NOTE: The 41% largely supportive of the ‘C’ in CAGW (or at least the need for strong controls on human emissions to combat climate change) is made up of two frames, a 5% ‘regulation activist’ frame and a 36% ‘comply with Kyoto’ frame, of which only the latter strongly believes that ‘humans are the main or central cause’ of global warming (the 5% frame accepts the possibility of a larger natural component). Some skeptics have thus made much of this result, i.e. only 36% of the respondents, a significant minority, believe ‘humans are causing a global-warming crisis’. For example see the Forbes article and IBT article (later discussed at Watts Up With That here). However this article, which calls the LM2013 survey respondents simply ‘geo-scientists and engineers’, fails to point out that the entire sample consisted of experts from or associated with the petro-chemical industry in Alberta, Canada, a state in which this industry also dominates the economy. Hence the respondents would clearly be defensive of their industry and economy and thus pretty biased towards skepticism. I very much doubt that a truly broad world-wide sample even among generic ‘geo-scientists and engineers’, would produce anything like this result. While I agree with the Forbes article regarding unmistakable bias, and indeed the article makes a similar point to me regarding biased terminology, stretching the LM2013 results inappropriately ‘out of sector’, a similar error to those the authors themselves make, is not the way to set matters straight. In my opinion this paper completely falls apart on its own merits; it needs no push whatsoever. (The comment by Brian Angliss at WUWT alerts to inappropriate assumptions in the Forbes article, as do various comments below the article itself – though the scientist/engineer ratio is not a critical issue and I am not endorsing or otherwise further comments by Brian – the limited sector of the respondents is highly relevant). In their own objection at Forbes, Lesfrud and Meyer warn against making generalizations from a ‘non-representational data set’. The data is indeed not at all representative of the whole narrative contest, and hence should not make assumptions about unexamined frames within the contest, such as for instance that IPCC framings contain ‘more truth’, or indeed ‘an absolute truth’.
Once a major narrative war is well under way, the accumulated weight of narrative frames will tend to dominate over any truths that may still survive beneath the battle. Critically, highly persuasive storylines from winning frames will actually alter perceptions so much that searches for the truth (scientific or otherwise) will very likely become highly biased or outright corrupted, as occurred in the historic examples mentioned at the top of this post (and it is all too easy to see this in climate science). Hence the successful narratives will tend to maintain conditions that maximize those uncertainties which led to the narratives arising in the first place. The apparently rampant CAGW bias in academia is a result; very likely the extremely poor progress on bounding climate sensitivity in the last twenty-five years (perhaps the single largest contributor to uncertainty) is also a symptom of this mechanism.
Many articles at WUWT have highlighted CAGW bias in academic papers across a great diversity of topics from ‘threatened’ butterflies to agricultural impacts to core climate metrics like temperature and sea-ice extent. I picked this particular paper because its mode of investigation holds both a very deep irony for the authors, and also something very well worth rescuing indeed; something immensely valuable in fact. I mentioned above that more and more folks in the climate sphere, whether well-known or less so, and some even from within the Consensus itself, are applying religious metaphors to CAGW. Also they are increasingly using terms like ‘framing / reframing’, ‘meme’ and ‘narrative’ (e.g. ‘narrative competition’ ‘successful narratives’, ‘reframing the Climate Change narrative’, ‘dominant narrative’ etc) to characterize the evolution of the CAGW phenomena and the many struggles this spawns. LM2013 homes in upon this angle, and it is the right angle, a highly valuable angle, for attempting to understand the social phenomena of CAGW. Religions are essentially successfully evolved narratives, and the same mechanisms that support them also support the rise of CAGW. Reality (including acknowledging the real uncertainties) has been left far behind because once conditions were right for a narrative war to blossom, narrative success became more important than factual content; the winner so far in this particular war is the aggressive CAGW culture. Understanding that culture will help defeat it.
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