Tactics of the Misinformation Machine

In an online video, a local weather broadcaster presents information contrary to conclusions accepted by 97-98% of climate scientists.  This makes him a local voice for the misinformation machine.  His voice can be heard re-tooling old tactics as he seeks to dispute the ever-increasing evidence that humans have altered Earth’s climate.

A common tactic used by the misinformation machine is the attempt to discredit – without evidence – the source of valid climate-change information.  Typically, the machine’s voice makes the unsupported claim that government-sponsored entities such as the National Science Foundation will fund only studies that promote the global-warming scare.  The only possible purpose for such an unjustified claim is to engender cynicism about science – cynicism that will be available for exploitation in the future.  By seeding doubt, the misinformation machine pre-sets the tone they hope will enable them to question hard-to-swallow conclusions soon to arrive.

As a matter of principle, scientists insist on certainty.  During the long period of accumulating sufficient data, the climate scientists themselves have been withholding their anticipated conclusions.  For example, in her online video, climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe does not allow herself to be drawn prematurely into concluding that recent extreme weather events are caused by climate change, despite her acceptance of the data so far.  While such reticence is clear evidence of professional integrity, the misinformation machine misrepresents it as doubt or, by a hyper-extension of logic, as a lack of consensus among climate scientists.  In this way, the misinformation machine tries to use the principled caution of climate experts to undermine the public’s perception of the climate science community, so they will not be heeded when the time comes – and it’s not far off – that the science about extreme weather events is secure.

Climate science and the data that support it may seem esoteric, but weather itself is not.  Weather is something we of the public all experience, which makes it a form of common knowledge.  To exploit our common experience of the weather, one attempt to confuse the public is to point out – using the following historical weather data chart below as a visual aid – that temperatures world-wide are rising by “only” tenths of degrees (as seen on the vertical axis.)

Average global temperature over the last ~2,000 years.  Note the massive uptick on the far right side. (Science)

We of the general public, in our day-to-day experience of weather, might easily be convinced to see this trend as insignificant – after all, what’s a degree or so, one way or the other?  Such an interpretation deceptively leaves out the climate-history context that the last Ice Age came about because of a drop of “only” nine degrees in overall mean world temperature. As if that weren’t enough, the misinformation machine ignores “the massive uptick” of the last half century, which really clarifies the relationship of current weather to historical climate changes.

Blustering forward, the misinformation machine goes on to ridicule the historical research itself, which uses data collected from ice cores and fossilized life forms.  Seemingly esoteric, such research is easy for a non-scientist commentator to dismiss as irrelevant.   And thus it becomes apparent that distorting, ignoring and deriding the data is the only tactic available when those data have become so overwhelmingly supportive of climate change.

The misinformation machine seeks to frame public perception of the expected conclusion:  climate change does indeed have a causal relationship to recent extreme weather events.  When this conclusion arrives — as given the trajectory of the extreme-weather-events data it inevitably will — it will be irrefutable on scientific grounds.   For this reason, the purveyors of misinformation have been trying to prepare the public mind to reject it.  But  obfuscating tactics will fall before the clarity of overwhelming science.

 

About Bonnie

Recently retired from teaching World Literature, Bonnie came to volunteer for SD350.org because she is convinced by what the scientists have learned that climate change is the most critical issue of our time. She writes in a variety of genres for the blog.

Comments

  1. Jeffrey Meyer says

    Good example of the misinformation Bonnie writes about is “Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science” by Professor Iam Pilmer. He is an Australian geologist who wrote this book with a whole bunch of false claims, the most egregious being that most of the new CO2 released each year comes from exploding volcanoes. This is a great example of how the machine works. A professor emeritus of earth sciences, geologist and mineralogist from Australia writes a book distorting the current research on climate science. The machine takes it and and spreads its quotes around the planet saying it is from this very credible source. There is no mention of his alternate life as the director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies, including his recent appointment as director of Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments. These people have no conscience.

  2. Thanks, Jeff, for adding to the message. I had to make choices, so your comment gets a little more of the evidence out there.

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