Editor’s note: Spending our time as we do up to our necks in climate muckrakery, we know a thing or 300 about squaring off with the trolls of the internet — specifically with the hairy, spiky, climate-denying variety. Here, Chris Mooney uncovers what we’ve always suspected: They’re verifiable sadists.

In the past few years, the science of internet trollology has made some strides. Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections, so-called internet “trolls” (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics.