Sunday, October 03, 2010

Countering Climate Disinformation - Checklist

This post (URL: ) means to be a one-stop shop for dealing with contrarian commenters.
I'll add to & improve it over time; if you've got suggestions/complaints, submit a comment please.

If someone makes climate-contrarian claims repeatedly - where he sounds superficially like he knows what he's talking about, yet thinks the climate science community is wrong - the fellow is most likely a crank (read it please, to understand), so his scientific(?) arguments don't warrant serious consideration from non-expert folk like us.

But if he has an audience for his disinformation, you should counter it for the readers' sake.

Doing it as concisely as possible, e.g. just by providing a link to this post, helps keep the discussion thread from being hijacked, & so frees the on-topic discussion to continue.

For the contrarian commenter, here's a checklist to help you avoid saying things that'd make you look foolish.
  • Have you considered the big picture - are you so sure that you're right & the climate science community is wrong, that you're willing to bet *everything* on it?

  • Have you done due diligence in checking that your claim/argument is not already known to be faulty - did you first check Skeptical or Coby Beck's How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic ( or the EPA “endangerment” "response to comments" ( ), or search for science-aligned coverage of the claim at ?
    (You'll probably look silly, if you don't run these checks first.)

  • If you cite a source for your claim, have you checked the source's standing on the Credibility Spectrum? Without being able to intelligently assess credibility, there’s no way someone can tell which end is up, climate-science-wise.
    (If your views *are* in line with what the highest credibility sources are saying, not a problem.)
    (FYI, one local fellow objects to this credibility spectrum since its author, Kate, is herself young and un-credentialed - but that's silly since "it does not require any technical expertise to come up with something like Kate's spectrum, it's just a progression from non-experts to experts to large groups of experts. And if the problem is that someone can't trust the large groups of experts because it's all a giant conspiracy, there's not much anyone can do to dissuade them." )

  • Remember that 97% of actively publishing climate scientists believe the world is warming and it's largely human-caused, and the the group that doesn't, has lower expertise - and is small enough to fit into the average American kitchen.
    (If you don't like the Doran 2009 survey that found the 97%, there's also Anderegg et al 2010, which classified the researchers by the petitions they'd signed, and got a similar result.)

  • Remember that if you're only learning from deviant views, you're probably going to be misled.
It's hard to change your mind, since humans are prone to "motivated cognition" (read Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide for more). But we can minimize the damage wrong information causes, to the understanding of others - and when the stakes are this high, that's worth doing.

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