As E2010 / E2011 point out, the CIE can never wholly be eliminated; so the misinformation put out by the Consensus now has ‘a life of its own’. Misinformation will not in the vast majority of cases equate to straight lies or scams; it is typically due to an avalanche of myth and misunderstandings caused by a whole range of effects, such as confirmation bias and noble cause corruption and amplification by the cellular science structure and so on, beneath which in turn lies more basic emotive bias. Catastrophe could still happen, yet as noted above the single largest item of misinformation within CAGW is the false level of certainty about that scenario. This falsity has now been exposed by ‘the pause’, and as observations start to fall out of the bottom of model projections it is slowly dawning, at least on the less committed adherents to the cause, that the wicked problem of predicting climate (with or without any anthropogenic effects) should never have had such high certainty attached to it in the first place.
I repeat: The CIE can never wholly be eliminated. Consider the timescales involved; many environmental scientists who are also embedded individuals within an emotively pliant society, have spent almost their whole career working under the harsh light of an emotional message of certain disaster (absent drastic CO2 cutbacks that is, which certainly are not occurring). This is a constant pressure that will invoke bias. Via the cell dependency in science where each cell often uncritically utilizes the results of another (for instance assumed temperature impact upon a particular species), the false certainty has spread to myriad fields within the overall sphere of environmental studies. Even if huge efforts were deployed to transmit proper caveats and corrections as part of a much more balanced understanding, it would be enormously difficult, more likely impossible, to undo all the damage caused by the original misinformation. As Jenifer Marohasy suggests, the re-emergence of proper science might only be possible via a completely new paradigm, one which essentially comes staffed by new people and so is not weighted down by the crippling emotional commitments of the current regime. While ‘the pause’ has probably had a stronger corrective effect than all the efforts of skeptics combined, this merely emphasizes the fact that no social corrective mechanism is likely to work. So unless the climate does something both relatively short-term and completely at odds with the Consensus envelope, then we are burdened with a disabling CIE; given the Consensus envelope has been stretched so wide these days, then this possibility is also very unlikely.
That brings us nicely to Type 3B: Try to be aware of corrections / retractions; be suspicious if these are not on a par with the vigor of the original information transmission. While ‘the pause’ has injected some sense of true uncertainty into both the core science domain and even the public domain, it is painfully obvious that any ‘huge efforts deployed to transmit proper caveats and corrections as part of a much more balanced understanding’ that I mentioned above, simply are not happening. In fact, completely the opposite appears to be happening. Many within the Consensus still cling to the ‘settled science’ thread as others attempt to pivot, yet even the latter are not promoting corrective information in high profile, rather they attempt a quiet morph to a more flexible position. The many weaknesses of models and their failure to match observations are hardly the stuff of presidential speeches and major news announcements, as was their ‘underwriting the certainty of doom’, which message still staggers on in fact. Such admissions as have been made are practically dragged out of official bodies in a exercise somewhat like pulling teeth from a patient who is fighting back, and the only impactful public notification is from brave and much maligned minority journalism such as that of David Rose, rather than from official sources such as a government minister, or even their science subordinates like NASA or NOAA or the UK Met Office or the Ozzie BOM. Similar defensiveness can be found across the environmental domain; for instance the uncertainty that has come to light about polar bear numbers is hardly the stuff of major announcements by WWF or Al Gore, as was the previous ‘high certainty’ about their coming demise. Data is dragged painfully out of official bodies by Susan Crockford, and finds minority expression in articles such as this from Matt Ridley. Whether or not any of this new information would in fact change the picture, according to Lewandowksy and associated authors we have every right to be suspicious regarding the sources of the original narrative, every right to be suspicious that the narrative was heavily weighted towards a specific position. Yet such suspicions are generally met by official brick walls, evasion, or indeed anger.
Even if the entire environmental domain was now working in good faith to transmit corrections and caveats, the CIE is still working against them. And it seems like almost no-one in the domain is making a serious attempt at high profile correction. Peer pressure within the Consensus makes it very hard to show a fuller picture, which will be perceived as admitting a mistake when compared to the original messages. And I guess authority figures from presidents and prime ministers on down don’t like admitting to policy errors, even if they could in practice shift the blame onto scientific advisors. Plus major vested interests (e.g. the renewables industry and considerable UN infra-structure) are now attached to the narrative of catastrophe, no doubt along with a few scams on the side too (these are attached to every major human enterprise). Authority figures are not embracing the emerging uncertainties that the public are dimly starting to perceive, they are resisting the knowledge and the implications. One reason the Consensus envelope is stretched so wide these days, is that its adherents are (through the action of bias) integrating various unanticipated positions into the narrative while trying hard to maintain a sense of continuity and also the critical imperative of coming calamity. Out of this process the public is not getting caveats and corrections and retractions on a par with the original narrative; it is at best getting ‘we are still right, but you have to wait and see’. [Note, some scientists are invoking the insurance of offsets, e.g. may, could, if, possibly, consistent with, etc. set within the original information. In fact the terms are typically deployed in a manner that has made things worse, because they provide for a big range of ambiguity that allows the previous bias types of worldview and emotion to find a subconscious foothold, while not, being just ‘glue words’, usually standing out enough to constitute a reasonable health warning in the minds of unwary readers. It is also to be noted that there have been a very few high profile corrections; e.g. the Himalayan Glacier melt times; though even these have hardly been made with grace and without pressure].
So we come to warning Type 3C: be healthily skeptical; suspicions based on innate skepticism reduce the CIE. Regarding the Consensus attitude to skepticism, I don’t think I need to bother with much in the way of references; unfortunately it is all too apparent that the core of the Consensus either demonizes skeptics, or is happy to stay silent while such demonization occurs. The virtually universal use of the term ‘denier’ to describe skeptics is specifically linked to Holocaust denial, injecting enormous emotion into the climate debate and delegitimizing skepticism. Lately, some in the Consensus having seen that this has gone too far, there are attempts to reign in use of the term (which likely cannot be achieved, such usage so easily gets out of control). Attempts are typically based on ‘splitting’ skeptics into deniers, contrarians, or ‘true’ skeptics. Given that these definitions are constructed by the Consensus and can be morphed at will to attack inconvenient arguments or those presenting them, this is hardly any better: simply a means to keep control of the debate while moderating emotion sufficiently not to lose the moral argument at the same time.
So, the leeway granted by the Consensus for healthy skepticism, which would help in countering natural biases that are bound to occur on complex and policy relevant problems, is worse than zero. It is minus. The Consensus is actively attempting to eradicate skepticism, which would also eradicate any chance of folks escaping the CIE regarding the misinformation that the Consensus transmitted. If they stood by the conclusions of their own papers, Lewandowsky and associated authors should be supporting the rights of skeptics and indeed the need of skeptical opinion, plus countering the shameful actions of the Consensus in trying to suppress these.
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