CAGW bias in academia; Lesfrud and Meyer 2013 revisited.

The deep irony for the authors is that they had in their hands the right tool that could provide a much better understanding of what is really happening regarding CAGW, yet they discovered nothing of note. They failed to acknowledge their own cultural immersion and hence have not realized their uncritical acceptance of CAGW supportive frames. While I see no reason to doubt the immediate findings of their survey of Alberta’s petro-chemical industry, what this paper doesn’t say regarding the whole narrative contest, plus the fact of the authors’ CAGW cultural bias, together rob the conclusions of any real meaning and betray the paper’s supposed objectivity. Rather than remain neutral as academics should, they have significantly furthered the purpose of their own frame with LM2013, which might be labeled ‘authority of academia’, and which appears to be wholly allied and committed to CAGW.

Religious narratives essentially never run out of fuel; there is and likely always will be some level of uncertainty about the existence of God(s). Secular narratives, especially those spawned by science, should in theory run out of fuel one day, *if* the scientific method survives of course, as this is the means to eventually remove uncertainty. But there is vast social inertia behind CAGW now, to the extent that even a 17 year ‘hiatus’ in global temperatures has had surprisingly little impact on the big narrative beast. Most likely it won’t be tamed for some years yet, but understanding the nature of the beast can only help.

Andy West.

Footnote 1: I make the caveat here that the narrative competition is essentially unrelated to whatever is happening in the real climate, and whether that is good, bad, or indifferent. Social narratives feed upon uncertainty, and even if a ‘bad’ real climate scenario emerged (though this seems increasingly less likely), most of the excesses of the aggressive CAGW culture would swiftly die-out. This is because a real enemy not an array of fantasy ones would now be identified, and just like for a war or a natural disaster, society would soon grasp what to do and folks would simply get on and do it.

Footnote2: References regarding various points above, such as the comparison by many folks of CAGW with religion (or use of religious metaphors), narratives altering the law, etc. can be found in my essay The CAGW Memeplex; a cultural creature. A memetic perspective provides great insight on the competition of social narratives, and allows a detailed exploration of how and why these happen, which is simply not possible in the space of the post above.

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6 Responses to CAGW bias in academia; Lesfrud and Meyer 2013 revisited.

  1. Great stuff, if a little heavy going for the average reader. There’s a sociology professor Reiner Grundmann at Nottingham University who had a very useful quote at Notrickszone a while back about the absolute necessity of applying the same analytical criteria to both sides of a debate in this kind of a study.
    Neurology and memeplexes are on way of looking at the question of the spread of ideas; there’s another I’ve been meaning to look into since a commenter at a French sceptic site pointed it out, due to a physicist called Serge Galam who has developed a mathematical model of how ideas spread. Some of his papers are in English. They’re full of graphs with what look like sums of hyperbolic functions, giving unpredictable tipping points. His basic idea is that a small number of people with a fixed idea can spread that idea to a majority in a surprisingly short time, given the right starting conditions. Lots to look into.
    I haven’t looked into your SF stories yet, but I will. Have a look at Alex Cull’s blog at http://alexjc38.wordpress.com/
    He’s big on SF.

  2. andywest2012 says:

    Thanks for dropping in Geoff, your comments much appreciated.

    I’ve been over to Alex’s place a couple of times; he read my sceptical cli-fi / sci-fi novelette ‘Truth’ when it first came out, and left a compliment on the BH thread about the book at that time. His blog is one of many I’m discovering on my CAGW wanderings that I would love to spend more time at. But with the full-time job taking precedence, and needing time for my own contribution in various domains too, time to wander pleasurably in the words of others whether fact or fiction, is an increasingly rare luxury for me ): Enjoyed your great contribution at BH over recent years though, and I’ll definitely check out this Serge Galam chap and his very interesting theory, thanks for the pointer. Regarding the absolute neccessity of the same analytical criteria being applied to both sides of the debate, I have a potential Lewandowsky related post on precisely that issue, *if* I can find the time to work it up of course!

  3. Nick Drew says:

    Do you check comments here regularly?

    Having just carefully read (and re-read) your fine CAGW Memeplex essay, and noting your invitation for suggestions, I have one such suggestion to offer.

  4. andywest2012 says:

    Nick Drew says: September 1, 2014 at 10:48 am (Edit)

    Hi Nick, many thanks for reading it and for your compliment, and I’m more than happy to receive suggestions. In practice, given I’m so busy with the day job and other projects, I may never get around to an update (which I’d hoped to do, and there is still some chance one day). On a more immediate timescale I’ll actually be occupied with other matters for almost 2 weeks, so may not get a chance to reply to you until then. But by all means suggest away and I’ll reply when I’m free again.

  5. Nick Drew says:

    A tactical suggestion born of strategic considerations which latch onto the time-honoured principle of reductio ad absurdum, in a field with no shortage of manifest absurdity. Highlight the contradictions abounding in promotion and subsidy of industrial-scale burning of biomass as a ‘renewable’ source of energy.

    Not all categories of bioenergy are manifestly absurd. Burning certain organic waste products for fuel (including for electricity generation) may be entirely logical by many standards – almost certainly by the CAGW-promoted standards of CO2 reduction and sustainability, and maybe even including economic viability (though they do all seem to be looking for subsidies …).

    But biodiesel and other liquid biofuels, and most particularly fuel-pellets made from ‘roundwood’ (mature trees) are a different story. In the case of the latter being used in millions of tonnes to generate electricity it has been shown pretty conclusively (by the highly-regarded Prof David MacKay among others) that there are scenarios in which this can be significantly worse for the environment – including levels of CO2 emissions – than burning coal: and that’s saying something. (The assessment is complex, involving careful analysis of the counterfactuals for use of the timber and use of the forest land. But some of the results are extremely damning.)

    In the case of liquid biofuels, these are frequently produced at the expense of food production and/or highly damaging change-of-use of the land involved. Although governments are slowly waking up to all this and may change the relevant policies over time, the status quo is that many categories of bioenergy have been given a free pass, i.e. they are ‘deemed carbon neutral’ for qualifying for subsidies and for meeting renewables targets – irrespective of the facts.

    The beauty of industrial-scale bioenergy as a point of attack on the memeplex is that it plays directly to the (rational) sensibilities, indeed the primary sensibilities, of many of its adherents (should be most of them: but one finds plenty whose kneejerk reaction is blindly to defend biomass burning – encouraged by the very well-funded biofuels lobby). The most ‘honest’ greens see the point immediately; and several NGOs strongly associated with, if not actually paid-up adherents of the memeplex are becoming increasingly hostile to such biofuels.

    However, this is not remotely an attack based solely on expediency, schadenfreude or mere troublemaking for the memeplex: it’s an important battle to win in its own right, for every reason. Reversion to wood-burning, even in the form of ‘high-tech’ pellets, is an astonishing return to primitivism, neglecting nearly 300 years of history, science and technology: the thermal density of wood is pitiful when compared with coal; its EROEI (for those who are counting) is likewise badly inferior; and its net emissions include not only (in some cases) more CO2 than coal, but all manner of harmful particulates we thought we’d eradicated from our air. If ever there was a case of CAGW imposing too high a ‘taxation’ burden, this is it.

    As I say, many greens know this to be correct, and are on the side of putting an end to it. (There are new single-issue green groups springing up with this as their cause.) The issue therefore stimulates (a) green-on-green strife, with the ‘antis’ using many of the weapons the memeplex itself has fashioned over the years; and – because no green wants to go against another without some science to hand – (b) a blessed and all-too-rare emphasis on really careful analysis.

    I can provide more detail if desired. As a dispute it doesn’t require much stirring: it shows every sign of building into a civil war of its own momentum. It is a far more direct, internal-to-CAGW, green-on-green contradiction than, say, countryside supporters vs windfarms, which are two distinct, if loosely overlapping memplexes.

    And with real science being deployed! Who knows where this might lead, if it becomes a habit …

  6. andywest2012 says:

    Nick Drew says: September 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Apologies Nick for the ridiculously long time in answering, am a bit overwhelmed with stuff at the moment.

    While not deep into detail, I’m somewhat familiar with the arguments against biofuels. Not least in causing their own environmental damage, pushing up world food prices, and in some cases (due to harvesting, processing, transport, storage) having little carbon footprint advantage to boot. I’ve sometimes highlighted this angle in conversations with folks who know only the mainstream CAGW narratives as gleaned from the press, because as you point out it is pretty hard to refute, and an increasing number of greens are themselves opposing the more damaging bio-fuel policies (I think the sad tale of Drax is helping to open eyes on this angle). It’s a good way to guide folks into what other things may be wrong.

    But having said that, and apart from this being another piece of evidence that the (not sentient, not agential) ‘agenda’ of the memeplex has us doing things that suit it and not us, this isn’t where I want to focus my own efforts. Such spare time as I have is focussed on advertising the fact that CAGW is an insistent culture in its own right, *is* a memeplex, plus the pyschological issues that surround this such as inherent bias (the thread we’re in here being one example). In that sense I’m not so much combating CAGW, but identifying its characteristics such that others can better see the nature of the beast, and hence help to tame it. With the limited time I have, I can’t afford to widen my focus too much, I guess we each help in our own way.

    But your point is well made, and I think hitting on the absurdity and damage of some bio-fuel policies is a good way to challenge CAGW, and to help dismantle policies that, in any context, shouldn’t be happening anyhow.

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