How to believe in impossible things

Despite the huge number of mutually contradictory claims denialists make, there is something they all have in common: no matter how much green ink a they use in their writing, denialists never formally criticise each other.

The term cognitive dissonance was coined by Leon Festinger, a psychologist who (in 1954) infiltrated a UFO cult that had been promised a ride into space to avoid a great flood. The UFOs didn’t show. But instead of the cult imploding they turned instead to self justification and denial as they learned, via automatic writing from God, that their goodness had persuaded Him to call it all off.

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Pocket calculator

homer.jpgThe National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has bought a shiny new supercomputer. For $12.7m they’re getting a IBM Power 575 that will be the fastest climate machine in the southern hemisphere, 14th fastest in the world — and it will get an upgrade in 2 years which will double its speed. Sounds like a good deal to everyone but NZ’s climate cranks. Bryan Leyland, “chair of the economics panel” of the NZ CSC rushed to issue a press release:

“It is a national scandal that NIWA are squandering $12.7 million of taxpayers’ hard earned money on yet another supercomputer. In spite of buying a Cray T3A supercomputer several years ago, their predictions of the climate have been spectacularly wrong. They failed to predict the 1998 El Nino event, the cooling that has been noticeable since 2002 and the increased cooling that has been recorded over the last two years.”

A NIWA spokesman was quick to point out that they bought the Cray in 1999, so would have been hard-pressed to use to it predict an El Niño in the preceding year, but Leyland’s outburst is mainly interesting for two reasons: it’s an amusing public parade of ignorance (a bit like standing in the middle of Wellington wearing a dunce’s hat shouting “Look at me!”), and because he recommends that NIWA give up climate modelling and instead rely on the work of a British forecaster called Piers Corbyn. Let’s start with Leyland’s take on climate models.

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