Author Topic: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?  (Read 833 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« on: January 10, 2019, 03:32:06 PM »
I occasionally read a few Swedish libertarian blogs. And they are all deep into global warming denial, as are those who write in the comment fields. And so I thought that arguing about it, trying to spread some skeptical thinking and appreciation for science could be a worthwhile excercise. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, I was wrong. But promoting skeptical thinking is always good, and climate change is I would say the most important issue we are facing right now, and will perhaps be so for the rest of this century. So at least trying is at least well-intentioned.

The responses tend to be "The climate of the Earth has always been changing.", "This is alarmism!", "They said there was going to be an ice age in the 70s!", and various ad hominem attacks of individual climate scientists and the IPCC. How do you even begin to crack the nut, so to speak?

Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2019, 03:44:38 PM »
At this point, I don't think there's any honest deniers left.  The only remaining motives are financial and wanting outlets for condescension, harassment, etc. 

At best, they're foils for presenting material to the audience.  Most social media is mostly frequented by non-participating lurkers.

Deniers are apt to hallucinate as hard they need to to keep thumbing their noses at people.  Audiences, however, are less likely to be committed to denialism and will probably tend toward being more receptive to information and analysis.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2019, 04:32:33 PM »
I don't bother, I do think there are honest deniers out there, I think they're just so invested in that particular rat hole that there's no convincing them otherwise.  Its basically all conspiracy theory at this point.  Its only worth arguing if you think there's someone in audience that might not be invested in the BS yet.

So, I'm not that different from Fortran just more charitable to the volk. 

Offline bachfiend

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2019, 02:45:15 PM »
First of all, you need to determine which flavour of global warming denial is being expoused.  Is it:

Global warming isn’t happening?

Or, global warming is happening, but it’s not due to human activities?

Or, global warming is happening, it’s due to human activities, but it’s going to be marvellous?

Or, global warming is happening, it’s due to human activities, and it may have some bad consequences, but there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it (the countermeasures are too expensive, so it’s better to put resources into reversing the damage)?

I think it’s better asking questions instead of trying to lecture deniers.  So go through the  flavours of denial.  First question ‘Is global warming happening?’
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2019, 03:00:30 PM »
Their general position seems to be that global warming is happening, that it is not clear to what extent humans are responsible, and that it's not going to be so bad (the "alarmism" gambit).

Online Beef Wellington

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2019, 03:47:29 PM »
You don't. I used to be one. There is likely nothing you can say or do to change their minds unless they actively want to learn.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2019, 04:28:47 PM »
Their general position seems to be that global warming is happening, that it is not clear to what extent humans are responsible, and that it's not going to be so bad (the "alarmism" gambit).

If you can manage to question a global warming denier down to number 4, that there’s nothing that can be done, and manage to question the denier out of that position, then you can pick a real denier when he or she returns to number 1, that it’s not happening.  Real deniers manage to espouse all positions simultaneously or consecutively.  I’m distinguishing between ‘deniers’ and sceptics.’
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Offline JohnM

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 05:03:07 PM »
Their general position seems to be that global warming is happening, that it is not clear to what extent humans are responsible, and that it's not going to be so bad (the "alarmism" gambit).

Get them to watch the south park double bill.

Offline John Albert

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2019, 07:03:20 PM »
First of all, you need to determine which flavour of global warming denial is being expoused.  Is it:

Global warming isn’t happening?

Or, global warming is happening, but it’s not due to human activities?

Or, global warming is happening, it’s due to human activities, but it’s going to be marvellous?

Or, global warming is happening, it’s due to human activities, and it may have some bad consequences, but there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it (the countermeasures are too expensive, so it’s better to put resources into reversing the damage)?

I think it’s better asking questions instead of trying to lecture deniers.  So go through the  flavours of denial.  First question ‘Is global warming happening?’

This is definitely the place to start. Delineate the parameters of debate by finding your points of agreement. For AGW discussions, that will probably start with finding out which portions of the climate data are they willing to admit to.

Do they even accept that the climate is actually changing at all? Most reasonable people are willing to admit that something drastic is happening to the global climate, especially if they're old enough to have personally witnessed local changes and the increase in extreme weather incidents. Younger climate change denialists might be harder to convince, merely because of their more limited frame of experience. If they're unwilling to even admit that global temperatures are indeed rising, then you have to start from square one with evidence for the warming trend. Start with the most obvious observable effects, such as global temperature readings, warming oceans, glacial retreat, receding polar ice, rising seal levels, lower snowfall rates, extreme weather, ocean acidification, etc.

Do they acknowledge that the climate is getting warmer, but attribute it to something other than human activity? If that's the case, then you need to show the data that correlates the rise of industry and rate of human energy consumption with greenhouse gas emissions, and those emissions with global temperatures. It's also helpful to show physical evidence such as satellite measurements, ice core data, and spectroscopy data. 

If they acknowledge that the Earth's climate is indeed warming and it's due to human activity, then you're halfway there. Now all that remains is to establish why it's a problem and discuss potential resolutions.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 07:54:13 PM by John Albert »

Offline bachfiend

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2019, 07:25:16 PM »
First of all, you need to determine which flavour of global warming denial is being expoused.  Is it:

Global warming isn’t happening?

Or, global warming is happening, but it’s not due to human activities?

Or, global warming is happening, it’s due to human activities, but it’s going to be marvellous?

Or, global warming is happening, it’s due to human activities, and it may have some bad consequences, but there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it (the countermeasures are too expensive, so it’s better to put resources into reversing the damage)?

I think it’s better asking questions instead of trying to lecture deniers.  So go through the  flavours of denial.  First question ‘Is global warming happening?’

This is definitely the place to start. Delineate the parameters of debate by finding your points of agreement. For AGW discussions, that will probably start with finding out which portions of the climate data are they willing to admit to.

Do they even accept that the climate is actually changing at all? Most reasonable people are willing to admit that something drastic is happening to the global climate, especially if they're old enough to have personally witnessed local changes and the increase in extreme weather incidents. Younger climate change denialists might be harder to convince, merely because of their more limited frame of experience. If they're unwilling to even admit that global temperatures are indeed rising, then you have to start from square one with evidence for the warming trend. Start with the most obvious observable effects, such as global temperature readings, warming oceans, glacial retreat, receding polar ice, rising seal levels, lower snowfall rates, extreme weather, ocean acidification, etc.

Do they acknowledge that the climate is getting warmer, but attribute it to something other than human activity? If that's the case, then you need to show the data that correlates the rise of industry and rate of human energy consumption with greenhouse gas emissions, and those emissions with global temperatures. It's also helpful to show physical evidence such as satellite measurements, ice core data, and spectroscopy data. 

If they acknowledge that the Earth's climate is indeed warming and it's due to human activity, then you're halfway there. Now all that remains is to establish why it's a problem and discuss potential resolutions.

The oceans are warming more quickly than expected 5 years ago.  I know someone who recently returned from a holiday on Mauritius (and she didn’t see any dodos, alas), and she says that she was disappointed that all the corals are bleached (our problems with the Great Barrier Reef seem ‘lesser’ in that there are reefs with non-bleached corals).

I fear that there’ll come a time in my lifespan (and I don’t have many years left) when live colourful corals will be only seen on DVD.
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Offline John Albert

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2019, 08:03:25 PM »
I just wish we could get back to a time when we weren't having entire cities destroyed by hurricanes every couple years.

Regarding science discussions with ideologues, the problem with these kinds of debates is that most people who approach scientific issues from ideological viewpoints probably aren't going to be swayed very much by the presentation of evidence. Most of the hardcore libertarians are already well dug into their ideological foxholes. Chances are, they've probably been reading all about the "Great Climate Hoax" on their favorite libertarian and conspiracist websites for at least as long as you've been reading the legit science about AGW. So from their perspective they're the ones informed about the actual truth, and you're being misled by the mainstream media. Usually they'll respond with some rhetorical pivot like dismissing the scientific evidence on the basis of conspiracy accusations, assertions of political bias, etc.

They also have their own alternate experts and sources that usually trace back to think tanks like the Van Mises Institute and the Cato Institute. You can try to debunk those sources as fringe ideologues or paid shills, but that approach could backfire and turn into a big game of "he said she said," with the libertarian defaulting to his own sources and denying all else.

If you have the training and are so technically inclined, you could try to examine the anti-AGW studies to find specific flaws in their methodology or conclusions. But be careful; appealing to scientific literature is a fraught endeavor for those with no expertise in the relevant research and statistical methods. Overly techy information with lots of charts, graphs, arcane equations and terminology may look impressive on an Internet message board, but trying to make sense of all that data tends to make the layman's eyes glaze over. In the interest of intellectual honesty, it's generally not a good idea to post links to raw scientific literature unless you really understand the methodology and are prepared to discuss it in minute detail.

At any rate, you should try to clearly establish that all scientific sources are not equal, and make a point of differentiate the scientific consensus from the fringe.

One of my favorite skeptic debaters, Tracie Harris of The Atheist Experience call-in show, has a great comeback to science deniers. She basically admits she's not a scientist, and defers to the consensus of experts on matters of science. Then she suggests that if the caller is such an expert on scientific matters, they should take their case direct to the scientific community. She invites them to write a paper and try to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal so it can be entered into the professional scientific discourse. If it turns out the caller is right about the science, then their theory will represent a new "breakthrough" and the consensus will change. After that happens, they can call back and she will grant them the benefit of expertise on that particular issue. It usually shuts them down, but I wonder if any callers into The Atheist Experience have ever actually had papers published. I'm guessing not.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 08:29:31 PM by John Albert »

Offline bachfiend

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2019, 08:59:25 PM »
I just wish we could get back to a time when we weren't having entire cities destroyed by hurricanes every couple years.

Regarding science discussions with ideologues, the problem with these kinds of debates is that most people who approach scientific issues from ideological viewpoints probably aren't going to be swayed very much by the presentation of evidence. Most of the hardcore libertarians are already well dug into their ideological foxholes. Chances are, they've probably been reading all about the "Great Climate Hoax" on their favorite libertarian and conspiracist websites for at least as long as you've been reading the legit science about AGW. So from their perspective they're the ones informed about the actual truth, and you're being misled by the mainstream media. Usually they'll respond with some rhetorical pivot like dismissing the scientific evidence on the basis of conspiracy accusations, assertions of political bias, etc.

They also have their own alternate experts and sources that usually trace back to think tanks like the Van Mises Institute and the Cato Institute. You can try to debunk those sources as fringe ideologues or paid shills, but that approach could backfire and turn into a big game of "he said she said," with the libertarian defaulting to his own sources and denying all else.

If you have the training and are so technically inclined, you could try to examine the anti-AGW studies to find specific flaws in their methodology or conclusions. But be careful; appealing to scientific literature is a fraught endeavor for those with no expertise in the relevant research and statistical methods. Overly techy information with lots of charts, graphs, arcane equations and terminology may look impressive on an Internet message board, but trying to make sense of all that data tends to make the layman's eyes glaze over. In the interest of intellectual honesty, it's generally not a good idea to post links to raw scientific literature unless you really understand the methodology and are prepared to discuss it in minute detail.

At any rate, you should try to clearly establish that all scientific sources are not equal, and make a point of differentiate the scientific consensus from the fringe.

One of my favorite skeptic debaters, Tracie Harris of The Atheist Experience call-in show, has a great comeback to science deniers. She basically admits she's not a scientist, and defers to the consensus of experts on matters of science. Then she suggests that if the caller is such an expert on scientific matters, they should take their case direct to the scientific community. She invites them to write a paper and try to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal so it can be entered into the professional scientific discourse. If it turns out the caller is right about the science, then their theory will represent a new "breakthrough" and the consensus will change. After that happens, they can call back and she will grant them the benefit of expertise on that particular issue. It usually shuts them down, but I wonder if any callers into The Atheist Experience have ever actually had papers published. I'm guessing not.

Deniers usually invoke the Galileo gambit.  There are ‘good’ anti-AGW papers being written, but the conspiracy is refusing to publish them.  Or so they claim.  There’s even an Australian Galileo Movement, which uses Galileo’s outcast status (during his time) to polish their denialist credentials (and ironically, Galileo was wrong about a lot of things, including still thinking that planetary orbits were circular despite Kepler having earlier established that they are elliptical - he’s excused by the lack of Google during his time I suppose).
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Offline stands2reason

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2019, 12:03:34 AM »
I don't know if I have any particular insight into that culture. I've been a science enthusiast for as long as I've been libertarian, and I've never been an AGW denier. OTOH, I do have experience with conspiracy thinking.

Try to find out what is the impetus of the AGW denial/dismissal.

Probably a response to the ill-informed talking points about "doing your part" to make a difference. To a conspiracist, this sounds like a ploy to get the lemmings to voluntarily lower their living standards. But that isn't how the economy works anyways. Or, conversely, the realization that you don't have that much control over the effect of your economic activity after a level of indirection or two.

Or maybe a reaction to specific policy ideas like carbon tax? Here at least there is an argument: price-demand inelasticity of electricity, heat, transportation is a real economic force that has to be fixed structurally. Doubts over whether the money is used to actually fix the problem (fossil fuel energy economy), i.e. just raising the price of energy without maintaining an alternative.

Offline Mr. Beagle

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2019, 02:37:31 PM »
I have found that the libertarian denial is usually resistance to the idea that collective action must be taken. I have had denier friends come around to the Michael Bloomberg argument, which is that rational business types will insure their homes and businesses against risks with far lower probability than climate change. Once they get out of the conspiracy bubble then the facts matter.

Florida elected an avowed Trumpist Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, but after a disastrous autumn of hurricanes and "red tide," he surprised everyone by making some big environmental moves his first week of office, while still dissing climate change scientists:

Quote
As a candidate, Ron DeSantis toed a line on climate change, promising to prioritize the environment and acknowledge the problems posed by sea rise without bowing to “the church of the global warming leftists.”

On Thursday, Florida’s newly anointed Republican governor put his words to action, announcing plans to open a new resiliency office as part of a sweeping environmental rollout that includes an extra $1 billion for Everglades restoration and water cleanup — without mention of climate change or carbon emissions.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article224231225.html
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Offline John Albert

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Re: How do you argue with (libertarian) climate change deniers?
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2019, 04:17:11 PM »
Probably a response to the ill-informed talking points about "doing your part" to make a difference. To a conspiracist, this sounds like a ploy to get the lemmings to voluntarily lower their living standards. But that isn't how the economy works anyways. Or, conversely, the realization that you don't have that much control over the effect of your economic activity after a level of indirection or two.

Which is actually a good argument against libertarianism, in favor of using governmental authority to correct systemic problems that individuals and markets can't otherwise address on their own.

 

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