Wrapped in Lew Papers: The psychology of climate psychologization – Part2

So thus far we’ve categorized the valid warnings about bias from Lewandowsky and associated authors, plus shown how each one is highly relevant to the position of the Consensus, revealing enormous bias and the transmission of misinformation, plus a failure to revise / retract in the light of new knowledge (e.g. as prompted by ‘the pause’). The next (and last) post looks further at the impact of these findings, on climate professionals, on psychologists, and on society as a whole. Along the way, we’ll include an extra subtlety or too, for instance an interesting angle from the Lew papers about attempting to induce false suspicion.

Andy West : www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com

† There is and always has been very considerable uncertainty in the Science of what is essentially a wicked problem (understanding climate), which because of groupthink and rampant bias the Consensus has not communicated. This quote is from Prof Judith Curry in response to an interview question about the current intellectual level of the climate change debate:
∙∙∙∙∙∙Well, the climate change debate seems to be diversifying, as sociologists, philosophers, engineers and scientists from other fields enter the fray. There is a growing realization that the UNFCCC / IPCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change/Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has oversimplified both the problem and its solution. The wicked climate problem is growing increasingly wicked as more and more dimensions come into play. The diversification helps with the confirmation bias and ‘groupthink’ problem”.
Curry has a short Op-ed at the Financial Post and other venues (copy at her own blog here), which summarizes why the past and current narrative of certainty is false, plus the negative impact of this, calling for the ‘complexity and wicked nature of the climate problem’ to be recognized. This would result in a fundamental (and positive) change in policy, and likely too a huge deflation in worldwide panic.

Many WUWT readers may consider the content of this Appendix an exercise in the blatantly obvious. Yet folks come here from across the whole spectrum of climate interest, and I felt it necessary to add more to the above text, which makes very clear the scope of CAGW as seen by the Consensus itself, and also as seen by relatively independent observers (at least I think they have no dog in the direct fight; I picked a philosopher and a theologian). That scope is of a transformative culture that will impact the worldviews of all individuals it touches, bruising or stroking or strangling or engorging those worldviews depending on the pre-existing mind-set of the impacted individuals. It is the case that flattering and enhancing worldviews can cause just as much bias towards a culture as challenging and undermining them can against. Included is a brief sample of the large and increasing number of commenters from both inside and outside the Consensus (though more so the latter), who observe that CAGW has strikingly similar characteristics to those other major cultural entities which both impact and shape worldviews, namely religions. This frequent observation stems from common underlying mechanisms within both cultural entities, which lie outside the scope of this series; nevertheless it reinforces the admitted nature of CAGW as a potent culture impacting worldviews both negatively and positively. The sheer size of the Consensus and its cultural entrenchment in governmental structure, NGOs, the mainstream media and some of the business sector plus other social organs, leads to an expectation of major bias.

The aspiration that the ‘fight’ against man-made climate change should transform what we are and what we do, was set early in the arising of the phenomenon of CAGW. At the 1992 Rio Earth summit, from which came the ‘climate change convention’ that eventually led to the Kyoto protocol, and in which 172 governments participated, Maurice Strong, the first Secretary General of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the following within his opening address:
∙∙∙∙∙∙For both these issues <biodiversity and climate change> deal with the future of life on Earth. Over the next 20 years, more than one quarter of the Earth’s remaining species may become extinct. And in the case of global warming, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that if carbon dioxide emissions are not cut by 60 per cent immediately, the changes in the next 60 years may be so rapid that nature will be unable to adapt and man incapable of controlling them.
More than that twenty years later this storyline, which compared to Consensus scientific opinion now (as expressed in the AR5 technical papers) looks like a very serious overstatement of likely environmental impacts, acts as a main fear-based motivator for proposed difficult changes and actions, about which the same speech says later …
∙∙∙∙∙∙We are reminded by the Declaration of the Sacred Earth Gathering, which met here last weekend, that the changes in behaviour and direction called for here must be rooted in our deepest spiritual, moral and ethical values. We reinstate in our lives the ethic of love and respect for the Earth which traditional peoples have retained as central to their value systems.
Anthropologists might argue that the Western perception of the ‘love and respect’ held by traditional peoples for the Earth is in fact a myth anyhow. This is a serious world leader essentially basing a policy direction on the old bunkum of the beautiful and noble savage, giving enormous emotive ammunition to the anti-technology, anti-energy and anti-medicine etc. memes that lurk ever in the wings and leap out periodically to capture a new crop of the naïve. However, whether you believe this bunkum or not, this is a clear proposal for a fundamental new worldview, one apparently rooted in some kind of ‘inner spiritual and moral truth’. Most definitely the stuff of transformative culture.

Also out of the Rio Earth Summit, which is officially named ‘the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)’, came Agenda 21, a multi-tiered (local, regional, global) agenda for ‘sustainability’ in the 21st Century. While highly motivated, and notwithstanding no-one is really going to disagree about wanting, say, less poverty or disease, or indeed conserving the environment, the agenda nevertheless embeds many assumptions about the way of achieving these things, which amounts to a rigid social blueprint. Hence although it is non-binding, love it or hate it, or both for different principles within, the prospect of implementation can only involve a major impact, for better or for worse, upon everyone’s pre-existing worldviews (since Rio, some alignment has already occurred). The perceived need to fight climate change is and has been a major justification for Agenda 21 and other sustainability initiatives. As recently as 2012 at the ‘Rio + 20’ United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the attending members reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 21 in a document called “The Future We Want”. The leaders of 180 nations participated.

All the folks who indeed want this Agenda 21 future or something similar, who given the blueprint above is essentially a socialist one seem to abound in UN structures and other bureaucracies plus indeed in academia too, will possess intrinsic bias regarding the most powerful motivator for this transformative social project, i.e. global warming aka climate change. In very many cases they are the same people who are working within the science and policy wings of the climate Consensus, and over decades we could not seriously expect their judgment to have remained uncompromised by major bias. Standard work on cognitive bias tells us this, the papers from Lewandowsky and associated authors tell us this. While of course there will be opposing bias from those whose worldviews are negatively impacted by the advance of Agenda 21, these folks have not had a serious foothold in government or in climate science, and only in a part of business and the media. They are a small minority that haven’t owned the action, so to speak. Their best option has been in fact to try and resist their own bias and point out scientific truths that expose the bias of their opponents.

There is little attempt within the Consensus to mask the worldview alignments that are so tangled up with the topic of climate change in a cultural positive feedback loop, except when Consensus adherents argue that (their) ‘science is science’ and not impacted by worldview, which a) for an infant science engaged on a wicked problem is not true, and b) anyhow this undermines the parallel argument that skeptic science is merely a product of conservative and free-market orientated worldview. Either both or true, or neither.

So according to the Consensus itself, the Consensus is either part of a transformative culture or it is not, depending on whether it wants to promote the apparent benefits of its cultural aspirations, or whether it wants to argue against skeptics in a narrow scientific context while distancing from the inconvenience within this scenario of its worldview alignment. So much for what the Consensus thinks of itself. What do others think? Well in the abstract for the unfortunately pay-walled The Reason of “Climate Religion”, a Theological-Ethical Critique of Climate Skeptical Arguments, theologist Michael Rosenberger says:
∙∙∙∙∙∙Climate skeptics put forth many arguments against climate protection. Among them, two are particularly interesting from a theological point of view: First, climate protection is described as a new, secular religion, with dogmas and declared heretics and with a system of purchasable indulgence analogous to medieval Catholicism. Second, this “climate religion” gains its power largely from inducing fear – fear of apocalyptic catastrophes coming soon if people won’t change their lifestyles fundamentally. The article, written in a perspective of theological ethics, does not deny the skeptics’ analysis of climate protection as religion. It rejects, however, the underlying negative evaluation of any religion as behind the times and as lacking any rationality, providing evidence for the reasonability of “climate religion”.

Note that while this statement is defending against the implication that religions lack rationality, it does not deny the skeptic premise that ‘climate protection’ has become a religion, which in other words is a cultural entity that will impact and shape worldviews. The increasing number (and depth) of comparisons between CAGW and religion strongly supports this concept (e.g. see a few I collected about a year back, there are very many more and they’ve kept on appearing since: UK MP Peter Lilley , blogger John Bell, Michael Crichton via blogger Justice4Rinka [Jan 10, 2013 at 10:07am], Richard Lindzen, blogger BetaPlug, philosopher Pascal Bruckner, blogger sunshinehours1 [cult], professor Hans Von Storch [prophets], some Evangelical skeptics, and a Climate Etc post discussing this whole area).

One of the above is worth expanding, as the quote is from the mainstream Consensus climate scientist Hans von Storch, along with his co-author for ‘The Climate Trap’, cultural scientist Werner Krauss (‘the authors’). So this represents an inside view, not a skeptic one:
∙∙∙∙∙∙   The authors reveal how they feel about alarmist scientists. Since the early 2000s they felt “something was amiss”.
∙∙∙∙∙∙   “Was the climate apocalypse really at our doorstep as we could read in the media? Or were they exaggerating in their depiction of the results coming from climate science? […]
∙∙∙∙∙∙   The climate scientist [von Storch] had the suspicion that climate science was dragging around a ‘cultural rucksack’ that was influencing the interpretation of the data. The cultural scientist [Krauss], with regards to the appearances by some climate scientists in the media and the roles they were readily assigned, was reminded of weather-wizards and shamans of foreign cultures.”
And later:
∙∙∙∙∙∙   “Without really being aware of it, climate scientists had taken over the role of prophets: They predicted the imminent end-of-the-world if society did not fundamentally change soon, reduced its emissions, and behaved more sustainably with the environment. The problem was not only the message, but also that they were often completely way in over their heads with the role as mediator between nature and society.”
The fact that some Consensus scientists are now pointing to the alarmism of others, suggests some fracturing of Consensus culture under pressure from ‘the pause’. A (very) slow realization of the culture of catastrophe, itself based upon the misinformation of certainty, is beginning to percolate parts of the Consensus itself. Yet it is heavily resisted. Von Storch at least has realized that this must be influencing the interpretation of the data in a major way. His ‘cultural rucksack’ is packed with the worldview and emotive bias types that the Lew and crew papers describe much more formally. (Consensus credentials: Von Storch is still signed up to 2+ Celsius warming this century with ‘serious effects’ within 30 years, plus ‘sinister’ ocean acidification, against which effects we must continue with major emissions reduction).

I end this appendix with the view of philosopher Pascal Bruckner. His essay at The Chronicle of Higher Education makes an enlightened comparison of CAGW culture (or rather, the somewhat wider concept of ‘Ecologism’) not only with religions, but with at least one other transformative culture, Communism, and others are implied:
∙∙∙∙∙∙Ecologism, the sole truly original force of the past half-century, has challenged the goals of progress and raised the question of its limits. It has awakened our sensitivity to nature, emphasized the effects of climate change, pointed out the exhaustion of fossil fuels. Onto this collective credo has been grafted a whole apocalyptic scenography that has already been tried out with communism, and that borrows from Gnosticism as much as from medieval forms of messianism.
While it is no doubt healthy to awaken our sensitivity to nature and some awareness of resource limits, the fearful and previously failed apocalyptic narratives now burgeoning within CAGW culture are not likely to produce positive results, regarding the protection of the environment or society. Yet whether you believe this or not, it is hard to deny that Pascal’s Ecologism, of which CAGW culture is a major component, is a transformative culture that will impact and shape worldviews. Hence it will have caused bias in those who’ve ‘owned’ the science and policy for decades, and who are creatures of this culture.

Main Reference Papers
L2014 = abstract for the video presentation Scientific Uncertainty in Public Discourse: The Case for Leakage Into the Scientific Community, by Lewandowsky. Video and text of the abstract at WUWT.
L2012 = Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing, by Lewandowsky et al.
E2011 = Correcting false information in memory: Manipulating the strength of misinformation encoding and its retraction, by Ecker et al (one of the other authors is Lewandowsky).
E2010 = Explicit warnings reduce but do not eliminate the continued influence of misinformation, by Ecker et al (one of the other authors is Lewandowsky). You may need to cut and paste this link into your browser: http://rd.springer.com/content/pdf/10.3758%2FMC.38.8.1087.pdf
G2008 = Theoretical and empirical evidence for the impact of inductive biases on cultural evolution, by Griffiths et al (one of the other authors is Lewandowsky).
S&L2014 = The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition, by Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz, (Lewandowsky not a contributor in this one).

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