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Person In Sydney Telling All Knowing Everything or PIS-TAKE

An aggressively contested social norm is at work in the swarms of comments that follow every article on climate change. Experiments have shown that the insertion of aggressive comments into descriptions of controversial issues does nothing to change people’s views but greatly increases their in-group identification with the view they already hold.”

“Don’t Even Think About It: How Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change” by George Marshall

From time to time, some articles are subject to the rants of particular individuals who clearly have a divergent point of view from most of the people reading things on the AIMN. And I don’t just mean a difference like the Labor Party and The Greens arguing about who’s most in bed with the Liberal Party.

Ok, it’s a free country and all and they have a right to express an opinion, but some have a different world view in the same way that Gandhi and Hitler didn’t agree on the best way to effect change in the world. I’ve often wondered what possesses people to go onto a site and spew forth vitriol. Sure I can understand that you want to point out the errors of other people. But as I once asked a class who were very enthusiastic when discussing the issues of the day, “Has anyone ever changed your mind by shouting at you?”

“No,” they replied.

“Then why do you lot always start shouting when you’re disagreeing with someone?” I inquired.

“It feels good,” said one girl.

Ok, she may have had her reasons, but at least one boy told me that it was a good point. Mind you, he did it later when nobody was around to shout that he was wrong and it wasn’t a good point.

Yep, they may be like the girl who liked to shout at people she doesn’t agree with; they may just think that it feels good, but they surely can’t think that they’re changing anyone’s mind. Could actually believe that simply repeating the same stuff ad infintum and refusing to actually respond to any of the points raised beyond telling the other person that they’re a moron would make them rethink their position?

But today, while reading George Marshall’s book, “Don’t Even Think About It: How Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change”, I came across the quote at the top of this page. It seems that rather than weaken the resolve of the opposition, a tirade may actually help to cement their views.

On one level I guess this is obvious. I’m not someone who identifies with climate deniers, but as I’ve pointed out before, I’m naturally sceptical about headlines and I realise that the actual science is likely to be sensationalised when it’s placed on the front page of a newspaper. Having said that, I’d have to say that it seems pretty obvious that the evidence suggests that there is man-made climate change and we need to be concerned about the effects. Even if I were to be at my most cynical, I’d have to argue that it needs more investigation. Now if you were to write a comment about that previous position where you argued that the time for investigation was past and that we need urgent action, and you backed this up with facts and figures, I might be persuaded to consider that perhaps the CSIRO is correct to place more emphasis on mitigating the effects of climate change and their recent decision was correct. However, just calling me an ignorant climate denier who’s probably being paid by the fossil fuel industry makes me even surer that I’m the calm, rational person in this debate and you’re the one who thinks that “The X-files” is a documentary made at the same studio where they faked the moon landing so that we’d fail to notice the chemtrails because of our vaccine-induced autism.

As Marshall’s book points out, one problem with any discussion on climate change is confirmation bias. That’s where we have a tendency to find the evidence that supports our view, and ignore the evidence which doesn’t. Obviously one hot day doesn’t prove the existence of climate change any more than it being cold in the middle of winter shows that there’s no such thing as global warming. To make any judgements, one needs to look at patterns over a longer period than a few days or even a few years. Andrew Bolt (and others) assert that there’s been no warming since 1996 – a hotter than average year, and seem to want everyone to ignore data from before that date. However, they then dismiss any recent evidence of record temperatures as being over too short a time period.

But Marshall sees a greater problem in the idea that communications from people they regard as similar is likely to have far more effect than the opinion of experts. While many climate change deniers have a distrust of authority, the same is true for people on the left of the policital spectrum. When a company assures everyone that their product has been tested by the government and found to be completely safe, both the left and right of the political divide are quite likely to disbelieve the claim if their peers express concern.

Is it possible to overcome these natural tendencies and enable people to examine the evidence thoughtfully and rationally?

Possibly not, but Marshall suggests that it’s the people you don’t want to be like that form your opinion, as much as those you do. So when an attractive, Hollywood star like Leonardo suggests that we need to do more about climate change, it may put some off, but it’s more likely that people will identify with their favourite star than when Lord Monckton opens his mouth. Of course, there’s a big difference between the two. One is paid money and pretends to be someone he’s not, while the other won an Oscar for his role in “The Revenant”.

So it seems the trick to actually getting people onside is not to appeal to their logic, but to make them want to identify with the people on your side of the argument. Failing that, you can trying making them want to distance themselves from those who hold the opposing view. Certain commentators have been good at casting climate scientists as either Marxist greenies or avaricious capitalists trying to con people into funding their research, while suggesting that its the fossil fuel companies who are fighting the good fight against the dark forces who would oppress us. This green agenda, some argue, is part of a hidden plot and we’d do well to resist it.

Whatever, whenever you’re confronted with one of those individuals who frustrate you with their inability to concede even the most minor point… You know the ones who – like Neil of Sydney – merely change the subject and, if that doesn’t work, change the facts to suit their argument… Whenever you’re next confronted with someone like that, smile and realise what a great job they’re doing for your side of the argument and for building group solidarity. Just as Tony Abbott seemed to unite the Left – relatively speaking – trolls and those making aggressive meaningless comments give certainty and satisfaction to all those who may have been momentarily contemplating that they may have been wrong.


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  1. diannaart

    Loving: Your comment One is paid money and pretends to be someone he’s not, while the other won an Oscar for his role in “The Revenant”. in reference to Monckton and DiCaprio, respectively.

    Holding: My breath, until NoS unites Labor and Greens with his nonsense.

    Outcome: Asphyxiation.

  2. diannaart

    Nor is this a surprise:

    Harold Lewis, emeritus professor of physics at the University of California, did indeed resign from the PHYSICS department, here’ what APS president, Curtis Callan of The American Physical Society had to say:

    …”Do any members of the Princeton physics department perform research on subjects even remotely related to climate science? No,” Callen told physicsworld.com. “Would a hypothetical physicist engaged in such work be likely to shade the results of his or her work to hew to some “party line” demanded by a funding agency? That would be contrary to the ethical code subscribed to by all scientists I know.”


  3. Rossleigh

    Yes, it’s not as though he changed his mind on climate change, or was even working in the field.
    This is about as significant as a climate scientist resigning because all this talk of “black holes” in space is pure fiction.

    Or I am just a victim of confirmation bias?

  4. diannaart

    Indeed, Rossleigh

    … maybe you should follow up with an article on earth flatness, in the interests of balance, of course.

  5. JeffJL

    1998 not 1996.

    The Skeptical Science website has a good asset called ‘The Debunking Handbook’ (look at the right hand side of the page, down a bit).

    Will work for most false hoods.

  6. Kaye Lee

    The day after resigning in 2010 Hal Lewis joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In 2011, their annual address was given by George Pell. Cardinal Pell’s ‘evidence’ all came from The Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, June 2011 delivered by none other than Lord Monckton and sponsored and attended by Gina Rinehart. Scientists described Pell’s speech as “dreadful”, “utter rubbish” and “flawed”.

    Climate scientists slam George Pell’s ‘utter rubbish’ claims

    Professor Hal Lewis Joins The GWPF

  7. margcal

    Group think, preaching to the converted ….

    I’ve always regretted that “climate change” got the foothold it has.
    It would never catch on with the Greed Group, but I’ve always thought conservation should be the goal. As in, “Yes, it’s OK to burn a bit of coal but if we burn it all now, what about coming generations because it takes a mighty long time to ‘grow’ replacement coal. Maybe we should look at alternatives.”
    Ditto oil, minerals and anything else you care to name. Minimise usage so future generations can use a bit too.
    That would surely have a massive impact on climate change.
    But I can’t think of a catchy, compelling word or phrase to get that message across.
    If humans still exist in 100 years, they’re going to have to be off the scale more clever than we are.

  8. Rossleigh


    I took my claims about 1996 from Andrew Bolt and here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released–chart-prove-it.html

    Both claim no warming since 1996.

    Whatever, the point remains. It’s an arbitrary date plucked because it suits their argument. Climate is measured over more than a twenty years period, which is what makes it hard for anyone to make judgements without long term statistics. Otherwise it simply becomes.

    1. A single broken record is no evidence.
    2. Just because we’ve two unusual events is no reason to conclude that anything’s changing.
    3. Yeah, but records are broken every year… There’s nothing unusual about this.

  9. margcal

    Kaye Lee – scientists can be too kind. 🙁

  10. Rossleigh

    Cardinal Pell can hardly be considered an expert in gathering evidence about something that’s not right before his nose!
    Actually even when it is, he seemed to miss noticing…

  11. JeffJL


    “I took my claims about 1996 from Andrew Bolt…”

    You are forever diminished in my eyes.

    Seriously keep up the good work.

  12. Kaye Lee

    The hottest sixteen years on record – 15 of which have been this century.

    1. 2015
    2. 2014
    3. 2010
    4. 2013
    5. 2005
    =6. 1998, 2009
    8. 2012
    =9. 2003, 2006, 2007
    12. 2002
    =13. 2004, 2011
    =15. 2001, 2008


  13. diannaart

    Yes but , Kaye it was really, really, ridiculously cold last July 21st at 3.07AM – I had to put on an extra blankie….

    Oh, no need to thank me, science deniers and related nutters, I have saved you at least one cherry pick.


  14. keerti

    Actually Dianart, the earth is not flat. It is fat! This is due to the increasing number of people on the planet, most of whom are near the equator. The mass of people at the equator adds to the inertial mass of the planet thus increasing the rate of spin. This accounts for more BS coming out of politicians mouths! It may be posssible to create a mathematical formula for the above with the right funding…

  15. Gangey1959

    @dianna. In the interests of balance and a flat earth, shouldn’t we all stand in the middle? We’d save heaps on heating as well.
    @Margcal. Python, may their name be forever written in the stars as the alternative to google, did something about if she was a witch she was made from wood and therefore we should burn her, so although coal et al might take a few forevers to get some more of, people whos opinions differ from ours are ten-a-penny and are therefore made from wood so fuel won’t be an issue, as long as we are the ones with the matchbox of course.
    @Rossleigh. I deny everything. I’m in enough trouble as it is.

  16. diannaart


    @dianna. In the interests of balance and a flat earth, shouldn’t we all stand in the middle?

    Can it wait till I elbow just a few of us off? I’m presently encouraging Tony with an onion flavoured inflatable dolly of Peta.

  17. OlddWomBat

    The continued argument that humankind does not and cannot have global impact should have been put to rest with the increase in the ozone layer due to man-made CFC’s, followed by the subsequent stabilisation of ozone with the implementation of the Montreal protocol which banned the production of CFC’s and other ozone depleting chemicals. Sadly, even with these actions the ozone hole will take decades to return to pre 1980 levels. When a delicately balanced system is pushed out of equilibrium the impacts can be very significant and long-lived.

  18. Kaye Lee

    December 2015 was the warmest month of any month in the period of record, at 1.11°C (2.00°F) higher than the monthly average, breaking the previous all-time record set just two months earlier in October 2015 by 0.12°C (0.21°F).


    But wait…..

    According to the space agency, January 2016 clocked in temperatures that reached 2.03 degrees Fahrenheit above normal levels, which is considered to be the highest margin of any recorded month.


    hang on….

    Latest data for February 2016 shows it was the world’s hottest month on record


    and March?

    Melbourne sweltered through its hottest March night on record on Tuesday, hovering around 30C after reaching a peak of 38.6C in the city at 5pm. Sydney has also been unseasonably warm, with a record-breaking 31 days in a row above 26C. Canberra has had a daily maximum temperature of more than 30C for every day of March so far.


  19. Rossleigh

    Now, Kaye Lee, we have records broken all the time. Global warming is not only normal, it’s also not happening. And, of course, man isn’t causing it because the climate is always changing and CO2 never did any harm, because as we all know in it’s solid form it’s colloquially called, “dry ice” and as any climate denier will tell you, what harm could holding dry ice do?

  20. Kaye Lee

    Fill a terrarium with plants and snails. Pump in a little CO2 to help the plants grow, maybe even shine a lamp on it. The snail population will increase with all those healthy plants in there, but as time passes, either the snail population grows to such a degree that they eat all the plants, or they fry before they get that far.

    But hey, who cares about snails?

  21. Rossleigh

    Actually, I’ve just realised that dry ice is the best argument for all those arguing that CO2 is a naturally occuring element and therefore can’t be harmful. All you need to do is have some handy and then ask them to hold it for a couple of minutes…

  22. Kaye Lee

    In August 2014, the Australian Press Council updated its overarching principles to “ensure that factual material” is accurate and not misleading. The change extended the principles reach from just “news reports” to material “elsewhere” which has been taken to mean opinion columns.

    In principle three on fairness and balance, the APC says even when a writer expresses an opinion, it should not be done “based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts”.

    So how come Maurice Newman, former ABC chairman and head of the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s business advisory council, gets away with writing for the Australian (who opposed the changes surprisingly enough) warning that Australia is ill prepared for global cooling owing to widespread “warming propaganda”?


  23. diannaart



  24. Michael Taylor

    Kaye, clearly a brilliant move by the government to hold a debate on whether climate change is real or not. I can already see their chosen panel: Bolt, Newman, Monkton, Plimer, the Koch brothers, Murdoch, Tones.

  25. Bradley Temperley

    1. Newspaper headlines rarely describe the science they purport to summarise. The articles below the head rarely do much better.
    2. The breadth and depth of observations and predictions that support climate change go far beyond temperature readings. Anyone arguing that temperatures aren’t changing is ignoring chemistry, physics and biology that indicates otherwise.

  26. diannaart

    @Mark Delmage

    Article goes no further than admitting:

    These changes appear to be related to changes in barometric pressure, sea surface temperatures and upper level westerly winds.

    Because the “smart money” is not interested in the cause of changes to barometric pressure, sea levels or wind direction and speeds – they think if they do nothing they can cash in, leaving the rest of the world to…..

  27. Möbius Ecko

    Migs you left out Pell via video link from a 5 star hotel. At least saving the carbon because he’s too ill to fly.

  28. mark delmege

    I’m not sure of your point dianna but if the north is getting wetter and the south drier – more or less…

  29. diannaart

    The reason for climate change is due to the increase in PPM of Carbon Dioxide along with Methane and other greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere – but you know this, you just wanted me to say it, right?

  30. mark delmege

    I didn’t think that was in question. I thought the article provided data on how all that might be changing our weather.

  31. kepler


    the hole is still there. I live in tassie and we just don’t go out in the sun. How do you spot a tourist here. They’re the drongos stupid enough to sunbake. Oh, and its been unseasonably hot this year, particularly at night, but Andrew Bolt (pHd – hot air) assures me that there is nothing to worry about.

  32. Kaye Lee

    Interesting article mark delmege.

  33. Michael

    If you think global warming is a scam, pollution isn’t whether it does or does not cause warming – it causes – yet it is a free consequence which manifests itself in other areas of consequence as nature tries to do what it is meant to do – strive to reach equilibrium.

    Nature is not perfect – sometimes it may over-correct to what it considers a small margin but to us mere humans it could be catostrophic – but never mind we are human and we are in charge !!!

    In seeking clear understanding we should honestly be aware of these human traits in all of us:


  34. diannaart


    The article did not go far enough. It is not good enough to discuss living with climate change and investment opportunities without acknowledging the causes – pollution of atmosphere through burning previously sequestered carbon. Instead the article presented the north as a business opportunity. LNP policy is to develop the north of Australia – at the expense of the rest of the country.


    We still have arable land elsewhere (provided we don’t continue fracking or belching out pollutants).

    I find any suggestion of development based on present climate change understanding as highly risky – we have not done anything to mitigate exponential changes nor have we reached the limits of climate change. For example, if we continue business as usual, global temperature will continue rise to 4+ degrees – maybe more.

    In terms of adapting to changes as the article suggests – we are simply playing catch-up, what may be rain and drought patterns for the next 20 or so years will alter dramatically if we do not stop pollution and other environmental degradation.

    Investing in development of the north remains speculative at best – investors may make money in the short term, but conditions can spiral exponentially beyond foreseeable conditions.

    The extreme weather events we have experienced in the past 10 years are merely the beginning. We simply do not know enough, at present, to make accurate predictions. I hope our worst fears are not realised, however, to start development in an area that has been notoriously difficult to dominate in the past, at the expense of repairing damage elsewhere in our land is quite foolish – IMHO.

    You may want to acquaint yourself with studies and projections from the following source:


    Of particular interest:

    Key messages

    Average temperatures will continue to increase in all seasons (very high confidence).

    More hot days and warm spells are projected with very high confidence.

    Changes to rainfall are possible but unclear.

    Increased intensity of extreme rainfall events is projected, with high confidence.

    Mean sea level will continue to rise and height of extreme sea-level events will also increase (very high confidence).

    With medium confidence, fewer but more intense tropical cyclones are projected.

    On annual and decadal basis, natural variability in the climate system can act to either mask or enhance any long-term human induced trend, particularly in the next 20 years and for rainfall.

    I hope this is of help.

  35. Kaye Lee


    To be fair, the article was published by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre. That is a NFP organisation that was established in November 2012 by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the WA State Government.

    Their mission is “To enhance the value-capture by export grain producers through national leadership and coordination in research directed at export grain quality, functionality, processing innovation and market and supply chain analysis.”

    Advising about changing rainfall patterns is crucial to their clients.

  36. gorgeousdunny1

    Online posts and tweets all in BOLD CASE are another form of shouting.

  37. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    I will do a bit of research into Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre – so I can understand a little more.

    I still stand by what I said in general regarding development up North.

    Will catch up later – when I have more time and done my homework.


  38. jim

    Greed GreedGreed, by the big corporations with assistance from our governments ,I think they won’t just stop at CC their greed has no bounds from Anonymous 2 days ago, 5min in length https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ck5G4O9cIo

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