Results of my poll on forming a climate skeptic organization, plus some commentary

Last weekend, I conducted a poll asking this question that has been on my mind for a couple of years:

Is it time for an “official” climate skeptics organization, one that produces a policy statement, issues press releases, and provides educational guidance?

The results are in, seen below, and there is an interesting dichotomy that can be observed in the excercise.

Skeptic_org_poll

I’ve closed the poll with a count of 2701 votes. While there was a clearly decisive result, there were over 440 comments on the thread, many of which argued for “no”. A common reason discussed was that “organizing skeptics is like herding cats” or that “it will provide a target”. While that may be true, I really wasn’t all that interested in herding or target practice, I was thinking about representation. By its nature, all representation of varied viewpoints of a group of people is imperfect, but it does have its advantages if that representation satisfies a common need. The common need I see is getting a slowdown on the freight train of bureaucracy that is growing from CAGW claims and more coverage in media.

Pointman writes about the poll results and that dichotomy in Get real, get organised and finish it.

Anthony Watts recently ran a poll at WUWT that posed the question – “Is it time for an “official” climate skeptics organization, one that produces a policy statement, issues press releases, and provides educational guidance?”

I voted “yes” and I’d like to outline my reasons for doing so.

Any scattered and disparate opposition to an unjust law, policy or controversial issue which doesn’t get organised under some umbrella organisation is not only politically naïve but a consequently weak faction which doesn’t need to be taken seriously. More often than not, they’re comfortable in their armchairs living in their own deluded and secluded cloud cuckoo land.

There’s nicer ways of saying it but if want to be a force to be reckoned with, you have to get all ganged up. You seriously want to take on that exploitive employer, get unionised brothers and sisters. You want political change, form a lobby group. You don’t want that wind farm monstrosity blighting your life, start a local campaigning group. You want equal civil rights irrespective of the colour of your ass, start marching en masse. You want women to have the vote, get those bustles out of the drawing rooms and onto the streets as a mob waving placards and make the powers that be listen to you.

There’s simply no other way to get an issue onto the political agenda, and if you happen to think global warming isn’t a political thing, you pop that blue pill brother and dream on.

Give people a standard they can rally to and if the cause has real popular support, they’ll flock to it and become a bigger voice which will be heard despite any attempts to suppress it. Those attempts will just serve to strengthen group identity and make it a much more powerful force.

The deep primordial history of us as a species is all about getting together and cooperation. You might be rubbish at knapping a flint spearhead, but as long as one of the group can do that specialist thing, everyone is happy. Crap at tracking game? No matter, that runty kid over there is somehow brilliant at it. You might just be a spear carrier, but you know you play your part for the good of everyone else. That compulsion to gang up and work together is by now deeply embedded in our DNA. It’s been selected for. Without it, civilisation would fall apart in a day.

The worst thing you can ever do is sit in grumpy isolation doing nothing more than bitching away to a few cronies, and that’s exactly what’s all too common across the skeptic blogosphere. I call it the whinge and dump mentality and in the whole history of the human race, it’s never achieved anything other than being known as a complete bore to be avoided at all costs. Here they come – run away, run away!

As I look at the poll results to date, out of 2,683 votes cast, the response was 63% Yes, 24% No and the rest going for unsure. Scanning through the five hundred comments below the piece, a substantial majority expressed a “No” for various reasons. That’s an interesting dichotomy but an unsurprising one given the web dynamics of such a controversial issue as global warming.

There are just simply too many polarised people on either side who’ve spent years doing nothing more than venting spleen at each other. It’s become a social activity, a recreational pastime, a macho ego trip, a catharsis for a lot of tangential frustrations. Log in quickly, hurl an insult or two and surf onto the next brawl. Underneath the most combative blogs, out of hundreds of comments, barely a single digit percentage of the comments even reference the original blog topic, whatever it was.

Full essay here: http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/get-real-get-organised-and-finish-it/

He’s right, it has become a social spleen venting activity, and that my friends doesn’t get much traction.

This passage:

More often than not, they’re comfortable in their armchairs living in their own deluded and secluded cloud cuckoo land.

There’s nicer ways of saying it but if want to be a force to be reckoned with, you have to get all ganged up.

Could just as easily be used to describe crazy Bill McKibben. Most of us think he’s nuts, and he most likely is. The difference is he got out of his “armchairs living in their own deluded and secluded cloud cuckoo land” and formed 350.org. Now look at what we have, an organization that has successfully lobbied for blocking the Keystone pipeline by affecting the office of presidency. Do you think weepy Bill could do that himself without having organized first?

Think about it, and sound off in comments.

 

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Go for it…the time has arrived…

Oatley

Doing so, centers the position…think planting a flag, around which support can gather. Once organized, your voice, Anthony can rise above the field.

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

That makes a much more convincing case for it, I do admit. I know I do my part at DeviantArt (which is loaded with leftist politics and ideology… Idiotology?). I don’t know how this would work, but I would be pleased to be able to link to the Central (whatever it would be called) once it was in place.

pokerguy

Anthony,
I voted “no,” but I’m open to changing my mind. Certainly if there were such an organization I’d join it, even if I remained unsure as to the wisdom of the enterprise. But tell us more about it, What in your view would our tactics be? Would there be dues? Would there be an administrative committee running the thing? Meetings? (I vote Vegas for the first)

I enjoy pretty much everything Pointman writes, and I can only dream to be as eloquent..
But, any type organisation,I think would run a risk of perpetuating things…… Individuals like Mann, Mckibben, Cook, Lewandowsky need an ‘enemy’ to fight, so that the public and politicians, media etc are forced to choose a side…
I think now that time and observations and real world energy / policy decisions will make the alarmism around climate change fade away..
If all the sceptics were to take a long vacation, hard policy decisions would still need to be made, media articles would still be written, the climate conferences would still fail, for the same reasons, political and economic reality..
If all the sceptics were on holiday, the activists will still be failing, new ‘enemies’ would have to be created, and those policymakers, politicians, businesses, who have sat on the fence, or said nothing whilst the ‘deniers insults, the anti-science rhetoric, and all the political activist rhetoric was thrown at the ‘sceptics’. Will then find it directed at them and feel the intolerance and irrationality of the activists, and labelled ‘sceptics’ / deniers, ‘in the pay of….’, or cranks or conspiracy theorists, etc
And I think they will say enough..
The easy ride for eco-activists (in most countries) is over, it may take a few years, but it will fade away and every year it just warms or cools a little, and the models projections become more and more absurd, we will perhaps find in 5, 10 years that everyone who is anyone will say – oh I was always a sceptics about catastrophic climate change (including the majority of climate scientists)
much as I think we would all like that Berlin Wall moment, I think it will fade away by itself,
.. no doubt to be replaced by the next bandwagon, be it sustainability, global justice, or some other mantra.

Patrick

I voted unsure in the poll, but didn’t comment in the thread reason being is it is far too late to stop the alarmism, green enegry drive and carbon taxes. Too many vested interests. It’s in and it’s here to stay. I don’t see Abbott abolishing the carbon tax in Australia.

How is this different from the GWPF? Are multiple organizations better than one?

LewSkannen

I think we have a lot of energy and need to focus it. I have tried to contribute as best I can by supporting this site, Jo Nova, Donna LaFramboise and Mark Steyn.
On top of that I make a point of taking people to task in conversation and politely letting them know that there IS an alternative viewpoint to what is being spewed out of the MSM. Many people are genuinely surprised by that by the way.
I feel that it is easy for the powers that be to dismiss us as ‘just bloggers’ (see at JoNova how one of our leading scientists was dismissed recently by a lazy journo )
If there was some solid body that could put forward some ideas it might be worthwhile. I think the tide is turning so this is a good time to get something up and running.

If such an entity does come to pass, it will be interesting with statements how some MSM outlets choose to refer to it by way of qualifying adjectives, as can happen, often selectively. Or they may just settle on omitting mention at all. That can happen too.

Rob Dawg

It still all seems like the group would end up being way too easy to discredit based on the potential individual acts/positions of members. And make no mistake, infiltration with this intent is a certainty. A lowest common denominator issue. Secondly groups organized around a position of being against something are too easy to marginalize. What kind of traction would an international working group to debunk phlogiston get? Phlogiston isn’t even real while CO2 is. better to continue to attack bad science than to legitimize the politicalization by becoming political as well.

Get on with it, but I’ll keep meowing 8)

David Sivyer

It would take guts for a President, or government, to act against the wishes of the “progressives”. Obama can ease back in his armchair knowing that McKibben is naught but a “useful idiot”.

bealtine

Do it!!! and do it Now!!!!

Jim Cripwell

I quote “There’s simply no other way to get an issue onto the political agenda”
I disagree completely. This ought to be a scientific issue, not political, The issue will, in the end, be settled scientifically. The Supreme Court of Physics is the empirical data. In the end the empirical data will prove that CAGW is a hoax. We just have to wait.
There is no harm in waiting. The politics is such that we are going to go on using fossil fuels to the limit of the finances involved. We are going to go on putting more and more CO2 into the atmosphere into the indefinite future. With the current political crisis in the Ukraine, politicians are getting a reality check on the geopolitical implications of energy.
So, I believe, undoubtedly, the universe is unfolding as it should.

Old England

Having organised and run campaigns against proposals for waste disposal by landfill near us in the UK the biggest lesson I learned was how it changed the people involved. From feeling powerless, or an individual voice shouting in the wilderness people suddenly realised that they could change their local destiny, could take some control over what happened around them and understood that they could ‘Make a Difference’ when they worked together.
If we are to combat the eco-loonery of the green bandwagon with its billions of dollars / pounds / euros taken from outer taxes and income then we need to work together and to get truth out at all levels.

pochas

Great! Now, what are we going to call ourselves. Here’s one, “Society for Scientific Sanity.” No, too many S’s.

DirkH

Rob Dawg says:
April 25, 2014 at 3:29 am
“better to continue to attack bad science than to legitimize the politicalization by becoming political as well.”
That’s stupid. The science is made to measure and only a tool that the alarmists use. It’s a symptom of the alarmist movement, not its cause. An inherently political movement cannot be fought by not exposing its political nature.
I voted against this organisational idea as I think that only mass subversion stands a chance. We are most effective as a million guerrilas and saboteurs of the brainwashing system. Orthogonal warfare. Little bucks, much bang.

Matti Virtanen

Would it be a US organization, or international? Which languages would it use? If English only, how would it differ from the GWPF? – Personally, I do see a need for a clearing house that would provide articles and news in German, French, Spanish and Russian at least, not to mention Chinese and Japanese. But who’d pay for the translations?

Joe Public

Being divided, increases susceptibility to being conquered.

johann wundersamer

Ben D on April 25, 2014 at
3:09 am
Go for it…the time has
arrived…
Whats more to say?
when ones opinion is not welcome, with
open visor, why not loud with open visor.
Grüsse – Hans
./broken english I know/

I would argue that we are doing pretty well by *not* being part of an organisation.
Look at the achievements:
1. Skeptic government in Australia
2. Skeptic government in Canada
3. Skeptic congress in America
4. Rise of skeptic UKIP party in the UK
5. Germans laughing at their own alarmists.
6. Alarmists on the defensive worldwide
7. Skeptic government in Japan
8. Climate conference failure after failure
We have achieved all this because if we want to achieve anything, we *have* to do it ourselves. There is no organisation we can appeal to, nobody to do our job for us.

Old England

Jim Cripwell
I agree and disagree with you. You are right that this is fundamentally a scientific issue, But, and here is where I disagree, it is being promoted by Politics and politicians with political end-games who have been happy to corrupt science to their own ends. That can only be fought and exposed on a political basis where the lies, deceptions and falsehoods are fully exposed through verifiable science.

We are winning – we don’t need to “organise” like our opponents, our current model is more effective.

AGW_Skeptic

The Heartland Institute is already doing a great job with the NIPCC (Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change) reports and their International Climate Change Conferences plus countless publications, op-ed pieces, white papers, etc.
They are recognized as the world’s leading think tank in global warming skepticism. http://www.heartland.org
Somehow I missed the poll, but why not support Heartland by becoming an advisor or donor?

Joe Public

Success will be more than a little dependent upon the organisation’s name having a snappy acronym.
I sense a competition is needed.

As a former member of a political party, joining an organisation means you think someone else will do the work. As individuals who associate with each other as and when we choose, we know it is all down to us. That is why we are winning – we are enterprising when our opponents are lazy.

Allen63

Trying to be open-minded. First thought is “aren’t there already anti-CAGW organizations”. Or, at least, organizations producing “skeptical” point of view reports. How would this new organization be different? What would it add?
Since this is a Skeptic site, we should be skeptical of saying “yes” to any major undertaking until a thoughtful, agreed plan is in place.
Perhaps there needs to be a roughed-out yet somewhat detailed plan “published” on this site. A plan including, among other things, how the “organization” might be organized, who it would include, what it specific activities and actions it would initiate, and a thoughtful analysis of pros and cons (by the author). That plan can be commented by the readers. See if something “gels”. Merely a suggestion.

Books could no doubt be written on this topic, but few would want to read them in this hair-trigger intellectual climate. I can think of scientific reasons why you and the mass of “lukewarm skeptics” are not the ones to raise the banner against the forces of tyranny now besetting us all. But I am feeling my way through what I have long now deemed an insane intellectual situation, so I will just say for now, you all should think about instituting a principle analogous to “separation of church and state”, to wit, separation of the current political dogmas (and all political argument) vs. the factual truths about climate science. Most especially, in other words, don’t pretend you know that any part of current climate science is “settled”–that there is, in your hubristic opinion (as you have made plain, for a long time now), a real greenhouse effect due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, only it’s “just not catastrophic”. Because you won’t get any sympathy from those of us who know, based on definitive evidence, that there is no such thing, and that to believe in it is scientifically indefensible, i.e., incompetent. To me, you are like the ineffective Republicans, and the climate alarmists are like the Democrats, who follow an insane agenda now. (For example, you overrate Bill McKibben and 350.org, in the above, as a causative force rather than just one symptom out of many of the present insanity. Why is there such a knee-jerk desire in the world now to do that, to reverse cause and effect, and thus aim only for failure in the end? Well, I think I can tell you, it’s avoidance behavior, of the true depth and breadth of the problems we face now.) The bottom line, for me, is that I don’t have all the answers either, so I will refrain, as far as possible, from merely exacerbating the emotional atmosphere. But of course, I won’t go silent, either–and you should take that seriously.

Clovis Marcus

I have a lot of time for Pointman. I was no/unsure. Now I’m yes/unsure.

Bloke down the pub

Anthony are you up for writing a constitution?

charles nelson

What Pointman fails to grasp is that that the MSM has already signed a Treaty with the alarmist faction. There is no safe platform for Skeptical or even Sensible science to be aired.
In the last decades of the 20th century there was a remarkable conjunction of ‘millennial panic’ on the part of the public who displayed a kind of yearning for ‘end times”.
This was exploited by minor, second rate ‘scientists’ like Michael Mann and James Hansen who quickly realised that their doom laden stories would be instantly disseminated by the Media bringing them enhanced status and financial gain.
When wily politicians (like Blair in the UK and Gore in the US) realised that Global Warming was a vote winning issue, (well nearly, in Gore’s case) the final piece of the infernal machine was in place.
Media, the scientific establishment and Government in lock step moving relentlessly forward with a program of research spending (remember Carbon Capture and storage ha-ha!) followed by taxation and legislation. Carbon Tax, wind farm, solar subsidies etc etc.The whole crappy edifice is now a self serving, bureaucratic, tax generating entity and the media to their eternal shame cannot and will not admit that they were duped and complicit in the hoax.
Going head to head with this monster will get us nowhere. In this battle we are out gunned.
We’ve got to think of ourselves as ‘the insurgency’ detonating horrid little facts in unexpected places. Sniping at them when ever they move out of their secure zones.
I make it a personal point to express my skepticism to friends, family and acquaintances, I don’t imagine I have made many converts but it all of us stand up in our daily lives and let it be known that we simply do not believe in CAGW…for very sound reasons, then we will undermine the scam from the grass roots up.
Eventually real science will prevail…it always does. The true loonies always reveal themselves eventually…think Mc Kibben, Suzuki, Flannery and Gore, each time they stand up they sound more shrill and irrational…even their followers aren’t quite as certain and convicted as they used to be.
Some crazy woman journalist in the Guardian the other day began her article with an open admission of the ‘pause in global temperatures’…that is unimaginable progress from even a year ago when I was banned from commenting because I insisted that the pause was real and had been mentioned in Climategate emails.
Ah Climategate…where would we be without Climategate?

It depends upon the goal you are seeking. If it is to promote the KXL, then yes organization is a must. If it is the pursuit of knowledge in a scientific method, then no. An organization will inhibit that (merely look at the “team”). I understand and sympathize with the frustration that leads to a yes. But that is all.

Edim

Organization = Corruption. You just end up with dogma.

“They are recognized as the world’s leading think tank in global warming skepticism. http://www.heartland.org
Somehow I missed the poll, but why not support Heartland by becoming an advisor or donor?”
I think the main problem with that is that by endorsing Heartland you turn this into a a R vs D issue, rather than than an issue organization that is open to all. I can see a lot of blue-leaning voters not wishing to strengthen an organization that also operates against a person’s other political inclinations.

norah4you

Answer to Patrick says:
April 25, 2014 at 3:24 am
It’s never to late for truth to be told and discussed. Truth is that there never been a CO2-threat other in the world of alarmists who haven’t understood that ALL factors, not only chosen ones, needs to be taken into consideration when a computer-model’s fiction (it’s always fiction not reality) of predicting the future is on the table. As we said in 1970’s bad or corrected data in = bad unreliable figures out.

“… The worst thing you can ever do is sit in grumpy isolation doing nothing more than bitching away to a few cronies, and that’s exactly what’s all too common across the skeptic blogosphere. …”
It seems to me that sites like WUWT and many others are educating the public everyday. Many different voices pointing out the fallacies and wrong predictions of the “sky-is-falling” crowd is far better than one organization.
However, if we are talking about a call to form another voice in the crowd and all of us support it (if we can), then that can be a useful idea as long as we know that this is a political fight and not a scientific one. It only looks like a scientific fight — it is a political fight were the state is using the “scientists” to scare the population so they will demand that the state do something.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. ~ H. L. Mencken

Friends, the fact is that as long as the state funds science (and academia) we will continue to get false results. The scientific method is no match for the power and money of the state.
A great read on what you are up against is given by T. Colin Campbell in his latest book “Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition”. Read as he talks about how one can not advance his career in science if he goes against the prevailing paradigm. Even though the book is about nutrition, and you don’t have to agree with Campbell’s views, it is ultimately about the forces that control all “debates” in science.

I’ve already left a comment at Pointman’s, setting out my doubts about the idea of forming a sceptic organisation. These can be summarised as 1) splintering 2) funding and 3) bureaucratic capture. If it could be done well though, it would be a great idea.
I think the most interesting comment to the original poll thread on WUWT was by Steven Mosher (link: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/19/open-thread-with-an-important-question/#comment-1617522), that we should all make clear exactly what we do and don’t believe. It’s all too easy to assume others agree/disagree with one’s own viewpoint. I’ve put a post up at my own blog to do just this (link: http://jonathanabbott99.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/global-warming-what-i-believe/). I suspect I am a ‘mainstream sceptic’ and would appreciate others’ views on this.

Patrick

Reminds me of this…

Tom in Florida

The problem with organizing AGW skeptics is that, while most of us agree that the conclusions of the believers are wrong, we lack their religious like passion for that position. We are more passionate about the economic fallout that would arise from their solutions and that would require a more political organization. Since there are a wide variety of political positions among skeptics, it would be a most difficult task to keep the organization glued together as a political force.

Peter Whale

Maybe Heartland, GWPF ,”Bloggers United” “engineers united” ” sceptical scientists united”
“economists united” et al can come up with a statement that reflects the issue. Which people can rally round and push collectively and individually. And then repeat the process until it gains momentum.

Eliza

If the weather keeps on cooling like this skeptics will morph to what???. Although I would be part of such an organization (skeptic etc) I don’t think it will be required within 5 years or so as the climate will not change…… Most will lose interest, even skeptics, warmist and yes even deniers. The whole issue of climate will revert to what is was 30 years ago…. daily meteorological reports… LOL

Richard M

I’ll repeat my earlier suggestion … ClimateFactCheck.org … If we can counter alarmist press releases quickly it would take a lot of steam out of their propaganda. However, we need to have a set of scientists in fields related to topics used by the propagandists to give credibility to the statements. We may be able to see the truth but many others will only accept credentialed responses.

Robert of Ottawa

Agree with Peter Whale. There already are organizations around.

David in Michigan

I was unsure originally. But now, if it comes to pass, count me out. I visit WUWT almost every day and appreciate the articles and comments greatly but if it becomes too political, I want no part of it.

Chris D.

I propose we call ourselves “Union of Concerned Skeptics”.
No dogs allowed.

JoeH

Anthony, as you stated in your original question – a problem arises if such an organization is centred in one country. The organization required needs to be both a central resource and an umbrella organization for disseminating the necessary scientific information worldwide. The Climate AGW agenda is worldwide and needs to be counteracted on a worldwide stage. If an organization is merely American it will be sneered at for being parochial. To combat the current global scam you need an organization that is fully global.
To me the big question is: How to create a global organization that carries automatic accreditation in the eyes of scientists, academics and politicians so that it cannot be easily poo-poohed by the sneering progressive media?

Steve from Rockwood

A formal skeptical organization is like communism. It seemed like a good idea to the poor…
These things always get high-jacked by a few people who have more energy, less brains and little else to do than the rest of us.

Robbin

The Power of an organization is really in the size of its membership. The NRA is very powerful, because it has a LOT OF MEMBERS that vote. It makes perfect sense that a very large organization of Skeptics, would carry a lot of clout

David L.

After reading this I realized I will post to WUWT but when amoungst my liberal cohorts, I fear to say anything. My conservative friends and I have always remarked how they have the upper hand in public debate because they will freely spout their rhetoric and the rest of us keep quiet lest we are marginalized. Enough is enough.
You’ve convinced me. We need to “unionize”. What are the next steps and where do I sign up?

I’m in.