April 26, 2012 | Graham

Qanda’s junk science survey

Qanda’s special on climate change – I can change your mind – deployed some junk science of its own.

I completed the survey and was told my position was “Dismissive”. That might be correct, but the “profile” of my position at the end of the survey indicates that at the very least it was doctored, and at the worst, the research it was based on is useless.

The “profile” was said to be “based on results from a survey conducted in the US by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication”.

As you can see from my annotations below some of what is in the “profile” couldn’t have been measured by the questionnaire, because the questions to measure them weren’t in it.

The “profile” also severely misrepresents my position, possibly because it hasn’t bothered to consider it, and therefore draws conclusions based on what it has considered.

I’ve been following this issue for over 40 years and my position for quite some time has been that you will not stop man burning fossil fuel to maintain his standard of living so that the most sensible position is adaptation, not abatement. If you’re serious about limiting carbon emissions, then nuclear is the only way to go at the moment.

CO2 emissions definitely contribute to warming the world, but beyond a certain point its effect is limited, and far less than the IPCC has projected. Its projections depend on natural amplication which the history of the world demonstrates doesn’t exist.

See if you can recognise this nuanced view in the “profile” below.

The Dismissive are sure that global warming is not happening.  No, I answered that it was happening. You say the issue is not at all important to you personally and are not worried about it at all. You, however, say that you have thought about global warming and believe you are well-informed about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions – i.e., that there are none, because it doesn’t exist.  No, see previous answer, I didn’t say that. I am very well-informed and I have formed the opinion that adaptation will mean that it will make no net difference to us compared to business as usual, which has to embody significant change. You are very certain about your views, and are very unlikely to change your mind about the issue. Many of the Dismissive flatly reject the proposition that global warming is happening, while a majority believe that if global warming is happening, natural changes in the environment are the primary cause.  No, when I answered this question I said I wasn’t sure. The argument hinges on whether there are positive or negative feedbacks in the system, and what the dominant forces are. The systems are not sufficiently well understood for anyone to be able to say what is the major contributor. Likewise, a majority believe there is a lot of disagreement among scientists over whether global warming is occurring, while over a fifth of the Dismissive believe there is a scientific consensus that global warming is not happening.  Not sure how they know this as it wasn’t one of the questions. It assumes that there is a scientific consensus.  You say that global warming will not harm you personally or future generations at all. I live in a rich country. You didn’t ask me about the poorer part of the world. Finally, you believe global warming will never harm people.  Nope, never said this.

Posted by Graham at 10:36 pm | Comments (15) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Provide a link for the survey please.

    Comment by Larry — April 26, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

  2. Good point Larry http://www.abc.net.au/tv/changeyourmind/survey/. I’ll also insert it above. Thanks for that.

    Comment by Graham — April 26, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

  3. I camee out as ‘concerned’.

    My view is something is happening, but competitive realities mean that few nations will do much about it, unless a calmity emerges.

    It may be last country standing in terms of who has the capacity to deal with adverse effects.

    I saw a show last night about many of the world’s forests having a mch graqter rate of tree death. I suspect weather changes, more drought has something to do with it, as experts suggest.

    I oppose a carbon tax on two counts; one no political mandate from people; two, it aint going to do anything in terms of lowering co2 levels.

    I can’t stand those last night who mocked liberal democracy’s capacity to espond to a crisis. truth is they are yet to win debate.

    Comment by Chris Lewis — April 27, 2012 @ 8:12 am

  4. I also think that the survey is quite poor in terms of what it asks and supposedly helps explain.

    Overall, I thought the ABC show and debate was quite good, although light years away from any magical answer.

    Answer, of course wil be gains in renewable energy options once price is competitive. All players then will have a self-interest to embrace change, including both China and Australia with their great reliance upon coal.

    Comment by Chris Lewis — April 27, 2012 @ 8:36 am

  5. As for the idiot that thought divided debate is futile, supposedly tycpical of liberal democracies, he ought to take note of how debate in democracies has actually fulled more research and development of solar panels and so on, albeit that China ends up making the products.

    In other words, debate, debate, debate leads to change. And we are changing, although we are milking coal exports for al of its worth.

    Comment by Chris Lewis — April 27, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  6. Hi Graham

    the problem is that the survey was developed using people from the US so it can’t accurately reflect the varieties of thinking here in Aus where we have our own nuances in argumentation styles.

    Maybe an Aus version you would cater for you by providing a category for nit-picking grudging Quibblers.

    Comment by Julie Thomas — April 27, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

  7. don’t quibble about the typo either

    Comment by Julie Thomas — April 27, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

  8. What I really dislike most about how the entire argument is framed is that people like me are called deniers of climate change. When I, along with most deniers who include almost every geologist I have every met, have always taken a real interest in climate change and have studied it, and discussed it, and marvelled at it. The big natural climate cycles.

    Indeed the very people most likely to be able to tell you by how many metres sea levels have been rising and falling over which millennia are the ones labelled deniers!

    While Anna Rose and her type have just no idea.

    Comment by Jennifer Marohasy — April 28, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

  9. Having participated in development and review of public service entry tests, the questionair left much to be desired! Like Graham, I was classifies as ‘dismissive’. The descriptor of the dismissive attributes in no way reflect either my conclusions or the vast amount of reading/research undertaken to reach those conclusions. Sorry folks, the survey is worthless.

    Comment by Peter Spinks — April 28, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  10. Why all the focus on the survey? As I remember, it was presented as a joke and in no way was it suggested that it was a serious aspect of the exercise.

    Why the quibbling about being called deniers? What would you like to be called?

    These quibbles and other claims such as; “Anna Rose and ‘her type’ have just no idea”, are useful only to indicate that you feel very frustrated and emotional at the way things are going.

    Perhaps you think I don’t understand how much material wealth that some of you stand to lose if there is a change in the story we tell our selves about the necessity and form that human progress should take.

    Not speaking for my type, whoever they are but I think that here is enough material stuff to go around and we don’t need any more growth. I think that now progress is about spiritual wealth and growing our ability to co-operate rather than compete.

    Humans are capable of both co-operation and competition. Perhaps, you ‘other’ people’,lol, could read up on some of the ideas from evolutionary psychology that will provide the science we need to understand what motivates us.

    When we understand the science of how our brains work and we understand how our emotions are almost always directing our behaviour, we may be able to have more useful discussions “across the divide”.

    I recommend E.O. Wilson’s new book “The Social Conquest of Earth” for a very interesting discussion of the way humans could have evolved both altruism and selfishness. There is a review here


    Comment by Julie Thomas — April 29, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  11. Sorry Julie, but the survey was put up as something quite serious and the basis for one academics analysis of the way the issue is discussed in political debate. Anna Rose brought this expert in.

    I’m sure if any of the experts that Minchin brought in based their work on similarly dodgy methodology and results the Twiterrati would have howled them down.

    I’ve been batting off suggestions by ignorant people that Lindzen is somehow a tobacco lobbyist when he merely says, quite correctly, that the statistical indictment of slipstream smoking is not sufficiently strong to bear out a causal relationship.

    Comment by Graham — April 29, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

  12. Graham
    You are conflating two different things; the questionnaire as it was used in the original study, the one that was discussed in the first part of the show and then the questionnaire as it was used in the Australian context.
    This latter use of the questionnaire, as you experienced it was not science and it is silly of you to try and use the results from the unscientific use of the questionaire to dismiss the results of the ‘real’ study.

    However, in the circumstance where the questionnaire was used appropriately, that is, when it was used to measure attitudes of the population it was developed to measure, and administered under test conditions, it is not junk science.

    So your argument goes like this; the survey they used didn’t accurately reflect my particular nuanced position, so it must be junk and hence climate change isn’t happening?

    Comment by Julie Thomas — April 30, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  13. Hi Jonathan,It can be confusing the nebumr of claims being made that the world is warming / isn’t warming and that’s because the issue has become somewhat divided, often for partisan reasons.No doubt what you’ve been taught in school is correct. If a school were to knowingly misteach it’s pupils then it faces prosecution. Global warming has actually been on trial several times in courts of law and on every occasion the Judge has ruled that the facts and science behind global warming are accurate.Those who don’t accept global warming is happening don’t have an argument against the theory. Instead they have used more than 100 different excuses ranging from claims that the world is cooling, that Margaret Thatcher invented global warming, that it’s because Earth is moving closer to the Sun – all manner of unrelated claims.In your question you mention that you’ve learned that a lot of people are against the idea of global warming. In reality there’s not that many. It’s broadly accepted the world over, the only notable exception being the US where it is more of a political issue than a scientific one.If you look at global warming scientifically then there’s no question that it’s happening. No doubt you were taught that greenhouse gases retain heat in the atmosphere and that the more of them there are the more heat is retained. What you may not have been taught is the mechanism by which these gases retain heat, this is something that is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics.You may think that it would be pointless to try and argue against the theory of gravity, and you’d be right to do so. But it’s even more pointless to argue against the laws of quantum mechanics. Not only are these laws universal and invariable, but they’re the most powerful and successful of all scientific laws. Trying to argue against them really is futile – not that it doesn’t stop some people claiming there’s no such thing as global warming.Because the science is so solid, it’s no surprise then that there isn’t a single scientific organisation on the planet that disputes the theory of manmade global warming.So instead, what we’re left with are a nebumr of uncoordinated, unscientific, and largely uninformed individuals who, often for personal reasons, object to the notion that the world is warming and we, as humans, are having a hand in it.It’s very telling that those who argue against the theory NEVER address the issue as a whole, instead they focus on the minutiae and on the distortion of reality. By adopting this technique it’s possible to ‘disprove’ anything. Take gravity for example, if it existed then trees would grow downwards not upwards, water could never evaporate, birds and planes would crash to the ground, the atmosphere would be sucked down to Earth not up in the sky, Earth would compress itself into a tiny ball etc etc.This is an example of the style of argument used by those who reject the theory of global warming. They latch on to an illogical argument and run with it, steadfastly refusing to acknowledge their own ignorance and basically doing everything they can to avoid exposure to anything that opposes their fallacy.

    Comment by Migue — May 19, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

  14. Julie

    You will probably never read this as I discovered the discussion by accident well after the event.

    Strangely enough, I find the comments by Graham, Chris, Peter and Jennifer all easy to empathise with and sensible.

    Without even getting into the arguments about climate change, I find your comments very aggressive and belittling. And comments like yours are one of the reasons that people are starting to ‘go cold’ on climate change. Your dismissive attitude adds nothing to the climate change debate. Nor does it enhance the impression we all have of the climate change advocates.

    The increasing aggression and arrogance of the climate change advocates suggests to me that you are getting frustrated that time is passing by and no one is listening any more.

    Comment by Kay Kelly — May 22, 2012 @ 8:52 am

  15. I’m sure there are a hundred ways of auttibrting a death. And frankly, if somebody wants to they could probably attribute every death to climate change, or none, depending on what you want to say. So I think it’s a meaningless statistic.How exactly are we going to know if any change we make will be positive and how will we recognize it?You are asking crystal ball questions with no clear cut answers. That usually means to people can answer them any way they choose. In my opinion, answers to these questions would just be guesses and really worthless.Sorry I couldn’t be of more help other than being honest. Beware of those who think they accurate and correct answers to those questions.

    Comment by Victoryquen — May 22, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

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