Sunday, August 7, 2011

Inside the strange world of the climate dismissives, Ctd

Ever notice climate deniers seem a bit mistrustful?

You're not imagining it:

Percent of "dismissives" (vs all groups) who "strongly trust" a given source:

NOAA: 3% (vs 22%)
Scientists: 5% (vs 21%)
The EPA: 1% (vs 14%)
The CDC: 0% (vs 15%)
The National Park Service: 0% (vs 13%)
The Department of Energy: 1% (11%)
President Obama: 0% (11%)
Television weather reporters: 2% (5%)
The mainstream news media: 0% (4%)
Their congressional representative 3% (2%)

Now, don't get distracted by the points of trivia herein, such as the fact that deniers trust television weatherpersons more than the EPA or the fact that even among deniers, the scientists are the most trusted source of information about the climate, suggesting the denier smear campaign against scientists is not the great success they like to pretend it is.

No, what's truly interesting here is how globally mistrustful they are -- they don't trust anybody. No one is strongly trusted by more than one in twenty deniers (of course, the pollster couldn't very ask them the critical follow-up question: "And what if the source was telling you something you wanted to hear?") It would be one thing if they trusted their own sources of information and distrusted "alarmist" sources, and vice versa. That is what we would expect, in line with the whole narrative of isolating, self-reinforcing ideological positions in the internet age.

What we find is more disturbing than that. Deniers are globally mistrustful. Every single group is less trusted by deniers than by the general public, with the single bizarre exception of Congress. Even adding "somewhat trust" to "strongly trust" does not change the picture much:

NOAA: 25% (vs 76%)
Scientists: 27% (vs 76%)
The EPA: 19% (vs 68%)
The CDC: 12% (vs 62%)
The National Park Service: 24% (vs 75%)
The Department of Energy: 11% (59%)
President Obama: 3% (46%)
Television weather reporters: 10% (52%)
The mainstream news media: 3% (38%)
Their congressional representative 14% (36%)

Wow: the number of deniers who have any trust at all in our president is three percent. Not that there's any ideological component of . . . no, trivia, staying away from trivia.

No more than a quarter of dismissives have any trust in any group polled . . . the exception, against, is climate scientists, who are trusted, again, more than any other group as a source of information, "Climategate," and sundry psuedoscandals notwithstanding. Once again, the public as a whole trusts these sources variably, but always twice as strongly as deniers do. On average they trust or somewhat trust 14.8% of the time, compared to 58% among all polled. A normal person is more than four times as likely to have at least some trust of one of these sources as is a climate denier.

Deniers are existing in a world that does not just close off opposing views and sources perceived as unfriendly, like a political ideology. There world closes itself off from all outsiders that might challenge their beliefs -- like Christian fundamentalists with the Bible, they believe they have all they need:

Question: On some issues people feel that they have all the information they need in order to form a firm opinion, while on other issues they would like more information before making up their mind. For global warming, where would you place yourself?

Percent answering "I do not need any more information":

National average: 23%
Alarmed: 28% (+5% vs average)
Concerned: 9% (-14% vs average)
Cautious: 11% (-17% vs average)
Disengaged: 14% (-9% vs average)
Doubtful: 39% (+16% vs average)
Dismissive: 70% (+57% vs average)

Deniers aren't looking to get questions answered -- this is the fallacy of those, like Judith Curry, who blame climate scientists for incurring the wrath of "skeptics." They believe they have all the answers already. Which is perhaps why they don't trust any of the many, many different groups of people telling them they're wrong.


  1. I've been having a problem with how your website displays. The charts on the left of NAO, Arctic Oscillation, Solar Irradiance etc, are showing as hypertext crossing over the middle of the page and a box with an X in the corner, where each chart should be. The charts on the right display okay, though Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Anomaly and Sea Level Rise are blank.

    I haven't been able to post a comment, because after the word verification, the hypertext covers the Post Comment button. Hoping this one gets through. I am using internet explorer update version 9.0.1

  2. All this has an eerie Dunning-Kruger feel to it. The "Dismissive" group has science against them, yet they feel they are fairly-to-very well informed and they don't need any more info to form a firm opinion. The "Alarmed" group has science behind them, yet they feel slightly less informed than the Dismissives, and admit to needing more information.

    It sounds like the Dismissive group is truly "unskilled and unaware of it," - the title of the paper by Dunning & Kruger. Ultimately, the incompetant person is guilty of overassessing his ability/knowledge, while the competant person is guilty of giving others too much credit.