The “Backfire Effect” and why Global Warmists ignore facts which contradict their opinions
This is about a study on how facts – especially corrective facts – are ignored when some opinion or perception is deeply held. The study is about political perceptions and it strikes me that it is very relevant to the IPCC and the alarmists for whom the Global Warming hypothesis (that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of Global warming) is a deeply held political belief.
Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions
We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.
The behaviour of the IPCC and the Global Warming coterie in ignoring or explaining away real observations in favour of their computer models has always smacked of religious fanaticism rather than scientific objectivity. They have shown a preference for coming up with ever more fanciful explanations about why their predictions are not panning out rather than accept that the basis of their predictions may be mistaken. The heat lurking in the deep oceans or Chinese pollution blocking out the sun or “old ice” declining invisibly while “new ice” increases have all been suggested as explanations for
* the recent lack of warming,
* the broken link between global temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, and
* increasing global ice extent.
It would seem that the global warming brigade are an “ideological sub-group” suffering from the “backfire effect”.
In this paper, we report the results of two rounds of experiments investigating the extent to which corrective information embedded in realistic news reports succeeds in reducing prominent misperceptions about contemporary politics. In each of the four experiments, which were conducted in fall 2005 and spring 2006, ideological subgroups failed to update their beliefs when presented with corrective information that runs counter to their predispositions. Indeed, in several cases, we find that corrections actually strengthened misperceptions among the most strongly committed subjects.
…. Political beliefs about controversial factual questions in politics are often closely linked with one’s ideological preferences or partisan beliefs. As such, we expect that the reactions we observe to corrective information will be influenced by those preferences. ……… Specifically, people tend to display bias in evaluating political arguments and evidence, favoring those that reinforce their existing views and disparaging those that contradict their views.
However, individuals who receive unwelcome information may not simply resist challenges to their views. Instead, they may come to support their original opinion even more strongly – what we call a “backfire effect.” ...
The backfire effects that we found seem to provide further support for the growing literature showing that citizens engage in “motivated reasoning.” While our experiments focused on assessing the effectiveness of corrections, the results show that direct factual contradictions can actually strengthen ideologically grounded factual beliefs – an empirical finding with important theoretical implications.
It is a little depressing that just using facts (science) may not be of much use in getting people to correct their misperceptions when these take the form of religious belief.
Many citizens seem unwilling to revise their beliefs in the face of corrective information, and attempts to correct those mistaken beliefs may only make matters worse.
It is the sobering – and depressing – reality that facts (read science) are always subservient to even completely irrational religious beliefs.
The Great American Wind Power Fraud
By Alan Caruba
In July the Fairhaven, Massachusetts Board of Health voted to shut down the town’s two wind turbines at night between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. after dozens of residents had filed more than 400 complaints. Testing had demonstrated that the turbines exceeded state noise regulations and those specified in their operating permits.
In July the Heartland Institute’s Environmental & Climate News reported on the announcement by Nordex USA, a manufacturer of wind turbines that had accepted millions of dollars in subsidies while promising to create 750 jobs that it had shut down its Jonesboro facility. In 2008, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) had given Nordex $8 million from the Governor’s Quick-Action Closing Fund and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority had given Nordex another $11 million. The decision, said the company, was its uncertainty about receiving federal subsidies. At the time, only fifty people were employed there.
In early October, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Healthcare, and Entitlements held a hearing on the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC). The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) was there to argue for an extension of the subsidy. According to lobbying disclosures, in 2012 the AWEA had spent more than $2.4 million to protect the subsidy which was set to expire, but which received a one-year extension as part of the deal struck to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”
Arguing that wind energy is an important element of the mix of energy provided by coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric facilities, the facts are that in 2012 coal accounted for 37 percent of total generation, natural gas represented 30 percent, and nuclear contributed 19 percent. Wind power accounted for just 1.4 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2012 and only 3.5 percent of the nation’s electricity generation.
Since the PTC was first enacted two decades ago, it has cost taxpayers $20 billion dollars.
One of the primary arguments for wind energy is that it is “renewable” and does not contribute to the so-called "greenhouse gas emissions" that are the cause of a “global warming.” However, the latest warming cycle ended some fifteen years ago. Not one student in our nation’s schools has ever experienced “global warming.”
Wind energy is “green” say its supporters, but it is hardly “green” to kill an estimated 573,000 birds every year, including 83,000 birds of prey according to a study published in the March edition of the Wildlife Society Bulletin. It also kills countless bats, a species that reduces the vast number of insect pests that prey on crops and transmit diseases.
A permit is being sought by the Shiloh IV Wind Project in Solano County, California, that would grant it the right to kill up to five golden eagles over a five-year period despite their protected status under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
So wind energy is justified as reducing greenhouse gases that are not causing global warming which does not exist, is receiving millions in subsidies, and wants to kill protected species, an environmental objective. This is hypocrisy on a galactic scale.
Testifying before the congressional committee, Dr. Robert Michaels, a senior fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, noted that the subsidy which was supposed to end by now has been renewed five times. The wind industry is essentially non-competitive when it comes to energy generation from traditional sources and has also been around long enough to amply demonstrate that. In a market economy, such industries are allowed to fail.
The wind industry, however, doesn’t even need to be competitive because utilities in some thirty states are required by law to include it in their “renewable portfolio standards” that set quotes for its use. This mandate is expected to see the installation of more than 100,000 renewable megawatts over the next twenty years and wind, said Dr. Michaels, and “seems certain to get the lion’s share.”
Adding to the idiocy of wind energy is the need for such production facilities to have a back-up from traditional coal, natural gas, and nuclear facilities because wind is not available with any predictability. The consumer not only pays for the electricity these facilities provide to ensure that they will always have electricity, but pays in the form of the subsidies the wind industry continues to receive.
There is no need for renewable energy mandates. Both wind and solar are unreliable sources of energy and produce so little as to lack any justification for their existence.
The wind industry exists because it spends millions annually to convince legislators that it should not only be subsidized and because many states require its use. Take away the interference of government entities and the industry would have no real basis to exist. It is a fraud.
Picking cherries in the snow
Here is figure SPM3(a) from the IPCC AR5 SPM, captioned “Northern Hemisphere March-April average snow cover extent”.
Here is the corresponding paragraph, in which the IPCC excels in misleading cherrypicking:
There is very high confidence that the extent of Northern Hemisphere snow cover has decreased since the mid-20th century (see Figure SPM.3). Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent decreased 1.6 [0.8 to 2.4] % per decade for March and April, and 11.7 [8.8 to 14.6] % per decade for June, over the 1967–2012 period. During this period, snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere did not show a statistically significant increase in any month.
There is so much misleading spin here that it takes some time to unpack it all.
The first thing to note is that the graph does not show much of a decrease, certainly no decrease in the last couple of decades – another indicator of the pause in warming.
The first cherry-pick is that it refers only to the Northern Hemisphere; but this is reasonable since there is so much less land area in the Southern Hemisphere. Now look at the months selected. Why are ‘March and April’ chosen, and why are they lumped together? (The same thing was done in the AR4 SPM.) And why mention June – a month not generally associated with snow?
Graphs of snow cover for different months can be found at the Rutgers site. (click on ‘Monthly Anomalies’ on the left).
Here is the graph for March. You can see that there has been a decrease, a rather abrupt one in the late 1980s, but since then there has been no decrease. The numbers are all over the place, so to talk of a linear trend per decade is misleading.
What about the winter months, that the SPM doesn’t mention? Well they show either no change, or an increase, for example in this graph for December. The IPCC wording carefully avoids admitting this by saying there is no ‘statistically significant’ increase in any month.
I wonder if the decrease for March or April, considered separately, would count as statistically significant?
If you look at the ‘Seasonal extent’ graphs at the Rutgers site, you can see that although spring snow cover shows a decline, both the fall and winter graphs show a slight increase. So the IPCC statement claiming very high confidence in decreasing snow cover is not true.
In response to the similar but slightly differently worded claim in the draft SPM, one reviewer wrote “Misleading claim. Rutgers GSL data shows winter snow cover has not decreased.”
The Hydrosphere and Oceans
People concerned that manmade greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide (CO2), may be causing dangerous climate change worry such a change may disrupt the hydrosphere, which comprises all of the water on Earth and in its atmosphere. This disruption, they argue, would lead to increased rainfall and erratic weather patterns that would greatly increase sea level and produce potentially devastating consequences.
A report from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an independent group of some 50 scientists from 15 countries, titled Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, summarizes a large body of research disputing these claims and finds the hydrosphere has exhibited only mild volatility over the past century in concert with natural climate cycles and with no correlation to human CO2 emissions.
The data show short-term precipitation volatility is not correlated with either CO2 emissions or general climate warming. For example, monsoon intensity displayed no increase later in the century despite increased CO2 emissions, but instead was correlated with solar activity.
In addition, monsoons were generally more intensive during the Little Ice Age (LIA) than the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), which runs directly contrary to the alarmist claims. On the other end of the volatility spectrum, CCR-II disputes the strength of the commonly cited connection between global warming and droughts, as evidenced by the similar rates of drought occurrence in the LIA and MWP.
As with precipitation, CCR-II finds no significant connection between sea level or ocean temperature and human CO2 emissions. Sea level is determined by a multitude of factors, and CO2-induced global warming is a minor one. Ocean temperatures have remained virtually unchanged for nine years, according to data of the Argo buoy network.
CCR-II found numerous problems with the consensus view of sea-level change. The global sea level has increased by an average of only 1–2 mm annually over the century, with a wide range of intra-year volatility between +5mm and -5mm away from the mean. Supposed instances of environmental harm caused by sea-level rises, such as coral reef destruction, are often the result of unaccounted alternative factors.
Concern over manmade greenhouse gas emissions has been the impetus for many destructive public policies, including renewable portfolio standards, alternative energy subsidies, and high gasoline taxes. Yet, despite ever-increasing levels of CO2 emissions, scientists have been unable to demonstrate a connection to its alleged effects, such as hydrosphere alteration, over the previous century. CCR-II’s findings demonstrate precipitation and ocean activity have little to no connection to human CO2 emissions. Therefore, energy production, the lifeblood of the global economy, should not be hindered by state intervention to reduce CO2 emissions.
Cold spell near? Geologist digs deeper on climate change
On the climate-change front the forecast would seem to be increasing cloudiness.
At least that’s the impression a rational observer would get from the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. True, the report does declare that “there is very high confidence that models reproduce the general features of the global and annual mean surface temperature changes over the historical period, including the warming in the second half of the 20th century.”
But that would appear to be the only thing the panel remains confident about.
Chapter 2 of the report expresses “low confidence regarding the sign of trends in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale,” as well as “in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms.” Conceding that “conclusions regarding increasing global trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated,” the report says that “in summary, confidence in large-scale changes in the intensity of extreme extra-tropical cyclones since 1900 is low.”
That’s not all. According to figures last year from Britain’s Met Office, based on data from 3,000 measuring points around the world, on land and sea, there has been no discernible rise in global temperatures since 1992. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Arctic ice sheet increased by 533,000 square miles over the summer, to a size roughly half that of Europe.
What to make of this? Well, we laypersons can’t make much of it at all, because we lack the knowledge to place the data in context. Luckily, for those really interested, a solution is available. It is a book called “The Whole Story of Climate: What Science Reveals About the Nature of Endless Change” (Prometheus Books). The author, E. Kirsten Peters, is a geologist who says that what people are likely to have gleaned from media reports on climate change is “only one isolated part of a much longer and richer climate story.”
Climate science, with its computer models, is a Johnny-come-lately to the narrative. Not so geology. “For almost 200 years,” Peters writes, “geologists have studied the basic evidence of how climate has changed on our planet.” They work not with computer models but with “direct physical evidence left in the muck and rocks.”
Space constraints preclude any detailed summary of Peters’s accessible but jam-packed little book. But some take-aways can be noted.
The first thing to note, though, is that we could be long overdue for a cold spell. In recent geologic history, which stretches back a couple of million years — geologists have an expansive view of time — Earth’s climate has been characterized by long periods of bitter cold punctuated by brief episodes of warmth. “The cycle,” Peters notes, “is always a long period of cold followed by a much shorter period of warmth.” Specifically, the cold intervals last about 100,000 years, and the warm ones about 10,000. The period we are living in, called the Holocene, began 11,700 years ago, which makes it “no different at all from other brief, warm intervals in the Pleistocene,” the previous epoch that lasted those couple of million years.
Peters uses the analogy of a football field to help readers visualize all this. We in the Holocene are positioned at the edge of one of the end zones. The cold periods average about 5.5 yards, the warm ones about half a yard.
Another point Peters is at pains to emphasize is that climate change can be quite abrupt. Toward the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, northern Europe experienced a period of warming called the Allerod Oscillation that lasted about 1,000 years. The pollen record indicates that the “shift to renewed bitter cold took place very rapidly, certainly within a single human lifetime.”
Most of the publicity on climate change has focused on temperature, but precipitation patterns can be deeply worrisome, as well. The prelude to the so-called Little Ice Age came in the form of torrential rains that swept Europe in 1316. By the 1340s “really cold temperatures” had arrived, as well. And, in our own Southwest, the entire Chacoan Pueblo civilization had disappeared long before the end of a 50-year period of drought that began in 1134.
Peters is by no means sanguine on human-generated carbon emissions. She’s quite specific: “[W]hat non-geologists don’t generally know is that we have a major problem on our planet with coal fires that are unwanted and burning out of control,” and she points out that “the technical knowledge is in place to put many of them out; the main thing lacking is commitment.”
Go-ahead for new nuclear power plant in Britain
At a crazy price -- all because nukes are "carbon free"
The Government has given the go-ahead for Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation today after agreeing a “cut-price” deal with the French power giant behind the project.
Ed Davey, Energy Secretary, claimed the deal with EDF Energy - and its two Chinese partners - to build the new Hinkley Point plant in Somerset is “good for Britain” and will help to bring down energy bills. But it can be disclosed that the twin-reactor plant could now cost £2bn more than the £14bn first planned.
Ministers have agreed with EDF, after more than two years of negotiations, that the French company will be guaranteed a “strike price” of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of power produced by the Somerset plant for 35 years.
But a flexible price has been established that could see a lower strike price for energy from Hinkley of £89.50 if the EDF consortium pushes ahead with plans to build another nuclear plant at Sizewell in Suffolk.
EDF wanted a considerably higher price, in the region of £100 for the Hinkley strike price, but has accepted what is being seen as a compromise. It is understood the cost of the Sizewell development could be much lower than Hinkley, benefiting from the time and spending involved in developing the Somerset plant, and bringing the overall energy cost down for the taxpayer.
The revised price is still almost 50pc above current wholesale market energy price levels – and will be “topped up” through levies. But consumers will not start helping to meet nuclear bills until power starts flowing in 10 years’ time.
Mr Davey had set his sights on getting the strike price below £90. “We’ve got an extraordinarily good deal for the consumer,” he said. “Our figures show the cost is considerably less than had been suggested so far.”
He claimed consumer bills will be £77 lower when the full nuclear programme is completed by 2030 but he is expected to face hurdles in getting EU clearance over substantial subsidies being paid to the EDF group.
The price incentive is one of the surprise elements in a nuclear power package the Government believes represents a better than expected outcome to extensive negotiations leading to the construction of the first UK nuclear plant since 1995.
Hinkley’s cost is now being pitched at £16bn rather than the original £14bn cited by the developers, with the revised figure including £2bn of pre-construction stage costs. The project will also carry loan guarantees from the British Government.
But EDF and its Chinese partners – confirmed as China National Nuclear Corporation, and China General Nuclear Power Corporation - will have to meet the cost of any delays or overruns at Hinkley Point. They have, however, agreed to share any savings with the taxpayer if the project comes in below budget.
The partners have apparently responded to Government pressure to “buy British” and have agreed to spend 57pc of the Hinkley investment with UK firms.
The issue has become even more controversial with the Big Six power firms unveiling hikes of more than 9pc in electricity and gas prices.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg both raised concerns about the increases over the weekend.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here or here