Chris Mooney is the author of  “The Republican War on Science”.
The following is excerpted from a longer piece discussing his most recent book, “The Republican Brain”.


 I think we need to understand three points in order to understand why conservatives act this way. And I will list them here, before going into them in more detail:

Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.

Conservative “Morality” Impels Climate Denial — and in particular, conservative Individualism.

Fox News is the Key “Feedback Mechanism” — whereby people already inclined to believe false things get all the license and affirmation they need.

Let’s go into more detail:

 1: Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.

There’s now a staggering amount of research on the psychological and even the physiological traits of people who opt for conservative ideologies. And on average, you see people who are more wedded to certainty, and to having fixed beliefs. You also see people who are more sensitive to fear and threat — in a way that can be measured in their bodily responses to certain types of stimuli.

At the extreme of these traits, you see a group called authoritarians — those who are characterized by cognitive rigidity, seeing things in black and white ways — “in group/out group,” my way or the highway.

So in this case, if someone high on such traits latches on to a particular belief — in this case, “global warming is a hoax” — then more knowledge about it is not necessarily going to open their minds. More knowledge is just going to be used to argue what they already think.

And we see this in the Tea Party, where we have both the highest levels of global warming denial, but also this incredibly strong confidence that they know all they need to know about the issue, and they don’t want any more information, thank you very much.

2. Conservative “Morality” Impels Climate Denial — in particular, Conservative Individualism.

But, you might say, “well, Tea Party conservatives don’t deny every aspect of reality.” And it’s true. Presumably, they still will accept a factual correction if they have, say, the date of Mother’s Day wrong. Presumably they’re still open minded about that… we hope.

 So why deny this particular thing? Why deny that global warming is caused by humans? And here, I think you’ve got to look at deep seated moral intuitions that differs from left to right. And it’s important to note at the outset that whatever your moral intuitions are, they push you emotionally to reason in a particular direction long before you are actually consciously thinking about it.

So, conservatives tend to be “individualists”– meaning, essentially, that they prize a system in which government leaves you alone — and “hierarchs,” meaning, they are supportive of various types of inequality.

The individualist is threatened by global warming, deeply threatened, because it means that markets have failed and governments — including global governments — have to step in to fix the problem. And some individualists are so threatened by this reality that they even spin out conspiracy theories, arguing that all the world’s scientists are in a cabal with, like, the UN, to make up phony science so they can crash economies.

So now let’s look at what these individualist assumptions do to the denial of science. In one study by Yale’s Dan Kahan and colleagues:

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Paul Douglas is a nationally-respected meteorologist, with 32 years of broadcast television and 36 years of radio experience. He is the founder of several companies and author of two books, “Prairie Skies, the Minnesota Weather Book”, and “Restless Skies, the Ultimate Weather Book.” 

I just finished a Skype interview with Paul that will be part of an upcoming video. He has some important things to say.

I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern.

To complicate matters, I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority:  a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up, long-term. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is “conserve.”  A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.

These are the Dog Days of March. Ham Weather reports 6,895 records in the last week – some towns 30 to 45 degrees warmer than average; off-the-scale, freakishly warm. 13,393 daily records for heat since March 1 – 16 times more warm records than cold records. The scope, intensity and duration of this early heat wave are historic and unprecedented.

And yes, climate change is probably spiking our weather. “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.” 129,404 weather records in one year? You can’t point to any one weather extreme and say “that’s climate change”. But a warmer atmosphere loads the dice, increasing the potential for historic spikes in temperature and more frequent and bizarre weather extremes. You can’t prove that any one of Barry Bond’s 762 home runs was sparked by (alleged) steroid use. But it did increase his “base state,” raising the overall odds of hitting a home run. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, more fuel for floods, while increased evaporation pushes other regions into drought.

Here’s what I suspect: the patient is running a slight fever. Symptoms include violent tornado sneezes, severe sniffles of flooding and raging rashes of jaw-dropping warmth. It’s 85 in March. What will July bring? It’s as if Mother Nature seized the weather remote, put America’s seasons on fast-forward, and turned the volume on extreme weather up to a deafening 10. This isn’t even close to being “normal”. Weather Underground’s Dr. Jeff Masters put it best. “This is not the atmosphere I grew up with.”

 Some TV meteorologists, professionals who are skilled at predicting short-term weather, are still in denial. Why? Some don’t like being upstaged by climate scientists; we’ve all been burned by weather models, and some (mistakenly) apply the same suspicion to climate models. Others haven’t taken the time to dig into the climate science. “It’s all political” one local TV weather-friend told me recently. No, it’s science. But we’ve turned it into a political football, a bizarre litmus test for conservatism. Weather and climate are flip-sides of the same coin; you can’t talk about one without understanding the other.

Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You A Liberal

My climate epiphany wasn’t overnight, and it had nothing to do with Al Gore. In the mid-90s I noticed gradual changes in the weather patterns floating over Minnesota. Curious, I began investigating climate science, and, over time, began to see the thumbprint of climate change, along with 97% of published, peer-reviewed PhD’s, who link a 40% spike in greenhouse gases with a warmer, stormier atmosphere.

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The Foxis of Evil campaign against American technological leadership took an odd turn the other day.

I’ve reported here on the exasperation of Auto executives at the supposedly “conservative pro-business” ideologues at Fox News who have been relentlessly trashing one of the most hopeful symbols of America’s revived Auto industry, the Chevy Volt.

Fox News can’t stop the electric car, or renewable energy. What they can do is insure that those technologies will be developed somewhere else and sold back to us. One would think American technological prowress would be celebrated. But at Fox, everything takes a back seat to pushing the latest blast Fax from GOP  headquarters.

In a bizarre turnaround, suddenly, the Volt “.. is a great car, that’s gotten a bad wrap, all because of President Obama’s record.”

Huh? I know. You just have to watch it.

Boston Globe:

SALT LAKE CITY—Lawyers for an environmental activist convicted of disrupting a federal oil-and-gas auction say the man has been put into isolation at a federal prison because of an unidentified congressman’s complaint.

Tim DeChristopher was moved to an “isolation unit” March 9 at a federal prison in Herlong, Calif., where he gets little chance for exercise, writing or phone calls and has been let out only four times briefly in the past two weeks, his supporters at Peaceful Uprising said Wednesday.

The friends are organizing a protest in front of Salt Lake City’s federal courthouse for Thursday.

Peaceful Uprising:

On the evening of Friday March 9th, Tim DeChristopher (climate activist currently serving a 2-year prison sentence for outbidding oil and gas companies at an illegitimate BLM auction in 2008) was summarily removed from the minimum security camp where he has been held since September 2011, and moved into the FCI Herlong’s Special Housing Unit (SHU).
Tim was informed .. that he was being moved to the SHU because an unidentified congressman had called from Washington DC, complaining of an email that Tim had sent to a friend. Tim was inquiring about the reported business practices of one of his legal fund contributors, threatening to return the money if their values no longer aligned with his own.

According to Prison officials, Tim will continue to be held in isolated confinement pending an investigation. There is no definite timeline for inmates being held in the SHU — often times they await months for the conclusion of an investigation.

In the SHU, Tim’s movement and communications are severely restricted. In the past two weeks, he has been allowed out of his 8 X 10 cell (which he shares with one other inmate) four times, each time for less than an hour. The SHU could have been designed by Franz Kafka. Tim is allowed one book in his cell, and four in his property locker.  His writing means are restricted to a thin ink cartridge which makes correspondence extremely difficult.  He can still receive mail from the outside, but has no other form of communication other than 15 minutes of phone calls per month.


In the same March week that an unprecedented heat wave made even President Obama feel “a little nervous,” imprisoned climate change activist Tim DeChristopher languished mysteriously in isolation at the FCI Herlong’s Special Housing Unit in California.

According to a press release from DeChristopher’s Peaceful Uprising organization, an unidentified member of the US Congress possibly engineered the troubling transfer of the courageous “Bidder 70″–who brought national attention to reckless public land auctions in Utah and climate issues–due to personal correspondence between DeChristopher and a friend over a legal fund contributor.

According to Peaceful Uprising, the confinement to isolation limits DeChristopher’s outside telephone communication to 15 minutes per month, among other restrictions, and raises issues of cruel and unusual punishment, especially considering the long waiting list for similar measures:Tim will continue to be held in isolated confinement pending an investigation. There is no definite timeline for inmates being held in the SHU — often times they await months for the conclusion of an investigation.
Unanswered questions abound over DeChristopher’s extreme treatment and the role of Congressional members. He still faces nearly a year and a half of incarceration–potentially all of it to be served in isolation now.


Yesterday I reported that the newest bogus climate denial meme rocketing around the Foxis of Evil had been disavowed by Geochemist Zunli Lu. At first all I had was a short message indicating that the Daily Mail Newspaper, and reporter Ted Thornhill had deliberately decided to publish a piece that Dr. Lu told them contained the wrong ‘angle”.

Now we have Dr. Lu’s more complete statement.

Syracuse University:

Recently published climate research by Zunli Lu, a geochemist in the Department of Earth Sciences in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has gone viral across the Internet by bloggers. A number of media outlets, including theDaily Mail and The Register, which are published in the United Kingdom, claim this research supports arguments that human-induced global warming is a myth. The claims, Lu says, misrepresent his work and the conclusions in the study. The statement below is an effort to set the record straight. The original news story about the research is posted on Arts and Sciences News.

Zunli Lu:
“It is unfortunate that my research, “An ikaite record of late Holocene climate at the Antarctic Peninsula,” recently published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, has been misrepresented by a number of media outlets.

Several of these media articles assert that our study claims the entire Earth heated up during medieval times without human CO2
emissions.  We clearly state in our paper that we studied one site at the Antarctic Peninsula. The results should not be extrapolated to make assumptions about climate conditions across the entire globe. Other statements, such as the study “throws doubt on orthodoxies around global warming,” completely misrepresent our conclusions. Our study does not question the well-established anthropogenic warming trend.”

Fake Science, Deliberate Distortions for Tea Party Yokels

In one of the clearest demonstrations in memory of the gullible and credulous nature of the the pathetic yokels that frequent such sites as Wattsupwiththat and Climatedepot, this obviously distorted meme was picked up and broadcast uncritically (remarkable, considering the source) around the world.

For more contextual information, see my post of yesterday.

If you are going to write about fiendishly difficult and involved matters of science and technology, it is not necessary to be an actual scientist, although that helps.  What IS necessary is to scrupulously refer back to real science, real scientists, and primary sources. I’ve built the reputation of this blog and  this video series on that premise, and that is my commitment to my readers.

Climate Crocks eviscerated a similarly bogus meme some time ago in a video entitled “Birth of a Climate Crock”. Watch that and compare to see how the technique works, and who the players are.

In this series of Landsat images of the outer edge of Pine Island Glacier from 1972 to 2011, you can see how the coastline (red line) advances seaward (to the left), then shifts back inland as large masses of ice calve off, and then starts the cycle over again. Meanwhile, the northern shear margin (above center), where the glacier clings to neighboring ice or rock, fractures and retreats. Produced by Joseph MacGregor and Ginny Catania, (Institute for Geophysics / University of Texas at Austin).

University of Texas Institute for Geophysics:

A new study examining nearly 40 years of satellite imagery has revealed that the floating ice shelves of a critical portion of West Antarctica are steadily losing their grip on adjacent bay walls, potentially amplifying an already accelerating loss of ice to the sea.

The most extensive record yet of the evolution of the floating ice shelves in the eastern Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica shows that their margins, where they grip onto rocky bay walls or slower ice masses, are fracturing and retreating inland. As that grip continues to loosen, these already-thinning ice shelves will be even less able to hold back grounded ice upstream, according to glaciologists at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).

Reporting in the Journal of Glaciology, the UTIG team found that the extent of ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea Embayment changed substantially between the beginning of the Landsat satellite record in 1972 and late 2011. These changes were especially rapid during the past decade. The affected ice shelves include the floating extensions of the rapidly thinning Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers.

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“The reporter of that Daily Mail article published it anyway, after we told him the angle  that he chose misrepresents our work. “

That’s the whole of the reply I received from Dr. Zunli Lu of Syracuse University after I queried him about the way his study was (mis)represented in the Daily Mail.

UPDATE: Dr. Lu’s full statement now available, discussed here.

The blaring headline “Is this finally proof we’re NOT causing global warming?” is catnip to the yokels of climate denial-dom, and guarantees the story will get linked by all the usual suspects. Then the Mail lures more hits with the cleavage and leg shots of models and actresses on the right side of the page. It’s classic form so familiar to Fox news watchers – boobies for boobs.

I’d been getting queries all day long from people who were confused by the article, and finally decided to check. ( gets tiresome asking these questions, especially when you already know the answer)

The gist is that there is a recent study out of Syracuse, that uses an interesting mineral as a new climate proxy, (an indirect method of indicating temperature from places and times where there were no thermometers)  and has found some comparable samples in Europe as well as in the West Antarctic peninsula.

Then, out comes the straw man – ”  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the Medieval Warm Period was confined to Europe – therefore that the warming we’re experiencing now is a man-made phenomenon.”  The implication is that if there was anyplace on the planet that experienced temperatures close to 20th century warmth, anytime during that extended Medieval period, then by gum there ain’t no climate change, just like Rush said.

The truth is that the medieval period covers anywhere from 800 to 1400 CE, and within that period there were temperature fluctuations in all parts of the planet just as there are today. The IPCC points out that

“Local temperature fluctuations, even those over just a few decades, can be several degrees celsius, which is larger than the global warming signal of the past century of about 0.7°C.”

Because there are a number of records of these local temperature fluctuations, climate deniers often use this or that data set to obscure the more important global perspective.

That perspective was well stated by the National Academy of Science, in its 2006 evaluation of the paleo-temperature record

..the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.

and added, significantly –

Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward

I have another message in to Dr. Lu, asking for a little more clarification. I would imagine he sensibly wants to keep his distance from the crazies on this, but I’m hoping he’ll provide some perspective.

So, the anwer, if anyone asks is, OF COURSE the story is wrong. It’s the Daily Mail. If you want to see how the Daily Mail interacts with the climate denial media, watch the video below, a perennial favorite.

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