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The Contrarians

Who are they?


What do they say?
Why are they wrong?
Jan W. Dash, PhD

2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 1


Who are the contrarians and
what are their goals?
• Contrarians are mostly not climate scientists
– Ex: news weathermen are not climate scientists
• Contrarians are mostly U.S. phenomenon
– Dominate US right-wing climate agenda
– Support from fossil fuel, libertarian think tanks
• Exxonsecrets.org has details
• Contrarian goals: stop climate legislation and
regulation, stop mitigation of global warming

2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 2


The Nature of Science
• Science is “knowledge”, a web of facts and
theory, together very strong
– But, science is not mathematics
– Mathematics: one chink or a missing fact or minor
error invalidates a proof
– Science: never “proves”, only degrees of certainty
• Scientists are already “skeptics”, need persuasion
– BUT once persuaded, need good reasons to change
• Scientists in the field publish in journals
– Peer review acts as a good (not perfect) filter
2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 3
Contrarian Distortion of Science
• Contrarian conjectures are not science
– Wrong, misinformed, irrelevant, distorted, cherry-picking, flimsy
• Ex: “Sun responsible for recent global warming” = wrong
– Good description = “Cargo-Cult” pseudoscience (Feynman)
• Common contrarian tactics are not scientific
– Use mass media (not peer-reviewed journals)
– Ignore critiques of their arguments / conjectures
– Copy Big Tobacco “doubt on smoking danger” tactic
– Try to put “science in the courtroom”, use lawyer obfuscation
– Try to discredit climate science and scientists
• Nitpick, turn molehills into mountains, falsely generalize
– Contrarian op-eds => destructive “Swift-Boat attacks” on science
2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 4
Solar Fluctuations did NOT cause
global warming since 1980
• Sun just Oscillating: NO increasing trend
– Contrarian conjecture of recent solar influence = False
• Data: GISS/NASA

2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 5


Contrarian Attacks
Wrong, Irrelevant, Cherry-picking
• Contrarian “Global Cooling” Conjecture => Wrong
– Cherry-picks the starting date 1998, indefensible scientifically
• 1998 had high temperature due to huge El Niño weather effect
• “Hacked emails” => Irrelevant to science results
– Investigation underway, BUT contrarian generalization is false:
– Climate science results, existence of global warming, climate
data, models, projected impacts are NOT affected
• “Himalayan glaciers” => Cherry-pick attack on IPCC
– 2007 IPCC reports, summarize published work, 3000 pages
– One paragraph wrong (p. 493, Vol. II); year 2035 = typo for 2350
– Glitch in IPCC review process, not general
• Ref: Realclimate.org, also exhaustive AP email review

2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 6


Bottom Line on Contrarians
• Main tactic: Sow doubt
• Main goal: Stop action on global warming
• More information on Realclimate

2/10/10 Copyright Jan W. Dash 7