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Thursday, October 25, 2012

ROFL: Climate Trolls – An Illustrated Bestiary

Climate Trolls – An Illustrated Bestiary

As you travel the inter-tubes in search of learned discourse, understanding and information to prepare you for the coming climate cataclysms, you will see many curious creatures, some common, some rare, who are here for the sole purpose of deterring, deceiving and confusing you.  Some will pray on your admitted ignorance or uncertainty.  Some will pray on your subconscious wish that climate change not be real or if it is, it will be benign. Some will seem to engage sincerely but seek only to lure you so deep into the rabbit hole you will be unable to return. Some will dazzle you with words so long and unfamiliar and thoughts so obscure and eccentric that you’ll feel you must believe. Some will simply badger and harass you until you can take no more.  It is a harsh and dangerous world.  This is why I wish to provide you a guide to these many and varied beings you will surely come across as you venture ever deeper into their native realm. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

An Illustrated Bestiary of the Climate Blogworld

The Galileo Gambiter – the harder you laugh at them the more sure they are that time will ultimately vindicate their transparent crack-pottery.  No hypothesis is too far-fetched, no scientific reference too obscure and no twists of logic too contorted to be presented as irrefutable proof that they are right and everyone, and I mean everyone, else is dead wrong.  No appeals to common sense or long established text book science in any field will shake their confidence.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:    Judith Curry’s blog
Special attack:   Dense, impenetrable jargon that is actually meaningless gibberish.
Favorite Topic:  The laws of thermodynamics, galactic cosmic rays.
Best counter:     Respond very sparingly or ignore completely.  Under no circumstances make a serious effort at persuasion!
The Auditor – Every new research paper is examined not for its logic, focus or internal consistency but instead is mercilessly scoured for incomplete or misstated descriptions of methods, unavailable or messy online archives of data, computer code that does not run on every machine of any configuration right out of the box, statistical assumptions that rely on understanding the physical reality they are describing.  All explanations offered are only excuses for shoddy work, all acknowledgments of possible alternate approaches are admissions of fraud. Such treatment is, of course, reserved exclusively for papers that support the climate consensus.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:    Climate Audit
Special attack:   Relentlessly ignore the forest while hammering away on the weakest tree (usually a Bristlecone Pine)
Favorite Topic:   MBH98, a fourteen year old dendrochronology study of temperatures over the past 1000 years and the iconic “Hockey stick” graph it produced.  Also any related statistical minutiae, usually misrepresented.
Best counter:     There is none.
The Sanctity of Science concern troll – Why oh why are climate scientists and their defenders so mean?  If only Gavin Schmidt and the Real Climate team would be less snarky we could all trust the IPCC reports.  (The abusive vitriol and real life death threats directed at working climate scientists never get noticed, of course.)  For these creatures, the over-arching issue of our time is not mass species extinction, the possible collapse of global civilization or environmental destruction via climate chaos, rather it is how the reputation of scientists as the dispassionate, robotic investigators of irrelevant minutiae is threatened. Scientists must hurry back to the lab and stop all the hysterics about floods, famines and sea level rise before people actually listen!
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them

Favorite blog:   Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog
Special attack:  You just said “We have to do something!!” You are now a “policy advocate” and now that you have politicized your science anything you have to say is inadmissible.  Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect any more research funding.
Favorite Topic:  The science-politics interface and how science has no place there (?).
Best counter:     Ignore.
The Not the IPCCer – whatever was said on whatever topic by any of the IPCC reports, the opposite must be true.  Indeed there has never been a single correct statement made or paper published by any member of mainstream climate science. This conviction extends to even the most non-controversial and well supported contentions found in the literature and is accompanied by complete ignorance of what is found in the literature.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:     Watts Up With That
Special attack:    Peer review really means “Pal review” and Michael Mann and Phil Jones control all the major journals and all the world’s science institutions.
Favorite Topic:   Whatever the latest typo found in the latest IPCC report is.
Best counter:      Light.  The copious self-contradictions permeating their minds thrives only in darkness.
The Faux Skeptic – any study that in any way is consistent with a warming world caused by human activity is met with immediate and intense suspicion and scrutiny and ever escalating demands for more evidence.  No assumptions of anything, no matter how reasonable, are allowed, everything must be derived again from first principles.  Simultaneously, every vapid and transparently, embarrassingly wrong blog post put up on Watts up With That or Climate Etc is swallowed whole, pointers to the blindingly obvious refutations are either invisible or met with the disbelief described in the previous sentence.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:    Watts Up With That
Special attack:   A not so quiet superiority complex.
Favorite Topic:  Themselves
Best counter:     Try to expose the hypocrisy of pretending to be a skeptic about everything except anything that goes against the scientific consensus.
The Uncertainty Monster monster – The ways of the world are deep and mysterious.  Do not be too eager to deal out taxes in judgement, for even the very wise cannot see all ends.  Let’s just wait and watch a few more decades.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:    Climate Etc.
Special attack:  We must not take any actions until we are 100% certain it is too late.
Favorite Topic: IPCC definitions of “likely” and “very likely”
Best counter:    Uncertainty is actually not your friend in risk assessments (duh!)
The Avenger – Like a trap door spider, this creature is always waiting to pounce and when they do, it is sudden and ferocious.  Their target is anyone who makes any statement that questions established peer reviewed literature and they live to defend solid science and the scientific method.  Though they are primarily a very effective counter to the other creatures always attacking reality, it is all too easy for sincere and innocent participants to find themselves confronted, judged and sentenced to the same fate one might only wish on the likes of Marc Morano and Steve Milloy.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:
Special attack:   Withering condescension.
Favorite Topic:  Climate denialism, Intelligent Design, vaccine-autism linkage.
Best counter:     Rhinoceros hide.
The Gish Galloper – there is no such thing as “on topic” in this creature’s world.  Every response is met not with a counter argument, but with a change of topic.  They will attempt to exhaust you without ever actually engaging anything you say as you frantically research and cite and they simply move on to the next meme.  They can not hear a thing anyone says to them, they can only talk, talk, talk, talk.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:    All of them.
Special attack:   A Gatling gun full of climate zombie arguments.
Favorite Topic: All of them.
Best counter:     Relentless focus on one of the very first stupid statements made.  The only way to tire this creature is by preventing subject changing.
Hockey Goon – every graph ever produced by any climate scientist anywhere in the world is ultimately traceable back to the infamous MBH98 hockey stick.  This graph is simultaneously both the foundation and the keystone of the climate science edifice.  Their singular mission is to destroy this IPCC icon and thus the entire house of climate cards tumbles into oblivion.  Usually a very close relative of the Auditor.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Wayne Gretzky
Favorite blog:     Climate Audit
Special attack:    The greater warmth of the Medieval Warm Period, as obvious as it is unsupported by evidence, categorically proves that today’s warmth is not unusual, not unnatural and a welcome boon to human kind.
Favorite Topic:   English wine, viking colonies in Greenland and any anecdote about any particularly warm season in any part of the world at any time between 800 and 1500 years ago.
Best counter:      High sticking – there are no referees here! Grab any or all of the hundreds of hockey stick graphs continually piling up in the scientific literature.
The Conspiracy Theorist – for this creature, climate science exists only as a tool for the implementation of the New World Order wherein the UN takes over a world government funded by carbon taxes and presumably headed by Mike Mann.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite blog:  Bishop Hill
Special attack: Global warming is not real because Freedom!
Favorite Topic: The imaginary hundreds of billions of dollars gullible tax payers supposedly shovel every year into university professors’ already bulging silk-lined pockets.
Best counter:     Silence.  Any evidence you present is merely more proof of just how deep this conspiracy goes.
The Right Wing Ideologue – To this creature, Al Gore invented climate science (just like the internet) and pretty much the only refutation they need for any argument you might make will involve a reference to either Al Gore’s weight or the size of his mansion.  Therefore climate change is not happening and if it is it is not humans and if it is it is a good thing and if it isn’t it is still better than taxes.
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite news source: Fox News
Special attack: “Al Gore is fat!”
Favorite Topic: Al Gore’s weight
Best counter: Don’t bother…
Breakthrough Boys – relax, they assure you. New technologies are just around the corner and will save us right on cue. We are masters of the universe, Mother Nature is our bitch and nothing earthly will ever get the better of glorious us.  Come on!  You know you want to believe…
How they see themselvesHow the world sees them
Favorite writer:   Bjorn LomborgSpecial attack:     Just as the invention of the automobile indirectly solved the looming horse manure problems of old, so tomorrow will new discoveries rescue us from whatever mess we are in right now without even trying.
Favorite Topic:    Free market driven scientific research.
Best counter:       Direct engagement. But do it only for the lurkers!

Thank you for reading. This guide may not be complete, but I hope it covers most of what you will encounter.  It was inspired by and encouraged by economics blogger Noah Smith. Many thanks, Noah, but I think you owe me a few hours of sleep!

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