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Climate Skeptics

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Grist’s psychotronic climate billboard generator

Tyrants and murderers say the darnedest things. But sometimes they say perfectly natural, truthful things like "I need a sandwich," or "epaulettes make me look skinny on camera," or "I believe in global warming." This last one made its way into Heartland's climate-denying billboard campaign, and though we're sure they're tired of the endless mockery and derision it has brought them, we're not! We made our own magic billboard with an endless supply of pure truth and homespun wisdom from more notorious killers, tyrants, and psychos. Give it a whirl!

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Heartland Institute’s BS ad campaign is causing it all kinds of problems

OK, I'm working on a joke, tell me if you think this works: How is the Heartland Institute like a professional burlesque dancer? It just can't stop showing its ass! Eh? Eh?

All right, maybe not, but the point is it's been a hard year for poor Heartland, which just can't seem to not look like a bunch of reprehensible dirtbags in public, probably on account of being a bunch of reprehensible dirtbags. First there was the embarrassing disclosure of the group's secret memos, which lost it a lot of support despite hypocritical victim posturing. Then everyone took umbrage at one little grossly offensive, hideously fallacious, poorly capitalized ad campaign. And now Heartland's friends are deserting it, because apparently even denialists consider "if you believe in global warming, you are basically Charles Manson" to be a step too far. It's enough to make you weep, really it is.

Here's what Heartland's allies and donors are saying about the campaign:

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Nine out of 10 psychos agree: Heartland’s bonkers climate billboards need company!

Oh, Heartland Institute. We thought you were climate-sanity adversaries on par with Sauron, but your latest PR move reminds us more of Wile E. Coyote: desperate overreach followed by spectacular flameout.

Let's get up to speed. Ahead of its 7th International Conference on Climate Change (which is basically like Burning Man for deniers, but with more peyote and charts), the Chicago-based climate denial think tank launched a billboard campaign on the Eisenhower Expressway that equates belief in climate change to mass murder. It did so by featuring the looming mugs of Ted "The Unabomber" Kaczynski, Fidel Castro, and Charles Manson next to the phrase, "I still believe in global warming. Do you?"

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Why is the Discovery Channel ignoring climate change science?

The Discovery Channel isn’t a climate change denier, but it’s certainly shaping up to be an equally formidable foe -- a climate change avoider.

Media outlets and activists are lambasting the network for failing to adequately address climate change in its recent series, Frozen Planet. The seven-part series, which was jointly produced with the BBC, explores life in the North and South poles. The series’ final episode, “On Thin Ice,” depicts how decreasing ice cover impacts polar habitat and wildlife, but fails to acknowledge the fact that human activities are spurring global warming.

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The anatomy of denial: Why truth doesn’t always win

Photo by Ian Pattinson.

Cross-posted from The Last Word On Nothing.

I recently attended the Science Writing in the Age of Denial conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The event explored the phenomenon of denial and what it means for science writers. How can journalists effectively convey science when its uncomfortable truths face organized resistance?

I walked away from the event feeling both energized and frustrated. Denialism is easy to spot, and conference speakers like Sean B. Carroll and Naomi Oreskes were especially adept at characterizing and documenting it. During his keynote talk, Carroll outlined a “denialism manual in six steps,” which he adapted from a history of chiropractors and vaccination published in 2000.

Step 1: Doubt the science.
Step 2: Question scientists’ motives and interests.
Step 3: Magnify legitimate, normal disagreements among scientists and cite gadflies as authorities.
Step 4: Exaggerate potential harms (scare the hell out of people).
Step 5: Appeal to personal freedom (I’m an American and no government official can tell me what vaccinations I need).
Step 6: Show that accepting the science would represent a repudiation of a key philosophy.

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Donald Trump still blowing hot air about Scottish wind farms

Scotland’s plan to build offshore wind turbines would curb climate change, reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil, and create thousands of jobs. But Donald Trump don’t give a f***.

Trump appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy, and tourism committee today to speak out against the country’s plan to build offshore wind turbines. His argument? Eleven wind turbines -- located a full 1.5 miles from land -- will “ruin Scotland’s tourism.”

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Climate denier campaigns have zero impact on belief in global warming

It's hard sometimes to ignore climate deniers: They're so wrong! About everything! But the biggest impact they seem to be having is just that: annoying environmentalists. Denialist campaigns have had little influence on the 30 percent of people who are skeptical about climate science, ABC News reports. The one thing that does change those people's opinions? The weather.

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Public understanding of climate change: Getting warmer

I think they're getting it. (Photo by B Rosen.)

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

To go by the polls, the high point of public understanding of climate science was 2006 to 2008. That’s no surprise, since that period saw a peak in media reporting on climate science, starting in 2006 with An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary of Al Gore’s PowerPoint presentation on climate science, and continuing in 2007 with the four scientific assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Disputes on the science were kept to a minimum in the 2008 election since both major candidates -- Barack Obama and John McCain -- understood and articulated both climate science and the need for action. It wasn’t until after Obama was elected with progressive majorities in both houses of Congress and the prospects for climate action became real that the anti-science disinformation campaign kicked into overdrive.

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80 percent of humans are delusionally optimistic, says science

Maybe the reason we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change -- or, indeed, any of the other existential crises we're facing at present -- is that 80 percent of humanity has what's known as an "optimism bias." (If you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're among the "lucky" 20 percent whose perceptions of reality are demonstrably realistic.)

People who have an optimism bias do irrational things in the laboratory, like systematically ignoring concrete information about risk, reports Scientific American Mind.