‘Climate Culture’ versus ‘Knowing Disbelief’: A Test

    1. The new survey data (from G1)

G1 Independents Data

The first task is to register this data against what we’ve seen before, given that ‘what is said in the news’ about global warming is rather fuzzy, as are other terms. For instance opting for ‘exaggerated’ doesn’t necessarily mean a disbelief in MMGW, although likely means a disbelief in calamitous narrative. And having some college education is a superset characteristic that won’t always mean being science aware. However we are chiefly looking for polarization here, which distances us rather from absolute meanings, and both the Republican and Democrat responses show a strong correspondence to previous findings; the enhanced polarization that Kahan reports for the science aware is clearly reflected for the higher educated, albeit not quite to the same extreme. More education for the Republicans leads to more skepticism, more education for Democrats leads to more belief in MMGW and more belief in dangerous scenarios, in this case a belief that (on average) the news underestimates the seriousness.

So far so good, this is what both Kahan’s model and mine expects. And performing a common sense comparison of the RH column, ‘generally underestimated’, with those who place global warming as a top priority (by political stripe) in this Pew survey cited in the previous post, yields a pretty fair fit that helps orientate us in belief space. (RH column average after rough college attendance profile per wiki ~ R17, I31, D45, Pew ~ R14, I27, D42). Hence we can go on to examine the responses of the Independents with relative confidence, including the attitudes of higher educated Independents, which is the element that I couldn’t find before.

  1. What the higher educated Independents tell us

The attitudes of the Independents also change significantly with education. Overall the effects move in the same direction as for the Republicans, i.e. those with more than high school education are more skeptical. On average 23% more in the ‘exaggerated’ column, and 16% less in the ‘underestimated’ column. I think this modest yet clear movement is a major challenge for the theory of ‘knowing disbelief’, which theory (see the previous post or the Appendix) hinges upon powerful identity defense to explain the very same movement for the Rep/Cons, i.e. a tribal allegiance to the Republican party and conservative principles. But from section 2 we see that these individuals are more flexible or split on principles, and that partisan politics (from Republicans and from Democrats) does not turn them on. They do not actually have a Republican identity to defend!

I can only assume what Kahan would predict for higher educated Independents. Given that they’re the least partisan of all voters and so the least blinded by party loyalty, one would think that their education would guide them more towards the truth. But they certainly do not move towards the ‘truth’ that Kahan has pinned the pole of the science aware Dem/Libs to. They move towards skepticism, i.e. in the opposite direction.

What does the theory of climate culture predict? Given the symmetry of the Independents as noted in section 2, a plausible start is to assume this same symmetry on the particular issue of climate change. I.e. the Independents are formed from two approximately equal populations, one adopting similar attitudes to the Democrats and the other adopting similar attitudes to the Republicans (assuming that on average the ‘centrists’ fall 50:50). So the ‘High school or less’ row for instance, should be about an average of the Dem and Rep rows for this same category, which comes out at GE42, GC23, and GU32. That’s pretty close, it seems a reasonable assumption. But the key test for ‘climate culture’ is a prediction that higher educated Independents will be led into a path of either climate orthodox comprehension or skeptic comprehension depending upon their initial leaning, in exactly the same manner (so the same strength / proportion of attitudes) as for the Reps and Dems. Hence the same simple average should hold for the higher educated Independents too. For instance in the graduate category, this yields GE45, GC25, GU30, once again a good match.

Now this result may seem intuitive to some readers, perhaps even blindingly obvious. Yet if one follows Kahan’s ‘knowing disbelief’ theory it should be completely counter-intuitive. For a survey like this with a centre position, in the absence of both higher education (including science literacy) and any strong party loyalty, there ought to be clustering within that centre, because in Kahan’s model there is no other strong influence here that would cause polarization or indeed any main departure from a centrist view. Yet the centre is lowest in all of the Independent rows; these shallow ‘V’ shapes should be inverted, which would completely break my match of Independents with simple Rep/Dem averages. And where there is higher education in this non-partisan population, as noted above Kahan’s model would surely predict a strong movement towards climate orthodoxy. (Note: the only way Kahan could similarly claim a blended effect from two populations is if each were as just as powerfully partisan as the Reps and Dems, yet we know this is not at all the case. In my own model the combined effect is via biased assimilation from a modest starting stance, with one population led much more into climate culture, the other led away).

This data from the Independents adds to the evidence that attitudes on climate change in the US are not primarily a simple reflection of partisan Republican or Democrat identity. (Note: the text with the G1 poll itself does not concentrate on the Independents. While correctly noting that education for the Republicans ‘leads them in a different direction’ to Democrats, it incorrectly draws the conclusion that the dominant effect overall must therefore be ‘partisanship’).

Next page for more…

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8 Responses to ‘Climate Culture’ versus ‘Knowing Disbelief’: A Test

  1. Michael 2 says:

    The belief nature of dangerous man-made global warming puts it in the same camp as religion as I’m sure you suspect but are careful not to write. As such, a few pioneers, trend setters or truth-bearers will exist followed by others who believe on their words. While it is obvious that believers exist, an exploration of why believers exist and whether choosing to believe exists versus manipulated belief.

    For example, the Scientologists practiced “love bombing” and by association a person believes that the attention he is getting emanates from Scientology itself. Faster results are obtained by invoking fear (FUD, Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) but it has a half-life of just a few years.

    The half-life of any belief that is not routinely refreshed seems to be about 10 years. One of these days I may go into more detail; I vaguely recall that from CIA brainwashing experiments that turned out not to be sufficiently permanent.

    Concepts such as “critical mass” will also pertain; if enough people believe a thing it will form a “bubble” of belief that is self-sustaining. Another way of looking at it is dominoes; if they are stood up with proper spacing they become a critical mass; knock one over and they’ll all go. But if spaced out, the collapse does not travel through the entire world of dominoes.

    So an idea or meme will travel rapidly through society if society expects that particular meme and if it is important in some way. It is to a certain extent also geographic; large areas of the nation could simply not be at critical mass and the meme vanishes within that region.

    As with any natural bacteria or virus, people have low immunity to pathogens they’ve never seen before and high resistance to familiar pathogens. In the 1990’s, predictions about the end of the world were commonplace and somewhat immunized society to doom predictions. I suspect that is why the vulnerable-to-suggestion population tends to be young. They don’t remember the street preacher doom-sayers.

    • andywest2012 says:

      Indeed, the same social mechanisms that drive religions can also drive secular memeplexes like CAGW, which leads to similar albeit not identical characteristics (for instance a secular memeplex cannot offer true salvation, so it offers substitutes like saving the planet [weak because it’s impersonal] and saving the grandchildren [strong] instead). I have mentioned this commonality in some of my writings, but to date haven’t done a post specifically focusing on the topic. This is probably something I should address when I get some time…

      • bilb says:

        Indeed, the same social mechanisms that drive religions can also drive secular memeplexes like CSD (contrarian/skeptical/denialism), which leads to similar albeit not identical characteristics (for instance a secular memeplex cannot offer any kind of salvation, so it offers substitutes like saving money [weak because it’s impersonal] and preventing poverty [strong but a con] instead). I have mentioned this commonality in many of my comments in various places, but to date haven’t done a comment specifically focusing on the topic here. This is probably something I should address when I the opportunity arises…

      • andywest2012 says:

        bilb says: August 26, 2015 at 4:16 am

        Not unreasonable logic, and extra humor from the mimicry is a nice twist too. However, your mirror could be improved. A proper religious salvation substitute would have a powerful emotive connection to actually saving folks (or at least saving an anthropomorphized entity, like the planet as ‘Gaia’). So for instance ‘saving lives by lifting folks out of fuel poverty’ would be a much more appropriate text for your version that has more emotive bite, rather than just some general reference to poverty. And you’d have to come up with something much better than ‘but a con’.

        However, even reasonable logic may slip if starved of information. For instance, even in a small (and wealthy / developed) nation like the UK, there are typically many thousands of excess deaths due to cold every winter, caused by fuel poverty. Even the relatively mild year of 2013/14 produced over 18,000 excess deaths. In the harsh 2012/13 winter, it was over 31,000. These are real recorded deaths in government figures, and will obviously be much higher for all the high latitude countries together. While policies to fight climate change are by no means exclusively responsible, commentors and experts on all sides acknowledge this is a very significant factor contributing to higher fuel prices, becoming more so in recent years (albeit not identical per country) plus projected to increase energy bills still further in coming years. Other global issues such as the upward pressure on food prices due to the bio-fuel debacle likewise have deleterious effects, but as this is mostly outside of developed nations (so poor data) and much less easy to disentangle from other causes, we could simply rule this out for now and stick to the hard figures alone. Even so, the obvious problem with citing this whole area (which per your wording does fall under ‘poverty’) as an arbitrary salvation substitute meme, is that the emotive content is largely backed by veracity. Arbitrary memes are those where, largely, the emotive content is not back by veracity.

        To date there are no attributed deaths of grandchildren per the strong CAGW salvation meme noted up thread. Many grandchildren have birthed in the 25/30 years since the topic of climate change made it onto the world stage. While attribution science is in its infancy and one might claim that if it were much better, linkage to deaths may appear, or at least a high confidence of such, a serious blow to this narrative is that for any grandchildren reaching adulthood (say 18 years) around now, there hasn’t in any case even been any significant warming in their lifetime. Apart from the two direct effects (Sea PH and CO2 fertilization), which on a longer timescale may have mixed benefits and harms via impact upon the food-chain, ALL the supposed ACO2 calamities are posited on temperature rise, so cannot have harmed any of these grandchildren. Hence we are not talking about current grandchildren, but future ones, and per the emotional outpourings of climate scientists themselves (here, here and here), apparently grandchildren in affluent western countries too (where various societal buffers against severe weather effects are very much higher). This comes down to the speculative addition of pure emotion to try and reinforce an original argument of imminent (decades) climate calamity, which does not have enough science or certainty to support it at all (regardless of whether or not it might have one day). Hence it’s an arbitrary meme, a true salvation substitute. .

        This is just one example. More generally:

        There are most certainly arbitrary memes in skepticism. ‘Hoax’ and ‘Conspiracy’ narratives are examples. While any large human enterprise will spawn some cons and other parasitical effects on the side, these are *not* the primary drivers of CAGW, so those narratives are inappropriate. (And perhaps your own label of a con is similarly inappropriate, though ‘poverty’ covers such a huge territory most of which pre-existed long before CAGW, it’s not certain how much of that you want to claim that skeptics are inventing. As noted, fuel poverty in developed nations is much easier to isolate than the many tangles in undeveloped nations). However, merely plural memes do not make a memeplex. In both emotive punch and sheer volume, orthodox memes massively outgun skeptic ones, and they are co-evolving in a coherent manner to produce an enforced consensus and the various social attitudes (as shown in other posts here) which reveal a cultural entity. This is not so for skepticism (and indeed a common complaint in some skeptic forums is that they can’t agree on anything, which [I paraphrase] weakens their opposition to the orthodox climate position). There is no mirror; the situation is highly asymmetric. In the end the only thing that links all the tremendously diverse skeptic viewpoints is the realization that there is not scientific backing for a *certainty* of calamity. I suspect more than a few in scientific circles who are theoretically orthodox now realize this too, yet daren’t speak out.

  2. bilb says:

    The cornerstone to the CSD belief structure is encapsulated in “there hasn’t in any case even been any significant warming in their lifetime” . To my observations this is a demonstrably false belief. I have debated this extensively on various forums using the information put forward by the oponent and the result is always the same. There was a reduction in the rate of temperature rise for a step period, as has happened twice before, and temperature rise has continued in concert with atmospheric moisture and atmospheric circulation energy. It is not just about static air temperature. Temperature rise seems now to have resumed the higher rate of temperature increase.

    The mirror was to demonstrate that the CSD position is predominately about the very tribal culture that CSD’s are attempting to paint “warmists” with. This type of argument is becoming known as the netball defence after Australia’s idiot prime minister declared himself to to be a “netball Prime Minister”, a remark that was quickly aligned to his standard method of debate being to stand as near to the opponent as possible, yelling (anything at all) and waving arms furiously in order to distract from what is really going on (this being the only tactic this objectionable person knows together with his blatant dishonesty).

    The poverty reference was to the coal industry’s latest claim that coal can lift the world’s poor out of their desperate state by giving them electricity. The obvious retort is that 120 years of grid electricity has failed to achieve this, so why now? why should it magically start to happen now? When the reality is that it is magically happening, but from solar power with the energies of organisations such as the “barefoot college”. The fact is that any African nation prepared to spend a billion dollars on a coal power station would achieve more by providing solar panels, a battery and some led lights to the poor and dispersed. Gotta go and work.

  3. andywest2012 says:

    bilb says: August 27, 2015 at 1:41 am
    “To my observations this is a demonstrably false belief.”

    Well I generally observe the average of the 5 main temperature series products, which do indeed indicate that “there hasn’t in any case even been any significant warming in their lifetime”. You can coveniently see all of these series on one graph at http://www.climate4you.com . While the arguments over minor temperature wiggles and what they may mean is labyrinthine, just from eyeball you can see that the average rise over last 18 years is naff all, about 0.1C, with the sattellite series about flat and the highest surface series, GISS, a little over 0.2C in that time. Given we can’t know which is ‘true’, an average seems perfectly reasonable. No-one anwhere in the debate thinks 0.1C on its own is harmful or even significant in respect of danger.

    Of course that figure speaks not at all to what will happen from now, or indeed what happened before 18 years ago. The narrative of Global Warming ultimately relies on all the various factors in play (a couple of which you note) *one day* expressing themselves sufficiently in GST that there *will be* a problem, where we start the cumulative GST ‘clock’ at about 1950 according to the IPCC. Or put the other way around, if the GST remained precisely the same after say a century, no matter what was happening wrt all the other factors, it would be very difficult to see how any real dangers could manifest. ‘Sufficiently’ is another argument of course, and what type of ‘problem’ too; for instance life on Earth has been very happy in the past at temperatures very much higher indeed than now, but that doesn’t mean for instance our coastal cities would be safe. OTOH, coastlines are not very different to the also warmer-than-now (according to proxies that of course are interpretable) Minoan and Roman warm periods.

    Incidentally, over at climate4you you can also see the effect of the new and controversial Karl et al adjustments on GST. Look at the red and blue lines in the NCDC graph. Interestingly, the adjustments create a small gradient during the hiatus, but actually *lower* the gradient overall. As NCDC goes into other surface products including GISS, that’s in part how GISS achieves its 0.2C.

    “The mirror was to demonstrate that the CSD position is predominately about the very tribal culture that CSD’s are attempting to paint “warmists” with.”

    Tribal insults or denigration (as opposed to honest bias simply by virtue of loyalty to a particular group) is bad in the CC debate or any other. Sadly, some folks on both sides in CC weaken to this. While we’re on that topic, I don’t appreciate you labelling this site as ‘guiled’ over at John Quiggins. Dictionary.com gives guile as ‘insidious cunning in attaining a goal; crafty or artful deception; duplicity.’ There is none of that here. I have dealt with you and everyone else straight. My position (which happens to be almost exclusively about the social / pyschology side, I don’t pursue stuff about the climate system itself) is wholly honest and fully supported by public posts (published more widely than here). These posts in turn call up public surveys and a whole raft of papers and references, most of which are from solidly Consensus sources (because with these there’s no chance of folks claiming such papers / references may have skeptic bias). You don’t like these arguments? Well challenge them then, and not my character. I’d appreciate it if you’d correct that comment and remove ‘guiled’.

    And in case you have not seen my standard bolt-ons to the end of some formal posts, for the avoidance of doubt I put part of one here (from this site):
    “The memetic explanation also does not imply in any way whatsoever that Consensus folks are in the slightest degree deranged or delusional or ill or impaired. Due to common misconceptions a lot of folks appear to vector down that path the moment they see the word memetics, and stop reading any further. Memeplexes are normal territory for all humans.”

    Most certainly 120 years of electricity hasn’t cured poverty. But this speaks nothing at all as to where we stand now, or whether it can or can’t from this point on. The historic reasons why are many and various, e.g. the simple cultural and economic inertia of civilizations many centuries (sometimes millennia) behind the West (you can’t just magic them up to the right point), colonial repression, religious conflict, massive local corruption, language barriers and the much bigger barriers of disease (still a major problem in Africa deep into twentieth century), and so on. However where we stand *now*, when much (not all) of this has finally gone away, you can understand the position of the Indian Energy minister who has declared that he’s going for coal in a big way. India can now afford it, coal technology now removes emmitants (bar CO2 of course), you can run a major grid reliably off it, etc. etc. And he has lots. It will give his poor the major benefits we take for granted. Meanwhile in the advanced West, we are still struggling after decades to make renewables a reliable and sizable fraction of our energy, even when paying well over the odds for its output. And ironically, if output does grow much more, we haven’t got the smart grids good enough to balance it, and anyhow still need fossil energy to back its low points (in most countries). There’s only so much water Norway and Sweden can pump uphill to level things out, and several countries are already using their capability. Matt Ridley has some good info on these topics. If we can’t do it yet, how could India? Why would they risk it?

  4. BilB says:

    I agree that climate4you is as good a collection of information as is available.
    Next is to understand what the principle at work here is. Rather than attempt to describe this I will defer to a skeptic with serious credentials who has looked at part of the sciencehttp://clivebest.com/blog/?p=1169 and
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument-part-ii/
    These articles cover some of the territory of which temperature zones actually are important to monitor.
    Next is the compound nature of warming. If near surface temperature increases and the increase causes surface evaporation then the temperature will decrease but the total amount of energy is the same as the elevated level even though the temperature is lower. The atmospheric energy level is the sum of all of the components. So temperature is not the sole indicator of global warming.

    As moisture level in surface air increases, with moist air being lighter than dry air, the moist air will begin to rise. This imparts kinetic energy to the air mass, so now the total energy is the sum of the temperature plus the latent heat energy of the water plus the kinetic energy in the moving air. And the degree of warming is the difference between all of those present factors compared to say 200 years earlier. Conclusion: your temperature observations are too simplistic to make any meaningful analysis possible.

    I am sorry that you feel offended by the guile word play. Indeed you do deal evenly with commenters with patience and consideration. That is both noted and appreciated. On the other hand I am affronted by the theme that says CSD’s are rational thinking people while (climate) scientists are scheming profit driven manipulators preying on a gullible public with a warmist fear campaign. This is not your claim specifically, but the warmist meme theme feeds into that thinking. If I set about denegrating you efforts here I would have been unambiguously acerbic, more along the lines of what is dished out to me commenting at Jo Nova (only with some wit), but that was not my intention at all.

    To understand Africa and poverty (and even Libertarianism) one needs to look to the work of Robert Sapolsky and specifically toward the end of his field research in Africa. Without that understanding “addressing poverty” becomes an endless cycle of political opportunism of one sort or another. I would love to continue here but I have things to do.

    • andywest2012 says:

      Bilb says: August 28, 2015 at 1:23 am

      The temperature stuff started with you challenging minimal warming (i.e. per simple GST) over the last 18 years. The fact that GST may or may not be a poor proxy for the wider concept of ‘Gloabl Warming’, inclusive of all its claimed characteristics, doesn’t validate that challenge. Added to which it does not seem plausible that if there was enough extra energy in the system to be globally dangerous, this wouldn’t show as a significant uptick in GST. So it may not be a *subtle* proxy for GW, but it is still okay for indicating *dangerous* GW (*if* of course one can also subtract natural variation successfully – even the orthodox don’t claim this is insignificant). The Clive Best article is familiar. I think I read this a long while back. The rise in height where IR radiates out to space is standard ground. And afaics, the article supports the skeptic position much more than the orthodox one (I guess not a surprise since we know he’s a skeptic). In addition to a criticism of IPCC assumptions, in the second half Best points to the key topic of feed-backs (for instance clouds, which models still can’t deal with). The net sign and size of all these feed-backs, which determines the overall climate sensitivity, is what the entire debate about GW hinged on then as now, and indeed since the beginning. The IPCC claims feed-backs are +ve and large. Regarding your thoughts on moisture, the total column water vapor graph at climate4you is interesting, as is the associated text. If anything atmospheric water vapor appears to have reduced slightly in the last 30 years, but of course like pretty much everything else in the climate domain this is a much debated area, especially since water vapor links to clouds again. In summary there is plenty of uncertainty; which is the window via which social mechanisms crept in. I concentrate on these, not on the climate system itself.

      Your use of ‘guile’ is not ‘wordplay’. It has a very specific meaning, which you have not modified via a humorous or any other major contrasting context. Your poor treatment elsewhere does not license you to act in bad faith; how could this behavior cause anything but an escalation to the tribalism you dislike? You still have the opportunity to show good faith, and correct that comment.

      I’ve not read Robert Sapolsky’s work, though I’ve stumbled across him a couple of times. He seems to make the point that poverty causes immense stress on people. And that poverty is an entrenched ‘whole environment’ problem, i.e. including the culture engendered by (long-term) poverty. Folks have not the will to rise above it or strive for change always. Well these concepts (if I have them right) are not only highly plausible, they fit well with the concept of gene-culture co-evolution (we are primed for cultural alignment) and Michael Gazzaniger’s ‘social mind’ (both mentioned at posts here sometimes). People’s character and identity are a much deeper function of the culture they’re embedded in than is generally realized. Erasing poverty means changing the culture as well as changing the physical causes, which takes much time. But this seems like very strong evidence *for* mass grid electricity, which engenders better hospitals and hygiene (e.g. fridges), leveled temperature / comfort (heating and a/c), and clean indoor air (one of the big killers of the poor is early death from smoke due to indoor cooking fires, about 4 million a year I think Matt Ridley quotes). Not to mention all the leisure devices we take for granted, like TV, which helps with positive cultural change. These are game changers for a ‘whole environment’ improvement that most of the West experienced long ago.

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