pA new U.S. Geological Survey study finds, “Warmer spring temperatures since 1980 are causing an estimated 20 percent loss of snow cover across the Rocky Mountains of western North America.” The USGS explains, “The new study builds upon a previous USGS snowpack investigation which showed that, until the 1980s, the northern Rocky Mountains experienced large [...]/p
Tag Archives: climate change
Climate change will cause widespread global-scale loss of common plants and animals, researchers predict
When I first started this blog, my intention was to focus mainly on the effect of climate change on the ecological world. I started out by collecting a number of references to papers that demonstrate range shifts and behavioural changes in various species caused by anthropogenic climate change. That list can be found here. The blog then morphed into a place where I could vent my frustrations about idiotic AGW deniers and more recently focus on Australian politicians and their position on the the scientific consensus that AGW is real and serious. I am pleased to occasionally get back to looking at the impacts of climate change on the natural world because idiotic deniers cannot argue that species haven’t moved or undergone phenological changes because the evidence for these things is unequivocal. Plants, animals, fungi and bacteria cannot be accused of lying or falsifying data or selling out their morals or any other of the ridiculous claims deniers make about scientists. So, to the following article. I welcome any deniers who wish to discuss why the biologcal world is doing what it’s doing. Much as I like going to the circus and watching the clowns throw buckets of confetti at each other.
Ok dummies, this is for you, courtesy of Peter Hadfield (Potholer 54)….
In North America, nothing highlights the consequences of AGW on ecosystems more than the mountain pine bark beetle which, due to warmer winter temperatures over all of its range and beyond, has devastated millions of hectares of pine forests killing off up to 99% of the mature trees in some places. I wrote a short piece about them some time ago here. Well it seems they are on the move again, having run out of food, they are now expanding again into other areas outside their normal range and their new range. This article from Scientific American discusses the issue. Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of how much evidence there is for the ecological impacts of AGW.
I have previously written about every current sitting member’s position on the science underpinning climate change and found that the conservatives from the Liberal and National party are split where Labor and the Greens overwhelming accept the science. This is true for both the House of Reps and the Senate. What will an Abbott led government do about climate change policy?
From Climate Code Red:
“Critical decade” or “lost decade”? (2)
Inside the beltway
With a victory for Tony Abbott and the Liberal–National Party coalition at Australia’s federal election in September, and conservative domination of Australian parliamentary politics for the remainder of this decade both likely, what will the major parties do on climate action?
Read the whole post here.
If Tony Abbott or his political party claim they are 100% committed to the environment then I would suggest that is a big fat lie. Here is an example of Tony Abbott's commitment:
The Opposition leader, Tony Abbott’s pitch to major polluters reached new heights today. Addressing a conference in Brisbane, Mr Abbott said he would out-source the protection of the environment and impacted communities to the States and Territories eager to fast track massive new industrial developments.
It was comedy gold when Stephen Lewandowsky released his paper in 2012 NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (LOG12) (available here). The response by the denier den community to LOG12 was predictable. When confronted with the findings that conspiracy theorists who endorse a cluster of non-climate-related conspiracy theories are more likely to reject climate science, they fought back the best way they knew how, by engaging in conspiracy ideation about the paper, the authors, the lead author’s institution, the Australian government…. What a classic! I am sure a few of the more sensible amongst them would have been wishing their fellow deniers would shut up, but alas, it became a veritable orgy of paranoia and conspiracy ideation.
So much of this was going on, it prompted Lewandowsky to delve deeper into the issue and collect data from the LOG12 response. With John Cook (SkepticalScience), Klaus Oberauer (University of Zurich) and Mike Marriott (Watching the Deniers), he produced the paper Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. This paper classifies different types of conspiratorial thinking into easy to understand bites that I hope those of us who regularly comment in blogs will use when engaging climate science deniers who engage in that kind of thinking.
Abstract: Conspiracist ideation has been repeatedly implicated in the rejection of scientific propositions, although empirical evidence to date has been sparse. A recent study involving visitors to climate blogs found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and the rejection of other scientific propositions such as the link between lung cancer and smoking, and between HIV and AIDS (Lewandowsky et al., in press; LOG12 from here on). This article analyses the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of LOG12. We identify and trace the hypotheses that emerged in response to LOG12 and that questioned the validity of the paper’s conclusions. Using established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation, we show that many of the hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking. For example, whereas hypotheses were initially narrowly focused on LOG12, some ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors of LOG12, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. The overall pattern of the blogosphere’s response to LOG12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science, although alternative scholarly interpretations may be advanced in the future.
The full article is an excellent read. The deniers of course won’t like it.
All of us in the sane world who understand and accept the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change and global warming, and are active in the blogosphere, always come across AGW deniers claiming to be sceptics. Anthony crybaby Watts for example certainly doesn’t like being called a denier because of perceived anti-semitic overtones in the use of that word. Well, they may not like being called deniers but that is what they are. That said, let’s just pretend for a moment that the word denier is offensive due to anti-semitic overtones. What other words could replace it? How about cynic, contrarian or detractor? All good words, especially cynic, because when deniers reject the science underpinning human-induced climate change, more often than not they are questioning the motivation of the scientists themselves rather than the science itself. This is certainly due to, in the case of Anthony Watts, a complete lack of scientific training and understanding. His sycophantic flying monkeys are even worse. They just blindly repeat everything Watts says without even thinking to pass a sceptical eye over any of it. That behaviour probably has another word for it requiring a different label for those individuals who practice it. Perhaps something along the lines of “sewer”, because that is a conduit for the type of information Watts and his ilk spew out. If there are any plumbers out there with a catchy word I’d like to hear from you. Whatever these people are, they are not sceptics.
So what exactly is a “sceptic”? Perhaps the following article by DoubtfulNews.com will help.
Media Guide to Skepticism
Purpose: To provide a clear, easy-to-read guide about the “Skeptical” viewpoint as subscribed to by many who might call themselves Skeptics or critical thinkers; to distinguish practical Skepticism from the popular use of the phrase “I’m skeptical,” and from those who claim to be “skeptics” regarding some well-established conclusion (such as climate change).
What is skepticism?
Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies tools of science. Skepticism is most often applied to extraordinary claims – those that refute the current consensus view.
The Skeptical process considers evidence obtained by systematic observations and reason.
The conclusion that is reached at the end of this Skeptical process is provisional because additional or better evidence may come along that points towards a more suitable explanation.
Example: Mr. X tells us that a new pill greatly improves his memory. This claim, if true, is important and extraordinary. So, it would be fitting to apply Skepticism to this claim. We would want to see evidence that his memory is improved and that the pill was responsible for that. We consider alternative explanations that could explain why Mr. X would say the new pill improves his memory: he may be mistaken, he might be going through a less-stressful time of life, he wants to feel like he spent his money wisely on the pills, he was paid to promote the pills, etc. Good evidence that his claim has validity would be quality research results (multiple studies) that show many who take the pill displayed a measurable improvement in memory. And, preferably, we would be provided a plausible explanation for how the pill works to improve memory. If the manufacturer of Mr X’s pills do not have well-controlled studies of large groups of people that show that the product actually works, we can’t just accept his word that they work as they say because the alternative explanations are more likely.
The more extraordinary the claim, the stronger the evidence must be to support it. If a claim is made that would require us to revise or overturn well established knowledge, we should be very suspicious and ask for a greater degree of evidence.
Example: Psychics claim that they are able to predict future events. That would not be in accordance with what we have observed about the human mind. It would not correspond to well-tested ideas in biology and physics. It does not make sense in terms of what we know. So, in order to justify discarding all we already know, the claimant must have a great deal of solid evidence that withstands scrutiny.
These are cases of applying scientific skepticism. Skeptics value contributions of science but also those of logic and math that lead towards the best explanation. Skepticism can be applied to subjects such as history, art and literature, as well, by using critical thinking and respect for the evidence for any claims that are made.
What does it mean to be a Skeptic?
You will often hear “I’m a skeptic” or “I’m skeptical” from people who are not sure about or who doubt some concept. That is a common, casual use of the term. Simply calling oneself a “skeptic” is not the same as practicing it. It’s easy to “doubt” things; everyone is “skeptical” about something. Good Skepticism involves understanding why one might or might not doubt the claim.
A Skeptic subscribes to a number of tenets.
Respect for the evidence. The application of reason to evidence is the best method we have to obtain reliable knowledge.
Respect for methods, conclusions and the consensus of science. Science is a particular way of obtaining information that is designed to reduce the chances of coming to an incorrect conclusion. Using a scientific process will minimize errors (but not eliminate them entirely). So, Skeptics are often vigorous advocates of science – in medicine, in schools, and for informing policy decisions. Fake, junk and pseudo-science is called out as a ruse. Logic and math are also components of science that can be valuable in assessing claims.
Preference for natural, not supernatural, explanation. Natural laws give us rational boundaries in our quest to determine explanations. Miracles are an example of using a supernatural agent (a god, saint or angel who operates outside of natural laws) as part of the explanation. A Skeptic will look for a natural explanation that does not call for a supernatural, unproven (and possibly unprovable) entity to be included.
Promotion of reason and critical thinking. Many Skeptics are good at identifying mistakes in arguments and reasoning.
Awareness of how we are fooled. People routinely fool themselves and are fooled by others. This is most commonly seen in our over-reliance on our senses and memory – for example, “I know what I saw,” or “I remember it like it was yesterday.” Skeptics are wary of eyewitness testimony because observation is fallible and memory is malleable. Stories of events, even from trustworthy people, make for very poor evidence on their own. Even collectively, anecdotes don’t tell us much about the validity of the claim. Skeptics also understand that people tend to look for, remember and favor the evidence that supports their preferred conclusion.
What Skepticism ISN’T
This section contains possibly the most important things to know about Skeptics. There are a many misconceptions about what it means to be a Skeptic. Not everyone who says they are “skeptical” are applying Skepticism.
Skeptic is not the same as “cynic” or “disbeliever”. Good Skeptics do not dismiss claims out-of-hand. The “Skeptic” is often seen as the “debunker”, the “downer”, or the “balloon buster”. It may appear that way for those who are very attached to certain concepts to which Skepticism is being applied, such as existence of ghosts, Bigfoot or UFOs. Skeptics aren’t skeptical of everything, either. In classical Greek Skepticism, the individual did not commit to stating “knowledge”; everything was doubted, there was no certainty. That is not a popular stance today. When we speak of modern Skepticism, we are talking about those who seek the conclusion best supported by current evidence and reason.
Skeptic does not equal “atheist”. Many Skeptics are atheists, but not all. Skepticism is a process of evaluating claims, not a set of conclusions. Skeptics are a diverse group so lack of religious beliefs should not be assumed. Scientific Skepticism is applied only to testable claims (such as “prayer heals”), not to untestable claims such as the existence of God, who is supernatural. “Is there a God?” is a question outside the realm of science. However, philosophical skepticism can be invoked in considering claims about the supernatural.
Skeptic does not mean “denialist” or “truther”. A practicing Skeptic is informed by the scientific consensus. So called “climate skeptics” are not practicing Skepticism when they doubt global warming based on selective belief and by ignoring the results that science has given us to this point. “Denialists” (of climate change, evolution, conventional medicine, etc.) reject science that does not support their view. “Truthers” insist that the real “truth” has not been revealed and instead put forth the explanation that a conspiracy is afoot. These stances do not give fair weight to well-established knowledge we have.
Skepticism is not a religion. Skepticism doesn’t tell you what to think. It tells you how you should think about something to get to the conclusion that has the best possibility of being true. Skepticism may not always be the best approach to decisions at the moment, sometimes decisions based on emotions can feel like the right thing to do. So applying skepticism to everything in life is not always the best policy. There may be other factors to consider.
Skepticism is important
Why use Skepticism as a process to evaluate claims? Critically evaluating claims for flaws, mistakes and inaccuracies lessens the potential that you will believe something that isn’t true. Skepticism and critical thinking can be applied in everyday life where an invalid claim might have serious effects on you or people around you – such as in consideration of a medical treatment, a financial investment, a consumer product, or life choices.
Proponents of a claim will frequently say, “You can’t prove it’s not true.” That’s a ridiculous statement. It’s not up to the Skeptic to show that an extraordinary claim isn’t true. It’s up to those making the claim to provide evidence and reasons why it IS true. We must have evidence that a person DID commit a crime, for example, not prove that everyone else in the world did not.
What do Skeptics do?
Skeptics have a loose community consisting of publications, web sites and online forums, organizations, and events. Skeptics are all around the world, organized into casual and formal groups and associations. It is a community made up of people with varying backgrounds, ideas, goals, communication styles and skill sets. It also gets very fluid at the edges. You might be a Skeptic and not even know it. Many people don’t self-identify as a “skeptic” but selectively follow the practices of Skepticism in their lives. Some people are disinclined to take on any labels or join a group.
Many Skeptics enjoy the fringe subject areas, they like solving mysteries and appreciate being around people who think as they do or who argue rationally when they don’t agree. Some Skeptics are activists who promote critical thinking and Skepticism in their communities and the public as individuals or as part of local or national organized groups and online.
Some of the topics Skeptics are involved in are science education, alternative medical treatments, the paranormal, dubious consumer products and services, hoaxes and scams, UFOs and aliens, monsters and folklore, superstition, and why people believe strange things.
Those who represent Skepticism in the public sphere are happy to provide a science- and reason-based viewpoint for the media. The backgrounds of the those in the Skeptical community are varied. Many participants in the skeptical community are experts in particular areas like the paranormal, medicine, cryptozoology, history, archaeology, textual analysis, linguistics, psychology, astronomy, physics and magic.
Here are the best means to connect to the people and ideas of scientific skepticism.
The directory for all things skeptical online
The major Skeptic organizations have as their mission a goal to promote scientific skepticism. There are three major national skeptical organizations in the United States.
CSI (formerly known as CSICOP) is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization, started in 1976. Their mission is to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims. They publish the Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptical Briefs. They host an annual conference called CSIcon and many local events, workshops and lectures in conjunction with their overarching organization, the Center for Inquiry. Contact: info(at)csisop.org More
Founded by magician James “The Amazing” Randi in 1996, the foundation is dedicated to promoting “critical thinking by reaching out to the public and media with reliable information about paranormal and supernatural ideas so widespread in our society today.” They organize one of the largest gatherings of international skeptics and critical thinkers, The Amazing Meeting (TAM), every year and offer the One Million Dollar Challenge for those who claim paranormal abilities. Contact: +1 213 293-3092 More
Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Skeptics Society is a nonprofit, scientific and educational organization led by Dr. Michael Shermer. Their mission is to engage leading experts in investigating the paranormal, fringe science, pseudoscience, and extraordinary claims of all kinds, promote critical thinking, and serve as an educational tool for those seeking a sound scientific viewpoint. They sponsor a monthly lecture series at the California Institute of Technology. Contact: skepticssociety(at)skeptic.com More
- Harry Houdini (1874 – 1926) Magician, psychic debunker.
- Martin Gardner (1914 – 2010) Popular math and science writer.
- Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992) Biochemist, professor, science fiction and science author.
- Paul Kurtz (1925 – 2012) Philosopher, professor, author, organizational founder.
- James Randi (1928 – ) Magician, investigator, author, organizational founder.
- Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996) Astronomer, astrophysicist, author.
- Richard Dawkins (1941 – ) Evolutionary biologist, professor, author.
- Stephen Jay Gould (1941 – 2002) Paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, science historian, author.
- Elizabeth Loftus (1944- ) Cognitive psychologist, world-renowned expert on human memory.
- Joe Nickell (1944 - ) Paranormal investigator, author.
- Carol Tavris (1944 – ) Social psychologist, author.
- Eugenie Scott (1945- ) Physical anthropologist, Director of National Center for Science Education.
- Lawrence Krauss (1954- ) Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, professor, author.
- Michael Shermer (1954 – ) Science writer, organizational founder, editor of Skeptic magazine.
- Steven Novella (1964 – ) Clinical neurologist, writer, editor.
- Brian Dunning (1965 – ) Science writer, video and podcast producer.
- Richard Saunders (1965 – ) Science educator, video and podcast producer.
- Richard Wiseman (1966 – ) Psychologist, popular science author, paranormal investigator.
- Christopher French (?- ) Professor, anomalous psychology researcher, editor-in-chief of The Skeptic (U.K.).
- Benjamin Radford (1970- ) Paranormal investigator, author, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer.
- Derren Brown (1971 – ) Illusionist, mentalist, TV personality.
- Tim Minchin (1975- ) Comedian, actor, musician.
What is Skepticism? Brian Dunning
What Is Skepticism, Anyway? Michael Shermer, 2013
Why Is There a Skeptical Movement? Daniel Loxton, 2013
Bigfoot Skeptics, New Atheists, Politics and Religion Steven Novella, 2013
The New Skepticism, Paul Kurtz, Prometheus Books, 1992
Eric Weiss from Skepticsonthe.net, David Bloomberg, Kylie Sturgess, Torkel Ødegård, Barbara Drescher, Robert Blaskiewicz, Massimo Pigliucci, Chris French, Adriana Heguy, Daniel Loxton, Eve Siebert, Eddie Scott, Daniel Loxton, Howard Lewis, Iain Martel, Tiffany Taylor, Terry O’Connor, Stephan Naro, Paul Wilkins, Richard Saunders.
Permission to reprint is granted as long as the following attribution is given: By DoubtfulNews.com, 2013
Media Guide to Skepticism by Sharon Hill/Doubtful News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
One of my readers brought my attention to this video and it is well worth a look. It’s a radical idea to tackle not just desertification, but climate change and famine too.