An Ethical Analysis of the Climate Change Disinformation Campaign: Is This A New Kind of Assault on Humanity?

I Introduction: The following is an ethical and moral critique of the climate change disinformation campaign made at an event at COP-17 in Durban, South Africa on November 29th 2011. In addition to Donald A. Brown, editor of this blog, a number of philosophers, scientists, and lawyers who work on the ethical dimensions of climate change participated in this event. They included Stephen Gardiner from the University of Washington, Jon Rosales from St. Lawrence University, Katherine Kintzell from the Center for Humans and Nature and the IUCN Environmental Law Commission Ethics Working Group, Kenneth Shockley from the University of Buffalo, and Marilyn Averill from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

An Ethical Critique of Climate Disinformation Campaign

Climate change must be understood at its core as an ethical problem because; (a) it is a problem caused by some people in one part of the world that are hurting and threatening people who are often far away and poor, (b) the harms to these victims are potentially catastrophic, and (c) the victims can’t protect themselves by petitioning their governments- they must hope that those causing the problem will see that their ethical duties to the victims requires them to drastically lower their greenhouse gas emissions. That is the victims best hope is high-emitters of greenhouse gases will respond to climate change as justice requires of them.

Because climate change is an ethical problem, those causing the problem may not use self-interest alone as justification for policy responses, they must respond in light of their responsibilities, obligations, and duties to others. This is also true about how we respond to scientific uncertainties about climate change. We must be very careful about making claims about uncertainty because overstatements of uncertainty may lead to harsh consequences. That is to not act in the face of uncertainty about dangerous activities has consequences, particularly when waiting makes the threat worse and harder to remedy. Unfortunately the uncertainty arguments discussed here have led to almost thirty years of inaction on climate change.

We are here today to encourage greater reflection on the moral travesty of the climate change disinformation campaign. We will argue that this campaign is some kind of new assault on humanity.

Let me stress we are not attacking scientific skepticism. Skepticism is the oxygen of science. Climate science continues to need skeptical approaches to current understandings of how human activities may affect the climate to help scientists understand what we don’t know about human impacts on the climate system.

We are also not denying that individuals have unalienable rights to free speech. Yet free speech about something that is dangerous entails responsibilities and lying and misinformation is always morally reprehensible even if the right to free speech is fully conceded. Free speech must not deceive. We are not denying that individuals have a right to express their opinions on climate change; we are however claiming that the tactics discussed in what follows are ethically unacceptable.

I will in a minute review the tactics of the climate change disinformation campaign. We think you will agree that these are not acceptable ways of acting skeptically or responsibly but often malicious, morally unacceptable disinformation tactics that are deeply irresponsible.

To understand the full moral depravity of the climate change disinformation campaign, one must know something about the state of climate science. There is a “consensus” view on climate science that has been articulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. This consensus is not a consensus on all scientific issues entailed by climate change; it is a consensus about the fact that the planet is warming, that this warming is largely human caused, and that under business-as-usual we are headed to potentially catastrophic impacts for humans and the natural resources on which life depends. Furthermore, these harms are likely to be most harshly experienced by many of the Earth’s poorest people.These poor people have not consented to be put further at risk while uncertainties are resolved and many nations most vulnerable to climate change have been pleading with those causing climate action to take action for well over twenty-five years.

Every Academy of Science in the world has issued a report or statement supporting the consensus view including four reports by the US Academy of Science. Well over 100 scientific organizations with expertise in climate science have also issued reports or statements in support of the consensus view. At least 97 % of all scientists that actually do research in climate science support the consensus view according to two recent surveys in respectable scientific journals.

There are six recent books that have investigated the disinformation campaign on climate change science. (See references below) What follows is an ethical analysis of the disinformation campaign based upon the findings in these books.

The disinformation campaign began in the 1980s when some of the same scientists and organizations that fought government regulation of tobacco began to apply the tactics honed in their war on the regulation of tobacco to climate change. For almost 25 years this campaign has been waged to undermine public support for regulation of greenhouse gases.

The organizations trying to undermine public support on climate policies by exaggerating scientific uncertainty have expanded over the last few decades to include think tanks, front groups, AstroTurf groups (that is groups pretending to be bottom-up citizen responses), PR firm led campaigns financed by fossil fuel interests and free-market fundamentalists philanthropic funded organizations. Much of the funding support for all of these efforts has come from some fossil fuel interests.

The tactics deployed by this campaign are now all well documented including in the six books mentioned above. These tactics have included:

A. Lying. Some of the claims made by some of those engaged in the disinformation campaign have been outright lies about such things as the claim that the entire scientific basis for human-induced climate change is a hoax or that there is no evidence of human causation of climate change. Given that every Academy of Science in the world has issued reports or position statements in support of the consensus view, it is clearly not true that the scientific basis for human-induced warming is a hoax: in fact such a claim is preposterous. Such a claim is far from reasonable skepticism, in fact a lie. The same can be said of the claim that there is no evidence of human causation. There are many independent lines of evidence that humans are changing the planet including multiple finger-print and attribution studies, strong correlations between fossil fuel use and increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, carbon isotopic evidence that carbon dioxide elevations are from fossil sources, and model predictions that best fit actual observed greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations that support the conclusion that human activities are the source of elevated atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gase. It is clearly a lie to assert there is no evidence of human causation of observable warming.

B. Focusing On An Unknown While Ignoring the Known.

Frequently those engaged in the disinformation campaign stress what is unknown about climate change science while ignoring the huge amount of well-settled climate change science that supports the consensus view. This tactic is often referred to as cherry-picking the evidence.

C. Specious Claims Of Bad Science. Those engaged in the disinformation campaign often characterize matters that are not fully proven as “bad science” even in cases where there is strong evidence for conclusions that are based upon “the balance of the evidence. ” Because climate change science will never be able to fully prove all future climate change impacts, insisting on absolute proof creates a burden of proof that can’t be met. This is not reasonable skepticism but an ideological assumption that makes necessary protective action impossible.

D. Creation of Front Groups. Those opposed to action on climate change have often created front groups that hide the real parties in interest. These front groups sometimes have held fake conferences attended by scientists that never or infrequently publish in peer-reviewed journals. These friont groups then publish the results of these conferences and send them to the media as if they were entitled to the same respect as peer-reviewed science. This is a species of “manufacturing” science, a tactic that fails to abide by the scientific norm that scientific conclusions be published in peer-reviewed journals whose mission is to review scientific claims for accuracy and completeness.

E. Creation of Misleading Lists of Climate Skeptics .

Organizations engaged in the climate change disinformation campaign have created lists of climate skeptics that are highly misleading because they often are comprised mostly of people who have questionable, at best, scientific credentials and who infrequently, if ever, publish in peer-reviewed climate change scientific journals.

F. Think Tank Campaigns.. Fossil fuel interests and right-wing, anti-regulatory philanthropic organizations have funded think tanks that have held forums or published non-peer reviewed reports on climate change science or economics. These reports are then widely circulated to the press and legislators as if they were entitled to the same respect as peer-reviewed research. Neither the press nor the legilators usually have the credentials or skills to critique these dubious reports. The reports are difficult to unpack because they are technical requiring technical expertise to evaluate. Such evaluation is the very mission of peer-review journals.

G. Public Relations Led Campaigns to Convince the Public That There is No Scientific Basis for Climate Science. Fossil fuel related interests have sometime hired public relations firms to create a campaign to convince citizens that climate change science is deeply unsettled and therefor any action taken is a waste of money.

H. Astroturf Groups.. Organizations engaged in the disinformation campaign have created astroturf groups designed to give the impression that there is wide-spread, bottom-up opposition to climate change policies that disguise that the funding and organization of these efforts actually come from organizations engaged in the disinformation campaign.

I. Cyber-Bullying Scientists and Journalists. Organizations engaged in the climate change campaign have encouraged the cyber-bullying of climate change scientists or journalists that publicly claim that human-induced climate change is a significant threat. In this effort, they have sometimes posted the picture and email on climate denial websites of scientists and journalists who are viewed to be supportive of action on climate change and encouraged followers to send nasty, threatening emails to the target journalists and scientists. This is shear intimidation, not reasonable skepticism.

None of these tactics constitute reasonable skepticism or even reasonable use of free speech. In fact, given the potential catastrophic harm from climate change, these tactics constitute some kind of new assault on humanity. In addition, these tactics are likely to have been the cause for failure of the United States and several other large emitting countries to enact strong greenhouse gas emissions reductions policies for over twenty years since international climate negotiations began.

A few things we are not saying. We are not against skepticism in but skeptics must play by certain rules of science. That is skeptics should:
a Publish conclusions in peer-reviewed literature.
b. Stop claiming that anything that is not fully proven is bad science.
c Not lie about or overstate their scientific conclusions.
d. Not cherry-pick scientific evidence by focusing on what is not known while ignoring what is known.
e. Not repeat scientific arguments that have been fully refuted.
f. Publicly condemn cyber-bullying of journalists and scientists.
We are not trying to limit free speech but encourage people to see that lying or misinformation is deeply ethically problematic particularly in cases when deception can lead to immense harm.

For all of these reason, we here encourage civil society and the press to engage in deeper reflection on a few of these matters including:
A. How do we classify this troublesome behavior: although its is obviously unethical, is it also criminal or civilly actionable?
B. What does reasonable skepticism look-like?
C. Although not everyone who expresses an opinion on climate science is ethically blameworthy, how should we morally classify those who fund disinformation about climate change?
In conclusion we encourage civil society to turn up the volume on the often highly unethical and sometimes deeply malicious tactics of the climate change disinformation campaign. We believe we need a new word for morally irresponsible behavior that attempts to undermine through disinformation political action needed in response to very threatening human activities.

If the consensus view of climate science is right, it is already too late to prevent some human-caused harms in the form of droughts, floods, vector borne disease, loss of water supply, intense storm damage, heat wave related deaths, and rising sea levels. When the climate change disinformation campaign got started over twenty-five years ago, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations were much lower, The world has lost over two decades in the fight to reduce the threat of climate change. We must insist on the highest standards for climate skepticism and strongly condemn malicious disinformation.

By: Donald A. Brown
Associate Professor Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law,
Penn State University

References:

The Inquisition of Climate Science by James Lawrence Powell, Columbia University Press, 2011.

Global Warming and Political Intimidation, How Politicians Cracked Down On Scientists as the Earth Heated Up, Raymond Bradley, University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.

Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth On Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury Press, 2010.

Climate Cover Up, The Crusade To Deny Global Warming, James Hoggan, Greystone Books, 2009.

Climate War, True Believers, Power Brokers and The Fight to Save the Earth, Eric Pooley, Hyperion, 2010,

Climate Change Denial, Heads in the Sand, Hayden Washington and John Cook, Earthscan, 2011.

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28 thoughts on “An Ethical Analysis of the Climate Change Disinformation Campaign: Is This A New Kind of Assault on Humanity?

  1. Thank you Prof Brown for a such a forthright analysis and clear indictment.
    A strategic foundation to these tactics has been the cultivation of deliberate ignorance. It is a bit harder to describe and quantify – but for decades the problem of climate change has been ignored, glossed over and given token attention at most.
    We have known it to be serious for decades, and for the last few years known that anthropogenic warming could possibly kill everyone on earth. Shouldn’t climate change be afforded full and complete attention and alarm?
    I often watch the TV show ‘Meet the Press’ – on every show I have seen commercial ads from at least one oil company – ExxonMobil, Philips-Conoco, BP or the umbrella organization API. A 30 second commercial time brings in tens of thousands of dollars to the show. Meet the Press – receiving many MILLIONS of ad dollars per year – does not need clear direction on how to avoid difficult issues that might embarrass their revenue sources. This assures that global warming. carbon combustion topics will be VERY carefully discussed (avoided) on any television news program.
    The issue is ignored, glossed over, and dismissed by mass media – because like the political parties, they follow polls about what people want to hear. No one WANTS climate change – so it is easy to offer up anything else instead. Anyone in the business of votes or advertising, must serve the largest audience. Be it politician or news reporting, we get what we ask for.
    The ethical responsibility of news media is like that of the town crier – shouting out an alarm to a sleeping population is one of their most important duties. The institution of the mass media press has horribly failed to wake us up. Not only did they fail to raise the alarm – as you point out – they deliberately distracted us from facing it. It amounts to a huge, tragic loss – equivalent to the loss of a wing of government or major industry. More, it is a loss of trust.

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  2. In view of the above, this seems like a good place to seek an answer that I have been searching for over several years:
    Just what is the actual evidence that man’s CO2 is causing dangerous warming? I do not mean evidence that the earth is warming, but evidence that it is actully man’s CO2 causing it and that it is dangerous?
    Thanks
    JK

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  3. How can you accuse skeptics of creating “front groups” and “misleading lists” when you don’t offer any proof whatsoever or scrutinize your own lists? (Not to mention all the rest of the hogwash in this piece) I am a skeptic and I’m not part of any “front group” nor have I ever been contacted by a “front group.” This is, pure and simple, an attempt to obfuscate and smear.
    The bottom line is that there remains NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER THAT ANY GLOBAL WARMING WE HAD (SINCE THE WARMING HAS STOPPED) WAS CAUSED BY CO2. None. Period. When science confirms that it was, in fact, natural cycles at work, you will look back and realize that what you were trying to silence was the TRUTH.
    By the way, I prefer the word farce over hoax. I happen to think the machinations of climate science are far to serious to be a joke.
    Marcia Turnquist

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  4. Marcie, I suggest you read the the following books quoted in the above post. It is your moral duty to exercise due diligence on matters of such critical nature, rather than posting emotional non-factual responses. You may not be part of a front group – but then neither were the citizen smokers who believed the junk science pushed by tobacco companies.
    The Inquisition of Climate Science by James Lawrence Powell, Columbia University Press, 2011, Global Warming and Political Intimidation, How Politicians Cracked Down On Scientists as the Earth Heated Up, Raymond Bradley, University of Massachusetts Press, 2011, Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth On Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury Press, 2010, Climate Cover Up, The Crusade To Deny Global Warming, James Hoggan, Greystone Books, 2009, Climate War, True Believers, Power Brokers and The Fight to Save the Earth, Eric Pooley, Hyperion, 2010, Climate Change Denial, Heads in the Sand, Hayden Washington and John Cook, Earthscan, 2011

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  5. Marcia, your claim that there is no evidence that warming is caused by CO2 is simply false.
    Nobody can honestly claim there is no evidence, when a simple internet search will allow you or anyone else to look at literally thousands of pages of published studies by qualified professionals all over the world, virtually all of which confirm the science behind global warming.
    The fact is there is an absolutely massive body of evidence telling us that human emissions are warming our climate. If you you think you know better, then shoulder the burden of proof and provide arguments of equal or better quality than those given by the world’s climate scientists.
    But if you choose instead to believe conspiracy theories, or claims that an entire domain of scientific research is false, you are not being a skeptic. You are just being gullible.

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  6. You write: “There are many independent lines of evidence that humans are changing the planet including multiple finger-print and attribution studies, strong correlations between fossil fuel use and increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, carbon isotopic evidence that carbon dioxide elevations are from fossil sources, and model predictions that best fit actual observed greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations that support the conclusion that human activities are the source of elevated atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gase. It is clearly a lie to assert there is no evidence of human causation of observable warming.”
    The irony is that none of the things you claim here are evidence of “human causation of observable warming.” You say:
    – “Strong correlations” between fossil fuel use and carbon emissions. Correlation is not causation. Further this only proves that humans cause increased carbon concentrations, not warming.
    – Evidence that CO2 elevations are from fossil fuels. This is evidence of anthropogenic carbon emissions, not cause of observable warming.
    – Models that fit observed CO2 concentrations. Again evidence of human CO2 emissions, not causation of observable warming.
    I think it is true that human are causing the increase in CO2 emissions. I also think that these emissions may increase temperatures.
    But it is humorous that none of the evidence you cite proves “human causation of observable warming.” Instead they tend to prove “human causation of increased carbon concentrations.” You simply assume the two are connected.
    Either you are not expert enough to tell the difference or you are lying. How unethical!

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  7. Richard Pauli makes the statement: “for the last few years [we have] known that anthropogenic warming could possibly kill everyone on earth.”
    As a PhD in Environmental Sciences who strongly distrusts many of the apocalyptic pronouncements associated with “climate change science,” I am curious where this perspective comes from. My curiosity is both personal and scientific.
    Mr. Pauli: 1) Who are “we?” 2) Who — exactly — has hypothesized that anthropogenic warming could “possibly” kill everyone? 3) How is that really “possible?” 4) What has been done scientifically to test this incredible prediction?
    I am currently involved in a project to identify each of the original apocalyptic Global Warming warnings (source and claims) that seem to drive essays such as this, and to scientifically challenge those sources and morbid predictions in a series of Internet-based reviews by a number of highly regarded scientists and experts.
    The “science” on which these predictions are based seems exclusionary and possibly misdirected, with the resulting “ethics” discussions thus being (“possibly”) superfluous or simply self serving.

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  8. Marcia Turnquist
    You claimed ‘I happen to think the machinations of climate science are far to serious to be a joke.’
    Evidence please!
    Front groups
    See this:
    The American Petroleum Industry’s action plan.
    http://www.webcitation.org/5xRg7f4wo
    More front groups here, with fake experts and bought scientists.
    Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science
    http://tinyurl.com/wxd7x
    Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial 2011 Update
    http://tiny.cc/SecretFunding2011Update
    Climate myths debunked with science:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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  9. Mr. Myers,
    We have known that CO2 is a greenhouse gas for about 200 years. So, if you think it is true that humans are causing an increase in CO2 emissions, and you know CO2 is a greenhouse gas and we see that there is a direct correlation between temperature and concentration, you start to have a strong case. I suggest you take a look at the following summary of an NOAA report: http://www.skepticalscience.com/10-indicators-of-a-human-fingerprint-on-climate-change.html
    The more time we spend arguing over the science of climate change, the less time we spend arguing on how to fix the problem. And even if climate change were not real, there is a long list of reasons why transitioning away from fossil fuels is beneficial. For example, the environmental impacts of mining coal (mountain top removal) and exploring for oil (Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Alberta Tar Sands); the acidification of oceans due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere; the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource which will run out at some point in the near future; smog, acid rain, spills from broken pipelines, and the list goes on. Using fossil fuels as an energy source is simple not sustainable.

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  10. Todd,
    Carbon isotopes only show that that the carbon is old, not that man put it in the atsmophere.
    Thanks
    JK

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  11. An excellent article, and one which I wish was covered by the mainstream media. There have been some recent good articles in the mainstream media that covered (and discredited) most of the skeptic positions, but of course it was almost immediately buried and disappeared.
    Another five years and the warming trend will continue. Ultimately climate change will be something no one can deny any longer. Of course, it will be too late to do much about it other than adapt. I just home the insurance industry does not implode due to costs associated with the extreme weather events we are already facing. Why the US Government and business community are ignoring these obvious costs are beyond me.

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  12. Nice try there, Todd, to put the shoe on the other foot. It won’t wash, however, as it’s already been pretty well established that filling the atmosphere with CO2 will cause a greenhouse effect. The author simply assumed the reader would connect the dots.
    Now if you want to challenge that established principle, by all means, have at it!

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  13. Donald,
    Thanks, as always, for the great analysis and post. It’s great. If anything, it’s (far) too reserved and polite.
    Late in the post, you pose this question:
    “A. How do we classify this troublesome behavior…?”
    I don’t think we need a new word. There are plenty of concrete and accurate words to describe, and label, many of the actions that many of these folks are engaging in.
    And indeed, as you know, the legality and civility questions are not the deepest or ultimate questions when it comes to such crimes against humankind, if people doing them persist in doing them. Sometimes what is “legal” is nevertheless deeply wrong, and sometimes what is deemed to be “illegal” or “uncivil”, according to some, becomes unfortunately necessary, as a last resort anyhow, to help bring the world into better alignment with justice, and to ultimately protect the best interests of humankind. This is putting the matter clumsily, but it’s nothing new.
    Excellent thinkers and high-integrity authorities — for example, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., and etcetcetcetc — have explained why humans have responsibilities that go higher and deeper than whatever “legal law” might be in place, to take action to prevent harms to others. Of course, circumstances matter. But as far as I can tell, some peoples who are very likely to be among the first substantial victims of climate change, or who have already been substantially harmed by climate change, already have a justification for actions that they might or could take against the worst culprits. I refer back to Locke, and others, and repeat that the specifics matter.
    At the very least, it’s time to legally and civilly, and firmly, face and address the worst of the fossil fuel companies who are lying and/or knowingly misleading the public. I’d like to help connect with others who are interested in doing that. I was a top chemical engineer from U.C. Berkeley, worked in the oil industry (for Chevron), also had offers from Exxon and Shell at the time (copies of which I still have), was a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School, was a McKinsey consultant, and have been following and involved in climate change stuff for years now. I’ve “had it” with the deceitful and harmful tactics coming out of a great deal of the oil industry, especially ExxonMobil and the API, but also others as well. So, what can be done? I’ve got some thoughts. I’ve got a background that helps me understand the problem. And enough is enough.
    Any thoughts?
    Thanks again for the great post.
    Be Well,
    Jeff

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  14. My earlier response was muzzled so I have moved on… Nothing in it was unprintable, but obviously didn’t get past the political bias of this site. A friend notified me of additional comments directed at me or my post, but again, I have been muzzled. I doubt this will be printed either–and if it is, my earlier post ought to be printed as well–but, hey, I tried.

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  15. It is true that carbon isotopes only prove that it is old but co2 from volcanoes and other sources of co2 are not tens of millions of years old and our claim is that the isotopes are evidence of human causation coupled to by tens of lines of other evidence. We never claimed it was absolute proof, we were reacting to claims by some engaged in the disinformation campaign that claim there is no evidence of human causation. This is not reasonable skepticism it is an untruth. In the paper we listed multiple lines of robust evidence of human causation among others including co2 levels in the atmosphere are directly proportional to fossil use, multiple fingerprint studies, multiple attribution studies, and much more. Thclaim there is no evidence is a lie, not reasonable skepticism. We do not claim proof, the consensus view claims balance of evidence. Don Brown

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  16. We have never claimed absolute proof of human causation but only that there are multiple in fact numerous robust lines of evidence. Your comment interestingly confirms the confusion propagated by some in the disinformation campaign. We see stated over and over again that there is no evidence of human causation. This is not reasonable skepticism, this is an untruth. Not only is the isotopic analysis of atmospheric carbon point to fossil carbon compared to co2 from other natural sources, the amount of co2 in the atmosphere is directly proportional to fossil fuel use, there are four fingerprint studies that are evidence that warming is coming from ghgs, not the sun, we know the amount of change in radiation coming from earth/sun Malankovich cycles and, we know precisely the amount of initial forcing from atmospheric ghgs, there are numerous attribution studies that have concluded what we know about natural variability cant explain the warming we are seeing, all of this is evidence of human causation. To claim there is no evidence, is a lie. There is, of course, a difference between evidence and proof. Yet there is abundant lines of evidence of human causation which has allowed the articulation of probability claims. It is not reasonable skepticism to claim there is no evidence of human causation.

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  17. It is a fair question. As far as lines of evidence of human causation, there are many independent robust lines of evidence of human causation They were summarized in the original document and in several responses.

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  18. This study is only part, although a compelling one, of the numerous robost lines of evidence of human causation. Therefore when anyone associated witth the climate change disinformtion campaign claims there is no evidence oh human causation, that is not reasonable skepticism, it is a lie.

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  19. Don, have you seen this — a fascinating report-back from the Minister of Environment (or something like that) of India regarding the Durban agreements and India’s approach and stance:
    http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=78811
    I’d enjoy hearing what you think about it, if your time allows. The report refers to the principles of equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) under the Convention. Could you please explain those or point us to the definitive text that explains them?
    Cheers and Be Well,
    Jeff

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  20. Jeff; Thanks for t his. The terms equity and differentiated responsibilities are in the text of the UNFCCC but not defined. i found the statement very intertesting because it refrerenced a decision to have a session on equity at one of the intersessionals this year. this is very interesting.
    Don Brown

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  21. If you eat pizza three times a day without changing your exercise habits, you gain weight. How do you know? Well, it can’t be because you exercise less, so it must be because you’ve increased your fat intake. And we know that fat that isn’t burned is stored in your “fat cell”.
    It is the same with increased temperatures and carbon dioxide. We know we’ve increases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and we know that the other factors that can increase mean global temperature (solar activity, Earth’s orbit) aren’t the problem. Finally, we know (science has known for a really long time) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. More CO2 = higher temperature. That is your “causation”.

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  22. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.
    IPCC http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/505.htm
    100 year predictions and then claiming weather events within natural variability as proof isn’t going to build creditability. Neither is proposing solutions that if implemented perfectly (pause wait for laughter) would do very little to “solve” the increases in temperature (however they solution would do other things very well as well also being as dangerous as the proposed threat that is).

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  23. Well. What a lively discussion. I agree with Jocelyn’s view point. Why argue about this when its clear that the major contribution of CO2 (that we have control over)to the atmosphere comes from an unsustainable and horribly damaging fuel source (coal). I highly doubt that anyone arguing in favor of throwing out human induced climate change with the bathwater lived adjacent to a coal fired plant or on a small island about to be completely under water would be continuing down this path of rationale.
    Ecology, quantum physics and all kinds of scientific disciplines talk about how everything is connected, nothing is exclusionary, and that there is no getting rid of anything. We go to the grocery store, buy some plastic bags, throw them in the trash, they get dumped in some poverty stricken area or somewhere in the South Pacific Gyre. They break down over time, a tiny fish eats it, then a bigger fish, then a bigger fish, then man says, “I sure am hungry, how about some Yellowfin Tuna sushi, oh man, there is none available? Oh you mean, we have killed most of them, and those that are left have either high levels of heavy metals, plastics or other carcinogens that are harmful to me? Well, I sure have alot of money that I am willing to spend, are you sure your out?”
    All the while he could have saved some of that money had he just decided to carry that fabric bag to the store, or support that push for clean energy. But that’s fine I mean I have the money for it, so oh well. As long as my family can eat this nice fish, that is terribly inflated in price because of my ignorant decisions and haughty egotism that’s fine. I donate money all the time, I’m doing my part to be ethical.
    It’s just silly. This is something that belongs in a children’s book, that many children understand, yet their parents are completely blind to these clearly defined relationships that man has to his environment and that affect his economic well-being.
    Go ahead destroy this thread, this children’s book commentary is all you need. Don’t make things complicated. Sure I could cite a zillion articles on bioaccumulation and environmental externalities but that won’t help much. Those that want to see the light will see, and those that want to remain darkness, will remain in darkness. These are timeless principles. We all know whats clean and whats dirty. I have no easy solutions I am offering.
    The key is, if we can do things better, do we not have a moral obligation to make an effort. When I previously worked as a green building consultant I attended a seminar where the instructor discussed many of the marketing benefits to becoming a green builder. But his take away point was that green building was simply better quality building and that really was the reason why it should be pursued. If we care anything about sustainability for future generations then we should understand the same is true for global energy supply and reduction of greenhouse gases.
    Please excuse my lack of academic references, I am a graduate student, simply taking a break.
    Good times to be living in.

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  24. Great essay. I would add just one thing to the ethics discussion. And that is that prominent Australian and American climate change scientists have received numerous death threats. The skeptics have not condemned them, their silence condones it. Will the next step be to kill someone? The people doing this are likely individuals stirred up by the disinformation campaign, not in the direct employ of the fossil fuel industry, the industry is not so stupid as to risk getting caught doing that. It’s all about intimidation, of course. So much money is at stake for the fossil fuel industry that they have decided the ends justify the means. Like the tobacco industry that continues to make huge profits selling a product that kills 400,000 Americans a year, decade after decade, plus many many more worldwide. That ranks up with genocide of the first order. Mass murderers kill orders of magnitude fewer people. If there is evil in this world, the tobacco industry is near the top of the list, and the buck stops at the top of the companies.

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  25. It’s not fair to have bullying going on with a group of people who believe a certain way. At the same time, the right-wing think tank reports probably aren’t reviewed by peers, because they would be shot down immediately simply because the peers would probably already have their minds made up about the information.
    Just being honest, and not taking sides here. It’s human nature and for me this question is still answered as “who really knows?”.

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  26. It does not pass ethical scrutiny to claim that peer-review makes no difference. Peer -review is the way science operates to check for errors. Peer-review is essential for a problem like climate change where so much is at stake.

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