It’s a Conspiracy

“Conspiracy”–as part of the climate debate

Accusations of conspiracy, conspiracy ideation and so forth are often leveled at questioners (aka skeptics). Just what is a conspiracy? By broadest definition, virtually any group: “any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.” (dictionary.com, fifth definition)

More common definitions are:
The free dictionary–
4. A joining or acting together, as if by sinister design

Oxford–
“a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event”

Wiki
A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more people, a group or an organization of having caused or covered up, through deliberate collusion, an event or phenomenon of great social, political or economic impact.

Wiki and several other sources indicated that until the mid-60’s the term was mostly neutral. Now, it is used to dismiss claims—it implies the claim is ridiculous, irrational, etc and should not even be considered. It is this usage one finds in climate science debate.

I became curious just how many claims of conspiracy are present in the debate. Lewendoski did a paper examining conspiracy ideation on skeptic blogs. The paper had multiple problems, to say the least (and at least nine lives, it seems—it keeps coming back). In order to avoid the 100% author-subjective characterizations of Lewendoski, my research started with sites that identify themselves as conspiracy sites. I basically Googled “conspiracies” and “conspiracy sites” to get a list. I make no claim that this is a representative sample. I went with whichever sites looked promising. These are my results:
1. UFO digest—has articles from both views
2. Above Top Secret—against solutions but not science/has both sides
3. Prison Planet—does not believe
4. Jesse Ventura—does not believe
5. Godlike Productions—has both views
6. Zetatalk—could not tell
7. Cassiopaea.org—couldn’t tell
8. Alex Jones (infowars)—does not believe
9. Disinfo.com—seems to have both views
10. Illumanti Conspiracy Archive—seems not to believe
11. Homestead (CA)– chemtrails are bioremediation
12. David Icke—Does not believe (once did)
13. Flat Earth Society—president believes, not all may agree with him
14. Conspiracy Planet—does not believe
15. Escape the Illusion—pro climate change

In the spirit of full disclosure, there were several websites that caused me headaches when trying to understand their positions (four total). These were eliminated. Others had no commentary I could find using the web sites’s search box. These, too, were eliminated. So the actual totals are for those that presented an opinion that was easily discernible.

My results:
Pro 3
Both 4
Con 6
Unknown 2

What have we learned from this?
More conspiracy sites chosen (6/12) state skeptical positions.
Some conspiracy sites chosen (4/12) allow more open discussion than climate change advocate sites
Googling and reading conspiracy websites may result in bad things creeping onto your computer (update than malware/virus software frequently) and you may suffer some mental fatigue in attempting to decipher the sites (maybe why Lewendosky just assigned values?)

So can we conclude questioners are just a bunch of conspiracy nuts? Well, no.
First, I noted the complete lack of scientific method here. Second, we would need to know if advocates who believe in conspiracies just don’t use websites (if some of these people live off the grid, to save the planet and/or hide from the government, they probably avoid electronic media) and third, much time can be spent developing and researching something that in the end is pretty much useless.

What if we look at some comments from advocates to be sure they’re not into conspiracy theories:

“Distrust of the climate experts was encouraged by corporations and political interests that opposed any government influence in the economy. “ AIP

“Hartmut Grabl, a climate researcher and the former director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, says there is a political component to climate skepticism.
‘Some of them even get paid, by big oil companies for example, to undermine climate change,’ he says. Grable believes small groups, financed by big interest, are often sent to climate conferences to listen to the arguments at hand and find ways to dispute them.” (This used to be called science—questioning the theory and it’s proofs. Also, the same tactics are seen by advocate bloggers that the skeptics are accused of here—tag team the “skeptic” blogs and see if you can stir up hate and discontent among skeptics.)

“A secret funding organization in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.”

“Climate skeptics, or deniers as they are often called, are presented as all-powerful forces bankrolled by rich corporations who have wielded their awesome power to block efforts to deal with the threat of human caused climate change. How do we know that climate skeptics have such power? As Martin Wolf explains, it is the “world’s inaction” on climate policy which reveals their power.”
http://theenergycollective.com/roger-pielke-jr/230251/irrelevance-climate-skeptics

“I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation … that could be a way to save our planet,” Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen.”
http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/ufos-can-solve-climate-change-says-ex-defense-minister.html

Seems at least some believers subscribe to conspiracy theories. The continual claims of oil company payouts, etc, certainly lean toward, if not fall into, conspiracy territory. Whether or not persons expressing these views subscribe to other conspiracy theories was not studied.

In the end, it comes down to many people believe in one or more conspiracy theories on both the advocate side and questioner side. Belief in conspiracies outside of climate change (e.g. 9/11, moon walk hoax, etc) has no bearing on a person’s climate change views. A person can believe in the moon walk “hoax” and still be correct in their climate change views.

Climate change is not right or wrong because Koch’s gave money to Heartland, because socialists believe in it, because industry may or may not be out to get environmentalists, and so forth. It is right or wrong on how well the theory fits the real data (not models). Right now, the fit is becoming less and less. That is why one should question the theory.

Scientific Badger

Scientific Badger

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Marketing 101

Skeptical Science sent out an email looking for 25 skeptical blogs to participate in a survey of 25 skeptical and 25 believer blogs. The survey concerns “consensus” and involves the use of research abstracts. From an email posted on WUWT: 

As one of the more highly trafficked climate blogs on the web, I’m seeking your assistance in conducting a crowd-sourced online survey of peer-reviewed climate research. I have compiled a database of around 12,000 papers listed in the ‘Web Of Science’ between 1991 to 2011 matching the topic ‘global warming’ or ‘global climate change’. I am now inviting readers from a diverse range of climate blogs to peruse the abstracts of these climate papers with the purpose of estimating the level of consensus in the literature regarding the proposition that humans are causing global warming. If you’re interested in having your readers participate in this survey, please post the following link to the survey:

(no link posted)

The survey involves rating 10 randomly selected abstracts and is expected to take 15 minutes. Participants may sign up to receive the final results of the survey (de-individuated so no individual’s data will be published). No other personal information is required (and email is optional). Participants may elect to discontinue the survey at any point and results are only recorded if the survey is completed. Participant ratings are confidential and all data will be de-individuated in the final results so no individual ratings will be published.

You can also read these blogs for additional comments:

http://rankexploits.com/musings/2013/dear-john-i-have-questions/ 

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/05/03/john-cooks-new-survey-lots-of-questions-no-answers/#more-85516 

http://joannenova.com.au/2013/05/dear-john-you-want-deniers-to-help-you-do-a-fallacious-survey-eh/

Two questions:

  1. Why survey bloggers and readers about consensus on AGW using technical abstracts?
  2. Why are abstracts from what has always been described as very technical science being used?

First, SkS has not shown interest in what readers of skeptical blogs think in the past. Generally, skeptics and their blogs are characterized as unscientific individuals with some kind of agenda involving fossil fuels and/or shadow governments. NOW he cares?

It has been repeated over and over and over that laymen cannot understand the complexity of climate science. Yet the study involved reading and ranking abstracts from professional journals. (True, it seems the survey just asks if the survey is neural, pro or against AGW, but that’s still a pretty big judgement call for science so reportedly complex and impossible to understand outside the field.)

Let me get this straight: SkS is surveying unscientific, agenda-driven skeptics using science documents written by individuals with advanced degrees and years of research in the field to determine “consensus” in the literature.

This says “marketing” all over it. How can scientists phrase their abstracts to slant public opinion in their favor (in case those pesky skeptics keep encouraging readers to check the research)?

No climate science here. Just how to sell your product more effectively……