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Science New Study Uncovers the "Keystone Domino" Strategy of Climate Denial

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Old December 6th, 2017 (5:17 PM). Edited December 6th, 2017 by Pinkie-Dawn.
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    Since all threads related to climate change have to be moved to the Science & Technology subforum, I'll have to post this article I found today here. It's about the explanation as to why there are so many climate deniers despites there being scientific evidences that we're causing it.

    The body of evidence supporting human-caused global warming is vast – too vast for climate denial blogs to attack it all. Instead they focus on what a new studypublished in the journal Bioscience calls “keystone dominoes.” These are individual pieces of evidence that capture peoples’ attention, like polar bears. The authors write:

    These topics are used as “proxies” for AGW [human-caused global warming] in general; in other words, they represent keystone dominoes that are strategically placed in front of many hundreds of others, each representing a separate line of evidence for AGW. By appearing to knock over the keystone domino, audiences targeted by the communication may assume all other dominoes are toppled in a form of “dismissal by association.”

    Basically, if these bloggers can create the perception that the science underlying polar bear or Arctic sea ice vulnerability to climate change is incorrect, their readers will assume that all of climate science is fatally flawed. And blogs can be relatively influential – surveys have shown that blog readers trust them more than traditional news and information sources.

    Denier blogs and science-based blogs “diametrically opposite”

    In this study, the authors examined the arguments made by 45 denier blogs and 45 science-based blogs regarding the impact of human-caused global warming on polar bear populations and Arctic sea ice extent. They found that the science-based blogs all showed that Artic sea ice is declining, and nearly all said that global warming threatens polar bear populations.

    Conversely, the denier blogs nearly all denied that Arctic sea ice is declining or argued that we can’t predict how it will change in the future, and that polar bears aren’t threatened and/or will adapt to climate change.

    The authors also noted that unsurprisingly, the science-based blogs had much stronger supporting arguments:

    Scientific blogs provided convincing evidence that AGW poses a threat to both, whereas most denier blogs did not. Science-based blogs overwhelmingly used the frame of established scientific certainties and supported arguments with the published literature affirming that warming is rapidly reducing seasonal Arctic sea-ice extent and threatening the mid- to longer-term survival of polar bears, whereas those written by deniers did not.

    In fact, on the question of polar bears, the study authors found that as their primary source, nearly 80% of denier blogs referenced another blog written by a zoologist named Susan Crockford. However, Crockford has never conducted research on current polar bear populations or published any peer-reviewed studies on the subject. There are experts on this subject, like the Polar Bear Specialist Group, but deniers cite Crockford quite simply because she’s one of the few scientists who tells them what they want to hear.

    Science isn’t on the deniers’ side

    The study authors also examined 92 peer-reviewed papers on polar bears and Arctic sea ice and grouped them using the same categories as the denier and science-based blog posts. As the figure below shows, the scientific research (green triangles) is extremely consistent in concluding that climate change threatens both polar bears and Arctic sea ice, although a few papers (6.5% - the red triangles) suggested that polar bears might be able to adapt to their changing environment.

    The science-based blogs (blue diamonds) cluster quite closely to the findings in the scientific research, while the denier blogs (yellow squares) are off in their own world denying that human activity is causing a long-term decline in polar bear populations and Arctic sea ice.

    Indeed, the scientific research is quite clear that Arctic sea ice is in the midst of a rapid decline due primarily to human-caused global warming. Because polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt seals, global warming also threatens their species. While some polar bear sub-populations are stable thus far, others are declining, and that trend will only accelerate as sea ice continues to disappear.

    Scientists: go forth and debunk myths

    The authors conclude their paper by encouraging their scientific colleagues to engage with the public and counter scientific misinformation:

    We believe that it is imperative for more scientists to venture beyond the confines of their labs and lecture halls to directly engage with the public and policymakers, as well as more strongly confronting and resisting the well-funded and organized network of AGW denial. This can be done in numerous ways. For example, scientists can be more proactive in approaching the media to emphasize the importance of research findings or to counter misinterpretations. They can also begin to encourage initiatives that empower citizen participation in scientific research, such as citizen science, as is being done currently at several major universities and research institutes. Moreover, scientists need to more effectively use Internet-based social media to their full advantage in order to turn the tide in the battle for public opinion.

    They note that this is no simple request because there are few rewards in academics for those who combat misinformation. In fact, many like Katharine Hayhoe, Michael Mann, a Ben Santer have been attacked for their scientific work through what study co-author Mann coined ‘the Serengeti Strategy’:


    Currently, I'm dealing with one climate denier on Disquis who's arguing to me that polar bear populations aren't in any real danger from climate change and has been linking me these questionable sources. I linked him to one of Skeptical Science's page that debunks the claim, but he won't budge.

    Putting that aside, what do you guys think of this new study?
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    Old December 9th, 2017 (11:10 AM).
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    Incineroar Incineroar is offline
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    <p>It seems that a lot of people that are skeptics usually have some form of confirmation bias. They tend to agree with sources that are in line with their views and reject all other ways of thinking. In this case, a lot of skeptics link back to the "blog" by Crockford because they all think it's viable evidence. In fact, when you think about it, the anti-vaxxer movement has the same way of thinking - they all lead back to the flawed research papers that were eventually debunked. However, with the idea now out there despite evidence that exists to disprove the theory, it will never go away, and it will be the same way for the deniers of climate change.</p><p>And it's definitely fuel on the fire for the current president to also say that climate change was "invented by the Chinese" for the deniers. It's very hard to change their way of thinking because they think they have all the research that is necessary (Read: a few hours on Google) as opposed to actually doing research the proper way (Read: Actually gathering statistics and looking at numbers as a correct form of evidence).</p>
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    Old December 10th, 2017 (11:00 PM).
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    While this does Great at destroying one popular strawman; it does nothing for the many others.

    I've seen claims made such as: "We cannot possibly yet have enough data to assess global warming yet"/"We understand too little about Earth's Climate"; "We cannot possibly produce enough emissions to warm the planet, because X many of Y animals produce Z tines more metric tons of greenhouse gasses than we do currently or ever will."; Or even the ever pesky and difficult to destroy idea that "Climate Change/Global Warming was made up by X because of Y for Z purpose"

    All that said; I am generally skeptical of the idea that we've caused much change as a species; but I'm also equally skeptical of the reasons we aren't the cause of climate changes. So I in essence don't oppose anything we can do to curb things that we know that factually can contribute to climate change; even if the amount of impact it has is highly debatable. These scientific advances, that such legislation encourages, carry other benefits as well anyways.
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    Old December 12th, 2017 (2:46 PM).
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    Their solution, of scientists getting "out there" more seems to jive with what I've heard/read about how to overcome people's resistance to facts. A lot people's resistance is reinforced by their impression that the people in support of counter beliefs are shills or politically motivated or otherwise untrustworthy people. But talking with people, showing them that you're human, treating them like they're human, can do a lot to overcome some of the distance between people. But we'd have to be the ones to go to them. The mountain won't come to Muhammad.
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