Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Conspiracy of the Stonecutters: is Climate Science Denial going through a Seneca Cliff?

In a recent article on WUWT, Tim Ball describes climate science as the result of a "cabal" devised by the Club of Rome as a way to promote world socialism. He is confusing the Club of Rome with the sect of the "Stonecutters" of "The Simpsons". They really seem to be running out of serious arguments. 

Sometimes I think about how difficult it must be to be a climate science denier. I have been studying climate science for years and I can tell you that it is tough stuff and that climate scientists are smart people who have been building their competency over decades of work. Climate science deniers can have a good time telling each other their beliefs in their sites frequented only by like-minded people. But only those of them suffering from a near terminal Dunning-Kruger syndrome can think they can debate a true climate scientist on climate science. No way.

So, I can almost sympathize with climate science deniers: they face a nearly impossible task. And one good example of their plight is a recent article by Tim Ball on WUWT. Worth reading because it is, in a way, honest. Ball writes (emphasis mine):

I know from experience that after you explain to an audience what and how the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) deception was achieved the next question is inevitable. What was the motive? Unless you answer that question, people become a little more skeptical but remain, at best, undecided. They can’t and don’t want to believe that scientists would be involved in anything nefarious or even misleading. They can’t believe that so many of them were misled, which is why the 97% consensus claim was so effective.

Truly pathetic, isn't it? Put yourself in the shoes of poor Tim Ball. Imagine that you are trying to explain to a group of adult people that, say, the Tooth Fairy really exists and that she has been kidnapped by Santa Claus who keeps her hidden in a secret igloo near the North Pole. Something like that. Wouldn't that be difficult?

Ball doesn't seem to be touched by the idea that he is dealing with normal people who may well be right in their skepticism. So, he proceeds with a desperate attempt to demonstrate the undemonstrable. He says that, clearly, people are skeptical about the idea that tens of thousands of scientists are all conspiring against the American people but, hey, this is not a "conspiracy", it is a "cabal", defined as "A small group of intriguers, especially one formed for political purposes."

What is the difference between a conspiracy and a cabal? Basically, none, except in the mind of Ball who seems to think that by using the term "cabal" he has dodged the objection that a conspiracy on climate would have to be too large to be kept hidden. He doesn't seem to realize that the problem remains unchanged: how is it possible that so many scientists in the world are involved in the, cabal, and nobody ever talked about it?

Never mind that, Ball tries to substantiate his idea by digging into the corpus of legends that arose in the 1970s after the publication of "The Limits to Growth", the much maligned 1972 report to the Club of Rome. At that time, the Club was accused of the worst possible things, including to be initiating a conspiracy to take over the world. None of these accusations could ever be substantiated and, clearly, if the Club had really been planning to take over the world, they haven't been very successful in almost 50 years of attempts.

But Ball is undeterred; according to him, the Club of Rome is the culprit of everything. He is confusing the Club with the "Stonecutters" of "The Simpsons". But why would the Club be pushing their cabal? Obvious: they wanted (and they still want) to promote world socialism. Again, if that was the plan, they don't seem to have been very successful. Don't you think it would be easier to convince people that the Tooth Fairy really exists?

If you followed me up to here, I guess that, like me, you don't know whether you should laugh or get angry. Surely, it is such a pathetic story that one is tempted to laugh. But, then, if you think of the kind of disaster we are facing (and the Hurricane Harvey is only one of them), you see that people are suffering and dying because of climate change. And you may well get angry at people like Tim Ball are arguing that nothing should be done because they attribute everything to an obscure cabal devised by a group of white-haired people who collected in a smoke-filled room nearly 50 years ago in order to promote socialism.

Hopefully, a Seneca Cliff in the public opinion on climate will take care of this group of conspiracy theorists.

The most recent (March 2017) Gallup poll results on climate change. This can be seen as a "Seneca Cliff" in reverse. A hard core of unbelievers maintain their position, but the overall opinion is clearly tilting in the direction of thinking that climate change is real and it is a serious problem. 

For a detailed rebuttal of Tim Ball's post, see "The Hot Whopper"


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)