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« Climate cuttings 47 | Main | Josh 64 »

Better propaganda

Nature wonders how to make green propaganda more effective.

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Reader Comments (38)

Great comments under the article too.

Jan 4, 2011 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

How to make green propaganda more effective ?

Burn the fancy flyers for energy. :)

Jan 4, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeroen B.

I find all these studies about "why people deny climate change" all rather patronising, does it never occur to them to ask us?

Jan 4, 2011 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Mark Kaplan, the author of this Nature piece, gave us the ground breaking news in 2008 that Great Tits in England were changing their mating habits because of global warming.

Funny how George Monbiot came to mind when reading this.

Jan 4, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac


"... does it never occur to them to ask us?"

Clearly, you do not understand climate science. Asking people things is like getting your own raw data which is infra dig. Climate science involves carrying out innovative statistical analysis on data that can be retrieved from another computer eg via Google Scholar (Anderegg et al) or from a temperature file (MBH??) that can be massaged to fit the desired, pre-conceived, conclusion.

Jan 4, 2011 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGraphic Conception

Graphic - isn't that post-normal science you've just described? Work out your conclusion and find "evidence" to support it?

It's the right thing to do.

Jan 4, 2011 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

This is fascinating. Irrational belief in a 'just world' is directly correlated with CAGW scepticism. Wow.

Whereas the 'unjust world' mindset (as per the trained sample) is receptive to CAGW and more prepared to act to avert it.

Feinberg and Willer found that participants primed to have a stronger belief in a just world reported levels of scepticism that were 29% higher, and a willingness to reduce their carbon footprint that was 21% lower, than those primed to see the world as an unjust place. Their findings are reported in Psychological Science1.

As someone who defers to no man in my belief in an 'unjust' world, and who is an AGW believer though emphatically not a CAGW believer, I am confused.

Because the world isn't 'fair' I reject the nutty idealism of UK emissions policy.

”[…]what is nice about this research is that it identifies the just-world belief system as a key matter for climate-change communicators to attend to," says psychologist Janet Swim at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

They really are floundering around, aren’t they?

Jan 5, 2011 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Well it's good to know at least one BBC man is open minded.

Jan 5, 2011 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Anyone who asks the question ‘is the Earth warming?’ without a timescale and other qualifiers gets an immediate FAIL.

So he thinks that as a sceptic I’m supposed to see the World as a fair and stable place? Boll***s. What I am guilty of is assuming that people have a tendency to exaggerate catastrophe and underestimate human ingenuity. I also assume that anyone who uses kids to promote their cause is an evil cynical bastard who should be ignored on principle.

If this article reflects the quality of his science, no wonder he thinks climate science is convincing.

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Andrew Neil is a bit like a tenured professor. He can pretty much tell the truth of a situation without fear, being a high-profile, respected and noted journalist who can't be censured without attracting attention.

Though I have no doubt he's encouraged not to rock the green boat too hard and I'm sure they wish he'd toe the line, he is nevertheless afforded a high degree of latitude. The BBC gets to claim "balance" as their consolation prize for having to suffer through Neil's incisiveness. Neil pacifies his bosses and steadies the green boat by not bringing up his inconvenient observations too often, and by posing his inconvenient questions in a tongue-in-cheek, apparently only half-serious way.

Journalism is no less politicised than science, thus science journalism has two political nooses around its neck, each ready to punish a wrong-footing.

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

But the pre-industrial world was a stable place. Doesn't anyone believe the shaft of the Hockey Stick?

And I believe the enlightened ones also opine that the pre-European world (Western Hemisphere, Asia, Africa) was a fair place as well.

What's an open-minded progressive thinker do now?

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

BBD notes with amusement the onset of terminal cognitive dissonance amongst the alarmists. Now, in a just world, we'd stop all this anthropogenic shit, right?

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

/sarc on /sarc² on It's all about psychological projection. These loonies who don't believe in AGW are clearly projecting their own quaint inner principles of justice upon the world at large. They believe in fairness, so they naively expect UEA, Madame Metoffsky (the failed crystal ball reader), the Beeb, the government, inquiry panels, and the press to act in accordance with honest principles. Poor deluded fools! We, the elite who look out and see little but corruption and evil, we are better prepared to accept man-made global warming, post normal science, and old people freezing to death in their homes. It's all about projection...
/sarc² off /sarc off

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"Upsetting people's innate belief that the world is a fair place could make them less likely to take action on climate change" accompanied by a picture of a macropod roosting on a hay bale in flooded Queensland.

Presumably Nature has found, or is suggesting, that the floods are yet another manifestation of CAGW/Climate Change and that the wallaby is yet another victim. Well thank goodness for that. We were getting a bit sick of all those northern hemispherical images of polar bears stranded on ice floes.

I am now going to put my Gaia hat on and spend a few hours thinking about the very serious business of whether I see the world as "just". And how that might affect my level of scepticism towards AGW, CAGW, Climate Change, Climate Disruption, politics, fishing, underwater hockey, GUTs, tinea in infants and the Oz cricket selectors. I might even write a paper on it and help fill in that "giant hole in the literature".

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

This is more of the "not what do you know but how do you feel" post-modern BS.

Jan 5, 2011 at 2:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

The very nature of the article shows they have lost.

Jan 5, 2011 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

“A few psychologists have explored the psychology of climate-change belief... "We saw a giant hole in the literature when it came to looking at psychological responses to global-warming messages," says Feinberg.
So Feinberg ... asked 45 online participants ... to engage in what was ostensibly a sentence-unscrambling activity. Half of the volunteers were asked to unscramble sentences...”
That’s right, two groups of 22.5 people each.
If you declared that 97% of cats prefer Whiskas based on a survey like that, you’d be up before the ASA - possibly in court. And the researchers would be drummed out of the Market Research Society. But when it comes to measuring responses to the end of the world, anything goes.

Jan 5, 2011 at 5:41 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Same story, 97th chapter. This is just another version of Obama's "bitter clingers" explanation or "what's the matter with Kansas". It's standard left-wing myopia -- I'm a moral, rational, intelligent person. My opinions have to be true because I really care deeply about all the right causes. Accordingly, anyone who disagees with me must be evil, stupid, ignorant or insane. QED

I suppose we should be understanding. When reality is kicking the crap out of your fantasized world, it is a lot easier to focus on claims that your opponents are evil, stupid, ignorant or insane than it is to take on the burden of examining where you screwed up.

Jan 5, 2011 at 5:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Interesting to see the comments on Nature's latest stupid article.

But I have to agree particularly with the line:-

"I am astounded that any adult thinks the world is fair or stable."

But I am even more astounded that anyone could imagine that the cAGW scam - or the various proposed "solutions" to this "problem", will make the world one iota more "fair". A blatant lie if ever there was one.

Jan 5, 2011 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

We regularly see articles and blog comments trying to explain that AGW-sceptics (deniers, contrarians, etc) must be selfish anti-environmentalists who just can't accept bad things happening. The writers just cannot comprehend that AGW-sceptics simply do not find the 'scientific' case convincing.

As an atheist, I see many parallels with those who try to make 'scientific' arguments to prove the existence of a god. I accept I could be wrong on that, but have just never be faced with any convincing arguments.

I also see a strong parallel to the 'evidence' of WMD in Iraq in the lead upto the invasion. Like many WMD-sceptics, I read Blair's dossiers, and though previously a strong supporter of Blair, I concluded independently that they were dodgy. The fact that the political establishment, most of the news media, most of the Labour 'rank and file' seemed to be convinced gave me some significant self doubt. But in the end, my conclusions were proven more right than I expected.

AGW-believers will say: 'but you are being hypocritical in looking for a reason for their own beliefs'. The difference is, I accept that someone can validly believe AGW (by that I mean significant AGW. Like most sceptics, I can accept CO2 may be having some influence). What I do not accept is their claims that 'the science is settled', 'there is no uncertainty', that AGW-sceptics must be, evil, anti-environmentalist, or paid to say what they say.

Jan 5, 2011 at 7:26 AM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

Not one comment on the article was in agreement with the article or with CAGW.

Jan 5, 2011 at 7:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I think we should look at CAGW as another classic example of hysterical contagion. One of the original classics was the windscreen pitting incident in Seattle in 1954. Someone noticed a chip in his windscreen and suggested that it was due to nuclear testing in the Pacific ocean. This caught on with news reporting backing up this theory. The contagion could be mapped as it spread around the area as 'authority figures' confirmed that 'yes they have pits in their windscreen'

There are several other incidents of hysterical contagion and all can be found here

They include a compulsive dancing epidemic in Europe as well as contagious laughing.

I think there is mileage in this as a weapon against the 'true believers'.

Jan 5, 2011 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

I'm reminded of the brainwashing scene in 'Clockwork Orange'. Not to mention Monty Python.

Jan 5, 2011 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

It's instructive that the climate scepticism as a form of mental illness, as the Soviet Union saw disagreement with communism as exactly the same thing, and invented punitive psychiatry to deal with it.

Jan 5, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Sorry, should be "It's instructive that they see climate scepticism..."

Jan 5, 2011 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

I've posted this link before on WUWT, but for anyone interested in the sociology of CAGW, Martin Cohen's essay published in ThES in Dec 2009 is a great read. (Keywords - Cascade theory, madness of crowds):

Some very intelligent comments also (not that the discussion here lacks anything).

Jan 5, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

In my cynical old age I think back to all the Govts we have had in the UK. You can always point to a moment in time where they lose it and can never get their support back. The pointer to this is when ministers after a bad by-election result say 'Its not the message thats wrong but the way its put across, we will not change course but will change how we present policy'

The exception was old Gordon who kept on saying he would change to his downtrodden MP's but never could.

AGW reached this point sometime in the last 12 months.

Jan 5, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of fresh air

"but what is NICE about this research is that it identifies the just-world belief system as a key matter for climate-change communicators to attend to," says psychologist Janet Swim at Pennsylvania State University in University Park"

Maybe its just me, but i think this report is absolute nonsense. However, they did manage to use the worst possible adjective (NICE) to describe their results.
People go to nice places, meet nice people, have a nice meal in a nice restaurant on a nice sunny day. It drives me crazy. Whenever people describe something as being nice, i always say, "but what was it like"
they often come back with "it was really nice" or "it was very nice" and sometimes "it vas very very nice"
Is it just me or has that word completely lost its meaning.

Jan 5, 2011 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterPesadia

People do not want to disturb the status quo.

Many feel that the necessity of increased environmental action is overstated and would disrupt our social system. Previous work (Feygina, Jost, & Goldsmith, 2010) has suggested that such denial is associated with a motivation to defend the socioeconomic status quo as legitimate and working as it should. This system justifying motivation is believed to arise from epistemic needs for consistency and certainty, relational needs for affiliation, and existential needs to manage threat (Jost, Liviatan, et al., 2009).

Now Nature is telling us, people don't respond to attempts to change their set-point about the status quo, because they have invested in the status quo.


The study also believes in concepts of 'priming'. Things are not that simple in the real world

Jan 5, 2011 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I was particularly interested in the comment

The ongoing problem with the climate change issue is that AGW supporters place their entire focus on 'winning' the debate, whatever it takes.
The whole thing is a bit like trying to deal with trolls. The important thing for them is winning -- never mind whether the science is on your side or the facts are against you as long as you can come out on the right side and, hopefuilly, shut down opposition while you're at it. There are times when it gets quite depressing which I suspect is part of the tactic.

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic


Great link. Had not seen it before.

Jan 5, 2011 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos


When I was at school, all those years ago when schools were places of education, not propaganda, we were taught that you should never use the word "nice" as it has no meaning. In skools now, they don't learn English langage like what they use to - no wot I meen guv; u no what Im sayin?

Jan 5, 2011 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

There's really no purpose to trying to convince CAGW resisters with logic; it's really only worthwhile to try to sway them with marketing. Here's why: Prof. George Lakoff of Berkeley [what a coincidence the Nature authors are also at Berkeley!] believes that those who don't believe in global warming climate change climate crisis [his term] oppose the science because they prejudge the solutions as being inconsistent with their free-market world views. [Source]

Naturally, those who believe in imminent climate catastrophe do so purely because of a rational adherence to scientific results.

Jan 5, 2011 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

From Wikipedia:

"When Fermi submitted his famous paper on beta decay to the prestigious journal Nature, the journal's editor turned it down because "it contained speculations which were too remote from reality". Thus Fermi saw the theory published in Italian and in German before it was published in English. Nature eventually did publish Fermi's report on beta decay on January 16, 1939."

Nature has quite a track record of taking positions that proved not to be supported by future discoveries. In this case, it was Fermi's paper showing how the neutrino mediated beta decay. I think they made an apology to Fermi some time in the 1990's.

Peer review had one of its biggest ever failures in this case.

Jan 5, 2011 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSidF

The question is, "Why is Nature hand-wringing about the effectiveness of political propaganda when they're supposed to be a scientific journal"?

Maybe because they've become a post normal scientific journal.

Jan 5, 2011 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Ah. That explains it. The jury in the Ratcliffe on Soar case had a strong belief in a just world.

Jan 5, 2011 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Frist Seeks to Install Nuclear Reactor
First a gate, now a HomeNuke 9000

like all of us who were inspired by Al Gore, the senator has been working hard to reduce his carbon footprint.”

:: ) )

Jan 6, 2011 at 12:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterbrent

cosmic: .... Maybe because they've become a post normal scientific journal.

The physics and materials science papers in Nature were - and still are - an excellent read; I've a waist-high stack of back issues to prove it.

It's all the mushy commentary and "outlook" crap that aught to be printed on softer paper to be of any real utility. As for New "Scientist", long ago was the point where it should have been renamed to "Social Scientist, incorporating Global Warming Hysteric".

Jan 6, 2011 at 5:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterhardened cynic

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