Australian climate skeptics use Socrates to question global warming
AN ad published in a major newspaper purports to prove climate change isn’t real using a hypothetical conversation with Socrates. The Climate Study Group says it researches ‘climate truths’. I have deleted some opinionated adjectives below.
I can see no substance in the criticisms below. The argument is straightforward: High CO2 in the past was not bad so why is it bad now? Life thrived mightily in an era when CO2 levels were much higher than now so why is life threatened now, amid much lower levels of CO2? Is not raised CO2 good for life rather than threatening to life? Is not a small rise in CO2 likely to be beneficial on balance?
It is true that there were no humans in the Carboniferous but there were plenty of dinosaurs with respiratory systems very similar to ours. And our metabolism is in fact more flexible than theirs so we are better at adapting. So we should thrive amid raised CO2 as well
The paid advertisement ran in The Australian newspaper, published by NewsCorp, which also publishes news.com.au, on Friday has shocked both scientists and philosophers as it tries to link the two disciplines to prove CO2 and fossil fuels have nothing to do with global warming.
The quarter-page advertisement features a large image of Socrates and showcases a “hypothetical conversation” between the philosopher and a fictional “strong believer in climate change”, dubbed Mr Smith.
The conversation sees Socrates question Mr Smith’s unwavering belief about emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels which were formed before and during the carboniferous period.
In the imaginary exchange, Socrates questions whether there was evidence of global warming prior to this period, and makes some other “philosophical inquiries”, which are then claimed to “reveal the truth with compelling logic and facts which refute longheld belief”. Mr Smith is led to finally “understand the truth” and ultimately reject climate change.
Social media users have slammed the add, and Reddit commentators have called it just plain weird. Actual experts are outraged too.
Deakin University senior philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes said aside from scientific conjecture, the philosophical side of the group’s argument was dangerously flawed.
“The reason that climate change denialists like Socrates is they are wedding to a brave individual exposing the corrupt elite,” he said. “The problem is of course that science doesn’t work the way Socratic questioning works. The idea that you come along and lob a couple of Socratic questions and explode it all just doesn’t hold water.”
Mr Stokes said there were “glaring fallacies” in the argument, and argued that Socrates would have been “quite affronted” by the ad. He said on Twitter: “Whoever wrote this: Socrates would have kicked your arse, and rightly so.”
Melbourne University climate scientist Andrew King said the advert put forward “a nonsensical ill-founded argument”.
“Essentially their argument is the CO2 was higher in the past and that the carbon is from a natural source,” Dr King said. “One obvious criticism is that the Carboniferous Period (being 300 million years ago) is a poor analog for the climate of today. It was warmer but lifeforms were also very different with nothing similar to humans.
“Human life is adapted to the climate we have today. If the climate was much warmer, as in the Carboniferous period, we’d be in a lot of trouble! Really? Our present tropics are many degrees warmer than Europe but people still thrive there, including high birthrates. And warming up Siberia would be very congenial. The man is talking rubbish
“They also talk about the lack of “dangerous global warming” in the Carboniferous period, but, in a large part, the problems that result from global warming are caused by the absolute temperature as opposed to the rate of change of temperature.” But that is what the skeptics are arguing
Dr King also argued it was unfair to invoke Socrates. He said that having been dead for a long time he wasn’t around to give his own opinion.
News.com.au spoke to the convener of The Climate Study Group, who described the organisation as “a group that studies the climate truths”.
The man asked to remain anonymous for fear of hate mail, but has previously publicly identified himself as the leader of the organisation in government submissions and articles.
He said he did not wish to discuss the advertisement or the research behind it any further.
The same organisation came under fire for another unusual advertisement that took a similar format and was published in the same paper in August 2015.
In an advertorial entitled “Psychology and the new climate alarm”, the climate-denial collective sought to use psychological research to prove there was no evidence that CO2 had affected climate.
See here for details of the 2015 advert
The Australian Psychology Society attacked the group, saying it was “disturbed to see psychology being used to mislead the public” and claimed the publisher had ignored a “huge body of scientific evidence”. Like what?
The same band of climate deniers has also been behind bizarre research papers and submissions to the Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister, and Minister for the Environment, using its own research to back up allegations that economists were being alarmist due to their psychological makeup and that an ice age is the most urgent environmental threat.