Appendix 1 : Richard Betts’ view
This challenge to L2015 from Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the UK Met Office, can only be welcomed. If only more mainstream climate scientists had the courage to challenge extreme advocacy, whether arising from psychology or environmentalism or from within core climate science itself.
Via a somewhat different path Betts comes to essentially the same conclusions as mine in the main post regarding both ‘stereotype threat’ and ‘pluralistic ignorance’. I.e. the first effect is modest at best, and there’s no real evidence for the second. And surprisingly, he also agrees that the ‘third party effect’ would strongly favor the Consensus: ‘In fact, given the widespread public and political agreement on anthropogenic climate change in the UK, it seems far more likely that the “Third Person Effect” would apply to being persuaded by arguments in favour of acting on climate change than by those against it.’
Betts doesn’t seem to appreciate the fundamental implications of this statement for the entire climate domain. The ‘third party effect’ along with various other bias mechanisms also favoring CAGW, some more much emotive and potent, can influence the whole of climate science just as Lewandowsky says. But indeed this happened in the other direction. Memes can enter our psyche through bias, but once there they amplify bias towards themselves plus co-evolving memes, and against competing memes. The total effect creates a socially enforced consensus, within the climate domain ‘The Consensus’, where there is to date neither enough observations or enough mature science for the physical reality of the climate system to actually be understood.
Betts doesn’t look for other mechanisms explaining why ‘pause’ memes have spread, such as those in section 4b of the main post. To be fair, why would he? His broader argument amounts indeed to the orthodox: ‘the pause’ hasn’t really changed anything. I.e. we were always onto natural variability and knew (even in advance) the mix of forcings that resulted in the temperature profile of the late twentieth century, inclusive of short-term effects. So ‘the pause’ is an “interesting puzzle to be investigated”, but “global temperatures remain within the envelope of uncertainty implied by multi-model studies”. Yet notwithstanding a UK perspective this seems like a view through thick orthodox glasses that have warped history. As Prof Curry said almost two years back when official organisations were at last acknowledging ‘the pause’: “The focus for the last two decades has been on the forced climate response. Natural internal variability has been regarded as noise. The pause has stimulated research into the contribution from natural internal variability, which is a very welcome development.”
Also one wonders how much would be “easily explained purely as an evolution of scientific focus and capability over the last 25 years” plus “improved science communication”, if David Rose hadn’t helped force ‘the pause’ onto the UK agenda through the impact of the Daily Mail, against official resistance. [Note: Rose’s and other limited efforts fall short of the exposure / repetitiveness needed to really drive 2) or 3) in 4a of the main post, yet will impact psychologically].
And the UK branch of the Consensus hasn’t ultimately stepped back from its world leading position on CAGW, simply because ‘pause’ memes are not nearly strong enough to achieve this. In practice, ‘pause’ memes defend the Consensus from much worse damage, as noted in the main post.
In summary, Betts doesn’t acknowledge a significant role for narrative competition because he supports the orthodox Consensus position as purely one of science, and so doesn’t perceive the narrative evolution either (adoption of the pause). He claims that ‘the pause’ has not essentially impacted the science, and yet in acknowledging ‘the pause’ as “an interesting puzzle to be investigated”, he follows many other CAGW adherents in taking onboard ‘pause’ memes, thus essentially conforming to the logic in section 4b of the main post.
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