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Discussion > Is the climate skeptic community too fragmented to be effective?

Not only is there a broad range of scientific positions from lukewarmer to skydragon slayer, but a disparate assortment of personalities, nationalities and approaches, in keeping with primarily internet-based crowd sourcing. The level of concern about CO2 mitigation policy is clearly very high amongst ordinary people, who have found a voice to a large extent outside mainstream media, not having much choice. There is however minimal funding and organization, unlike the warmist side which has massive governmental, institutional and media support. A few establishment figures like Richard Betts have shown interest in our views and a willingness to listen, but are we kidding ourselves that the lumbering climate change policy juggernaut can be stopped?

Can a vast but unstructured popular movement succeed without formally organizing? Maybe the internet as a new and unprecedented paradigm will prove sufficient; I would like to think so.

Nov 17, 2012 at 2:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

What does 'success' mean to you? Proving that AGW does not exist? That is beyond your power. Convincing climate science that there is no problem. Ditto. Convincing politicians that although climate science tells them there is a problem, they should ignore it, nevertheless? That might be doable. In fact, my feeling is that this is the current position. Governments might pay lip service to greenery but the scale of what is involved in fully decarbonising an economy is beyond their grasp, both conceptually and practically.

My feeling, for what it is worth is that Lomborg is right; the 'solution' to AGW wont come until solar is cheaper than all other sources of power and it becomes stupid to consider using fossil fuels. At that point, which might not be so long away, all argument about AGW becomes academic.

Nov 17, 2012 at 4:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


…but are we kidding ourselves that the lumbering climate change policy juggernaut can be stopped?

I don’t think we are but it is going to take a long time. We have to remember that this Global Warming/Climate Change theory has been around for the best part of thirty years. Even though there have always been sceptics, it’s only been in recent years, with the advent of internet access for the masses, that scepticism has grown to the point where groups of sceptics have found each other and begun to band together, loose as those bands are at present. The alarmists, though they sometimes appear organised to an extent, certainly didn’t start that way. Rather, they were often already members of, or at least sympathetic to, existing environmental organisations. I think this predisposed many of them to believe the “science”. These organisations found that these beliefs (and they do believe) tied in very nicely with their other aims. As environmentalism became more powerful and persuasive, so other NGOs and charities were drawn in, followed by the MSM, other sciences and finally the politicians and businessmen with an eye for opportunity. This took until the early 2000s to reach and up till that point, had a relatively smooth ride.

Now, however, people generally are beginning to wake up to what is happening. I believe scepticism is growing and will continue to grow. I know we’re considered to be a minority and polls usually show us to be so, but I’m not so sure. In my work, I’m involved in three different businesses, all of them dealing with people from all walks of life. I have to say, I don’t meet many believers. If we are a minority, I think we’re a pretty large one.

Do we need to organise ourselves into groups or structures similar to the NGOs? I’m not sure we do. We just have to be prepared to shout loud enough and long enough for the people in power to listen and I believe that is finally beginning to happen.

Nov 17, 2012 at 4:22 AM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

I could ask you a counter-question BB. What would you say if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that AGW does not exist, e.g. due to negative atmospheric feedbacks? It is beyond my power to prove that, but not beyond the power of scientific research. The trouble with followers of the green religion, as I see it, is that they are never satisfied with a reasonable balance between people and the environment, but always want more and more, to the extent that total 'decarbonisation' has become a holy grail divorced from reality.

Western cities are cleaner and greener than they have ever been, with no horse or human excrement in the streets, good sanitation, power stations usually at a remove with good pollution controls, and vehicle pollution kept to a minimum. And as for CO2 emissions there is next to nothing we can do about that due to China's ongoing industrialization, so I think it is rational to do nothing at this point, apart from funding further climate and energy research and development devoid of political overtones.

Success to me is basic rationality. Energy sources should be efficient, fit for purpose, pollution-controlled if necessary, and cost-effective, i.e. cheap enough to maintain prosperity. It does not matter to me what energy mix we have, as long as those criteria are met. Lomborg and Pielke Jr are rational in their thinking about AGW, which they accept. Why can't rationality prevail in policy, and back to the point of my post how can we get that message across most effectively?

Nov 17, 2012 at 5:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Thanks for your comments Laurie. My view is much the same as yours in that we probably don't need to formally organize, if the present informal arrangements will do just as well. But we definitely do need people inside politics and government, people like Peter Lilley, to speak on our behalf and advocate for policy change.

Achieving a critical mass of supportive MPs is crucial. Somehow a political and social environment needs to be developed in which it is quite acceptable to oppose current policy across party lines. That may already be happening, but politicians' own views are sometimes obscure if they don't want to rock the boat, which I suppose is most of them. In Australia there are still a lot of pious platitudes about emissions targets, even though the opposition has given a commitment to abolish the carbon tax once elected.

Nov 17, 2012 at 6:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

....are we kidding ourselves that the lumbering climate change policy juggernaut can be stopped?

Yes, without a doubt.

In 1000 years from now, prayers will still be being said to St Mike and St Phil to protect us from Seeohtoo and his devils. The whole thing is a religion with a generation of indoctrinated schoolchildren: "Give me a child for for his first seven years and I'll give you the man". There is now a generation of indoctrinated schoolteachers to perpetuate it.

100 years from now, the fact that Catastrophic Climate Change has not happened will simply be taken as proof of the effectiveness of the measures taken and the continued need for 85% carbon tax on income and the continued outlawing of private consumption of fossil fuel. The latter will be rigorously enforced by the Climate Justice Police, empowered to administer instant on-the-spot justice for climate crimes. Their responsibilities will also include the hunting down and inquisition (and execution) of Deniers - the latter who may be denounced by their children in the morning Climate Prayers at school.

There are now too many people in influential positions [the Civil Service - from the DECC to the Diplomatic Service, the BBC, Government, industry - even light bulb manufacturers] whose careers and comfortable living depend in the maintenance of the belief for the whole thing to simply fade away.

The only thing that could bring it to an end is some major cataclysm - hyperinflation and the resulting social collapse as the West maxes out its last credit card, maybe.

Nov 17, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Martin, people are awkward and telling them something lots of times in a hectoring manner is enough to turn them away from your message. All those 60s hippies who had their influence on current polittics were brought up and educated in the days when we in the UK still had an empire and the US thought crewcuts and atom bombs were what made America great, along with manifest destiny. It didn't take. It never does. It isn't working now, witness the widespread cynicism among the general population. Not scepticism, just a germ of an idea that the people with the message might have an agenda. That's why we don't need a co-ordinated message, even if we could work one out.

Nov 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda


On my first day at school, in 1959 aged 5 years old, the whole class started the day with a prayer led by the teacher. At the end of the day, we finished with another prayer. When we reached the age of 7 and went up to the Junior school, we started each day with a 25 minute school assembly where we would sing hymns and say more prayers. Every Harvest Festival, Easter and Christmas we would be trooped down to the local church for what often seemed to be about 15 hours of singing more hymns and saying even more prayers. When we reached the Senior school, not only did we continue all that, but we also got two double periods of Religious Education every week. Everyone had to take part in all this. The only exceptions were half a dozen Roman Catholics who were allowed to be late for school 3 times a week, if I remember correctly, because they had to attend Morning Mass and Confession at the local RC church. Yet, despite all of this, I didn’t believe. None of my friends believed. As far as I could tell, most of the school didn’t believe either. Since those times, church attendances and belief in God has continued to decline, at least amongst the Anglo-Saxon core of our nation.

So whilst I agree with you regarding the religious aspects of environmentalism and I further agree with you that indoctrination is potentially a big problem, I am not nearly as pessimistic as you when it comes to the final outcome.

With regard to what you say about those in positions of power, the exact same thing could have been said 65 years ago about the Empire. Yet pressures brought to bear, varied and both external and internal, changed all that. Slowly at first, but very quickly once the snowball started to roll. By the time of the mid-sixties, it was pretty much all done and dusted. The kind of imperialism that was still prevalent amongst those in power even during the war years and just after would be unthinkable today. Today’s world changes at a much faster rate of course. The improvements in technology and communication mean that ideas can catch hold and be acted upon very quickly. And the biggest weapon of all? Information. Thanks largely to the internet, it is now more and more difficult for those in positions of power to deny access to the masses to relevant information on almost any subject you can think of. Their chances of success in such endeavours are vanishingly smaller with each passing year.

In short, I disagree that we can’t stop the juggernaut. It may well take a further 5 to 10 years, but I believe it will happen.

Nov 17, 2012 at 3:24 PM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

"At that point, which might not be so long away,..." [when solar energy becomes more affordable than fossil fuels].

That is not going to happen. So we can argue about 'AGW' forever.

Nov 17, 2012 at 4:06 PM | Registered Commentershub

Chris M

What would you say if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that AGW does not exist,... It is beyond my power to prove that, but not beyond the power of scientific research.

That is a strange statement. If AGW does not exist then, yes, that fact would probably demonstrable through scientific research. If it does exist, then how ever much scientists research, they cannot truly demonstrate that it does not exist.

Shub, why not? The amount of money and expertise going into research on renewables is large. Admittedly, money alone can bring about the necessary technology. But incentives matter and the incentives to design/invent efficient renewable tech are huge.

To me this is the real 'purpose' (wrong word, but a better word escapes me at the moment) of the government drive to greenery; it incentivises invention. Sceptics sometimes say that because we can't be sure about AGW we should do nothing until we are (sure) and that in the meantime the tech will get better. But that, to me, is a fallacy. It assumes that the current effort towards finding sustainable energy sources would exist without the green drive. It would not - the money would be missing.

Doing nothing would of course suit those parts of the sceptic community with vested interests in fossil fuels (and no, I'm not referring to BH). Denying that such interests exist is naïve.

Nov 17, 2012 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Almost all your points above have been hashed out forever on blogs, and they are not going to lead us anywhere. Moreover, they are not exactly related to whether sceptics are fragmented.

I think sceptics are fragmented. But the public at large is sceptical, cynical and worst of all, disinterested in all this crap. They don't have the time in life for this.

Nov 17, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Registered Commentershub

No, a conglomeration of sceptics won't change a thing. Since the issue is less to do with science than politics it will require a POLITICAL change to make the differences we need. Whether or not even *that* is achievable is a separate subject but the likes of Dr North and efforts to bring about change through the efforts of the Harrogate agenda are the most practical way forward.

Such change won't happen overnight - it's not even expected to - but change WILL happen, it always does.

Nov 17, 2012 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave_G


My childhood was the same and so was the outcome in terms of my beliefs (although when I was very young I did believe).
Chris I think this topic is a really good one so thanks. It has been said in many threads that the British seem to have very good BS radar systems however they have also developed an almost total distrust of politicians and as a result they mostly ignore politics. The speed at which people wise up is dictated (I think) by this lack of interest in politics but eventually our message will get through.
Can we speed up the process? I am like many others writing to my MP and to the BBC and to government Ministers and to be honest most of them are as ignorant of climate facts as the average man in the street. I believe we will win but I think it will be slow which is a tragedy since many of us may not see the victory.


I seem to remember that you, like almost everyone else on BH could not provide or devise an experiment that could prove the existence of the greenhouse effect and I did provide an experiment that proved it did not exist.

Nov 17, 2012 at 7:58 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I have learned a lot about oil and fossil fuels from these sources: Daniel Yergin (The Prize), Robert Laughlin and Thomas Gold

This is Yergin on the GWPF. He's saying something WR Mead said about six months ago.

Nov 17, 2012 at 8:24 PM | Registered Commentershub


I seem to remember that you, like almost everyone else on BH could not provide or devise an experiment that could prove the existence of the greenhouse effect and I did provide an experiment that proved it did not exist.

If everyone else on BH has read your views on space travel and on the rights and wrongs of giving racial minorities the vote, my guess is they wont have taken much notice of your views on greenhouse gas experiments...

Nov 17, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


Never let the question get in the way of a good answer ^.^

Nov 17, 2012 at 11:37 PM | Registered CommenterDung


'Doing nothing would of course suit those parts of the sceptic community with vested interests in fossil fuels (and no, I'm not referring to BH). Denying that such interests exist is naïve.'

It is very easy to identify - both by affiliation and by name - members of the alarmist community who have vested interests in the continuation of the climate change scare. But although I've been around the sceptic community for a while now, I've yet to see identified - in either way - ' those parts of the sceptic community with vested interests in fossil fuels'

So come on say you know who they names! And give some evidence to justify your claims.

This is meant as a direct challenge in case you are under any illusions. Put up or shut up.

Nov 18, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder


A sine qua non of honest debate is to stick to obvious, incontrovertible facts. You cannot say that fossil fuel interests are influential in climate change skepticism when current funding, to the extent that it may still exist, is pathetically small and past funding was very modest. Exxon have apparently donated to climate change skeptic entities in the past, but I think not recently. The Koch brothers seem to have been very up-front about their contributions.

In fact Big Oil has for the most part fallen into line behind the AGW bandwagon and won't say boo. If they can make a buck out of subsidized renewable energy schemes they may include it in their business model, but otherwise they keep their heads down; they know they are selling an essential product. The small conservative think-tank The Heartland Institute doesn't derive its modest income from Big Oil, as Gleick discovered to his chagrin. The Koch brothers have contributed to the Cato Institute and similar entities, funded some of Willie Soon's research and were part-sponsors of Richard Muller's surface temperature research project, the latter hardly a den of 'deniers'.

So all up, maybe some millions in total from Big Oil to skeptic interests over the years, in contrast to the many billions of dollars available to promoters of AGW and state-subsidised renewable energy development. Hardly an equal contest!

It is with a sense of great frustration that we see alarmists keep trotting out the Big Lie about Big Oil funding of skeptics. People like Steve McIntyre volunteer their expertise gratis simply because they value the truth. If you can allow yourself to acknowledge the obvious fact that climate change skepticism is very largely unfunded, people will think better of you, BB.

Nov 18, 2012 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Take care folks, this would not be the first discussion thread that BB has managed to totally derail.

Nov 18, 2012 at 12:26 PM | Registered CommenterDung

yup, but humouring him for now ;)

Nov 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Phew that was a close one. I'm glad my friends here were able to cover for us again. They've been so thorough listing all donations to sceptics that it makes it hard for for BB. I mean, he could talk about Naomi Oreskis' work on documenting our merchants of doubt, or even Mann's work (haha, that's bring our troops to peak fury), but my guess is that our friends will contest the whole thing and will deny that the people described have anything to do with scepticism. And probably they will say it is old history, no longer relevant. That should be good cover against a loser like BB.

But let's see, it is a good idea, this blocking climate related action. Where would be the best place to do it? The America Congress, perhaps? How could we do it then? I guess we could in some sneaky way, so that it couldn't be seen, channel large amounts of money to our oily friends. Republicans probably - they are batty as fruitcakes and politicians don't care they are being bought. I wonder if that could work without anyone noticing...

Nov 18, 2012 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterOilyBuckets


This is off topic really, so apologies to Chris.

Firstly, as a Brit, in all honesty I couldn’t give a flying eff what the American Congress does or doesn’t do. There is this mistaken belief, mainly amongst warmists, that all sceptical viewpoints are somehow controlled by events in the US. Why is that? What the US does, as one of the world’s largest economies, is important of course, but only in so far as it goes. The US leads the world in many things, but certainly not in this issue. If the US administration were to ban CO2 emissions tomorrow, it wouldn’t change the views of the rest of the world one tiny iota. Europe and Australasia would still continue their slow walk towards the hangman’s noose. Asia, Africa and South America would still continue to expand their economies on the back of coal, oil and gas as fast as they could, but with an added spring in their collective step as they anticipated all those lovely new jobs and industries headed their way from the good ole US of A. Whatever the US does, it will have absolutely no effect on my scepticism or the scepticism of anyone else. I am not a sceptic because McIntyre or Montford or Watts or Morano or any US politician tells me I should be one. I am not a sceptic because I believe every word that McIntyre or Montford or Watts or Morano or any US politician tells me. Rather, I am a sceptic because I have read and listened, and continue to read and listen, to what the warmists themselves have to say, including reading many, many of the scientific papers and articles that they base their views upon. I simply find it unconvincing. Full stop.

Secondly, as with Latimer’s challenge to BB, the same to you. If you have evidence of corruption of Congress, let’s see it. Name names. Give examples. Merely pointing at Oreskes (seriously?) isn’t enough. Be specific.

Nov 18, 2012 at 3:19 PM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

Chris M

As as been said already; we think that even being disorganised we can still win the argument so maybe the question should be "are there ways that we could be more effective?"

Nov 18, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Laurie Childs, woof! I like it! Deny any connection; that's the way to go if the lily-livered, yellow-bellied socialists start sniffing round how our crazy folk get elected. We deny any connection between us and the wackos. Full stop! Nice strategy, although I'm a little sceptical at the use of the word 'deny'. I mean they might call us 'deniers' which has unfortunate overtones... hey that's it, "sceptical". We are sceptical of any link between political halfwits and the essential carbon based industries. We are sceptics! Gentlemen, I think we've got ourselves a convoy!

Nov 18, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterOilyBuckets

Oreskes? Please. Money to Republicans? How is that 'money to skeptics'? What next? Skepticalscience? Realclimate?

The US Republicans are not what you'd call them. At least they are better than Crying and Big Birding. And the women are afraid of them.

Nov 18, 2012 at 4:55 PM | Registered Commentershub