Climate Change: Will the Real Deniers Please Stand Up?

Those of you who followed me here from my previous blog may have read the post I wrote at the beginning of last year, originally for John Gibbons’ climate change blog ThinkorSwim, called Climate Change: Will the Real Skeptics please Stand Up?

The original post was deleted from ThinkorSwim, but I re-posted the extensive comments here.

Among other things, John distinguished himself during this debate by becoming perhaps the first- and last- person to represent temperature changes in percentage terms:

John Gibbons February 16, 2011 at 09:11:

Just in case you’re not familiar with the basic science (and I really am now beginning to wonder), the current global average surface temp. is c.14.5C. Add 4C to that in half a century and you have increased the average surface temp by over 25%.

He does acknowledge this mistake later in the thread, but apparently still regards himself as someone qualified to talk about climate change and its potential impacts, as evidenced in his recent opinion piece in the Irish Times:

GLOBALLY, 2010 was a year of weather-related disasters on an almost unprecedented scale. Last year was worse, with a record $380 billion in economic losses attributed to “natural” disasters, many climate-related, according to insurance giant Munich Re.

Few experts expect to see any break in this upward trend this year, or any time soon. Instead, as record emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, the climate system is now behaving precisely as scientists have been projecting for decades. The rapid build-up of energy in the system is the “engine” that is fuelling extremes, from storms and floods to severe droughts.

As pointed out on Bishop Hill, a Scientific American article shows that much of the cost of disasters last year was not attributable to man-made climate change, in fact was not even weather related:

Almost two-thirds of 2011’s exceptionally high costs are attributable to two disasters unrelated to climate and weather: the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, and February’s comparatively small but unusually destructive magnitude-6.3 quake in New Zealand.

In the Bishop Hill thread, Richard Toll suggests a plausible vested interest in climate alarmism amongst the insurance industry:

Note that Munich Re enjoys generous tax treatment on its financial reserves. These terms were extended when the Greens were in power. In return, Munich Re agreed to support the climate agenda.

Gibbons goes onto lament the failure of the media to continue engage with climate change or give it the attention he feels it deserves, warning:

Given the complexity of the issues involved, non-specialist journalists are often easy meat to be drawn into spurious “debates” which give unwarranted airtime to contrarians and industry shills (this is known as bias-in-balance).

But this seems to a spurious debate that John Gibbons himself is trying to draw us all into, even though anyone who is familiar with the climate change debate will be aware that insurance figures are at least as affected by things like increasing population and wealth than by extreme weather, never mind tsunamis and earthquakes- as Lomborg among others explains in his excellent, peer-reviewed 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Gibbons was jumped on for this misrepresentation of the facts by commentators on the IT piece of course, and he responds on his own blog with the preface:

The posting has been viewed over 7,500 times and has attracted 90 user comments, with the usual generous contributions from skeptics/deniers, who swarm like flies on any article or commentary that dares ‘join the dots’ between weather disasters and the larger picture involving the slow death spiral of our gravely damaged biosphere.

No, John, the reason you are being criticized for this egregious mistake is not because people are “deniers” funded by right-wing think tanks, or even necessarily climate skeptics, but because you are wrong. That you still present yourself as some kind of authority on climate science is indeed extraordinary, and suggests either grandiose self-delusion, or willful blindness, possibly in the service of some kind of “virtuous corruption”.

I don’t like the epithet “denialist” at the best of times- it is ideologically laden and usually misrepresents other people’s actual positions, apart from being completely inappropriate. But reading articles like this, I really do begin to wonder to which side of the climate debate it would be most applicable.

Leave a comment


  1. Martin Lack

     /  February 25, 2012

    Before you start feeling to confident about who the liars/deniers are, I feel you should review the DeSmogBlog textual assessment of the 2-page Heartland Institute Strategy Document… There would appear little doubt it is in fact genuine.

    With regard to Richard Lindzen, whom I was lucky enough to hear speak at a meeting in the Palace of Westminster last Wednesday, I am astonished at the lengths he goes to obfuscate reality; and at his readiness to ridicule and/or question the integrity of any climate scientist who disagrees with him (i.e. just about every one apart from Pat Michaels and Roy Spencer). Furthermore, having been prevented from asking a question at the meeting, Lindzen invited me to email him. However, he clearly did not like the questions I asked in my email but, even if he does not send me a second reply with some answers, I will publish my original email to him on my blog on Tuesday – so that people can see what he is up to…

  2. “- There would appear little doubt it is in fact genuine.”
    priceless example of “confirms my dogma, so it must be true, I won’t fact check”

    Peter Gleick is a hero : unwittingly he has advanced the cause of critically thinking massively.
    It’s almost worth taking aphoto of your man’s comment above.

  1. Update on Mann vs Steyn et al

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