First, the press release on this new opinion hit-piece masquerading as peer-reviewed science that smacks of desperation, especially in light of the fact that “climate change” seems to be disappearing from grant applications.
Science community considers approaches to climate disinformation
Despite overwhelming scientific agreement on the question of human-caused global warming, a major gap exists between this consensus and the public’s understanding of the issue. Writing in BioScience, Jeffrey A. Harvey, of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, and his colleagues examine the causes of the consensus gap, focusing on climate-denier Internet blogs and the ways in which they use topics such as Arctic sea ice extent and polar bear well-being to foment misapprehensions about climate change among the public.
Harvey and his colleagues performed an analysis of 45 climate-denier blogs, noting that 80% relied primarily on a single denier blog for their evidence, which itself had a single author who “has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears.” This paucity of expertise and evidence is common among such blogs, say the authors, as are personal attacks against researchers and attempts to misstate the extent of scientific uncertainty about crucial issues. Such narrowly framed attacks are designed to generate “keystone dominoes,” say the authors, which deniers can then use as proxies for climate science as a whole. “By appearing to knock over the keystone domino, audiences targeted by the communication may assume all other dominoes are toppled in a form of ‘dismissal by association.'”
Such misinformation poses a particular problem, because “among users, trust for blogs has been reported to exceed that of other traditional news or information sources.” To counteract the blogs’ pernicious effects, the authors argue that scientists must now engage in the “trench warfare” of public debate: “We strongly believe that scientists have a professional and moral obligation not only to inform the public about the findings and implications of their research but also to counter misinformation.” This fight, the authors caution, may require an adaptation of tactics: “Many scientists mistakenly believe that debates with deniers over the causes and consequences of climate change are purely science driven, when in reality the situation with deniers is probably more akin to a street fight.”
To this end, the authors close with a call to action: “Scientists need to more effectively use Internet-based social media to their full advantage in order to turn the tide in the battle for public opinion.” By taking the fight to blogs, YouTube, and other social media, say the authors, scientists themselves may close the consensus gap, an effort they urgently encourage. They further argue that a failure to influence public attitudes may create acute problems for numerous ecosystems; in the absence of greenhouse-gas mitigation, “the prognosis for polar bears and other Arctic biota… is bleak.”
Link to the paper: open access, I suggest you read it: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/bix133/4644513
One thing about the paper, they claim they surveyed “45 climate-denier blogs”, yet offer no supporting data or methodology I can find. There’s no Supplemental Information (SI), and nothing in the paper that shows any data whatsoever. This relegates the paper to being an opinion piece (or rather a hit piece given the open vendetta against climate skeptics that has been displayed by Lewandowsky and Mann). Plus, for a science journal to use the word “denier” is quite troubling. It is mind-blowing to me that a journal would publish “denier” used as a pejorative label with a broad brush. They expose themselves to legal issues of defamation in doing so.
From the opinion piece: “Scientists need to more effectively use Internet-based social media to their full advantage in order to turn the tide in the battle for public opinion.”
Remember that poll about social media I conducted a couple of weeks ago? Here is the results. It suggests that we should be more engaged, especially after the call to action by the Lew-Mann syndicate.
Today, here is a response by Dr. Susan Crockford, who was named in the opinion piece. WUWT was also named, but of course, I was never contacted by any of the “researchers” to ascertain my opinion or my “denial” status.
Polar bears refused to die as predicted and this is how the propheseers respond
The polar bear experts who predicted tens of thousands of polar bears would be dead by now (given the ice conditions since 2007) have found my well-documented criticisms of their failed prophesies have caused them to [lose face] and credibility with the public.
Although the gullible media still pretends to believe the doomsday stories offered by these researchers, the polar bear has fallen as a useful icon for those trying to sell a looming global warming catastrophe to the public.
Here’s what happened: I published my professional criticisms on the failed predictions of the polar bear conservation community in a professional online scientific preprint journal to which any colleague can make a comment, write a review, or ask a question (Crockford 2017). Since its publication in February 2017, not one of the people whose work is referred to in my paper bothered to counter my arguments or write a review.
They ignored me, perhaps hoping the veracity of my arguments would not have to be addressed. But it has not turned out that way. Now, too late, they have chosen a personal attack in the journal BioScience(Harvey et al. 2018 in press).
Harvey et al. (“Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy”) pretends to be a scientific analysis on internet blog posts about polar bears, climate change, and Arctic sea ice but single me out for their peculiar brand of “scientific” smearing because most of the polar bear content on the blogs they examined (80%, they estimate) came from me.
You wouldn’t know from the paper, for example, that I am a professional zoologist with a Ph.D. in evolution (with polar bears in my dissertation), only that the GWPF describes me as “an expert on polar bear evolution” (as if this is probably a lie).
The authors state: “Crockford vigorously criticize, without supporting evidence, the findings of several leading researchers who have studied polar bears in the field for decades.”
Anyone who reads my blog or has read my paper knows this is the opposite of what I do.
The fact that I criticize with supporting evidence is precisely why these “leading researchers” feel so threatened and why the paper had to be written.
These misrepresentations alone tell you all you need to know about the motive behind the paper and the accuracy of the rest of their statements about me and others.
BioScience is an interesting choice for this “Forum” paper: I counted only 4 polar bear research papers in this journal since 2004 but 11 papers on “climate change denial” since 2010 (not including this one). In other words, few polar bear scientists would usually read this journal but many people interested in the “problem” of “climate change denial” would seek it out.
You can read it here (open access).
Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 2 March 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3 Open access. https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3
UPDATE: Dr. Judith Curry weighs in.