Climate cognitive dissonance
Posted by Mad Mitch on UTC 2016-11-07 17:06. Updated on UTC 2016-11-10
A puzzling characteristic of the orthodoxy of belief in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) is its ability to survive contradictory reality.
Yet still the orthodoxy keeps going. The believers in the orthodoxy present themselves as clear, rational, scientific thinkers, deeply concerned for the future of mankind. The sceptics are branded deniers and considered to be dim, dangerous, swivel-eyed lunatics who are in thrall to various vested interests. Many media outlets have a policy of not allowing these lunatics any airtime at all to spread their dangerous nonsense.
However, the facts are clear: there hasn't been any CAGW and in any rational view of the matter there isn't going to be any CAGW. Yet why do so many people whom one would expect to know better still cling to this discredited theory?
A possible explanation might be found in the social psychologist Leon Festinger's famous theory of cognitive dissonance.  Festinger and his team infiltrated an end-of-the-world cult and observed what happened when its expectations and prophecies turned out to be false. There are considerable problems of methodology in Festinger's use of 'participant observers': it is difficult to see how the investigators posing as members of the cult could avoid influencing the behavioiur of the group as a whole. But if we bear that caveat in mind the more general conclusions of the study are still interesting.
The members of the cult gathered on 20 December 1954 in the expectation that a visitor from outer space would arrive to escort them to a waiting UFO, which would then leave with them, saving them from the impending destruction of the Earth. In other words, on the one hand we have the 'normal' world, which expected life to continue as 'normal'; on the other a quasi-religious cult, the members of which, on no scientific evidence whatsoever, expected the world to come to an end on a particular date.
Festinger and his team were not so much interested in the beliefs of the cult as in the reactions of the members of the cult when the prophecy arising from those beliefs was not fulfilled. No alien rescuer in a spaceship turned up and, fortunately for the non-believers, life on earth was not destroyed. Festinger opened his book about the event as follows:
A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
Whereas the scientifically objective person would consider the failed prophecy as invalidating the beliefs behind it, the cult believer is so invested in the belief that he or she suffers from 'cognitive dissonance': on the one hand there is the belief and on the other hand its predictive failure.
Festinger found that the cult member finds various ways of removing this unpleasant dissonance by developing the belief further, as well as finding various ways of explaining the result away. The main explanation for the failure of the prediction in this case was that the preparations made by the group itself had pacified the God of Earth, who had now decided not to destroy mankind after all. In terms of CAGW theory, much amusement can be had from considering the many conflicting excuses put forward to explain the so-called 'pause' in the increase in global temperatures over the last 20 years.
We are not surprised to learn that the more invested the members of the cult are in their beliefs, the more likely it is that some dissonant event such as a failed prediction will actually cause them to double down on their faith: it becomes stronger and even more resistent to the operation of reason and even more closed to the acceptance of empirical facts.
Here is Festinger's summary [Festinger p. 4.] of the factors that were important in dealing with cognitive dissonance. All of these factors can equally be applied to the members of the CAGW cult.
Festinger's cult group failed to proselytise effectively:
They were unskillful proselyters. It is interesting to speculate, however, on what they might have made of their opportunities had they been more effective apostles. For about a week they were headline news throughout the nation. Their ideas were not without popular appeal, and they received hundreds of visitors, telephone calls, and letters from seriously interested citizens, as well as offers of money (which they invariably refused). Events conspired to offer them a truly magnificent opportunity to grow in numbers. Had they been more effective, disconfirmation might have portended the beginning, not the end.
[Festinger p. 232f.]
For CAGW the alien in the spaceship never turned up, doom never came and looks less like coming with every passing year. Human activity has not warmed the earth in any appreciable way. Our weather is much as it was decades ago. When will the cult members change their minds? Will they just keep on proselytising even harder? Perhaps holding yet another conference might help to pacify the God of Earth.
Always remember: CAGW fans make up the crazed cult and we sceptics are the sane ones. They may be a big cult, but that doesn't make them sane.
The pointless climate conference in Marrakesh started yesterday. The consequence is that cult members from around the world are bombarding us in a coordinated action with reports of imminent doom.
A compliant and sensation-hungry media sprays this nonsense unthinkingly at us. There has so far been no mention of aliens in spaceships, but the general detachment from reality is of the same order. For completeness we really ought to do a review of these, but our stomachs are just not strong enough to deal with these ravings in such quantities.
We read, for example, that average sea-levels will rise by more than a metre… er, if the average global temperature rises by 5°C – a value that even the IPCC considers to be a bit of an outlier in all the model forecasts.
We in Switzerland have been singled out for special treatment: we have to digest a wild-eyed, 200 page report prepared by 115 climate researchers and 'assessors'. Apparently, poor little Switzerland is affected twice as badly by 'climate change' as other countries are: floods, droughts, landslides, snow shortage, retreating glaciers. We will have to get used to Mediterranean temperature levels. We must change our disgusting habits of commuting, travelling, eating, drinking and our use of energy. We are told that we are subsidising fossil energy which is making it too cheap. Electrical energy should cost much more, which will then reduce consumption and make renewable energy competitive.
Not only is the wicked carbon dioxide not in any demonstrable way causing temperatures to rise, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not rising as much as it 'should' (i.e. according to models). As extra carbon dioxide causes the greening of the world, the extra plant life gobbles up gratefully that essential plant food. This finding will naturally disappoint the members of the cult, squatting in their bunker, but will make sane people very happy – happy plants, happy people.
Examples of the CAGW cult's resistance to reality pop up each day that goes by without the alien in the spaceship arriving, for example this from Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor:
For some the prospect of global cooling is a problem, especially for those who see the well-established change in the behaviour of global temperatures after around the turn of the century as a powerful “weapon” used by “sceptics” to cast doubt on climate science. But these sceptics were talking about real, emerging climate science in a way that was resisted by many of the more publicly visible scientists who had failed to adapt to the facts. The so-called “pause” – which is obvious prior to the recent El Nino – signaled a growing appreciation of decadal climatic variations. It provided an important step for understanding what was going on. Frankly, those individuals and organisations who a decade or so ago spoke of a clear and strong signal of global warming and imminent rapid temperature rise, have had to change their tune, and in some cases try to rewrite history by now saying they always knew what was going on.
The Swiss Meteorological Office employs a large number of climate cultists (the condition of their being hired), but there are still meteorologists there who are impressively honest, despite the serious cognitive dissonance there must be around the office water-coolers.
For the last few days the Swiss nerve centre of the Figures of Speech global empire has been surrounded by cold, white stuff – you know, the stuff that we were told 15 years ago that we would never see again. In the grumpy minds of the locals this white stuff is expected and welcomed around the beginning of December, earlier than that it is just a nuisance, later the skiing is at risk. So how unusual is this? The Swiss Met Office is used to Swiss grumbling about the weather and published an analysis (in German) almost immediately after the first flake hit the ground. The Swiss grumble as much as the British do, but much less politely – unusual weather events are taken as shameful administrative failures. Here is the chart:
The First Snow of the Year (depth 1 cm or greater) in Zurich, 1931-2015, measured in days after 1 January. The red horizontal line marks the beginning of winter on 1 December, that is, 335 days. Image ©MeteoSchweiz.
Let us really respect these meteorologists, who are by training and inclination 'data people'. Their analysis of this chart is an object lesson on how to cope with CAGW cognitive dissonance:
The measurements available digitally of the earliest snow covering display large variations from year to year. With the general warming in recent decades a tendency to an ever later date for the first snow cover could be expected. Such a trend is not initially apparent in the source data.