Climate Denial and Manufacturing Legitimacy
January 25, 2012
Guest Post by Colin Maessen:
The scientific discussion has long since moved on from whether we are causing the increase in our planets temperature to fine tuning what effects this will have. We know it is happening, we are responsible for it and we are now in the process of finding out that we have been underestimating it.
Yet, the so-called sceptics have managed to delay action, very effectively spreading misinformation. A considerable amount of misinformation comes from the blogosphere, where familiar and long-debunked claims about climate change are repeated time and time again.
Case in point, Anthony Watts with his website Watts Up With That:
Being called out does not stop him from spreading obvious misinformation.
So how does he manage to still hold on to the trust of his readers?
The reasons are many, and have lot to do with the mindset of a science denier, but he does have his methods for creating the illusion of legitimacy. One of these methods is gaming the internet vote for certain dubious “science blog” awards.
When Watts won the 2011 Bloggie Award in the category Best Science Blog, he gave full credit to his loyal readership:
This was truly surprising. According to the Bloggies Facebook page, WUWT has been named the first ever winner of the Best Science Blog category (new this year for the Bloggies), beating Wired and Boing Boing, both of whom have way more reach and traffic than we do. I suppose it demonstrates the loyalty of our readers.
These awards are won by popular vote, rather than merit. Those that rouse or manufacture enough support, can engineer a win in the submitted category – in this case resulting in “science” awards for a blog that routinely misinforms on scientific subjects and even slanders scientists.
Watts is at it again for the 2012 Bloggies:
Well, it is that time of year again. You can nominate your favorite blogs for top honors in the 2012 Bloggies Awards. As many know, WUWT won last year in the Best Science Blog category. This year, Science and Technology blogs have been combined into a single category, so the competition will likely be stronger.
I also followed up on his advice and joined in to vote, which also meant I had an interesting opportunity. If you submit nominees for the Bloggies you can indicate that you are interested in being selected as a one of the 200 randomly selected voters who choose the finalists.
And I was selected as one of those 200 voters. Thanks to this I am in the possession of a ballot to vote for the finalists and a list of the candidates for “Best Science or Technology Weblog”. For your convenience I’ve marked the ‘sceptic’ sites in orange and the actual science sites that report accurately on climate change in green (order as they appeared on the ballot):
The listing is flooded with sites spreading misinformation on climate science, just one site on it that is dedicated to combatting the misinformation on climate, and two that from time to time highlight mainstream climate science and call out denialism. It’s an indication of the (often “astro turfed”) swarming behavior that often allows climate deniers to punch above their actual weight.
How should the pro-science community counter this?
The above lists of candidates will be distilled into a list of finalists, five of them in total. On February 1st, everyone will be able to vote for the finalists. This is your chance to help an actual science blog to win this category.
Mark this date in you agenda, and go to the Bloggies website to let your voice be heard. Go to your favorite climate science site and notify them so they can spread the word – and join me next year to submit your favorite science sites.
It might not seem a big thing to do, but it is important to stop misinformers from getting awards that they can use to legitimize the misinformation they spread. The majority of the population support the proposed changes for dealing with climate change, even when they might not believe that we are the cause – since most of those changes are needed in any case to compete technologically, and provide a less toxic, more livable planet for our children.
Let our voices be heard.