Appendix 2 - Climate Etc.

Andy West Appendix 2. An analysis of Poll results:
January 2015 Strong polarizations as shown in the data at DK1 are usually indicative of cultural influence at work, of
alignment to worldviews as Dan himself notes. If we were truly objective when trying to identify the
source of this influence, we wouldn’t start by assuming that one culture was ‘right’ and the other not. And
yet this is effectively what Dan has done within his analysis. But what if neither are right? Or the truth
lies somewhere between the two poles? Plus Dan has started with a field of only two cultural players, of
which he assumes one (Democrat) is not significantly biased by their worldview because they have a
good grasp of an ‘absolute truth’ from climate science, despite this is an infant and highly contested field
engaged upon a wicked problem. To make matters worse all the individuals that cultures might recruit,
including all the scientists from whom Dan believes the truth emanates, are embedded within a highly
malleable society that has for decades been soaked in emotive messaging regarding climate change. And
scientists are no more immune to bias than anyone else. In such circumstances the received truth, climate
orthodoxy if you will, should at least be regarded as suspicious. If this assumption produces a better
psychological explanation that is more fitted to the various survey data, one can then draw the conclusion
that climate orthodoxy is likely contaminated with misinformation. The differential shifts of emphasis
from Appendix 1 regarding people’s beliefs plus resolve on the issue of global warming, are a very big
clue as to who is influenced by which culture. (Cultures are notorious for propagating narratives that serve
the culture and not veracity, which among other methods can be detected via gaps between stated belief
and action, or will for action, within the constraint of real-world issues). Yet even before exploring a hot
lead like this, one should really attempt to establish who the likely players are.
Dan has essentially defined that there are just two (opposed) main cultural (political) players, arranged
around an absolute scientific truth. Yet if we assume per above that the received truth could well be
contaminated, plus we search the social topography a little bit more thoroughly, we instead ought to be
considering a field with at least three players arranged around a disputed truth. And furthermore, one of
the cultural players is not a traditional political party. To keep this article from mushrooming I have to
take a shortcut here: the above-mentioned posts AW1 to AW3 at Watts Up With That demonstrate that
the climate Consensus is pretty much saturated with psychological effects, and as a consequence it is
bulging with bias too. This is the critical take-away from these posts (rather than the additional conclusion
of Lewandowsky’s personal bias). And not only can this be shown using standard literature reporting
mainstream effects within various populations, for theoretical support the posts AW1 to AW3 stick to
papers on cognitive bias exclusively from Lewandowsky and associated authors. These authors are all
avid CAGW advocates; hence there can’t be any realistic possibility of counter (climate skeptic) bias
from their papers. (And no minority psychological oddities like Dan’s ‘duality’ are required within this
explanation either). The level of Consensus bias, mainly from misinformation about the certainty of
catastrophe, is high enough and coherent enough (a tight consensus is after all bound to be coherent!), and
its effects influential enough, that the climate Consensus can be considered a culture in its own right. A
culture that has gradually come to dominate environmentalism and also to have a major impact on
government and society in general. A culture that at the very least should be a candidate player within our
investigation, which may allow the interpretations of survey data to fall out better than they did for Dan.
So, our main players are the long established Democrat and Republican political cultures (leanings to
which as Dan notes are somewhat fuzzy proxies for identity), and the nascent yet burgeoning (hence still
more fuzzy) CAGW culture. Core adherents of the latter can self-identify as ‘above’ politics, yet all
cultures are in the pragmatic game of social cross-coalitions, and necessarily therefore oppositions too.
1 Andy West January 2015 Enabled by this wider vision and stoking our innate skepticism to protect us from leaning towards any
concept of an ‘absolute truth’ as output from socially processed speculative science, we can revisit Dan’s
data to see whether there’s a more fitted psychological explanation than his final DK1 theory of ‘duality’
regarding the Rep/Cons.
The main device that Dan uses to separate identity from knowledge in DK2 / DK4 is very simple. Rather
than asking folks directly what they believe, he asks them what they think ‘climate scientists believe’. As
noted in the main body of the post, it seems that a similarly large majority from both political camps think
that climate scientists believe all sorts of scary things about carbon dioxide and human caused global
warming, even though some theories on his list are (deliberately inserted) baloney. While Dan is pained
about the state of civic knowledge on the science, he interprets this data as showing that folks across the
political spectrum have ‘a widespread apprehension of danger’, because ‘the mistakes are all in the same
direction’, i.e. favoring all the scary stories. He proposes that this is an indication of ‘a latent
(unobserved) disposition to attribute to climate scientists the position “we are screwed if we don’t do
something”.’ By which I believe he means that: the public might be ignorant of the details, but they
believe it deep down (including the Rep/Cons) when the climate scientists say we’re screwed.
However, this form of removing identity defense has likely also removed identification with respondents
genuine thoughts. It is much more likely that respondents have very literally answered the question asked;
i.e. their answers reflect only what they think the scientists believe, but not what they believe themselves.
In a healthy moment of doubt, Dan considers this very possibility: ‘Someone could say, reasonably, that
asking people what they think “climate scientists believe” is different from measuring whether those
people themselves believe what they [sic] climate scientists have concluded.’
However he immediately rules this out because of the ‘discrepancy’ between the bi-partisan consensus
regarding these questions, and the strong polarization regarding the more direct questioning of belief in
global warming, per DK1. I think his distilled logic is this: Regarding the strong polarization, especially
of the science aware, the clear assumption is that the Dem/Libs are ‘right’, therefore it is the Rep/Cons
who must be culturally steered to the opposite pole. Hence, when he believes he’s removed identity issues
using the pre-amble of ‘climate scientists believe’, he concludes that the Rep/Cons, who are now able to
let their guard down and respond more personally, must essentially be agreeing that we’re in deep trouble
just as the scientists state (even if supporters from both political camps appear to be very poor indeed at
distinguishing the scientific wheat from the chaff regarding the details). Hence also, the puzzle of how the
more polarized science-aware Rep/Cons, can apparently both believe and disbelieve simultaneously.
However, there’s a more plausible explanation. We start into this by assuming that Dan’s moment of
doubt was a moment of insight. So the respondents in DK2 are telling us only what they think scientists
believe, but for most folks in both political camps this is not what they believe themselves (not even as
some kind of ‘latent’ or ‘unobserved’ apprehension). After decades of being emotively battered by almost
every alarmist scare imaginable, no matter how tenuously linked to Global Warming aka Climate Change,
plus constant urgings to act regarding ever-elapsing deadlines of X years or months or days, this is hardly
a surprise. And despite eliciting an unintended kind of answer, Dan’s plan to separate knowledge from
identity has nevertheless still worked. Yet it is not the Rep/Cons who’ve let their guard down, it is the
Dem/Libs. No longer constrained to defend their party in a direct challenge of identity, many of them too
admit that climate scientists come out with all sorts of scare stories which are not particularly believable.
This also helps to explain some of the terrible lack of discrimination regarding the scientific red herrings;
2 Andy West January 2015 confidence in the credibility of climate scientists is so low in the opinion of both political camps, that they
can each well believe that scientists actually do put out such stories as serious findings. For the bulk of
Rep/Cons, this is more or less their normal public position regarding the state of climate science. Their
response is consistent. Yet for many of the Dem/Libs this represents a significant shift from the party line
of complete belief in the output of that favored discipline; in other words a weakening of their belief and a
loss of resolve, because they are not directly challenged here to defend their party and associated identity.
We cannot know from DK2 data alone how many of the majority respondents from either political camp
were motivated to affirm the scary stories on their own behalf, or only on behalf of the climate scientists.
But we do know from the surveys in Appendix 1 (and many more) that diluting and contextualizing the
tribalism of climate change via an alternate method, i.e. presenting within lists of other national issues,
does result in weakened belief and resolve from the Dem/Libs about this ‘ultimate issue’. It is highly
likely that the same effect is in play here, and at least to the same degree. Given that Dan’s method, while
very simple, distances from identity still further, then the number of Dem/Libs who truly believe all the
scare stuff themselves may be as low or lower than say the 25% who place Global Warming as their top
priority in the PRRI / Brookings poll. The rest of the Dem/Libs do not truly believe. So the apparent bipartisan consensus is not driven by a widespread apprehension of climate danger (latent or otherwise), but
in large part by a common lack of faith in climate science and in lesser part by the question design,
which can’t distinguish between the two possible main motivations for affirmative responses (mainly for
Dem/Libs). Why many Dem/Libs shift position, as posed above, is that they are only true to their alliance
with the culture of CAGW when they must be, to defend their party line or worldview. Yet a majority of
the rank and file are not convinced by the case for imminent danger of catastrophe, and this shows when
there is sufficient distancing from identity defense and / or dilution among other real-world issues.
And does this gel with the polarization in DK1? I think so. For the science unaware, it is highly likely
that for such direct questioning on this issue which is so tribal in the US, both sampled camps respond in
defense of their cultural identity. If they are science and climate unaware, what else would they have to
motivate or guide or them? How it became tribal is a different question. Maybe because the Democrats
formed an early and particularly strong alliance with climate culture, the Republicans were motivated to
react in the opposite manner; maybe because politics is more polarized in the US anyhow, this is what
drove a different outcome to the UK say, where official support for the climate Consensus is strong within
all the main political parties. Anyhow, one would expect polarized responses. However, one would also
expect such folks to be not too sure of themselves on this topic of which they have little knowledge, and
indeed the response bands are wide and overlapping, plus much less emphatic than for the science aware
folks. Things get much more interesting when considering the latter, because for folks from both political
camps their initial path to greater knowledge will in most cases be steered by a similar starting bias as
for the science unaware. So in practice, science questing Rep/Cons and Dem/Libs will be set upon
different paths of discovery, which therefore will lead to dissimilar caches of knowledge.
Questing science-aware Democrats will very quickly find themselves in an avalanche of scientific papers
and articles from myriad sources, all fronted by a bow wave of official statements about Arctic sea-ice or
surface temperature or energy accumulation in the deep oceans or whatever, from scientific bodies and
governmental organizations. They will become familiar with some major currents, e.g. the importance of
models, various paleo-climate proxies, the strength of the Consensus, the emphasis on policy and action,
yet much of this avalanche is simply moving in sympathy with the core direction, e.g. papers on species
harm that simply assume dire Global Warming projections as their starting position. Against this huge
3 Andy West January 2015 intellectual inertia it is hard for anyone to hold position, to remain truly objective that is. While some
comfort will be derived from the fact of such strong official / governmental backing, the very powerful
and obvious emotive content and the dynamiting of the top slopes by NGOs such as Greenpeace and the
WWF, will likely create serious doubts for many too (subconscious in some cases). And right from the
start an exploration of skeptic sources would be discouraged by the Dem/Lib peer group (either explicitly
or via the term ‘denier’ and other techniques); likely only a small minority would venture there often
enough to gain some skeptic perspective. Most people stepping into this avalanche of orthodoxy, however
well-motivated, will end up moving in the same general direction; their grasp of all the main issues will
be shaped by official arguments (independently of whether these are essentially ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, or just
‘likely’ to some degree). Those with sufficient interest to stay in the climate domain for an extended
period are likely to be sucked into the culture of CAGW itself, which defends its orthodox narratives as
all cultures do, and promotes the certainty of catastrophe that can be such a blind to further investigation.
At that point they are not Democrats who lean towards belief in seriously dangerous man-caused climate
change, they are climate change advocates who vote Democrat because this is the only party large enough
and allied enough to advance their agenda. Either way, these questing science-aware types will become
familiar with the issues and will also rise on Dan’s polarization chart. Their journey represents a cultural
steering, in the direction of the avalanche. For many, their doubts and glimpsed uncertainties will tend to
remain suppressed.
In contrast, questing science-aware Republicans will tend to be suspicious of official sources from the
get-go, allied as these are to opposing politics. They will try and peer between the cracks, try and seek out
alternative narratives. They will tend to be apprehensive about the sheer force of the orthodox avalanche,
especially as they’re not sure how it all got going in the first place, yet suspecting it’s not primarily a
force driven by science. Though inevitably a few will get swept into its currents, most will stay at the
margins and try to figure out what’s going on from there, attaching to skeptic sources that resist the flow.
Probably more slowly than their Democrat counterparts, they will learn of major issues: the poor skill of
models, the error ranges and contradictions in paleo-climate proxies, the importance of natural variation,
the lack of unprecedented change, the inherent bias in many official statements, the hollow nature of the
fabled 97%, and so on. Many will probably be pleasantly surprised that their political position has led
them to the proper questions that science should always ask, and which climate orthodoxy has suppressed.
However, none of this means that there aren’t negative memes in skepticism, such as “it’s all a liberal
hoax” or whatever, and some will foster this politically motivated stance in parallel to their science quest,
a minority to the extreme. Yet it takes more than a few negative memes to make a culture, and climate
skepticism is not a coherent and driven social entity, not at this time a culture in its own right. And while
some questing science-aware Republicans may end up on the side of science for less than noble reasons,
as a whole they will nevertheless become familiar with the issues and will sink on Dan’s polarization
chart. Their journey represents a resistance to a cultural takeover, with the shield of rigorous scientific
principles deployed to help in defense; an attempt to resist ultra-expensive policies dictated by CAGW
culture, unless or until some benefit can be scientifically demonstrated.
The current state of scientific endeavors regarding what is essentially a wicked problem, are easily wide
enough to accommodate both these positions for the science aware. And no minority psychology such as
‘dualism’ is required to understand folks at each pole. They are simply the two poles of interpretation of
the currently available data and theory sets. While one pole may indeed be much more culturally biased
than the other, for each group the journey itself will increase their confidence in their position. Each will
arrive at opposing stances on almost every big issue. Meanwhile a major group in-between the two poles,
4 Andy West January 2015 the ‘luke warmers’, is not really visible in this data. This is another clue to the limitations of the survey
tools here, which are mainly attempting to measure left-right responses in a domain where a third culture
dominates. Indeed the tribal positioning of mainstream politics in the US regarding climate, which does
not occur in many other countries, helps to disguise the very presence of a climate culture. Yet this culture
is key to understanding the survey results, and in fact cuts across politics. Its alliances and defense of
orthodoxy (the ‘DNA’ of a culture) do show up on the left-right map, albeit this is not the best way to
view the domain. And that defense of orthodoxy is easily visible and frequently commented upon. For
instance economist Richard Tol says: “Politically correct climate change orthodoxy has completely
destroyed our ability to think rationally about the environment.” (American Interest 10th December 2014,
hat-tip Climate Etc).
So, here is my distilled logic in the same manner as I attempted to cover Dan’s above. Regarding the
strong polarization in DK1, for the science unaware this represents a cultural defense in both cases. For
the increasingly science aware, most Dem/Libs follow a path that becomes more and more orthodox as
the major issues are assimilated, the culture and knowledge coming as an inseparable package. Some
enter climate culture; some remain allied only via politics, and suppress their doubts about the certainty of
catastrophe. Most Rep/Cons, initially suspicious of orthodoxy, instead follow a path that leads to alternate
narratives and to genuine scientific questioning, of both orthodoxy and sometimes of alternate skeptic
positions too. In the majority, both political camps answer literally to Dan’s DK2 questions about what
‘climate scientists believe’, however this form of questioning is relatively successful at avoiding cultural
defense. Hence the Dem/Libs who are doubtful and only allied to CAGW culture when the party identity
requires this, are able to admit that while they also think the climate scientists believe all sorts of scare
stories which orthodoxy promotes, they do not believe these stories themselves. The smaller Dem/Lib
contingent who are much more committed, who are full adherents to climate culture, genuinely do believe
what the scientists state. But these two differently motivated Dem/Lib groups are not distinguishable via
this form of questioning. Meanwhile Rep/Cons answer the DK2 questions with more or less their public
stance on climate science, i.e. they think that the scientists believe all the scary stories, but they do not
believe these stories themselves. Even for the science aware, this is completely consistent with their
polarized position in DK1 (not constrained by a defense of orthodoxy, their science quest mines beneath
the false consensus to reach the genuine uncertainties beneath). There is no need for minority and
unsatisfactory psychological theories such as ‘duality’, however a mainstream understanding of how
cognitive bias mechanisms work, as applied to the climate Consensus, must be acknowledged for this
interpretation. The table below summarizes Andy’s position and also what I think Dan’s position is.
Response to what
‘climate scientists
believe’ per DK2.
Conclusion regarding
Who most lets their
cultural guard down
in DK2 data?
Who is most
culturally steered in
DK1 data?
Most influence /
overlap with CAGW
Mainly what folks believe themselves,
albeit ‘latently’ in many cases.
Mainly what folks think climate scientists believe,
i.e. a literal answer to the question.
‘A widespread apprehension of danger’.
Largely: a shared mistrust of scary climate science.
Lesser: question can’t distinguish motives.
Rep / Cons.
Mainly Dem / Libs (the climate cultured minority of
these don’t, but per above aren’t distinguishable).
Rep / Cons, the science aware Rep /
Cons more so.
Science unaware: equal for both political camps.
Science aware: Dem / Libs.
CAGW does not appear to be
considered a culture in its own right.
Dem / Libs.
5 Andy West January 2015 culture.
‘Dualism’: to explain the puzzle of
“what’s happening in their [Rep / Con
science aware] heads”.
Major cognitive bias in the Consensus, to the extent
that CAGW has become a culture in its own right.
While there is plenty more circumstantial evidence out there to support this alternate interpretation to
Dan’s, in an already large post I can only squeeze in a couple of snippets here, for which I’ll use more
surveys as we’re in that mode. From 2011 (I can’t find a later version of the same poll, but this is only 3.5
years old): ‘…a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 69% say it’s
at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own
theories and beliefs, including 40% who say this is Very Likely. Twenty-two percent (22%) don’t think it’s
likely some scientists have falsified global warming data, including just six percent (6%) say it’s Not At
All Likely. …Republicans and adults not affiliated with either major political party feel stronger than
Democrats that some scientists have falsified data to support their global warming theories, but 51% of
Democrats also agree.’ Hat-tip WUWT.
Wow. 51% of Democrats also agree. This is strong support indeed for row 2 in Andy’s column of the
table above; a shared mistrust of scary climate science. So not just the Republicans. Not even the very
many Democrats too who merely think that the science has veered off course. But also fully half of the
Democrats who think it’s actually likely to be falsified (due to the over-ardent belief of scientists). None
of this would appear to be at all consistent with ‘a wide apprehension of danger’. Nor would further
findings from the 2014 Gallup Environment Poll already mentioned above: those who think that the
seriousness of global warming as presented in the news is exaggerated, have risen 11 percentage points
over the last 15 years (31 to 42), while in the same period those thinking that the news is generally correct
have fallen 11 points (34 to 23). Those who think the news underestimates the problem have also risen,
but by a smaller amount (27 to 33). Hence overall, this represents a modest growth in the CAGW
convinced for whom no alarm seems to be great enough, i.e. those who are apprehensive of danger, yet a
much greater drop of the other two groups: the centre-ground folks who take the news at face value, and
the unconvinced too, who are now the largest group by a fair margin. (The number of don’t-knows has
presumably dropped also, else the percentages don’t match). Polarization is occurring here, a clue to add
to many others that a culture is likely at work.