The Stupid – It Burneth On in Congress

May 16, 2015

On May 13, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on a proposed guidance to federal agencies on implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. Republicans on the Committee spent the hearing denying the science and risks of climate change. These are the lowlights.

Probably good to save this one and review the various steaming piles of stupid dished up, the same ones you are likely to hear around the water cooler or at the country club locker room.  I may use this as the basis for a video later on, but for now, pull out your double wide head vise, and check it out.

Normally I wouldn’t just post a bunch of nonsense climate denial without balancing explanations, but as you’ll see from this compendium – the depth of stupid here is so gaping, that most of the readers of this blog will merely gasp in wonder at man’s infinite capacity for self deception.

In fact, John Cook’s new Massive Online Open Course on Climate Denial is based on exposing students to these “weak” forms of denial, much as a physician uses weakened forms of a virus to make a vaccine.

In describing the course, Cook writes that in his own research, when he’s “informed strong political conservatives that there’s a scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, they become less accepting that humans are causing climate change.”

He says you can’t adequately address the issue of climate change denial “without considering the root cause: personal beliefs and ideology driving the rejection of scientific evidence. Attempts at science communication that ignore the potent influence effect of worldview can be futile or even counterproductive.”

So what is the best response?

According to Cook, the answer can be found in “inoculation theory,” a branch of psychology in which misinformation is neutralized by “explaining the fallacy employed by the myth.”

“Once people understand the techniques used to distort the science, they can reconcile the myth with the fact,” writes Cook. Instead of more science, what will help stem the spread of climate denial is debunking misconceptions about the science, an approach that “results in significantly higher learning gains than customary lectures that simply teach the science,” according to Cook.

Inoculation theory works in a similar way to how flu vaccines work: by providing a weak form of the virus. In the course, students will be exposed to “a weak form of science denial” that will inoculate their minds against misinformation.

By taking advantage of the online education opportunities available through MOOCs, Cook and his associates in the course hope that instead of just reaching a few classrooms, they can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of students.

Dan Bedford, a geography professor at Weber State University in Utah, told ThinkProgress that the concept of the MOOC is to equip people with the tools necessary to identify what’s wrong “with all the arguments presented in climate science misinformation” and “move past the manufactured ‘debate’ about climate change.”

Bedford contributes to one lecture in the course, but wrote a 2010 paper called Agnotology as a teaching tool: Learning climate science by studying misinformation that heavily influenced the curriculum. He said that the bottom line is that the MOOC “is important because we’re providing an understanding of how misinformation works, why it’s wrong, and thereby, we hope, helping people to spot it and ward it off.”

Sarah Green, a chemist at Michigan Technological University, told ThinkProgress that “educating people about facts is not sufficient.” Green, who contributed four lectures to the course, said this is especially the case when political or industry groups can “bamboozle them” with easily digestible “pseudo-facts.”

19 Responses to “The Stupid – It Burneth On in Congress”

  1. Regarding “weak forms” of science denial… good examples might be the claims deniers make about the surface temperature record, i.e. “warming is due to UHI”, or “warming is due to adjustments”, etc. etc.

    You can definitely consider those claims to be “weak forms” of denial, thanks in large part to the SkepticalScience folks who have just deployed a great on-line temperature analysis tool lets you debunk denier temperature data claims with nothing more than a series of mouse-clicks.

    The SkepticalScience temperature tool can be accessed here:

    Here’s my fantasy debunking session that might take place at a school-board meeting or a school open-house function where vocal deniers may be present:

    First, get one or more deniers “on the record” regarding UHI, temperature adjustments, “dropped stations”, etc. (if you can bear to muck around in that cesspool) has been recycling some really egregious claims about global temperature data. Example here:

    Then *after* you have those deniers out on that limb, saw it off behind them by saying, “Let’s test your claims with this cool temperature analysis tool” (fire up the temperature tool on your laptop at this point). Then recruit a volunteer (preferably a middle-school student) to use the temperature tool to debunk the deniers’ claims, in real-time, right before their eyes, and preferably in front of a good-sized audience to magnify the embarrassment effect.

    Of course, this presumes that said deniers are capable of feeling embarrassment.

    And to any teachers out there reading this, definitely give the SkepticalScience temperature tool a try. Let your students try it out. Give the students some denier temperature data claims (without mentioning anything about global-warming denial) and ask them to come up with ways to test those claims with the temperature tool. Then have them present their findings to their classmates.

    Finally (if you have sufficient tenure protection) tell your students that you’ll give them extra credit if they can provide YouTube footage of them presenting their findings to their parents. 😉

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Is the SkS temp tool better or more accurate than Wood For Trees?

      • The SkS temp tool allows you to select your own “customized” set of temperature stations. You can “roll your own” results from a custom set of temperature stations that *you* choose.

        For example, you can generate results exclusively from rural stations. Ditto for urban stations. Then you can generate a “rural vs. urban” temperature plot.

        You can also compute separate results from raw and adjusted data and directly compare the raw vs. adjusted data results.

        In addition, you can select *individual* stations and compute results from just the stations that you select.

        The SkS tool allows you to “drill down” into the temperature data in ways that Wood For Trees doesn’t allow you to.

        That being said, the SkS tool and the Wood For Trees web-site are both terrific resources, and complement each other nicely.

  2. 1happywoman Says:

    I had to force myself to watch the video–SO disturbing. I was relieved to see the voices of sanity at the end.

  3. andrewfez Says:

    This Week in Stupid continues:

    (actually this is a few years old, but i just saw it today):

    State lawmaker defends bike tax, says bicycling is not good for the environment

    ‘Representative Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) does not think bicycling is environmentally friendly because the activity causes cyclists to have “an increased heart rate and respiration.”

    This is according to comments he made in an email to a constituent who questioned the wisdom of a new bike tax the legislature is considering as part of a large transportation package.

    We spoke with Rep. Orcutt to confirm the email’s authenticity and to get further clarification.

    “You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” he said. However, he said he had not “done any analysis” of the difference in CO2 from a person on a bike compared to the engine of a car (others have).’

  4. neilrieck Says:

    Speaking about the politics of denial, the Republicans are up to their old tricks again. This week on ScienceFriday ( ) I learned that Ted Cruz (chairman for the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness) is behind budget cuts at NASA telling that organization “it needs to explore space rather than explore problems on Earth” even though both are part of NASA’s charter. NASA is a respected voice in all sciences so the Republicans are trying to silence that voice. This same group defunded NPR and decimated the funding of PBS so will not be happy until the USA is one huge corporation.

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    John Christy: “Sea level has been rising for 20,000 years!” ( A quote: “A new study, just published in PNAS, suggests that the ocean has been surprisingly static since 4,000 B.C…. But that changed 150 years ago”)

    Louis Gohmert: “Professor Christy, do you ever feel like Galileo?” (Oh Lord. Take me now!)

    What is frustrating is many of us think there is a thing called ‘Right’, and that Science more than most other disciplines, struggles to ‘get it Right’ about Nature. But this late in the Climate Change game (after all, President Johnson’s address to Congress on this issue is now a half-century old), what we’re seeing in Congressional Republicans is that there is no such thing as ‘Right’. For them, ‘Might makes Right’. Science can think what it wants, but until the Mighty who elected them say so, that’s not what ‘Right’ is. ‘Right’ is what the ‘Mighty’ say it is.

  6. Lionel Smith Says:

    To see a one time scientist like John Christy aiding and abetting this circus of Bozos tells us all we need to know about this climate misinformer. He has just reinforced his position in the three contrarians here.

  7. ubrew12 Says:

    The disconnect with reality is stunning. To restate the factual universe: 1) we get 87% of our energy from fossil fuels, 2)to stay below 2 C, we need to drop 40-70% of that within 35 years, and continue dropping until its 0% of our energy within 60 years. 3)we need furthermore to invent technologies within 50 years that will pull CO2 out of the atmosphere in large amounts. If we fail at these daunting tasks, we are on to 3C to 5C by end of century: any of which is economically catastrophic. Source:
    Oh, and to accomplish this, we’re supposed to convince the 1% owners of the $100 trillion worth of proven oil reserves (who also happen to own our media and our legislators), to fuggedaboutit.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Those numbers are too low and 2 degC as a target is too high.

      George Monbiot made a pretty good case 10 yrs ago that we need to get to 90% reduction by 2030 – a target that nearly every industrialized country will miss by a country mile.

      One of the things that’ll be discussed at this year’s climate conference is if the target should be lowered to 1.5 degC

      If that becomes the new target, there’ll have to be a LOT more belt-tightening.

      My pessimistic view is that we’ll miss BOTH targets and will have to aim at 2.5 degC instead.

    • j4zonian Says:

      Several of those technologies have already been invented and improved upon for so long in so many places it’s extremely unlikely we’ll ever find anything better. The inventions are called trees and soils, and are by far best employed in a system of wholistic forestry and low-meat organic permaculture production, including edible forest gardens.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Jeffy is back, and commenting on multiple Crock threads. In this one he appears to be channeling Tiny Tim with his “wholistic forestry” and “edible forest gardens”.

        “Tiptoe, through the window…
        By the window, that is where I’ll be…
        Come tiptoe, through the tulips, with me”.

        Get serious, Jeffy.

  8. mboli Says:

    My example of trying to persuade people using weak form of denial.

    There has been no significant warming in 17 years. What this means is: if you look at just the 17 temperatures, and do the statistics, there is a *greater than 5% chance that the climate isn’t warming.*

    That’s all it means. And in order to jack up the chance it isn’t warming to over 5%, you had to throw out both a lot of data and everything else that people know about how climate works.

  9. Paul Magnus Says:

    would be funny if it wasn’t so scary.

  10. […] apologize for posting the numbingly stupid lowlights of a recent congressional show-hearing which featured several of DC’s most abysmally ignorant […]

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