Monday, 2 May 2011

The Climate Conspiracy

I recently came across one of the dumbest arguments for a conspiracy against climate change. The argument goes like this:
  1. Governments have it in their own interests to push what will give them more power.
  2. Climate change would give governments more power.
  3. Governments control the funding of climate science.

  4. Therefore, the government is controlling scientific consensus.
Let's for the sake of argument say that what's presented is logically consistent. After all, people do work to give themselves more power and in politics this is no exception. In order to address climate change, it's going to need government intervention of some kind, because the lack of intervention is clearly not working now. And the government does fund the science, and scientific results can get tainted by the vested interests of those funding it - for example drug research done within corporations finds a lot more positive data than when the tests are done independently.

So why do I call it a dumb argument? Because the argument is so implausible that any apparently plausibility is superficial. The atom bomb was an entirely government funded and operated project, yet we got the atom bomb out of it. So right there we see that government funding doesn't necessarily mean bad science.

Likewise, it's hard to see how a collection of governments is coming together to all tow the same line. Each government agency has a separate funding path, and even the most enthusiastic enthusiastic government towards the reality of climate change is barely doing anything. Many governments who are funding the research have had very prominent people who have publicly called into question the science. In Australia, the government even tried to stop scientists speaking out on doing something about climate change.

And even if governments were behind the public fa├žade supported climate change, it's just as easy to make an argument that they're not doing anything because it's damaging to the economy. That while it might mean more power potentially, going against those who have a vested interest in not doing anything (mining companies for example) would mean being on the end of a strong effort to take them out of politics. Life is a lot more complex than just one issue...

Then there's the matter that scientists won't necessarily go along with it. Scientists are the people who make a living by looking at the data, if all they're doing is towing a global government line, then that's no longer doing science. And besides, scientists make a name for themselves by showing something new or different - it would have to mean that those 97% of relevant experts who accept climate change is mainly caused by human activity would all be under the payroll and none had minds of their own or an eye to the data. Now that's really pushing credulity!

So while the argument is at best superficially plausible, there's one key thing missing: evidence. If what is being argued is true, then there should be serious signs that the consensus is merely a global government fabrications. Documents showing the manufacturing of the party line, science bodies only giving out funding to those who are willing to use their credentials to push the party line, that the data that's been analysed doesn't show anything that the scientists say it does.

We don't see any of that. At best, this argument is logically consistent nonsense. But but really this argument is so weak that it's amazing that apparently smart people will come up with such tripe as if they have no understanding of science, politics, or of human psychology. It's really pathetic, and unfortunately (from my experience) all too common among climate change denialists.

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