Tea Partiers Aren’t as Scientifically Stupid as Believed – Concludes One Smart Liberal

Those that read this blog know that I’m a fan of Dan Kahan, although I don’t know him personally and he and I don’t hang together in the same political spheres.  Kahan has conducted some interesting research on cultural cognition as it relates to climate change and other controversial topics, like vaccines, that require an intellectual capacity (and willingness) to understand scientifically complex issues.  But before delving into Kahan’s interesting results, a brief refresher on linear regression analysis.  The higher the r-value, ranging from 1.0 to -1.0, the stronger the correlation between two variables.  When doing linear regression, you can have both negative and positive correlations.  It should come, therefore, as no surprise to learn that those who are more highly educated tend to have higher scientific literacy and comprehension than those less educated, r-value of 0.36, as shown by the histogram below.  Full post over on Kahan’s blog here

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Who you gonna believe – Rush Limbaugh or Al Gore?

I’ve heard from some who have grown weary of my covering climate change here – and I must confess that I too grow weary of the topic.  This blog was never intended to focus on a singular topic, but because of how central climate change has become to so much of the policy and political debate on energy and natural resource management, it simply cannot be ignored.  So I ask for your indulgence for this, and possibly a few more posts in the weeks to come.

Because of all the climate change “noise” from competing views, it is extremely difficult for anyone to decipher fact from fiction.  And what one believes on the issue can probably be distilled into one word “trust.”   Who you gonna believe, Rush Limbaugh or Al Gore?   Who you trust on this matter, what scientific or political figures you believe will steer you right, probably aligns well with your current position and views on the topic.  Continue reading

Climate Change – “Scientific Consensus” or Pathologies in Public Discourse

There’s been a fair amount of controversy – some might even call it an old fashion dust up – involving a recent study by John Cook et al. that claims 97.1% of scientists endorse the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. scientific consensus The study has been used by some in the media as a rallying cry to force a public consensus as well as policy action.  Step number one in any change management strategy is to create a sense of urgency, the burning platform that drives change.  Yet the “consensus” study has been resoundingly criticized by some, including Professor Mike Hulme, as poorly conceived, designed and executed, and contriving a debate that is irrelevant and unhelpful in advancing policy solutions.  This latter point is supported in part by a recent Pew Research study that reveals 7 in 10 Americans believe global warming is occurring, but only 4 in 10 believe that such warming is caused by human activity.  So a super-majority believes climate change is happening, but less than half are convinced that warming is caused by humans and/or don’t support drastic policy measures being advanced by those who would seek to kill the Keystone Pipeline project.  So the purported “disconnect” is not about whether there is a problem; rather, it’s how we address the problem. Continue reading

New Big Thinking on Wicked Problems

Roger Pielke Jr. has a thoughtful piece over at The Breakthrough Institute titled The Irrelevance of Climate Skeptics.  Himself, having long been labeled by some as a climate skeptic, Pielke’s seemingly self-effacing perspective is that public opinion on climate change is over and the battle for the plebeian mind has been won by those professing man-made climate change.  But before wicket problemsdelving into Pielke’s intriguing idea, I first offer a comment about the Institute, lead by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus – not household names to those outside the wacky world of environmentalism – whose 2004 essay The Death of Environmentalism featured prominently on the front page of the NYT.

The Institute represents an encouraging paradigm shift, free of the reflexive “us v. them” environmentalism and stodgy party politics and usual partisan divide, with a bevy of new generation, smart research academics and free-thinking policy wonks who care about the human condition and finding practical solutions to some of civilization’s most pressing environmental challenges – or “wicked” problems as David Ropeik likes to call them  – on water, energy, climate, and sustainability.  In 2011, Nordhaus and Shellenberger started the Breakthrough Journal, which The New Republic called “among the most complete answers” to the question of how to modernize liberal thought, and the National Review called “The most promising effort at self-criticism by our liberal cousins in a long time.”  Pretty remarkable collision of liberal and conservative praise.  Check out their website – it’s worth your time, as the Institute’s big think approach is changing the way the next generation will analyze, debate, and govern in a world filled with wicked problems. Continue reading

What is the Best Antidote to Environmental Irrationality?

The material well-being of a democratic society depends on its ability to rationally manage a nearly limitless variety of often competing risks. - Dan Kahan, 2006
The material well-being of a democratic society depends on its ability to rationally manage a nearly limitless variety of often competing risks.
– Dan Kahan, 2006

Environmental rationality of course.  But ever wonder how it is that some members of society, even experts, can hold such polar opposite views on the dangers of climate change, guns, nuclear energy, terrorism, or legalization of drugs?  Perhaps I’m naive, but I find it baffling that seemingly intelligent and well-intentioned people on the political left and right can observe the same facts and reach such vastly different conclusions about the risks to individuals and society writ large.  I posted previously my thoughts and concerns about society’s increasing obsession with conspiracy theories and environmental hysteria.  And I link to a very entertaining Penn & Teller Bullshit clip on the rise of environmental hysteria – well worth the viewing – that sort of reinforces my point.

So how does society rationally function in an increasingly irrational environment filled with seemingly irrational actors?  And how does government reconcile and ably govern within the penumbra of such contrasting cultural visions for society.  This is the question of the century and one that must be addressed in the midst of some very challenging social, economic, and environmental issues facing our times.  This is a tall challenge – but not nearly as tough as understanding why so many find Pee-wee Herman entertaining. Continue reading

Truthmaking and Credibility Matter

Linking to an article by Alister Doyle over at Reuters titled Climate Scientists Struggle to Explain Warming Slowdown.

“The climate system is not quite so simple as people thought,” said Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” who estimates that moderate warming will be beneficial for crop growth and human health.coal fired power plant

Some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to correct a 2007 report that exaggerated the pace of melt of the Himalayan glaciers and wrongly said they could all vanish by 2035.

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