October 12, 2011

Theater of Operations

Global War on Disinformation

Climate Change Opinion: Cause is Human — by Country

Proportion responding 'yes' when asked,
Temperature rise is part of global warming or climate change.
Do you think rising temperatures are … a result of human activities?
(Wikipedia, 18 January, 2010)

Vocal Minority vs Silent Majority

George Marshall

Researchers in Australia found that these [media echo-chambers have] created what they call a “false consensus” effect around climate change, which led both sides to believe that their opinion was more common than it actually was.
[Because] the loud and very vocal climate change deniers were also heard far into the mainstream media, both sides tended to hugely overestimate their numbers, guessing them to make up a quarter of the population.
In fact they made up less than 7 percent.

When people misread the social norm in this way, it can lead them to suppress their own views, thus widening the divide and further reinforcing the false consensus — and at its most extreme, creating a society in which the majority of people keep silent because they fear that they are in the minority.
This process, known as pluralistic ignorance, helps to explain the extreme polarization around key markers of political identity such as abortion, gun control, and, increasingly, climate change.
(p 28)

[While] three-quarters of Americans still trust climate scientists as a source of information on global warming, they are nearly as inclined to trust television weather forecasters who are greatly less qualified as scientists but have a far more friendly, familiar, and approachable public profile.
Unfortunately … only half of television weathercasters surveyed [in 2010] believed that climate change is occurring and more than a quarter believed that it is a “scam.”
(p 117)

(Don't Even Think About It, 2014)

Stephan Lewandowsky: Winthrop Professor in Psychology, University of Western Australia

In Australia … the number of people who deny that climate change is happening is around 5% or 6% of the population.
[If] you then ask [those 5%] how many people they think [share] their opinion, their response is … about 50%.
[This] is called a false consensus effect [and] is usually indicative of a distortion in the media landscape.

[If people] are inflating their self-importance, that [is an indication that] the media [are] not doing their job properly.

(Attitudes to climate change, Science Show, ABC Radio National, 24 November, 2012)

Public Opinion on Climate Change

Perception of Scientific Consensus

Most Americans do not perceive that there is a scientific consensus on the need for action on climate change or global warming. …
[In 2009:
  • 38% of Americans] said scientists [thought] the problem [was] urgent and well enough [understood] to take action.
  • [43% thought] that scientists’ views [were] pretty evenly divided [and]
  • [17%] said scientists [thought it was] not an urgent problem. …

In the average of 16 countries, a majority — 51% (13 points higher than for Americans) — said that most scientists think the problem is urgent and enough is known to take action …

Not surprisingly those who do not perceive this consensus are less likely to perceive global warming as a serious threat. …

[Responses as to whether most] scientists agree that climate change is even occurring [have ranged from: 59% (2010) to 39% (May, 2011)] saying that there is such agreement. …
{[In 2011, only] 13% said that 81-100% of climate scientists believe climate change is occurring …}

[Public] perceptions of “a lot of disagreement” among scientists may reflect the amount of publicity given to debate as compared to majority consensus and the conclusions of collective scientific bodies.
(p 2-3, italics added)

Effect of Greater Information and Perception of Scientific Consensus

[Willingness] to take action in regard to climate change rises with greater levels of information and greater perception of a scientific consensus on the issue.
(p 5)

In June 2005 … 76% of Americans favored taking some steps to address global warming [— however,] only 34% favored taking steps with significant costs.
[When asked] to assume that
[An overwhelming majority of scientists] have concluded that global warming is occurring and poses a significant threat …
[—] those willing to take steps with significant costs rose 22 points to 56%.
(p 6)

Assessments Of Other Leading Countries’ Role

Most Americans regard China as the worst offender in harming the global environment, while most other nations blame the United States.
Americans retain a large amount of trust in their own country to protect the environment, while Germany has the best ratings globally.

(p 13)

Perception of Climate Change as a Problem or Threat

[In 2010,] a large majority of Americans [said] that global warming or climate change [was a serious problem (70%)] or a threat [over the next ten years (75%).]
[However,] this majority has been declining over the last few years, so that American concern is now lower than the global average.
Large majorities believe that human activity plays a role in climate change.
However, Americans do not perceive that there is a scientific consensus on the need for urgent action on climate change and those who do not perceive this consensus are less likely to perceive climate change as a serious threat.
A large majority think that they will be personally affected by climate change eventually, but only a minority thinks that they are being affected now, contrary to views in most other countries.
Americans tend to underestimate the level of concern among other Americans. …

US concern [about climate change] is now lower than in most other countries.
[In 2010] 70% of Americans thought that global warming was a threat (37% a critical threat) …
{[By comparison, in 2006,] 85% of Americans said that global warming would be a threat over the next ten years, with 46% saying that it would be a critical threat. …
In China — the largest producer of greenhouse gasses — an average of 93% of respondents said that climate change was serious, with 41% saying it was very serious.}
[Of] those polled across twenty-two countries an average of 84% said the problem was serious, with 53% saying it was very serious.

Role of Human Activity

[In June 2010, 74% of Americans said they believed] the world’s temperature has increased over the past 100 years …
[Of those who thought temperatures were rising, 75% thought] that people [had] contributed to the [increase.]
(p 1)

Perceptions of the Effect of Climate Change

Globally, Americans are among the least convinced that climate change is substantially harming people in their country now.
[In 2009, 34% of Americans] said that climate change was affecting people in the US at the time …
In the average of all sixteen countries polled, 59% said that people are being harmed now …
(p 3)

[Respondents were] asked a series of questions that began:
If climate change is left unchecked worldwide, how much do you think climate change will affect each of the following in our country?
Large majorities believed climate change would affect the following factors “some” or “a lot”:
  • the price of food and other essential goods (76%),
  • likelihood of natural disasters, like droughts or floods (73%),
  • rainfall and available water resources (73%),
  • the coastline (73%),
  • the types of animals and plants that can live there (72%) …
  • the types of food produced (72%) [and]
  • peoples’ need to move their homes to different locations [56%. …]

[Only 23% of Americans believed climate change] would be more harmful to poor countries [than rich ones.]

Readiness to Take Action

[In 2010 77% of Americans thought] that addressing climate change should be a priority.
{[In 2009, 53% thought it] "should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs."}
However, in most cases less than a majority of Americans give it top priority or place the highest level of urgency on it, and this … appears to be declining.
Readiness to take action is higher among those who have more information about climate change and who perceive a scientific consensus on the need for action.
Americans tend to underestimate how ready other Americans are to support taking action. …

[Polls] consistently find that a large majority favors taking [some] action, but usually less than a majority chooses the option of taking the most urgent form of action.
(p 4)

Willingness to Accept Increased Energy Costs

To motivate changes in energy usage, Americans are willing to increase the cost of energy that causes climate change.
[In 2009, 62% said they] would accept increased economic costs equal to just under $20 a month.
Majorities also favor requiring increasing fuel efficiency of automobiles and reducing subsidies on private transportation even if this increases the cost to the consumer.
The idea of raising taxes on such forms of energy meets with mixed responses; however, support becomes high if respondents are told that the revenues of such a tax will be explicitly earmarked to address the problem of climate change, or will be offset with tax reductions.
[In 2007, 79% of Americans believed] that it will be necessary for people to change their lifestyle in order to reduce their production of climate changing gasses.
However there is also optimism that there will be economic benefits from the changes that will come with increasing energy efficiency.

(p 6)

Effect of Perceived Scientific Consensus

Those who perceive a scientific consensus on the need for action on climate change show a greater readiness to accept increased energy costs. …
[When] compared to [fifteen other countries] Americans' views were considerably more correlated with their views of the scientific consensus.
(p 8)

Reducing Reliance on Oil and Coal

As a means of addressing climate change, a large majority of Americans favor reducing reliance on oil and coal by
  • limiting the construction of coal-fired power plants [64% — 2009],
  • creating tax incentives to encourage alternative energy sources [84% — 2010],
  • requiring automakers to increase fuel efficiency [67% — 2010],
  • requiring more energy efficient home construction and appliances [2010],
  • increasing the availability of public transportation [80% — May, 2011],
  • installing bike lanes [77% — May, 2011] and
  • making changes in zoning to reduce the need for transportation [57%.]
(p 9)

Other Forms of Government Action

To address the problem of climate change majorities of Americans support the government
  • treating carbon dioxide as a pollutant [77% — 2010],
  • limiting climate changing gasses from business [76% — June, 2010], and
  • preserving or expanding forested areas [75% — 2009.]

Assessing the US Government

Americans give their government a low rating [3.84 / 10] in terms of how high a priority it places on addressing climate change.
A modest majority [52%] thinks that the government should give climate change a higher priority than it does.

(p 10)

Support for Multilateral Action

[In May 2011, 66% of Americans supported] participation in an international treaty to limit climate change.
[In 2008, 61% of Americans said] that multilateral cooperation on climate change is very important, but [gave] the United States a mediocre rating [C-] in advancing this objective.
[In 2010, 62% of Americans believed] there should be a new international institution to monitor compliance with climate treaty obligations.

Participation in Climate Change Treaty

[In 2009, 73%] of Americans said the US should take action even without an agreement.
(p 11)

Role of Developing Countries

[In 2007, 75%] of Americans — along with [an average of 59% of] people in developing and developed countries alike — [thought] that developing countries have a responsibility to limit their greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to deal with climate change.
There is also a consensus [across both developed and developing nations (73%)] that developed countries should provide aid as part of a deal to help developing countries commit to limiting their emissions.
If developing countries refuse to limit their emissions, [68% of] Americans think the United States should nonetheless proceed to limit its own emissions. …

[However, the] US Senate has taken the position that the United States should not do so.
(p 12)

(US Opinion on Climate Change, Chapter 13a, Public Opinion on Global Issues, Council on Foreign Relations, 30 November, 2011)


Public Opinion About Climate Change — Australia

Public Opinion About Climate Change — United States
The Expert Consensus on Climate Change

Mission Objectives

Balance of Forces

Weapons and Tactics


Media Filter

Cultural Risk Perception Filter


Science and the Public

Science and Politicians



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Long term individual and multi-generational prosperity can only be achieved through cooperative action.
Each generation has a duty to preserve the earth's productive and regenerative capacity so that it is available to succeeding generations.
Optimal decision making is based on the best available scientific knowledge.
It is causing significant and increasing human suffering that is projected to worsen the longer action is delayed.
Effective action is necessary to
  • mitigate future impacts that are still preventable
  • adapt to current impacts and those future impacts that it is too late to prevent.
There has been a well resourced campaign funded and organised by fossil fuel interests and their ideological allies to undermine public confidence in science since the early 1990's.
  • Political funding (Greenpeace, 2010, p 24):
    Since 1990, the oil and gas industry has channelled
    75% of its funding to Republicans;
    25% to Democrats
  • Lobbyists
  • Libertarian think tanks and front organisations (Exxon Secrets)
  • Sympathetic media interests
  • Grass roots organizations eg Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party movement (Mayer, 2010)
The current distribution of wealth and power must be defended at all costs.
The current economic and political order must be defended at all costs.
Any threat to economic freedom is a threat to political freedom.
Economics and politics should be prioritized over science.
There is no such thing as market failure.
There is no such thing as a negative economic externality.
There is no such thing as harmful anthropogenic climate change or environmental degradation.
There is only propaganda diseminated by the enemies of Western civilisation.
Environmental luddites, non-government organisations, communists, enemies of freedom, traitors and advocates of world government.

Scientific Expertise

Anderegg et al (2010):
The expert credibility of 1,372 active climate researchers was assessed on two dimensions: "expertise" and "prominence".

"Expertise" was estimated by publication count.
Of the top 50 researchers by expertise 98% were "convinced by the evidence" that anthropogenic climate change was underway ie
that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature over the second half of the 20th century
The mean publication count of the top 50 researchers who were "convinced" (344) was three to four times that of those who were "unconvinced" (89).
[Researchers] with fewer than 20 climate publications comprise ≈80% the [unconvinced] group, as opposed to less than 10% of the [convinced] group …
[The] bulk of … researchers on the most prominent multisignatory statements [ie petitions] about climate change have not published extensively in the peer-reviewed climate literature.
"Prominence" was estimated by citation count.
Because a single, highly cited paper does not establish a highly credible reputation but might instead reflect the controversial nature of that paper (often called the single-paper effect), we also considered the average the citation count of the second through fourth most-highly cited papers of each researcher.
The mean "prominence" of "convinced" (126) researchers was twice that of those who were "unconvinced" (59).
  • Expert knowledge is unnecessary ie voters should "make up their own minds about the science"
  • Mainstream experts cannot be trusted because they are corrupt, incompetent, biased, deceptive and/or gullible.
  • Ad hominem (abusive) or Shoot the Messenger eg Ben Santer (Oreskes and Conway, 2010, p 3), Michael Mann, Kevin Trenbeth, David Karoly (Greenpeace, 2010, pp 19-21)
  • Fabricate quotes (Note 1)
  • Fake Experts — recruit, promote and amplify views consistent with taking no action on climate change by scientists with or without relevant expertise (Greenpeace, 2010, p 5) and famous non-scientists (Argumentum ad verecundiam)
  • There is no such thing as "objective reality"; all points of view are equally valid (Postmodernism)
Scientific Consensus
Eran Segev (President, Australian Skeptics), The Importance of Evidence:
[A] 'scientific consensus' … arises when [a concordance exists between:]
  • a significant majority of working scientists in the relevant field or fields …
  • the majority of scientific organisations in those fields, and
  • the majority of scientific papers published in credible peer-reviewed scientific journals …
  • Substitute "conspiracy" or "groupthink" for "consensus"
  • There is no consensus — a 'silent majority' of scientists disagree constrained by political correctness (Anonymous Authority, Weasel Words, unfalsifiability)
  • Suppression (Note 2)
  • "Peer review is broken."
    • Intimidation, harassment and threats — deter scientists from making any public statements or, failing this, pressuring them to underplay their honest interpretation of the evidence.
    • Denounce scientists who express a sense of urgency for abandoning scientific objectivity
  • Environmental Fifth Column
    • Fake environmental groups in some cases named after famous scientists (e. Lavoisier, Galileo) to disseminate anti-regulatory messages (see Exxon Secrets)
    • Arrange conferences of fake experts to
    • Unverified petitions of anyone with a science or engineering degree eg Oregon petition (Greenpeace, 2010, p 18-19).
    • Create the illusion of controversy and scientific disputation about issues where there is, in fact, overwhelming agreement
Multiple Lines of Supporting Converging Evidence
(in the absence of a competing hypothesis that better accounts for the available data)
Greenhouse Gases and the Carbon Cycle
The Atmosphere
Extreme Events
Land Surface
Permafrost and Hydrates
Glaciers and Ice-Caps
Ice-Sheets of Greenland and Antarctica
Ice Shelves
The Oceans
Global Sea Level Abrupt Change and Tipping Points
Lessons from the Past
The Future
  • Double Standard of Proof — maximal standards of evidence for opposing arguments, minimal standards for supporting arguments.
  • Cite only those facts which support your case (Cherry Picking) and ignore those that do not (Fallacy of Exclusion)
  • Move the Goal Posts — constantly increase the standard of proof demanded so it always stays ahead of the current state of knowledge; keep switching ground, if one argument fails, try another, ad infinitum
  • Argue from Ignorance + Wishful Thinking = fill gaps in the wall of knowledge with dogmatic cement. If scientists are unsure if increasing cloudiness causes net warming, net cooling, or neither; assert, with absolute conviction, that it must be net cooling. If evolution cannot explain something (yet), God must be the explanation. If a flying object cannot be identified, it must be an alien spacecraft.
  • Changes in climate have always been natural, so they always will be (seven billion humans notwithstanding)
  • Slippery slope = taking action on climate change will inevitably lead to destitution, totalitarianism and the collapse of civilisation as we know it
  • Argumentum ad nauseum — constantly repeat/recycle previously refuted arguments — there is a sucker born every minute
  • Straw Men — bypass the climate change strongpoints and strike at the soft targets (areas of uncertainty which don't affect the fundamental conclusions).
  • Inversion/Reflection — meet accusations of fallacious thinking by condemning your opponent of committing the same logical errors
  • Appeal to Consequences — climate change cannot be real because it is desirable that government regulation be reduced not increased
  • Exaggerate the costs and downplay the benefits of taking action
  • Style Over Substance (The Big Lie) — speak loudly, often and with absolute conviction
  • Prejudicial language — only dupes, fools and communists believe the climate is changing
  • Ad hominem (tu quoque) — Cate Blanchett and Al Gore live in big houses
Enting (2011):
  • Misrepresent
    • The operation of the IPCC
    • The authorship of IPCC reports
    • Data records
    • The content and data of cited sources
  • Fabricate graphics
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal … (IPCC, 2007, p 30).
[There is a > 90% probability that most] of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is … due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [Green House Gas] concentrations (IPCC, 2007, p 39).

[> 66% probability that Unmitigated] climate change [will], in the long term … exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt (IPCC, 2007, p 65).

The literature provides high agreement and much evidence of many options for achieving reductions of global GHG emissions at the international level through cooperation.
It also suggests that successful agreements are environmentally effective, cost-effective, incorporate distributional considerations and equity, and are institutionally feasible (IPCC, 2007, p 62).

Delay in action risks irreversible damage: Several vulnerable elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets, Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon and others) could be pushed towards abrupt or irreversible change if warming continues in a business-as-usual way throughout this century.
The risk of transgressing critical thresholds ("tipping points") increases strongly with ongoing climate change.
Thus waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized (See: The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009).
The climate system is not warming.

It was warming but now it has stopped (See: The Climate is Not Warming).

It is still warming but will result in net benefit rather than harm to human wellbeing.

There is a threat to human wellbeing but it is due to natural variability e.g. 'It's the Sun').

Preventative action is possible but not cost-effective for economic, political and/or technological reasons.

Preventative action is possible and feasible but maybe the problem will disappear if we wait a bit longer and do more research.

It will be cheaper to deal with impacts as they arise rather than try and prevent them in the first place.

It is too late to take preventative action.
All we can do is try to adapt.
Informational Bias
Hierachical Individualist Egalitarian Communitarian
Order Competition Fairness Cooperation
  • Deficit model
    • science communication and education
    • critical thinking and scientific literacy
  • Communication Strategies
    • Changing the messenger eg conservative voices for conservative audiences
    • Graphical versus textual presentation of information
    • Framing
  • Debunking Myths
  • Instill fear and suspicion — that climate change is a scam which threatens
    • the 'right' to unlimited consumption of material goods
    • financial security — increased unemployment, living costs and taxes
    • political freedom — increased governmental regulation/interference
    • national sovereignty — surrendering power to foreigners via multilateral instruments
  • Provide excuses for inaction
  • Collude with the conspiracy of silence
  • Encourage complacency by providing false reassurances that there is no threat
  • Foster despair — "it's too big, it's too late, nothing can be done, there's no point in trying"
  • Induce policy paralysis by manufacturing doubt, uncertainty and confusion
  • Exploit ignorance and scientific illiteracy
  • Employ populist rhetoric to heighten emotion and impair rational analysis
  • Sow distrust and polarize debate along ideological and nationalistic fault lines to undermine any basis for cooperation
  • Exaggerate short term costs and dismiss long term benefits


There is a controversy over what the countries of the world, including Australia, should do about the problem of global warming.
I’m going to read you three statements.
Please tell me which statement comes closest to your own point of view.
(Hansen, 2011, p7)
United States (similar questions — CCGA, 2010, p 38)
2006 (%)
2011 (%)
2010 (%)
Global warming is a serious and pressing problem.
We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.
68 41 29
The problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost. 24 40 42
Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs. 7 19 26
Don't know/Refused 1 0 3

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  1. Oreskes, Naomi; Conway, Erik.  Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010.
    [Fred Singer] concluded [in reference to the SAR Summary for Policymakers},
    The mystery is why some insist in making it into a problem, a crisis, or a catastrophe — 'the greatest global challenge facing mankind.' …
    Wigley and his coauthors [responded:]
    We do not know the origin of this statement — it does not appear in any of the IPCC documents. …
    Singer was putting words into other people's mouths — and then using those words to discredit them.
    (p 206)
    Greenpeace (2010):
    Singer fabricated quotes from [Bert] Bolin, attempting to suggest that he had changed his mind about climate change, saying
    Bolin remained adamant that there has been some human influence on climate, but conceded that ‘man-made increases in temperature are so small as to be barely detectable’.
    Bolin, the chair of both the World Meteorological Organisation and the IPCC for nine years [released] a press statement rejecting the allegations as ‘inaccurate and misleading’.
    (p 7)
  2. Freudenburg, William.  Climate change scepticism — its sources and strategies, The Science Show, ABC Radio National, 3 April, 2010.
    [The] difference is if whenever anyone comes up with a finding that global warming is more serious than we thought before, that gets attacked by some of the sharpest knives in the drawer.
    And if there is someone who comes up with a new finding and says "hey, it's not so bad", that person gets invited to the annual convention of whatever association it is to give a luncheon speech and to get praise for his path-breaking new research.


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