Climate Change news and the Siddartha Heuristic

2014 and 2015 have seen the flourishing of climate bullshit stories, many of which are based on falsehhoods or the fraudulent work done to deliver the IPCC's "RCP8.5" business as usual case. More about RCP8.5

The bullshit flood has been noted, and the perception is being discussed. The falsehoods seen in the media's climate change coverage are built on by politicians, turning a shoddy science problem into a much bigger shoddy politics and shoddy regulations problem. To show you how this is seen by people who are a lot smarter than me I'd like to quote from "The Siddartha Heuristic" by Dr. Judith Curry. 

"Analogously to the alarming medical headlines warning future bad outcomes associated with  ordinary daily habits, we see alarming news articles warning of future catastrophes related to climate change.

Spiegelhalter raises an important point: the manufactured and enforced consensus on climate change results in an unknown amount of evidence that we are not hearing about that would challenge the consensus.

And finally with regards to the Siddhartha heuristic:  Siddhartha was misled by only being told selected items of information, but the selected information was distinctly anti-alarmist and he heard only the good news.  With health research and climate change science, we are hearing a preponderance of bad news.  The motivations for the alarming health research is presumably tied to building reputation and funding base, amplified by the media’s desire for an attention-grabbing story.  The climate change alarm is further motivated by building political will to act on reducing emissions."

Note: The term "Siddartha Heuristic" was coined by David Spiegelhalter in "A HEURISTIC FOR SORTING SCIENCE STORIES IN THE NEWS"


Quoting Spiegelhalter:
"There has been a lot of public discussion of potential biases in the published scientific literature – see for example, commentaries in the Economist and Forbes magazine. The general idea is that by the time research has been selected to be submitted, and then selected for publication, there is a good chance the results are false positives: for a good review of the evidence for this see ‘A summary of the evidence that most published research is false’. There is also an excellent blog by Dorothy Bishop on why so much research goes unpublished.
The point of this article is to argue that such selection bias is as nothing compared to the hurdles overcome by stories that are not only published, but publicised. For a study to be publicised, it must have:
  • Been considered worthwhile to write up and submit to a journal or other outlet
  • Have been accepted for publication by the referees and editors
  • Been considered ‘newsworthy’ enough to deserve a press release
  • Been sexy enough to attract a journalist’s interest
  • Got past an editor of a newspaper or newsroom.
Anything that gets through all these hurdles stands a huge chance of being a freak finding. In fact, if the coverage is on the radio, I recommend sticking your fingers in your ears and loudly saying ‘la-la-la’ to yourself.
The crucial idea is that since there is an unknown amount of evidence that I am not hearing about and that would contradict this story, there is no point in paying attention to whatever it is claiming. It is like watching a video of a football team scoring goals, and then suddenly realising that you are only being shown the 'successes' and not the ones they let in: the evidence just shows that they are capable of scoring, but not whether they score more than they concede. So, if you're interested in assessing the quality of the team, stop watching the video (of course if you just enjoy the spectacle, carry on)."
Later: Although it's not exactly related I saw a comment in Dr Curry's blog post I have to show you just for kicks. Don Monfort wrote:

"That’s funny. The Red Chinese piratical mercantilists drive U.S. manufacturers out of business by flooding our markets with cheap junk produced by slave labor in hellhole factories that poison the environment with cutthroat pricing aided by a deliberately undervalued currency and some clown talks about a free trade smokescreen."

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