The unfettered rage of dismal denial

I knew that climate scientists were on the receiving end of some nasty emails, but it was still a shock to read James Hansen’s recent communication, in the course of which he gives a sample of the emails that he’d had in just the one week. They’re a dismal example of the unfettered rage which marks at least some sectors of the denialist world. Imagine receiving this sort of thing in your mail not just on the odd occasion but regularly:

  • You rework your temperature data sets every time Mother nature proves you wrong, in an effort to force Her to agree with your ill conceived ideas about energy and nature. You, in fact, are the one committing crimes against humanity by lying, conniving, and concealing the truth about climate change on our world.
  • What a pile of nonsense, Hansen. You take money and junkets hand over fist from people who pay you to mouth off trash like that. You aren’t exactly “forthcoming” about the “sources and amounts” of your graft – I mean, “gifts.” You ought to be ashamed of yourself,
  • You sir are a walking crime against humanity and you know exactly why. You lie constantly about man-made global warming.
  • You are not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. You are a global warming shill and a con-artist.
  •  Are you some kind of lunatic??

And those are just my extracts from his selection from a week’s haul.

Hansen is not asking for sympathy, though I must say he has mine.  His sharing of the email sample is offered as an indication of the lengths to which the denial of climate science is being carried. He also reports that in the past year he has been bombarded by numerous Freedom of Information Act demands for his emails and other correspondences and suits have been filed against NASA for his personal information.  “Information obtained in these ways seems to be fed to people or organizations that broadcast a distorted picture of reality and question my ethics.” He references a post in Watts Up With That? last November which claimed on the basis of records obtained from NASA that Hansen had not been reporting some income as required by law.

A friend advised him not to respond to the attacks, but Hansen sees them as part of a professional effort to discredit climate science and is concerned that if he does not respond “their whoppers are ratcheted up, bigger and bigger,” and public confidence in the science is affected. He has therefore made a point-by-point reply to the specific allegations. I won’t detail them here, but needless to say they show the accusations to be groundless, as well as malicious.

Hansen is a notable scientist, but he’s not a lone scientist. He’s one representative of a now substantial body of climate science. Denialists frequently try to isolate him and a few others as if they were a small cabal working to undermine the economic fabric of society. Against the implacable fury of their attacks Hansen, in this communication as always, repeats the basic scientific reality from which his concern arises. Earth is warming, with most of the warming caused by human-made greenhouse gases, overwhelming natural variability. There is substantial global warming still “in the pipeline”. Extreme climate anomalies have increased in frequency to such a degree that they can be ascribed to global warming with a high degree of confidence. Paleoclimate data show that additional global warming of even another degree Celsius would cause irreparable harm to humanity  and other species.

“The upshot is that we cannot burn and emit to the atmosphere most of the remaining fossil fuels.”

There’s the rub. That’s the reason for the vicious and determined campaign to deny the science and prevent governments from acting rationally to protect the human future.  Hansen writes trenchantly:

“…fossil fuel kingpins manipulate public opinion and the government into supporting policies that are great for fossil fuel billionaires and awful for the public.”

He aims to help people recognize manipulation of public opinion that corrupts government energy policies to favour special interests of the few over the general good. There’s a great deal more at stake here than in the political argument which normally accompanies democratic dialogue. In fact Hansen describes himself politically as a moderate conservative, not the flaming radical that some like to accuse him of being. It’s the enormity of the issue which elevates it to unprecedented importance. In this document he repeats yet again what those who lobby for business as usual are steering towards:

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The paleoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes.”

It’s a fearful prospect. Yet it’s still one that many vested interests are prepared to deny, furiously if need be, rather than turn their backs on the profitable industry of mining and burning fossil fuels.

Hansen and the many other scientists equally concerned — and equally abused — can do little more than keep on telling us what the science reveals. We must keep hoping that the message will finally break through to wide and rational acceptance, but for the time being it struggles to make itself heard against the power wielded by the heedless wealthy and against the inertia of politicians and a media which generally does not communicate adequately what the science is saying. And for the time being respected scientists continue to endure contumely from the acolytes of denial.

38 thoughts on “The unfettered rage of dismal denial”

  1. I had dinner with him once, with 3 other people. I think his “moderate conservative” characterization is accurate and I’d say his natural style was fairly quiet and unassuming. One thing I am sure of is that he loves his 2 young grandchildren, whose pictures he pulled out to show us at dinner. I suspect that had something to do with his increased level of outspokenness in the last few years, as it is clear that he fears for their future.

    1. Sadly there are very few “moderate conservatives” left if the candidature for the GOP is anything to go by. Conservatism used to be about conserving what one had, and to make change slowly. Now it appears to be the platform for those who wish to rape and pillage the earth.

      We had the good fortune to hear James Hansen speak when he visited NZ last year. What he said was sound and made good sense. Sadly our government has cloth ears when it comes to hearing good sense.

      It is a sorry state of affairs when those who deliver the message are attacked so viciously by the ignorant.

  2. “…fossil fuel kingpins manipulate public opinion and the government into supporting policies that are great for fossil fuel billionaires and awful for the public.”

    JH’s comment above is spot on the money for Australia right now with Gina Rinehart (mining billionaire) buying into Fairfax media. She funded that last trip to Australia of Monckton where he advocating that the ‘super rich’ should do exactly that (eg buy into media) so Australia could get a ‘good dose of free market thinking’. (as seen in the recent viral video doing the rounds.)

    I wonder if she’ll get the influence she craves or if she’ll just lose a load of cash (even if it is small change for her).

  3. Here’s the angle that I’ve been pushing — “Dismal Deniers” are completely incompetent. And here’s my reasoning (duplicated from a post I made over at the excellent web-site):

    What really strikes me about Watts and his minions is not just their viciousness, but their *incompetence*.

    Watts and Co. have spent *years* making all kinds of unfounded claims about the surface temperature record. They’ve claimed that UHI is responsible for the global-warming signature. They’ve claimed that the warming trend was a product of “station deletion”. They’ve claimed that station siting problems are responsible for the warming trend. They’ve claimed that the warming trend was created by data “homogenization” and “adjustments”. They’ve spent *years* making these claims.

    But the bottom line is, *all* of these claims can be completely disproved with just a few days of work, as I found out when I “rolled up my sleeves” and dug into the temperature data myself. The only technical skills needed are a mastery of high-school math and college-undergraduate programming ability.

    Run the raw GHCN data through a straightforward gridding/averaging program that an on-the-ball college compsci/engineering college-undergrad could code up and you will get results amazingly similar to the NASA global-land-temperature index.

    Process raw and adjusted GHCN data separately, and you will get very similar results (minor differences, but similar warming trends).

    Process GHCN urban stations and rural stations separately, and you get nearly identical results.

    To counter objections that stations may have been mislabeled as rural, then pick 50-60 rural-designated stations randomly around the globe, copy/paste their lat/long coordinates into GoogleEarth to verify their status via hi-res satellite imagery, and use just those stations to compute global-average temperatures. Do that, and you will *still* get results very similar to the official NASA results. That’s right — throw out ~99 percent of the stations and process just a few dozen verified rural stations (distributed around the world so as to get full global coverage), and you will get the same global-warming trend that you get when you process *all* of the GHCN stations.

    All of the above can be done in just a few days by someone who has decent (or even mediocre) programming/analytical skills. I know this for a fact because I’ve done it all myself. And I am not the most talented programmer around, not by a long-shot.

    The fact that Watts and his followers (some of whom claim to smarter than many climate scientists) have been unwilling and/or unable to do in *years* what I was able to do in a matter of *days* in my spare time should tell you all you need to know about them. Watts and his fans are nothing more than a bunch of lazy, incompetent, loud-mouthed bullies.

    1. I’m afraid, caerbannog, that’s it’s the standard chevron bracket ‘i’ html mark-up for italics over here!

      Some of the folks who drop by – as a public service – over here know the IPCC is wrong, though they don’t know how it’s structured, don’t know what it actually does (and what it doesn’t do!) and they haven’t actually read any of the reports it’s put out.

      But still, despite the fact that they’re the first people to decry ‘political correctness’ when they perceive others as benefiting ahead of themselves on fewer credentials, it seems we must all respect that their profound ignorance is really just an alternative way of knowing… 😉

      And you wouldn’t believe how golly-gosh brainy-smart they are! Why are they wasting their time here arguing with the likes of us? I often wonder…

    2. Thought I’d follow up to prove that I wasn’t kidding about being able to get very good global average temperature results from just a few dozen GHCN temperature stations. The plot below shows results from just 45 rural stations scattered roughly evenly around the globe.

      The station selection process involved dividing up the globe into very large grid-squares and picking the rural station with the longest temperature record in each grid-square — I didn’t look at any of the station data beforehand — just ran with the stations that my simple selection process chose for me.

      I ended up with 45 stations, most of which did not report data for every year. So each individual year’s results were computed from as few as 12 (but no more than 44) stations.

      The plot shows the “45 stations” results, along with the NASA/GISS global land-temperature index (copy/pasted directly from the NASA/GISS web-site) for comparison purposes.

      No “cherry-picking” or “trial and error” runs involved. The above results are from my very first attempt at using so few stations.

      The only place where my results diverged significantly from NASA’s is the 1880-1885 period. But only 12 of my selected stations reported data prior to 1900, so the divergence should not be surprising. From the early 1900’s to the present, 25-44 stations reported data in any given year (with the average being 35-ish — eyeball estimate from the program’s diagnostic dump).

      The procedure used to compute global-average temperatures from the raw station data is surprisingly straightforward — basically, it boils down to a somewhat fancy averaging process. It could be broken down into a series of reasonable homework assignments for first-year programming students. Keep that in mind the next time you hear some denier huffing and puffing about all the scientific experts who have supposedly proved that the NASA/NOAA/CRU global-temperature results are the product of “data manipulation”

  4. Hansen states in the document you link to
    1. Climate Science, Fossil Fuels, and Governments
    Earth has warmed in the past century by about 0.8°C, with most of the warming caused by human-made greenhouse gases, mainly CO2 from fossil fuel burning

    Does the IPCC concur with this, that MOST of ALL of the 20th century warming was caused by CO2, when most of the warming occurred in the early part of the 20th Century, and little or none has occurred this century, despite a much greater increase in CO2 emissions compared with 100 years ago?

        1. Andy, I struggle to see that your comment is on topic, and we’ll avoid name-calling on this thread thanks. I’ve deleted your offering. Bryan

          But it’s “on topic” to refer to me as a “rent boy”? (a male prostitute, on the open thread)

          It’s your blog so your rules, so I defer to them, but some of your commenters are stretching the limits I would have thought.

          1. Andy, Gareth is away for a few days, so it’s a different referee and a new thread. I’ll endeavour to see that you’re treated fairly, though I hope no further intervention will be needed.

          2. [Snipped. Rob, I understand, indeed share, your exasperation with Andy, but after deleting one of his comments I’d rather we let the exchange along this particular line stay outside this thread]

        2. Bryan, can I recommend using square brackets if you’re culling out material, as it’s clearer then that the text is not what the commenter is saying?

          ([snip] is good, too!)

      1. Why don’t you read the report,? here is a brief summary:
        “This Synthesis Report (SYR), adopted in Valencia, Spain, on 17 November 2007, completes the four-volume Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which was released in various steps throughout the year under the title “Climate Change 2007”. It summarises the findings of the three Working Group reports and provides a synthesis that specifically addresses the issues of concern to policymakers in the domain of climate change: it confirms that climate change is occurring now, mostly as a result of human activities; it illustrates the impacts of global warming already under way and to be expected in future, and describes the potential for adaptation of society to reduce its vulnerability; finally it presents an analysis of costs, policies and technologies intended to limit the extent of future changes in the climate system. 

    1. Andy, you are simply repeating what you have picked up on the deniers’ circuit. For a simple explanation of the scientific picture of warming over the past century try this page on Skeptical Science. It’s pointless joining a thread on Hot Topic and regurgitating these canards. If you haven’t something more sophisticated to offer best to stay silent.

      1. So I looked at Skeptical Science and they say this:

        “What caused early 20th Century warming?”
        Before 1940, the increase in temperature is believed to have been caused mainly by two factors:

        Increasing solar activity; and
        Low volcanic activity (as eruptions can have a cooling effect by blocking out the sun).

        Other factors, including greenhouse gases, also contributed to the warming and regional factors played a significant role in increasing temperatures in some regions, most notably changes in ocean currents which led to warmer-than-average sea temperatures in the North Atlantic

        So in other words, there are other factors than just CO2 involved in the 20th Century warming, which is the point I was trying to make, and was accused of “denialism” in the process.

        1. Andy, your original comment was doing a good deal more than simply saying there were other factors than just CO2 involved in 20th century warming. But I won’t argue with you. Your combination of disingenuousness and injured innocence is pretty plain and doesn’t merit response. I rather hope others will also cease engaging with you. You’re receving more attention than you warrant.

    1. Yes, it is obvious that denialism is a scam, because its practitioners invariably lie, dissemble, threaten or abuse you once you strip away their pseudo-scientific “comfort blanket”….

      1. It seems clear to me that there is some sort of concerted troll attack being mounted here at present – I can’ t recall a time when so many of them have been around, regurgitating their long discredited rubbish. The intention is to distract, annoy and confuse – and again, I question the utility of giving them such a free rein.

        1. Generally their comments are a waste of space, RW. Same old repeatedly debunked, unscientific crap that we’ve seen many times before, as you point out.

          Their presence does provide more evidence of the bizarre mentality of locked -in denialism – it’s a strange beast indeed.

          1. While takes some moral courage to simply admit to being dead wrong for so long, you would think that somewhere one of two of them would do just that – here’s hoping, even though it’s not essential for the salvation of science, sanity and humanity.

        2. I’m with you on that RW.

          None of the trolls here seem to demonstrate any sign of learning anything, they merely pepper this site with meaningless propaganda and we seem to be following their terms of reference.

          Have you noticed also that none of the trolls nor Bryan Leyland in his “Global warming myth” article, mention, discuss ice melting, glaciers, Arctic etc.

          I found a good synopsis here:

          This appears to be happening in a world that hasn’t warmed in the last 15 years! Or so we are led to believe. I’m sure Joe Fone has a good explanation for it, he just doesn’t want to tell us because there is no point, we are all just climate change religious zealots driven by peer reviewed scientific propaganda so no point in trying to educate us!

          We shouldn’t be dithering on climate change, the alarm bells should all be ringing, a sharp U-turn is in order.

  5. Jim Hansen and other climate scientists deserve a medal of bravery for the furious ideological assault they are suffering for quietly insisting on the facts. The brusque, rude, dismissive treatment Hansen received at the hands of Radio NZ’s Kim Hill when he was here being a prime example. Hansen’s unflappable calm in the face of that assault was, to my mind, truly heroic by any measure of the term. Perhaps, perversely, it’s the integrity of the evidence, the stubborn nature of the data, and the even more stubborn laws of physics behind the data, that provoke such rage. The rage of the helpless.
    And here we have AndyS insisting that there has been no warming trend in the 21st Century when not a single data set supports the claim. What can you do?
    What’s that saying? There’s none so blind as them that will not see.

  6. I had the pleasure of a brief chat with Dr Hansen when he was in Southland last October. He was kind, polite and fatherly. Although obviously tired after his speaking tour he was willing to talk to anyone who approached him. Having suffered the venom from climate change deniers locally who just about foam at the mouth with anger when face to face with me (a rather short and unintimidating middle-aged woman), I know who I would rather listen to.

  7. I’m rather late to the discussion, very interesting and worthwhile comments. [excluding the trolls]

    There is a new (to me) denier accusation: Deniers are on the receiving end of death threats, from ‘warmists’.

    I have no idea if there is any shred of evidence in this. But since deniers have notoriously invented quotes and commonly strip genuine quotes of their orginal context and placing them in a false one, I remain sceptical.

    Note to trolls: Go away.

    1. I did receive a reply from a troll, which was ignorant and disingenuous as to be expected. I have no intention to reply, but it did remind me to support what I had already said, plus adding some clarification.

      I would like to add, that of course the campaigns aimed at intimidation and harassment provoked by the denial industry lackeys who stir-up their zombie armies are well documented. There is of course documentary and other evidence. For instance John Mashey’s excellent research in ‘Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony’, in particular the chronology 3.1.

      Here is just one example [from some time ago] of a combination of zombie-like mindlessness and obedience to the quote-mining expert.
      and the rabble-rousing inspiration

      Quote-mining examples
      McIntyre Quote mining – clearly intended at rabble-rousing. It is clear that given sufficiently ignorant, malleable and malicious rabble, it works.


  8. Quoting from the back cover of Hansen’s book Storms of My Grandchildren:

    “If you want to know the scientific consensus on global warming, read the reports by the IPCC. But if you want ot know what the consensus will be ten years from now, read Jim Hansen’s work”. – Dr. Chuck Kutscher NREL

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