The reason for the polarization of the global warming issue

Via The Corner, something I always knew deep down, but never had succinctly coalesced into a single paragraph.

In 1999, Cass Sunstein wrote an article in the Harvard Law Review entitled “The Law of Group Polarization.” Its thesis was simple: 

In a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments. For example, people who are opposed to the minimum wage are likely, after talking to each other, to be still more opposed; people who tend to support gun control are likely, after discussion, to support gun control with considerable enthusiasm; people who believe that global warming is a serious problem are likely, after discussion, to insist on severe measures to prevent global warming. This general phenomenon — group polarization – has many implications for economic, political, and legal institutions. It helps to explain extremism, “radicalization,” cultural shifts, and the behavior of political parties and religious organizations; it is closely connected to current concerns about the consequences of the Internet; it also helps account for feuds, ethnic antagonism, and tribalism.

I suppose this explains why extreme measures such as erecting thousands of expensive and sometimes operating windmills that blight the landscape, are often attractive to the global warming movement.

Wind farm at Tehachapi, CA

Imagine the howling if somebody wanted thousands of natural gas well derricks on the same plot of land in California, yet they would produce far more energy and help far more people, at a lower cost.

Aerial view of Jonah field, May 12, 2006
Oblique low-altitude aerial photo of wellpads, access roads, pipeline corridors and other natural-gas infrastructure in the Jonah Field of western Wyoming’s upper Green River valley. Photographer: Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight – Image via Flickr

 

 

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TANSTAAFL

That wind farm looks like a shot of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings.

“…..it also helps account for feuds, ethnic antagonism, and tribalism.”
Group polarization is TRIBALISM

James

Quite

Ian W

And of course Cass Sunstein is one of the more favored courtiers in the house of Obama.

beesaman

Group think has no space for skepticism…
We see that over the next few weeks if Arctic ice falls below certain levels. No allowance will be given for the fact that it is being measured using different systems to last year or that unusual weather systems have been in operation this year. Nor will the Warmists note that all of the melt will freeze again (as they didn’t for Greenland recently) and of course they will completely ignore the increase in ice in the Antarctic. Warmist group think allows for nothing that challenges their belief, and they will shout all the louder as the moment of dissonance gets closer. If it wasn’t costing a fortune in lost jobs and futures I would feel sorry for them, instead I have nothing but disdain.

David Ross

Very true. Unfortunately some people use this phenomenon to manipulate people. It’s called “community organizing”.
Identify an issue most people will agree on (e.g. something small and local, problems with garbage collection, anything).
Organize a group to discuss it.
The group must not fix the problem themselves.
Steer them towards lobbying the authorities to do it, with protests etc.
If they force action from the authorities the group feels empowered and bonds.
Now you’re ready to steer them towards other issues -issues which many members would not have cared about before joining the group.
Keep control of the group. Isolate any members that strongly oppose your take on the new issues or don’t show sufficient signs of groupthink. Have some members shout them down, encourage them to leave the group.
Use these tactics on grassroots and you can start a prairie fire.

Luther Wu

There is a certain beauty in the Jonah Field photo.

Hmmm. What about us who fully believed in global warming that we went looking for more information and ended up switching sides? The theory in the paragraph necessitates that people only chat with those that reinforce their notions does it not?
John M Reynolds

Tim Minchin

It’s getting so bad, that even in non-climate forums I’m getting banned for even mentioning the topic in Australia.

cui bono

Quite right, Anthony, and those windmills look like something out of a SF/horror movie – ugh!
As well as self-reinforcing groups, also look to extremist statements or representations from members of one group pushing people the other way. For example, how many sceptics started on their personal journey towards scepticism by having the ludicrous hockey stick held up as brilliant science, rather than held up to ridicule? If little alarm bells go off inside someone’s head, they start checking the facts, and – voila! – another sceptic.

Bruce Atwood

Yup. That’s why deniers should read some of the actual research reports, instead of simply believing Fox.
REPLY – Do you really think we have not “read some of the actual research reports”? ~ Evan

Power and MONEY [Grants] that is all . . .

Tim Minchin

why is Atwood allowed to troll?

David Ball

Bruce Atwood says:
August 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm
And there you have the main reason for polarization right there.

The problem with this thought process is this. Most people are sheep, they are followers, they are lead about by whatever they are told, by whomever tells them, without ever questioning the validity of what they are being told.

Pat Frank

Published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, 2002.
A take-home lesson from the end of the article: “One of the most important lessons is among the most general: It is desirable to create spaces for enclave deliberation without insulating enclave members from those with opposing views, and without insulating those outside of the enclave from the views of those within it.
In that light, look at for what the AGW extremists strive: First, they consistently attempt to insulate AGW enclave members from opposing views. They go about this by excluding opposing views from journals and the press, and by pervasive evasion of opposition by recourse to in-group reviewers.
Second, and at the same time, rather than insulating those outside from their views, they work to insulate the large population outside their enclave — namely the general public — from any views except those inside their enclave, i.e., from the views of anyone but themselves.
Sunstein doesn’t talk about this latter strategy as one of extremist enclaves, but the two together seem to me the road a committed minority commonly takes to achieve tyranny.

Larry in Texas

Is that picture ever UGLY! Reminds me of what Spindletop used to look like back in 1901. Nowadays, it doesn’t take that many oil or gas wells to produce the energy, because of the technological changes in methods of extraction. Not only do you not need a lot of derricks, the few “derricks,” i.e. wells, you need still outproduce wind energy by leaps and bounds.

papiertigre

cui bono says:
August 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm
Quite right, Anthony, and those windmills look like something out of a SF/horror movie – ugh!
We could use that to our advantage. Instead of an adorable little clown fish, we could have a cartoon sparrow, bobbing and weaving, through the propeller field. Will he make it through alive?
A message so simple even a child will understand.

papiertigre

How’s this. Frodo and Sam are making their escape from the volcano of Mordor on the backs of a mighty eagle…
Then THWACK.

jorgekafkazar

David Ross says: “Very true. Unfortunately some people use this phenomenon to manipulate people. It’s called “community organizing”.”
And “consciousness raising.”

Maus

Bruce: “Yup. That’s why deniers should read some of the actual research reports, instead of simply believing Fox.”
That’s right. You don’t have to watch Deliverance to know that the Appalachian kid beat the City Slicker at ‘Dueling Banjos’ since you already know the City Slicker was playing a guitar. And what fool would do that, I ask?

Les Johnson

Bruce Atwood: I find it interesting that you use the term “denier”. Surely you realize the irony of using a polarization term in a posting on polarization?
Regardless, my database, as of today, contains 1635 references, mostly to globally warming, mostly that dispute some tenet of CAGW, and mostly peer reviewed.
Oddly, in spite of your assertion, exactly zero of my references are from Fox.

Eric Dailey

If you want to understand Mr. Sunstein and his crowd you must learn about Mr. Saul Alinsky and read his book, Rules for Radicals.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky
That is all.

The windmills reminded me of Signal Hill when I was little. Chavez Ravine to a lesser degree.
The Sunstein-Alinsky-Cloward&Piven-Soros connection has been obvious to me for a long time.

Warwick Wakefield

Ah Tim, I saw you on the programme organized by the ABC. I wished that you had stuck to your guns a little more. The show was about “People changing their minds.” The subtext was that “people with crazy ideas can possibly be reached by the enlightened.”
From Global Warming to Climate Change to “any extreme weather event can be blamed on coal” the zealots in this argument cannot be influenced because they shift their goalposts whenever the game looks like going against them.
Tim, in spite of whatever criticism you receive, know that you are well respected generally and whenever you voice your opinions it adds to the level of disbelief in Australia.

Alvin

Bruce, after reading many research reports, I am here.
Wrap your mind around that for a while.

davidmhoffer

I disagree that this applies across the board to the climate debate. Yes, groups tend to polarize, but is that what we see happening in the climate debate? I submit that it only half applies.
The alarmists are, in fact, pretty much unified in their viewpoint. Dissent in the official literature (journals, etc) is actively squelched as is are opposing voices in open access forums such as blogs. That’s pretty much the polarization and groupthink that the article describes. But is that true of the skeptic community?
Certainly there are skeptic blogs which are just as much echo chambers as warmist forums. But tsake a look at the blog roll on the WUWT sidebar. There’s categories for lukewarmists, skeptics, amd transcendental rants. On this site I’ve seen raging debates with skeptics who range from the “visible light can’t heat anything” to the opinions of world reknown physicists, engineers and statisticians.
The hottest debates on this site aren’t between warmists and skeptics, they are between skeptics and other skeptics! This can site can hardly be called an echo chamber. As for the audience here being polarized, I defy anyone to come up with a description of a point of view that represents the majority here.

“A gathering of scientific men or of artists, owning to the mere fact that they form an assemblage, will not deliver judgments of general subjects sensibly different from those rendered by a gathering of masons or grocers.” – Gustave le Bon (“The Crowd” 1895)
“All the sick and sickly instinctively strive after a herd organization as a means of shaking off their dull displeasure and feeling of weakness…. The strong are as naturally inclined to separate as the weak are to congregate; if the former unite together, it is only with the aim of an aggressive collective action and collective satisfaction of their will to power, and with much resistance from the individual conscience; the latter, on the contrary, enjoy precisely this coming together – their instinct is just as much satisfied by this as the instinct of the born “masters” (that is, the solitary, beast-of-pray species of man) is fundamentally irritated and disquieted by organization.” – Frederich Nietzsche (“On the Geneology of Morals” 1887)
“If you decide to wage a war for the total triumph of your individuality, you must begin by inexorably destroying those who have the greatest affinity with you. All alliance depersonalizes; everything that tends to the collective is your death; use the collective, therefore, as an experiment, after which strike hard, and remain alone!” – Salvador Dali (“The Secret Life of Salvador Dali” 1942)

OssQss

Hummm, it is about Agenda 21 in the end, no?
The Montreal protocol set a precedent of opportunity and control.
The Kyoto protocol made it intrusive and hence, questioned.
What is the root of such desire for control that drives science to such an inverted pyramid of attempted pre-construction ?
Has anyone actually really read agenda 21 ?
I did……..
http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/

DaveA

It would be amiss to not note that there are always two extremes: some say the world is doomed; some say CO2 is ineffectual. Both have their conspiracy theories.
We’d like to think that a site like this is where the more tempered, rational discourse happens, but an honest reflection should acknowledge that extreme positions may arise here too. Most regulars will know that they do.

rogerknights

beesaman says:
August 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm
Group think has no space for skepticism…
We see that over the next few weeks if Arctic ice falls below certain levels. No allowance will be given for the fact that it is being measured using different systems to last year or that unusual weather systems have been in operation this year. Nor will the Warmists note that all of the melt will freeze again (as they didn’t for Greenland recently) and of course they will completely ignore the increase in ice in the Antarctic.

Or soot.

higley7

Of course, being driven by a political agenda, a long-term plan, crony capitalism, and billions of dollars stolen from the people does not blunt the “belief” in the warmist position. Then, you have the fact that they have invested so much of their reputation and integrity in their position, they psychologically cannot admit that they are wrong and basically been lying for a living to the public.
Those who work in the UK’s NHS have the same investment. On one hand, they know that providing healthcare to everybody is noble and on the other, they know that it really is failing its goals, being the worst healthcare in the developed world. They gallantly want to fix it, but all fixes fail, but they are still thinking of themselves as noble and cannot admit it’s a total failure and should be abandoned.

AndyG55

Tim Minchin says:
August 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm
why is Atwood allowed to troll?
Because we all need someone to laugh at. Laughter is good !!!
Isn’t that the sole purpose of warmist trolls? to inject a sense of idiocy and stupidity.. and give us someone to laugh at ?

P Wilson

I doubt empirical scientists are extreme, but err on the side of scepticism instead

John West

davidmhoffer says
” I defy anyone to come up with a description of a point of view that represents the majority here.”
Those that remain unconvinced that a doubling of CO2 necessarily results in global scale catastrophe.

H.R.

@davidmhoffer says:
August 18, 2012 at 7:49 pm
.“[…] As for the audience here being polarized, I defy anyone to come up with a description of a point of view that represents the majority here.”,
The majority here like WUWT ;o)

Owen in Ga

@davidmhoffer: The majority here like that the data is presented to the best of the article writer’s abilities and strong presentation of real world data contradicting a position leads to a correction of conclusion rather than a banning of a poster. I think that is a point of view shared across the board here.

TimC

OK – so we know that groupthink produces positive feedback, reinforcing the natural direction of travel of the group (Matt Ridley’s essay gave plenty of examples in Anthony’s earlier thread “Apocalypse Not: I love the smell of skepticism in the morning”).
But are there any known findings on lapse rates – the half-life (rate of dissipation) of this kind of falsely produced groupthink? That would be really interesting too …

Henry Clark

Group polarization is enhanced by how many become almost living in a different reality, from their very sources of news and info drastically differing. The mechanic with cults is similar: most members surround themselves with others of like mind, reinforcing their own views, steering away from and rarely even exposed to what would cause painful cognitive dissonance. Terms like deniers for the infidels serve a role, to help expel opponents or even true moderates.
I once watched a forum go from being relatively decent to finally a extremist-dominated caricature of itself over a period of a few years. Several posters who had practically unlimited spare time (with more than a hundred times the postcount of the average casual and thus disproportionately dominant) would actively and deliberately aim to punish and drive away anyone pointing out and defending a politically incorrect truth, by ensuring that doing so meant burning too much time in a multi-day continuous argument until the no-lifers had the last word by sheer repetition, whereas dishonest views on the opposite side were cheered.
Ideological tribalism is discussed well at Dr. McCarthy’s Sustainability of Human Progress site:
I get some very quick reactions to my main page on the sustainability of material progress. Quick reactions, whether favorable or unfavorable, cannot be based on reading the 50 or so pages. They are reactions to my attitude, which is apparent in the first paragraph. […]
Let’s try to get above the battles for a while and look at human ideologies from a Martian point of view. […]
People’s attitudes on these 10 issues tend to be strongly correlated, although logically there should be little connection between a person’s attitude to abortion and his attitude to multi-culturalism.

(Much more is at http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/ideology.html ).
Unlike more numerous casuals who rarely argue on the topic and often barely follow it, the small elite of the CAGW movement with much time invested tends to have been somewhat exposed to skeptical counterarguments sooner or later. But the elite is predominately immune to rational argument on climate because, despite pretenses, their motives often have little to do with the nominal climate topic alone.
Dr. Mann has explicitly referenced how Ehrlich is his hero. Ehrlich was opposed to the Green Revolution in agriculture, in the 1970s predicted mass starvation in industrialized countries by the year 2000, and illustrated his opposition to inexpensive energy in general by saying “giving society cheap abundant energy at this point would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
Although an oversimplification in labeling (albeit probably deliberately made blunt enough to be memorable), Dr. Zubrin of Mars Society fame has written a good book on the “global antihuman cult.” Without a positive vision of the future such as the 1950s goal of advancement towards space colonization (which could still occur by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StarTram or a couple other approaches), a negative vision is substituted in its place, believing stagnation and decline in material and energy terms to be inevitable and/or desirable.
http://merchantsofdespair.net/book.htm
With that said, anything so numerous and influential can not really be called a cult but rather a major enviroreligion, part penitential of human sins against animals and part letting its members feel self-righteous, while not one emphasizing honesty as an aspect of its saints or heroes; a significant portion of those leaving traditional Judeo-Christian religions have dropped into it.

What’s even more infuriating is the phenomenon of ‘belief packages’…i.e. the tendency for individuals to hold a number of associated ‘beliefs’ which of course is the foundation of all political parties. I always try to make balanced judgements on the issue in question rather than towing some party line, which on some occasions puts me to the ‘left of Bakunin’ and on others, to the ‘right’ of Ghengis Khan!

I think y’all may be missing the point.
This whole thing can be summarized in “Never let an opportunity go to waste”.
It is as simple as that.
The controllers here are not interested in the science, the skepticism or any of the rest of it.
They are interested in the turmoil, and the opportunities to take control of society.
Arguments from science are a waste of time.

Henry Clark

In the context of my prior comment, I might add that, if one wanted to find someone who could be convinced by rational argument and is honest but merely misled into believing in CAGW, find someone who is pro-geoengineering in its context*, pro-nuclear, technophilic, and for the advancement of industrial civilization including space colonization, while not belonging to a political party (or source of income) which would be weakened if CAGW was exposed as false.
Unsurprisingly, though, one does not often see someone like that who is not already a skeptic.
* (Geoengineering cooler temperatures is undesirable in reality, but, if CAGW dooming the world by extreme heat was actually true instead of false, it would beat burning orders of magnitude more money ineffectually except as religious penance; thus it is revealing whenever someone believes in CAGW doom — or wants others to believe in it — but yet simultaneously does not even want geoengineering to work).

Steve

It explains why you use Distance-compressed shot of antique wind chargers to misreport the ones erected today.

Werner Brozek

TimC says:
August 18, 2012 at 8:51 pm
But are there any known findings on lapse rates – the half-life (rate of dissipation) of this kind of falsely produced groupthink? That would be really interesting too …

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
— Max Planck

It is called preaching to the choir. Something “true believers” do very well. If I recall most of this was identified and discussed by Eric Hoffer about 50 years ago.

daveburton

DaveA says, “It would be amiss to not note that there are always two extremes: some say the world is doomed; some say CO2 is ineffectual.”
Do you think those are the two “extremes,” DaveA? Really? Then, where does that leave those of us who think that additional atmospheric CO2 is not merely ineffectual, but beneficial? If “CO2 is ineffectual” is the extreme right end of the spectrum of opinion, what do you make of the more than 30,000 scientists (and engineers in relevant disciplines) whose stated views are beyond the extreme-right end of that spectrum of opinion?
I don’t think I’m an extremist on climate issues. I’m a “lukewarm-ist.” I do think that it’s warmer now than it was in the 1700s, and I do think human activity affects climate, so If I’d taken the Zimmerman/Doran survey, I’d have been counted among the 97.5% whom Doran characterized as agreeing with what he called “the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”
Here’s another reason for polarization: propaganda. If one side has a disproportionately large ability to propagandize for their point of view, then the opinions of large numbers of people may thereby be caused to diverge further and further from evidence-based reality. That’s what’s happening in climatology. The Left is using the authority of the state to relentlessly propagandize for climate alarmism by every means possible, from the endless stream of climate alarmism on PBS, to (most destructively!) the intensive indoctrination of children through government-run schools; e.g.:
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-08-15/features/bs-gr-climate-change-teaching-20120815_1_climate-change-climate-change-bill-reinhard
Dave

Tom in Worc.(usa)

“higley7 says:
August 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm
Of course, being driven by a political agenda, a long-term plan, crony capitalism, and billions of dollars stolen from the people does not blunt the “belief” in the warmist position. Then, you have the fact that they have invested so much of their reputation and integrity in their position, they psychologically cannot admit that they are wrong and basically been lying for a living to the public.
Those who work in the UK’s NHS have the same investment. On one hand, they know that providing healthcare to everybody is noble and on the other, they know that it really is failing its goals, being the worst healthcare in the developed world. They gallantly want to fix it, but all fixes fail, but they are still thinking of themselves as noble and cannot admit it’s a total failure and should be abandoned.”
======================================================================
…but …but …but …. The olympics told me it was great!!!

george e smith

“””””…..Bruce Atwood says:
August 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm
Yup. That’s why deniers should read some of the actual research reports, instead of simply believing Fox……”””””
Who the hell is Fox ? I thought I had heard or read of virtually all of the big name players on both sides of the CO2 arthropogenicmanmadeglobalwarmingclimatechange discussion, and I never heard of anybody named Fox on any side of the issue. Where did he suddenly come from ?
Why all of a sudden does WUWT want me to sign in every time now ?

Stephen Wilde

“We see that over the next few weeks if Arctic ice falls below certain levels. No allowance will be given for the fact that it is being measured using different systems to last year ”
Could beesaman or someone give me more information on that please ?

Maus

An excellent post by Henry Clark @ 8:58. The TLDR summary is: People prefer answers to questions. People that like producing answers dislike the people that produce questions.