Climate Denial And Slavery

Kari NorgaardA common trope among academic philosophers, academic sociologists and the like—people without training in physics, that is—is to compare skepticism of the most shocking climate prognostications with belief in, and sympathy for, slavery.

Yes; if you express concern that, for instance, our certainty in high-level cloud feedback climate model parameterizations is too high, and that models would produce better, more accurate forecasts were they to take parameterization uncertainty into account, if you doubt whether (say) the number of ambulance trips in Australia1 really will skyrocket if the global average temperature increases by a tenth of a degree, these academics say that you probably would like to own slaves.

Several years ago, University of Amsterdam academic philosopher Marc Davidson penned “Parallels in reactionary argumentation in the US congressional debates on the abolition of slavery and the Kyoto Protocol.” Davidson said that Republicans “tend to rationalise fossil fuel use despite climate risks to future generations just as Southern congressmen rationalised slavery despite ideals of equality.”

Andrew Hoffman Holder of the Holcim chair at the University of Michigan has regular fun dropping allusions to slavery, carbon dioxide and abolition in his voluminous works.

And now comes University of Oregon’s Kari Norgaard, who wants to treat people not on board with her conception of climate chaos. In a press release of her paper at the “Planet Under Pressure” conference, it was announced

Resistance at individual and societal levels must be recognized and treated before real action can be taken to effectively address threats facing the planet from human-caused contributions to climate change…

“Climate change poses a massive threat to our present social, economic and political order. From a sociological perspective, resistance to change is to be expected,” she said. “People are individually and collectively habituated to the ways we act and think. This habituation must be recognized and simultaneously addressed at the individual, cultural and societal level — how we think the world works and how we think it should work.”

She went on to say that there is reluctance to disruptive and immediate action and that “‘This kind of cultural resistance to very significant social threat is something that we would expect in any society facing a massive threat,’ she said. The discussion, she said, is comparable to what happened with challenges to racism or slavery in the U.S. South.”

What about her lack of understanding of climatology, physics, statistics, etc. and thus her failure to comprehend the arguments skeptics offer? Cue the crickets. Actually, according to The Register, cue Issac Asmiov, for Norgaard would like to invent for real his fictional Psychohistory a science which enables one “to predict” and to “alter the behaviour of large populations*” [emphasis mine].

Lewis Page, the author of that story, saw fit to point that asterisk to the remark, “*Admittedly Psychohistory only worked on huge galactic civilisations, and then only if the people being manipulated for their own good were unaware that the science of Psychohistory existed – neither of which are the case here.” True, brother, true.

The amusing thing about all this is that each academic offering the slavery-skepticism argument is that each creates some version of the Sky Is Falling which is worse than that which is offered by most climatologists. That is, they seem to accept that all is worst than we had feared because doing so is consonant with their desires or world views.

For example, on her web page Norgaard lists among her specialties “environmental justice”, “gender and race and environment”, “climate change denial.” She has written such works as “The Social Organization of Climate Denial: Emotions, Culture and Political Economy”, and “Climate Denial and the Construction of Innocence: Reproducing Transnational Privilege in the Face of Climate Change.”

Now if the skeptics are right—accept this for the sake of argument—that the outlook for our future climate and environment is if not rosy then at least unproblematic, then Norgaard has lost her living. She would have to find something else with which to occupy her time. So might—I say might—it be true that she (and similar academics) tends to exaggerate her level of belief in catastrophic climate scenarios? Confirmation bias is always for thee and not for me.

If skeptics are wrong, then it would best if she (and they) offered argument to show why these skeptics are wrong and not just label skeptics “deniers.” For doing that is not only historically offensive, it is a dodge, a failure to play by the rules of ordinary scientific discourse.

Update Via Christopher Monckton via Marc Morano, we learn that “The words ‘and treated’ have now gone from the University’s press statement”. Curious, no? Monkcton wrote Norgaard (as did I) and received no response (neither did I). Part of what he said was this:

Thirdly, the IPCC’s very high climate sensitivity estimates depend upon the assumption that temperature feedbacks that cannot be either measured or distinguished from direct forcings will triple those forcings, whereas the remarkable homeostasis of temperatures over at least the last 64 million years suggests either that feedbacks are net-negative or that the feedback-amplification equation (taken from electronic circuitry) is inapplicable to the climate, in which event equilibrium warming at CO2 doubling will be 1 Celsius degree, which is harmless and beneficial, and 21st-century warming from this cause will be little more than half the equilibrium warming…

I am uneasy that you should have recommended what the University of Oregon’s press notice is said to describe as “treatment” for those with whom you disagree. In Europe, within living memory, there were two totalitarian regimes that subjected legitimate scientific dissenters to “treatment”. You will forgive me for saying that humanity should surely not sink to those cruel and fatal depths of government-mandated unreason ever again.


1See this list for all that is said to go wrong when global warming strikes.


  1. Andy,

    I’m tempted to strike that comment, as it is irrelevant. But I’ll leave it go to say here that please everybody: ladies and gentlemen are we.

  2. “Parallels in reactionary argumentation in the US congressional debates on the abolition of slavery and the Kyoto Protocol”

    Two lines in a plane that do not intersect or touch at a point are called parallel lines. Likewise, a line and a plane, or two planes, in three-dimensional Euclidean space that do not share a point are said to be parallel.

    So Davidson is writing about two arguments that have no points in common.

  3. Keep in mind that there are some 20 diffrent climate models (so called) and they all give different results. Also keep in mind that they are not based on fundamental physics, and thats why they have all those adjustable parameters. As an example, many years ago I worked on a computer program (call it a noise model) to calculate the noise in electronic circuits. You want to minimize the noise because the circuit noise limits the signal you can detect. I used quantities like Boltzmans’ constant, degrees Kelvin, Amperes, Volts, Ohms etc. I didn’t have any adjustable parameters because the noise mechanisms were based on fundamental physical principles. Adjustable parameter means you don’t understand what you are modeling.

  4. Ve moost “treet” ze resistance to disrooptive action! Ve moost disroopt ze masses from zer noosty habit of zinking ar glorioos revoluzion is ze crock o bool. Zer resitance es footile. Ve vil take no prisnoors. Disroopt! Disroopt!

    Ach, but plis don’t coot my fat goomit paycheck plis. I moost have ze mooney. Ze dialectical revoluzion don’t roon on ze air you know. I am ze habituated to ze paycheck mon amigo. I am ze slave to ze paycheck. Keep ze paycheck cooming. Doon disroopt ze paycheck plis. Zank you.

  5. Does she understand the term “habituation”? It is a process of a decreasing response to a repetitive stimulus that is not associated with any other stimulus. She probably means “adapted” or “used to” but that may sound less professorial.

    W.M.B.: you hit the jackpot ( more valuable than the one discussed recently — empirical evidence suggests it is nothing but trouble): they are not scientists, logic and reason are tools of discrimination.

  6. Speed says: 1 April 2012 at 12:01 pm; &
    Sextus says: 1 April 2012 at 6:06 pm:
    so many nails – you each drove at least one, flush to the plane.

  7. Why are these sort always comparing the skeptic to a) a holocaust denier, b) a flat earther, or c) a slaver? Why hasnt there been a paper published that illustrates the similarities between the CAGW thermageddonists and a) the NAZIs, b) the Etherists, or c) Pol Pot?

    Are there not any extreme right wing war hawks amongst them? There must be some who are not ultra left wing NeoHippies! Where is the diversity?

  8. I blame her philosophy education. Too many assignments where one must express ones interpretation of a given “pretend” situation, and marked by the teacher on, well, God knows what. Not empirical evidence or calculation that’s for sure.

    I disagree with you on one point only Mr Brigg. She’s not writing these things just for a niche employment market. There are a thousand better and well paying niches in which to live, deep in the green fields. No, she must truly believe the world is getting flushed down the fiery toilet of hell.

  9. She apparently is also on the faculty at Whitman College.

    In any case, I find her work to be ugly. She is apparently ignorant of the scientific method and climate science. The type of censorship that she promotes is scary and consistent with one who would stoop so low as to equate sceptics with Holocaust deniers.

    I would love to see her in a debate against against a reputable sceptic, such as Jo Nova.

  10. It never fails to amaze me how the CAGW guys and gals characterize their enemy and how wrong they get it. It makes a skeptic doubt their scientific claims even more. It is demonizing the enemy, an old trick, and obviously it’s still effective. I’m disappointed their academic colleagues fail to notice and censure it. There’s a certain irony here in that demonizing and racism are comparable.

  11. From the NPR blog, 13.7, Cosmos and Culture.

    Welcome to 13.7, an opinion blog set at the intersection of science and culture.

    The contributors to this blog are convinced that scientists must engage in the public debate of what science can and cannot do.

    This blog is a platform in which science and the domains of human culture, spirituality and imaginative capacity can speak to each other, addressing the extraordinary and pressing issues we face in this new century.

    He looked like a former linebacker, tall and solidly built.

    “You’re a scientist?” he asked. “Are you involved in that big controversy over climate?”

    I looked into his face and could see he wasn’t angry or hostile or combative. He seemed like a good guy and, by the way his wife gently rolled her eyes, I could see he liked to talk. So I took a chance and replied.

    “What controversy?”

    “You want to know something weird?” I said. “For folks working on climate studies everyday, its not like that. Really. There’s no controversy.”

    What struck me was the vast gap between the daily realities of the climate science community and the perceptions of people outside the field.

    Someone told my science-loving seatmate there was great debate going on among scientists about climate change. Someone told this smart, clever guy that the reality of climate change was a great scientific controversy. But the truth is so much simpler. That controversy ended.

    The field had already moved on.

    About Adam Frank who wrote the above …
    Now a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, Adam Frank studies the processes which shape the formation and death of stars and has become a leading expert on the final stages of evolution for stars like the sun.

    But not an “expert” on climate science.

    What strikes me is the vast gap between the daily realities of people outside the climate science community and the perceptions of climate scientists.

    Some months ago, the delightfully named Ursula Goodenough asked the question, “What motivates climate change deniers?” and was overwhelmed by the response. She has since left the blog.

  12. Interesting. What began as an antiwar movement (late ’60s), coalesced into the environmental movement (early ’70s), merged into the antinuclear movement (late ’70s — TMI to be exact) and has since oozed in to too many niches for me to itemize OTTOMH; but, perhaps someone else can.

  13. Briggs – your definition of “psychohistory” might, technically, be wrong.

    Reason: That term has been pre-empted by a psychologist that actually studied history–focusing on the less reported content having to do with family & social values, behavoirs, etc. and how all that contributed to social norms, etc. etc.


    The guy has studied a lot of trends…and may very well be guilty to some extent of selective reporting to reach a particular conclusion.

    Suffice it say that whether one believes the conclusions expressed, what is clear that the “good ole days” (regardless of precisely when one defines that time to be) nevertheless had some pretty bleak, even what we might call “sick,” social norms.

  14. A related, to the ‘Global Warming is [unacknowledged] Religion,’ theme is:

    “Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation,” where the author (Mitch Horowitz) summarizes a variety of various occult trends & the hoaxters that perpetuated them…and [somewhat] how that has shaped America’s culture since. There’s really not much “secret” about the history…but seeing presented in chronological order, and how one trend piggybacked on, and/or plagarized, another was interesting. Reference:

    While Global Warming is not mentioned, one can readily see how the same themes & thinking apply. Curiously, hoax/scan occult themes as described in the book have been adopted primarily by those of the liberal left…and that social segment (especially the vocal outspoken segment) also primarily accounts for the “Skeptics” — those that claim to apply science & logic objectively to address matters of the occult. And it is much of that bunch that accounts for the outspoken high priest alarmists of Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Disruption/whatever-they-think-of-next-to-label-the-lack-of-warming/change/disruption-observed.

  15. What I find troubling with these types of statements or arguements is that they are so sophomoric and naive but they come from “the best and brightest” in an attempt to prove or justify something they have spent their life working on. How is it possible to be a college professor and spend your life or a good portion of your life studying a subject or theory and not be able to make a serious and intelligent arguement to support it or to answer skeptics? This happens all the time, it isn’t an exception. Some years ago a study “proved” that coffee caused kidney cancer and various other illnesses as well. Some number of PhD’s climbed on the bandwagon and for years we all felt guilty drinking coffee. Now the generally accepted wisdom is that coffee is actually good for you and can prevent cancer. Who knew! We all remember the Center for Science in the Public Interest telling us theater popcorn was a killer and attributed it to tens of thousands of deaths every year. Now the common wisdom is that popcorn is actually good for you. The list of “scientific” discoveries handed down from on high that later turned out to be bogus or simply incorrect is huge. Why?? And why would we believe anything without real proof and a cogent arguement and perhaps enough time for additional studies?

  16. I always chuckle when I hear Neal Boortz say “Liberalism is a mental disorder”, but right now I’m not laughing.

    Did anyone else get the impression that Kari Norgaard took the novels ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World’ the wrong way, and way too seriously? Is she really proposing we need a shot of Soma or indoctrination therapy to cure climate skepticism? This is chilling.

    I didn’t really expect this after Heidi Cullen got laughed off the stage for proposing climate skeptics lose their professional registrations for failure to conform to groupthink. I sincerely hope this evokes the same response. Kari should research how the Nazis were able to control the German population and force good people to commit unspeakable crimes; or maybe she already has…

  17. When I get around to actually owning slaves, you can be darned sure that I will force them to be Man-Made Climate Change skeptics!

    Why didn’t I pursue a Minor in Environmental Justice? This would have opened so many more career doors for me.

  18. This excerpt from Roy Medved’ev’s “Rise and Fall of Lysenko” should be required reading for concerned citizens. Substitute “climate” for “biology” and you have it:

    “After 1948 [when Stalin threw his full support behind Lysenko] the level of biological science in our country went sharply down, and that opened a broad road to learned degrees and high posts to a large number of people, not capable of real and serious scientific creativity, and interested in the continued persecution of classical genetics and biology. There even appeared a large, fairly influential and shrill “pleiad” of biologists and philosophers who made the adulation of Lysenko and criticism of contemporary achievements in the area of biology and genetics their fundamental profession, and who were not capable of anything else…. The editorial boards of journals and newspapers, and other institutions, supporting and managing science, were full of people with that mindset, who saw their calling, above all else, in crushing and silencing everything that contradicted the conceptions of Lysenko and his circle. In fact, an extensive sect appeared in science, with its own teachings of faith, that furiously opposed the really progressive development of biology…..The position and power of these people was based not on the development of science, but on the falsification and suppression of science, on dogmatism, on blind faith in the infallibility of Lysenko and the postulates he had formulated. “

  19. Andy just said what everyone was thinking, but usually don’t say outloud or in writing.

    That said, this woman is obviously delusional and it is best not to argue with crazy people as sometimes people cannot tell the difference.

  20. “…it would best if she (and they) offered argument to show why these skeptics are wrong and not just label skeptics “deniers.” ”

    Y’all might be forgetting something; promoters of AGW feel no particular need to prove skeptics wrong because, you see, skeptic climate scientists are on the payroll of ‘big coal & oil’. ‘Nuff said, as far as they are concerned, and they have gotten away with this because the skeptics themselves have only basically said they were NOT influenced by such industry funding (what little they actually get), and nobody else ever bothered to check the veracity of the accusation or the people surrounding it.

    Take a look into Ms Norgaard’s papers or those of other like-minded analysts such as Oreskes & Conway, McCright & Dunlap, Myanna Lahsen, etc, and you will see a common thread. They tell us skeptic scientists are corrupt, and for their proof, they cite anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan… or else they cite other people who cite Gelbspan. Happens every time.

    For those who don’t know, Gelbspan is a guy who claimed to be a Pulitzer winner when he never was, and his singular bit of evidence to indict skeptic scientists is a fragment sentence (spelled out in red letters full screen in Al Gore’s movie) coming from a memo that neither he, Gore, nor anybody else who quotes it ever shows in its full context. Take a hard look as the people surrounding Gelbspan and you find nothing but problems, not nice neat answers. For more on that, please see me 2/28 American Thinker article, “Fakegate Opens a Door: More than meets the eye in the Heartland controversy”

  21. Geezer says: “Would it be permissible to say that she is as pretty as she is smart?”.

    Also slyly non-P.C. I’m sure. This is a striking counter-example to the common knowledge that pretty girls are seen as smarter, and since they are treated as smarter they do become smarter, or at least more successful. How did this person overcome her disadvantages?
    Looks should be irrelevant, but unfortunately that is not usually the reality.

  22. What’s that old saying about criticism telling you more about the criticizer than the object of the criticism?

    Combine this with the liberal habit of characterizing those of differing opinions as suffering from a mental disorder (homophobia, misogyny, denialism, xenophobia, megalomania, narcissism, etc).

    Conclusion: Liberalism is a mental disorder.

    Personally I have no problem with Ms Norgaard; I prefer liberals who keep busy writing goofy papers about what they would do if they only had the power to control our lives. It’s the sneaky ones that hide their agendas, excel at incrementalism, and have demonstrated an ability to inflict real societal damage that worry me.

  23. At Outlier: “…to the common knowledge that pretty girls are seen as smarter…”

    Ooops!!! The stereotype is that pretty girls as seen as dumber — busy dating & being popular while the less attractive have to fend for themselves & thus have more time to study. Apparently, some of those don’t benefit from the extra time available for study…

  24. “Genesis 3:19 …. (by the sweat of thy brow, thou shalt
    earn thy bread, until thou return to the earth of which thou art taken..”

    And all through history people have stived to make OTHER people do the sweating.
    Thanks to the industrial revolution, and the burining of hydrocarbons, we have been able to nearly eliminated slavery and replace human muscles with machines.

    “Parallels in reactionary argumentation in the US congressional debates on the abolition of slavery and the Kyoto Protocol.” Davidson said that Republicans “tend to rationalise fossil fuel use despite climate risks to future generations just as Southern congressmen rationalised slavery despite ideals of equality.”

    It’s the policies of the CAGWers, who want to eliminate CO2 production , that would make slavery viable again.

  25. Ken, the stereotype you mention, the one about blondes and bimbos, may just be a bad joke. If your goal is to marry a rich guy and all you have to do is play dumb and look good, then the bimbo strategy is quite good. The pretty girls can get by without trying as hard as others, which was my point. They are seen as smarter, whether they are or not. And the others have to study harder. Some may even become sociologists (bad joke).

  26. Outlier & Ken:

    Gee, maybe I got it backwards. Is it permissible to say that she is as smart as she is pretty?

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I thought that Sociology was the fallback major for people who are not smart enough to major in Whiners’ Studies.

  27. The members of the Democrat Slaver Party are not and were not Republicans.
    That Democrat Party was established by a Slaver, Andy Jackson, fought a Civil War that killed 600,000 Americans defending slavery. When they came back to power, in the post Cvil War South, the Slaver Party created the KKK, and passed American Aparteid, aka Segregation, and the Jim Crow laws.

    There first Slaver president of the 20th Century, Racist Woodrow Wilson, segregated the Federal government and also segregated the US military, which was not undone until Truman and Eisenhower in the 50s. He also invited the Klu Klux Klan to demonstrate and march on the Mall in DC.

    The so-called “modern” Democrat Slaver Party resisted giving the Blacks the vote until 1965. Then they sought to destroy the Black family by telling black husbands to abandon their families in order to feed them with AFDC welfare. Thay also said to Black mothers to throw their husbands out, to get the AFDC check. A few turncoat Black pseudo-civil rights workers sold their souls for that AFDC poisoned apple. the most perfedious act of slavery was that cynical AFDC systems, that destroyed the black family that even slavery was unable to destroy.

    Ms. Oregon, a practicisng member of the Democrat Slaver party, and an un-scientist, doesn’t even know that these same fools are the ones who support the CAGW hoax, and her ideological cant, not Republicans.

  28. There are two ways to appear to win a debate:

    a) be right
    b) use psychobabble

    Psychobabble is the easier of the two and is popular among those who like appearing to win debates, but don’t care much for the rigors of research.

  29. I just want to clarify a technical point here. In the psychological literature a mental illness has a specific set of criteria that must be met. I.e., you must at least demonstrate an inability to function safely in normal society.

    If a sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, etc., declares that you are ‘mentally ill’ if you hold a particular idealogical, political, sociological or evidence based opinion, what they actually mean is that they think you are an arsehole.

  30. “Will says – 1 April 2012 at 7:56 pm:

    “Why are these sort always comparing the skeptic . . .” and other similar comments.

    The proximate reason is that it’s groupthink, and it’s easy – no real thought required.

    But the ultimate reason — not to discount bias, academic prejudice, ingrained myopia, etc. — is that Sociologists, Lit-Critters, Genderologists, etc, ad inf. . . . well, the reason is, they’re really not very bright.

  31. Matt:
    Long time. Hope all is well.

    I read Kari Marie’s article in Organization and Environment, “We Don’t Really Want to Know”. She writes like a child. Her critical thinking skills are almost non-existent and she has no grasp of how to use empirical data – both qualitative and quantitative. She basis her entire thesis on a warm winter and snow drought that effected a small town in Norway in 2000. She then cherry picks interview data from a small sample of locals to build a case that this town is suffering from the effects of global warming. It actually isn’t, but that is another story. How could such a light weight get a book published by MIT Press?

    I found a possible answer. She is indeed intellectual small fry. The big cheese in this is likely to be her dad, Richard Norgaard, a Berkeley professor – He appears to be exceedingly well connected including contacts with the World Bank.

    Who is Kari’s dad?

    Richard Norgaard:
    “Professor Norgaard is an eclectic scholar with one solely authored book; several additional co-authored and co-edited books, and over 200 other publications in environmental and ecological economics, environmental sociology, environmental epistemology, and other fields. He is recognized within the field of economics (Who’s Who in Economics, Millennium Edition, and The Changing Face of Economics: Conversations with Cutting Edge Economists 2004) and the field of ecological economics (Kenneth E. Boulding Award, 2006) for both his critiques of and contributions to economics even while he spends most of his time working across disciplinary ways of understanding. The American Association for the Advancement of Science elected Norgaard to the status of “Fellow” in 2007. His research emphasizes how the resolution of complex socio-environmental problems challenges modern beliefs about science and policy and explores development as a process of coevolution between social and environmental systems. His writing is informed through work on energy, environment, and development issues around the globe with different periods of his efforts emphasizing Alaska, Brazil, and California.
    Internationally, Professor Norgaard serves on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and on the International Panel on Sustainable Resource Management of the United Nations Environment Programme.emphasis added He was actively engaged with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and other assessment efforts including UNEP’s The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity and UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlooks. Domestically, he chairs the Independent Science Board of the Delta Stewardship Council (formerly the CALFED Independent Science Board on which he also served), State of California, and previously served on the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. EPA (2000-2004), as a member of the U.S. committee of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), and on numerous panels of the National Research Council and the former Office of Technology Assessment. Richard Norgaard serves on the Board of Directors of the New Economics Institute, on scientific advisory boards to Tsinhua and Beijing Normal University, and on the Board of EcoEquity. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (2000-2009), in the position of Treasurer (2003-2009. He served as President of the International Society for Ecological Economics (1998-2001). He served as the founding Chair of the Board of Redefining Progress (1994-97) and as a member of its board (until 2007). Professor Norgaard was a Project Specialist with the Ford Foundation in Brazil (1978 and 1979), a visiting research fellow at the World Bank (1992).

    It would be interesting to actually get a copy of her thesis from the University of Oregon. I assume the article and the book are rewrites of her thesis.

  32. Bernie! Welcome back!

    Interesting find. Yet another instance of the left’s obsession with money?

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