real space for legal challenge there.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      I agree with that last part. That’s real harm, it seems to me. i had a friend in grad school who thought teaching children YEC constitutes a form of child abuse. I’m not at all sure he was wrong.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Regarding ID and climate change denial: I actually believe the two are very closely related.

      I think each has been propagated for political purposes by people that largely believe in neither; I also think they are largely the exact same people.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I see them as different in the sense that they have different motivations. With ID it’s the religious crowd wanting to promote religion. With CC it’s really just conservatives being conservatives.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        The religious crowd doesn’t have that much money. I put Climate Change Denial in with “Confederate Revivalism” and “Zombie ronald reaganism” — very rich men on the right trying to sculpt public opinion so they don’t get scalped. They’re, by and large, pretty successful at this.

        And so they should be, as they’ve been at it since the French Revolution. Damn conservatives [yes, I am using the term the way the Economist might — not including you in the term].Report

  17. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    1) First thought, what makes a denier? If I say, “No one knows whether Denver will get more or less precipitation as a result of climate change,” am I denier? It’s a true statement at this point in time. The current models suggest that Denver will have — broadly speaking — more winter precipitation and less summer precip. But broadly speaking doesn’t cut it for the summer, as precipitation is determined by the North American Monsoon and none of today’s models incorporate anything like the monsoon.

    2) In some sense it’s a red herring. The real meat here is the completion of the statement “Global climate change is happening, therefore <insert policy preference here> must be done.” Outlaw construction within 50′ elevation of mean high tide? Abandon reliable electricity and all that implies? Construction frenzy of fission power plants? Bigger construction frenzy of wind turbines, solar power plants, pumped hydro storage and massive HVDC transmission network? Nuke China and India if they fail to get on board? There’s no difference between “Global climate change is not happening, so do nothing.” and “Global climate change is happening, but do nothing anyway.” What he’s really looking for is a legal requirement to implement some policy, but he ain’t sayin’ what that policy is.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Is the Monsoon variable based on La Nina versus El Nino? It’s quite possible for the models to give a good reading, without actually modeling everything.

      [One of the models has the polar vortex as a ten year “feature” for NA]Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Nina/Nino/neutral affects the winter storm track. The strength, duration and timing of the northern end of the NAM at Denver is affected by the interactions among a whole bunch of picky little things.

        (1) The frequency and intensity of the big thunderstorm cells at the mouth of the Gulf of California affect the amount of moisture flowing north (big storms help “pump” it up). (2) The location and strength of the summertime southern Great Plains high pressure system affects where the flow shifts from north to northeast. (3) The altitude at which the moisture travels can have big effects (too low and it doesn’t cross the mountains; too high and we may only get virga [1]). (4) The direction at which the monsoon flow hits individual mountains may help or hinder thunderstorm formation (from my house, I can sometimes watch the line of thunderstorms headed east that were triggered by Pikes Peak). (5) Day-to-day variation in the jetstream path may create wind shear that keeps big storms from developing.

        July 2011 was a perfect example of a classic monsoon. Big storms in the Gulf of California; GP high was massive and sat right over Central Texas; moisture was at exactly the right altitude and no wind shear. At my house in the western suburbs it rained at least some every afternoon/evening from July 1 to July 16. Cities in the Denver metro area saw water usage that was anywhere from 30% to 50% below average that month.

        [1] Virga is rainfall that doesn’t reach the ground. Sometimes I can sit on my deck and watch a thunderstorm come off the foothills and it’s raining like hell five or six thousand feet up, but it all evaporates before it reaches the ground.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        wow, that’s impressive. I can see how trying to hit 5 different, “small-scale dynamic” factors might be a bit much. After all, we’re still trying to understand how the oceans trap heat, etc.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        It’s actually worse — I didn’t mention all of the moving parts. At least there are now people starting to do regional models for the NAM that go down to smaller scale than the global models (although they admit they’re not down far enough yet). The early results I’ve seen all seem to suggest that the big global models’ uniform predictions of much drier summers across the entire Southwest and the entire season are wrong, perhaps badly so.

        This illustrates somewhat my original point about “what policy is he pushing?” If Arizona is going to have uniformly warmer drier summers, things need to go in one direction (eg, growing cotton in the desert becomes impractical, and worse). If Arizona is going to have wetter summers due to a more intense monsoon, things need to go in a different direction (eg, better water capture, storage, management, and flood control).Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        The early results I’ve seen all seem to suggest that the big global models’ uniform predictions of much drier summers across the entire Southwest and the entire season are wrong, perhaps badly so.

        Oddly, this is the kind of statement that can get one labeled a denier. I’ve been excoriated elsewhere (ahem “Science” blogs) for pointing out that our models are still in their, maybe not infancy anywhere, but childhood. They keep getting better, which is great and what science is about, but that means they’re not good enough yet. It shouldn’t be controversial to say this, but apparently it is.

        What’s to stop the criminalizing of these arguments as well? Not logic, as we might hope. If logic drove law we’d not have had the USA Patriot Act.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        yeah, but the trends on the “our models know nothing!” are extremely troubling. The models have consistently been more conservative than reality, not less (not terribly surprising, really).

        It’s real easy to come up with “generalities”, but making specific predictions can be difficult — and we’re not going to get equal accuracy for all predictions! (at least right now).

        Yeah, at least for me, the odds stacked up to “Don’t move to the SouthWest, change is coming, and it’s not likely to be good” (either more rain or less has the real potential to do crazy stuff to a desertish biome). It’s also very possible that you can get both more rain and less — a higher variablity, which makes planning devilishly tough. (That’s why Dr. Mann and company are employed by my local cow college. Farmers need this information as soon as we can get it to ’em).Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        The models have consistently been more conservative than reality, not less

        That’s wholly as true as the majority of your claims.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      If I say, “No one knows whether Denver will get more or less precipitation as a result of climate change,” am I denier?

      Depends. Is your name Roger Pielke?Report

  18. Avatar Chris says:

    This strikes me as a “let’s see how many links and how much air play I can get” sort of proposal. That we are talking about it at all shows just how broken our political dialogue is, particularly given how important the issue of climate change is.

    In short, we are fucked.Report

    • There’s a certain irony in the way that some environmentalists suppose that the apocalypse is night unless we radically transform our personal lives and beliefs. It rings eerily similar to the statements of religious fundamentalists who suppose that the era of tribulations is almost at hand and who argue only over whether the rapture will come before or after.

      None of this means that we’re not really fished. Maybe we are.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        True about some enviros. Unfortunately, in this case, the CC deniers have effectively won. Very little is being done to alleviate what we are doing to change the climate nor is anything significant even on the horizon. We’ll have to just ride out the effects of CC which of course is going to be worse for those younger folks. Maybe in 20 years there will be some significant action taken however by then it will be to late for most solutions. We had better hope for a technological miracle and people working their butts off to adapt.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I think the CC deniers were always destined to effectively win up to the point that there was no choice but to change. People are always going to stay with inexpensive and comfy. You could jail Limbaugh, the Fox anchors and vote every climate denier out of office tomorrow — and whoever takes their place will have a different message of why everyone can have their all of their toys for the least amount of money possible. Cause dats what da peoples wants.

        Inertia is a powerful foe.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Yeah humans are poorly equipped mentally to deal with the threat of CC. We’ll survive CC in the long run but in what shape and with what damage is the question. Hopefully in 100 years we’ll be better equipped as a species to deal with long term challenges.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Blaming environmentalists is incomprehensible to me. I mean, even without climate change, look at the extinction rate. Look at air quality in major cities around the globe. Look at the amount of debris in the oceans. Look at fresh water quality. Look at large swaths of the southwest running out of water. Look at the deforestation of much of South America. Look at what China does to its rivers. Look at what’s happened to the bee population. And I could go on.

        I’m not sure it’s possible for environmentalist rhetoric to be over the top. The top is too horrifically high.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        The problem enviro’s had comes from having had a lot of success. BTW i would count myself as an enviro. In the 70’s environmental consciousness hit big time to the point where many things like clean air/water regs, national parks, setting aside green spaces and preserving endangered species are widely held opinions. However after many of the successes there is always a bit of push back, specific problems that come from good, general laws and some bit of complaisance. Our air and water are much cleaner then they used to be so people lose some of the urgency. When jobs become sparse people will fall for Jobs vs. Environment arguments even if that is often a poor framing and false choice. Most people don’t care about the extinction rate of frogs in the Amazon. They rightly look down on pollution in China but they typically can look at cleaner air above them.

        The enviro movement has always had a tendency to be led by people who see people as interlopers in the environment, to be prone to ideological battles and value pristine wilderness above all. Each one of those things might be, and is fine, on their own but have always led to problems with the enviro messaging.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        Isn’t part of the issue that we are almost certain that no one of us will live to see the real damage of climate change?

        Climate Change people often seem to say stuff like “The average temperature will rise X in a 150 years from now.”

        This might be absolutely true but the problem is I will almost certainly be dead then, so will my children, my grandchildren. Maybe I will have great grandchildren alive then. Maybe not. Most people need to know something about the now or the immediate futures. 100 to 150 years in the future is too much of an abstraction even for environmentalist sympathizers like me.

        Don’t count on less environmentally conscious. California is in a very bad drought right now. Every now and then when rain is predicted but not coming, I write something on facebook like “it needs to rain now.” My friend will say “No, it doesn’t.” He is a bro-dude spectacular and seemingly incapable of ever having a bad thought or moment of self doubt. He always say something like this:

        “There are worse things….. and rain will inevitably come…. and even if it didn’t we would be fine. The government will bring us water or something.”

        I think he is being absolutely serious.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        Greg brings up a good point. A lot of enviromentalists seem to treat humans as an invasive species even thought we are here because of evolution like everything else.
        It doesn’t help when you have a lot or at least a very loud section that thinks human extinction would be the best thing to happen to the planet.

        It doesn’t help to have organizations like this:

        Most people like being alive. Talk about the environment needs to go hand in hand with human existence, not the end of it.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I’m 48 and i’ll see some of the effects of CC. You are younger and will have a bit more to cope with. The children of the posters here will have plenty of crap to deal with. Humans haven’t really learned how to cope with long term problems yet. You don’t have to start to talk about grandchildren to look for people who will be effected.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        I’m 33 and think that I have seen the changes as well. Most notably that fall and spring seem like shorter seasons now and sometimes non-existent. There are also dramatic things like the California Drought, Hurricane Sandy, etc.

        The changes are still largely subtle though to most people and there have always been extreme storms. So people have a hard time telling whether they are because of climate change or not.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        First, that doesn’t represent the vast majority of environmentalists. If we’re going to start judging groups by their small lunatic fringes, then we’re all in trouble.

        Second, is this not invasive:

        We may not be an invasive species (do some environmentalists call us that?), but we certainly behave invasively.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        By the way, this is what I was talking about in my first comment. An easy way to ignore unpleasant aspects of reality is to focus on the most extreme and absurd people who mention it, and then dismiss everyone else who does as belonging to the same group, and therefore equally extreme and absurd.

        Like I said, we’re all fucked.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Invasive? Yeah sure we are. We are an industrialized, technological civilization with all the good and bad that goes with that. The 3 Gorges Dam may or may not be a good idea, but it doesn’t really relate to environmentalism in the US. Also hydro power is a lot cleaner compared to all the coal the chinese would have to burn to get that same amount of power.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @chris Yes that group ND linked to is clearly on the nutbag fringe but there are plenty of non-nut bag crits of the modern enviro movement. They have focused heavily, to heavily in my and plenty of others peoples views, on preserving pristine wilderness which has led to marginalization. Most people don’t have much connection or need for pristine wilderness, sure they like the concept but for most its pretty distant. They have stayed pretty lily white as a movement and not attended to concerns of inner city/minority folk which has led to less support. They have also lost the framing battle leading to people seeing Jobs vs. Enviro as the argument when it often isn’t. The enviro movement has had a lot of success, they just haven’t quite known how to capitalize on that to keep moving forward.

        I tend to think we’re sporked on climate change myself.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @greginak, those criticisms of the environmental movement are spot on. You need a certain level of economic prosperity before you start caring about the environment or at least things to be really bad. In many developing countries, the environmental movement is weak because of lack of prosperity. Even in rich countries, the environmental movement doesn’t seem that present outside Europe, Canada, and the United States. Maybe Australia and New Zealand as well but from what I’ve read those two countries are horrible when it comes to the environment.Report

      • @chris

        An easy way to ignore unpleasant aspects of reality is to focus on the most extreme and absurd people who mention it, and then dismiss everyone else who does as belonging to the same group, and therefore equally extreme and absurd.

        As one of the people who tends to say “I believe AGW is real, but….”, I’m probably guilty of that. I do stand by my comment and believe what some environmentalists–and I don’t really know if it’s just the lunatic fringe or a more representative number–want is a religious-like conversion, the consequence of not doing which is the end of the world. And frankly, I think it’s important to recognize the quasi or not so quasi religious aspect of one branch of environmentalism, with its thou-shalt-not’s writ over the door. If anything, it might go a ways toward explaining and helping to understand some of the resistance. People don’t like being preached to.

        But AGW, if the effects are as severe as some (most?) predict, is serious business and has the feature of being verifiably and empirically true in a way that most other religious claims are not.

        And although I agree with @leeesq ‘s point about environmentalism being something people need to attain a certain level of affluence to worry about, I also believe that environmentalism and especially AGW is an issue for the less privileged. AGW, if it gets as bad as the average informed person predicts, will likely affect me on some level. But it will likely affect people in the densely populated developing areas of the world and perhaps the more marginal areas of the US much, much more. There’s a certain amount of privileged tut-tutting on my part when I say what I make the comparisons to religion. And in my better moments, I shouldn’t forget that.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:


        Rather than talking in generalities about some extremist deniers, can we be more specific?

        Here is Matt Ridley in the WSJ

        “Indeed, a small amount of warming spread over a long period will, most experts think, bring net improvements to human welfare.”

        If you can’t get through the gate, just google the quote to get a glimpse of his opinions.

        I pretty much agree with the majority of what Ridley and Lomborg say on global warming. It exists, it is mild, it is MUCH better than global cooling, for next few decades benefits outweigh costs, that the extremists are more severe on the alarmist side, and that we need to focus on R&D such as geoengineering.

        I think Chris is the one crying fire in a crowded room. Though I respect his right to be wrong.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        @greginak , I use the 3 Gorges Dam because it is such an obvious case of invasiveness. There are equally invasive cases here (hell, the damn of the Colorado outside of Austin is such a case), but it’s so blatantly invasive that it demonstrates the point perfectly. And it was the target of environmentalists in the United States when it was announced.

        Now, perhaps there is a difference between environmentalists in Alaska vs environmentalists in Central Texas, but the bulk of the environmentalists I know are not the pristine wilderness types. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t love to preserve pristine wildernesses, nor is it to say that they don’t sometimes fight to preserve them, but they spend the bulk of their time and energy fighting rear guard battles, and in Austin have had some success (other parts of Texas are an environmental wasteland).

        So to me, the focus on “pristine wilderness” folks seems only slightly better than focusing on the loonies, but maybe that’s just because we encounter different sorts of activists (which, given the difference between the environmental issues in both states, is not entirely impossible).

        That speaks to the other issue as well. On the national level, environmentalists have basically been at the mercy of the prevailing political winds (and who’s in office). Friendly administrations and congresses result in successes for the movement, while unfriendly ones result in setbacks. At the state and local levels, however, the environmental lobbies are incredibly well organized, and reasonably well funded, and have had a lot of state and local success, and have been able to continue to capitalize on that success.

        Their biggest obstacle, however, is money. Not their own, mind you, but that of their opponents, who are primarily funded and organized by big business interests. And this is where the framing that you see comes from. Businesses, as they do in so many other issues, frame issues that will inevitably cost them money as the proponents of those issues against jobs. We’ve seen it with health care over the last few years, and we’ve seen it with environmental issues for decades. There’s little environmentalists can do to counter that framing, but they’ve certainly tried. Of course, some of the Pacific Northwestern clashes in the 80s and 90s didn’t help (loggers vs enviros, I mean), but even without them, that’s the way the people with money would frame the issue, because that’s the way they make their increase in costs relevant to people who don’t have money.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I think Chris is the one crying fire in a crowded room. Though I respect his right to be wrong.

        That’s mighty white of you, Roger, particularly coming from someone who holds an opinion not shared by the vast majority of the people who study this stuff for a living.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        LOL. That is one of my wife’s favorite racist expressions (toward me)

        Please provide more enlightenment on how the majority of people making a living on climate extremism disagree with me.

        Do they disagree that mild warming is probably a net benefit? That cold is worse than hot? That R&D are advisable?

        My guess is the consensus would agree with all these. So the question is, will global warming be moderate or mild long term or severe and catastrophic? Do you disagree with Ridley’s commentary? Do the majority of climate scientists disagree? Why?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Roger, the article you posted is incredibly unpersuasive. Its like trying to take the lets look on the bright side approach to global warming. The problem with the lets look on the bright side approach is that it leaves you unprepared when things go bad. Most scientists with an understanding of global warming think that its going to have incredibly disastrous consequences for the world in general. From what I’ve seen humans are going to be incredibly hit hard. Maybe these scientists are over-stating the bad side but I’d rather not take the risk. Its better to act than having to deal with the negative consequences of a worst case scenario too late.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Roger, with your transparent attempt to frame the issue in such a way that you can’t be wrong — “climate extremists,” “warming is better than cooling,” “a little warming is good for us” — you remind me, yet again, why I ignore you here. To answer you, and then go back to ignoring you (feel free to respond, of course, just don’t expect me to pretend I care): they are climate scientists, not “climate extremists,” though apparently the two are synonymous for you; I imagine small amounts of warming is better than cooling, but that is a.) a pretty low bar to set, and b.) we’re already past that point where a little warming is what we’ll get (and already seeing the negative effects of a “little” warming), and c.) it still ain’t better for everyone; and the vast majority of experts think there will be more than a little warming, certainly more than would be beneficial.

        Anyway, thanks for the sophistry. Have a good one.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yup! The current plan on the books is Genocide!
        Ride it out, baby!Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        you might say something else if you were trapped in your house — unable to sell it, and knowing that you had a 1 in 2 shot of surviving the year with the house intact.
        (I think it was Brandon who disliked flood insurance. Well, it’s Going Away — the price is escalating to the point where it will be unaffordable for mortgages).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        the plans on the books for genocide are looking 20 years ahead. In all likelihood, even if they’re pessimistic, we’ll see massive disruption in 30 years.

        I’m planning for it.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        The plan on the books is to pretty severely reduce the human biodiversity through genocide. Now, maybe you don’t like that plan. Well, tough shit — you don’t get a vote [for once, the plan isn’t American].
        Maybe you can help fix the problem before we wind up killing millions of people.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Good lord! Do you support Genocide? I am asking this as an honest question, because that’s what official “plans on teh books” are for 20 years out or so.
        If Genocide is not “pretty bad dislocations because of global warming”… what the fuck would be?

        [Alternatively, I suppose, you could call for regime change and spending the billions it would take to effectively not kill a substantial fraction of human biodiversity]Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And there it is. This is not a discussion of science. This is a discussion of whether you support genocide or not.

        Personally, and I’m willing to have my mind changed about this, I’m tentatively against genocide. What do the rest of you think?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @jaybird – Personally, and I’m willing to have my mind changed about this, I’m tentatively against genocide. What do the rest of you think?

        Well, that depends – are the people getting genocided Nazis? Because I might be able to get behind that.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Sorry, but yes, all policy plans… including the unfortunate ones, are fair game on this issue.[personally, I’m upset that we can’t just dump the government who came up with “genocide” as an acceptable plan. Oh well — at least it wasn’t America.]

        I hope that we can avoid genocide — either with schemes like:
        or with governmental action (ideally, it’s both).Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        The irony on “invasive species” is the wording is so odd.

        There are adaptive and mobile species. They’re wildly successful at moving to new areas. We’re one of them, undoubtedly the best of the lot, currently, by a huge margin. Natural selection calls these sorts of critters “winners”.

        Then there are adaptive and largely immobile species. They’re wildly successful at forcing huge changes to new habitats when they’re introduced to those habitats, but for various reasons they’re not good at traveling long distances. But hey, they have a vector for that.

        It’s us.

        And for this we label *them* invasive.

        The pikeminnow is not “invasive” in the sense that the species isn’t attacking the Pacific Northwest’s population of lake trout in Oregon, Washington, and Montana via an orchestrated campaign of air drops.

        They’re just traveling an ecological success vector that we’ve enabled.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        “Invasive species” is a technical label with a technical definition that serves a very real practical purpose. Applying the label to humans serves no practical purpose (and by the standard definition(s), is a misapplication of the label anyway).

        Humans are more like African elephants: we’re not invasive, we’re destructive. We are much, much better at being destructive than elephants, though.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        I supplied a source and asked if this is what we were referring to as a climate denier. In addition I compared it to an extremist view “we are fucked”.

        I stated I agreed with Ridley’s summary, which points out that as expected the “lukewarmers” seem to be winning the argument. Global warming is an issue, the temperature increases will be a few degrees, we should do something logical about it (R&D) which doesn’t empower environmental bureaucrats to tell us how to live, and we should drop the house is on fire, we are all fucked rhetoric.

        The extremists in this argument are not Ridley and Lomborg, but Kim and Chris. And no I don’t want them thrown in the slammer. I just want to expose their extremism.

        Who are the extremists here?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’m not the one putting genocide on the books, as the actual “What We should Do” with climate refugees. That’s your side. The side with their head in the sand, pretending that we are unlikely to lose a substantial part of human diversity from near-term climate change.

        Don’t I have to tell you how much it’s going to cost before you squeal like a stuck pig and say That’s TOO Much?

        Sidenote: You got five years of almonds stockpiled?Report

      • Avatar Roger says:


        “The problem with the lets look on the bright side approach is that it leaves you unprepared when things go bad.”

        Lomborg and Ridley ARE summarizing the current scientific consensus. Two degrees or so per century absent positive feedback effects of which there is absolutely no consensus and very little empirical data to support it. The role of science is not to exaggerate just in case things are worse than the science predicts.

        In addition, they both clearly are arguing for effective as opposed to extremist measures. Both support extensive research into ways to combat global warming and greenhouse gases. More importantly both recognize the value of cumulative economic growth to battle future warming. It takes wealth and science to combat real environmental problems, not political posturing which costs billions or trillions and if ever effective and delays global warming by a few years at best (such as Kyoto).

        “Most scientists with an understanding of global warming think that its going to have incredibly disastrous consequences for the world in general.”

        Please provide sources to back up this statement. Lomborg’s writing reveals that most of this is scare mongering. It usually involved accounting gimmicks where all the cons are counted and all the pros are dismissed. The costs of global warming are most likely net positive for decades, and small thereafter. I can link the estimates.

        “Maybe these scientists are over-stating the bad side but I’d rather not take the risk. Its better to act than having to deal with the negative consequences of a worst case scenario too late.”

        If there were no costs or negative externalities to the proposed “solutions” then sure, why not be safe rather than sorry. However, as Ridley and Lomborg clearly lay out there are costs. Huge costs in terms of economic growth and loss of freedom as regulators playing it safe step in and tell us how loudly our cows can fart.

        Global warming is the perfect weapon to regulate everything, and is a crisis, real or imagined, which those interested in power will use to their advantage.

        If you are interested in hearing the other side of the story, start with “Cool It” by Lomborg. He is in no way a denier. Just a realist with a grasp of economics and prioritization.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Here’s half a billion for free:
        (a lot of particulate, worldwide, is because of global warming and desertification)Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @roger , Bjorn Lomborg is hardly the epitome of sources you could/should cite to support your thesis. He’s very controversial, in fact, and there’s a whole website devoted to his errors.

        Also, as a general note, I find the practice of deploying economists to counter climate scientists…. rather strange. What standing exactly does he have to challenge or judge statements outside his field of economics?Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        I’ve read some of the attacks and they are often less than impressive. There is even a book written to counter one of his books. Again, it was both sad and funny. Read the Amazon reviews or Lomborgs rebuttal and judge for yourself.

        I do not believe Lomborg studied economics either. Here is his bio.

        He is a writer, a researcher and he runs a think tank on issues facing the human race. The reason I cite him* is because I have read what he wrote and what those opposing him have said in response, and I have found that he makes a hell of a lot more sense at integrating the science, the politics, the priorities, the economics, the tradeoffs and such. Just as importantly, he is not part of the left or right extremist echo chambers.

        He doesn’t try to counter the scientists except by offering up other empirical data, usually provided by other scientists or even by the same scientist. As several other commenters have already pointed out, the sticking point here is not the empirical data. That will prove itself over time despite rogue scientists and alarmists and denialists. The key point is what do we do or not do. How do we address the issue, and what are the costs of doing so both directly and indirectly. This is his area of expertise.

        Ridley and Lomborg are in no way denialists or do nothingists. Lomborg employs a team of economists some with Nobels and they recommend we do take effective action and that we quit the dishonest scare mongering.

        Read him. Decide for yourself. Do you trust Mr “we are all fucked” and Ms “genocide”, or Lomborg and Ridley?

        Who are the real extremists here?

        * also I just finished reading Cool It, which I bought years ago but set aside, so it is fresh in my mind.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Humans are definitely an invasive species. We expanded out from a niche in Africa into just about every region on earth, with devestating effects on native species. There’s no reasonable way to deny we’re invasive.

        “Invasive,” however, has taken on a normative, rather than a descriptive, meaning. Which, as always, ruins everything.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        The invasive species label misses the big picture completely.

        Humans are the first species to tap into large scale cumulative cultural evolution rather than just biological evolution. And culture can evolve faster in a week than biology can in thousands of years.

        To put it in perspective, think about the classic star Trek episode Wink of An Eye, where they meet the fast moving Scalosians. The only way Kirk can battle them is to accelerate to their pace.

        With culture, humans solve problems at a pace incomparably faster than other species. We are in effect often a problem to them of course. Humanity isn’t an invasive species. This falls into the biological evolution paradigm. We are the advent of an evolutionary phase transition. From slow, dumb and blind evolution to something much faster and more efficient.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        With culture, humans solve problems at a pace incomparably faster than other species. We are in effect often a problem to them of course. Humanity isn’t an invasive species. This falls into the biological evolution paradigm. We are the advent of an evolutionary phase transition. From slow, dumb and blind evolution to something much faster and more efficient.

        One of these sentences is not like the other, most of the sentences are kind of the same. One of these sentences is not like the other, tell me and we’ll play our game.

        /personally, I think Earth’s got a social disease.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        For Earth to get a social disease, we gotta get offworld and meet some other planets. Right now we are interplanetary virgins. Self-abuse is kind of a given in that scenario.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Sure, if we only consider the last 15,000 years and take an explicitly anthropocentric approach, humans aren’t an invasive species. Pretty convenient definitions, though, and not scientifically well-grounded.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The Smithsonian post is based in part on a theoretical review of the scientific use of the term. Basically natural migration is not invasive.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        okay, so it’s not Lomborg’s fault that a first world nation has genocide as an actual bloody fucking policy. It is, however, his work and writing that bolster folks choosing that as fucking policy.

        But if you want to live in fairyland where we don’t discuss actual policy, well… May I recommend moving to Somalia? There, in Islamic Fairyland, you can not have to deal with clitoridectomies and honor killings! Just Because it’s not islamic.

        Do you have enough chutzpah that you’d be willing to advocate genocide if you’re wrong??

        You say I’m the extremist? Nah, I’m the pessimist. I don’t believe that the rich will want to pay for this. And the rest of us can’t exactly afford to do more than work around the margins.Report

  19. Avatar Lyle says:

    The proposal sounds a lot like ideas the clergy had about religious ideas 500 years ago. We must burn those who do not agree with us, God Wills IT! So has climate change been elevated to the level of received dogma?
    In fact if you look at folks with an escatalogical bent perhaps they view climate change as a way to hasten the second coming of Christ. (Folks have tried this for 2000 years). Their moral point of view might be the sooner the better the second coming (perhaps so they don’t have to die). I have always wondered why some folks think the time they live is so special that it qualifes to be the lead in to the second coming.Report

    • Avatar Wardsmitty says:

      Existentialism reigns supreme. Somewhere Galileo is spinning in his grave. Meantime the climate scientists are full of it, but a majority of them can be counted on to vote for a continuation if not an increase in their paychecks.

      Their models are complete garbage, their predictions are and have been a laughable joke, and I have already proven the “consensus” is false with the original emails that were part of climate gate.

      I would dearly love my day in court defending myself and obliterating these opponents.

      At the meta level Jaybird has already said countless times and correctly stated that you can never give yourself a power you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to have so to the moronic Weinstein followers out there, beware, be very wareReport

  20. Since a parallel question was raised in the OP, I’ll go that route.

    It is no secret that I have unmitigated, blistering contempt for the anti-vaccine movement. I find them among the very worst kinds of selfish idiots, bad citizens who cloak their terrible decisions in the sheep’s clothing of good parenting. That I am on their bad side is a badge of honor I buff to a high shine.

    I do not want these morons criminalized. I do not want Jenny McCarthy forced from the public eye. I do not want there to be legal penalty holding the wrong opinion, even if it is very wrong and the basis for bad decisions.

    The answer to bad ideas is not censorship. It is better ideas.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      What is the answer to propaganda?
      Because it sure as fuck isn’t better ideas.Report

      • Sure it is.

        “Find a way to communicate your ideas more effectively” is a better idea than “Shut down the right of others to hold and express wrong opinions.”Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Better communication — can you give specifics?
        I’m not for censorship — though I will say that libertarians seem to be for censorship when we’re talking fraud…Report

      • Well, no. I can’t give specific solutions to a vague problem.

        I will readily concede that evidence-based medical providers have been losing a propaganda war with a certain subset of the population re: vaccine safety. We have yet to find a way to reach people susceptible to the pseudoscience and misinformation. We haven’t found the “better idea” that works yet.

        But it is still better to keep searching than to reach for the expedient answer of shutting down the right of others to be wrong.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Well, Kim, technically libertarians are for consequences if fraud is communicated but I don’t they’re for blocking the fraudulent communication first so they’re not for censorship.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        so, um, here’s my problem: with a lot of the current/near future crises, the fraud is likely to be extensive enough that our civil society might not survive intact through it (AIG might ring a bell). In which case, it’s hard to think of how we’re really going to punish evildoers after the fact, isn’t it?Report

  21. Avatar Damon says:

    “Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.”

    Yes, yes. They must be stopped. Because ALL right thinking individuals are united on this issue. The malcontents must be rounded up and punished until they conform, or removed, from the perfect future we are creating.

    How many times have we heard this before in human history?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Of course all right thinking individuals are united.
      They say:
      “fuck y’all, you can all die for all we care. There’ll be some place we can live, with guns and soldiers to protect us.”

      Truth is a fucking bitch, and I don’t have to like it.Report

  22. Avatar North says:

    My Todd,

    Based on my casual tallying of the commentariate the “This guy is wrong” group is tied with the “This guy is wrong and he’s a blithering idiot” group with a small group of “This guy is wrong but his opinions don’t represent the left” group in a very distant second and some quibbling outliers scattered below that.Report

  23. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What I don’t understand is the assumption that “people like us will be in charge of making people like them shut up”.Report

  24. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    First, this is a terrible idea, but I understand the frustration that gave rise to it.

    Second, virtually everyone — on either side of the debate — who isn’t an actual climate scientist, holds their personal opinion on the subject for not so great reasons. It’s either argument from authority, or political conspiracy mongering, or religious conviction, or whatever. But it’s rarely based on an understanding of the underlying science.

    For example, how many people, on either side, know that the theory of AGW was actually proposed in 1896? That’s not a typo; the basic theory is almost 120 years old. And that the specific prediction of climate sensitivity to CO2 concentration advanced in that original theory has proven to be remarkably close, to within about 20% of modern estimates. Or that the greenhouse effect was proposed back in 1849 by Charles Fourier to explain why the earth doesn’t look like ice planet Hoth? Or that the major greenhouse gases were identified about twenty years later, but an explanation of why those specific gases — primarily water vapor, CO2, and methane — and not the molecular oxygen and nitrogen that make up the bulk of our atmosphere, are greenhouse gases had to wait for the advent of quantum mechanics?

    The bottom line is that once you actually understand the mechanism behind the greenhouse effect it become clear, as a matter of deductive reasoning, not inductive statistics, that global warming is inescapable as a consequence of burning vast amounts of fossil fuels. Your only way out is one of two kinds of miracles, neither one of which is occuring.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I’m not in the miracle business. But i can recommend this:

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        Kim, I rushed that last part because I had to go somewhere to see a guy about a thing. I’m not talking about what it would take to stop GW or mitigate the effects, although I concede that such is likely veering into miracle territory at this point.

        What I meant was that if you wish to maintain either that GW isn’t occurring or that it isn’t caused by human activity, then you are forced to appeal to one of two classes of miracle.

        The first would be a mechanism — physical, chemical, biological, etc. — to sop up the extra carbon such that digging fossil fuels from their current geological sequestration and burning them doesn’t actually result in an increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. There are plausible candidate mechanisms but they’re either too little, too slow, or being counteracted by other human activities such as deforestation. In any case, the bottom line is that we have a very reliable record of rising CO2 concentrations so we know for a fact that miracle #1 isn’t happening.

        The second would be a physical mechanism such that the warming induced by increased greenhouse gases is counteracted in such a way that the extra energy is shed efficiently enough to outer space — the only place ultimately to put it — so that global temperatures don’t rise very much or very rapidly. Again, the global atmospheric (as well as oceanic) climate system is of such complexity that this can’t be ruled out entirely. We know there are feedback mechanisms, both positive and negative, and if the negative feedbacks are strong enough relative to the positive, then we could still be okay. This is really what all the climate archaeology of the past few decades has been exploring. But there’s no reason, a priori, to assume the best, which is why I call it a miracle answer, and, in fact, all evidence points to the positive feedbacks overwhelming the negative.

        Finally, there’s a third putative miracle that isn’t exactly denialism, but effectively works out the same. That’s the belief that global warming is a good thing and that while we can maybe expect local dislocations, the overall net effect globally will be positive. Really, this is just wishful thinking. Perhaps wild-eyed alarmism isn’t warranted, but then certainly neither is this belief.

        Objectively, the basic theory of AGW counts as a strong fact. What this will mean for localities and human civilization is less certain and what we can or should try to do about it at this last stage is less certain still. But frankly, I’m more than somewhat disinclined to listen to certain quarters concerning the last bit given their track record on the basic issue thus far.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Road Scholar, I’m relatively sure that at least a plurality of people in the “we must do something about climate change/global warming” camp understands that doing something about is going to require some rather big life-style changes. They may or may not be living up to these changes in their personal lives for a variety of reasons but they understand it.

      I’m really not sure about the overall meaning of your post. Yes, non-climate scientists are involved in policy and politics debates on global warming. Thats how things get changed, through the involvement of people that aren’t experts but feel passionate about an issue. We aren’t in a technocracy where the government pays heed to the call of experts on all serious issues. Unless the electorate wants to do something about climate change than nothing will ever get done.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        Lee, I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying here. What I’m getting at is that most people, even really smart people, simply don’t understand the fundamental science well enough to have an informed opinion. Getting an engineering degree required me to pass three semesters of calculus, plus series and differential equations, mathematical statistics, matrix theory, inorganic and organic chemistry, engineering physics — which was two semesters at five credit hours apiece, fluid mechanics, control theory, and other stuff I can’t even remember now. And after all that I’m just barely able to grok the technical papers on AGW.

        So for most folks the debate really boils down to “who ya gonna trust?” And in that kind of environment facts barely matter anymore.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        You might be overstating the need for people to really understand somethnig in order to have a relatively informed opinion. There certainly a lot of issues that are less technically complicated that AGW without understanding the issues in their entirely. Most people understood why things like smog and water pollution are bad without really comprehending the science behind them. They could know that might be a good idea to spend money to repair old infrastructure without being able to answer the engineering questions on how much stress a bridge or something good go through before it needs work. In both of the above cases, people are basically trusting expert opinion but also understanding if not fully the issues. People can understand the basic science of AGW and come to a reasonably informed opinion without understanding all the facts. I’m pretty sure that most pro-Vaxxers don’t quite get everything about vaccination but the know enough the science to support it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        So for most folks the debate really boils down to “who ya gonna trust?” And in that kind of environment facts barely matter anymore.

        I don’t think the debate, insofar as their is one, is about trust. It’s a lot murkier than that. I think it’s more like this: to what extent is a person willing to let evidence and arguments which comprise empirical theories alter or determine their beliefs? For most people, the evidence and arguments in favor of evolution are decisive. For others, not so much. Why? Well, personally speaking here, I don’t think those folks reject scientific evidence because they don’t trust scientists. That sorta reverses the explanatory account of things. Primarily, it’s because they hold beliefs which are inconsistent with scientific evidence and then (perhaps) account for that disagreement by claiming that scientists are part of a liberal conspiracy to destroy the Church (or whatever).

        I think the same thing is the case with AGW deniers in that the distrust of the scientists follows from rather than is caused by a rejection of the conclusions. There are two substantive differences, tho. One is that climate change modelling and theorizing is much more complex, dynamic and includes more fuzzy-bounded variables than the theory of evolution. But even given that, the resounding consensus of folks engaging in climate change science all effectively confirms the theory.

        The other is that unlike the theory of evolution, a theory of climate change is predictive, and most of the disagreement rests on that end of things. Reliable specific predictions are impossible given the number of variables and sensitive dependence and complexity and whatnot. So we’re left with predictions of general types of changes and possible patterns and likely scenarios and stuff like that. And folks conclude that if *that’s* the best the scientists can do, the whole theory must be a bunch of whooey.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @stillwater , I don’t disagree with what you’re saying but I would like to point a few things out:

        I think it’s more like this: to what extent is a person willing to let evidence and arguments which comprise empirical theories alter or determine their beliefs?

        If you don’t understand the evidence and arguments which comprise empirical theories… not so much I would imagine. At least outside of a general trust and regard for the science community and the methods of scientists.

        For most people, the evidence and arguments in favor of evolution are decisive.

        IIRC, something like 40% of Americans are creationists or ID’ers. “Most” may be an accurate term, but only barely.

        For others, not so much. Why? Well, personally speaking here, I don’t think those folks reject scientific evidence because they don’t trust scientists. That sorta reverses the explanatory account of things. Primarily, it’s because they hold beliefs which are inconsistent with scientific evidence and then (perhaps) account for that disagreement by claiming that scientists are part of a liberal conspiracy to destroy the Church (or whatever).

        Right. And while a more accurate understanding of the science behind [evolution/big bang theory/AGW/etc.] may not be persuasive to many or most folks holding conflicting beliefs, absent such understanding the debate looks and feels a lot like warring religions. In fact you see that kind of language deployed a lot on the denialist side.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        To all, it feels like my point is being lost here and that’s likely my fault. What I’m trying to get at is that if you listen to the debate, the framing from the denialists is that the sum total of the evidence for AGW lies in a couple graphs by Michael Mann and some mysterious “computer models.” Indeed, if that was really all there was to it, I’d be highly skeptical, too.

        The real core of the AGW theory is based on extremely solid and non-controversial physics that could be easily replicated in any reasonably equipped college physics lab. Without this knowledge, the supporters get sucked into arguing from the denialist’s frame that the sum of the science is about the very messy empirical work that, due to being inherently messy, is much more easily challenged.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        yes, of course there is basic science that is easy to explain.
        The models are the truly interesting part — people going out on a limb, trying to predict based on an imperfect model.

        [But the other thing is? The empirical stuff? That’s thousands of years of data pulled from across the world — and it only gets more accurate the more satellites we get.]Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        absent such understanding the debate looks and feels a lot like warring religions.

        Absolutely. In fact, in some cases denialists frame their disagreement with empiricists in terms of competing “faiths”.Report

  25. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    I can see this philosophy guy’s point. If someone was intentionally lying about climate change to make money off of rubes, there might be, in some sense of imagining a logically possible scenario, a case for somekind of “should be banned” criminal fraud, like there was with the cigarrette companies.

    But climate deniers are sufficiently disanalogous from cigarrette execs that there isn’t any such case in this world. In fact we are millions of miles from there being such a case.

    The author seems to recognize this by pointing out all sorts of actual climate deniers wouldn’t be guilty under his proposed scenario and only a stipulated, altered version of real people would be.

    I’d file this under playing around with thought experiments to try to be controversial and then framing it in a troll-y way.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I think people are intentionally lying about climate change.
      I think the people running the propaganda will make a profit (not Limbaugh, etc. the real guys in control).

      I hope I’m wrong. Because their profit will come at a tremendous cost in life.Report

  26. Avatar Kim says:

    Comment in Mod.
    Roger ought to be blessing his lucky stars I haven’t decided to talk about DFTs…Report

  27. Avatar Kim says:

    here, we actually save taxpayer money by using the best models we’ve fucking got, not … whatever Ridley’s got (which doesnt’ appear to be much. Unlike Pielke, people really are critiqueing him for missing basics)

    Rand, on NYC in particular
    “Some 28,800 one- to four-family structures will be reclassified as in high-risk areas when the new maps become official. These structures were not built to floodplain standards and some could see their flood insurance premiums spike by a factor of ten, or more. For example, a structure with a current annual premium of $429 could see that rate rise to $5,000, even $10,000, once it is reclassified as being in a the high-risk area. In many, but not all, cases, Congress directed that these rate increases be phased in over five years.”Report

  28. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    This is a terrible idea.

    Seriously, why just climate change? If we’re doing this, why don’t we jail the people at the NYT and other media organizations who told us Saddam had WMD? Why don’t we jail all the people from the Bush Administration who told us they were positive about the same despite having plenty of information on hand showing it was bullshit? Why don’t we jail every politician or public servant who’s ever lied about something that cost lives?

    While I wouldn’t be against impeaching politicians for such things, putting some of the people from the Bush Administration on trial for genuinely illegal things they actually did or ordered (such as torture, which is illegal under US law), saying untrue things isn’t illegal unless it’s slander (or equivalent to “shouting FIRE in a crowded theatre”).

    This is more like trying to make it illegal to claim that there’s not a fire when there is one. And Weistein doesn’t provide any firm metrics that could be used to distinguish between “random figure denying climate change”, “public figure voicing scientific skepticism” and “public figure denying climate change for profit”. Because there’s no hard-and-fast line you can draw between those things.

    John Stewart Mill said it best:

    We have now recognised the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.

    First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

    Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

    Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

    The third and fourth dangers are the most pertinent here, although the second is always relevant to any discussion of science.Report

  29. Avatar Barry says:

    Tod Kelly

    “This would resonate with me more if I hadn’t just seen Pielke savaged for being a man-made climate believer who disagreed with a single economic measurement.”

    Good acid, man!

    Pielke isn’t being savaged for that; he’s been savaged for repeatedly BS-ing with the numbers, all to play the denialist game.

    And don’t even *try* to tell me that he believes in global warming, or is a democrat, or some other such crap – I was around when the term ‘Even the Liberal New Republic’ was coined.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      And don’t even *try* to tell me that he believes in global warming, or is a democrat, or some other such crap

      That’s right, Tod. You’re not going to sway Barry with facts.Report